#65 Gurupurnima Contemplation

Purnima means “full moon day.”    Guru Purnima is the day when the moon is the fullest of the whole year.   It is rather dramatically portrayed as    “that day,  the rays of the sun first touched the earth.”   It is the day of light, the day of wisdom.   Each year, this fullest moon, gurupurnima follows shortly after the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, and is usually in July.

Last Sunday, the 25th of July was Gurupurnima of this year  — The day in which devotees  seek the Blessings of the Guru.   The day when the devotee  through deepest  devotion can contact the Heart of his/her own Guru/highest Creative Intelligence, and receive Blessings.

Gurupurnima is considered the beginning of the spiritual year.   It marks the beginning of chaturmas– a four month holy period of moderation and spiritual activity.    On this day, seekers offer devotion and the fruits of their practice to the Master in the form of  gratitude and love.     Every disciple makes a pledge to practice more, to understand more fully the Guru’s teachings, to do Guru Seva and to become worthy of receiving the Guru’s grace.

Through concentration on the Guru on this day, through the mind, our prana, our Self, through devotional activities and meditation on the Full Moon, we can have a profound experience, or darshan of the Guru.

We are told… One does not choose the Guru, the Guru chooses the disciple.   The Guru comes when the disciple is ready, this being when the aspirant’s Heart Chakra has opened fully.   For it is through the Spiritual Heart that the disciple and guru are connected.

The subject of the Guru is  controversial and certainly confusing and for the most part  misunderstood  in the West.   While ultimately the disciple must one day transcend an external guru, and discover the guru as a spiritual principle or tattva within, Western disciples often discard the Ideal of an external guru, and risk further confusion in the swamp of  inner guidance by the mind, intellect and ego-sense.

There is a beautiful mantra,   Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, expressing the concept of Guru.

From the unreal lead us to the Real    Form darkness lead us to the Light   From death lead us to Immortality

“Gu” means darkness and “ru” means light.     So Guru means “dispeller of darkness.”      The Guru is a spiritual preceptor, who initiates his disciples onto the spiritual path and guides them towards liberation.  The Guru is one who has realized his identity with That, the absolute source of everything, and assumes the responsibility of guiding others to that realization.      As such the Lord is manifested in the form of the Guru.

The Guru tattva is the principle by which Nature, creates, sustains and destroys all life in both our inner and outer universes, in whatever way is necessary for us pass from ignorance to wisdom, from egoism to Self-realization.  Having existed before the universe was created it transcends time and space.  The Guru principle exists within everyone as the inner Self, so when we honor the outer Guru, we also honor our own Self.   It is the impersonal Shakti, the spontaneous force that creates whatever is needed for the greatest expansion of sadhana.  Like Grace, it is always accessible.

The word “guru” is derived from the word “gunas.”  The gunas are the modes by which Nature manifest.  They are three in number: rajas, or activity, tamas or inertia, and sattva or balance.  The Guru is one who shows the aspirant how to overcome the influence of rajas and tamas and to become established in sattva, which is the entry for Self-realization.  Ordinarily our human nature moves us back and forth between activity and inertia.  We go through a daily cycle.  Some of us may wake up in the morning filled with so much tamas (inertia) that we find it difficult to get out of bed.  When the force of rajas reaches its peak, we may feel great restlessness.  Gradually, however, as the day progresses we begin to feel tired. By the end of the day tamas or inertia predominates and we return to the state of sleep.  Rarely are we in the state of sattva, or balance, which is characterized by feelings of calm, contentment, mental clarity, joy, love, and detachment.

The Guru teaches us that Yoga has the effect of reducing the influence of rajas and tamas, and increasing the influence of sattva in our lives. The practice of our yoga postures and pranayama can energize and help us shake off feelings of inertia in the early morning. And yet, if done in the evening can help us to manage the effects of stress, such as agitation and nervousness and bring about restful sleep. They bring about balance and equipoise by ridding the body and mind both of excess inertia and restlessness, The practice of meditation and of mantras has similar effects on the vital and mental bodies. All of these practices promote homeostasis and equanimity, the pre-requisites for going within and becoming established in the perspective of the Self or soul, in the spiritual dimension. The Guru therefore can be experienced purely as “the teachings and wisdom” that comes through a lineage of Yogic techniques that leads us to the doorway of Self-realization.

While a  physical Guru, like Kriya Babaji or other ancient Siddhas like Boganathar or Tirumular or more contemporary siddhas like Ramalinga Swamigal, Ramana Maharshi,  may have merged with the Absolute Being Consciousness and Bliss, leaving the physical plane, they still remain available and willing to help true aspirants.

The Guru in subtle form remains as the grace bestowing power of God. Guru, God, Self, all pervading consciousness, Shakti, the All in One and One in All. When a devotee or disciple chants the Guru mantra and meditates on his Guru, even if not in a physical body, The Guru will feel the current of sublime thoughts coming to him from his disciple.   The Guru responds to the vibrations of sublime thoughts in the wide expanse of superconsciousness and visualizes clearly a fine line of dazzling light between them. This is the Grace Power Light, spoken of so often by Ramalinga Swamigal.

Devotion is necessary to success on the path of Yoga. The Siddhas  tell us that it is true devotion that invokes the grace of God. The Siddhas do not define God, but say, God is Love and that devotion is an authentic yogic path of joy. In order to ensure that we remain on a path of unfolding Divinity, a path of liberation and joy, we need two things: devotion, and a commitment to the practices and teachings of an authentic path. However, devotion of this kind and commitment of this kind comes about only through the grace of God.

The Siddhas tell us that it is due to the senses that we experience pain and suffering, and that it is through God’s Grace that we discover the path of love. And they tell us that it is devotion, which is necessary to develop the steadfastness and firm ground needed to control the senses.    It is control of the senses that is required, if we are to advance in Yoga.    Only a higher control over the senses can curtail the reactions of the ego.    It is only through devotion to God that ego-desires, and aversions, lust, anger, hate, fear, greed, pride, envy can be uprooted.    It is through devotion to God that we attain yogic bliss and a life of joy in the world.

Devotion is meditation on the Lord, which brings about an understanding of that one which is eternal and present in all.   Devotion is the fundamental cognition of the Lord; the assurance of an Infinite Absolute Existence, through a spiritual experience of a transcendental Consciousness or ecstatic delight.    Devotion brings about understanding of the qualities of this Absolute Existence.   Devotion is an inner state, which is full of knowledge and will-power.    It brings true understanding that one needs to possess nothing, but to be a witness to everything.    Devotion helps us to understand that we are, as the Siddhas tell us, merely as beads strung on the thread of the Lord Himself; that this thread never breaks and we are never scattered.   Devotion is a means to serve the Lord within and without.

On one day of the year, Gurupurnima, devotees and disciples are graced with a large dose of Divine Shakti.  Power, light, capacity of consciousness is directed from and into the Heart of the Devoted.

In the Tirumandiram, verse 288 it says:

The Lord God knows them who,   by night and day,

Seat Him in heart’s core,    and in love exalted adore;

To them wise with inner light, actionless in trance,

He comes, and, in close proximity, stands before.”

” On Gurupurnima, the devotee is given darshan and it is done.    It  is done gradually as almost continuous work.  The effects stretch over a long period of time.   The work is possible when the body is still and mind is concentrated and immobile.   The devotee/disciple may experience the penetration.   It is almost perceptible, almost visible.   There may be some immediate change, internal or external. Sometimes it is so obvious that the body or mind may panic.    But in general it is nothing sensational  — no great realization, bliss or spiritual light —  instead it is modest and humbling in its effect.   One may know something totally unlearned.   One may feel a sense of quiet control, peaceful vibration, calmness.   Any increase in vibration or force is quite unobtrusive.

One feels closeness to the Guru and that is all the Heart ever seeks!

