Rama Avatar, Part 2.5

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Hearing that Sita had been seen in Lankapuri, Hanuman took on his gargantuan form and made a colossal leap across the sea.  Landing on the island, he contracted himself to his usual form.

He couldn’t believe his eyes, Lankapuri was such a beautiful place with lush green mountains and valleys.  The houses were all decorated with jewels and pearls; the people were very joyful, enjoying themselves with singing and dancing.  He arrived at dusk and started moving inland, looking for the grove seen by the eagle Sampaathi.

Immediately, Hanuman encountered Lankini, a huge rakshasi (Demoness) who was the guardian of Lankapuri.  She refused to let Hanuman enter.  Hanuman knocked her to the ground with his left hand.  She accepted her defeat and let him go inland.

Hanuman searched everywhere for Sita: the castles, every house, every garden, even searching for her in Ravana’s private chamber, but was unable to find her.  He felt hopeless, and sat on a compound wall muttering the mantra, “Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram….”

Then he saw a lady in the faint moonlight, under a simsupa tree in the middle of the grove compound.  The lady was in dirty clothes, hanging her head down with unbearable sorrow.  She was surrounded by rakshasis.

Hanuman knew he had found Sita and jumped up in joy.  Immediately realizing he needed to lay low until he met Sita, he suppressed his joy and looked for an opportunity to greet her.  He got in the top of a tree close to Sita and waited impatiently.  While waiting, he heard all the rakshasis, except one, harassing Sita to get married to Ravana.  But one rakshasi was very polite to Sita, not allowing anyone to harm her in any way.

When all the rakshasis fell asleep, Hanuman crawled towards Sita.  He reached Sita and said that he is a messenger from Rama.  At first Sita refused to believe him, as Ravana had tried to get to her by taking different forms and she assumed this is again one of Ravana’s tricks.  But later, Hanuman gives her Rama’s signet ring as proof, again uttering “Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram….”  This cleared Sita’s doubt, and with tears in her eyes, she inquired of her husband’s wellbeing.

Hearing that Rama is in deep worry and lost in thought all the time made her even more depressed.  Hanuman jumped down and said he could destroy Lankapuri and take her back with him at once.  Sita disapproved of the idea, saying that Rama should be the one to come and rescue her from Ravana.  She also added that she will keep herself alive only for one more month, so Rama should come and rescue her within that month.

Hanuman bowed to Sita and worshipped her, vowing that Rama will be in Lankapuri soon to take her back.  Sita blessed Hanuman and gave him her Chudamani (jewelry for the hair/head) to give to Rama.

Being the mischievous monkey that Hanuman is, he decided to show Ravana what will be coming his way soon if he doesn’t release Sita.  Hanuman began by destroying the fine parks and gardens, hoping that the guards would capture him and take him to Ravana.  After several other people tried, Ravana’s son Indrajit himself came to capture  him, which Hanuman allowed.  He was taken to the palace for questioning by the king, exactly what Hanuman had wanted.

Brought to Ravana, Hanuman was made to stand in front of him with his hands and legs tied up.  As soon as he saw Ravana, Hanuman freed himself and grew his tail to a length where he could make a throne for himself and sat on it as an equal to Ravana.  Ravana was very upset about the “monkey’s” behavior.

Hanuman said, “I am Hanuman, a messenger from Rama!”  Obviously that led to an altercation between Ravana and Hanuman.  Hanuman tried to persuade Ravana to release Sita, which obviously didn’t succeed.  At the end, Ravana gave a verdict —the punishment for destroying the fine parks and gardens is death.

One of Ravana’s brothers, Vibhishana, intervened to stop the verdict, saying it is against the law to kill a messenger.  Therefore Ravana decided to humiliate Hanuman and ordered that his monkey tail be set on fire and that he be thrown out of Lankapuri.

As soon as his tail was set on fire, Hanuman jumped up to do what a monkey does, jumping from pillar to pillar, structure to structure, tree to tree, burning the whole city of Lankapuri.  Then, with a world of joy, Hanuman reassumed his gargantuan form and lept across the sea to the southern beach where his search party awaited.  Hanuman told everyone the wonderful news about meeting Sita in Lankapuri and the rest of the encounter with Ravana.  Angada, Hanuman and the southerly crew returned to Kishkindha.

As soon as Hanuman saw Rama, he cried “I saw Mata Sita!” He immediately gave the chudamani to Rama.  Rama took the chudamani in his hands and immediately burst into tears.  The thought of Sita being so helpless and suffering broke his heart even more.  With great haste, everyone got ready to go to Lankapuri.  The vanara (monkey) army was mobilized in no time.

Rama, Lakshmana, Sugreeva and the army, with Hanuman, reached the southern tip of the land.  Now the hurdle was to cross the sea between India and Lankapuri.  Flabbergasted, but not losing heart, they discussed options.  They decided to build a bridge (Setubandhanam).  The architect monkey Nala, son of the master builder Vishvakarman, was given the task.

The news reached Ravana that an army of vanaras was in the southern tip of India.  He called his war council to discuss the matter.  Everyone in the council took it easy because it was only two humans (considered less powerful than themselves, the rakshasas) and the army itself consisted of monkeys.  All the counselors, including his relatives, gave speeches urging Ravana to fight, assured the victory would be easy.

The only person who voiced concern was Vibhishana, who said that it was foolish of anyone to underestimate their enemy, gauging only by their looks, without doing proper investigation.  He also reminded them that the brothers Rama & Lakshmana had already killed Ravana’s brothers Khara and Dushana, plus his uncle Maricha, in addition to other well-known figures from the rakshasas.  Vibhishana also pointed out that Rama had done nothing to Ravana, whereas Ravana had cowardly abducted Rama’s wife while she was unprotected; therefore Ravana does not have the righteousness grounds in the war in hand.

Vibhishana pleaded with his brother to return Sita to Rama, even to beg for his pardon.  He reminded Ravana that all the wealth and power he enjoyed was received from Lord Shiva, by being his ardent devotee, and it was tainted by his act.  He must do the right to undo the wrong.  Vibhishana offered to take Sita to Rama and seek his forgiveness on behalf of Ravana.

Hearing this enraged Ravana.  He accused Vibhishana of envy, ill-will and being the worst enemy of the king.  Feeling deeply offended by his brother’s words Vibhishana renounced Ravana, saying he cannot support an unrighteous person even it was his own brother.  Ravana banished Vibhishana from Lankapuri, calling him a coward, sparing his life only because he was his brother.  Ravana then continued to discuss the strategy for the upcoming war with the council.

As the first order of action, needing assistance from his other brother, Ravana directs his guards to wake Kumbhakarna.  Kumbhakarna slept six months of every year, due to a twist in his tongue when he requested a boon from Brahma after doing austerities.  He requested “Nidraasana,” the seat of sleep, instead of “Indraasana,” the seat of Indra (Lord of Heaven).  Thus he sleeps six months, then eats anything he sees for the other six months of the year, before going back sleep.  Though he was an intelligent, unchallenged warrior, Kumbhakarna lost most of his ability and strength if disturbed or woken from his six months of sleep.

