Four Primitive Fountains
By Swami Rama
The word stress has become a hot word today. We all talk about stress. Was there stress in ancient times too? There was, but it was called ignorance. Today stress means stress, we don’t accept that it’s part of ignorance. A human being is a citizen of two worlds, the world within and the world outside. He suffers because he has become an outsider. Those who are insiders do not suffer on account of this modern disease called stress. Times have changed. Nowadays, human life is governed by the economy. From morning till evening we do not know why we are rushing, where we are going, without any destination. The moment you become aware of yourself, understand something about yourself, you will really enjoy life. If you examine yourself, you’ll see that you like to enjoy life in the external world on all levels—the five senses and the mind. Who’s preventing you from doing so? Who gives you stress? Outsiders do not come to tell you to become stressed. What is the reason for stress? What is the cause of your suffering? You all are reactionaries. You do not have convictions. You may think about things, but you have not built an individual philosophy of life. I say, if you devote only ten minutes every day to yourself, you will not suffer on account of this stress.
The question is where does stress come from? Let us examine this. A human being cannot live without doing actions, it’s not possible. And when he performs actions, he reaps the fruits of his actions and those fruits motivate him to perform more actions. This goes on and on, there is no end, and it becomes a whirlpool from which he cannot escape. When you examine your actions, you will find that your actions are commanded and controlled by your mind. If you do not think of doing something, you cannot do it. Your thought virtually is your action. Your thoughts, in turn, are controlled by your emotions. And from where do your emotions arise? They arise from four primitive fountains called food, sleep, sex, and self-preservation. We human beings are still primitive because ahara, nidra, bhaya, mai-thunancha, food, sleep, self-preservation and sex, still control human life exactly as they do in the animal kingdom. That is why they are called primitive fountains. You eat food, animals also eat food. You sleep, animals also sleep. You indulge in sex, animals also do so. You are afraid and all the time you are protecting yourself, as is the case with animals. You form a group, a particular group, animals also do the same. What is the difference between a human being and an animal?
There are four kingdoms: the kingdom of rocks, the kingdom of vegetables, the kingdom of animals, and the kingdom of human beings. In the process of evolution, a human being has attained the status of having choice, of being able to choose what he wants to do and avoiding that which he does not want to do. Self-control is found in the human kingdom, but an animal is controlled by nature, by the four fountains. Therefore, a human being has to take responsibility for his own deeds and actions. Definitely a superior being, he can communicate with others, narrate, discuss, talk and decide. So, by the creative use of emotions, a human can control his thoughts and hence, his actions. Emotional power is highest of all powers in a human being as far as the external world is concerned. And all emotions arise from the four primitive fountains. If these four fountains are properly understood, arranged and regulated, there will be no stress.
These fountains will help you in knowing and understanding your actions. You can find out the source of any problem that you have. You are angry today, and your children do not know why you are angry. You cannot beat your wife because you are afraid of her. You cannot beat your child because if you beat her, your wife, your whole family, even your neighborhood, will take you to task. So you take out your belt and start beating your dog. The source of your anger could be bad food. Bad food is that food which is not nutritious. Bad food is that food which agitates your nervous system. Bad food is that food for which there is no place in your body. Childhood training seems to be important here. A great musician is born in a musician’s family. Why not outside? A great businessman is born in a businessman’s family. We see how the environment affects the childhood and the child. Food has been a disaster for human health all over the world.
Food could be disastrous and yet no doctor asks you what kind of food you take. You go to the doctor and say, I have a pain here, but you didn’t tell him why. What are your habit patterns, why do you have pain? There was a woman who had diabetes. Her husband said, “Honey, please don’t take sugar.” She replied, “I don’t take sugar. Don’t nag me.” She was a Secretary in the Government of India, a highly placed person. He said, “I want your urine to be tested.” Do you know what she did? Instead of sending a urine sample, she sent water. So Dr. Pandey, who was a famous pathologist, told me, “Look at this, Swamiji. What is this? She sent me water.” He wrote, “Instead of sending urine, your wife sent water. Please ask her to send her urine before I examine her.” She was surprised and wondered, “How can he know the difference between water and urine?”