Meditate on the Guru, imagine Him/Her  to be in every part of you.    Let your body become filled with your Guru.   Remember that just as a cloth is composed of threads, with cloth present in every thread, so are you in the Guru, and He/She in you.    With this kind of vision, see the Guru and yourself as One.     Let there be no difference between Babaji and you.    Keep repeating in your mind, “Guru AUM”  Implant the Guru in each part of your body by saying “Guru AUM.”    And,  Let it Be.

Hints, Signs and Clues

We just returned from Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.  Having experiencing their amazingly raw and bold coast lines, I want to encourage others to travel there.     One can see for oneself  the vast Force that water has master over.   Quiet and calm, rapid and rhythmic, or churning and violent, water has mesmerizing power.   I have always lived near large bodies of water, the Gulf, the Atlantic Ocean, or near large rivers and lakes.    I have been in several hurricanes, cyclones and tornados and was once caught off-guard in a rowboat for the better part of a day, in a violent storm on the windward side of an island in Greece.   I have always had great respect for nature.

This was my first trip to the northeastern coast of Maine/Canada.  It was awe-inspiring and deeply rewarding for me.   It was magnificent and  exhilarating, standing wet from a gentle, but steady rain on a craggy shore atop boulders on which huge waves were crashing, spraying me from below and strangely quieting to be aboard a windjammer, when there is no wind, as it moved slowly and quietly through the deepest layers of fog and drizzling rain.  I felt privy to some mysterious secret of evolution walking along a vast area of ocean floor dotted with fossils and huge sculptured rock and sandstone formations,  knowing that in a few hours, the tide would refill the same with a 50 foot wall of seawater.   Tidal waves, whirlpools and the white rapids of a reversing falls all within a few hours.

In the waters, just off the coast, at a point between Maine and New Brunswick Canada, one can see  tidal waves, whirlpools, and experience the white rapids of reversing falls, take a boat around Grand Manan Island to witness the play of humpback and right whales, dolphins and porpoises and visit an island kept as the sole property of puffins, terns and eagles.   The coast is rich with all manner of sea creatures, and flora and fauna.  The smooth stones, many shaped like shivalingas, sparkle on the beaches in all shades of red, pink, grey, green and blue and brown.   Everywhere the forest meets the coast.    The lakes are full of fish, the woods of moose and deer.     Each season will bring along another kind of beauty and a new set of rules.     One learns how important it is to live within Nature’s design and to be ever grateful to Her for the beautiful, bountiful life, which unfolds everyday through Her.  Absorbed in Her magnificence one can become overwhelmed by the intensity of Her love and devotion for all of beings.    Look no further than the majesty of nature and achieve therein.

The Intelligence of Nature, of prakriti, the manifestations of Her light is evidenced within us through the subtle faculties of body, intellect and discrimination.    What a gift of grace!

Whether or not one is able to see,  the beauty of each new day or of oneself  is a choice one  makes.      It is the  man bound by erratic beliefs, opinions, defiance, or doubt, who does not see it.

Why is it easier to live in ignorance than it is to live with Truth?    The idea that within each of us, a great Light shines –  clear and steadfast, intelligent and intuitive, and instinctively kind and compassionate –  must either be too difficult to understand, or be blatantly, unacceptable to the mind.

Why would one refuse to accept the Light in others and in oneself?     Why should one prefer to react to the impulses of one’s lowest possible nature?    What or who is it that wants to judge and attack others?    Surely it can be a convincing argument that it is not the intellect, the bodhi, the soul.     Why would anyone want to create such clutter in one’s own mind?     One’s perspective is limited by the opinion of the mind, which does not contain either grace or gnosis?  Interpretation by the mind is rarely ever appropriate beyond one’s own narrow conditioning.   Opinion only entrenches the mind in the world of matter, allowing one only to discharge and incur more karma and strengthen impurities.

Lack of disciple unsteadies the generous flow of prana, awareness and grace.

The subtle body craves nourishment.    Why choose to engage the vital by moving with agitation from one experience to another?     Agitation disturbs one’s prana and mind and the subtle channels of ida and pingala become imbalanced.  Pranic flows continually within the same channel and the quality of life is disturbed.   Fatigue, insomnia, overwhelming emotions, lack of clarity, neurosis,  narcissism and delusion can result from disturbances in prana.   The quality of life is reduced along with the health and life span of the physical body.

Nourish the soul and the physical body with the writings of  Saints and Siddhas.   The Siddhas tell us, “understanding the truth of the soul, concerning Kundalini Sakti and prana and the transcendental nature of your existence and its impact on physical longevity!”  When prana and kundalini function together the soul is nourished and health, vitality, emotional steadiness and well-being ensue.

Discipline is the only way out of the quagmire of repeating the same actions over and over.    By disciplining the mind and choosing to break through the bondage of one’s own conditioning, and through acts of kindness and making amends, one achieves growth of a spiritual nature.  Understanding the true nature of energy and the grace of the Lord is an essential tool given the seeker to affect overall improvement.   Prana is intertwined with the soul as it maintains the human body. Give the soul its due and allow it to shine as meritorious deeds of goodness and kindness and as intuition and insight.  Conjoined with overwhelming love and devotion the seeker is taken directly into the lap of the Lord.

Choose to get away and take a long break from the internet, television and other media sources and instead devote time to your Self.

Find a way to spend long periods in nature and draw knowledge  from its divine source.    Walk  in nature; wake up in nature.     Seek Grace sincerely and lift your face to it accept it in whatever form it comes…. as rain or shine.   Realize both,  how insignificant and how blessed you are.

Siddha Tirumular tells us, “Grace is truly a supreme samadhi and with it there is no need for any other effort.

I enthusiastically invite you to invest time  in retreat and in the new Edition of the Thirumandiram (10 volumes).     The Tirumandiram will open a door for you into the world of Kundalini Yoga.     It too is full of hints, signs and clues.    We have established a new website to help you whet your appetite and begin your study.       Check it out at  www.tirumandiram.com

Silence is Golden

We are having a silent retreat at the Quebec ashram with about 25 people attending.   Most have come to achieve some peace and quiet, to temporarily escape the concerns, frustration, politics, dramas and daily agitations of traffic, work and life.

The retreat began on Wednesday and the energy in the room when the group first introduced themselves was cordial, but somewhat prickly.   The energy in the ashram now is quite sweet.

What is asked of every participant is to remain silent and not to communicate with anyone unless absolutely necessary, through notes, and to do their practice, attend three sessions of 2 hours each (a mix of new and well-known practices and some lecture, a two-hour long asana class and 2, one-hour group meditations).  Otherwise everyone is free to rest or do sitting or walking meditations in the nature that flourishes on our 40 acres.   Everyone seems to be walking with a lighter foot today.    No one seems to be having difficulty with or in the silence, but there is intensity and a sense that there is a lot of inner work being done.

The ashram is a perfect place to practice silence, stillness, contemplation.   We have been told that we are located over an old quartz crystal mine and we do find boulders of quarts scattered here and there on the property.    Perhaps the quartz enhances the energy here.    Surely there is intensely dynamic, yet powerful introverting energy in this place.    Meditation is quite easy here.    We have a meditation kutir by a small lake, which was built by one of the acharyas, Vyasa.    He worked for a month just building the foundation.  It should last a thousand years!   Many of us worked to finish the structure.  We all felt that even before we had dedicated the kutir to the Siddhas and  inaugurated it with chanting and meditation, it had been already enlivened with Shakti.   The very first time we sat there together, we all dropped deeply into meditation.

It is nice working with people who are maintaining verbal silence.   Each day participants arise very early in the morning but even in the afternoon class they are very alert and concentrated on what I have to share.   The class are rather intense and the energy is very deep.  The hour meditation sessions seem effortless for everyone.

Looking from my office window now, I see people roaming about.   A man is raking tall cattails out from the small pond, while another disappears into the dense forest, a woman walking toward the lake in a swimsuit, others sitting on the porch sipping tea.  A steady wind in the trees has been playing a soothing symphony today, inspiring me to blog.

