Traditional Tales:  Shiva’s Guru

by Nirooshitha:Sethuram

It was a beautiful day on Mt.  Kailasa, where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were spending time together with their two children, Ganesha and Skanda.  The two children went off to play in the foothills of the mountain while Shiva and Parvati were giving blessings to devotees.

On that day Lord Brahma, the Creator-God, decided to visit Mt.  Kailasa to worship Shiva.  On his way, he saw Skanda at the foothills of Mt.  Kailasa, but ignored him, and went past him without paying his respects.  Lord Skanda got angry and, mischievous as he was, wanted to bring Brahma out of his egoism.

He patiently waited until Brahma returned from worshipping Shiva, heading back to Satya Loka where he resides with his wife Goddess Saraswati.  When he passed Skanda, ignoring him again, thinking that he is just a child, the little boy Skanda ran to Brahma, asking who he was, what he does, and what he is proficient in?

quora.com

Brahma replied that he is Brahma, the creator of the beings of the three worlds and that he is proficient in the Vedas.  He proudly said that he was creating the beings who have knowledge of the Vedas, and started to recite the Rig Veda text, beginning with the pranava (the primordial sound “OM”),

Immediately Skanda interrupted Brahma, and asked him to explain the meaning of the pranava.  Brahma couldn’t explain the meaning.  Skanda said, “Without knowing the meaning of the first word you use to do your job, you are incompetent to create the beings!”  He knocked Brahma on his forehead with his knuckles, and imprisoned him in Skanda Giri.  Skanda took up the role of Creator and continued with the creation.

The Devas (Divine Beings) were worried and surprised by the absence of Brahma.  They went to Lord Vishnu complaining that his son, Brahma was missing, asking for Vishnu to help them find him.  Vishnu, the Protector-God , came to know what had happened. He wanted to leave it to Shiva to attend to this matter, since Vishnu couldn’t win the argument with Skanda.  Vishnu, with the other Devas, went to Shiva and explained the situation.

Shiva decided to deal with this himself and went down to see his beloved son, little Skanda.  He with all three of his eyes stood watching Skanda play.  Then he went near his little boy with affection, embraced him and requested him to release Brahma.  Honoring his father’s request, Skanda released Brahma immediately.  Shiva was pleased by his son’s obedience and sat him on his lap.

Then, Shiva asked, “Do you know the meaning of the pranava?”  Being the son of the Supreme Being, Skanda smiled.  He mischievously replied that he does but will only tell the meaning if Shiva was prepared to learn the mantra in a proper manner, as a shishya (disciple) learning it from a Guru.

Agreeing to Skanda’s conditions, giving the proper respect to a Guru by a disciple, Shiva knelt with folded hands and bowed head, before his young son Skanda, the Guru, with great veneration and learnt the mantra from him.  Then Shiva blessed his son, giving him the name Swaminatha, meaning “Guru to the Guru himself.” Brahma went back to his duties, never to ignore anyone again, no matter how young they were.

The hillock on which this took place thus came to be known as “Swamimalai.” Today, thousands of devotees yet go to this holy place, seeking “True Knowledge” from Swaminatha.

Through this act of giving the proper respect to Skanda, Shiva, wanted to show the importance of the Guru.  He also wanted to show that we should never disrespect anyone however young, small or insignificant you may think they are.

Om Namah Shivaya.

 

Mystical Meaning

By Swami Nirmalananda

Devas, Gods and Goddesses, oh my!   Is the Creator-God really different from the Protector-God?  And who is Shiva anyway?

Mythology activates a part of your brain that nothing else touches, which is why superheroes are so popular.  I read Ovid’s Metamorphosis to my children, followed by the rich and meaningful tales from ancient India.  But the Western-trained mind asks, “Just how many Gods are there?”

The answer is simple.  One.

Though called by different names in different languages, different times, traditions and religions, the One is still the One.  Just like water, agua and pani all refer to the same liquid, each name points to something beyond the word being used.

You probably have many names, from a childhood nickname, relationship names like “Sis” or “Mom,” screen names, a professional name, pet names used by those closest to you, and maybe even a Sanskrit name to invoke your deepest sense of spirituality.  Each name brings forth a different quality from you, while you are more.