So take care of your diet. Learn to eat that food which is right for you. If you clean your teeth properly, chew your food well, simple food which is healthy for you, which contains both liquid and solid, both vegetables and fruits, you will be healthy.
Once you have understood food, then you should understand deep sleep. Being able to sleep deeply is very healthy. Many of you daydream. Whole night you are going through the dreaming process. What is dream? Dream is an intermediate state between waking and sleeping. When you go from your living room to your bedroom, you go through a passageway, a gallery. Dream is the passageway between waking state and deep sleep. Though dream is therapeutic, it robs your sleep. If you go on dreaming, thinking that it’s very therapeutic, you won’t sleep. This way insomnia develops, and it is your own doing. You should go consciously to deep sleep.
What is deep sleep? You have not discovered it. You will not find books on the subject of sleep, about what sleep is. It’s such a practical subject, but you don’t find books on the anatomy of sleep. A human being conventionally sleeps for eight to ten hours. It is not needed. No creature, no human being, can sleep more than 2½ hours. Rest of the time he tosses and turns in his bed, half sleep and half dream. Because it’s night, you feel you have to sleep. It’s a myth. If you learn to sleep for 2½ hours, deep sleep, you will be rested. So you are deprived of sleep, you do not know why. You think when you are tired, then you should go to sleep. I say, do not do that. Sleep voluntarily. Make a determination, “I have to sleep 2½ hours and after that I have to wake up and do my duties, do my work. I have plenty of work to do.” Why should we waste ten hours for sleep? What a waste of time and energy! Sleeping ten hours! Eating another three to four hours, fourteen hours? Look at the time we waste in dressing and just painting and polishing ourselves, becoming presentable. Another few hours spent in the bathroom. And what do you do with what’s left of the day? Gossiping, talking to each other, about each other. What a waste of time!
So let me first tell you how to sleep and what sleep means to you. If you cannot sleep for some time, you cannot think right. In the morning you say, “I’m tired.” When I look at you, you look tired and you have to use cosmetics to present yourself to others. It’s not needed. You should be fresh in the morning if you have slept well. In the West, 75 million people are taking sleeping pills because they do not know the art of sleeping. And there is a way of sleeping that is called yoga nidra, how to sleep consciously and wake up on time. I observed many people like that. I went to Gandhiji’s ashram with his son Ramdas who was the editor of the Times of India. And I saw Gandhiji sleeping exactly at the same time each night and waking up without any alarm. If you do not have a watch and your telephone is not working and if you have to go to the airport at five o’clock in the morning, you wake up before that. There is something in you which has got that power, that’s called sankalpa shakti, the power of determination. So if you learn to sleep, you do not need more than 2½ hours, not at all. I myself cannot sleep more than 2½ hours and if I do, my body starts aching. I have to sit and do some work, either meditate, finish my ablutions, write a poem or make a sketch. I have to do something.
So first of all let me tell you not to waste eight to ten hours trying to sleep. According to the school of Buddhism, the greatest sin is not killing someone. No, no, no, greatest sin is called sloth, laziness. You cannot expect anything from a lazy husband. Housewives get upset because husbands are very lazy. I’ll tell you one secret. The moment you wake up, immediately sit down. Don’t remain inside the blanket, tossing and turning around, asking for a cup of tea. When tea comes, you say, “Hmmm, let me sleep some more.” Train yourself. No one is going to help you in these areas. These subjects are not discussed in books or by teachers. All the teachers are repeating what they have heard, there is nothing practical. We know and know that we know, but we do not know how to practice, that is a serious problem. How to sleep? Before you fall sleep, for ten to fifteen minutes you should practice yoga nidra, voluntary sleep, how to sleep. If you learn how to sleep with the method of yoga nidra which has been examined and proven to be very useful, it will be very good for you. If you are tired after eight hours’ work, then ten minutes’ practice of yoga nidra will give you energy for another eight hours. This I have noticed. I don’t claim anything unless it is based on scientific findings. And if you go on practicing, in a few days, sleep will be under your control, just like the way food is.