A couple of nights ago, my sleep had been broken by a loud and eerie sound of an animal, with a highly pitched squeal.   I could see nothing from my window, even though the animal sounded close and the moon was quite bright.  I could only hear a single animal raising its voice over and over in the full moonlight.   I could not determine the quality of the sound.   It continued unabated for several minutes and then was abruptly silent.    Had the animal been attacked, was it mating, or was it just howling at the golden glow of the moon?

There is a lot of wildlife around the ashram.   The moose, porcupines and bear are quite shy.   However we have regular silent communication with the muskrat who lives under the waterfall at the pool.  He is quite bold in his possessiveness of the home he has made with his mate.  He often stands on two legs with his arms akimbo starring me down as I work in the garden or as we pass each other on the path leading from the ashram.    Once last summer, when he was standing right at the edge of the pool watching me intently as I weeded ‘his’ garden, a student walked up behind him.  Startled, he threw his arms up in the air and fell backwards into the pool.  Surya ran to the pool and grabbed him up out of the water.  It was a comic book moment that filled me with glee.  Mr. Muskrat shook his coat off elegantly, but without glancing back at us, rushed into his home.    We also have red squirrels with bushy tails and crows that  knock on our back door requesting regular handouts and do the deer, which come up to the kitchen window in the ashram during the most difficult winter months.

On top of our little mountain here, nature radiates her immense beauty in each season—a cornucopia of flora and fauna, sunlight and rain, a wide expanse of sky, amazing clouds,  golden and ochre sunrises, double rainbows,  a range of autumn colors that delight and capture you, stopping you in your tracks, and too, so much snow, so white, glistening jewel-like, so deeply silent.

Nature has provided us a place  to Just Be Still and Wonder at Her Glory.

Aloneness

I received a question, a request for some clarification about the powerful concept of  ‘aloneness’ and how it relates to loneliness.      Although the word aloneness does sound like loneliness, it is actually the opposite; it is the ultimate antidote for the loneliness felt by the ego.   Loneliness is something human beings  suffer from, quite often.   We are built to instinctively attract painful experiences and to recreate them again and again until we learn to give them up and progress beyond them.   We are built to see ourselves as individuals  who need the other to complete us and bring us happiness.    Loneliness  is a confused and dramatic state of mind that comes about due to the judgments we make about our self and others, whereas aloneness is the simple state of being content, where all judgment has disappeared.   Loneliness is a hindrance, which blocks or negates the goal of aloneness.  The siddhas would say loneliness is an affliction.  They would say it is suffered to instruct us and  to speed up and exhaust the affliction and the karmas attached to it that keep us from attaining the truth of ourselves.

In yogic parlance, ‘aloneness’ is often used in place of the word ‘freedom.’   According to Sage Patanjali, ‘aloneness’ could be defined as the ultimate freedom;  it is Unity, and detachment from all connections or relationships.    The attainment of a yogic Aloneness is the blessing of Unity with the One, without a second — a state of ‘All-ness.’

Aloneness is stillness, silence, peace, an immobility secured and founded in faith in the Allness of the One.   Aloneness gives the greatest capacity to expand and encompass, to be loving and compassionate.   The state  does not not seek to limit itself to a particular person or thing.     It is not unlike oil gushing into the Gulf embracing everything as it spreads.     And like the oil spill, the power at the origin is the key to how much it will expand.    In the state of aloneness, it is the  power available at the core of  your being that determines just how much your consciousness and vision will expand.

Aloneness arises when we let go of the limits imposed on us by what we see, touch, taste, feel….    It does not arrive out of despair of loneliness.    It arrives out of the deepest contentment in being alone with ourself.     It arrives when we allow ourself to vibrate and expand and radiate outward widely without fear or thought  of losing ourself or anything else.     When we no longer,  ‘will’ our individual consciousness, or fix our concentration tightly on ourself as  this specific independent reality… Aloneness will allow us to be what we truly are.

If  you are willing,  open the door and  see what happens.

Sometimes what happens is that you experience the vibration of others, there may be thought forms and emotions and maybe these aren’t so pleasant, but, aloneness allows you to witness them without taking them on as your own.     Although Aloneness  is the perfected state to which a yogi  aspires –  the perfected union with the Supreme Vibration, Supreme Love, which automatically places everything  under Its’ influence,  it  is also  a technique to  be practiced regularly.     Becoming still, immobile… reaching that still state through the  means of  asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, devotion… and remaining in it  – open to it, as a cosy peace of great ease,  for some time.     Each day, be willing to stop your doing,  and step back,  go inward.    Gather your thoughts.    Go beyond thoughts and be with yourself, separate from your present condition.     Experience what that is for you and reach that place every day.   Where you  find a state of immobility— that which would move you to act is not present —  a place where  you go and experience something changing within your consciousness.    You arrive to find youself, richly awake, yet there is no object there.      It is small and simple, but like the smile that arrives on your heart for no explanable reason, it engulfs your very being  in light.

SBNR

There was an article on CNN website this weekend about the great numbers of people in the U.S. who claim to be “spiritual but not religious.”  It seems that this expression of faith is disturbing and perhaps even threatening in religious circles.  The article  is titled, “Are there dangers in being spiritual but not religious?”   In case you missed it, I will discuss some of the main points of the article.

The danger outlined by James Martin, a Jesuit priest was that this expression suggests “egoism, complacency and self-centeredness.”  He suggests that without a religious community to make demands on you, one ‘will not help the poor’ or serve others. “Being Spiritual, but not religious he says may sound sophisticated, but the choice may come down to pettiness.”  Religion is hard,” he says. “Sometimes it’s just too much work. People don’t feel like it.     I have better things to do with my time.   It’s plain old laziness.”

The article suggests there could be “hidden dangers” in living such a life.  Apparently according to a survey in 2009, by the LifeWay Christian Resources, 72 %  of 18 – 29 year olds consider themselves spiritual, not religious.  The hidden dangers, in religious institutions that divide rather than unite and injure rather than heal are perhaps the reason so many young people have chosen to become SBNR.  Could the “hidden dangers” referred to in the article have to do with the future survival of churches, temples, mosques and seminaries.

June-Ann Greeley, who teaches at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut explains the trend:  “Religion demands that we accord to human existence some absolutes and eternal truths, and in a post-modern culture, that becomes all but impossible,”  “People seem not to have the time nor the energy or interest to delve deeply into any one faith or religious tradition,” Greeley goes on to say,  so they move through, collecting ideas and practices and tenets that most appeal to the self, but making no connections to groups or communities.”

Personally, I have found that those who take on the label SBNR most often had a strong religious upbringing or studied religion quite deeply, perhaps adopting several at some point,  and have an exceptionally clear spiritual faith.

Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life at Smith College in Massachusetts, says, “Religious communities excel at caring for members in difficult times, encouraging members to serve others and teaching religious practices that have been tested and wrestled with for centuries.   “Hymn-singing, forms of prayer and worship, teachings about social justice and forgiveness — all these things are valuable elements of religious wisdom,” Walters says.   “Piecing it together by yourself can be done, but with great difficulty.”

I found this article thought-provoking.   Having never completely allied my heart with any religion I suppose I too, if asked would have to take the position of SBNR.  And probably just like you, I am surprised at the assertion that SBNR is an egoistic, petty and  dangerous approach, lacking in self awareness, prayer, worship, social justice and forgiveness.

Several of those who subscribe to a SBNR philosophy were invited to explain what this meant to them.  There were general themes, which included the universality of man and a disbelief in some kind of universal retribution for being nonreligious.   The  SBNR practitioners quoted in the article placed importance on taking responsibility for one’s actions and for care-taking oneself and ones’ soul.

It is an important step in our practice of Kriya Yoga, as I would imagine with most claiming SBNR  that each  of us piece the valuable elements of spiritual wisdom together for our self.   Connection to and care for the soul is a powerful solitary activity.