Vibhishana fled Lankapuri with four of his close ministers who agreed with him.  They reached Rama’s camp at the southern tip of India, requesting to see Rama so they could ask for refuge from Ravana.  Before seeing Vibhishana, Rama discussed the matter with his council,.  Everyone opposed Vibhishana’s request, saying that he was born to the same mother as Ravana, Khara, Dushana and Surpanaka, therefore he must be the same type of person.  They added that he comes from the line of Maricha, therefore he cannot be trusted.

Then Hanuman requested permission from Rama to speak.  He described that when he was searching all the houses in Lankapuri, he always found liquor, but at Vibhishana’s he found only rose water for pujas.  He continued, saying that the reason Sita is still alive is because Vibhishana’s daughter, Trijada, who took after her father, sits near Sita all the time, not letting any rakshasis harm her.

Hanuman also mentioned that Vibhishana is the one who spoke against the capital punishment for a messenger when Ravana announced his verdict.  After hearing everyone’s opinion, Rama announced that it is the duty of a human to give refuge to anyone who seeks it.  Rama accepted Vibhishana.

The opposers were finally convinced when Vibhishana aided Rama in appealing to Samudraraja (or Sethusamudram, the Sea of the Bridge), the ocean itself, who had not given any headway to the building of the bridge under Nala’s leadership.  Even the squirrels helped the vanara army in building the bridge.  The task took five days to complete with rocks and trees, after Samudraraja had subsided.

As soon as the bridge was built, Rama commanded the army to move across the sea to Lankapuri.  The port that they left named after this event as “Setu Shore.”  The troops crossed the sea, reached Lankapuri and made camp at the shore.

Ravana sent two spies to gather information about the army.  They turned themselves into monkeys and roamed around the camp.  Vibhishana identified them as rakshasas and started punishing them.  Rama intervened and released them, instructing them to carry the message about the strong and aggressive army to Ravana.

Ravana called his war council again.  Ravana’s grandfather, Sumali, recommended releasing Sita and making peace as the best option for the rakshasas.  Many in the council turned this down.  Ravana showed his anger against his grandfather.  When the two spies returned, they described the monkey army and its strength, but it still didn’t change Ravana’s mind.  The mandate was sent to Ravana’s commanders to roundup the troops for battle.

More to come…

The Full Range of Yoga’s Technology

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda &
Vidyadevi Stillman

Avail yourself of yoga’s full range of technology, which goes beyond mere physical development to incorporate mental, devotional and meditative practices.  The poses are meant to prepare you for the study of sutras, along with chanting and meditation.  Each of these disciplines offers you significantly more than yoga poses can ever provide.

Your mind is more powerful than your body. This means that using yogic tools to develop your mental capacity gives you more benefits than poses could ever do.  These tools are called j~nana yoga, the study of the texts.  In addition, in the Svaroopa® Sciences, we work proactively on unraveling the way you use your mind.  Instead of tying yourself up in knots, you can begin unraveling it with vichara (Svaroopa® yoga’s guided self-inquiry).

As you understand yoga’s teachings, you better understand life, as well as yourself and others around you.  This changes everything.  This is why we include contemplations, like mini-sutras,  at the end of every Svaroopa® yoga class.

Your heart is more powerful than your mind.  You develop your heart’s capacity through yoga’s devotional practices.  When your heart meets God, or even turns toward God, who is going to be changed — God or you?  You don’t even have to believe in God for it to work, just like you don’t have to believe in gravity for it to work.  The yoga of your heart, bhakti yoga, is included in Svaroopa® yoga through the background music of sutras and chants, as well as in the final pose, Yoga Mudra.  In this yogic seal, you place your head below your heart, bowing to your teacher and her/his whole lineage of teachers.

Meditation is the most powerful and most beneficial of yoga’s technologies.  How amazing that you get so much when you are doing nothing!  Modern research is beginning to prove what the sages always emphasized, that this is the cream of the practices, called raja yoga (king’s yoga).  As wonderful as each of the other practices is, their purpose is to give you easy and deep meditation.

This is the point at which Gurus come into the picture.  In earlier stages, the busy-ness of your body, mind and heart kept you focused on the practices instead of where they came from.  The doing-ness seemed most important.  Yet you got those practices from someone who had already done them.  That teacher is called “guru,” even if she/he lives in your home town and isn’t yet enlightened.  Even your local piano teacher is called a “piano guru.”  In the West, we use a capital letter on the title Guru only when we’re referring to an authorized spiritual teacher, one who can take you all the way.

For true and fast spiritual development, you must pick a path and follow it to its end.  Every genuine path has a living Guru.  Mindfulness meditation, Zen, Tibetan, Christian contemplation, the power of now, kabbalah and Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation — all have living Gurus.  If there’s no Guru, the path is not true.  Someone must have attained the promise or it is another false promise.  The one who attains and shares is called Guru.

Do you want to climb with a guide who has only seen satellite photos of the trail?  Vidyadevi says, “I have climbed in the Himalayas.  I always had a guide.  I was protected and took the safest and most direct route to the top.  In the same way, I have a spiritual guide — Swami Nirmalananda.”

The texts emphasize you must test the Guru.  The test is two-fold:  inside and outside.

First you check inside to see if you are getting uplifted in the Guru’s presence or by their teachings.  It’s obviously working if you’re experiencing the bliss of consciousness, your own svaroopa.  But it is also working if you are churning inside, with all your “stuff” coming up in order to be expelled from your system.  To test the Guru further, follow their teachings for six months and then reevaluate how this is working for you.

Secondly, you look at those who have been studying with the Guru for the longest.  See if they are more peaceful and more blissful, but also if they are becoming more effective in the world.  Or are they using their spirituality to escape?  Another thing to look for is that they are unique individuals, not all clones of each other and of the Guru.

When the Guru passes these tests, you can apply yourself to their practices for another six months.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “After doing several six month periods, I realized one day that I’d forgotten to check in with myself.  I was surprised to see that I’d been studying with my Baba for over six years.  It was then that I knew that this path was working for me.  It made me able to apply myself more fully.”

Svaroopa® yoga offers all the above yogic technologies because it is a maha yoga, one that interweaves all the yogas together.  While your Svaroopa® yoga class emphasizes the physical practices, every class introduces mental, devotional and meditative processes.

Most importantly, Svaroopa® yoga is a Shaktipat yoga.  Whether you begin at your tailbone, or with the sutras, devotional practices or meditations, studying with Swamiji guarantees you will receive this inner awakening.  This is the beauty of a Kundalini master.  Nirmalanandaji received Shaktipat from her Guru more than 40 years ago.  She knows the path and what it will give.  This is why she continues to say, “Do more yoga.”

Originally published March 2016

Rama Avatar, part 2.4

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Sita had been kidnapped.  Searching for her, Rama and Lakshmana came across a great strong monkey, who introduced himself as Hanuman.

Who is Hanuman?