In India, the One Reality is called by different names when performing different functions.  When creating, the One is called Brahma, expressing qualities that makes creating possible:  innovative, focused on the moment instead of the future, and with quick-trigger reflexes.  Yoga’s sages described Brahma, even seeing him in Divine visions, thus making us able to depict him in paintings, statues and stories.

…………………………Vishnu………………………………Shiva………………………………..Brahma…………………………..

Vishnu is the name of the One Reality while nurturing and protecting that which Brahma created.  And the Goddesses are the energies that they use in their various tasks.  Since we’re talking about the One Divine Reality, how many functions are possible?  Thus, how many names are possible?  Millions!  But they are all forms of the One.  The Sanskrit word, “deva,” is the root word for the English word, “divine.”  Devas are Gods, Devis are Goddesses, each of which is the One Reality in a different guise.

This glorious multiplicity is not limited to the celestial sphere, for the One has become everything that exists, including you and me.  The goal of yoga is to know yourself as the Divinity you are, thus being able to see the One shining as all.  Yogis usually name the One as Shiva, which is technically “Paramashiva,” meaning the One who is beyond your idea of who the One is.

Skanda on Shiva’s lap – yogaxtc.com

In this story, the many forms of the One play out a drama complete with insult, confrontation, imprisonment, a “presidential pardon,” all superimposed on against a mystical background of the ever-reverberating primordial sound.  Then sweetest of all, the great Shiva takes on the role of a humble student, learning from his own son, Skanda, while knowing that Skanda got everything from Shiva himself.

Nirooshitha says that she chose this story because it’s all about the Guru principle.  “This story is from Skanda Purana, as is Shree Guru Gita.  This is one of the stories, which I was told and read many times while growing up. For me this story is about Shiva being himself and being his own son.”

It’s really a picture of your own condition.  While you are currently experiencing the limitation of human individuality, you are more.  To find the more, you go to one who knows, one who serves by sharing that knowing with you – the Guru.  While bowing to the Guru, you’re bowing to your Self, one really you but simply in another form.  It’s all done with mirrors!

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

The Perfect

By Yogeshwari (Melissa) Fountain

You are a Divine incarnation with the capacity to access the infinite within you.  Yoga describes that the vastness of Consciousness chooses to manifest, through many levels of contraction, to become matter.  From the formless to the form, all is made of the One.  Everything is Consciousness!

“Yoga promises you that you will know yourself to the deepest and fullest extent, recognizing your own Divinity and seeing it in everyone and everything else.” — Swami Nirmalananda

The point of yoga’s practices is that you know and experience this within yourself.  This is easy when you are emerging from a deep meditation or at the end of a yoga class.  Your quiet mind makes you able to experience peace.  You’ve found an entry into the infinite within, which is called “svaroopa,” your own Divine Essence.

Yet most of the time, you’re not experiencing yourself as Divine.  While the infinite reality is concealed in every object, you can’t see the it because you’re trapped in your preferences.  If you like how something is going, it’s yoga; if not, it can’t possibly be yoga.  A yoga student returned home one day to see her kitchen flooded.  She stood there and made a decision: “I guess this is my yoga for the day”.  She rolled up her sleeves, opened her heart, got to work, and was in a state of bliss throughout the clean-up.

Not everything goes your way.  Not everyone one is interested in yoga or inner peace.  Swamiji says, “If you’re looking for the world and the people around you to show you their Divinity, you’re going to have a long wait.”  The only way you can find the Divinity that pervades all of existence is by looking inward.   You must find God in yourself first.

I learned a beautiful Sanskrit verse in yoga teacher training which begins with:

OM poornamadah pooornamidam…

OM. That is perfect. This is perfect.

 

“That” is your Divine Beingness, already perfect and full.  “This” is everyone and everything in this world, already perfect and full.  If you had told me B.Y. (before yoga) that “everything is perfect, the perfect becoming the perfect,” I’d have thought you were crazy.  For I was a master of the “yes…buts.”  A lifelong skeptic, I was trying to make the world fit into my expectations.  To me, “the perfect” meant perfectionism.  If I perfected the poses, if I was the perfect wife and mother, even the perfect yogi, then my life would fall into place.  These delusions captivated me for years!  When I chanted that mantra, it felt like a promise of things to come.  Deep inside, somehow I knew I was more than my mind was telling me.