SBNR suggests that one comes into his/her faith out of personal experience and adopts spiritual qualities of kindness, compassion and service from an understanding of the unity in diversity.

In fact, doesn’t  SBNR intrinsically suggests that one is influenced by one’s soul and  trusts the Divine consciousness that permeates the appearance of  life in the world.  Certainly, a spiritual person is  reaching to attain a  spiritual consciousness in order to become aware of the  soul.     We do our spiritual practices of yoga asana, pranayama, mantra, meditation and self inquiry for just that purpose.   Ultimately all spiritual yogic practices encourages a cessation of  identification with ones’  mental conditioning and emotional fluctuations, in order to open to the influence and guidance of inspiration and intuition from a Higher Intelligence.

SBNR  requires us to use all the circumstances and events in our  life to grow into the nature of our soul…a  life rich with failure and success, loss and gain and afflicted by spiritual doubt and confusion.  All manner of difficulties naturally arise within the minute details of life to try and test us.   These difficulties, even the most insignificant ones can hinder or trip us up on any spiritual path.

A SBNR person is tempted and tested just as religious parishioner is, until equanimity and surrender is complete.   The self study and self correction required of a SBNR person is certainly as difficult,  if not more so,  than what is  required typically of a religious person.    The goal of a spiritual person is to consistently address the  world through awareness, from the highest perspective of the  spirit, not just be apart of a religious community and its dictates.    SBNR cannot be dangerous for the qualities of the soul provide clarity and purifying energy.   If one can keep oneself centered in the soul (CITS), which is what Spiritual suggests,  one’s actions will be more more loving and compassionate, come what may.

From the Voice of Babaji, Kriya Babaji says “No man can receive any good from anywhere, unless he himself comes forward for it.  It is when time and circumstances are ripe that a man can see the truth of things. Experience is the teacher and a man has to grow himself. Other conditions help in his growth like air and sunshine. We cannot make a blade of grass. How can we make a man religious? The scriptures and teachings are of great use to a man who really does something with them. Water, air and light are useful to a plant that has some vitality already in it.

To talk of God is no belief. A man believes in God when he really believes in himself because God lives in the core of our heart. We talk glibly about his existence. We profess to have faith in him. But is it not very hard to actually believe in him?

Philosophy, prayer and meditation are so many steps that lead a devotee of God towards the tower of belief. Pure reasoning and complete renunciation alone can take a seeker after Truth to its sacred precincts.”

While the path of  seeking faith in the Divine Intelligence may lead to goodness, all along the way there is a looming and  ever-present danger of egoism.   The ego can manifest in so many ways, as desire, self-interest, ambition, pride, self-righteousness, self-doubt, boredom, lethargy, depression and attachment.  These all can deceive the mind and keep us merely skirting the surface of spirituality, regardless if we are religious or not.   The Mother of Aurobindo Ashram was quoted saying,  “the power of self-deception is amazing; the mind is skilled in finding an admirable justification for any ignorance, stupidity whatsoever.”

So how are we to know if we are truly seeking spirituality in the “right way,” and without egoism and all its’ pettiness?

Of course at this point, we could turn the tables and ask, “how does religion demand that its believers work individually to purify themselves of their flawed foundations and ego-centric, self-deceptions?”   Religion requires that one follow its’ doctrines, dogma and participate in rituals ?”

And  what about the foundation of religion itself; is there some kind of eye of truth set in place, ever watching to uncover its own flaws and self-deceptions?    Unfortunately, when we think of religion, we think of an institution or organization that acts autonomously, without an oversight or controls.   And think that as with all organizations, a religious institution has an invested interest in protecting its survival and defending its beliefs and everything that belongs to it, even when those beliefs are obviously contradictory to the principles of divine living.

The  long and short definition of  SBNR is,  one who believes in the existence of  a Divine Intelligence that is still functioning in the Universe and one who accepts that sacredness as a part of their nature.    And while this individual has refused the limitations that organized religion has placed on living a religious life, he/she has chosen to behave according to the principles of living a divine life.

What we should ask our self  is, are we traveling the  SBNR path intensely and sincerely and are we willing to come face to face with our weaknesses, flaws and self deceptions in order to correct them?     For an integrated physical, vital, mental, intellectual, SBNR transformation, we must understand the goal is not empowerment, phenomenal visionary experiences, abundance or good fortune.   The goal is a transformation of ones’ entire being, which demands the ego be diminished so that the soul can step forward.

Yoga and meditation is a path of SBNR and naturally benefits the body and mind and moderates the emotions of the practitioner.    The true benefits of Yoga are awareness, equanimity and soulfulness.    Awareness sets the bar even higher for each of our actions and reactions to life, than does religion.  As our interactions with the world become more aware, our body, mind and heart aligns in caring tenderness with and for the soul. The ego naturally diminishes as the soul enlarges and an energizing consciousness animates the eyes, mind and heart.  Awareness is reflected as a clear, strong, rational mind and a healthy attitude toward one’s part to play in the world. Awareness creates understanding, which harmonizes the being and develops potential and capability to compassionately serve others.  How can that be bad?

What to read the original story?  http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/personal/06/03/spiritual.but.not.religious/index.html

Turning things around through ritual interiorization

If your life and personality doesn’t seem to be working well for you – Today can be the day you turn things around.

Is there is some determining factor, some primal energy that chooses to deliver us to our fate?    Is there anything we can do to have this same Factor, propel us into our destiny?

Restlessness and inertia are sure signs that something in our life is not working well.    Restless, anxious thoughts are reflected in restless, dispersed prana (vital energy (winds) flowing through our subtle body).   Feeling depressed, stagnant, lazy or bored is reflected in sluggish prana.    Faulty thinking causes prana to flow in interrupted patterns, choking off energy within the network of the subtle channels.       Discontent, suffering or anger in the mind will block pranic flows and create imbalances in the subtle pranic pathways, which  weaken the physical body.     Over-stimulation of mind and senses and consistent multi-tasking make thoughts burst out in various directions, interrupting one’s ability to focus and depletes prana and weaken the body.    The depletion of prana causes  aging, disease and disaffection.    Blockages  in the subtle channels result in tightening or choking around physical and subtle points (joints in the physical and chakras in the subtle).    The physical body goes out of balance, there is disharmony in the mind and things get shaped in one’s external life.    All of  life gets out of shape!

Whenever anything in your body, mind or life is not going well, try practicing your Yoga as a system of ritual interiorization.

Ritual interiorization means using Yoga practices to seek and serve one’s inner being, the  Soul.

A regular, daily Hatha Yoga practice will address restless and sluggish prana by freeing it up at the joints in the body.    However, if one does postures as a ritual of worship, the asana will also coordinate and harmonize the  energy.    A regular, daily pranayama practice will bring calmness and clarity to the mind.     But, if one practices pranayama as a devotional practice, it will fuel the inner fires and stimulate greater force.     A regular, daily meditation practice will bring a concentrated consciousness.  But, if concentration is consistently on one’s highest Self, it will install peace in the mind and heart.

A devotional attitude and spirit of sacrifice feeds an inner fire, which gradually creates change in the physical and subtle bodies.  Conscious movement of the breath is directly connected to the circulation of life energy, the prana, in the subtle channels.    The body and mind meets deep within the subtle channels, where thoughts ride like a horseman on the inner winds (vayus) of prana.    Thoughts and prana cannot be separated.  And it is prana flowing through the subtle channels that effectively creates our life.

These subtle energy channels can be purified and harmonized through asana, mudras, bandhas and mental concentration.    Hatha Yoga conditions and coordinates body and mind.    Subtle, powerful vital forces can be stimulated and distributed in pranayama practice, which increases physical vitality and creative energy.   Devotional visualization and meditation nourishes this energy transforming it into light and clarity.   The heat and light of this concentrated consciousness becomes electric.     Personal dynamism and magnetism increases.