So I say, how much time do you waste when you sleep. If you are not sleeping well, if the quality of sleep is not good, you will have stress. And nothing can help you. Doctors can help you only so much. They can only cure a few diseases which are called infectious diseases, they cannot help you with 70-80% of diseases that are called psychosomatic diseases, created by your own mind. The whole world is sick and the sick are treating the sick. Hospitals are built by neurotics and psychotics live in them! And who collects the rent? Doctors. We are all groping in darkness. The time has come, awareness has expanded. Therefore we should learn the art of living, the art of joyful living. I have not seen a person who perennially smiles and claims, “I am happy in the world.” Anyone you ask, says, “I have a problem.” There is an art of sleeping, knowing how to sleep.
Sleep is a mystery. If a fool goes to sleep, he emerges a fool, nothing happens to him, there is no transformation. But if a fool goes to the deepest state of consciousness, he comes out as a sage. There is something beyond sleep. You have three states: waking, dreaming, and sleeping. Two people decided to visit a sage. They went over and they sat down beside him. One of them fell asleep and the other started conversing with the sage. One who started conversing was in samadhi, the other was asleep. It’s very close, very close. You can take benefit of sleep provided you know what it is, how to sleep. It’s an art. You sleep because your wife says, “It’s ten o’clock now, switch off the lights.” And you have come home with a catalogue of worries, a bundle of worries. You do not know what to do with those worries. But if you have a little bit of understanding, “Well, at night I cannot handle you, my worries. I can help you tomorrow morning, solve you tomorrow morning. This is the time for rest.” If you start having a dialogue with yourself, you can help yourself. Before going to bed you should learn to breathe deeply. I am trying to give you a glimpse of that life which is a realistic, practical life.
One day I thought, “Let me experiment and see what happens when I’m falling asleep.” And I could not sleep for many days. I wanted to watch how sleep comes. When there is no content in your mind, then you get sleep. Before you sleep, learn to breathe deeply, release from your system carbon dioxide, the used up gas, and inhale deeply. With this pleasant feeling go to sleep, and you can avoid nightmares. Don’t just say, “relax, relax, relax, relax,” and then try to sleep. Relaxation is not sleep. That’s why the method of relaxation which includes breathing works on two aspects, two spheres, body and breath, food and pranic sheaths. And then mind has to relax. But if you suggest to yourself, “relax, relax, relax,” this suggestion is hypnosis, not relaxation. And we are all hypnotized by ourselves everyday. And then you hypnotize your wife, and your wife hypnotizes you. You are under the spell of hypnosis all the time. And that’s not a creative way of studying or a creative way of learning. So, when you understand the method of sleeping, “I have to sleep, I don’t have much time. I have to get up, I have to teach, I have to write, I have to compose a poem, I have to make a painting. When do I have time?” With this determination, sankalpa shakti, you go to sleep and wake up exactly at the same time. I was taught that and it works with me. Those who know me closely know that I don’t sleep at night. The best time of my life is at night when I can think, write, read, compose poems, do things. I’m not telling you to do this because your life is different.
You are laughing. In Germany, I was speaking in Hamburg before a huge crowd. I told a long joke, which took me a few minutes. And my interpreter, wonderful interpreter, translated it in such a way that everybody fell down from their chairs laughing. And just in few seconds’ time! I thought, “I have wasted much time in learning English, Sanskrit and other languages. I am going to learn German.” After the lecture was over, I asked her, “Tell me, how did you translate such a long joke in a few seconds’ time?” She said, “I told them, look, the speaker is telling a long joke, so please laugh.” One should maintain a sense of humor. You know, laughter is a good exercise. After taking your meals, you should learn to laugh. With your children, with your wife, laugh. Come on, with laughter, you remain very healthy. Sleep and food, if these primitive fountains are regulated, I tell you, you will enjoy good health. Your walk will be a dance, your life will be a poem, a song. The flower of humanity will bloom the day we understand these primitive fountains.