In order to behold the perfect in everything, you must first find it within.  You’ve already proved to yourself that figuring things out doesn’t make you enlightened.  You cannot really enlighten yourself.  Only One who knows the Self can reveal your inherent Divinity to you.

Swami Nirmalananda describes it this way, “I was so fortunate to find such a One.  I didn’t know that I was looking for my Self.  I didn’t know that my mind was what was in the way.  My Guru showed me what I was looking for and how to get deeper in, past my mind.  I live in undying gratitude to Him, and delight in serving others who want the same.”

Even though this world is chaotic and unpredictable, it is the form of formless Consciousness.  Everything coming at you is another form of the Divine.  Everything!  Your mind doesn’t have to understand.  Why?  Because you are more than your mind.  How do you find your Self?

  • Pause in the midst of your activities.  Take a breath.  Even sigh!
  • Offer whatever you are doing to your own Divine Self, the One who is being you while being all.

In this way, you will begin to explore yoga’s promise: to know your Self to the deepest and fullest extent.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

Life’s Choices

By Mati (Sandra) Gilbert

Choices!  You make many choices each day, some easy and some hard.  When I was younger, I had to decide between change and security.  A single mom with an 8 year-old son, I had just purchased a home.  My job was very secure but I had advanced as far as I could.  Though I was good at it and it was easy for me, I was no longer satisfied with the status quo.  An opportunity came along.  There was a path for advancement but it did not offer any degree of security.  Was I willing to take a chance?  Decision time!

Family, job, projects, and other areas of your life bring you to the brink sometimes.  Life is not always easy.  If you continue to choose the easy path, looking for events and situations to flow easily, you are at the mercy of events and the people who cause them.  No matter how much effort you put into setting up your life perfectly, there will always be something beyond your control.  It often changes the outcome you had planned.  The only thing you have any control over is how you are during life’s challenges.  How are you?

“There are easy parts to life, but hard parts come along in spite of your efforts to avoid them.  Yoga says you must tackle the hard stuff, not merely handle the tough stuff when it comes up, but to look for the challenges and even create them for yourself.  This is called tapas.”                                                                                                                                 — Swami Nirmalananda

Tapas is doing the hard stuff even though it is hard.  Tapas is choosing to challenge yourself by doing hard stuff, precisely because it is hard.  When you get good at it, it is no longer hard for you, and it is no longer tapas.  Doing tapas means you get to choose the challenges you are going to work on, rather than having other thrust them on you.

Swamiji describes a 4-step process to help you make tough decisions.  The steps are

  1. Take an intelligent look at yourself
  2. Discern what would be the next step
  3. Decide to do it
  4. Then do it

While this process is straightforward, your choice should be based on what is best, not what you desire most.  This is a pure choice, without expecting a specific outcome.  In other words, you see what is needed and you just do it.

Tapas is very important.  When you decide to do the hard stuff without neediness or discontent, your body and your senses are purified and improved.  You gain a new understanding of your life and the world around you.  The benefits you get from doing tapas greatly exceeds the effort you expended.

Because of the teachings of my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda, and the Grace that flows through her, I am on the path to knowing my inner divinity — my Self.  Therefore, the hard stuff does not throw me like it used to.  Whether something is hard or easy is not the deciding factor in what I decide to do.  I can and must choose where to pour my energy.  Sometimes it is easy, flowing along almost effortlessly.  Sometimes it is hard, requiring work to accomplish the tiniest little bit of progress.

In yoga, the determining factor in what you are doing is not based on how easy or hard it is — it is based on who you are while you are doing it.  Through the practice of tapas, your own Self shines through your mind, your heart, your relationships, your work, and your life.  Your life will continue to have challenges.  However, it is much easier once you know your Self — your own inherent Divinity.

Stand Here, Now!

By Yogeshwari Fountain

You can travel the world to visit holy sites.  Many of my friends have shared profound experiences of touching the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or walking the 500-mile El Camino trail through Spain.  My husband hiked down into the Grand Canyon this summer and felt he’d never be the same again.

Expansive, spiritual settings expand us back into the Self, the vastness of our own inner Being.  Yet Yoga says that the most sacred site of all is your own body, here in the present moment, in each breath you take, and on the very ground upon which you now stand.