Many stories are told about the great ones!  So it is with Hanuman.  One story tells that Hanuman was the incarnation of Lord Shiva, coming to help Lord Vishnu in his Rama avatar.

Hanuman is also called the son of Vayu, the Wind God.  This is what gave him the ability to fly and to take on different forms.  Hanuman was born to Anjana and Kesari.  Anjana had prayed diligently to Lord Shiva, asking him to take birth as her son.  Thus the great and mighty Hanuman came into being.

The mischievous Hanuman, when he was young, swallowed the sun, which he released only after the Devas had prayed to him.  Hanuman began using his supernatural powers in a mischievous way.  One day he pranked a meditating sage.  In a fury, the sage cursed Hanuman to forget his powers temporarily.  Later, when he became an adult, the curse lifted and Hanuman remembered all of his godlike powers.

When Rama found him, Hanuman was living near Mount Rishyamukha with Sugreeva.  Sugreeva was hiding from his brother Vali, the king of the vanaras (monkeys).  Seeing Rama & Lakshmana, Sugreeva misunderstood them to be allies of his brother, coming to harm him.  Sugreeva sent Hanuman, his friend and minister to go find out about them.

Hanuman introduced himself to Rama and Lakshmana who shared their devastating story with Hanuman.  Hearing this, Hanuman’s heart was filled with love, respect and devotion towards Rama.  After he listened to the story of the kidnapping, Hanuman told about Sugreeva, who was in a similar predicament, being in exile in the forest.

Vali and Sugreeva were very close and loving brothers.  Vali was king of Kishkindha, the vanara kingdom; Tara was his wife.  A demon named Maayaavi came to Kishkindha, challenging Vali for a fight.  Vali accepted, but Maayaavi ran into the jungle and inside his deep cave so he could have the upper hand.  The brothers followed him through the jungle.  Though Sugreeva tried to stop Vali, Vali entered the cave, telling Sugreeva to wait outside.  Many days went by but Vali didn’t return.  Sugreeva didn’t leave his post.

Suddenly one day Sugreeva heard Maayaavi’s roar.  Then a stream of blood gushed out of the cave, followed by another roar.  Sugreeva thought it was Maayaavi’s cry of triumph and that Vali had been killed.  Sugreeva thought for a while and decided to block the entrance of the cave with a huge boulder, in order to stop Maayaavi from coming out and attacking Kishkindha.  He returned home with a heavy heart, not talking to anyone for days.

However, inside the cave, Vali had killed Maayaavi.  Eagerly coming out to see Sugreeva, Vali found the entrance blocked by a boulder.  He thought that Sugreeva betrayed him for the throne.  There was no way out of the cave but Vali continued trying to push the boulder aside.

Back in the kingdom, Sugreeva continued to be silent.  Hanuman was one of the nobles at the court as well as a dear friend.  He approached Sugreeva, insisting that the throne must not remain vacant.  As Vali’s brother, Sugreeva should take Vali’s place.  With great hesitation, and after a lot of thought, Sugreeva agreed.  He ascended the throne for the sake of his people.  Hanuman served him well as his minister.

Time passed.  One day, Vali succeeded in pushing the boulder a little so he could scrape through a small opening.  He arrived at the palace a few days later.  While Sugreeva was delighted to see his beloved brother alive, Vali was not in a mood for loving reunions.  He furiously accused his brother of being a hypocrite who trapped him in the cave.  He was not willing to listen to Sugreeva or anyone.

Vali banished Sugreeva from Kishkindha.  When Sugreeva’s wife, Ruma, attempted to go with him, Vali claimed her to be his property and would not let her go.  Hanuman somehow managed to join Sugreeva and both of them left Kishkindha.  They reached the Rishyamukha Mountains, where Sugreeva was safe, since Vali could not go there due to a curse from Rishi Matanga.

Hanuman finished Sugreeva’s story.  He thought Rama and Lakshmana would be able to help Sugreeva free his wife, so he invited them to meet Sugreeva.  They accepted the invitation, so Hanuman took his gargantuan form, picked up Rama and Lakshmana and flew through the woods to Sugreeva’s hiding place.  There, Rama promised to help Sugreeva to retrieve his wife, Ruma.  In return, Sugreeva promised to help Rama find Sita and help him in every way.

In a duel, Vali gained half his opponent’s strength, thus no one was able to beat Vali in direct combat.  Knowing his brother’s strength, Sugreeva doubted that Rama could win.  After a few tests, which Rama passed with ease, Sugreeva started to believe in Rama.  Hanuman became an ardent admirer of Rama, very loyal to him, not letting Rama out of his sight.

They decided it was time to free Ruma.  The plan was for Sugreeva to challenge Vali, then Rama was to kill Vali while he and Sugreeva were in combat.  Sugreeva went to Kishkindha, followed by Rama.  As planned, Sugreeva challenged his brother.  The duel was fierce.  Rama was unable to get a clear shot at Vali because both brothers looked very much the same.

Unable to defeat Vali, Sugreeva retreated to Rishyamukha Mountains.  They decided that Sugreeva would wear a garland so that Rama could identify Vali.  Through some spies, Vali’s wife Tara found out that Sugreeva had the support of a prince from the North.  She tried to stop Vali from going to the duel when Sugreeva challenged him again.  Vali disregarded his wife and went to the fight.  This time, though Vali had the upper hand, Rama was able to distinguish Vali from Sugreeva, and kill him with his arrow, shot from behind a tree.

With his last few breaths, Vali asked Rama to defend his action of killing someone who was not in combat with him.  Rama explained that it is the duty of a king to uphold justice, and that Vali should have listened to his brother without prior judgment and treated him as his son.  Rama also pointed out his worst mistake of keeping Ruma, Sugreeva’s wife with him.  Because Vali had wronged Sugreeva, Rama had done justice.

Vali was full of remorse when he heard Rama’s words, and requested Sugreeva and Rama both to pardon his actions.  He also requested them not to vest his sins on his wife and his son Angada, but to look after them.  With a heavy heart, Sugreeva told his brother that all he had wanted from him was his love and nothing more.  Vali blessed Sugreeva and died.

After doing the last rites for his brother, Sugreeva ascended the throne.  He crowned Vali’s son Angada as the crown prince.  However, Sugreeva soon forgot his promise to Rama, spending his time in enjoying his regained status.  The clever former ape queen Tara and Hanuman calmly intervened to prevent an enraged Lakshmana from destroying the ape citadel.  They made Sugreeva understand his duty and honor his pledge.

Sugreeva then sent search parties in all four directions, but they returned without success from the north, east and west.  Under the leadership of Angada and Hanuman, the southern search party reached the southern tip of the great land and sat on the south shore, depressed.  Angada said, “We have tried our best, but we have failed miserably.  I, as the leader of the party, am not prepared to go back to Kishkindha empty handed.  In fact I would like to kill myself here and equal myself to Jatayu the king of eagles who had sacrificed his life in service to Rama.”