The siddhas tell us that we can make changes in our external life that can propel us into our destiny.  It requires the  will-power to overcome self-indulgence and self-centeredness.    The biggest mistake we make is to think that our own happiness is something quite separate, from the happiness of others.    The proper use of will requires a spirit of sacrifice and a vow to overcome all selfishness and falseness.   Regular self-examination is demanded, along with the courage to give up the self-ness that causes us to see ourselves as totally separate from others.   This mistaken identification is what makes us suffer our fate.

Surely there is a great power at work in the Universe that has a direct affect on the lives of each and every one of us.     We learn to fear life, as we fear death because we realize that there is something at work; something beyond what we can fathom, drawing us daily towards fortune and misfortune.    Is it something personal or impersonal that determines the outcome of every action, even those that seem quite neutral?

The Siddhas would tell us that the cause of all karma is Ignorance.     This Ignorance arrives with our birth.    Birth is division, the infinite multiplicity of the One Eternal Existence.   Division causes the individual mind to be limited by its identification with the body, ego and the fluctuations arising within consciousness.  Without the knowledge of one’s true existence, life is afflicted by uncertainty.

Perhaps it is the Force of Unity Itself that places us under so much pressure in order that we might finally reunite spiritually with all beings.

To climb out of our fated lives, our individual will, must uncover and eliminate the imperfections that allow us to be selfish and self-serving.     Sage Patanjali says we must be resolved to give up all our mistakes and rid ourselves of all words and behaviors that hurt or harm another in anyway; give up all thoughts of revenge and forgive even those who try to harm us.    Only by wanting all persons happiness can our habitual tendencies and karmas be slowly eliminated.

Once this is accomplished, the way into our destiny is by adopting the qualities and attitudes that serve the Self in others: selflessness, contentment, truthfulness, generosity, compassion and kindness.  And then,  our life choices become simple.    We  plant the good seeds and at the right time, they ripen before our eyes.

Life  turns around when for one who has adopted the self control and the disciplines of Yoga, the ten yamas and niyamas:     Never harm anyone, always be kind;      never lie, always be completely honest;      never to take anything that does not belong to you;  be  always generous, never grasping or greedy;    give up all craving, all lust;     develop detachment for purity of the mind;    be joyful and commit yourself to be content;   dedicate yourself to your Yogic practices;     study your own mind and behaviors, ever correcting mistakes;    be open wide to accept the grace of the Lord.

The path to happiness  is laid before us.      The Siddhas have shown us the way.      It has always been a matter of choice.

Mother’s Day Reflections

I am spending some days visiting with my mother.    It was so nice to be here with her for Mothers Day.    We woke up early had a nice breakfast and attended her church.     She is a Presbyterian and the church she attends is quite friendly and open.   Her minister is rather progressive and preaches the teachings of Jesus in light of  “becoming like Him.”    His words all sounded quite yogic to me.    I am paraphrasing but he basically talked about how individuals are influenced by big groups of people over generations and can be infected by a wrong way of viewing the world and life in it.    This is not what religion is and religion should not be used to propagate harm in any way.    Religion is about living a life like Jesus lived, one purely of service and compassion.    He talks about a group of people at the church without naming names, who are really acting out of  great service and compassion.    Apparently a few church members meet regularly on different projects and were presently working  to make comfortable mats, for homeless people, out of plastic bags.   I find myself trying to imagine these mats.   Sam goes on to say that in the coming weeks a large dinner  is planned  to discuss how religion can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem in our culture.    He invites anyone who wants to be sent an invitation for this event to contact the church.   “All are welcome,”  he says, “but everyone must  make a request to be apart of the solution team.”

I am surprised that Mom can adore her minister so much and still be such a neo-con, but I think, maybe her hearing is so bad that she can enjoy the sermon without hearing any of it.    She was so funny shaking Sam’s hand and telling him how inspired she was by his sermon and that she will have to contemplate all he had said, and then turning to me confiding that she didn’t understand a thing.

After we had returned home and she had changed into more comfortable shoes and we were preparing to go for lunch, I told her what Sam had said in his sermon.    She said confidentially, “well you know, I don’t watch Fox News anymore.”   My eyes did not get too wide when she said that, but my smile did.
”Well, she said “except for Huckabee on Saturdays, I do like to watch that show.”

We have been speaking of spiritual things a lot this trip, and Mom is now beginning to listen with interest and even ask questions.    She says that she is not really a spiritual person.    I wonder what she defines as spiritual, but do not ask.    But she goes on, “ever since Dad died, I am interested in seeing the world differently.”    I had told her to continue to talk to Dad, whenever she feels like it.   She says she is talking to Dad a lot now.    I told her that when she most misses him, when a warm wave of sadness suddenly envelops her, it is because  Dad is there with her with his arms around her.    It is precisely because Dad is there that she is thinking of him so intently, and she begins to cry softly and says,  “You know, I almost thought that myself sometimes.”     I told her that Dad is there always in my heart and I speak to him each morning.    In my bathroom, I have hung a great photo of him playing golf  and I talk to him when I am washing my face and brushing my teeth at night.   Whenever I want to see him, I go in their and sit with his photo and remember him.    Sometimes when I am walking around the nearby golf course I see him swing a club or wave at me.     I don’t miss him these days.     I feel like I am closer to him now than when he was alive and living so far away.      We had both been so busy with our own separate lives, but now he is totally apart of mine.

A funny moment had happened in church that seemed significant.    There is a part of the service where members get up and talk “news and notes.”    A woman got up to invite everyone to a farewell party for long time parishioners who were moving to be closer to their children in another state.     She said, “I personally think this move is strange, isn’t it the point that children move away forever from their parents?”     Sam  retorted, “I suppose that depends on your parenting skills!”   I burst out laughing.     Sam did not continue and I sat wondering if, he meant that proper parenting skills prepare children and make them independent and they are supposed to move away forever, like birds from a nest, or that good parents create such nourishing environments that children want to stay close,  parents and children remaining interdependent.       I am still pondering this, from the karmic, spiritual evolution of the spirit perspective.     Did my mother do a better job at the true goals of parenting or did I?

For the spiritual life, one must share oneself fully, passing on all that one has learned.  Bodhisattva and all that…sharing discoveries and and caring for and serving others with kindness and compassion, without judgment and without need for reward, surely that is easiest to learn with one’s own children first.

But families are part of the passing show, and they can create conditioning that cause us to suffer.    They encourage attachment, desire, judgment, aversion, liking and disliking, pleasure and pain.    Even the best intentions can nourish or harm us, encourage us or limit us. And everything we do leads to more karma.

Years ago when my youngest son had graduated from high school and was going off to college in Boston, I asked my parents if they wanted me to move to their small town in the southwest, to be near to them.     I could feel that my father’s physical body was beginning to wind down and thought they might soon need me.     But, my mother’s immediate response was a surprise.    She had a dramatic and totally negative knee-jerk reaction to my heartfelt suggestion, so much that my father’s strong hands began to shake.    Her mouth went up at the corners and her eyes sparkled in delight at she claimed her assertive role and said, “never, you can’t come live with us!”    In retrospect, perhaps  her reaction was due to what she had been hearing about the large numbers of adult children moving back home with parents.     Surely the impression was that she was not going to be taken advantage of in that way.     I was traveling a lot and had a good  income and savings, was teaching Yoga and thought I could perhaps develop a small studio in their little town.    So her reaction stunned me.    Of course, I realized that karmically, I had no need to make this move.

We all know that we must not harm anyone or anything.  But more than not harming we need to give up all selfishness and the idea that we need only take care only of our self and our happiness.   It doesn’t work to only concern one’s self with one’s needs, desires and happiness. It is always self defeating; it merely ties us in knots.   Self-centeredness never gets us very far and often denies us true happiness.    It makes us grow old, selfish and greedy and remain superficial in our relationships.    My greatest happiness has come from my being willing to give up everything and allow change to unfold.