“The spot where you now stand is sacred ground.  You, standing on it, and your body with which you stand are both sacred.  There is nowhere that God is not.”  — Swami Nirmalananda (formerly Rama Berch),

Tadasana teaches you how to stand firmly, with precise alignment and total ease.  While often-called “Mountain Pose,” it is more importantly the “pose of That” (the Supreme Reality).  Being grounded in your body is more than a physical feeling of strength and stamina, but a quality of quiet mind and surrender.

We are accustomed to looking outside ourselves for the holy.  Yet, whenever I stop what I am doing and allow myself to feel that shift back inside my body, I feel more my “Self.”  Standing in stillness opens up your breath, and releases your spinal tension.  Your eyes become clear and you gain a new perspective.

Consider the power of standing still.  Not rushing off to the next thing you have to do.  Not squirming in discomfort, or checking your smart phone.  Not worrying about your next move.   Instead, settle into an upright stillness that is both internally quiet and immovable.  You might even feel gravity’s gentle pull through your muscles and bones, while you feel taller and lighter.  It’s amazing!  A seven-year named Zachery once described this to me as, “I know what God is!  God is gravity!”

It’s true that standing in my bones connects me to God’s presence within me, as me.  By standing still, you trust that where you are, right now, is just where you are supposed to be, and can let go.

This is a radically different view of the world: there is nothing you have to attain, no one you have to be, for everything is already perfect, already Divine.  The ultimate Reality that pervades all of existence, Shiva, is being every thought, every breath and every experience you are having.  The mundane and the divine are inextricably interwoven.  This is called Tantric living, and it comes from Kashmiri Shaivism, the yoga philosophy I practice.  It has taken me years to slow down, to stand still, to become more aware.  But as I continue to surrender to meditation and my Guru’s Grace, the easier it becomes.

Later this year, I am going on pilgrimage to Ganeshpuri, India, a sleepy little village that is the home of my Guru’s lineage.  I’ve been there before.  I already know that every inch of soil beneath my feet will feel sacred to me.  Everywhere I’ll look I’ll see the face of God.

Yet as special as this is, I don’t have to go to India to find it.  I know the temple is within me.  Right here and now, the ground I am standing upon is sacred; as is the body I live in.   Perhaps you too have a special place of pilgrimage, one that will reliably make you feel quiet inside and filled with grace.  You need look no further: stand here, now.

Traditional Tales and Mystical Meanings

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

The mythic dimension of our lives is a doorway to the mystical dimension of our beings.  Today we welcome a new writer to our blog team, a yogi who grew up with these stories in her native Sri Lanka.  The classical Hindu tales always offer a yogic teaching, which I will draw out in each blog, both to warm your heart as well as to expand your understanding.

Nirooshitha Sethuram is a Svaroopa® yoga teacher in America, bringing both western and Hindu perspectives to our profound yogic tradition.  She explains, “The Mango Story is the first story that most Hindu children hear from their parents.  Very simple, yet very rich in its essence.”

 

The Mango Story

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

It was another beautiful day on Mt.  Kailash, where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were with their two children, Ganesha and Karttikeya.

On this day Sage Narada was visiting.  Narada is the son of Brahma, the creator, also known to be the creator of problems which end in goodness to the world.  Narada brought a special mango in his hand, claiming he had come to pay respects to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, but they knew that it was not the case.  He was there to start some mischief.  They were right; he had come to test the two children, Ganesha and Karttikeya.

Sage Narada offered the special mango to Lord Shiva, saying it was a very special mango, sweeter than the nectar of any fruit there was.  Narada also said it was to be eaten by one person only and should not be shared.  With a smile, Lord Shiva asked, “Have you started to execute your mischief yet?”  Then Shiva said, “I can’t eat it, as I share everything with Parvati,” so He offered it to Parvati.  Parvati said that She can’t have it either, as She also shares everything with Lord Shiva.

Sage Narada pretended to be sad because they rejected what he offered, though he was happy that his plan was working.  He says, “Oh my Lord, please, one of you in your family should eat it!  Maybe it can be one of your children.”  Knowing what was happening, Lord Shiva called for his sons, Ganesha and Karttikeya.