Everyone in the search party was talking about the failed end of their search, when someone called to them from behind, “Friends!”  Everyone turned to see an eagle slowly walking towards them.  The eagle said, “Friends, I heard my brother Jatayu’s name come up in your conversation.  May I know how you came to know of my Jatayu?”  Angada told the eagle about Sita’s kidnapping.

The bird continued, “My name is Sampaathi.  We eagles are bestowed with very keen eyesight.  We are capable of pinpointing things at great distance.  I have seen Sita in a grove in Lankapuri.”  Uttering these words, Sampaathi, flew away.

Hearing this, Hanuman without wasting a second, took on his gargantuan form and made a colossal leap across the sea to Lankapuri.

More to come…

Rama Avatar, part 2.3

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Rama left the forest of Chitrakoot, visiting other ashrams, meeting many sages and getting their blessings.  He also helped them by killing the rakshasas harassing them, as this was a time when demonic forces were strongly affecting the earth and her residents.  Agastya was one of the great sages Rama visited, who gave the great gift of Vishnu’s bow and arrows.

Agastya suggested that Panchavati would be an ideal place for Rama’s further stay in the Dandakaranya forest.  Thus, Rama settled in Panchavati.  On the way there, Rama met Jatayu, the king of birds.  Jatayu was so happy to meet Rama!  Jatayu promised to guard all three of them from the sky.

A rakshasi named Shurpanaka occupied Dandakaranya forest along with her brothers Khara and Dushana.  One day, Shurpanaka happened upon Rama’s hermitage.  Seeing this handsome man, she wanted to get married to him.  She changed herself into a beautiful young woman and made an advance towards Rama.  Rama refused her, saying he was married, and sent her to check with Lakshmana (for some amusement).  “Not a bad replacement,” she thought and approached Lakshmana.  Short-tempered as always, he stared at her and told her to keep away from him.

Knowing Lakshmana was not going to work out, Shurpanaka decided to harm Sita, as she was the cause for Rama’s refusal.  Shurpanaka charged towards Sita.  Lakshmana, with one swing of his sword, cut off Shurpanaka’s nose.  Shurpanaka ran to her two brothers for help; they came to Rama’s hermitage to fight him.  Rama and Lakshmana killed both the brothers with ease.  Seeing this, Shurpanaka went screaming to her beloved brother Ravana in Lankapuri (Shree Lanka).

Who is Ravana?  Ravana was the son of the great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), whose father was the sage Pulastya, one of the great sages of all time, son of Brahma.  Ravana’s mother was and Kaikeshi, whose father was Sumali (or Sumalaya), king of the Asuras.  Kaikesi’s brothers, Maaricha and Subahu, were Ravana’s uncles.  Ravana had six brothers:  Kubera, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana and Ahiravan, as well as Khara and Dushan, whom Rama had just killed.  His older sister was Kumbhini; his younger sister was Shurpanaka.

Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna are the second incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu.  Ravana married Mandodari, the daughter of Mayasura, and they had seven sons, Meghnaada (the most powerful one, also known as Indrajit), Atikaya, Akshayakumara, Devantaka, Narantaka, Trishira and Prahastha.

Ravana was a great scholar, having learned all four Vedas.  He was also a great musician, playing the veena (a stringed instrument), as well as a great singer from which he got the name Ravana, which means “of the terrifying roar.”  He had ten heads and twenty arms.  Above all, Ravana was known as the greatest devotee of Lord Shiva.   Ravana composed the hymn known as the Shiva Tandava Stotra.

Ravana had performed intense penance to Brahma for several years.  When Brahma appeared before him, Ravana requested immortality.  Brahma refused.  Then Ravana asked for invulnerability from gods, heavenly spirits, other asuras, serpents and wild beasts.  Thinking he was stronger than any mortal human being, he didn’t ask protection from humans.  Brahma granted his wish.

Being a great devotee of Lord Shiva, Ravana then went to see Lord Shiva at Mt.  Kailasa.  Nandi refused to let Ravana in, since Lord Shiva had asked not to be disturbed.  To show Nandi his love for Shiva, Ravana attempted to uproot and move Mt.  Kailasa.

Lord Shiva, to get rid of Ravana’s arrogance, pressed his little toe on Kailasa, pinning Ravana under the mountain.  Realizing he had made Lord Shiva angry, Ravana plucked off one of his heads, one of his hands and some of his nerves to create a makeshift veena, playing it to pacify him.  After listening to Ravana’s music for a long time, Lord Shiva released him from bondage.  Pleased with his resilience and devotion, Shiva gave him a divine sword called Chandrahas, warning if Ravana used it for any unjust deeds, it would return to Lord Shiva and Ravana’s days will be numbered.

Let’s return to the story.  Shurpanaka fled to Ravana, screaming that Lakshmana had cut off her nose and that she wants revenge.  Seeing his younger sister in distress, Ravana roared, ready for war.  His sister stopped him, saying she had learned that Rama and Lakshmana were very powerful; she recommended they get revenge in a different way.  She went on to talk about Sita, emphasizing her beauty and how she should be married to Ravana, as well as suggesting that he kidnap her.  Shurpanaka’s devastation, her persuasion towards revenge and the beauty of Sita excited Ravana’s lust and poisoned his mind.  Thus the plot was proposed and planned.

Ravana’s uncle Maaricha had the ability to change his form.  Becoming a beautiful, golden deer, he roamed near Rama’s hermitage to catch Sita’s attention.  Captivated by the beauty of the deer, wanting to pet it, Sita requested that Rama catch it for her.  Rama went to catch the deer but it led Rama far away.  A bit annoyed by the deer’s evasive techniques, sensing something was not right; Rama shot an arrow at the deer.  The arrow hit Maaricha, but before dying, he shouted out, in Rama’s voice, “Oh Lakshmana! Lakshmana!”

Sita heard this scream.  Worried about Rama’s safety, even afraid for his life, Sita requested Lakshmana to aid his brother.  Lakshmana did not believe the cry was Rama’s, so he refused to go, as Rama’s order had been to stay and guard Sita.  After Sita’s forceful persuasion and insisting behavior, Lakshmana agreed to go search of Rama.  Before leaving, he drew a circle around the hermitage to guard it with mantra, casting a spell that prevented anyone from entering that boundary.

Ravana saw that the coast was clear.  Making use of this opportunity, he disguised himself as an ascetic and came to the hermitage asking for food.  As a good housewife never refuses to give food to an ascetic, the unsuspecting Sita stepped out of Lakshmana’s circle to offer the food, since the ascetic was unable to come into the circle.

At that moment, Ravana turned into himself.  He took Sita along with the earth she was standing on, as he was unable to get close to her due to her chastity and her devotion to Rama.  He put the dug-up earth with Sita on it into his flying chariot, “Pushpaka Vimana,” and flew towards Lankapuri.  As she was being carried away, Sita cried for help and began dropping her jewelry pieces, one-by-one.

Hearing Sita’s cry, Jatayu, the king of birds, confronted Ravana.  Though Jatayu did his best, he was no match for the mighty Ravana.  Ravana cut off one of Jatayu’s wings; mortally wounded Jatayu fell to the ground.  Ravana continued south to reach Lankapuri, and imprisoned Sita in his garden, Ashokavana, guarded by rakshasas.

