Spontaneous Combustion, Portable Yoga And Apologetic Practice




Date: February 22, 2006
Verse: Srimad Bhagavatam 2.2.20
Speaker: HG Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu

nabhyam sthitam hrdy adhiropya tasmad
udana-gatyorasi tam nayen munih
tato ‘nusandhaya dhiya manasvi
sva-talu-mulam sanakair nayeta

TRANSLATION: The meditative devotee should slowly push up the life air from the navel to the heart, from there to the chest and from there to the root of the palate. He should search out the proper places with intelligence.

PURPORT: There are six circles of the movement of the life air, and the intelligent bhakti-yogi should search out these places with intelligence and in a meditative mood. Among these, mentioned above is the svadhisthana-cakra, or the powerhouse of the life air, and above this, just below the abdomen and navel, is the mani-puraka-cakra. When upper space is further searched out in the heart, one reaches the anahata-cakra, and further up, when the life air is placed at the root of the palate, one reaches the visuddhi-cakra.

So this is a further description. Here there is yoga practice going on for leaving the body deliberately under full control to achieve transcendence.

Here we have technical details about this process. Elsewhere in Bhagavatam there are further technical details. Many of you may want to know, we don’t need to know these technical details. The question was raised yesterday that why is all this mentioned. We don’t even need to know this. The answer is of course to distinguish from different process, to clarify the nature of pure devotional service. Although we must say Prabhupada always talks about these manasvi and munis as bhakti yogis. They are performing actually a form of bhakti yoga, but it is mixed with or done by the means of this technical process of satcakra yoga or kundalini cakra yoga for leaving the body at will.

Other reasons also I have thought of about understanding this process. It also draws the interest of other people who may not be interested in bhakti yoga and it tests people – are you more interested in this than pure devotional service, let’s see if you’re sincere.

There are some other things. First of all, we have a number of incidences in Bhagavatam where devotees left their bodies in this way and we might wonder how is this possible, how does it work. We already heard one description of Dhrtarastra leaving by this method under the tutelage of Vidura and how at the end his body burst into flames. Another person who left the body at will by this method is the daughter of Daksa, Sati. She wanted to leave her body and she could do it like this. Again, her body burst into flame. Another incident in the Bhagavatam is Maharaja Prthu. He decided to leave his body in this way also, and again, his body burst into flames.

It is mentioned there commenting on Prthu’s departure by this method, Prabhupada mentions that Prthu normally would not take advantage of this. In fact, he didn’t need to be worried about it or use this method, but when he decided it was time to leave his body, he wanted to leave his body, he remembered from former practice, he wasn’t practicing anymore, but he remembered from former practice how to do this, so he engaged this method for leaving his body at will. So his body bursts into flames and Arci threw herself on the funeral pyre later.

By the way, there are very mysterious cases in medical history of people dying by spontaneous human combustion. In one of his novels, Charles Dickens has a character die in that way, quite a wonderful description. People apparently wrote in protesting about this very weird story. In the second edition of this book he has a long defence with all these histories of people who died by spontaneous human combustion. To the day, there are so many people on record where the body just seems to burst into flames, no ignition point. The body is mostly liquid, so for it to burn up, it takes a lot of heat, and these people burnt up.

Some lady in Miami, this happened to her, leaving only one foot behind. The silverware on the table had melted from the heat, but it was a pretty contained. Anyway, there is avenue for research on these things. Maybe accidentally at the right time something happened, I don’t, but it is possible, in at least one way, for the human body to actually burst into flames.

Besides from the interest of medical mysteries, we can understand how these people left their bodies. Furthermore, there is more description later on this chapter, the ones that leave their bodies and go directly back to godhead , or at least transcend material nature, there is also a description of something that occurs in this of amalgamating the gross elements of the body in to the subtle, the subtle elements into the mind, and everything gets wound up back into the maha tattva, kind of reversing the process of creation. In this chapter, it describes that a yogi who doesn’t go back to Godhead then has to travel up to the Brahmaloka and there he undergoes this final process at the end of the universe. Many times this reversed process of creation unwinding, not shuffling off the mortal coil but unwinding the mortal coil, this takes place.

One thing we see from this is just how advanced people were. This is a technical science. Munis and sages had found this out. These cakras and the associated nadis, the channels through which the prana flow are in the body.
They are apparently found by yogic exploration, not by tearing up bodies with scalpels and things like that. So far as I know, no one can find them when they operate on dead and living bodies, but they are there. Maybe one day people will discover these channels.