Shiva said, “I have a mango which cannot be shared, so one of you can have it.”  Both Ganesha and Karttikeya said, “I want it, I want it…”  Sage Narada, pretending to be shocked, said, “I had no idea that the children will fight for it.”  Lord Shiva smiled and said to Narada in a low voice that only he can hear, “You purposely brought this mango, knowing this would happen…” Goddess Parvati continued, “Yes, I agree, but we need to resolve this now.”

Lord Shiva said, “My dear children, this is the time in your life in which you must face the world.  Unless you know your world, you cannot lead your life in prosperity.  Both of you must travel around the world three times.  The first one to return will get the mango.”  Narada was extremely happy that his plan was being executed.

Karttikeya was a beautiful strong boy born to defeat demons, whereas Ganesha had the head of an elephant, with a potbelly and short stubby legs.  Kartikeya’s vehicle was a peacock and Ganesh’s vehicle was a mouse.  Karttikeya was thinking his brother didn’t have a chance, so without a word he jumped on his peacock and off he went.  With great determination Karttikeya flew around the world.  Along the way, he faced terrible storms, fought with demons and helped people in danger.  His journey was much more difficult than he thought.  His thoughts went back to his brother, “Oh, my poor brother.  How is he going to survive all this while competing for the mango?”

Ganesha knew he will not be able to win the race on his mouse and started thinking.  Then an idea struck him.  He said, “My parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, are my world, therefore I will go around them thrice.”  Ganesha fastened a tiny harness around Mushika, his mouse.  He went thrice around his parents and was just receiving the mango from Goddess Parvati when Karttikeya returned after circling the world thrice.

Karttikeya saw Ganesha holding the mango in his hand.  He was so angry!  He said that Ganesha had done nothing while he traveled around the world.  “So have I,” replied Ganesh.  He said, “I traveled all around my father and mother.  They are my world.”

Karttikeya knew what had happened, and though he knew his brother won it fair and square, he still got angry with his parents.  Seeing this, Ganesha offered the mango to Karttikeya.  But Karttikeya flew away on his peacock, leaving all his luxuries, including all his clothes.  He went to a hill known as “Palani” in the south of India (palani = palam + nee in the Tamil language, meaning, “you are the fruit”).

Goddess Parvati came right behind Karttikeya to bring him back to Kailash.  When She arrived, She said to him, “You both have won in your own ways.  Karttikeya, you won by your single-minded determination and endurance, while your brother Ganesha won by balance of heart, mind, love and intellect.”  Hearing this from his beloved mother, Karttikeya was satisfied and lifted out of his anger.  He became calm and happily went back to Kailash with his mother.  He apologized to his father, Lord Shiva, and to his brother Ganesh, for his earlier behavior.

Lord Shiva, through Sage Narada’s drama, wanted to show everyone that their parents are their first world.  He also wanted to show that you could gather knowledge and answers by traveling the world as Karttikeya did, or stay in the same place looking inward to get them as Ganesha did.  Om Namah Shivaya.

 

Mystical Meanings

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

My Guru told us this story many times, but with one small alteration.  Ganesha decided to circle his parents three times because they are the source and container of all the worlds.  Shiva is the primordial reality, who has taken form within this universe, sitting on Mt. Kailasa so that He is in the world that He has created.  He is not merely an observer; He is a participant-observer.  That makes Him available to us!

Shree Parvati is a human girl who became a Goddess, specifically for the purpose of marrying Shiva.  She had a head start, of course, for She was an incarnation of the primordial energy, Shakti, drawn into human birth by the pleas of humankind.  Her intense practices transformed her into a Goddess, which She already was, as are you.  But you need to do some work on yourself before you discover your inherent Divinity.

Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati sit on Mt. Kailasa, both in the world and beyond the world.  They are the substance and energy of which the world is made, which means the world is within them, while they are within it.  Ganesha used this mystical truth to win the race, and his boon was not only a mango, but that he would be invoked at the beginning of every ceremony and every venture.  It is Ganesha that opens the doorway to the celestial and cosmic realms, so every puja (classical ceremony) begins with worship of Ganesha .

This mystical truth is true of you as well, you are in the universe, but the universe is within you.  When you look outside, you can see only part of the universe, plus you get ensnared in it,  When you look inside, you see the whole, which is the universe and the One who has become it, who is Shiva, who is you.