Meanwhile, Lakshmana found Rama with the dead deer.  Figuring there was some conspiracy in what happened, the brothers rushed back to the hermitage.  They found only strewn rice and the other food Sita had been offering to the ascetic.  Sita was missing.

They began a vigorous search, going about the forest to find her.  They came across ornaments she had dropped one-by-one.  They continued in the direction the ornaments were found.  They found Jatayu.  He’d been saving his last breath to inform Rama that Sita had been abducted in a flying chariot going south.  Rama put Jatayu on his lap with great sorrow; Jatayu died in Rama’s hands.  Rama performed the last rites for Jatayu and continued south.  Rama forged onward, with a broken heart and tears in his eyes shouting, calling “Sita, Sita, Sita…” asking anyone they encountered if they had seen Sita.

Goddess Parvati was sitting next to Lord Shiva on Mt.  Kailasa.  She asked, “My Lord Shiva, has Lord Vishnu forgotten who he is?  Why is he searching for Sita like this?”  Lord Shiva replied, “Why don’t you find out?”  So Goddess Parvati changed herself into an elderly woman and came before Rama.  Rama saw the old woman, and immediately said, “Devi Parvati, please accept my pranams.  How is Lord Shiva?”  Astonished, Goddess Parvati greeted Rama and returned to Kailasa.

Lord Shiva explained, “You are who you are, but when you take the form of a human being, you will have to abide by the rules of human nature, which means you forget your own divine nature.”  Lord Shiva continued, “I have not helped Lord Vishnu in his past incarnations.  I need to help him in this one.”  Goddess Parvati agreed.

After meeting Goddess Parvati, Rama continued his search as though nothing had happened.  During the search, Rama came across a demon named Kabandha who tried to swallow both the brothers.  They fought and killed him.  With his last breath, he thanked them, saying that he had been waiting for them to release him from a curse that made him demoniacal.  He advised the brothers to visit Shabari, an old ascetic living in the nearby forest.

Delighted by their visit, Shabari greeted them with respect and served them food.  Especially she served Rama, offering rare fruits that could be very sweet but were sometimes sour.  To be sure she offered only the best, she first tasted each one to insure that it was ripe and tasty.  Rama was pleased by her intention and loving care, so he whole-heartedly accepted each of the fruits.

She directed them to go to Mount Mathanga.  After blessing her with liberation, Rama traveled to Mount Mathanga, searching for Sita.  Near Mount Mathanga, they come across a great strong monkey, who introduced himself as Hanuman.

More to come…

Following a Path

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

In 1969 Swami Satchidananda opened the Woodstock Music Festival, ending with teaching everyone to chant Hari OM.  A modern-day Guru and cultural icon, he was famously quoted as saying, “All paths lead to the same goal.”  This is not the whole quote.  Unfortunately, this partial quote is often used to justify spiritual dabbling.  What he said was, “All paths lead to the same goal, but you have to pick one and follow it to the end.”

Just like a mountain with many paths, you must pick one in order to get to the mountain peak.  If you keep switching trails, you will wander around the mountain forever.  You will certainly have wonderful experiences but you’ll never make it to the top.

In yoga, the goal is the experience of your own Self, the Ultimate Reality within.  Even more, it is about living in that Reality all the time, “Self-Realization.”

You may be motivated by a simpler goal: you do yoga so you will feel better.  This is a great reason to do yoga.  In Svaroopa® yoga you get what you want because this practice excels at healing what ails you.  Pain and stress melt away as you lengthen your tail.  Illness and injury heal more quickly.  Yoga even improves conditions that modern medicine doesn’t know how to treat.

Many different styles of yoga poses are available in the West.  They all provide dramatic physical benefits as well as stress reduction.  However research shows that exercise also provides the same benefits, sometimes even more effectively.  If exercise gives you the same results as yoga, then what’s so special about yoga?

Swami Nirmalananda describes, “When I returned from my Guru’s Ashram, I discovered that yoga was changing in America.  A teacher of another style told me proudly, ‘We’re taking the mysticism out of yoga.’   I was shocked!  I’d given years of my life to learn the mysticism of yoga.  They were doing everything they could to make it merely physical.  It’s no wonder I had to create a new yoga style.”

This means is that it matters what “brand” of yoga you do.  While one will give you beauty and gracefulness, does it free you from anxiety?  Other styles make you sweat or jump in and out of poses, but you may still have back pain.  You can do yoga poses on a trapeze but still get upset when life brings you back down to earth.

Svaroopa® yoga is a mystical science, not merely an athletic endeavor.  This means it gives you mystical experiences, fulfilling the promise made by the ancient sages of India.  Svaroopa® yoga is spiritual yoga.

Upliftment

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

When you are touched by the raw power of a lightning storm, the quietude of a forest glen or the softness of a deer’s eyes, you are using something in nature to effect an internal change.  It’s like a switch is flicked inside.  You are suddenly stilled.  You are deeply still and profoundly aware.

Yoga says you don’t need an external trigger to experience this deep inner beingness-awareness-bliss — it is your own Self.  Every time you have an experience of the Divine Within, you are irrevocably changed.  It’s not just a change; it’s upliftment.  One Sanskrit text describes it this way,

Tajjah samskaaro’nya-samskaara-prati-bandhee. — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.50

After an experience of The Self, your mind bears an impression of consciousness within it, which prevents other impressions from taking hold.

You must imprint your mind with more experiences of consciousness!  It already has too many imprints that lead you in other directions.  Your mind has the accumulated imprints of all the things you’ve experienced in this life as well as powerful impressions from your previous lifetimes, all impelling you toward repeating the same things again.  To get off the karmic merry-go-round, you must actively intervene in the process or it becomes a “Willy Wonka” tunnel with no escape:

There’s no earthly way of knowing

Which direction we are going

There’s no knowing where we’re rowing

Or which way the river’s flowing…[1]

Upliftment is the key.  Yoga is the science of upliftment.  But you are not being lifted up into another realm; you become more present in this realm, on this earth, in your own body, in your own life.  You become radiant with your own Divine Essence.  The way upward is inward.

This is a different direction than most systems, even most religions, teach you.  There are even meditation systems that say you must transcend this earthly plane, you must be lifted up into the light and that you will only arrive once you leave your body.  Years ago I flew into my then-home in San Diego, arriving to the news that 31 people had killed themselves so they could ascend to a higher level.  This is not yoga.

The yoga poses come from the Tantric Sages who practiced in the Himalayan caves, far away from the mainstream spirituality of the time, partly because mainstream spirituality said you had to reject the body in order to find God.  The tantrics said, “Your own teachings say that Shiva has brought forth all that exists out of His own Divine Beingness.  Thus, everything is holy, even my own body.”

Their spiritual endeavors began with Grace, through a transmission of energy from the Guru, which awakened the yogi’s inner power of upliftment, Kundalini.  As this sacred energy unfurled from tail to top, different yogis had different experiences depending on their personal readiness and individualistic nature.