According to the Candogya Upanisad, there are a hundred and one of these nadis, but they go up from the bottom to the ida, pingala, and the breathing exercises to clean those two channels out. When you come to the anata cakra, cakra means the place where many of these nadis come together, when you come to this cakra, it says in the Candogya Upanisad, there is one nadi that goes to the brahma-randra, the cerebal hole. It is called a sisumara. This is what somebody has to know, how to find this one, and being extremely pure and single minded in purpose and completely detached, take up the life air, the soul to the sisumara.

We find out later in this chapter that the sisumara is also a cosmological feature. If you don’t go back to Godhead all the way, you have to travel by this sisumara up in the heavens to get to Brahamaloka and so on. This is very scientific. It produces extraordinary results. Among them is the body bursts into flames that people can see. We can appreciate this.

Another reason for describing these things is Krsna also in Bhagavad-gita describes general principles. He describes jnana yoga in the sixth chapter.
From that, we can also see that there are general principles of spiritual disciple, of all yoga, that also apply very much to us. We can see from these yogis, although the practice is not the same, the diligence and intensity of effort that is required. You cannot be deflected or distracted by anything. You have to be very committed and you have to become free from material attachments and material desires for this to work. These are very sattvic people. That is also required for yoga practice.

So these devotees that are described here, they are like great spiritual Olympic athletes. We can get some inspiration from them because the general principle remains the same. Our process, as it was nicely described yesterday, as given to us by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is doable. Prabhupada used the word it is practical. It can be done by us. Whereas this is so far beyond our grasp you don’t even think about it. These people who claim to be practicing this, we know this is all bluff. But actually bhakti yoga we can do. It is doable. But even then so many people are not doing. Even among us who have accepted this path we are still finding so many difficulties and troubles and problems and are not doing. So we should understand what is necessary for this process.

For example, if we look at the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna tells Arjuna that the yogi must fix the mind on the self and not be distracted by anything else. Wherever the mind wanders, one has to bring it back under the control of the self. The mind has to be concentrated, he uses this wonderful example, like the flame of a candle in a windless place. You know how it is when a candle is in a windless place. You can’t even tell anything is happening. It is so still. And the slightest little breeze will cause it to flicker. This much control is there. At this point, Arjuna interrupts this description and says, “Hold it. It cannot be done because the mind, you can’t control the mind. It just can’t be controlled. It is like to control a raging wind.” The mind has to be still like a candle in a windless place, here you have a hurricane, Katrina Force Five hurricane in the mind. How are you going to control it?

Of course Krsna answers, “It can be done.” First he agrees, “Yeah, I know the problem. I am aware of this problem. It is very difficult to control the mind, but it can be done.” He says two things: abhyasena and vairagyena – by abhyasa, practice, and vairagya, detachment. These are two important principles for us. Of course our yoga practice is mantra yoga, chanting the Hare Krsna Mahamantra.

Mahaprabhu has mentioned how easy it is. First of all, the first verse of the Siksastakam prayers, he says to the Lord, You have given so many, from the victory of this sankirtana of the chanting of the Holy Name, when it is successful, so many wonderful things come. There is a list of the things that come, beginning from ceto -darpana-marjanam, and that is just the beginning, so you see all the benedictions come. Then He says on top of that, You have so many names. Maybe taste varies, so as you like. You have so many names and in these names You have invested nija-sarva-saktis, all Your transcendental, spiritual potencies, so they’re right there in the name. It means here Krsna is very accessible, very portable, like one of these little machines now. This Hare Krsna mantra is Krsna Himself, you can put Him right in your mouth, carry it around, miniaturised, very portable, very accessible.

Then He says, as for chanting, the restrictions about time and place, they are very loose, not really so hard. tava krpa Bhagavan – that, my Lord, is Your mercy. Then if that is His mercy, then the other side, mamapi durdaivamidrsamihajani nanuragah, my misfortune is that with all that, I am still not all that, I am still just not all that interested. Mahaprabhu was talking about us. There is still no anuragah, there is still no attraction for Your name.