As sleep can be and should be regulated, you should also regulate another appetite called sex. It’s an Eastern taboo. People don’t discuss it. They think it’s a sin to discuss sex. Parents do not know, either. They eagerly tell their children, “Now you are grown up, you should get married.” They collect a good dowry and they look out for a good boy or a good girl. But they don’t teach their children what marriage is, why they are getting married. So sex has remained a mystery throughout, “Oh, don’t talk about sex, don’t talk about it. It’s vulgar.” And the minds of many people are haunted by this primitive fountain all the time. You think about it, but you do not talk about it. And wife and husband, I have not seen them happy, pardon me, anywhere in the world, in the East or in the West. I traveled far and wide and asked them, “Are you happy?” “Hmmm, partial happiness.” They lean on each other and they call it happiness. Wife needed someone, she was insecure, so she got a husband. Husband needed someone, a companion and he got a wife. There is no adjustment.
You talk about God. Tell me, from morning till evening, when do you need God? When you are hungry, you eat. When you are thirsty, you drink. Where do you get that idea, God, God, God? You do not deal with the issues which are directly related to your body, breath, senses, and mind. You waste your energy in thinking of things. So two people like to enjoy sex. Of course there is a joy that you derive through that union, physical union of man and woman and that’s called vishayananda. But you cannot expand it. You have to keep repeating it. For a moment you feel joy, and then you remain sad the rest of the day. The momentary joy cannot be expanded forever and ever. That vishayananda is not paramananda, or supreme joy. Therefore, where is that art of living in which two people know how to enjoy the union, physical union? You cannot enjoy because you don’t have mental and physical control, you don’t. Let me tell you about a sociopsychological survey in the United States, a very advanced country, an open country. The surveyors went to a nunnery and asked the highly respected Mother Superior, “Ma’am, do you smoke?” She said, “No, not at all.” “Do you drink?” She said, “No.” “Do you have sex?” She said, “No.” All the surveyors were surprised. She added, “But I have a small vice.” “What is it?” they asked eagerly. She replied, “I lie.”
What is sex? What does sex mean to us? Now, a simple point I am going to tell you. Men and women by nature are created a little differently, biologically. And they should learn to understand each other. If they do not understand each other they can never be happy. Their whole life they live together, depriving each other because of their ignorance of sex. You need to understand something about it. What is this thing called sex which is so important? It is of no use just shunning that particular aspect of life. One should understand what it is. Why does it control my life? Why have I been thinking of it all the time? What is it that I cannot live without it, why? Why does a husband want to go to another woman? Why are there so many divorces? In the Western hemisphere, 50-60% of marriages end up as divorces. Sex should be regulated. Man has got a different mechanism than a woman. Biologically they are two different beings and they should understand each other. It is a man’s world, it has always been a man’s world. Man has never tried to understand woman. This is true, this is true. She’s like that horse who tastes the iron but the ironsmith never tastes the iron, even though he works with iron his whole life. Woman is a great power on this earth. If you put a pebble on a man’s tummy and tell him to walk for two hours, he cannot do that. A woman can carry a child for nine months without any difficulty. She goes through labor, it’s like going through death. She goes through it pleasantly. If a man has a fever, oh my Lord, the whole neighborhood knows about it! Even biologically, you will find that there is a very low incidence of heart attacks among women, and many of these heart attacks are because of congenital defects. But man has heart attacks because he cannot tolerate stress, he has no shock absorbers. This field is totally unexploited because a woman has been used only for a particular purpose, “She should wait for me when I come home, inspire me.” In my opinion, educational systems in the whole world need some modification. And children’s education should be totally handed over to the mothers. One of the great poets says, “Give me the first seven years of my life, the rest you can take.” But there is another poet who says, “A woman, a mother, should be trained twenty-two years before her marriage.” A good mother will be responsible for creating good citizens and then we can expect a good society. That’s why they need good care and respect, this is my point.
But what do you do with the natural urge, biological urge? Let us be realistic. You can ask a question, “What does a swami, a renunciate, do?” Yes, a swami is taught upward traveling. Best part of the initiation that is given to a real swami, from an authentic tradition, is that upward traveling where he enjoys without engaging in sex. When you release that semen you feel joy. A swami is taught, “Hey, if you feel joy when you release semen, think how much more joy you will experience by retaining it through upward traveling.” Oh my Lord, this is a great joy. But it is an uncommon teaching. It cannot be made available for everyone to practice.
