On the way to India

I was walking through  Macy’s Department store a few days ago.   It was practically empty.    As I was slowly navigating the jewelry department on the way to cosmetics, I overheard a woman about my own age saying, “I am sorry but I have short-term memory loss.   I could see the young sales associate eyebrows and mouth curl when she heard the woman’s comment.   She turned away.  The woman speaking was attractive, well dressed and decidedly wanted a second pair of earrings.  “Help me with these and I promise I won’t bother you anymore.”  Her exchange with the young woman, made me pause and fain interest in some jewelry at a nearby counter.   There had been something so poignant in the rather intimate admission.

I had just come from a deep tissue massage and was feeling quite exhausted.   Although I should have drunk a bottle of water to recover, I had chosen a grande non-fat latte.   I was already feeling it had been a poor choice.   I handled a pair of gold hoop earrings just to observe  the  sales clerk , to see how she would respond in either words or demeanor.  But, other than taking out another pair of earrings from under the glass counter, nothing indicated that the sales clerk cared at all about what had just been shared with her.    Expressionless, she placed the gold swirls in front of the woman and walked away.   There was no one else near her counter.   I wished to change places with the  sales lady behind the Macy’s earring counter.   Why do we so often miss out on the opportunities given us to connect with others.   Thoughts of this woman  stayed with me as I walked on to the Clinique counter where I asked for something for my puffy eyes.   I was sold All about Eyes  and left the Mall to get back to my office.   I had so much to finish up.   We were leaving for India in a few days time.

Back at the office, I grabbed a water and sat at my computer.  Within moments, my vision began to blur.  My line of vision narrowed and there appeared to be a piece missing in whatever I turned to look at.   At the same time, I felt myself withdraw or to be more accurate I dropped within.  I walked into my son’s office and told him what was happening.   He asked me a question but my mind had already begun to quiet.   I was able to speak but found it hard to be pulled out of my center.    All I could say was that I felt like I had been up for days.    I was alert but very spacey.   He said perhaps I should lay down and rest.  I preferred to go for a walk in the Sunshine.   We took a long walk.

The whole experience lasted not more  than an hour.   I was able to watch myself having this experience of being disoriented and  pulled so deep and not wanting to speak.    I didn’t want to look for words, and when I looked for them, they were often not there.

I did not know if something was wrong with me or if I should go to a doctor about this,  but I was aware and able to reflect on the state of my vision and my mind without concern.  I was comfortable with it.  Although I felt unaccustomed to the narrowed vision, I had entered a conscious quiet presence of the Self.  As we walked, the Shakti in every moment became spontaneously evident, as active presence.   It was the sparkle in the  atmosphere  and there  in the man walking with his ‘spirited’  Jack Russel Terrier, and in the ducks sunning themselves on the grassy shore and the cranes intent on something under the surface of the water.  It was evident in the  squirrels darting across the tree limbs and in the questions Alex posed and answered.  He asked  if I was feeling anxiety.   I told him I did not know what anxiety feels like, but I was definitely in an unusual state of mind.  He began to  describe the disorienting experience he often experiences.  I recognized what he was describing, it was a similar mental state, but, I felt an attraction to it, to the stillness and being alone within myself.  It was similar to the almost magnetic draw one has to stay inward, when in deep meditation—a refusal to become involved in interactions with the world.   The mind is conscious of a presence  and  the personality seems merely a wave of the ocean of that presence.   Alex tries to pull himself out of the state.  He is fearful of it.  He is trying to gently coax me out.

I told him that I was content, even though  I felt I was beside my self.   I felt full of energy.   I had loss some sense of individuality.    Thoughts did not seem to leave an impression.    I couldn’t say where my center of action was located.   Thoughts did not seem to be mine exactly, but appeared to simply be passing through my mind.

For that hour or so,  I had lost the control to shape my thoughts, but all the while I  felt aligned with that which  shapes  thoughts, or wills and feels and acts.    And it felt refreshing.

The same thing happened again two days later.   Alex wanted me to see a neurologist.    I made an appointment to see an Ophthalmologist.  My eyes were found to be normal.  The problem was not with my eyes.

The doctor asked me about the bouts.  In addition to the visual disturbances I mentioned I had experienced being very introverted, yet fully present.  My vision was narrowed but what I saw had a vibrancy to it.   I felt more sensitive to everything going on inside of me.    I could vividly  feel my body vibrating and pulsing.  I felt the distinct tingle of sensations of energy through my eyes and on my tongue and even though it was a cold day, I was not affected by it and could feel the  warm pulse of blood through my body as we walked.   I felt more circulation in my arms and tingling down into my hands.   He said,  he didn’t understand all the symptoms, but he imagined had an ocular migraine, perhaps brought on initially by the deep tissue massage.

The Siddhas say you are not the originator of action, but rather it is the Power of Shakti, a universal power working within you, which acts.   Excess  disturbs the shakti.   There was some external pressures, perhaps with the massage I had  been overloaded.  I was having the massage because my muscles were weak, inflamed and strained.  And instead of relaxing afterward with a water and a nap, I chose coffee,  and to shop, and get back to work seated in front of a computer.

There are no quick fixes to realignment.   What I do know is  required, is self discipline free of emotional excess and an ability to deeply relax the mind.

We are off to India day after tomorrow.    We will arrive in Chennai early Friday morning to have some meetings with some old friends and new work acquaintances  and on Sunday will attend the Book Release function for the Thirumandiram.  Then we are off to the Bangalore Ashram.  I will  meet with Swami Paramahamsa Veda Ananda and finalize the new Kailash book, get it formatted and hopefully get it to press.   Satchidananda and Satyananda will give a  Anthar Retreat over the following weekend  at the beautiful School of Ancient Wisdom in Bangalore and then we will fly to New Delhi, to  attend the Kumbhamela in Haridwar.     We will be in India until March.   I will try to do some blogging and when possible upload photos and stories about the Kumbhamela and the people we meet along the way.   It should be, as usual,  a cornucopia of spiritual abundance and a fascinating time for self-discovery.

Retreat and Renewal

The end of the year — a good time for conscious withdrawal and retreat. It is a time of transformational change. I dedicate the days between Christmas and the New Year for self-examination.  Sometimes alone, sometimes with others and sometimes in silence, but it is a time I always take for constant self-reflection.  I have been doing this, every year since the early 1990’s.  And still, each year I find there is plenty of fodder, readily available for the process.

I am traveling through life directed by the ties I have to my family, community, politics and spiritual beliefs. I am rooted in tradition or passionate beliefs or positions on what is right and wrong.  A powerful psychological structure is at play in my world, which is always shaping my thoughts and actions. I have however made the conscious choice not to end up being no more than a series of conditioned actions and reactions to the world.

Spending the last few days of the year, in peaceful circumspective introspection.   I have been looking at: simplifying my life by eliminating anything in it that is no longer relevant, ridding myself of anything that does not promote ease and wholeness and looking at the nuances of all my relationships and any unhealthy patterns of relating.

I begin this introspection ritual by breaking a coconut. I drink the water and taste some of the sweet white meat.  I place both halves of the coconut in glass bowls and fill the coconut with fresh water. I cut two golden roses and spread their petals and let them float inside.

I glance back at the flowers floating in the little coconut boats on my puja stand.  I glance at the flowers I have in the house and the blooming plants outside on the patio, which give me such joy.   What is it about flowers that I am finding so nourishing?  Perhaps it is just that I am so thankful that Nature readily gives us something so perfect and fragrant,  little powder puffs of shakti, if only for a few days.  And all I have to do is to water them and give them some sun.

I know these full golden roses will only be really beautiful today. There will be no freshness, no shakti in the blooms tomorrow, no fragrance.   In 24 hours they will wilt and the coconut will begin to mold.  But the freshness and joy they bring me today will not be obscured tomorrow.

Saint Thirumular writes we must “die to the world.”  He says that death and liberation is possible when we are not affected by the appearances of the world. But I find myself asking, “why do I need to be unaffected by the appearances of the world?”   I don’t choose to die to the world. I want to live joyously in the every moment. I love the rich tapestry of the world.  Babaji tells us to live courageously for the world and to do what we can to die to “time.” This, I can better understand that things come, they go, what is past is past.

The freshness and joys of today are generally obscured by thoughts arising from memories of past pleasures, aversions, frustrations and pain or of tomorrow’s hopes and fears. Each moment has a beginning and an end.  Creative change happens in those moments in which we are truly present to them.  Only that which truly ends can be created anew–the end of the day, the end of the year, the end of a cycle, the end of an argument or relationship or attitude, the end of a career, the end of stagnation, the end of a life.

Stagnation is what happens when a bad situation doesn’t end.   But stagnation can come to an end in a single moment.  And every moment ends, so why not let go of it and not carry it over into the next– into the future, into mind and heart and into the New Year.

The Siddhas tell us that to  live with a pure mind, one must experience the present and “die” to the past.  We can do this by giving up the memories that influence the present and by discontinuing hopes and mental habits that disturb life energy.   Struggle, aggression, defensiveness,  along with desires and daydreams become habitual and stimulate either excitement or inertia.   Stress is created in the mind and heart and subsequently balance is lost in the body.  Stress makes it more difficult to maintain life processes as it creates more demand on life energy.  Of course, as yogis we know we can both reduce stress and increase our capacity to absorb more the prana, by practicing the yoga postures, pranayama and mantras regularly.  But there is a law of supply and demand within each of us.  Any demand for more life energy than we are able to supply creates disorder and disharmony, which brings about disease, disintegration and death.

I make a list of resolutions.

#1 In this New Year, I will try again to dissolve past conditioning.   I make a list of old pains, aversions, preferences and fears.

#2 I will be spontaneously loving, kind and compassionate with everyone, including myself to bring order, harmony and abundant life energy to my physical body and life.

We have to participate in life; we are in the world.  We are not renunciants living in a monastery.   Yet like monks, we must practice inwardness and silence.  As Kriyayogis we practice pranayama, meditate and repeat mantra japa daily to connect with the best part of ourselves, the sweet, silent space with no sense of emotion, irritation or passion.  We are in a sense are learning to die to time.

# 3 I will consciously work to die to the past.  And I will continue the practice throughout the day, not through inattention to the minutes of the day, but by 1) becoming aware in the moment and 2) by ignoring the past and future.

It is only possible for us to live in the beauty of the moment, if we have an understanding of the whole workings of our mind in relation to the present. And being aware is being absorbed in the moments and feelings without losing ourself to them. It is like achieving a 360 degree view of each moment— knowing that you are absorbed in the moment, while aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions and at the same time, aware of what is going on around you.  This is practicing Nityananda Kriya.

#4 I resolve to practice renunciation by giving up mental chatter, memories, passions, agitations and daydreams. To do this I choose to regularly observe the contents of the conscious mind and all the reactions I have had to difficulty and challenge in the past year.  I must uncover the memories in the subconscious mind stuff, which still continues to haunt me and at times even determines the way I think or react.

As Kriya Yogis, we are taught to record daily everything that runs through the space of our mind without judgment, selection or rejection.  Even uninvited things will continue to pursue us until we consciously let go of the past and develop enough dispassion to counter the pull our desires have on us. 