So we are told, we have been well instructed, that to chant the Hare Krsna Mantra, we have to follow a process. In the very first introductory record album that Prabhupada made, there is a little talk on that album. He said, in the beginning, anyone can chant the Hare Krsna Mahamantra, but if later on, you want to become serious, then one has to avoid offences on the ground of spiritual understanding. In the beginning, you don’t even know what an offence is. You don’t even have the opportunity, you don’t know what a Vaisnava is, but then you have to avoid offences. So that is the process.
Prabhupada has said there is a process.

Famously, I think, one group split off from ISKCON, thought that ISKCON devotees were too rigid. They took this no hard and fast rules in a very extended way, so Prabhupada was asked about this and he said that you have to follow the process. He said, “If you chant the Hare Krsna Mantra, and you don’t follow the process, it is like cooking with smoke.” Not a very effective way to cook. You have a fire to make your breakfast and if the fuel is wet, you’ll just get smoke. Prabhupada said you should cook with fire; it is should be a hot fire. You should follow the process. If you cook with smoke, very inconvenient. It will take a very long time to get your breakfast. But if the fires hot, it goes easy and you will soon have your mean.

Then Prabhupada admitted that you can argue that where there is smoke there is fire, and he said, “Yes, but what good will that little bit of fire do you?” He said you should have a hot fire. Otherwise, you can go on cooking with smoke for three hundred years. So in this way, one should follow the process. That process is we have to chant the Hare Krsna Mahamantra while trying to give up offences. That is why we all learn these offences against the Holy Name.

In the list of offences, which comes from the Padma Purana, there is one in particular, ati-pramada. Ati can mean especially and pramada means insanity, literally, not in your right state of mind. So in one way, all the offences are a variety of pramada. Also Bhaktivinode Thakura singles it out as a particular offence – inattentiveness while chanting. In the harinama-cintamani he says that this one is the seedbed or foundation of all the other offences and if we are not trying to become free from this one, then we will not be successful in becoming free from the others.

Now here comes our yoga practice, that is to say that when we chant the Hare Krsna Mantra during japa, that is the time to control the mind. We have a transcendent object to focus our attention on, the divine names of Krsna. So we sit down and concentrate our attention on Krsna and we discover somehow or other some mental breeze has come in and suddenly our attention is over here or over there. So this is pramada – distraction, thinking of other things. So what do we do? Well, if our chanting is pure, if we are actually on an advanced stage, then that breeze doesn’t come or even if that breeze comes, it doesn’t affect our attention because we are so attracted to Krsna, our mind doesn’t go away. It’s naturally attached to Krsna; that is the natural state. But short of that, the attention will waver.

When the mind is fixed on the Holy Name completely, then what’s manifest is suddha-nama, the pure name. Short of that, something else is manifest. If my mind wanders and I just let it go, my early days in the movement, I had one professor I brought to the temple and he chanted and I asked him, How did you like the chanting?”

He said, “Oh, great, I got so many good ideas.”


It’s true, when you start chanting, somehow or other, sometimes the mind produces so many ideas. They seem, at least, good ideas, but if we let the mind wander and that’s what happens, then the Holy Name is not manifest. In fact, what’s manifest is called nama-aparadha. There’s an offence and I’m not doing anything about it, so that is just nama-aparadha. Bhaktivinode Thakura remarks somewhere that in this case, the Holy Name is little better than letters of the alphabet. That’s just smoke, huh? You can down it as something, but you will not see a result.

Now we can try to practice yoga, try to unite with Krsna, and the mind wanders because we’re not pure. And as soon as we see it wander, we bring it back. This is Krsna instruction: it goes away, we bring it back, it goes away, we bring it back. Then we’re chanting on the clearing stage. This is called the clearing stage as Prabhupada explains and what’s manifest is not the suddha-nama, but rather, namabhasa.

As the Namacarya explains it in Caitanya Caritamrta, this is the dawning light of the Holy Name. The Holy Name is like the sun in the morning below the horizon. You cannot see the Holy Name, but still the dawning twilight of the Holy Name is filling the sky. Haridasa Thakura explains that this mere namabhasa destroys all sinful reactions and the result is mukti. There was a controversy because he said this because thought that was not the highest goal because the suddha-nama, pure name, gives prema. But mukti is a transitional stage for further advancement, mad-bhaktim labhate param, then you achieve real devotion.