Those who were more kinesthetic, rather than visual or auditory, experienced physical movements.  Others copied their spontaneous movements, which are today’s yoga poses.  Some yogis believe the forest sages made up the poses, having their disciples stand like a tree or move like a cobra, but the origin of these sacred body movements is in the sacred — not in the mind.

Doing the poses invokes the experience that those initiates were having, the inner experience of your own Divinity.  Svaroopa® yoga excels at this because it is the yoga of Grace.  I have devoted my life to the force of Grace, as did my Guru and his Guru before him.  We focus on core opening so that your spine becomes open and breathing and your spinal energy moves freely.  In other words, while you get the physical benefits that Svaroopa® yoga promises, you are getting more.

Yoga guarantees the upliftment of your own consciousness while you live in your body, a body that is being purified and made sacred through your breathing and your poses.  These changes in your body makes you able to see and to be the Divine Reality.  You also see, and even revel in, a Divine World made of out one thing:  Shiva.

Originally published July 2012

[1] Excerpt from “Wondrous Boat Ride,” song from the 2005 movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Upliftment is More than Personal Growth

By Swami Nirmalananda

Life makes sure you continue to grow and change whether you want to or not.  Life pushes you through so many lessons you try to avoid.  It’s a karmic truth.  But yogis do it differently.  Yogis are proactive about change, a specific type of change called upliftment.

Many people actively seek out self-improvement through the arts, travel, continuing their education, therapy or introspection, or an ever-expanding circle of people and experiences.  As wonderful as these growth experiences are, they are not the same as upliftment.  The upliftment of your own consciousness is yoga’s promise, even when you are simply doing a few poses to improve your physical condition.  Yoga sneaks up on you.

The physical changes provided by Svaroopa® yoga’s core opening have a profound effect on your body, but also on your mind and psyche.

  • While increased flexibility protects you from injury, even making your tissues healthier and younger, it also makes your mind more flexible, more adaptable and resilient.
  • As your muscles lengthen and become less dense, your mind and heart are becoming more open.
  • Your breathing capacity expands as your core opens up. This physical change makes you feel less contracted as a person, more expansive, even generous and compassionate.
  • As your spine lifts and lengthens, you stand taller in the world, more willing to be authentically you, as well as to speak up for yourself and others.
  • As your rib cage opens, your heart opens. You become more understanding of others and more compassionate, even to those who have hurt you in the past, whether you are in communication with them or not.
  • As your tailbone lengthens, you become free from fear. Anxiety cannot take over your mind anymore, so you have lots of extra energy and enthusiasm for life.  What is there that you cannot do?

When I meet someone new, which often happens on an airplane, they usually ask what I do.  I give them an easy answer, “I teach yoga.”  Thirty years ago they answered me, “Yogurt?”  Now they say, “I should do that.”  They all know they should be doing yoga.  They all know that yoga would be good for their body.  They even know that yoga offers something more, which they prove to me by saying, “Yoga is good for stress, right?  I need to learn how to relax.”

What they don’t know is that yoga is doing more to you, with every yoga-breath and every yoga pose.  It’s a sneaky system:  it will make you spiritual even if you didn’t want to be.  It’s deeply fulfilling.  It makes life worthwhile.

Your religion may be important to you, so you don’t need the spirituality that yoga provides.  How fortunate you are!  Yet yoga will still offer you spiritual benefits, deepening what you get from your church or temple.  Many yogis find their religious background to be unsatisfying, yet they still have the innate human hunger for the experience of the Divine.  Our modern world reinforces nature as a place to go to be touched by God.  Maybe music does it, or maybe for you it’s art that does it, or you get it through visiting ancient sites or monuments.  Yoga does it too.  Yoga specializes in Divinity — yours.  Yoga opens your inner experience of your own Divine Essence, called svaroopa, your own Self.

First published July 2012

The Yoga of Grace

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Birth is an extraordinary moment of creation — a new life beginning.  Death is an ending. Everything in-between is called “maintenance,” taking care of yourself, your life, your loved ones and your possessions.  These are three of the five cosmic powers, functioning in your life, even flowing through your own actions.

The fourth of Shiva’s cosmic powers is concealment, hiding your Divine Essence from you.  Revelation is the fifth of these powers, also called Grace.  You may have thought that “grace” meant something graceful, beautiful, flowing and elegant.

More expansively, you may know that you want Divine Grace to make your life easier: finding a new job, a new spouse or a better situation.  Yoga says, as important as these all are, they fall within the third power of God, maintenance — not Grace.  As important as these things are, they are not what Grace is about. Grace is the fifth cosmic power:  the revelation of your own Divinity.

Knowing your own Divinity does, of course, make all the maintenance easier!  That happens because you are coming from a deeper place within.  Being based in your own innermost essence, you are not as reactive.  You are not as superficial. You are not as needy.  You are more compassionate.  You are more able to go with the flow.  Life gets easier, even when it is hard.

Einstein understood revelation.  He would sit in a chair, set a spoon across his knee and stare at it until it fell.  In the time between it leaving his knee and landing on the floor, he saw the structure of the universe.  Yoga calls this pratibha, inner visions or insights.  Consider the length of time between the spoon leaving his knee and landing on the floor.  In that instant, he saw the structure of creation.

His problem was that he didn’t know how to meditate.  He needed a spoon!  In the time between his knee and the floor, he got insights about how the universe worked, then he would write mathematical formulas to try to explain it.  He wasn’t figuring out a formula that would get him to an unknown result. He knew what was there because he had seen it, so he was trying to use mathematics to explain it.  He got it from the same place the ancient sages got it from, in-sight.  Revelation.

His insights were profound and have had a significant effect on our world, but yoga says this is a limited use of your inner vision.  There is so much more to discover inside:  the Divinity of your own Being.  How do you get there?  By quieting your mind, only you don’t need a spoon.

Tadaa dra.s.tu.h svaruupe’vasthaanam — Patanjali Yoga Sutras 1.3

In the moment that your mind becomes still, you are established in your own Divine Self.

This is why Svaroopa® yogis love Shavasana.  Just as Einstein discovered, that the instant your mind settles, your own Divinity is revealed to you.  Even a moment of that experience heals all the wounds, dissolves the memories and frees you from old patterns that keep you limited.  It takes only an instant to have an experience of your own Self.

It’s like lighting a match.  How do you light a match slowly?  You can’t.  It flares in an instant.  Svaroopa® yoga is not stair-step yoga.  Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace; it is the yoga of revelation.  Grace gives you your own Self.  To receive this Grace, do more Svaroopa® yoga.

You may have thought that “grace” meant something graceful, beautiful, flowing and elegant.  More expansively, you may know that you want Divine Grace to make your life easier: finding a new job, a new spouse or a better situation.  Yoga says, as important as these all are, they fall within the third power of God, maintenance — not Grace.  Let’s look at it again.