#5 I will record all the subconscious tendencies that arise each day.   Recording allows me to be aware of all the crazy stuff that passes through my mind. Usually giving thoughts that little bit of detached attention is enough. Then, through sadhana, the day ends, and the mind is cleansed in a shower of calm and peace.

#6 In meditation I resolved to establish the equanimity that allows and wills whatever thought, feeling or emotion, which comes up in me, to  go, swiftly.  To be able to end something in a moment or two indicates self-mastery.  This is immensely empowering and allows for constant renewal.   I make an affirmation: I know  my own fears and samskaras and I am able to correct them.  Establishing  uninterrupted peace and equanimity is what I owe myself.

#7 I see also the most important thing is to concern myself solely with my response to all the moments of life, not yours.  I inquire into my own mind and heart so as not to assume or suppose, I know yours.

By coming to an understanding with the total workings of the mind and by giving up the past, we can come face to face with ourself.  We begin to experience the easy flow of insight and intuition.  It is really so simple that we can easily miss it.   The self, is there in each moment concentrating itself on seeking its infinity.  The self affects a quality of the mind that is not dependent on thought or memory, but which is instead pure perception and rich wide-angled awareness.

The pure essence of awareness is the only thing that remains consistent, which does not wilt or change its mind or become less than; it is the only thing that does not end or perish.  And, it is so simple; awareness has been there all the time.  

Dancing through the holidays

Wednesday, this week, we went to see Avatar on Imax 3D.   Oh, my, what an experience it was!    Govindan and I with my 3D-tech-savvy sons and Carl’s most creative wife.   We were all blown away.   We are all movie buffs, although I find that most movies I see these days are most forgettable.    Avatar is epic and not easily forgettable.    I want to take my Father to see it!   He passed away almost a year ago, but for the first time, I found myself thinking that I wish he had lived just a year longer and had not missed this!    He would have loved it and I would have so loved watching him, watch this movie.

Each of us left the theatre walking with a lighter footfall and seeing that the need for change is a serious matter indeed!  Just a movie of course, and yet Avatar left us asking the question, “what will it take for us collectively to transcend our conditioning?”   What is required to develop true harmony from within and without?   Avatar does, I believe, develop the concept of harmony beautifully and is a modern day kind of  Bhagavad Gita.   Hope of universal peace and harmony filled our Christmas stockings—Hope that even in a no-win situation, there is the potential for all to be enriched.   Can harmony, humility and modesty transform and metamorph us into more  finely crafted human beings?   The movie is bound to stir up a clash of ideals.

In meditation that night I looked at my own nature and life, at where  stagnation, indignation,  selfish motivation or lack of compassion may lay festering and I vow to correct mistakes .

…It was a delightful Christmas. The family was together and everyone was in good humor and in sync with each other.    The house was warm, noisy, light-filled and smelled of candles and cooking.    We took hours to unwrap the few presents we gave each other,  put on our new pajamas and hung out reading most of the day.  We took a long walk, and enjoyed a wonderful DVD, a German movie, Enlightenment Guaranteed about two lonely German men who lose themselves in Tokyo to find themselves, at a Zen monastery in Monzen, Japan.  We laughed a lot the whole day long.

On the new day, the feeling of quiet stills my mind; thoughts, feelings and imagination presently in sync.  I want for nothing.  My desires revolve around getting in that long, daily walk and seeing my family around me happy.  I am feeling content. I have no ambition to realize more.

In meditation, I see my goal…a mountain, soaring, yet as deep as it is high and abiding.  Aspiration to be firmly footed in the here and now, with a constant 360 degree view of the multicolored tapestry on an ever-changing landscape, rich with possibilities and ever-ready for even the most mundane, to be revealed as a miracle.  Each step I take up the mountain is deliberate.  I am rarely sidetracked by shortcuts these days, as I know there are none.  Although grateful for what is given or taught along the way, I find I am choosing to lead myself and remain focused on my committed course, come what may.

Is spiritual maturity more than deep and unswayable silent knowing, developed over time, rather inconspicuously?  For most of us it seems to comes late in the autumn of life.  It is dependent on learning from one’s own observances, own mistakes and on the degree of detachment and discrimination we can experience in every moment.

Regular maintenance– sticking to a routine Yoga/Meditation practice, I find, supports my stability.  It restores balance and provides relief from the pressures brought on by my routinely, overtaxed mind and overextended emotions.   It is routine stillness and meditation that allows me access to insights and oversights.  This is what  gives me an overview of each day and gives me, thank goodness,   a chance to hit the refresh ‘button’ and began the next day anew.

I see I still have work to do.   A sense of rigidity in shoulder and attitude make me want to withdraw and sometimes even feel alienated or  misanthropic.   Sometimes I  fail to observe some outer event unemotionally, but,  make note of it in the ‘slip and fell’ journal, I carry with me.   I seek to someday witness everything within myself, as the mountain would observe the changes in the weather.

Consistent rigidity in the mind and body cause patterns that contracts energy….hmmm.  A note in my journal…Became aware of a new rigidity in my emotional body; backed away and gained perspective on what is required to untie that knot…  This one will take patience and persistence!

This time of sadhana is a time of dispersion.  It is a subtle, yet potent influence.    My routine includes things that have the capacity to disperse tensions, which melt, scatter, or dislodge the obstacles and rigidities presently hindering unity and harmony within myself.

Spiritual maturity allows us to remain gentle and detached when dealing with our emotions.    It requires that we deal with them as they arise.    Rejected feelings tend to fester and cause impatience and disharmony in the body.  A sense of detachment will not close us off.   It will not make us cold and uncaring or aloof.  For it does not cut us off from the natural flow of prana, it opens us to it.   A sadhana of detachment and discrimination throws open all the closed doors of our consciousness to create a bridge between our inner and outer being.

Being gentle, kind and compassionate towards all, including our self opens honest communication between the mind, heart, emotions and even the connective tissue of the body.    I have been nourishing myself at deeper and deeper levels over the past few months to try to heal an injury in my shoulder.  Each day I have  to first, admit that I still have an internal conflict, second, I initiate a most sincere intention for reparation, and third, I am  beginning to express that intention in a relaxed and sympathetic way.  And slowly,  I am healing.

Thinking back, the process amuses me. I am reminded of scene from Avatar. Seeking the Self  is a little like docking the ends of a three pronged wiggly tail into one’s own Mother Tree.   At first the relationship is a little rocky, that is, before the real dance begins.

The work ahead

I enjoy the Holiday Season very much because it affords me the extra time and inclination to sit and be close to my Self.  I try to tell my mother this.  But she doesn’t listen because she doesn’t want to be reminded of anything joyous and especially not Christmas.   She says, “No cards or presents; it will be the hardest day of the year.”   I doubt it.   I imagine it will just be another Friday and will come and go unnoticed.  But she is serious about this no Christmas card/gift rule, except that both my brother and I are sending both cards and gifts.  We both know that if we didn’t she would be sad and angry and feel forgotten.   My brother unfortunately sent her a Christmas card and a nice check $ in the mail, which she tore up rather ceremoniously, and then phoned him to tell him so!  I on the other hand send her an animated Christmas card, which she had to figure out how to open up from her email.  I sent warm p.j.’s. and a new warm blanket and Green Vibrance smoothie powders and gifts to her friend and caretaker.  The last thing I want is for her to ignore the true value of the Holiday season.

Classical texts of Yoga, tell us that the true value of a human birth is to evolve spiritually.  Without definite methods and some tangible results our progress in evolution be would be practically impossible.   If the purpose of life on earth is to evolve then surely God must offer human beings some regularly scheduled spiritually energetic boons?

I find, as many others do, that spiritually powerful times often coincide with religious holidays.   I tell Mom, “Maybe Christ blesses the world with a special transformational vibration during this time?  And we need to be particularly quiet and introspect to take advantage of it.”

I think to myself, “Perhaps, one is allowed even, a peak into Christ Consciousness.”   Probably, it is our devotional nature that progresses us spiritually.  I definitely feel more devotional during these precious Holidays, and have the inclination to do more pranayama,  stay longer in meditation and expand mantra japa throughout the whole of my being.   Every spiritual practice for me takes on a more radiate hue and I feel I drop deeper into myself and move a bit swifter through any negative tendency of my mind.

I once read  ….”Mere meditation without devotion (bhakti) can be liken to a load of raw rice to a hungry man.   It is not useful to him unless it is cooked.   Bhakti is the cooking.”   The Holydays offer us fuel for the fire, required for the cooking.

I tell my Mom, “On Christmas Day, you should spend at least an hour doing the breathing exercises I taught you.   Just breathe deep for a few breaths and then begin to watch each normally inhaled and exhaled breath—nothing but that.   You will feel close to yourself and I am betting, close to Dad too!”   She listens.

Watching the breath through pranayama practices and mantra japa provides me the means to equanimity and serenity, regardless of what each day brings.  Pranayama and Mantra recitation is for me a daily sacrament, as I sacrifice each breath to the Lord, as I give myself to the mantra.  Pranayama and mantra connect me to the consciousness of the prana, the intelligence of the intellect.   I feel absorbed in the awareness in the mind and That, which preserves the body.  I feel all my parts united: my individualized self of feelings, memories, karmic merits and demerits sequestered in this mortal body, mind, breath and senses, and secured through an Immortal Beingness.   I don’t tell her that.

I say,  my Yoga practices done with sincerity, first thing in the morning, protects my mind, allowing me the peace and discrimination to accept the rest of my day with equanimity.   I move at ease through my day centered in myself.   If  I do find I am stressing about something, I do more mantra japa.

When I think about it now, the only real progress I can say I have made on the spiritual path is that I have a sincere relationship with myself and experience a full range of love and I can self-forget.   And it is the self forgetting, which forged that deep relationship and love and a sense of sacredness into my life.   The self-forgetting kind of  love encourages self-giving and the generous ability to see the worth of others.  This love makes us sweet and gentle and compassionate and beautiful and smiling and happy and courageous.

Mother still attends to herself and her feelings as if they are something quite precious.   She has not learned to self forget.  I told her this is really the only thing that can strengthen her truly precious self and give relief to her grieving soul.   She doesn’t understand and it made her angry.    But,  last night she told me that she had made meringues to give friends for Christmas.   Those had taken her all day to make.   And she seems happier.   I smiled and said nothing,  except  ‘that’s nice.’

Self-forgetting can be developed quite easily through simple methods.   When we find ourselves suffering from our thoughts or wallowing in our emotions, we need only to get busy doing something else.    We need only to do something that is not connected to the object of our suffering, or to our self.    For instance, we can just stop thinking about a person when we miss him,  or when we can think nothing good about him.  We can do this by getting occupied with someone else, or involved in some work that is interesting or just requires concentration.   It is not so difficult to become self-forgetting; it is all a matter of using your time and mind wisely.

This time of the year, Christians are reminded of the Divine Light that once touched Earth.    We should all be reminded to seek our own Divinity each and every day! —-Divinity of the sort of which Christ and the Siddhas spoke and is found in a kind, gentle and loving heart—And of the happiness so close to Divine Light.  We should be told to remember Christ by being cheerful and  and grateful and in service to others, which also keeps the entire body in harmony.   We should all be told to  use the devotional energy of all religious holidays to vow to maintain cheerfulness and gratitude throughout  the new year.   We should all be told at least once a year, regardless of religious or spiritual or political views to  vow to raise the quality of love in our hearts.