So this clearing stage, we cannot immediately come to the pure stage, but we can immediately come to the clearing stage of chanting. So this is the place to become yogis, when we chant our japa, to be aware of our attention, where it is going. We should be aware when our attention goes away. We should feel like Mahaprabhu, durdaivamidrsamihajani nanuragah, I am so unfortunate, here’s the Holy Name and I want to think about something else. What’s wrong with me? What a misfortune! What a mind! I’ve turned away from Krsna and come to this world and look what my mind does even though the Lord has given me this name, it’s right here. Prabhupada went through so much to bring it to me. So many devotees sacrificed so much. The Lord descended so many times. But still I’m not interested.

It says in Caitanya Caritamrta in the last chapter, in that chapter Mahaprabhu is depicted with Svarupa Damodara Maharaja and Ramananda Raya, his two most confidential associates, reciting the Siksastaka prayers and talking about them. In the narration, it describes the feelings that Mahaprabhu experienced while reciting these different slokas. In the second sloka, it says that Mahaprabhu felt visada, and dainya. Visada means lamentation, grief, “durdaivam durdaivamidrsamihajani nanuragah”. When I understand that I’m making so many offences, I should then feel bad about them. I should repent, I should apologise to Krsna. What do you do when you commit offence, you apologise. I should apologise to Krsna. This is how we clear up our anarthas, by this mood of apology. This is the emotional component of chanting. And the other thing was dainya, humility. We start to become humble so that you can see that there is a natural transition from this to trnad api sunicena. It all seems unnatural: how can I, with my education, my wealth, and my good looks, possibly think myself in this artificial position of being like a blade of grass? Then we realise this is not artificial at all, this is where I belong. Then this idea will come naturally.

So this is our process, this is our process. And if we just take it seriously, we’ve joined the Hare Krsna movement, we have taken initiation into the chanting of the Holy Name, are desiring to take initiation into the chanting of the Holy Name, let’s not stop there. That’s the beginning.
Initiation means begin. It means we’re initiated into this process. Now we have to practice like this.

People say, “Oh, so many things are happening. So many people are chanting for so many years, but nothing is happening. I’m not making advancement, the GBC is not making advancement, the sannyasis are not making advancement.”
Practice has to be there, and we start to make advancement. And if we start to make advancement, everybody looks better. ISKCON looks good, the GBC looks good, or better anyway. [Laughter.] Everything changes. We go from the offensive to the clearing stage, the world lights up. Sastra suddenly becomes really interesting. It’s not hard to attend class and read. These all things are from just going to the clearing stage. So we have to take it seriously.

Krsna said two things: abhyasa, the meaning of abhyasa is practice. Many of you play musical instruments. If anybody is any good it’s because they have practice. Practice means repetition. You do it over and over again every day. “Did you practice your piano,” your mother says to you. In America they do like this, they spend all this money for lessons, bought the instrument and everything and they want to know, “Did you practice?”

Practice meant that for forty-five minutes a day you have to sit down and you have to play these scales. I tried to violin once and I’ll never forget:
Dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada, over and over and over again while there was baseball outside and al lthose things. [Laughter.] You have to practice. Practice means repetition and when I sit down to chant the Holy Name, especially during japa, I fix my attention on the Holy Name. when the mind wanders, I pull it back. Oh, it’s so hard! And therefore, I require this determination like these yogis also. I have to keep trying because Krsna said it can be done.

The second thing is vairagya. When we are engaged unnecessarily in sense gratification, the mind becomes more turbulent. The modes of passion, oh boy, that’s really the wind. Mode of ignorance means we sleep. That is another form of inattentiveness while chanting, but we have to also do whatever is necessary to make those arrangements, including getting enough rest at night if that is the case. Anyway, usually our problem is distraction when we want to bring our mind to Krsna. We will find if we are very interested in improving our sadhana, we’ll naturally become interested in stopping those things that make the mind turbulent. So those two things are there.

And in this way, with our very easy process, this is all that we need. If we are sincere, remember we are doing this is relation with Krsna, Krsna sees that we are trying. Even if every day my mind has to struggle, I feel like I’m going to lose it, if we keep trying, Krsna sees it and He helps us. So therefore we are not alone and we can become successful. To be like one of these yogis, you have to have so many qualifications, but Prabhupada never said to anybody that you are unqualified for devotional service because Krsna helps. Whatever we can’t do, whatever we don’t have, He promises in the ninth chapter, He will make up for it. He will give us yoga and he will give us the ksemam. He will protect what we have achieved and give us what we need. We should take this very seriously. This is the greatest opportunity in billions of lifetimes. Let us not waste it.

Thank you very much. Srila Prabhupada ki jai!


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