Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Science of Form & Formless

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

You can practice yoga without ever looking at an image of Shiva.  You can do all the poses and breathing practices.  You can benefit from the healing that Svaroopa® yoga particularly provides.  You don’t have to know anything about Ganesha to grow into the peace and transformation that the inner experience gives you, especially when you sit quietly for a few moments after releasing the tensions in your spinal muscles.  Or when you get that really deep yummy Shavasana at the beginning and end of class.  You can even learn Svaroopa® yoga meditation, to experience the vastness of your own being, and you don’t ever need to look at a statue or painting or learn any Sanskrit.

Your inner exploration can take you to the depths of your being, to discover the source of love and bliss within you, and tap into the ever arising flow of creativity and joy.  Yet, you will not be able to take that into your life if you don’t understand the science of the form and the formless; you will leave your own inner essence behind when you open your eyes.  The inside and the outside will become more and more separate if you don’t understand the form and the formless, which means that you understand that you are the form of the formless.

In the West, the formless is usually called God.  If you are uncomfortable with the word God, you can substitute another term:  the One, ultimate reality, the source, essence, infinite being, the highest, consciousness, existence, primordial beingness, higher power, etc.  Any of these terms is a good start, as it names “that which banged.”

In 1992, physicists held a press conference to announce that the Big Bang Theory was no longer a theory, as it had been scientifically proved beyond doubt.  A journalist asked, “What was there before the Big Bang?  What banged?”  The lead physicist answered that is a matter for theologians, not physicists.  Yet today, physicists are studying the source texts of many religions for help in finding exactly what lies at the base of the universe; what is the source of the energy that becomes matter?   Yoga calls it Shiva.

Shiva takes on form, becoming this universe and becoming you, as described in this sutra:

Chiti samkochaatmaa chetano’pi samkuchita vishvamayah. (Pratyabhijnahrdayam 4)

Chiti, by assuming contraction, becomes both the universe and the individuals, who have the universe as their bodies in a contracted form.

The basis of all the yoga practices and teachings is this amazing formula:  God becomes you.  (Say it this way, “God is being me.”)  This includes your body as the tangible, real, material form of the formless.  Additionally, your mind is a contracted and conditioned form of the one ever-existent unconditioned consciousness.

This is why you can work with your body in certain ways, ways that are different than what exercise-oriented methodologies offer, to unravel the contraction and discover the divine essence within.  You must also work with your mind, to unravel its limitations, to pour it back into its own source.  Yoga promises that you will know yourself to the deepest and fullest extent, recognizing your own divinity and seeing it in everyone and everything else.  This world — and everything in  it — is the form of the formless.

The Formless in Form

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

The first time I studied in an Ashram in India, we chanted a beautiful Sanskrit text to Shiva every eveningThe melody captivated me as much as the words, weaving a lyrical poem to the One Ultimate Reality.  From the mantra I had been given, I knew the name Shiva but I had never before encountered such rich and beautiful symbolism as this text described.  It was echoed in the many statues in the extensive gardens, statues I really knew nothing about.  Yet each night when I left the chant, the statue of the dancing Shiva drew me close.

The Nataraja was installed at a curve in the pathway back to my dorm room.  It was about 4 feet tall, but installed on a pedestal almost as high as a bench, so it was taller than me.  I slowed in front of it, lingering a bit longer each night.  One night I bowed to it.  As I tipped forward, my head came to the level of Shiva’s feet and internal heat climbed my spine.  I could feel it distinctly, starting at my tailbone and climbing all the way to the top of my head.  I knew that inner fire intimately, as I had been having ecstatic Kundalini experiences for over a year.  That’s why I was in India, to spend time with the Guru who had given me this great gift.

After that first time, I bowed to Nataraja every night.  Every night I felt that extraordinary fire climb my spine.  I realized there was something very real about this statue and, by extension, all the others, so I began to learn about them.  Now I love the statues, paintings and batiks and most especially the stories of the gods and goddesses, who are the forms of the formless.  The most important reason to understand them is that it helps you understand yourself, as you are a form of the formless as well.

Called by many names, there is only the One.  Yoga gives it the name Shiva.  Other meditative traditions call it by other names, while religions also have their names.  The unique thing about yoga is that it says that you are that One Reality.  The formless takes form — as you.  To fully understand this radical statement, you have to personalize it.  Say it out loud, or even whisper to yourself, “I am the formless, ever-existent Reality that pervades all things and has become all things.”

The hidden purpose of all the yoga practices is to know your own Self.  Only the Shaktipat Masters really know how to make that happen.  That’s why I studied with my Baba, and that’s why I serve you.