I recall now something the scriptures tell us over and over again and clearly, the key to our evolution, dawns.

“Rise to the height of Divine Love.  When you rise to that height, you rise to such a degree that in your father, in your mother, in everybody, you see nothing but God.    When you see that in the wife or husband, no wife or husband exists, but the beloved One, God, then you are in the presence of God.”

I AM, because you love me

Driving alone in the mountains, mantra silently rides on my breath.  The windows are down and the sun-roof open, the wind cool and crisp on my skin.  The sun’s reflected light off autumn’s intensely colored leaves momentarily takes my breath away.   My heart opens wide and I experience a fullness of delight that I have not felt in a while.   A message waits on that moment in time, “I AM, because you love me!”

What is imparted in Silence is not intellectual knowledge only, but a kind of direct experience, the realization of a truth through living it, an answer to an unspoken question.   The  “I AM” in me, is Self-sustaining strength and healing, manifesting in my mind and body.   It is Joyous Enthusiasm.

It seems to me it is this I Am Presence that solves all things and answers all doubts and reveals what needs revealing at the proper time.

Yoga tells me that to know the reality of the world and myself, I must consistently go beyond the physical and mental surface.  Only by diving deep can I come to know the hidden powers that control my world.   I can and in fact must learn to see the Self or Cosmic Spirit in order to become attuned to its Universal Will.   To do this I must follow the Universal laws and do the work, assigned to me.

Universal laws require us to  follow the path of Supreme Knowledge, to see the play of the Universe through every event and behavior of every person.   It requires that we respond to every circumstance pleasant and unpleasant with equanimity.   One must learn to be  accepting of, yet unaffected by, joy and sorrow.   Only in this way will the truth and the purpose of our life be revealed.  Only then will we be raised out of our present human condition and become attuned with that one with that existence of all Goodness or state of Being, Consciousness and Bliss (satchidananda).

I do not doubt the existence of a Cosmic Being, but what if a person does doubt that such a Being exists.   One of my sons doubts this existence, or perhaps more accurately doubts that a Supreme Beingness can or will take him single-handedly out of his present imperfect state of affairs.   How is the ordinary person living in the world that seems more greedy and dark, than divine and delightful expected to develop unswerving faith that some kind of Divine Goodness and Light is supporting him personally, on this immensely, tragic world stage?

I tell my son to be still and to trust his Heart.   He believes if such a Cosmic Being exists that the  intellect should be capable of touching or at least conceptualizing it.    He relies, as all of us do, on his intellect and believes the intellect is certainly more trustworthy than his heart (whatever that is).

I tell him that we must learn to rely on the Heart in order to enter into an experience with our soul.

My son has difficulty with the idea that he must, at some point, drop all reason and intellectual discrimination and rely on his Heart to experience the power of undaunted Faith and devotion.   “Without the experience of any  reality other than the pain and fleeting happiness of his heart,”  he says, ” how can he trust it?”    How is one to experience his own inner greatness or witness consciousness when he has yet to experience true inner peace, inner strength and utter inner self-sufficiency?

How do we make the link from our normal human condition to our divine nature?

To make the link from our human condition to our divine nature, we must consciously approach the divine spirit within and at the same time,  retreat from all that proves to be at cross-purposes to reaching it.   We must have peace of mind to clearly understand what produces inner and outer conflicts.  We must know what resists the connection between our mind and our soul.  We must be able to see that anything the ego affirms resists that connection.   The ego will consistently separate us from our soul and its influence.   Whenever we attempt to affirm the ego and intellect, we cut our connection with the soul and our Cosmic beingness.

What has been most helpful for me, is to understand that the soul is and has always been  my very best friend.   Unlike the ego, the soul never lead me into temptation or danger like my ego has.  And when egoism did get me into trouble,  my soul has never left me stranded there.    I have a deep and abiding love and reverence for my soul.  For that Presence, which I can only define as,  “I AM.”

I tell my son that when we remove the obstacles that keep us separated from the soul, we find ourselves left with peace and love and nearer to Divine consciousness.   And that experience has a particularly peaceful and comforting ‘feeling’ to it.

It is anger, fear, jealousy, pride, competition, resentment, pettiness, all these things, which create the great obstacles to that peace, contentment, loving presence.   Peace and love is what I believe unites me with my soul.    And neither peace nor love will stream from even the most powerful intellect.  Isn’t it the nature of the intellect to differentiate, divide and to dissect?  A Peace and love that does not differentiate, divide or dissect is the soul, shining through us.

Our Kriya Yoga sadhana or any integral practice of silent meditation and awareness can provide the internal reinforcement we need to reach the divine, but at the same time, we must give up any doubt and cynicism with regard to it.   We must develop total trust and faith in the techniques and the teachings.  For doubt and cynicism will successfully block any true progress we are making in our meditation, by maintaining that wall between our mind/sense consciousness and our inner witnessing consciousness.   Even with feelings of love and peace we will  be able to differentiate, divide and dissect.

To be ever susceptible to the influence of the soul and witnessing consciousness we must put the demands of the ego and the intellect aside.   Soulful moments are most often fleeting and can be missed unless our mind and intellect is totally absorbed in something and our heart is open.  This direct experience of, or influence from, the soul happens whenever we are totally present in the moment—we might be fully engaged in the beauty of nature or in music, or threading a needle, or mediating, or doing a higher mathematical equation.

Once a soul connection is made, thoughts may appear but they come from above or beyond our mind or intellect.   They appear to descend or flow as mind waves, but those which illuminate our comprehension in a new way.   We begin to see things from a new, wider and higher perspective, which is neither influenced by memory or intellectual reasoning.    One does not need to have a vision of Babaji or Christ or become a pillar of Light at these times.   It is just about being 100% present in the moment.

The Cosmic Being is the Self, a transcendental state of Supreme Consciousness and Supreme Bliss.  Perhaps the way to begin is simply to have a mental conviction of this.    Of course, I tell my son, if you desire to meet Masters, it is possible, but there is one requirement.   You must expect to meet them.   This is immensely helpful.   Why not expect to meet them either in dreams and meditations, or in person, even if you do not recognize them, when you do.

Love and wisdom are two sides of the same quality that seems to describe the state of oneness, of the Cosmic Being.   The wisdom has nothing to do with the intellect but is more like concentrated know-how.   One loves powerfully and has faith in a power much greater than oneself.   Such love and wisdom arises when the mind is engrossed in the prana and is concentrated within the soul.   The mind becomes like an all-engulfing fire and is consumed by it.  The mind becomes purified of judgment, cynicism and pettiness.   And all that is left is wonder and delight,  humility and reverence.   Nothing more is required for life.

The purified mind becomes eager and receptive and this allows wisdom from the soul to arise to answer the questions, prayers, desires of the heart and body.    The mind does not have to conceive a question, nor does the lips  have to verbalize it.   The answers just come out of nothing.  The mind must just go inward daily for one to hear what one needs to know, or perhaps deserves to know.  Without that inwardness, the mind and senses will be  too noisy for one to hear what the soul has to share.

Yoga Philosophy (Samkya) states that within each of us, there is a force that creates and sustains all life and directs the whole of our outer and inner Universe.  This involute called the tattva guna or Guru Principle existed before the Universe was created and just like the elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, it has been apart of creation ever since.   The Guru Principle or Cosmic Being is within each and everyone of us, as the inner Self.   So It is within me and too, It is within my son, whether or not he accepts it.

The Self is perfect and pure Existence of Sound, Light, Vibration.  And the way to the Self is through thinking, saying and living in Truth.  To do that requires us to be humble, innocent, agenda-less and loving.    However, it is not until we awaken to the fullness of what Love is, that we receive Wisdom.   Such knowledge allows us a wider perception of the world at large and a new understanding of our personal self and life.   We begin to notice the Divine acting everywhere in everything and wonder how we failed to see it previously.   True transformation cannot penetrate the physical body, words, thoughts and actions  and the events of our life, until our true nature– Love, agrees that it shine on its own accord.

A siddha’s unique relationship with the Divine

Every one of us is in pursuit of a life full of enjoyment, radiant health and natural happiness, without restraint.  Individually and collectively, we pursue happiness without seeking for change in our human nature.   And rather than trying to change our nature, we merely attempt to justify and reconcile our nature’s habits of unhappiness, due to desire, greed, aversion, hatred and fear, so dark elements along with the light continue to seek manifestation and arise in the context of life.

The primal strength of our human nature lies in the individual ego’s desire to exist.   And the ego is too strong to overcome without the support of  “grace.”   Grace, the saints and siddhas tell us, is the only means by which the vital motivations of the ego can be replaced by higher consciousness from the soul, allowing for a life of natural happiness and cellular harmony and balance.   Grace is the only means by which there can be a transformation of human nature, where the light of grace can pervade and illumine all the darkness.   All religions subscribe to the power of transformation through Grace. And although we all have different names for Grace, such as, luck or mercy and we have different definitions and different ways of attaining it, isn’t grace what we are really all seeking?

The Saints and siddhas of the East were great beings who knew all about the nature of grace.  They were saints and sages of a perfected nature who lived over the centuries and taught others to seek change in their human nature and to develop their divine potential to perfect body, mind and spirit.   But only a very few of these saints and siddhas had a universal mission to bring all of us, along with them, on the Path of Grace to harmony and perfection.  Most of them are well-known to us, however; some of the world’s  greatest siddhas are not.

In less than a month Govindan ( Satchidananda)  and I will be in India to celebrate the great Saint Thirumular.   We travel to Chennai to attend a book release function of  the Ten Volume Series of the English Translation of the Tirumandiram (translated with commentary by Six Scholars & edited by Professor Dr.T.N. Ganapathy).  We are very excited about this event.   So many individuals have been instrumental in bringing out this new edition.  Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas in Quebec and the Yoga Siddha Research Centre in Chennnai and  Dr. N. Mahlaingam of Coimbatore India with his Varthamanan Publications of Chennai are jointly publishing this new edition of the South Indian Siddha Masterpiece, written by Sant Thirumular.

This great work inspires us to realize our greatest potential as human beings.  It’s very study is grace bestowing.

As humans we have the unique ability, unlike any other species, to not only conceive of perfection, but to notice our own imperfections.  Furthermore we have the imagination and the power to devise means and apply these means to transforming ourselves perfectly.  The word Siddha refers to one who has become perfected through the scientific art of Yoga. The author of the Tirumandiram, Tirumular, is a Siddha, who laughs at the limitations of ordinary human nature: the malas or stains:  ignorance of our true identity, egoism, delusion and our collected habits, our past karma.  And he speaks to us not in some dry, philosophical tone, but in the first person, with the joy and inspiration of one whose deepest aspirations for the Divine have been fulfilled by the Beloved.  He also instructs us in the myriad ways in which humanity loses itself, how through the practice of yogic sadhana, one can not only find the Truth, but surrendering to it, become transformed, physically, vitally, mentally, intellectually and spiritually.  His words are as relevant to us today as they were two thousand years ago, because our human nature has not changed.  The Tirumandiram is  a pathway to God realization and to perfecting the potential of human nature.  It’s study opens us to having a relationship with the Divine.