I thank my children for increasing my capacity  to give fully and love unconditionally.    The birth of my first son taught me that the amount of one’s happiness is proportional to the amount of one’s self-giving.    My children have opened my heart in a way that no Yoga technique or Spiritual experience has been able to replicate.    An open heart changes one’s life forever.     Becoming a mother twice was God’s gifts to me and they had both a specific goal and affect.      I had my first child because I needed unconditional love in my life.     And I had my second son to show me I needed to share my love and happiness more widely with others.

I can say without a doubt that Motherhood has commanded my greatest teachings in this life and that relationships continue to hold my greatest tests.

I

Ahimsa and Growing Pains

Today I receive a livid email in my INBOX from a man who apparently had a very strong reaction to my blog and to me.   I have decided to write about it in hopes that we can all understand why we act and react as we do.   Apparently this person became so irate that he chose to write.    “YAY more YOGA books and rants from ASURAS!”      He went on in a violent manner with rancor and profanity.    I did not particularly want to read the rest of the email, but it was obvious that the writer was truly suffering.  So I continued to read.

This is an interesting example of why we suffer.   Truly anything can cause  one to suffer,  but suffering is due to the particular seeds one has  planted in his/her own mind.    I have written some things that irritated  this person to such an extent that he chose to lash out, instead of merely dismissing them.   The words he chose appear to be due to  a desire to insult and hurt me.   I  can feel how stirred up his energy was writing the email.    Perhaps, he wrote because he imagined what my reaction would be to the words and images he had chosen in his own mind.

What are we to do as yogis when someone acts out  violently  or attacks with an angry voice and profanity?   How should one react when  harshly criticized or called names?

Surely it is a good teaching and test of my practice  and sense of equanimity.   Especially, since I am sharing my thoughts and my self rather bravely, in the first place,  by writing a blog, so open to the public,  of  my inner thoughts and about my life.    I do the blog for my growth and to share with fellow aspirants on this particular path — nothing more.     The questions  I am asking myself today are:    1) is there something that I should be doing differently and  2)  what can  I do to help the unhappy person who critiques me so readily and mightily?   Surely this person writing with such sarcasm and anger is only reinforcing those negative tendencies in his own mind and in fact setting himself up to inflict more pain on himself in the future.   Fortunately for me, the email has become fodder for my own practice and the blog.    And the blog is to help others.

As yogis, we all know the importance of the first restraint (yama) of Yoga, ahimsa (non-harming).   If we are to be authentic on this path, we must always be kind to our self and to others.  We must harm no one, not even by accident or negligence.      And too, we all know the law of karma, that when you act in a way that hurts someone, a seed is planted in your mind which ripens later on creating suffering for you.    Whenever you are aware of yourself doing something or even thinking something the seeds of karma are planted and once planted must ripen.

If  I am  to be authentic on this path, I must always be kind to myself and to others and  harm no one, not even by accident or negligence.   And I must be aware that it  is more important to watch my own thoughts  than it is to monitor the thoughts or actions of others.    It is critical that I acknowledge and correct my wrong thinking  and mistaken thoughts about others as soon as I see them.  Only then can I slowly eliminate negative seeds and plant good ones.  When thoughts and images in my mind begin to cause energies to rise up within me that create negative emotions, I stop them immediately,  through self control and by conjuring up their antidote.   The antidote comes from realizing that my way of experiencing  anything that happens  is always due to what I expect will happen.    You can shape your experiences by correcting your expectations.   This works every time.

Self control is one of the best spiritual practices I have.   Self control is a means of protecting my self from my own impurities and those of others.  It is certainly a useful way of avoiding pain until I have corrected my own mistaken thinking.

I think, we do not generally do enough self study in Yoga.   We do asana and pranayama and mantra and meditate, but without self control the results are uneven.  We must work vigilantly to correct the mistakes of our egoism, such as, a sense of personal attainment or pride.  To accomplish this, we  need self control.

Life is short, this work is difficult and we all have alot of work to do and so I will keep bloging,  come what may, into my Inbox.

A question of Religion

I have been busy writing a new book on Hatha Yoga.   The groundwork for the book is articles that I wrote  for Pure Inspiration magazine, over the past four years.   I enjoyed addressing these articles about Yoga to people who are brand new to it.  I tried to interest them by writing in a  simple and straight forward way about its benefits.    I  only slowly, very slowly introduced the various, deeper aspects of a Yoga practice.   I introduced the postures and breathing and then pranayama, mudras and meditation, hoping to prepare the body and open the mind so that Yoga would seem reasonable.    But even before I had written about Yoga’s more esoteric properties,  I had  a barrage of questions from devout Christians, asking, “Is Yoga, Hindu?”

This, my friends is an interesting question that entertains not only Christians, but also Yogis and Hindus.

Interestingly enough, the contributors for the magazine, Hinduism Today often write articles suggesting that Yoga has been hijacked from Hinduism and that Hindus need to “take back Yoga.”   For really very few Hindus actually practice Yoga.

Most Hatha Yoga classes today are seen strictly as physical exercise and certainly the practitioners are not and never will be Hindu.   Some of Hatha Yoga classes around Orlando are called, Christian Yoga.  I don’t know what that means as these seem also to be just asana classes.

Most practitioners of Yoga today, who practice Yoga as part of an integral, spiritual discipline, refuse to confine themselves to any religion.  Hinduism just as other religions has a strict set of rules that regulate spiritual beliefs and rituals, but also home, hearth and heart.   Having recognized that religion is one of the principle sources of division and conflict in the world, and that in an age where every detail about every religious or spiritual tradition is accessible through books and the internet, to confine our self to only one religion is severely limiting.  Taking on a religious identity creates automatic social divisions, starting with our family and friends. Once we  call ourself a Hindu, or a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, we invariably create a wall of fear and antagonism between our self and others, born of incomprehension and ignorance.

Yoga arises out of Sanatana Dharma, which  is of the oldest “religion,” and the first name given to Hinduism.   Yoga is spiritual but not a religion.  It  is a means of self discovery.   It gives us a reason and way to shun falseness and walk in truth and helps us to know the difference.   It is a way to love God and through that love to know Him and feel his love for you.    “God is love” religion says, but,  according to the Siddhas, Yoga takes that a step further to say,  “Love is God.”    And that He is the Transcendent Reality and the primordial sound Aum.

The Siddhas have drawn our attention to the Lord within us and and also without.    They have taught us  that it is through meditation and worship that we communicate with our Self and the Lord.   Hinduism would have us  worship and meditate but would require accceptance of all the accompanying rituals,  rules and regulations and suggest that a sanctified Temple  would have  the spiritual energy to attract the devas and Mahadevas and the Lord, Himself.   And  the temples and rituals  would be different for a Saivite Hindu than it would be for a Vaishnavite Hindu.   A Saivite would call Siva, Lord; A Vasihnavite would not see Siva as the Lord at all,  only Krishna..and so on …

As Yogis we can learn to see our own body as a temple, which too can become sanctified enough to welcome the Lord, in whatever Name or Form, He/She chooses.    And once we accept that the Lord is available within, we can begin to see Him/Her outside us, in various disguises and everywhere we look.

A yogi is one who practices with strict adherence to ethical guidelines of non-violence, truthfulness, greedlessness, honesty and moderation.   A yogi  must walk a totally disciplined life, vigilantly studying his/her words and actions in an attempt to bring purity and contentment to the heart and soul.  Only such a life (and not ritual) will create the firm ground necessary  to deny the senses and  Surrender the ego.  And once the ego is surrendered what religion is really necessary?  Firm ground creates the means to receive grace.

Surrendering the ego to the Will of the Lord is one way to install grace in our life.  Once installed, grace is poured incessantly, but you still have to be awake (Aware) to receive it.