Rama Avatar, part 2.2

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Rama and his new wife, Sita, along with the other newlyweds, traveled to their capital city of Ayodhya.  On their return, the whole kingdom joyfully welcomed Rama and his three brothers, all with their new wives, with great devotion and respect.  Ayodhya was flourishing more than ever, after the arrival of the princes with their consorts.

A few years passed, and there was a message from Ashwapati, Kaikeyi’s father.  He wanted his grandson Bharata to stay with him in the Kekeya kingdom for some time, as his health was not good.  Dasharatha and Kaikeyi immediately sent Bharata and his wife Mandavi there to help.  Ashwapati was very happy to have his grandson with him in his last days.  Though Bharata was Dasaratha’s eldest son, thus the heir to the throne, he extended his stay in his grandfather’s Kekeya kingdom.

After a few more years passed, the aging King Dasaratha wanted to name the Crown Prince.  He decided to crown his son Rama at the Pattabishekham ceremony at the earliest possibility.  He assembled his ministers and all the elders to announce his decision.  All of them liked and agreed to Rama as Crown Prince.  Dasaratha felt that his time was running out, so he planned the Pattabishekham for the following day, especially since the next auspicious day was a few months away.

Manthara, a close personal maid of the Queen Kaikeyi, was secretly listening to this conversation and was not happy.  She remembered that Rama, as a young boy, accidentally struck her with a mud ball; she was still angry about it.  She ran to Kaikeyi with the news of Rama’s Pattabishekham on the next day.  Kaikeyi leapt out of her chair with great joy and gave Manthara the gold necklace she was wearing as a gift for bearing the happy news.

Manthara threw the necklace to the ground, asking Kaikeyi why she was so happy, “Is it because your own son, Bharatha, is not getting the crown?”  Kaikeyi replied, “No.  Rama is like a son to me; my son Rama is going to ascend the throne!”  Manthara sat with Kaikeyi and told her negative things that might happen if Rama was crowned, slowly poisoning her mind.  Manthara warned that Queen Kaushalya would be the Queen Mother, while Kaikeyi herself would be under her.  Sita, as Janaka’s daughter, might influence Rama to conquer the Kekeya kingdom, especially because Janaka and Ashwapati were not in good terms.

By the end, Kaikeyi had been convinced that her son Bharata should be the next king of Ayodhya.  But she didn’t know how to stop Rama’s Pattabishekham.  She knew her husband would not change his mind as he loved Rama so much.  Manthara slowly reminded Kaikeyi about the two boons that Dasaratha had granted her, urging her to finally use them: the first one for the Pattabishekham to be done to Bharata, the second one to send Rama into exile for fourteen years, because Bharata would not be able to serve as their real king due to the people’s great love for Rama.  Manthara also plotted with Kaikeyi about how to act when Dasaratha came to give her the news.

While Manthara was poisoning Kaikeyi’s mind, the news of Rama’s Pattabishekham spread like wildfire.  The whole of Ayodhya was singing and dancing in joy.  The people were decorating the whole kingdom in preparation for the Pattabishekham.

The king brought the news to Kaushalya and her son Rama.  Though Rama agreed to become Crown Prince, he was unhappy that Bharata was absent, so he asked for the Pattabishekham to be postponed.  Dasaratha refused, saying it needed to happen the next day.

Then Dasaratha came to Kaikeyi, thinking Kaikeyi would be the happiest of all since she was the closest to Rama.  Dasaratha was in a very happy and joyful mode when he entered Kaikeyi’s palace, but found Kaikeyi lying on the floor.  Her jewelry was thrown all around, her hair undone and she was miserably clothed like a poor person.  Manthara had been a great tutor.   Shocked, Dasaratha sat next to where Kaikeyi was lying and asked what had happened.  Was she ill; should he call for a doctor?  Liftin her head slowly, Kaikeyi said she was not ill and there was no need for a doctor.

Dasaratha helped her to a nearby chair and asked why she had such a dreadful look in her eyes.  Kaikeyi said she wanted her son, Bharata, to become the next king, and that Rama should be sent into exile for fourteen years.  This was the greatest shock of his life for Dasaratha.  He fell to his knees, asking Kaikeyi to reconsider her requests, remembering that Dasaratha had a special place in his heart for Kaikeyi.

Kaikeyi’s mind had been poisoned by Manthara so much that she said these are not simply requests.  These are the boons that she had postponed from earlier, so Dasaratha had no choice but to give them to her.  Dasaratha fell to the floor with a very heavy heart.  He spent the whole night trying to pursue Kaikeyi to change her mind, but she didn’t budge an inch.  As nothing could be done, Dasaratha agreed to her request and fainted on the floor.  While this was going on in Kaikeyi’s palace, the rest of Ayodhya was getting ready for Rama’s Pattabishekham the next day.

The next morning, the ministers came to fetch Dasaratha, but Kaikeyi refused to allow them to enter.  She asked them to send Rama to her palace so his father could speak to him.  She was thinking that Rama would throw a tantrum when he heard the new decisions, so Kaikeyi prepared herself to be strong.  Rama came at once, obedient as always.

With a stern voice, Kaikeyi told Rama that, on her request, his father had ordered him into exile for fourteen years, and that Bharata would be installed in the Pattabishekham ceremony right away.  To Kaikeyi’s astonishment, without the least change smile, Rama told Kaikeyi “Oh, dear Mother!  I will go to the forest immediately.  You could have sent me a message to go to the forest and I would have done it wholeheartedly, simply because it is my dear loving mother’s wish.  I thank you for giving me this opportunity to be with the sages who are rooted in dharma.  Please inform my father that I am taking leave.”

He returned to his residence to prepare for the exile.  Upon telling Sita that he must go, and that she should stay in the palace until he returns, she outright refused.  She started getting ready to join him, saying, “Where Rama is, is the Ayodhya for me!”  Lakshmana found out what had happened.  Always short tempered, he was enraged, so Rama had help him bring his temper down.  Lakshmana would never part from Rama, so he joined Rama as his brother and personal attendant.  Rama, Sita and Lakshmana said their goodbyes to their mothers and started their journey by foot to the forest.

The news of Rama’s exile spread like wildfire.  The people of Ayodhya were following Rama to the forest, saying they had no reason to remain in the kingdom without Rama.  No matter how much convincing Rama tried to do, it didn’t work, so he let them follow him to the forest.

When everyone fell asleep that night, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana sneaked deeper into the forest.  He asked the Chief Minister Sumantra to take everyone back to Ayodhya.  The next morning, with Rama missing, they returned to Ayodhya with a heavy heart, as commanded by Sumantra.

Meanwhile in Ayodhya, Dasaratha came to his senses after fainting the previous night, but found Rama gone.  He told Kaikeyi that she got her boons at the price of her husband’s life, and will live as a widow for the rest of her life.  He went into unbearable grief, suffering from the separation from Rama.  Not able to bear his son’s departure, remembering the curse from his early years, Dasaratha died with the same fate as that of Shravan’s blind parents.