After understanding food, sleep, and sex, you should understand self-preservation. You want to preserve yourself, that’s instinctual. Whenever there is a natural disaster, your pets know first, dogs know first, cats know first. Why do you not know? Because instinctual knowledge in you has diminished, mental knowledge has developed and your mind has limited capacity. It always tries to measure the whole universe with it’s little ruler. There is another higher realm of knowledge that is called intuitive knowledge, which is beyond all the levels of your mind. So you are afraid all the time, “I will lose, I will lose, I will lose.” Fears, many fears. All the time from morning till evening, you remain conscious of yourself and you remain protecting yourself, no matter what happens to others.
I have seen one aspect of life and that is maternal aspect. There is a place called Azamgarh in India, where in my early days I used to walk about barefoot. A wild elephant suddenly appeared in front of a mother who was walking holding her child’s hand. When the elephant suddenly appeared, the mother pushed the child behind her and stood firm and said, “Stop there!” And you know, the elephant stopped. That demonstrates how great is a mother’s love for her child, the greatest solace in life, a real symbol of love, though that’s also changing now.
You remain conscious of yourself all the time, “What if something will happen to me, something will happen to me.” Fear invites danger. You are afraid all the time, you are inviting danger, don’t do that. I will tell you what happens. I was standing on the bank of the Ganges at Rishikesh when I was twenty-three or twenty-four years old. During those days I used to look towards the sun and move according to the sun the whole day. It is one of the practices. You don’t do that, Ok? I did not know that there was a cobra beneath me. Sometimes I used to sit and then I would stand up. There was a swami watching from a distance and he shouted, “Swami, please don’t move, there is a cobra beneath you.” Naturally, I looked and saw the cobra. So, what did I do? I ran. And the cobra started chasing me, chased me up to fifty or sixty yards. I said, “I have never seen a cobra, a snake, chasing a human being like this.” Then the swami told me, “Look, the cobra did not chase you, you were dragging it behind you. Your mind was so terrified, so afraid, that fear got concentrated and your negative mind dragged the cobra behind you.” When you are afraid, you actually affect others. Fear invites danger, remember this. When you become negative, passive, and you are afraid, you invite danger for yourself. Don’t get afraid for no reason. Don’t remain under the pressure of fears.
Modern man is full of fears and he does not examine those fears. You should learn to sit down and examine your fears. What are my fears, what fears do I have? Nobody wants to examine their deepest fears. Sit down and try to examine what are the fears in my life. Will my husband desert me? Fear. Will my wife leave me? Fear. From morning till evening you are afraid of something. What kind of life is this? How can you enjoy life under the pressure of fears? So modern man wants to enjoy life, wants to have joyful life but he remains under the pressure of fears. He should learn to examine fears. Fear of not getting what he wants, fear of losing what he has. That does not allow you to enjoy life. Therefore, you should have understanding so that you don’t entertain fears.
You have all heard about the former Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi? A brave lady, not even afraid of bombs. I remember an incident with her. She was staying in a government guest house and I was staying in the next one. Suddenly at night she screamed. People thought that it might be the swami. So guards came and knocked on my door instead of hers and they found me seated in meditation. The Superintendent of Police said, “No, no, it’s not him. Find out why she screamed.” Who could ask the Prime Minister why she screamed? And she continued to scream. Finally the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate asked, “What can we do?” She shouted, “Open the door.” They said, “It’s locked from inside, ma’am.” “Kick the door open.” They kicked and broke down the door. There was a single spider going up the wall. She was not afraid of bombs, of bullets, but she was afraid of a small spider!
Sometimes we all have such fears. Fears that we don’t discuss because we have created a mask around us. “How can I talk about my fears to my children, my husband, my friends? What will they think of me?” You keep the fears within you. That fear grows and grows and grows. I have gone through that. I was afraid of snakes. My Master knew this. So one day he said, “Come here, pick up these flowers.” There was a heap of flowers and I picked them up. There was a snake in the heap. I said, “Snake, snake.” He said, “So what?” He was in front of me and said, “I am here. I won’t allow you to die.” I said, “This is a black snake.” He said, “Whether it is black or blue, bring it to me. You have to choose whether you respect your fear or you respect me.” With great fear I walked up to him. He said, “Son, this creature is the cleanest in the world. There is no creature on earth which is cleaner. This is a most ancient creature on the earth, who lives on trees, who lives in the water, who lives on the land. Why are you doing this to yourself?” I said, “It bites and man dies.” He said, “Human being is a greater snake than the snake itself.” And the dialogue was going on, and I was holding the flowers and the snake. Finally he said, “Come on, touch it like this, but not that way.” And that snake put up her hood and let me pet her. I said, “Sir, is it your tame snake or a wild one from the forest?” Thus my fear went away.