Yogic awareness is required, not religion.  The use of yogic visualizations, mantras, yantras…the pictures and sounds arising out of an Enlightened Mind, that is what unlocks deep levels of Consciousness and brings purity to the mind and peace to the Soul.

Furthermore, Babaji does not tell us to become Hindu, instead he gives us His instructions for surrender.   He says we must first remember our Divinity, second express our Divinity and thirdly, enjoy our Divinity.    He says too, we must not discard His Living Presence in other forms.    He says that to practice his Yoga we must “love all and serve all.”

These words are all I require to settle the dispute for both Christians and Hindus alike.

Food for thought

A.G. sent  me a comment about my last blog-  ( I)   “could fix the connections I seem to be having with some of the powerful months, by using a powerful mantra for one of the months and mastering it in samadhi…”

I found the comment very interesting as I had never considered that I was having “trouble” with any months, but merely was responding compassionately to the nature and seasons of my own body and soul.   I found it food for thought.

Govindan and I drove to South Florida over the past week.   We visited the amazing Morikama Japanese Garden in Delray Beach.    Walking the gardens was a meditation and silent sitting was positively effortless.     We spent the day there and I was ready to return the following day.     It is magical, a place to be absorbed in the symphony of the bamboo forest and then  meditate in the raked stone gardens.    The powerful energy of nature, when it is cultured and beloved is non surpassed.   The sky was overcast, a light breeze continued to cool and caress us  throughout the day; the only rain fell as we were leaving and it was light, so as not to get you or the books you purchased on creating your own serene gardens wet.

We left the garden for Miami Beach, which was probably not the best decision we ever made.  We wanted to go to the ocean and had gone specifically to Maimi to meet with a swami with whom we have been corresponding for years.    He was visiting Miami as part of a US Tour,  giving Kirtan and Yoga programs to raise funds for his ashram’s school on the island of Omkareshwar, India.    He is an American, but he took sanyas by initiation from his Satguru, Anandamayi Ma in 1972, when he was 20 years old.   His devotion to Ma, his strict yogic discipline and his dedication to the ashram school is inspiring to all westerners he meets.

Swami Mangalananda’s beautiful, clear voice and soulful bhajans dutifully hit its target.     It seems impossible not to be touched deeply by the sound vibrations and original rhythms he sings, even if, one were to focused solely on his/her asana practice at the same time he was performing.

The experience with Swami was  interesting.    When we arrived to meet him, Swami expressed some trepidation and seemed a bit unclear how the evening would go.   He said to us, “I have had a wonderful day today, it feels like Swami is on holiday, but Jai Ma!; Ma only knows why I am doing this,  but it seems that I will be giving kirtan in a Yoga Studio, during a Yoga class!”

I can say that from the outset, it all seemed quite disrespectful.  And although I was very pleased that Swamiji had been so warmly received and extremely well, taken care of, I felt that Govindan and I should drive Swami back with us to Orlando, right then and there.   But here we were, in a lovely Yoga Center in South Beach.    Swami was seated in the front of the room with his tabla players as what felt like the background music for the strong physical set of asana going on in the rest of the crowded room.

The room heated up almost immediately to such a degree that swami had taken off his kurta top after his first prayer to Ma and sat playing the rest of the class in his undershirt.    One drummer had his shirt off before the set had even began.    The instructors lead the class through an intense series of postures, and she and another instructor also corrected students individually, all while Swami was singing his heart out.

While the images of this class invoked judgment within me,  the music of the spheres also began to work on me.    I began to work out the antidote to my view of what is wrong with this picture.   One has to ask why one would mix the two limbs (asana and bhakti) of Yoga in such a way?    But, I practice and teach just that… that asana practice should be done as a ritual of worship.    And, although the energy in the class that day seemed more to ignore  what was going on in the front of the room,  I suppose one has to start somewhere to both prepare the soil and plant the seed of understanding that Bhakti is the real juice of Yoga.     I do not know if this preparatory method works… but surely seeds were planted.     And while only two of the perhaps, twenty people in the class felt the pull to donate towards Swami’s school that day,  there were two more such kirtans planned.   Only Ma knows what will develop.

As the class began the teacher lead them in an omkara and pranam.  They chanted Aum three times and took their head to the floor.

They must be aware of the importance of worshiping the Self and  in respecting  all that would be passed on within the individual and collective events of a class.

A Yoga student must have great regard or at least feel respect for the teacher, irregardless of what the teacher is teaching, if anything magical like a blessing is to occur.   I wanted to stop the class and pontificate, “You must listen with your heart.  You must understand just who Anandamayi Ma is!”   I wanted to stand and declare, “This is Yoga… even in this confusion of body and spirit.   Real Yoga is the work that comes from the force of Bhakti.  Here in front of you is the power of a rare lineage, generations of discipline practice and penance.  Anandamayi Ma was no normal humanbeing, she is a Divine incarnation and Swami was initiated by Her and he is here to share that initiation with you, through the divine sounds of his voice and his devotion.  Do not ignore what is happening; listen and respect the blessing being offered to you.    There will come a time, when They invite you, to take your place with Them. Perhaps today is the day.”

My voice was silent but the message filled my own heart and sent tears streaming down my face.   Kirtan from a living, breathing lineage can touch the seed of aspiration within you, giving it sustenance and making it grow in light.     And that is when real Yoga can begin.
For more information about Swami Mangalananda, Omkareshwar Ashram see www.shantipurifriends.org

Living in a state of grace, a work in progress

Last week I had a Kriya Yoga Satsang dream.   Whenever they occur, I get busy.   I don’t recall the details of the dream, but remember that I had it now that I have scheduled a  seminar for May.   A first level,  Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Initiation in Orlando  May 21-23.

It seems that every May, I have a push for vigorous movement.   A sense of energy accompanies a systematic calendar of things to do – a “honey dew” list of projects,  practical and ambitious priorities that must be acted on and settled during May.

I wonder why May is my richest month of heart-filled movement and growth, both external and internal.   It has been this way for me for as long as I can remember.   The month of May is a perfect moment of balance of tranquility, energy and aesthetic beauty.

Everything seems to me to be Divinely Inspired.

April is the month, to which I always look most forward.   It is a satisfying time of creative self expression.  I can experience the free flow of shakti and new ideas.   With the additional hours of sunlight, and the bursting of colorful blossoms and fragrances (even if they also bring on sneezing and watery eyes), I experience more lightness, energy, and am drawn out and into activity.  I experience a sense of renewal and rebirth.   I  feel younger, healthier and more receptive to life.   (April is difficult for  me when in Quebec, as it normally is just so much like March).

Although, no surprise to anyone, nothing affects my personality or physical body more than the changing seasons.  In the fall, I feel absolutely exhilarated and blissful, freed of any complication.   I absolutely refuse to work.   (It is very nice when the grace of your life situation allows for this, and I am forever grateful).   I choose only to commune with Nature and practice joyful living.  It is a perfect time to travel to the Himalayas.

I enjoy working during the winter months.  During the months of November through March, I feel introspective, reclusive and contemplative—but they are productive months.   Come April, I am ready to meet the world again and enjoy all it has to offer.  I plant in my garden and surround myself with flowers.   I want to meet people and come together to work toward a common goal.   The height of idealism rises within me during April and May.  It seems everyone seems to cope better with the inevitable complexities that arise during these months of freedom and spiritual renewal.

Summer is extroverted, busy and normally exhausting.

There is  perfect Intelligence in the working of the seasons.  They are surely a reflection of the grace of the Divine.    If one can live fully attuned to them while attending to the necessities of life, perhaps one’s life is directed through that grace.  My objective in life is just that, to live in a state of grace.  It is a work in progress.

Simplifying life and taking stock

The last two months in  the sacred energy of the Kumbhamela were  intense.    This month we are relaxing in the simplicity of life and work in warm and sunny, Florida.     I have received quite a few emails this month from people working through the monthly lessons, of  The Grace Course.   They are for the most part commenting on and or  asking questions about awareness or are concerned about their progress on the spiritual path.    Awareness and progress are entwined.    They go hand in hand.

