Param Para: Answers to Questions on the Spiritual Path  
by Swami Amar Jyoti

Swamiji, I’ve been wondering about austerities, if they help purify the heart? It seems like the natural way of seeking is to try to eliminate whatever habits and behaviors are inhibiting growth. The other approach would be to arbitrarily pick out some austere practice. Which would be best?
The whole purpose of austerities is to purify your heart. You cannot choose arbitrarily; austerities have to be very carefully chosen. But in principle austerities do purify, comforts do not. Comforts make you dependent and lazy. Yogis try not to depend upon anything, in order to meditate very well. Austerities are simply to not give the mind what it wishes. Therefore holy people devised these means called austerities to make your consciousness independent.

Gross thinking is part of creation but only the surface. If you are trying to make yourself happy on the surface you will not go deep. The next moment, the next hour or tomorrow you will find that living on the surface will bring problems. When the mind tries to be tricky, it gets caught in its own snares. Knowing this, sages devised disciplines to save the mind from corruption. They advised to apply the sword of discrimination, but if the mind did not follow that, then they devised austerities.

Austerities are not to punish the mind but to purify it. If you want to go deeper, austerities are necessary. Yogis called austerities tapasya, which in Sanskrit means “heating the mind.” In ordinary language we might describe austerities as disciplines that pull the mind away from benumbing comforts. Imperceptibly our minds get into complacency and lethargy born out of dependence upon comforts. It is very difficult to pull out of the heaviness of complacency; therefore austerities are done so the mind feels uplifted. The whole idea is to make your mind free. When your soul is free, you do not need disciplines.

Sometimes when I am fasting and people around me are not fasting, I feel like I should eat so that everyone will feel comfortable.
Use your will power at that time. Remind yourself: This is my practice. I have been eating my whole life. What if I don’t eat for one or two days? Stand on that very realistically. Though God will not directly come to you by your fasting, you are preparing yourself. Where your mind is weak, you are gathering back your will power. Being around others who are not fasting pulls your senses. Your nose wants to smell, tongue wants to taste, so you succumb to that desire. While you are eating fruit and milk someone says, “Can I bring nuts for you?” You say, “Well, just a few.” And then, “What about a casserole? I made a nice one today.” And, “Well, okay, let me eat today. I’ll fast tomorrow.” This is how the mind goes on. Though fasting is not a very great virtue, you are trying to control your mind, which is necessary to bring it up from lethargy and stagnation.

How does self-confidence relate to the spiritual path?
Self-confidence helps where you might otherwise be doubtful, feeling wretched or incompetent, which takes away your energy. Self-confidence builds you up as a counter effect to these negative states, but eventually it has to give way to surrender. Ultimately your faith has to be in God rather than yourself. Self-confidence is a positive mental attribute; beyond that it has no meaning. When you grow toward spiritual Realization, self-confidence gives way to surrender, taking refuge unto God.

For some reason, when I think of surrender I think of losing self-confidence.
In a way, but then you are gaining something else: faith in your Spirit or God. Self-confidence is psychological. Faith is from the soul. If by losing self-confidence you fall back into complacency, doubts and wretchedness, self-confidence is better. But it does not help you realize your true nature or divinity. It will not give you any spirituality. Self-confidence in your personality is still unconsciousness. That must give way to faith in your soul or Spirit, which brings you to higher consciousness. Personality, in contrast to God-realization, is a myth.

Is confusion a capacity of the mind for not understanding what the truth is? And how
do we find out?
This needs practice. First: form devotion to truth, that truth is supreme, without which your life has no true meaning. Second: practice seeing yourself. Morning and evening, sit and reflect, and when confusion arises, see what is the cause. You will see that the cause will invariably be negative things—selfishness, wrong understanding, and other negativities. Try to see the truth behind your confusion. Unless you find the cause, it will not leave you or you will attribute it to the wrong cause. For example, supposing in a certain situation you are selfish. You may have tried to be selfless and did not achieve it, or partially achieved it. You get irritated, angry, or confused. When you try to find the cause of your confusion you say, “I don’t know. I don’t see it.” Actually what you are implying is: I do not want to see it because then I will be a culprit.

Selfishness was the cause of your confusion and subconsciously you knew it; if you explore it you are going to find that out. So you say, “I don’t know,” or you give explanations and reasons. You will not be able to get rid of your confusion until you find the reason: selfishness. Once you see the true reason you will want to give it up in order to have peace. Whatever your conditions may be, you are the creator of your prison or freedom.

Master, can you speak about how to develop intuition?
There are many ways to awaken your intuition. It is not achieved by practice, but there are some practices that remove blocks in the way of opening intuition. You have to avoid blocks like wishful thinking, imagination and any desires. When your mind is wishing, imagining or desiring, your intuition remains suppressed. You cannot imagine things and say it is your intuition. When you can successfully, through practices, avoid these blocks and make yourself a hollow pipeline, without preconceptions or thinking, then intuition is born. This is one method.

The second method is more direct but more difficult. Just focus your concentration as being one with that which you want to know. Intuition will be born. For example, you pick up a flower and you want to know what it actually is. You pinpoint your concentration on the flower and in a flash you know. This is exactly what yogis do. Let’s say I am talking to you without knowing who you are. I am not asking questions, imagining, wishing, analyzing or presuming who you are. I simply put my full concentration on you and in a flash I know you.

Intuition is inner insight, which is more valid and infallible than the rational thinking process. Intuition cannot be analyzed and proven by the lower apparatus of intellect. It is a higher faculty; therefore it does not need proof on the lower scale. When intuition becomes your real nature, you are a higher being. So if you want to develop intuition, avoid wishful thinking, imagination, planning and analysis totally. Sit and relax in silence and see what voice comes in. This is not the ultimate voice of God, though it leads to that. When you can apply intuition anywhere, within and without, your ego subsides and ultimately vanishes. While the ego is persistent, intuition will not be born. Intuition takes you to Realization.

Is ego then part of the intellectual process?
No, the intellectual process is a part of ego. Ego controls this whole machinery—the physical, vital and mental. When intuition is born, ego gives way. Intuition cannot be born within a dualistic approach. If I were to know you by intuition, I have to be impersonal. I become one with you in a flash. It is oneness, actually, but it is so brief that we call it intuition. When it becomes unbroken and continuous, we call it Realization.

Can we know the ego in itself or do we have to know it through the mind and physical body?
The ego appears to have a separate existence, just as a wave on the ocean appears to be separate. This is the whole basis for unconsciousness: you appear to be separate but you are not; you are simply unconscious of the Reality. Maintaining ego is called unconsciousness or ignorance. You cannot take the wave out of the ocean and keep it as a wave; it will always be water. Likewise, as ego you have never been separate. It is impossible. This illusion, called maya, is the basis for all creation. Just dissolve your ego within you. 

© 2014 by Truth Consciousness. Excerpted from the Satsangs: Our Need for Austerities (P-39), Cleaning Ourselves (P-9), The Joy of Practices (P-10), and Desires and Our Will (B-4). For further information on the audio Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti, please see page 59 or online at