You should learn to examine your fears. Why are you committing the mistake of not examining your fears? Learn to examine your fears. A woman is afraid. If her husband is late from work, she will telephone the police station, the hospitals to find out what has happened to him. Why? Why think negatively all the time? Do you know what happens, what you are doing to yourself? Fear invites danger, remember this. Don’t put yourself in danger.
From these four primitive fountains arise the streams of emotion. Your emotional problems are related to one of these four fountains, there is no fifth fountain. I am putting before you twenty-five years of experiments and studies. Somehow or other, all your fears, all your emotions are related to these fountains. Those emotions could be converted into creative emotions. Gauranga knew how to use emotion and attain a state of ecstasy. All the great men of the world, somehow or other came in touch with this, their emotional power. Wisdom through mind, through thinking, is not complete. Wisdom through emotion can lead you to heights of ecstasy. All the great sages following the path of bhakti or love, came in touch with this power.
So these four fountains, food, sleep, sex, and self-preservation, are related to each other closely, very closely. There was an Irish woman, whom I respected very much, I respected her like my mother. I never saw my biological mother in my life and so never missed her, but I really miss my Irish mother. She helped me establish the Himalayan Institute in the United States. Sometimes we used to fight with each other. At night she would quietly go to the refrigerator, eat, and in the morning swear that she had not eaten anything. I said, “Mama, it’s not good.” She said, “Son, I promise I’ve not done anything, I’ve not eaten anything.” She would forget. When habit becomes deep-rooted, then you give up. There is compensation, law of compensation. She was not married, the psychological analysis was this. And in an Irish family, they are very conservative and she used to control all her brothers, their wives, children, and everybody. She was the head of the family. And she did not get married for the sake of the family. Remember this formula, this point, all of the body is in the mind but all of the mind is not in the body.
We talk of God, we talk of this bible and that bible, we talk of this religion and that. It’s of no use if we do not understand the very basics in our life. Learn to regulate these four fountains, because all your problems come from one of these four. For example, you may be sexually frustrated and you don’t speak of it to anybody, because the customs, the culture, society does not allow you, does not permit you to talk. And you go on bottling those ideas which you cannot share with others. Then finally you become a mental wreck, create psychosomatic problems for yourself. Not only that, if you are eating bad food it can happen. If you don’t get sleep, if you don’t understand how to sleep deeply, you are not rested. In the state hospital I visited in Kansas, I found everyone sleeping—eight hours, ten hours, twelve hours, and relaxing. I fought with the doctors. What you call relaxation is very dangerous. If you go on relaxing your muscles, a time might come when the muscles will lose their function. It’s a simple, simple scientific law.
Sleep is a necessity of both body and mind, please remember this. Food is a necessity of body first. Sex could be a biological necessity, but actually it originates in the mind. If it is not in the mind, you will not do sex. So you should see, which is important, what is first prominent in the mind and what is prominent for the body. Sex affects mind first, then body. Food affects body first, then mind. Sleep affects mind first, then body.
You are the victim of your habit patterns. Who are you? You are the sum total of your habits, that’s what you are. And your habits are the result of your repeated actions. Your actions, your deeds, are related to the four fountains. There are no books available for it. There are no books available on practical subjects anywhere, I tell you that. Self-discipline is missing in our educational life. Where are the teachers, the curriculum where children are asked to walk straight, to talk straight, to be gentle and straightforward? There is no such curriculum. These basic points are missing in our daily life. These disciplines should be introduced in the schools, they will be very helpful. Something about food, something about sleep, something about sex, something about self-preservation; these should be taught to our children. It will help them. We have to understand the primitive fountains if we want to lead a free, happy, joyous life.
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of Swami Rama of the Himalayas