Category Archives: Mystical Living

Rama Avatar, part 2

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

We return to Lord Ram’s story, seeing he and his three brothers growing quickly.  Rama and Lakshmana were inseparable, as were Bharata and Shatrugna.  The pairs did everything together: eating, playing and studying together.  They were well-educated, both in the Vedic lore as well as a king’s martial arts.  Sage Vasishtha, Dasharatha’s kula (clan) Guru taught them everything they needed in life and to rule the kingdom well, when their time would come, after their father.  Soon they grew into young men.

It was time for them to be married.  Dasharatha had begun talking with Sage Vasishtha about their readiness to marry when Sage Vishvamitra visited.  The king respectfully welcomed Vishvamitra with all formalities, asking what grace brought him to the palace.  Sage Vishvamitra explained that his sacred yaj~nas (fire ceremonies), performed for the happiness and prosperity of the world, were frequently disturbed by rakshasas (forest spirits).  He asked Dasharatha’s to send Rama to protect Vishvamitra’s forest ashram.

Feeling protective towards his children, especially Rama, Dasharatha begged Sage Vishvamitra to let Rama be.  Instead Dasharatha himself would come to protect the ashram.  But Sage Vishvamitra knew who Rama really was, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  The sage refused Dasharatha’s offer, even saying he doubted Dasharatha’s promise to protect the sages in his kingdom.  Sage Vasishtha convinced Dasharatha to send Rama.  As always, a package deal, Lakshmana joined Rama on the adventure.   On the way to the forest, Vishvamitra taught Rama and Lakshmana several mantras of warfare, including incantations and astras (energetic weapons).

On reaching the hermitage, Vishvamitra instructed the princes to safeguard the yaj~na from rakshasas trying to disturb the proceedings.  A rakshasi named Tataka was the first to try.  In the fierce battle between Tataka and Rama, following the advice of Vishvamitra, Rama killed her, though it was against kshatriya (warrior) principles to kill a woman.  Next Subahu was killed by Rama.  The third was Maaricha, whom Rama dropped in the sea near Sri Lanka by using an astra arrow.  Vishvamitra successfully completed his yaj~na, very happy that Rama and Lakshmana helped him in this effort for the world’s benefit.

Vishvamitra then took the boys to a few places, describing the importance and history of each.  During their walk through the forest, Rama stopped and placed his foot on a small rock, to everyone’s astonishment, the rock turned into a beautiful woman.  She bowed to Rama and introduced herself as Ahalya, thanking him for lifting the curse placed upon her by her husband, Rishi Gautama.  A daughter of Lord Brahma, Ahalya was cursed due to an unfortunate incident involving Indra’s (the King of Devas) lust for Ahalya.  Ahalya, now freed from the curse, became even more purified by the touch of Rama’s foot, and returned to the heavens.

Continuing onward, Sage Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshmana arrived in the kingdom of Mithila.  They found out that a big event was happening soon, a svayamvara — a contest to win the princess Sita’s hand in marriage.  She was the daughter of King Janaka, of the Videha dynasty, a great philosopher-king.  His capital city, Janakpuri, was a dominant political and cultural center as well as a hub for the sages, including Janaka’s Guru, Yaj~navalkya.

Who is Sita?  King Janaka, like Dasharatha, didn’t have any children.  He constantly prayed to Lord Shiva for a child.  One day, as he was getting the ground plowed and prepared for a yaj~na, he unearthed a golden casket.  In the casket he found a beautiful baby girl.  He took the baby as a gift from the Gods, naming her Sita, meaning “from the furrow.”  Sita is therefore known as the child of Bhoomi Devi (Mother Earth’s child).  She was an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi, coming to assist Lord Rama with his task on earth.

Sita was brought up as the adopted daughter of Janaka and his wife Sunaina, raised as a princess of Mithila.  Sita is also called “Janaki” (beloved by her adopted father), “Vaidehi” (a princess of the Videha dynasty) and “Maithili” (a princess of the Mithila Kingdom).

Sage Vishvamitra took the boys to watch the svayamvara.  Walking by the palace, Rama looked up and saw a beautiful girl in one of the balconies.  She too saw him.  Their eyes met; dare we call it “love at first sight?”  Yet they must proceed to the svayamvara.

Whomever could lift Pinaka (Lord Shiva’s bow), string it and shoot an arrow from it, would win Sita’s hand in marriage.  Many princes of great strength and valor were present at the svayamvara.  One by one, each tried but failed miserably.  Not one was able even to lift the bow, let alone launch an arrow.  Then, in the midst of high protests, some of them got together to try lifting it, but couldn’t budge the bow even an inch.  All the princes told Janaka that his challenge was too hard and that his daughter would die unmarried.  Though heartbroken, Janaka couldn’t change the rules of the svayamvara once they were established.