The culture which gave birth to the Tirumandiram is a unique, living culture.  But it is also threatened by indifference and the distractions of the modern world.  The wisdom teachings of the Tirumandiram are born of hundreds of generations of yogis who since ancient times have sought perfection.  If the purpose of human knowledge is to alleviate human suffering, that knowledge which eliminates human suffering completely is the greatest of knowledge.   The teachings of the Thurumandiram can be applied widely to the problems of human nature, in psychology, politics, economics, ethics, health, theology, and indeed all areas of human purpose.

The Tirumandiram is not an easy work to read.  It is very dense, filled with expressions which have layers of meaning, often purposefully obscure.   Because of the depth and breadth of its subject matter, which is often esoteric in nature, one must approach it informed by the rich tapestry of Indian philosophy, theology and culture.   Because so little is known about Thirumular and the other ancient siddhas and what is known is often spun in myth and legend;  it is important to know about and study  the teachings of  the modern day Siddhas  who carried on this Tradition.

One of the greatest of  the modern day siddhas, Swami Ramalinga was born in the 19th century, on October 5, 1823, in Tamil Nadu, South India.

Ramalinga Swamigal was a Sage of Truth who possessed divine knowledge and attained a deathless transformation of his physical body along with the self creative power of materialization.  His story of Grace is not a legend or myth, his life is documented fact, as he personally recorded forty thousand verses describing his experiences, and was well-known to millions of people in India, during the time he lived there.

Swami Ramalinga, or Vallalar, as he was also known, was one of a long tradition of siddhas, who not only transformed and perfected their vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual being into a state of pure Wisdom and Grace, but, who also transformed and perfected their physical body into a golden body of cellular ambrosial light, which would even defy death. The siddhas attained, not a mere detachment from, but a complete mastery over sleep, hunger, thirst, fear, anger and death. According to Swami Ramalinga, “the physical body has the potential to become deathless and ever prospering.” He called it the “triple indestructible body and an eternal physical truth body.” This potential he says “arises with evolutionary progress of the whole earthly world.”

The body is composed of elements, several million minute particles of atoms of unpurified elements, of earth, water, fire, air and space. The siddhas demonstrated that the impure body of impure elements can become purified to such a state that the very elements come pure. The physical cells of Swami Ramalinga’s body were composed of pure atoms of the purified elements and his being, empty of ego, was an incarnation of Absolute Compassion, Absolute Mercy and Absolute Love. The atoms alchemize into pure and perfect atoms resulting in a body of love. Matter was converted into energy. The very particles of human matter became perfect and pure particles, powered by a descent of Divine Grace into his body. Energy became light force. He achieved this body, which gave off a golden hue, through universal spiritual communion and devotion to God. Three direct rays of light were said to descend through a point in his head during his intense point of spiritual communion.  Eye-witnesses testify that when he was seated outdoors, a pillar of light was often visible coming out from his head straight toward the sun.

Not only did Ramalinga Swamigal transform his own body and being, but he taught that every one of us have that same potential to transform our body to remain youthful, healthy and pure. He taught to reach this physical and mental state, we must follow a Divine Path of Purification, in which we choose to sublimate our ego, and enlighten our intellect with intuition, inspiration, discrimination and vision with Unlimited Intelligence and Unlimited Infinite Light. Swami Ramalinga taught that sublimation of the ego would change our human nature and allow pure loving compassion, wonder and delight to guide us in all thoughts and actions and experiences. Sublimating the ego opens the human for the Divine descent of a Vast Grace Light. Through God’s Mercy, the Vast Grace Light descends and the cells of the human body are instantly purified and become light.

Swami Ramalinga described a principle of discipline or purification of the ego, which alone can bring about this transformation. This principle has two aspects: universal reverence for life and devotional meditation. The first, he said is most important and if acquired, grace comes easily. God is present in all living beings and all living beings are in God. By developing compassion for all, a universal spiritual communion and universal love can be obtained. Grace is the mercy of God. Compassion is the mercy of the human soul and by developing compassion; the Grace of God can be realized-like a spark expanding into a radiant light.

The mission Vallalar was born to do, was monumental. Even at the age of five months, he was recognized as a great being, when at his communion, in the most sacred of all temples of Siva Nataraja, at Chidambaram, in Tamil Nadu, he laughed aloud, when presented to the idol of the Supreme Lord. All in the temple fell to their knees at the immense sanctity they felt from his laughter; the chief priest ran forward embracing the child and declared that he was truly the child of God.  Vallalar had came to uplift humanity through true love, compassion and true Knowledge, and without the need of religion, or ritual, but through a way of life he called the common, “pure good and true way.”  He was born to bring down into the world, the Vast Grace Light, to stimulate an evolution of mankind and prepare for a divine life on earth.  He was to usher in a new heaven on earth.

At the age of 5 years, he began to write a torrent of psalms and ecstatic hymns of the new Intelligence, which was dawning on him. Not only were these not the words of a five year old, these were not the words of a man the world could easily understand.

“What a wonder it is, Oh God, you have educated me in all knowledge; you have inculcated in me an ardent love for you” you have persuasively taught me that the whole world is nothing but a mirage; O My Benevolent Being!  You are in me and are showering your Grace; you have condescended to be my spiritual Master and blessed me, the insignificant creature with a status above wants without being driven to the necessity of begging others.”

About the age of twelve, he began to identify the means of his inspiration and Unlimited Intelligence, as the Supreme’s Grace Light.

“You have infused all knowledge in me without my undergoing the ordeal of learning to such an extent that the most learned come to me to learn more. O God! My stabilizer! You have endowed that Grace Light with which I could realize all knowledge and all wisdom and everything else without being taught.”

Swami Ramalinga was an alchemist and his work focused on divinely changing material substances back into their original principles and powers, back into their original essence, in what he called Grace Light.  He was able on a mundane level to change base metals, like iron and copper into gold. He was able to control the elements and bring rain in times of drought, and put out fires, which were raging out of control. He would never get wet in rainstorms, and in fact, although he was clearly seen by all, he was never touched by anything. He walked without footprints and without casting a shadow. No photo could ever be taken of him, only the white cloth, which draped his body from head to foot, could ever be captured on film. He rarely ate, requiring only a small amount of food every few days. There was something so extraordinary about the golden glow of his body and its subtle hint of camphor and his soft, penetrating gaze. He never let anyone look him straight in the eyes, keeping them partially shielded. Only once, his closest attendant caught his eyes straight on as Ramalinga was coming out of meditation. Such, was the force streaming from Ramalinga’s eyes that this disciple went into a state of trance for weeks and awoke in a transcended state of grace.

Swami Ramalinga taught millions of people in South India about the Vast Grace Light. He taught that this Vast Grace Light carries the power of Knowledge, Harmony and Perfection and has the power of eliminating the disputes due to religion and philosophy. The Grace Light, he said, is a force of nature, like the elements, and like the elements it is always present, whether we acknowledge it or not. This Grace Light is always available to us, if only we can learn to remain open to it, to receive it, channel it and let it return to its source.

Swami Ramalinga taught that to be truly happy, man must achieve the Light of Grace.

He taught a progressive evolution of the speck of light, which is already manifested in every human being, into the greatest light of Supreme Grace. He taught how to open internally and remain eternally open to this flow of the light of grace. He taught the importance of thinking about “what we are, and what we are about.” He preached harmony, both inner and outer, and loving-compassion and service to all.

The new values were to create noble beings, unconcerned with the failings of others, yet, at-one with all beings, discerning the divinity of all creatures, large and small. His most well-known practice was “see all beings as your own self.” He taught to relieve the hunger and thirst not only of other human beings, but of animals, birds, insects and plants, as a way of realizing God, who is present in every species. He condemned the killing of animals and converted many to vegetarianism. These new values were to become part and parcel of all thought, word and deed. He preached, but, as with other great saints before him, people did not always listen.

Swami Ramalinga was never interested, as many yogi-saints before him had been, in teaching about personal liberation or salvation, or about acquiring powers. He was looking towards a collective and progressive evolution of mankind itself. He worked during his 51 years on earth, toward establishing new values of Truth Light upon and in all the people of India. Swami Ramalinga cultivated the vision of equality among all of mankind. No one would be denied this Knowledge; there was no thought of, or regard for, class, wealth, creed, or gender.

Out of compassion, in 1867, Ramalinga founded a dharmsala, a place for housing and feeding the poor. At the inauguration ceremony, which lasted three days 10, 000 people were fed. Food was miraculously bountiful and was often distributed by his own hand, from pots that never seemed to become empty. It was repeatedly recorded by the man in charge of the kitchen, Shanmugam Pillai, that when food supply seemed low and not enough to feed the crowds, Swami Ramalinga would vocalize aloud a syllable, “pich,” a derivative of “pichchu,” a name for the Lord, and the food was always ample,  more than enough.

Out of great mercy for his fellow beings, in 1870, Ramalinga had a Temple of Wisdom built at Vadalur, a village in Tamil Nadu, in a record six months time. It stands still today in simple, yet extraordinary splendor.  It was constructed as an external representation of the experience of self- realization of the Grace Light within himself. The temple, octagon in shape, representing a lotus in full bloom is a simple symbol of his personal practice and attainment.  It is the symbol of the perfection of the soul, which is man’s ultimate destination. The temple is surrounded by small pillars that are connected to a chain of 21,600 links, which represent the number of breaths, we take each day. Inside the temple Ramalinga designed an inner sanctum, and within its center structure, he installed an oil lamp within a five foot glass and metal box. When he lit the oil lamp in January 1871, he promised that it would be kept burning until the Vast Grace Light was manifest on earth.  The light has never been allowed to burn out. The oil lamp was lighted and worshipped as a symbol of the clear pure soul, which allows the natural luster and splendor of our own divinity to be revealed. The Light is a divinely sanctioned symbol of Divine Love, Truth and Knowledge and God Himself. The symbolism and energy here is powerful. The temple represents our own physical and subtle body. Keep the temple (cranium) open and all will be given.

Seven colored curtains, representing the veils of ignorance that keeps us from our divinity, conceal the lighted lamp. These veils conceal the individual ignorance, which includes the vital or instinctive habits of the senses and of the physical and body habits and instincts that obscure the soul and hinder integration of the qualities of the soul. The first screens, of black, blue, green and red represent the experiences, pursuits and instinctive habits of the desire-born senses of life, and all reflect our lower nature. Even if we are able to detach from our lower nature, and see the soul, there are additional veils, gold, white and multi-colored that remain and continue to hide our highest divine potential. Purification level by level, of mind, vital, life and body is the means of accessing and crossing beyond all these veils to reach the Supreme Grace Light (arun perunjyoti).

No ritual is observed in this temple. Ramalinga issued strict orders that only camphor is to be burned in the temple and that devotees should only pray to God silently. He asked all to meditate on the Lord of Light seated in ones own heart and to pray to the Supreme Grace Light. He says that prayer alone can fill one with love of God and take one into ecstasy.