Perception: What Color are Your Glasses?

By Mangala Allen

When life’s challenges seem insurmountable, you are caught in the tangled web of your mind.  Swami Muktananda described it like you’re looking at the world through tinted glasses, altering the color of what you see.  Your mind is colored by your past experiences and the reactions you still suffer from.  Your expectations for how things should be add another layer to your inner process.  Your get lost in a chaotic cycle of expectation, desire and disappointment.

image from pixabay.com

“Change the color of your glasses,” Muktananda used to say.  When you dissolve the tinted lenses of your mind, you are liberated from the chaotic cycle.  How do you do this?  Look within.  Discover the treasure inside that is your very own Self.  You are Consciousness-itself.

Consciousness contracts to become you but, while contracting, makes you forget who you are.  As your mind clears you recognize your Self as Consciousness.  Then, you see everyone and everything as an expression of Consciousness.  Your perception is profoundly different when the light of Consciousness illumines you from within.

“The world exists solely to support your spiritual upliftment.  Everything is conspiring to liberate you.”

— Swami Nirmalananda*

I always had a fear of using computers.  When I started my Master’s degree, at the age of 50, I had to learn to use a computer so I could research and write papers.  I never got beyond this stage.  I was afraid I would push the wrong button and create an entanglement that no one could unravel.  Circumstances kept arising that required me to have more computer skills but I shied away from learning anything new.

I was reacting to the clutter in my mind with anxiety; my fear was holding me back.  Eventually Swami Nirmalananda gave me seva that required learning new computer skills.  This time I chose to face my fear.  It ultimately dissolved.

This profoundly simple choice would not have been possible for me before yoga.  My practices have helped me discover what is inside.  I am more than I knew.  I discover more about myself everyday, now that I see life’s challenges as ways to experience the Consciousness I am.

Practice yoga to find the deeper dimension within you.  As you become aware of the ever-arising flow of bliss inside, you no longer need externals to support you.  You are supported from within, experiencing things as they are, without longing for them to be different.  No longer compelled to action, you choose how and when to respond — based on a clear view of the circumstances at hand.  You’re looking at the world through Consciousness-colored lenses.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity again and again I bow.

* Contemplation Article – It’s All for You! – February 2017

Mind, Intellect, and Ego

By Mati Gilbert

Mommy-Ears!  If you have had a child or cared for one, you know what this is. It is your ability to know, without hearing a sound or cry, that your child needs you — before or just as it happens. At this time in life, this is a blessing. When my son was an infant, I would sit outside his bedroom door, just listening. Later, somehow, some way, my Mommy-Ears were activated. I could sleep comfortably in my bed, being aware. This was before electronic baby monitors.

This ability becomes a curse when you take comments about your child to heart, even taking it as a criticism of your parenting. This can happen if your child fails a test, gets into a fight does something not sanctioned as good. “OMG!  People will think I am a terrible mother. How could I let this happen?”

The opposite is also true. You might like to share stories about your child’s good deeds with others. “See, I am a good Mom,” patting yourself on the back. This is your ego kicking in! In reality, your child is an individual who must grow into taking credit or blame for his or her own actions. And you must deal with your ego, without taking it out on your kids or using it to hog-tie them.

Ego is one of your mind’s three functions:

  • your outward-looking (always busy) mind,
  • your intellect which analyzes and names,
  • and your ego which uses outer things to create your sense of identity.

When you accept credit or blame for a thought or action, you’re using it to create an identity that you feel good or bad about.

Mind and intellect work together to empower you to perceive things, as well as analyze, classify, and categorize. Your highest use of them is to prioritize finding your own inner Self — your Divinity, which is already complete within. Ego, the function of mind that creates your identity, then identifies with Consciousness, which is your own Self.

“The ego knows that if your sense of smallness were to go, it too would have to go. The ego shows you to yourself in a wrong light.” — Swami Muktananda

Ego is your mind’s ability to build a sense of self when you say “I,” creating the limited sense of “I am a woman,” “I am a mom.” When you remove the last word in each of these phrases, you end up with “I am.” Now the “I” is pure Consciousness.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “Once you receive Shaktipat, you are on the path toward the knowing of your own inner Divinity. As you grow into your Self, your ego is transformed.  It is put in service to Consciousness.”