Immediately Bharata was sent for.  Learning what led to such a catastrophe in the family, due to his own mother’s greed, Bharata looked at his mother severely, uttering very harsh words, “O!  Enemy of mine, in the guise of my mother!  You should enter the cremation fire or disappear into the Dandaka forest.  No other fate befits you.  I am no longer your son; neither are you my mother!  I can’t imagine, of all people, that you who loved Rama the most, can exile my dearest loving brother to the forest.  I will go to him, beg his forgiveness and bring him back with me to Ayodhya.  Or else I will join him in his path.  Do not ever come in my presence again, my demon-personified mother!”  Hearing these words, Kaikeyi realized the atrocity she had caused by her actions.

Bharata performed the funeral rites of his father.  As always, followed by his brother Shatrugna, Bharata gathered a large company of soldiers, preceptors, elders and the leaders of Ayodhya.  They went to the forest to search for Rama.

Meanwhile, in the forest, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana walked to the banks of the holy river Ganga.  There, Rama met Guha, the leader of the boatmen, who cordially served them well.  Rama, Sita and Lakshmana stayed one night with Guha, then got his help to reach the other bank of Ganga.  Extremely pleased with Guha, Rama declared he had gained a brother, so there are now five brothers in total.  Guha was overjoyed by Rama’s words, yet he had to goodbye.  Rama, Sita and Lakshmana walked slowly through the jungle, enjoying its splendor, to reach Sage Bharadwaja’s hermitage near Chitrakoot.  Invited by Sage Bharadwaja, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana decided to stay in Chitrakoot for a while.  Lakshmana made a beautiful hut for them; they started their life in exile.

After a long and hard search, and with the help of Guha, Bharata and his entourage came to Sage Bharadwaja’s hermitage.  Bharadwaja first advised Bharata not to get emotional, telling him that what happened was not caused by a single human being, but was fulfilling a Divine Purpose.

Sage Bharadwaja then helped Bharata to find Rama.  Bharata rushed towards Rama’s hermitage.  The short tempered Lakshmana thought Bharata was there to fight Rama, and leapt up with his bow and arrow, ready to fight.  Lakshmana had to be pacified by Rama once again.

Bharata reached Rama and fell at his feet, not able to speak a word due to sobbing uncontrollably.  Bharata was wearing the same ascetic’s rags as Rama had adopted.  At once, Rama helped Bharata to rise/  Embracing Bharata, Rama asked why he was in such attire, since he was the King of Ayodhya.  Rama went on asking about their father and their mothers.

In the midst of sobs, Bharata broke the news that their father was gone.  At this, Rama lost his steadiness, then slowly regained his composure after a few minutes.  Then Bharata pled his case, begging for forgiveness for what his mother had done, and begging Rama to return to Ayodhya in order to rule the kingdom.  Rama replied that he had given his word and could only return only after fourteen years.

After a lot of hesitation and pushback, Bharata agreed to be the guardian of the kingdom, as the representative of Rama, until Rama’s return.  He set the condition that, if Rama is even a day late at the end of the fourteenth year, Bharata would take his own life.

He requested Rama’s sandals, so he could place them on the throne so that he doesn’t deviate from dharma.  Agreeing, Rama gave his sandals to Bharata.  Bharata carried them on his head all the way back to Ayodhya.  He ruled the kingdom as a guardian and representative, but not living in the palace.  He lived and ruled from a place called Nandigram, located in the outskirts of the city of Ayodhya.  More to come…

The Power of Revelation

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

There are so many wonderful things about Shavasana, especially when you have the props that make it possible for your spine to relax.  But the real reason you love it is because you dive in deeper.  What is deeper?  Deeper is the experience of your own Self.

Shavasana is not a nap.  If your head stays in the middle, you’re not sleeping.  You’re experiencing your own Self, your Divine Essence.  If your head turns to one side, even slightly, you do fall asleep; you are not experiencing the Self.  Check it out.  In a Shavasana, turn your head toward one side a little bit and remain in the pose for the same amount of time.  You can tell that it’s not the same. The nap makes you feel a little tired as you are getting up.  Instead, with your head in the middle during your Shavasana, you experience a profound deep immersion into Self.

The physical improvements you get from Svaroopa® yoga are amazingly easy.  It works from the inside-out; we call it core opening.  This spinal decompression provides physical benefits, plus it creates a deeper opening, into your Self.  It becomes easy to explore who you are at the innermost level.

Deeper than your body, deeper than your mind and heart — who and what are you?  You find your answer by finding your Self, “svaroopa,” which is your Divine Essence.  Knowing your own Self is the real purpose of Svaroopa® yoga, the mystical secret hidden in the seemingly simple physical processes.

Your body is a living body because the energy of enlivenment flows through your spine.  Named “chi” in Chinese, Sanskrit calls this energy “prana.”  As your core opening increases, your pranic flow opens up, making you progressively healthier, more alive and even younger.

Once you get enough opening at your tailbone, the Grace of Svaroopa® yoga ignites a more powerful current: the enlivening and enlightening power named “Kundalini.” This is your own inner force of upliftment, working within you to reveal your own Self to you.  This is Shaktipat, the specialty of Svaroopa® yoga.  This is why Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace.

Grace is a technical term in yoga, classified as the fifth of Shiva’s Divine Powers, clearly described in the Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam:

Aabhaasana-rakti-vimar”sana-biijaa-vasthaapana-vilaapana-tastaani.  — Sutra 11

Shiva performs the five processes on the cosmic level [as well as on the individual level]:  manifesting, sustaining, ending, concealing and revealing.

Shiva is the name we use for Ultimate Reality, the “who” that brings these powers into being and uses them to create the world and to become you.  As an individual, you use all five of these powers, though in a more limited way because you don’t yet know you are Shiva.   These five powers are:

  • Manifesting: Shiva creates the universe and all that is in it, including you. As an individual, you create a family, music, a beautiful meal, a garden, etc.
  • Sustaining: Shiva maintains the universe, keeping it going, including continuing to be you. As an individual, you maintain your relationships, your home, your car, your job, and more.
  • Ending: Shiva is the destroyer as well, bringing about endings every day. A tree falls in the forest.  A beloved person or pet dies.  Everything that was created reaches an ending point.  As an individual, you destroy things:  even relationships, jobs, or a place where you live (when you move).  Sometimes endings are thrust upon you; sometimes you choose them.
  • Concealment: Shiva conceals His own Presence within each being, each object and each atom of the universe, including you. As an individual, you hide your feelings, you hide parts of your life from others, and you hide your mistakes or your ability to do things well.  The power of concealment means a hidden dimension is there in everything, including the Divinity hidden within you.
  • Revelation (Grace): Shiva reveals His own Presence within all that exists. Grace is the power of revelation. The ultimate revelation is your own Divinity — Shiva is revealed as your own Self.  As an individual, you also reveal things.  You show someone an easy way to do something, you say something that sheds light on the situation, or you do something uplifting for others or for yourself.

Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace, meaning it is the yoga of revelation.

swami-hands-cropped-65OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.

excerpt from article published June 2013