When all the others gave up, Sage Vishvamitra winked at Rama to go to the stage and launch the arrow.  Rama went near Shiva’s bow, bowed to it and worshiped it, praying to Lord Shiva for his blessings.  To everyone’s astonishment, Rama then lifted the bow with just one hand, strung it and shot an arrow from it.  It made the bow break in half with a thundering sound, heard by everyone in all the corners of the earth!

Sita came out with a garland and placed it on Rama’s neck.  Rama was delighted to find the girl he had seen on the balcony, now garlanding him.  On her part, Sita was pleased to be garlanding the handsome man she had seen from her balcony.

King Janaka sent a messenger to inform King Dasharatha about the svayamvara and, with due respects, to propose the marriage of Sita to Rama.  It was also decided that the three brothers of Rama would marry the sister and cousins of Sita:  Sita’s cousin Mandavi to marry Bharatha, Sita’s younger sister Urmila to marry Lakshmana, and Sita’s other cousin Shrutakirti to marry Satruguna.  The weddings were performed in Janakapuri with great gaiety and splendor, befitting the kings of both kingdoms.  The four brothers with their wives started back to Ayodhya with their parents.

The thundering sound from the breaking of Shiva’s bow, Pinaka, had reached all the corners of the earth.  It also reached the ears of Parashurama, another incarnation of Vishnu, who was meditating atop the Mahendra Mountains.  He knew what that sound was; he had given Pinaka to King Janaka!  Parashurama was enraged.  He called a challenge out to Rama.  Everyone was terrified, as they knew who Parashurama was.

Rama proved to be equal to Parashurama in all the weapons.  Parashurama got suspicious, so he asked Rama to string Sharanga (Lord Vishnu’s bow).  Rama did it in the blink of an eye.  The warrior-sage Parashurama realized he was looking at his own subsequent reincarnation.  He gave Sharanga Rama and blessed Sita, then retired for his meditations on Mount Mahendra.

The wedding party continued to Ayodhya.  On their return, the whole kingdom joyfully welcomed the new couples with great devotion and respect.  Ayodhya was flourishing more than ever, after the arrival of the princes with their consorts.  More to come…

Rama Avatar

By Nirooshitha Sethuram &
Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is well known because his incredible story was passed through the generations of oral tradition and written down by the Sage Valmiki.  One of the oldest, largest and most ancient epics in world literature, The Ramayana (RAWM-AAW-yuh-NAW), it has been adapted or translated into approximately 300 other languages.  It is presented in ballets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Philippines.  I grew up with Ramavataram, by Kavi Kambar, in the Tamil language.  The compelling details of Lord Ram’s story is presented in seven kandas or parts.  Let us begin!

One day in Vaikuntha, Lord Vishnu was in his “Anatha Sayana,” blissful sleep on Adishesha, his five-headed cobra which personifies the energy that becomes the universe.  Feeling someone holding both of his legs very tight, he woke to see Goddess Lakshmi, his consort.  He asked why she was holding his legs so tightly.  She replied that it is to keep him from leaving Vaikuntha, as it has become a ritual of him leaving so often to take different incarnations to save the universe, always leaving her alone in Vaikuntha.

With his usual smile, Lord Vishnu said it is his duty to go on such journeys to protect Brahma’s creation.  He continued, “My next incarnation is to show how a man should live in the world.  If you want, I will take you with me.”  In joy, Shree Lakshmi says, “I will show the universe how a woman should live!”

Adishesha hissed, saying, “O Lord, when you were going on these journeys, the only satisfaction I had was in keeping my Goddess safe.  But now you both are leaving me here alone.  What have I done to deserve this type of punishment?”  As Lord Vishnu began to reply, “Okay, I…” he was interrupted.  Panchajanya, the conch in his left hand, and Sudarshana Chakra, the spinning disk-like weapon in his right hand, softly said, “What about us, then?”  Smiling again, the Lord said, “Alright, I will take all three of you with me to be my brothers.”  All were happy.

Lord Vishnu added, “I need to give the opportunity for my dear gate keepers, Jaya and Vijaya, to return to me as well.  This will be their second, out of the three births they need to take because of the curse by the four sons of Lord Brahma.”

Dasharatha was the crown prince of beautiful capital city Ayodhya of the kingdom of Kosala. He was the son of King Aja, of the Kosala kingdom.  Married to Princess Indumati of Vidarbha, they named their son Nemi, but he was widely known as Dasharatha, the one with a chariot that moves in all ten (das) directions, as the name describes.

Dasharatha was a supreme archer, able to hit his target by merely hearing the sound of movement.  On a dark rainy evening, hunting near the banks of the Saryu river, he heard the sound of a deer drinking water.  Without hesitation, he shot his arrow in the direction of the sound.  The arrow found its target, but Dasharatha was shocked to hear a human cry.  Devastated, he ran to find a young boy lying on the river bank with an arrow in his chest.

The boy, in unbearable pain, said that he was Shravan Kumara, who lived in a nearby hut, taking care of his blind parents.  He had been collecting water from the river in a pitcher, which created a sound like a deer drinking water.  He asked the prince to take the water to his parents and tell them what had happened.  Then he asked Dasharatha to pull the arrow out of his chest, to liberate him from the miserable pain and to let him die.  With great regret, Dasharatha pulled the arrow from Shravan’s heart.  Shravan died.