When my son returned home from college, my Mommyy-Ears were again activated. They hadn’t gone away, but had been dormant. I would lie in bed waiting for him to come home, not asleep and not awake, just aware.

Finally, my intellect told me my ego was not involved in this. My son, now an adult, is responsible for his own actions. I care but I’m not in charge. That night, I turned off my Mommy-Ears. I let go of that identity, moving past my ego and past my mind, which freed me to open my heart and find the inner knowing of my own inherent Divinity.

A Dawn in Me

By Yogeshwari Fountain 

“Morning is when I am awake, and there is a dawn in me.”
— Henry David Thoreau

I was sixteen and these words pierced my heart.  Immediately, I recognized the truth:

What was happening outside of me,

was also happening inside of me,

and that my body might even hold the universe within it.

But how could this be?

I remember feeling bigger than I’d ever imagined. I had a glimmer that the morning’s dawn was an inner state, ever capable of arising within me. I knew even then that my path to “finding myself“ was going to be a mystical one. That realization, was both comforting and empowering for a lonely teenager, insecure and wanting to “fit in” with the in-crowd.

http://timlaman.photoshelter.com Sunrise Walden Pond

I now know that Thoreau was studying yogic texts when he was living at Walden Pond. Then, as now, yoga’s teachings promise that — no matter what things look like on the outside — there is a greater Reality embodying and guiding my life.

Yoga names this Reality “Shiva,” permeating while manifesting everything that exists, including you and me. When we see differences (good vs. bad, dark vs. light, or fullness vs. need), Shiva is reflecting Shiva within himself, for there is only One Reality. A yogic text from centuries ago, states it this way:

As here, so elsewhere”Shiva Sutras 3.14

“Here” means right now, in the physical body you live in.  While your breath, organs, senses and sensations are pulsing within you, that same energy is pulsating outside of you, being the universe. Everything is made of the same Divine Essence, whether you yet perceive this or not. For example, sometimes at the end of yoga class, during a very deep guided awareness, my breath slows down so much, I become absorbed in an inner stillness, and wonder: “Who is breathing who?”

This sutra, “As here, so elsewhere”, also describes the mystical powers of a Self-Realized Being.  By adhering to a prescribed path, great Yogis and Yoginis, attain a level of mastery that supersedes our limited understanding of time and space. They can manifest anything and can be anywhere and everywhere, all at the same time. Just as Jesus turned water in wine and Moses parted the Red Sea, there are countless miracle stories in every spiritual tradition and religion that describe this phenomenon: the mystery of a reconfiguration of cosmic energy.

These acts are for the purpose of human upliftment. A Self-Realized Master lives in the total freedom of all-pervasive Knowingness. Whether in deep meditation or engaged in mundane activities, their inner and outer state remain the same.

I recall watching my own Guru, Swami Nirmalananda, in the Ashram kitchen one day, preparing a pot of morning chai. To me, she seemed to be in a total state of Self-absorption, called samadhi in Sanskrit. While stirring in the ingredients, asking questions of me, being fully present to everyone and everything going on around her, she remained inside and outside, all at once. That cup of chai tasted divine!

It would have been a miracle had Thoreau’s transcendent words propelled me into Self-Realization at the tender age 16! Yet the seeds were planted. While inspired words from classic literature will open a window into your soul, it is the grace of a living Guru that can take you all the way, beyond soul, to your own divine Self!

Through Shaktipat initiation, the Guru awakens the divine Consciousness laying dormant within you. Then you see everything on your life’s path with a new clarity and purpose.

Because of their being established in the Self, being in the presence of a Master shifts you deeper inside to the knowing of your own Self as well. This also happens through repeating an enlivened mantra and meditating, the greatest of the many gifts my Guru has given me. When I practice with consistency, these practices reveal that morning happens when I am awake to Consciousness. I experience the Dawn AS me, the ever effulgent light of Beingness-Itself.

Living A Divine Life

By Niranjan Matanich
I recently watched a documentary on the Grateful Dead. During one of the segments, their sound engineer told a story about going on stage to adjust the microphone. On his way back to his seat, the band started playing the song  and it stopped the guy. He was completely caught up in the moment. He was tearing up while retelling this story.