The Temple of Wisdom, at Vadalur has never had any sectarian influence or religious fervor. No deities are worshipped, nor did Ramalinga allow worship of his personality. There are no graven images to be found anywhere. Swami taught self awareness and he taught love and devotion to the Supreme Grace Light of the Divine, which abides within everyone of us and without each of us. He wrote songs of devotion, which can even today bring tears to the eyes of foreigners who do not understand one word of the Tamil in which it is sung. The power of the rhythm of the music and syllables of the Tamil language are such that it is apparent these songs were written for, and come from the Lord.

Towards of the end of 1873, he placed outside the door of his own room an oil lamp, which he had been using inside and asked his disciples to worship it and to keep it burning forever. He asked them to imagine the Supreme Grace Light manifested in the oil lamp and to pray for Grace. And he introduced to all devotees of this Grace Light, a mantra, a call, for one’s true self and nature to emanate from their heart, and illumine their intellect. The mantra to be chanted aloud is:

Arun Perunjothi (Vast Grace Light of the Divine)  Arun Perunjothi (Vast Grace Light of the Divine)

Thanip Perung Karunai (Supreme Compassion) Arun Perunjothi (Vast Grace Light of the Divine)

A mantra protects the mind in a bubble of grace, protecting it from the pull of the ego’s desires and aversions. The Swami promised that this mantra has the power to provoke the descent of grace light in a fraction of a second, and it has the ability to establish that grace light in the hearts of those who repeat it with sincerity, love and devotion to the Lord. The mantra is a call for God’s Mercy, for His Grace of limitless intelligence and limitless energy.

Alas, Swami Ramalinga’s spiritual mission did not take root and sprout in the way it should have and he expressed some sorrow when he said, “We disclosed the treasure, but no one was willing to have it. We close down.”  “You my dear ones, have chosen not to hear me. There are some enlightened persons in the far north. They will be coming over here. They will learn this philosophy and preach unto you. Then, perhaps you may listen.”

“Oh, Lord of Life. What is the use of repeating my humble desires when you know my mind? When will all the world, realizing the universal spiritual communion, enjoy eternal happiness devoid of miseries and death? When shall I, on seeing their joy, be happy?”

On the auspicious day of January 30, 1874, at the age of 50, Ramalinga wrote for his disciples:

“My beloved ones!” I have to be out of your sight for a time. Do not worry. Keep the Light of the lamp burning forever. Imagine that god is there and worship that light. You will be amply rewarded. I am in this body now and after awhile I shall enter into all the bodies of His creation. Close the door and lock it outside. The room, if order to be opened, will only be void.”

Ramalinga then shut himself in his room and asked his disciples to lock it from the outside. The instructions he left were simple, “Continue to feed the poor.” With his disciples seated outside and late that same night, he merged in a flash of violet light with His creation and disappeared without a trace. He had chosen to dematerialize his physical body and merge its deathless substance in the nature of the earth for some collective evolutionary action.  An elaborate police inquiry ensued and after great deal of inquiry concluded that indeed Swami Ramalinga was a great being who had vanished into thin air.

Swami Ramalinga’s mission was the achievement of the Divine Life, a divine life full enjoyment and natural happiness without restraint. It is said, “A human being even in the womb suffers from something or another, and these suffering are born along with him.” All Great Beings have concerned themselves with the miseries of life in the world. The only passage through the world of suffering is to fall at the mercy of the soul. Compassion is the mercy of the soul in human beings. By developing the mercy of the soul, the mercy of Supreme Grace Light can be realized.  And from one small spark, a great fire can spread….

Each year we visit Swami Ramalinga’s Temple on our South Indian pilgrimage.    It is a poor and most humble place.    Yet even today,  so many years after Swamiji’s disappearance that small perpetual flame burns and one simply can not be unaffected by it.

a mother-daughter relationship

Karma seems to be speeding up for my mother, or perhaps it is  our karma together that  is escalating.  Even when I accept that karma allows the soul to evolve toward perfection and can help one lead a better and nobler life, it is very difficult to understand and accept my mother’s reaction to the last stage of her life.

The Siddhas tell us that the first cause of karma is due to the infinite multiplicity of the One External Existence of God-that One without a second. Due to this multiplicity we are ignorant of our ultimate and eternal unity. Because we each have a separate physical consciousness, division is created.  The mind, limited by its identification with the body creates a strong sense of separateness. The ego secures this sense of separateness.  This understanding gives me solace.

My mother lost her husband, my father, early this year.   She and Ben were married for 70 years and their life together was her reason for living or purpose.   Since he died of pancreatic cancer, she says life is without meaning and she is without any means of happiness.   She tells me, “I will never be happy again? It is impossible, I have lost Ben?”    I tell her that she has me and my brother and her grandchildren who all love her.   But this is no solace for her.   Her husband is gone and so is her happiness.

“Happiness is easy to experience, Momma,” I say, “even if your loneliness persists.  Of course you are grieving Dad’s passing, but I can’t understand why you say you have no happiness left and will never be happy again. You have so much for which to be grateful.  Your years now can be spent fully in gratitude and reflection of all the blessings you have received throughout this life.  You had 70 years of wedded bliss.  How many people can say that? I have lost my beloved father, but I am so very grateful that Dad lived to reach his 91st birthday.   Do you know that only 2% of all Americans live to be 90 years old?  And even now at 92, you have financial security and children who you speak to daily and friends who visit you regularly and church, and bridge and  social clubs.”

“You just don’t understand, she decried, you can’t understand, nobody can! All the beauty has gone out of my life!”

Circumstances do not make us, they reveal us.  My mother has revealed her inner state of irreparable despair.  Dad had really been her center and source of happiness.   So now, her center is gone?

I suppose we all believe on some level that the true goal of life is to be happy.   And many of us believe to be happy we must be with someone who makes us happy.  However, if we remain caught in the laws of the ordinary mind can we ever really be happy?  My mother has still not discovered that happiness and beauty is our natural state of being.   Mom taught me so many things growing up, but she never taught me how to be happy.   She thought that happiness comes with pleasant external conditions.   She says I am happy because I have a husband and children.   I have tried to explain instead, that happiness, which radiates from my personality, comes from the greater consciousness of my soul.  Just as does her happiness.

I was just speaking with my mother this afternoon and also speaking with a lovely woman about my age who went to see my mother today with the most beautiful gift of cheer and remembrance.   Renae brought my mother a large crystal ornament.   She had filled it with golden beads and with my mother had placed a folded note with my father’s name on it, with his date of birth and their wedding date.  Renae had placed the ornament on a pedestal and surrounded it with golden painted pine cones and ribbons.   She had taken immense effort in preparing this ornament as not only a Christmas decoration but as a puja, a special remembrance for my Mother during this particularly painful season.   Renae invited my mother to speak about my father and their romance and marriage and they had cried and laughed together.  Renae had called me afterward to tell me how special this had been for her.   I spoke to my mother today too.   She only mentioned that Renae had brought her cheese enchiladas for dinner!

Mother still has a sharp intellect.   She loves to read.   I send her spiritual books that I thought she would enjoy.  I have sent her music and magazines with uplifting stories.  I sent her the things I have written and she says she reads everything.   She  won’t listen to the music, or even books on tape. I don’t know why.   We rarely discuss anything that might require her to consider or question her view of the world.

I thought my mother would find some peace and solace in a new perspective since my father died,  but I realize that she is not really seeking peace or happiness.   Instead she is seeking to feed her pain and suffering and her only consolation seems to be indignant political righteousness.   She tells me that the only thing she looks forward to each day is hearing the truth from FoxNews, which confirms all her suspicions.   She is 91 years old and the only thing that momentarily eradicates her pain is  her staid political opinions.   She feeds her vital body daily with self absorption and anger.  She says she cannot talk to me because I do not accept her socio-political beliefs and she can’t stand to listen to anything I have to say on the matter.  Anger always gets in the way of understanding.

I realize that I am still trying to change her.   I would love for us to have that amazing mother-daughter bond–that intimate bond like no other.   I have never had a relationship with her like I have with my own children.   But she is still here, so I will persevere.  You never know.

A recollection of past pilgrimages

Very soon we will be leaving on Pilgrimage to the 2010 Kumbhamela, in Haridwar.  It has been 17 years since my first Pilgrimage.  My first pilgrimage was an exotic and sometimes rather shocking exposure to religious fervor, death and rebirth.  In subsequent pilgrimages it was sometimes shocking to witness my own religious fervor and sense of death and rebirth.   I can always count on the spiritual energy of India to intensify my  Yoga practice and deepen my meditations.   The priest’s early morning chanting, the bhajans sung by devotees,  the temple bells, conchs and drums , the fires, prayers and ablutions of the sadhus set us  afire.  I find  superficiality is stripped away and one is drawn down to one’s bones.  Pilgrimage in India affects anyone who is the least bit open to Her power.

I have taken many pilgrimages in South India and traveled to the sacred char dham of the Garhwal Himalayas (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri).  Pilgrimage in the South are different from those in the North.  The South is all about experiencing the energy of the intense worship that has built up such power in the ancient Temples.  Pilgrimage  in Northern India regardless of where I go is not  about the  temples. It is about connecting to the Immense Prana and Spirit in its Nature.   Pilgrimages in the South and North demand willingness for  karmic purification.  The Himalayas require total surrender.

The conditions in the Himalayas  are still very difficult and dangerous.   There is great physical challenge for lungs and limbs and life.  But the changing landscapes, meandering rivers, rock formations, waterfalls and fragrant and pristine air fill my soul more than any temple ever could.  There is nothing quite as spiritual to me as hiking in the Himalayas and specifically trekking to  sacred spots of mystic vision and bliss.   One never returns from these places the same person.

I have next traveled on pilgrimage also to Nepal. I have the witness cremation site at the sacred Pashumatinath Temple in Katmandu on the holy, Bagmati River. This Hindu Temple was established by the Adi Shankara in the 5th Century on this holy river.  Even to this day the priests at the Shaivaite Temple are Brahmins who have come from South India to officiate at the Temple.  The River Bagmati however is no longer a majestic or sacred. When I was there in 1994, the cremations were still taking place, but the river is so terribly polluted with floating garbage and toxic waste that it is no more than a sad commentary on man’s brutal disregard and neglect of the earth’s gifts.  The Indian Himalayas has not been disrespected nor  disregarded.  It  is still the abode of  God and Goddess.

As I write this I reached for my coffee and see an absolutely perfectly formed heart in the center of the almost finished drink.  Even as I  take another sip the milk foam continues to hold the heart shape.   Each day brings me small wonders that I delight in.    That is what it is like  in India… small things arising in the moments of each day that could easily be overlooked, but which instead take on a bright hue of delight and significance.

Over the past twelve years I have been traveling with Govindan on pilgrimages to India once, or twice a year.  It takes quite a bit of preparation to make these trips possible when we  take a large group with us.    It always requires  a “man on the ground” to physically travel to various hotels and arrange payments six months ahead of arrival.  Even in this day of internet it is not easy to manage.  In 2005, Walter, “our man on the ground” left the Bangalore Ashram to pursue deep study of Vedas and Vedanta.  It is not easy to find someone with whom you can trust and feel confident in, to deal with transfers of large sums of money and lots of responsibility.