Kriya Yoga’s vehicle and destination is “action with awareness. ”        It is important, if we are looking for our progress that we consistently and vigilantly test our awareness.

Very often we equate spiritual progress with the experience of  visions, insight and inspiration.   It can become very easy to deceive our self about how much actual progress we have made.    However,  true spirituality increases awareness and when awareness is expanded it will encompasses our shadow side.   The higher we go in the practice of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga, the lower we must also go.    Increases in awareness will bring to light all that which makes us angry, impatient, fearful, prideful, envious and  full of desire, deceit and treachery?  As we work on purifying our consciousness,  negative tendencies and behaviors or even dark thoughts and desires from the unconscious may arise.    Unless we become aware of these,  acknowledge them and the need to transform them, they will  never be eliminated.    The ego will just reinvent its persona with them intact.

An evolving spiritual person  treads lightly and is detached and tries always to be aware of  his/her thoughts, emotions or behavior.   The spiritual nature is not egoistic or self-centered, but it is ever vigilant of itself.    Two questions a spiritual seeker must continue to ask him/herself is, “how often do I still get blindsided by my thoughts, emotions or behavior?”  How often do I find fault in others, yet, neglect to see the same fault within myself.

Before we can progress to the point that Awareness or Spiritual Consciousness becomes established, we  remain involved and identified with the stream of our psychological movements.

Awareness is the presence of the Silent Witness, which observes our  thoughts and actions.  As we deepen in our practices, we begin to identify more with that Silent part of our consciousness, which stands apart and witnesses what the operating part of our consciousness is involved in doing, feeling or thinking.    In order to establish firm ground we must bring that awareness to bear on every part of our human nature.   Only awareness can oil our squeaky wheels and rusty nature.  And such awareness arises only when we adopt sacredness into our life.

All the Kriya Yoga techniques offer us the means to separate our subjective functioning into two parts, the operating part and the silent detached observer.   It is with the Silent Observer part, that we meditate.   It is opening to that Silent Observer part of our self that makes inspiration readily available to us.  It is in silent contemplation that brilliant ideas dawn or answers arise and it  is this concentrated consciousness that completes our projects.  I know  people who regularly access higher consciousness, but remain arrogant and egoistic and have no interest in their spiritual self.   I know  people who tap into high states of consciousness, but who seem to have little grasp of reality.

Only a sense of sacredness will direct awareness towards knowing the reality of your self.   Awareness will  guide you to that which your soul aspires when your target is to maintain sacredness in your life.    Only then will you see when the ego goes astray and betrays the truth of the soul with mental delusions.   If you do not continue to train and practice awareness with sacredness,  desire and mental confusion can keep you floating on the surface level of your consciousness and undermine your spiritual work and the nature and quality of your life.

The Siddhas tell us that when we are awake to the world we are not awake to who we are, which is Awareness itself.  “Being awake to the world,” means being unaware of the movements of our thoughts through consciousness.   Being awake to the world implies that we are simply swayed this way and that by fleeting thoughts, imagination, fleeting emotions and fleeting desires and that we accept both the pleasure and pain they bring.

Being awake to our self is to grow in spiritual consciousness.   Such consciousness means awareness of who we truly are.   To unveil who we truly are requires an understanding of the sacred and demands consistent self study and living in truth.    To live in truth we must maintain continual awareness of the activities and actions of the body, mind, and emotions.   To make that stick, we must transfer the center and the source of our dynamism from the ego to the soul.    Awareness can be maintained only if the Silent Witness is placed in the foreground, to guide all our thoughts and actions.  And to do  that we must see our self as a sacred being, living a sacred existence without egoistic desire,  selfishness or arrogance.

Maintaining a Sacred Awareness

Maintaining a sacred inner awareness regulates the breath, calms mind and emotions and creates a concentrated consciousness.   Keeping some part of our awareness internalized allows us to easily concentrate our normally dispersed consciousness.    Inner awareness is maintained similar to the way the women in India carry full pots of water on the crown of their head.  They may walk to and fro, move up and down, and talk about this and that, but a part of their consciousness is always fixed on the pot on their head.  With that same concentration, we as kriya yogis must go through our daily routine, always with a part of the mind fixed on the Silent Witnessing part of our being.   We may fix the mind in awareness through the use of mantra, or by keeping some attention in the space at the heart, or between the breaths, or at the space between the brows or at the crown of the head.   With our mind fixed on the Divine,  our actions become sacred.

Hopefully as Kriya yogis we experience the sacredness of life and  choose to maintain that vision in our own life.  Sacredness brings juice to our Yoga.   Sacredness takes us beyond ego and self-will and desire.   A sense of the sacred creates the steadfastness and firm ground we need to discipline the senses, and thus control the desires and aversions, which arise through them.    Sacredness secures for us, a place where there is no need for passion, or fear, anger, jealousy or treachery.   There is only room for love and compassion.   In such a sacred state there is the opportunity for true progress.  By fortifying our life and our relationships with sacredness we create a beautiful everyday existence for ourselves and others.   We become liberated, free to be honest and free to trust.   Nothing to hide, we are free to be ourselves.  Courageous and unselfish we discover that giving to others brings us joy.   We understand that respect is as indispensable as love in a sacred relationship with our self and with others.   We are faithful and committed to our life as it presents itself to us.    We come to accept what we have gratefully, and with gratitude.   Life becomes simpler, less complex and less of a burden.

The Silent Witness sees clearly.   Awareness is discerning and discriminating and helps us to disentangle from the things that cause us to suffer mental and emotional confusion.   And although awareness cannot promise us a life strewn with rose petals, it will help us to appreciate the fragrance of whatever life brings to us.

Due to increasing Awareness, we no longer waffle in and out of relationships: wanting to be there, not wanting to be there.   Awareness like Love perseveres.  It is steady and wide and self existent.  Awareness like Love is dispassionate, neither hot nor cold.   It is a cool flame, pure, fixed, and constant.  Awareness replaces passion with Love.   Love ignites compassion.   As we advance as yogis we become happier, more content with where we are.  Nourishing our own inner self with our sadhana we want to nourish all those sharing our life with us.

Awareness opens us to understanding karma and that we truly reap what we sow.   Awareness brings a new sense of morality, duty or dharma to our life.   As awareness rises within us, a new guiding light of “dharma”will begin to take shape.   The dharma that arises out of awareness guides us so that we see and respond truthfully to each and every situation.    Whatever we do, will be good, not only for us, but for others in our life.   For “goodness” too arises out of awareness.

The awareness arising from a sacred practice of sadhana  should bring simplicity to our life.   Awareness is the light that lets us see the truth in every situation.   It makes us  incapable of doing anything that is  not dharmic or wrong.    Awareness   immediately reveals all that we do that  is false and hurtful to our self or to others.   It shows us  each error, failure or obstacle so we can correct it.   Awareness offers us a opportunity to learn from our life situations but it will not force us to see the truth or learn the lesson.   I have however, found that whenever I do not learn the lesson presented, a new and more difficult experience will come back around to give me another chance.

We  have free will and we remain free to choose even while we are sincerely doing our practices.    We tend to respond and react to life from where we are at the moment, or from that with which we are at the moment, identified.   But when we are false in anyway, awareness exposes us and life gets complicated.   And when we are living in truth and are expressing the essence of our being, life becomes simpler.   Awareness shows us that our greatest possession is to be witness to everything.

We can still be growing spiritually even though we are still making mistakes and missteps.  However, we must be in harmony with our life if we are to learn from it.  To be in harmony with our life and learn from our mistakes, we must be vigilant and aware and acknowledge each and every mistake we make, without trying to justify them.   Only if we are in harmony with our life as it is, will we ever be able to realize its purpose and learn to live a dharmic and divine life.