I immediately thought, “he’s describing an experience of the Self.” I also thought about how every moment could be like this. And, even though he was having this moment, all was accomplished: the microphone was adjusted and the song was being recorded. It was on their live album, Europe 72.

I previously thought you can only have profound spiritual experiences while you are doing a dedicated spiritual practice like chanting, meditating, japa, arati, etc. But you can and do have profound experiences, probably a lot more than you think. You may not recognize what’s really happening, that this is an experience of the Self, an experience of your own Divinity. Just like the guy who was caught up in the song, you get caught up in those moments, maybe when you eat something good, or you see scenery that is breath-taking, or maybe it’s music. We all have these experiences.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “This is an experience of God. Nobody likes to use the ‘G-word’ any more, but God is always present, whether you’re paying attention or not. When you experience God on the inside, yoga calls it ‘Self.’ But your experience of God is always on the inside! Even if you look for God outside, your experience of God is inside. So yoga says, look inside. And when you find God inside, you’ll discover who you are. It happens all the time. God’s available all the time.”

We all have these experiences. When you realize that you are having a profound spiritual experience, it is even more amazing. The very act of recognition brings a special amazement.

I find that these moments are even more exceptional than things I have experienced in meditation. But that’s not surprising. We are meant to experience our own Divinity in the midst of our lives. That is what drew me to the Kashmiri Shaivite tradition. You don’t have to go to a cave, you don’t have to renounce all your belongings, you don’t have to leave your spouse, your kids, your job, none of those things. You can know that you are the Self all the time, in the midst of your life.

The more I have these experiences, the more profound my life becomes, and the more profound the realizations become. A yogic text speaks of this:

vismayo yogabhumika.h — Shiva Sutras 1.12
Yogic realizations are truly amazing.

An experience of the Self is just a shift of awareness away. The more you experience your own Self, the more you will have experiences and the more you will recognize them.
It is promised in the texts that eventually the experience will become permanent. How amazing is that? It’s miraculous.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo namah
To your Inherent Divinity again and again I bow.

Fire and Cleansing

By Mati Gilbert

The 50s and 60s family comedy shows on TV were quite predictable.  Each person in the family had his/her role, reflecting society at that time.  They reinforced my feeling that I had to be good: the good daughter, good student, good employee, good friend, good wife and good mother. It was exhausting! Don’t get me wrong – I was not unhappy.  I wanted to make others’ lives easier. I guess I was depending on their approval to make me happy.

Citivahnir avarohapade canno-pi maatrayaa meyendhanam plu.syati

– Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam 14

Chiti does not lose Her nature even when She becomes the individual, but burns up the separation, like fuel is assimilated into a fire.

– rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Swamiji goes to say “When a fire burns a stick of wood, the wood is not gone.  It became the fire and a residue remains – ash.  In the same way, the limitations that Chiti has taken on in order to be you are incinerated in the fire of consciousness (lit by the Guru).

Chiti is Consciousness, being every thing that exists. She becomes you as an individual and is enjoying being you.  But Chiti is more.  Chiti is also the fire that is ignited within, that gives you the inner knowing of your own inherent Divinity.  The igniting of this fire is the initiation, called Shaktipat, which is the awakening of Consciousness within you – Kundalini.  Kundalini is Chiti, who succeeds in giving you your Self, yet some ash remains – your personhood continues, completely transformed.

Life goes on.  You do not lose your individuality, you gain the knowing and being of your Self.  You participate in life, being with others and doing things in the world.  However, you do not depend on them to make you happy, or to make you feel whole.

Swami Nirmalananda is my Guru, my Master Teacher.  She shows me my Divinity, which incinerates my limitations so they no longer control me.  I am still opening my mind and heart to the experience of my own Divinity.  I sometimes hang onto my limitations, including parts of my past and my present, but they are not me.  As I go along this path, Swamiji anchors in me my Divinity even in the midst of everyday life.

I don’t lose my individuality by following a Guru.  I still strive to be “good.”  It’s not about making others happy any more, but I do it because it is in my nature.

Thank you, Swami Nirmalananda for giving me the enlivened mantra and meditation.  Both tools provide the breakthrough giving me my own inner Divinity, my Self.  My meditations are becoming deeper so I will become one with Consciousness.  This is my future.