That year in Fall of 2005, we had taken a group to the Valley of Flowers.  It had been a most difficult drive and for me a difficult climb physically.  In fact I actually hit a mental/physical wall at about 14,000 ft and was unable to continue the final climb up to the Valley.   I had to stop and descend.

The trek back to Ghangaria was delightful and refreshing and I saw that it was not only the thinning oxygen levels that were affecting me but also not being able to walk in my own time and at my own pace.   I took my time returning, and enjoyed walking alone.  I stopped at several beautiful spots to meditate.   Many Sikh men and women of all ages passed me by on their way to Hemkund Sahib, the Sikh spiritual site, which is situated at an even higher altitude beyond the Valley of Flowers.  I admired their stamina and religious fervor.   I so enjoyed myself and felt so full of grace that I was able to be right where I was.  I thought about what to do with  Walter out of the team  now and considered my own physical shortcomings.    I wondered if this might be the end of our almost yearly Himalaya yatras.

I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I said aloud, “You will have to make it clearly understood what you want to do!  If you want us to come back you have to bring us someone else to handle the preparation!”   I closed my eyes and meditated and felt the clear light and sweet sense of being heard.  I felt uplifted. My  headache was gone and my energy had completely returned as I strolled back to the town.  It began to rain lightly and I found myself thinking  I should make the most out of this trip for it may be our last to the Himalayas for a long time, or maybe forever.

Back in Gangharia, I found a young woman from our group seated in a cafe.   She had stayed back as  she was  quite ill with a bad cold, cough and headache.  She seemed to be at the brink of  wanting to turn around and go back home.  We spent the next few hours seated in the café drinking chai, then enjoying chapati and  roasted potatoes all the while  sharing about how we are forced on these trips to face our fears, insecurities, inconsistencies and demons and how that was ultimately a very  good thing.  By early the next morning the young woman was feeling healthy and was so full of cheerful energy that she was in the first group which trekked quickly down the mountain and was back in Govindghat ready  for the long bus ride to Badrinath.

Govindan was the one who seemed to have the most trouble on the descent.  His knees gave  out and shocks of pain caused him to use a cane and have to walk very very slowly.    He was  saying, well  perhaps we were at an age when we should start rethinking treks and Himalayan Pilgrimages.    I nodded. “Yes,” I said, “we will just have to wait and see if we are to continue them…”   Back on the bus we found ourselves delayed for hours due to landslides. We didn’t reach Badrinath until after nightfall.

Just reaching Badrinath always feels like a great achievement. And surely it is due to karmic merits.  That year we were again staying at The Hotel Narayan Palace.   Although it was the best hotel in Badri,  the temperature of the guest rooms was often colder than than it was outside.  There was no heat  anywhere in the hotel nor was there hot water.    I  slept in my jacket, socks, gloves, hat and in a sleeping bag and still used the  heavy coverlet.   I sponged off each morning from a bucket of hot water brought to the rooms.  Accepting conditions cheerfully was half the fun and anyway compared to Ghangari, Kedarnath of Gangotri or Bhojwasa, the Narayan was a palace.

The time in Badrinath  was as always full of insight and we reveled in our own bliss.  Govindan and I sat across the Alaknanda River from Mount Neelakantan Peak and discussed the possibility of future pilgrimages without Walter and if perhaps it were no longer our dharma or karma to help people get to Badrinath?  As we ponder these questions Govindan noticed a yellow ashram just under Neelakantan Peak and sighed, “it would be something really special to have an Kriya Yoga ashram here for Babaji.”

“It seems highly improbable for any foreigner to be able to purchase land here,” I said. “And it must be extremely expensive to buy land and impossible to build.    And anyway, who would benefit from such an undertaking? Take that thought out of your mind!” I reached over as if to snatch it out of his head and tossed it into the heavenly ethers.   Hmmmmm.

We spent a few glorious days visiting Mana and Vasudhara Falls and walking to the base of Neelakanth and having early morning darshan and arati at the Badrinarayan Temple and bathing in the hot springs of the Tapt Kund.   No great insight about  continuing the pilgrimages, so we did not make our usual reservations for the following year.

However back at home and not even a month later, Govindan received an email from the young man who had guided him to Santopanth Tal over 5 years earlier.    Govindan had not seen or been in communication with Rohit since that time.  Rohit had been living part of  each year in Badrinath since he was a boy. His father had been the President of the first bank in Badrinath.   Rohit himself had a B.S. in banking and accounting and he was deeply spiritual, but it was only recently  that he had  been feeling a very strong connection to Mahavatar Babaji and to Kriya Yoga.   He was writing to offer Govindan his services in any capacity, but especially with regard to bringing Pilgrimage groups to the Himalayas.

And that is how it works.    And of course it worked out that over the past 5 years  Rohit has become part of our family.   He and his wife Madhu spent half a year in Bangalore at our ashram there.   He has helped us with all the pilgrimages in the Himalayas every since.    Annd since working with Rohit we have found and purchased  land in Badrinath for a Kriya Yoga Ashram.   He is now chiefly in charge of all the work  there.    We could not have considered an  ashram in Badrinath were it not for  Rohit.  He was made available for this work.   He has been a gift from Babaji to us all.

Before even beginning to consider building a ashram in Badrinath, M.G. S.  asked students of Kriya Yoga in a Journal article what they thought of the project.    It was important to see if there might be significant interest and financial support.  He said we would not undertake such a project unless there was real interest  in it, from the start.  And indeed there was and is.   Since that first appeal, so many have given  their support.  So many  immediately donated money towards it– so many and so much that we simply had no choice, but to  buy land and begin construction.  We thought we would find a small plot of land large enough to build a small Yoga center.  We found  a small lot on the North side of Badrinath, but when we arrived in Badrinath to negotiate purchase of that land, another much larger piece of land became available just under Neelakanth Peak.   The land was large enough to include apartments in addition to a large Yoga hall and meditation hall.  And the spot had an incredible view of the mountains and the best kind of natural vastu. The  Temple was just to the North, a waterfall  to the south, the Alaknanada River east just below and Neelakanth Peak west,  just above!  The beautiful waterfall was due to the new hydroelectric dam that had just been built,  which meant that now we would  have  access to 24 hour electricity, hot water and central heat!

So much had to happen just at the right moment in the right way for all this to unfold.  Just before the new property became available, we had become a part of an amazing Badri celebration.  A couple of long time students of Babajis Kriya Yoga who had traveled with us had decided to marry.  The couple are both Canadians, although Paul is of Indian Brahmin descent.  They asked us if we thought they could be married there.  We suggested that Badrinath is not really a place for marriages. It is actually a place people come to perform shraaddha (ceremony to be performed for loved ones during the year after their death).  We suggested they go speak with the Priest at the Badrinarayan Temple.  The priests told them the same thing, but said that they would check the nadi shastras, an ancient system of astrology and prediction.    Surprisingly, these nadis predicted their marriage that week in Badrinath.   And so it was done.   Women in the village  got together the wedding clothes and Paul and Kalyna had a beautiful wedding ceremony just opposite the Temple and the whole of Badrinath was there to celebrate with us. Afterwards, Govindan and I held  a  feeding of the sadhus at the nearby restaurant.   We both felt inspired to  include daily  sadhu feedings in the Badriath ashram activities.   The ashram must be there to support Badrinath too,  not just to support Western students who visit.

Our meditations  flowed unceasingly with ideas and designs and joy continued to fill our mind and heart as we traveled back to New Delhi and onto Bangalore.   This ashram had not been our personal idea or intention.   It had only been a fleeting thought in Govindan’s mind years before.   It had certainly come as a spark of inspiration from some other  Source, but it was quickly becoming a reality.

So many people began to get involved in the idea of a Babaji Ashram in Badrinath.   Even the design of the ashram was created by a BKY student from Switzerland who phoned to say he had always wanted to design an ashram in the Himalayas.  He is a prominent architect who specializes in designing homes in the mountains and designs homes with the understanding of Indian Vaastu Shastra.   In addition we have students from around the world who have volunteered to participate in various stages of the actual building.

There have been many difficulties in both purchasing land and building in Badri.  The amount of land offered was the cause of debate and negotiation for two years.  We now have a larger piece of property, but due to the monsoons during the summer months and the fifteen feet of snow which often falls in the winter months building is  slow.   Even local politics stopped the building during the first year, but that gave us the time required to purchase the additional land.  Now our beautiful property has been purchased and titled and the land has been leveled and the foundations for the apartments at least have been built.   Badrinath is presently snowed in and building cannot commence until May, but it feels as if the Hand, which held construction off, has finally been lifted.

I am so pleased that we will continue to travel to Badrinath every year.  A pilgrimage to Badrinath is like  going to visit one’s very own Self.  And we all need to continue to do that, at least, ever so often.

Heading the guidance of the inner Guru

Over the years my most transformational guidance has come in the simplest of words, experienced in a moment,  heard in the ethers of my consciousness.    ‘Be Simple,’   ‘Beauty,’  ‘Be Kindness,’ dropped like seeds on fertile soil.  Taking root they bloomed within my mind and psyche and eventually become absorbed within my understanding and transformed my personality and nature.

In Kriya Yoga,  we learn to meditate deeply and regularly on such abstract qualities.  We understand that the mind becomes that on which it meditates and ruminates.  Through regular meditation and contemplation on these qualities they become defined, taught and tangibly demonstrated in our life; while, at the same time incorrect thoughts and actions are being admonished.  This all encompassing training arises through a principle of nature, which is always there internally to correct and set us aright.

Seeking a natural order in life, these simple qualities formed the prime ideals in my own order theory.   They have been unifying and have helped me hold onto inner harmony in the face of life’s challenges.    In addition they have provided me with the scale on which to test my attainment and resolve.  A rightly fashioned life of simplicity, beauty and kindness is not an accident.     It takes awareness and effort but is due to the grace and mercy of the Lord.   It requires highly creative energy to continually remake one self.

I recall that I was bewildered with   “Be simple.”     What was required of me?    Don’t complicate matters?    Be straightforward and honest?  I tried not to be too mysterious or complicated.   I thought I was a “what you see is what you get” kind of woman.    I was strong, honest and frank, almost to a fault with perhaps too passionate a nature.  Was I being simple?

“Be simple,” was a quiet but persistent suggestion.     Do not concern yourself with how others see or regard you.  Was that my nature?  The messages I received actually grew me simpler.  I become aware of agendas, judgment, pettiness and self-righteousness—all those times when I was not being simple.

“Being simple” supported  deep, clear, silent meditations.   I developed confidence in this inner Silence, which began to permeate daily activities.   Just maintaining a semblance of being simple, quieted and dissolved my passionate nature and personality.  In the absence of excitement, dispassion offered me the clarity to see the beauty in all that  happens and without a need to change anything.  And when change was required,  it happened simply and with kindness.    A simple nature does not want to make mountains out of molehills, nor does it get itself entangled or embroiled in bias, argument or contradictions of the ego.

When we continuously self-seek and regularly touch the self,   we find we hold fast to simplicity, beauty and kindness in our thoughts and actions.     Forearmed with these we are neither anxious to please or displease anyone and find we are just, compassionate and appreciate the fact that others are playing a role in our life.

Normally we choose our thoughts unconsciously, yet it is those thoughts that shape our actions and circumstances.    Disease and health are rooted in our thought.  It is our mysterious, complex personalities which invites judgment, doubt, skepticism, cynicism, fear and pessimism that sinks the body in suffering and disease.    Simple, compassionate, non-judgmental thoughts can clothe the body and mind in equanimity and beauty.

Simplicity, beauty, kindness are powerful, creative and compassionate qualities that help us to become better human beings.   At the end of each day, we can look back and appreciate the beauty it contained.   The beauty I describe is like the flower that gives its fragrance whether it is carefully touched and passionately enjoyed or trampled under your feet?     Beautiful moments radiate from all about us even in the worst of challenges and sadness.    Beauty arises in simplest movements and moments of kindness where there is no personal gain or loss.     Simplicity, beauty and kindness burst forth from the strange dawn of a new-consciousness and is expressed through our life and ideal.    Beauty connects our self with the rhythm of the pure Supreme Source.

We are told that what is manifested in our body and mind results from what we have in our spiritual consciousness.   If we yearn for purification and perfection, we must establish “spiritual ideals” in our mind and heart.    Unless these ideals establish a firm ground the senses, thoughts, desires, aversions in our lower levels of consciousness will continue to influence, manipulate and affect us.  “Thoughts crystallize into habit and solidify into circumstances. Good thoughts bear good fruits and bad thoughts bad fruits.” (The Voice  of  Babaji)

Beauty is everywhere, just perhaps determined differently by philosophers, writers, musicians, artists, architects, scientist, mathematicians, or lovers.  But regardless of which perfect form or harmony is found in the universe whether seen through the eye or felt as inspiration, aspiration or bliss; it is a penultimate state of beauty.  John Keats knew it in the 1800’s, writing in his Ode to a Grecian Urn, Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”  Samadhi is the ultimate state of Beauty.  It is the potential Beauty latent in the Universe.

Perhaps the greatest beauty in all the universe abides in the simple, all-encompassing word of the Guru, AUM.

Seeking discrimination in Yoga

Last night we saw a documentary on Yoga called Enlightened Up!  A young man new to Yoga was selected as a subject on which to test the hypothesis of the documenter Kate Churchill, that Yoga can “transform” anyone who practices it.  The 29 year old,  Nick Rosen had no real interest in Yoga beyond its physical benefits. He admitted to not being interested in anything more than happiness. Even so Kate was determined to prove he would have a spiritual transformation.  It was obvious from the start that transformation was what Kate was looking for from this work with Nick.   The definition of transformation was never defined.   For the next 190 days, Nick taste tested a “Baskin-Robbins” (his words) assortment of Yoga in the West with both caution and cynicism.

Kate and the documentary moved around with him as he was first introduced to Yoga in the New York area and then took him to California studios and then on to Hawaii where he met Norman Allen and got some blunt and rather obtuse advice and finally we follow him to  India.

In India he is given the privilege of practicing with Pattabhi Jois at his Yoga Shala in Mysore and allowed a personal inteview with B.K.S. Iyengar  in Pune.  Nick admitted to feeling alienated by the devotional nature of the student/disciples of Patabhi Jois and seemed much more interested in dating the “one” cute girl in class.  In rebellion of the process he disappears from Kate’s camera for a few days and then resurfaces in a tearful interview homesick and whining about missing his mother.  Our first glimpse of Nick’s inner world was neither endearing nor self reflection; it was more a self-centered diatribe.  Perhaps his date did not go well.

Sri Iyengar was quite amazing in his openness.  He shared with Nick and Kate’s camera that he practiced his Hatha Yoga with his teacher Krishnamacharya for the first 25 years strictly to strengthen his health.  He said that it was not until 1960, when his physical body had healed that he began to understanding that Krishnamacharya’s Yoga was not only physical but was Philosophical.  “Yoga,” he said, “is both external and internal and the transformation that results from its practice depends wholly on the nature of the practitioner.  However, when your physical being is sick, what good is philosophy?”  From Iyengar’s very open, profound and intimate disclosure, Nick chose to hear that Yoga was not spiritual, but merely a physical exercise for good health!

Nick was then whisked off to the spirit of a devotional Northern India, to an area called Brindavan where Nick received through the guidance of Bhaktiyogi Shyamdas, the most valuable insights of the movie and a true and rich darshan with a wonderful Swami Sharan.  Nick tells Swami Sharan that he cannot be devotional because he is not spiritual and does not believe in God.   Swamiji, smiling, explains patiently and lovingly to Nick that each of us is spiritual, whether we believe in God or not and that happiness is always to be found within us as that is where we touch the Lord.

Shyamdas asks Nick how much time he is willing to give to Yoga.  Nick says a few more weeks.  His immature attitude is absurd and I was surprised that Shyamdas was so gentle in his response.  It is only after darshan with Swami Sharan that Nick appears to be truly affected and reflective –his only real moment of self-reflection, is when Nick doesn’t know what to say to the Kate’s camera.

The documentary was a good description of a dilettante view of Yoga, or what happens when you skirt the techniques of Yoga without willingness to surrender to the process.  There was no explanation of prana or pranayama, bandhas, mudras, mantras, the subtle body or even meditation. It never touches on the importance of controlling the mind, senses, emotions, just the body. There was no mention of the yamas and niyamas, the restraints and discipled observances required.  The focus was on Yoga is the performance of asana and mostly on the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.  In a short interview with two Kundalini Yoga teachers in NYC, he denounces it as new-agey and kundalooni.

I came away from the documentary wondering how Kate who is obviously loves Yoga and deeply desires her own transformation had learned so little about what transformation requires.  How is this possible?  Why has the West been allowed to highjack Yoga and still create the mystique that it is transformational?

Most of us on the Spiritual Yogic path, regardless of how long we have been on it, have still not managed to control all of the lower parts of our being.  Until we have purified ourselves of the influences of our own subconscious tendencies, our samsaras and the external forces that penetrate our body and mind we must continue to develop reason.  We must use reason and discrimination as a stepping stone to Higher Knowledge and to that something, which is beyond it.  Reason will help us discern truth from what egoism and the mind tries to convince us.   But also we must be open to the messages, which arise from the heart.  We must be willing to listen to the heart and sincerely heed its advice.

Kate’s aspiration was real,  you could feel it burn,  but even at the end of the movie, even with all she had been witness to,  she was still in the mindset that postures would get her there.   I was touched to the core as I watched her resigned body spill to the floor from an unbalanced headstand.  She still wasn’t getting it.  I wanted to help her up.

Reaching the soul through Hatha Yoga

The mind can only have direct consciousness of itself in the present moment.  It can only have some partial direct perception of things as they are offered to it in the present moment of time and the immediate field of experience of the senses.   In order to facilitate awareness and development of the soul, we must consciously turn the mind inward, towards its light.   We cannot know the Divine, the absolute Truth underling the transitory show, through out senses, mind or intellect.   The senses and reason will only deceive us.  They are capable of moving only within a limited range and a partial divided view of things.  Our only opportunity to experience the Divine is to be silent, humble and respectful before that which we do not know.  We must develop aspiration to know. This we must have to progress.  There can be an infiltration of the soul and the mind; it is not that the mind and soul are in air-tight containers… in fact, there is quite a bit of perceptible infiltration of soul and mind.  One of the most accessible ways is through our Hatha Yoga practice.

When I was first introduced to the 18 asana series of Babaji s Kriya Yoga, I found them to be enormously energizing.   As I began to work with them daily, I realized how they increased my physical health and reduced body fat, strengthened the nervous system, brought about more and more equanimity and mental clarity.  But, the benefits did not stop with that –they continued to widen and strengthened my inner sense of strength, joy, fortitude, resilience and persistence and opened me to deep and powerful devotion. I noticed as I taught these postures that others were reaping the same benefits and yearning for a deeply spiritual path of Yoga. Everyone seems to most benefit from the integral path of Kriya Yoga when they include a daily asana practice and incorporate asana with ujjayi pranayama, bandha, mudra, mantra, meditation and devotion.

I have over the past 40 years practiced many techniques and forms of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Siddha Yoga, Art of Living and Iyengar Yoga.  I have received innumerable benefits from all these various forms of Yoga, when I did them with intensity and persistence.   However, what I have found most consistently and deeply rewarding on all levels of my life throughout the last 15 years  is my integral practice of Babajis Kriya Hatha Yoga.   I feel that it is the 18 posture series alone, if done as a ritual of worship in about two hours, which takes me into higher realms of consciousness.  In addition I feel the practice strengthens the very cells of my physical body.  I come out of the practice feeling renewed, joyful and younger!

When I forgo the asana practice my age begins to catch up with me.  Since summer I have been dealing with a shoulder problem. It is a reoccurring problem since 1999, when I had a bad fall on the trek back from Santopanth.  Perhaps it is some karma I am working through.  My shoulder freezes up and the whole process takes about two years to complete, regardless of what I do therapeutically.  First it was my right shoulder that froze up and thawed and now it is occurring with the left.  During this time, my hatha yoga practice suffers and my sadhana is maintained though mantra, meditation and by the practice of Nityananda Kriya.  However, I find that my devotional nature suffers. I experience something missing.  I have calmness in my mind and clarity, but there is dryness without my devotional asana practice.  For me there is a direct connection between the strength and power of my devotion and the movement of energy and consciousness in my body through posture.    And for me, contentment and equanimity is directly proportional to the degree of my  devotion.

Even the first posture, kriya asana vanekom begins to stimulate an increase of force and devotion.  Presently, I am unable to bring my arms above my head with palms together properly in the pose, so I instead bring them to my lower back.   I realize that even the position of the arms and hands facilitates the movement of energy differently. This first posture is  an “offering” and the position of the arms and hands above the head is critical to that experience.

We are “offering” our head to the Guru, our supreme source of inner guidance and wisdom, whose center is in the sahasrara, the crown chakra.  We are offering our separate will to Divine Will.  With our head towards the ground and our feet upwards and our hands and palms together reaching above the head, we attempt to enter the zone of the Guru, the zone of Love.  Remaining in the pose we can experience that quality. This pose is symbolic of Samadhi.  In this posture it is possible for the prana vayu to settle within the head, which means that there is an equal pressure from head to foot and we rest in a state of utter tranquility.

The Tamil Siddhas have told us that “the human body is the mystic center, the sacred passage to the ultimate reality and that liberation is available only within it.”  To meditate on the Self, to worship the Self, begins the practice of Yoga.  This first posture, Kriya Asanan Vanekom orients the entire being to the worship of the Divine and to the recognition that the body is a “temple” worthy of Infinite care.  It begins our practice as a ritual of worship.

This posture of Salutation to the Self aligns and integrates all five bodies within the practice.

As your body kneels and moves into a bow, the physical body aligns.  Your chin comes to your chest and you place the crown of the head onto the floor, about a hand’s length from your knees.  The pelvic floor is tightened as you squeeze the muscles of the perineum and pull the navel center in toward the spine. Palms come together on the floor in front of the head.  The feet are lifted off the floor and the body rocks forward slightly.  The inhalation draws the breath up the spine. With the exhalation the breath expands inside of the skull at the crown center.  Both the vital and mental bodies align as your eyes follow your breath to the crown of the head.  The mind and breath remain concentrated there, in the inside of the skull at the crown of the head and the intellectual body aligns as you chant the mantra, Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum. Meditating deeply at this point for at least 3 minutes on the all pervading Divine Consciousness can awaken the brow and crown chakras and the spiritual body aligns in aspiration.

Just this first Kriya Asana directly stimulates all the nerves of the head and the pituitary and pineal glands, whose secretions, including endorphins, invigorate the entire glandular system.   The posture stretches and relaxes the whole spine, stretching all the movable vertebra in the spine. The cervical vertebra and windpipe is made more elastic.  Circulation is improved in the spine and brain.  The eyes are relaxed and refreshed.  The whole body is refreshed.  Salutation pose stimulates the ajna and sahasrara chakras, if eyes are turned upward and concentration remains focused for at least 3 minutes.  You come out of this one pose with a more peaceful temperament.

There is power in all exertion, in any effort we make toward the soul. Any earnestness of effort, or fine discrimination, or keen sense of longing will take us toward the movements of the soul. Each time we do our postures with bandhas, spinal breathing, devotion and awareness of the energy flowing through nadis, we can exert a conscious effort to direct and link our energy with the aspiration of the soul.  A devotional practice creates a dynamic disciple of Hatha Yoga.

I have written a new book, which takes one through each or the 18 asana incorporating bandhas, mudras, spinal breathing, concentration, mantra and devotion.  I invite non-initiated students and seasoned Kriya Yoga practitioners to investigate Babaji’s Kriya

http://www.babajiskriyayoga.net/english/bookstore.htm#bky_dyp_book

By Jan “Durga” Ahlund and M. Govindan. ISBN 978-1-895383-64-5, 108 pages, 8.5 x 11 inches, softcover with photographs and diagrams. US$17.00, CA$18.90 (inc gst) plus US$4.50 for shipping and handling to the US or CA$3.50 within Canada. US$15.45 for overseas airmail.

“This book provides detailed instructions, diagrams and photographs in the practice of a particular set of 18 Yoga asanas or postures, known as “Babaji’s Kriya Hatha Yoga.” The essays and instructions herein enable the practitioner to go beyond the development and health of the physical body, and to transform the practice of yoga asana into a spiritual practice, inducing a higher state of consciousness. Unlike earlier publications related to Hatha Yoga, this volume will show you how to transform your Hatha Yoga practice into a means for Self-Realization. It introduces students to the Five-fold Path of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga. This book is dedicated to Yoga students new to Kriya Yoga and also to Initiated students looking to deepen their own practice.”

If the willing aren’t willing, who will do it?

It was at the ashram in Quebec in summer 1995, I first read from torn and fragile books,  The Voice of Babaji, Mysticism Unlocked and Masterkey of All Ills.   After reading these books one afternoon, I feel asleep and had a vivid dream: I was walking on a tightrope, high above the ground…. I was afraid of such a height and felt fear in my gut.  Then I heard a male voice say, “I give this to you, because your heart is a deep as a well.”    I recalled the dream quite clearly upon waking.  I did not understand the dream at the time…  however, did immediately feel that these shakti-filled books needed to be made ready for a second edition.

These two books offered me an amazingly personal human portrait of a Yoga Master and great Saint with whom I had felt a deep affinity  and yet knew so little about.   These books felt rare and the teachings contained within them were as commanding as the parables or Beatitudes found in the Bible.  Govindan had only two of the original three books. I asked if I could make a copy of the books. Because he knew Yogi Ramaiah did not want them circulated, he refused.  Finally, after a year of persistence begging, sometime in 1996, he gave me a copy of both books.   I began working with the books daily.   I was sleeping little at that time, and in the late night hours, I found that I began to transfer the books into my computer, correcting misspellings and grammar and removing the repetitive paragraphs. The original books had been printed quite hastily in order to be published on the specific dates and last minute changes had been made while the manuscript was literally on the press, being printed. There was a lot of love that went into the editing because the more I worked with the book, the more it became an important part of my daily Yogic practice. The teachings were sublime and illuminating and they contained an energy that stimulated great creativity.  I began to write poetry and prose each night that helped me work through a lot of personal obstacles in my life and on my spiritual path.

In Winter of 1998, I went to Chennai specifically to meet S.A.A.Ramaiah at his San Thome Ashram in Chennai, India.  I knew there were some copies of the original books still available, although yellowed and fragile. Even though a few of them had reached the hands of Kriya Yoga students, they had been intentional kept inaccessible for the past 50 years.  I wanted to buy the books and discuss them with him.  I went to visit him with a family friend, Murari, a Brahmin, whose family was originally from the San Thome area.  We were shown into Yogiar’s room.   He came in and sat on a cot.   Murari sat at the back of the room with his back against the wall.  I sat in front of Yogiar.  I had a very cordial conversation with Yogi Ramaiah for about 45 minutes.   We talked mostly about the similarities and differences of the Kundalini Yoga I was practicing and Kriya Yoga.  He knew Yogi Bhajan and respected him very much.  We spoke of many things including Babaji and Babaji Kriya Yoga Order of Teachers (Acharyas) too, which Marshall Govindan had  just begun.  We showed no disapproval of the Order, only saying that all teachers should have a way of making a living that has nothing to do with the work of the Order.

Then Yogiar said he wanted me to promise him something.  I said, “promise you what?”

He said, “no, promise me first, then I will tell you.”

I hesitated and looked  straight into his eyes and finally said “alright, I promise.”

“You must never teach breath retention again,” he said.  (Breath retention is very important element in many of the Kundalini pranayama and Kriyas that I taught).  I realized that I had just promised him that I would stop teaching Kundalini Yoga.

I then said, “I have given this promise to you, but now I have a request of you.    I would like to buy the books I have …. “Before I could even finish the sentence, Yogiar  said, “oh, those books, no they are not for sale!”   He placed is index finger in front of his lips.     The conversation about the books ended before it could begin.    I was not able to discuss the strong pull I had to help him reprint them because the conversation about them was over.  I then mentioned another book about anatomy and he told me I would have to go to Yuma Arizona and buy it there for $108. I asked if it could be mailed to me?  He said no.

Then he invited me to attend a Kriya Hatha Yoga teacher training that he was giving that summer, in Kanadukathan, at his Holisitic Yoga Hospital.    He said I would have to come for two months over summer.  He went to his locker and handed me a flyer about the training.  He mentioned that the previous summer a group of Russians had come for the training, but none of them spoke English so he told them to go home!   He told me to invite other people to come to the training.  As I left the San Thome Ashram, I said silently to myself. “Okay Babaji, if you want these books reprinted you must give me a sign and bring me the 3rd book!

Within a month of returning back home, I received two internal prompts.  I received a message “If the willing are not willing, who will do it?” and a copy of the third book, The Death of Death from a teacher of Kriya Yoga in California, who had gotten it from another old student of Yogi Ramaiah.  I remember taking a big breath and saying well, tell me how and when Babaji.

A family which does not know where is comes from, can never know where it is going.  The Voice of Babaji has provided me with an understanding of where this system of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga came from.  The books offer profound teachings and unique mantras and the shakti of direct insight, from a Higher Inspiration. They gave me confidence that the foundation of this system of Yogic techniques was firmly established in devotion to the truths of cosmic harmony, balance and cooperation and based on in kindness and compassion and the beauty of purifying and perfecting oneself.  They emphasize the importance of an integral system of Yoga wrapped up in the bow of devotion to the Self.   This Yoga system was to lead us on a path towards individual realization but also toward group evolution.  And most importantly, “there is no society, club, institution, association, general body or governing body to go and join. You are to rule yourself in and out, absolutely.  Babaji proclaims.  You and yourself alone are the general body.   The true ‘I’ in ‘I,’ in you is the governing body, governing director and directing governor.”  “Cultivate that awareness. Be always in your own company and enjoy it.”

More lessons reveal:

“Remember and realize that you are master of yourself and your own servant.    Grow up full, whole and not in sections (cross or vertical or horizontal) and then join others who have grown up and become whole and full by themselves.”

And again, “You will deal with each other in terms of equality and not as a superior or subordinate, teacher or pupil, preceptor or follower.   No disputation, personification or idolization.    Each one catch one, i.e. let each one train himself or herself up.”

When we had finished all the editing and reprinted the books in 2003, Govindan and I went to speak with Yogi Ramaiah in Kanadukathan, India.  We drove the two plus hours from Trichy with the intention of my discussing the books with him.   However, when we walked into the classroom where Yogiar was seated, all thoughts of the books vanished from my mind.   Neither of us thought of the book again until we were almost back at Trichy (Tiruchi).   We began searching for the family of  V.T.Neelakantan.   We sent Yogiar copies of the book with a letter of intent, before we distributed  the first copy.

There was a great deal of resistance from Yogiar, who wanted us to stop publishing the book.  He claimed copyright to the book written by V.T. Neelakantan.  The family of the author and copyright holder, V.T.Neelakantan said they did not want to be involved in the fray.  To this day we do not understand why Yogiar did not reprint the books except that there had been a complete break between himself and V.T. Neelakantan.  According to his family, V. T. Neelakantan continued to his dying day in 1982, to be totally devoted to Babaji and continued his constant japa of  Babaji’s mantra. These books are as relevant and invaluable to students of Kriya Yoga today as they were in 1950-60’s, when they were briefly available in Chennai.  They belong to no one person, if they belong to anyone, it is to the people of India.   Yogi Ramaiah stated in a deposition in March 2006, that the teachings in these books were Holy and equated them with the Bible.

It took me about eight years, but with the complete dedication and backing of Marshall Govindan to this project and the support of Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas Trust, the three books were edited, collected in the one beautiful volume, The Voice of Babaji, and published.    Satyananda, an Acharya in Germany formatted the book beautifully and precisely as Babaji dictated in the original books.  And now the book has also finally been translated in the Tamil language as Babaji requested.   The Voice of Babaji is put back where it rightly belongs—in easy access to devotees of Mahavatar Babaji and students of Kriya Yoga.   The process of getting the book back in publication was a painful experience that cost us much stress, conflict and even legal battles.  At times the animosity was so intense we felt it in waking and dream states.  However, in the end, it was as if Babaji waved his Hand and things were settled without too much ado.  It was mysterious and awe inspiring.  Surprisingly support came at the last minute from Sweden, Sri Lanka and India.  Everyone involved was touched. We received a teaching and learned a lesson.  Our day in court has humbled me as to the greatness of cosmic law and balance.  The book The Voice of Babaji was to remain in print and Kriya Yoga Publications was given rights to publish.  Royalties of the book have been used for free initiation seminars in India and for the on-going research of the works of the Siddha Tradition and soon through a newly formed V.T.N. Foundation will begin to sponsor higher education for needy young people in Tamil Nadu.  I want to give great thanks and appreciation to one of the sons of V.T.Neelakantan, Suryanarayanan whose dedication to his father’s memory and devotion to Babaji carried us through some really tough times, towards this end.

We have to hold tight to those things we truly believe in, even when all those around us are telling us we are wrong.  If we just try to walk lightly on the earth, but stay willing, when it comes to us to fight the good fight, we will.