Dasharatha, with a very heavy heart, took the water pitcher to Shravan’s blind parents.  The old couple, eagerly waiting for their son, learned what had happened and that their son is no more.  The devastated couple cursed Dasharatha, “Just as we are dying due to the unbearable separation from our dear son, you will also have the same fate!”  This made Dasharatha miserable for a long time but, as time passed, he lost that painful memory.

In time, succeeding his father Aja, Dasharatha ascended the throne of Ayodhya.  He was such a great warrior such that he even helped Indra, the King of Devas (Gods), to fight Asuras (Demons).  A mighty king, he was considerate to all his citizens, ruling the country justly, leaving no room for criticism.

Dasharatha married Kausalya, a princess of Kosala.  Though they were happily married, Kaushalya was unable to bear any children for the Ikshvaku dynasty.  Dasharatha then married Kaikeyi, from the Kekeya kingdom, promising her father Ashwapati that his grandson will be the heir to the throne.  Again with no luck having children, he then married Sumitra from the Magadha kingdom.

Out of the three wives, Dasharatha was very fond of Kaikeyi; it is said that he loved her the most.  This may have been due to the support she gave him during wars.  Kaikeyi accompanied her husband in most of his battles.  She had the heart of a warrior and performed better in battle than most men could.  On one occasion, Dasharatha was injured badly in a war in the Dandaka forest.  Kaikeyi saved him by driving his chariot away from the war, then mending his wounds and taking care of him until he regained his strength.  Praising her devotion and strength, Dasharatha promised to fulfill two wishes for her.  As Kaikeyi didn’t have anything to request, she said that she will use the boons when she needed them.

Time passed, but they had no children.  Dasharatha was anxious to produce an heir to the throne, so he performed the Putra-Kameshti Yaj~na (a fire ceremony for the purpose of having a son).  Lord Agni, God of fire, was delighted by the sacrifice.  He appeared from the fire and gave Dasaratha a pot of “payasam” (rice porridge), to be consumed by his wives so that they would bear children.

The righteous King Dasharatha first gave the payasam to his eldest queen, Kausalya; she ate half of it.  Then he passed it to Sumitra, who ate a quarter of it.  Then he gave the rest to Kaikeyi, but she ate only half of the remainder and gave the rest to Sumitra, who finished it.  As promised by Lord Agni, all three of them were blessed with children — four boys: Rama to Kausalya, Bharata to Kaikeyi, and the twins Lakshmana and Shatrugna to Sumitra as she ate from the payasam twice.  Dasharatha was in eternal joy.  Rama is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Bharata the Sudarshana Chakra, Lakshmana is the incarnation of Adishesha and Shatrugna the Panchajanya conch.

The four children grew day by day.  Kaikeyi was so fond of Rama, sometimes she would take care of Rama’s needs before taking care of herself or her own son Bharata.  Everyone saw Kaikeyi with Rama even more than with his own mother, Kausalya.  Dasharatha was very happy about this, as he was worried about the promise he made to Kaikeyi’s father when he married her.

Rama and Lakshmana were inseparable, as were Bharata and Shatrugna.  The pairs did everything together:  eating, playing and studying together.   They were well educated, both in the Vedic lore as well as a king’s martial arts.  Sage Vasishtha, Dasharatha’s kula (clan) Guru taught them everything they needed in life and to rule the kingdom well, when their time would come, after their father.  Soon they grew into young men.

To be continued…

How Important is Your Spine?

By Vidyadevi Stillman & Swami Nirmalananda

In embryonic development, the spine forms first.  The whole rest of your body, including your brain, formed after your spine.  Swami Nirmalananda explains yoga’s perspective on this, “Consciousness manifests everything in this universe.  Consciousness used your spine to direct your embryonic development as well as to empower everything afterward.”

Your brain blossoms forth on one end of your spinal cord.  Most people think their spinal cord is a tail on their brain, but it’s actually the other way around.  Your brain is the mushroom cap on the top end of your spinal cord.  Your brain does not control your whole body, your spine does!

While Svaroopa® Yoga’s core opening poses give you more prana (energy) to fuel you through your day and through your life, there is more.  Once you get enough lengthening of your tailbone, Grace ignites an inner fire — the enlivening and enlightening power called Kundalini.  This is your own personal power of upliftment, working within you to show you your own Divine Essence.  In yoga, Grace is defined as the blessing of the ancient sages, carried into our modern day by those who dedicate their life to discovering, and then sharing, these ancient mysteries.

What this means is that Svaroopa® yoga is “Kundalini yoga.” Swami Nirmalananda has been doing this work quietly for years, not publicizing this information for several reasons.  One is that few know what Kundalini is, so hearing that Svaroopa® yoga awakens Kundalini wouldn’t mean anything to them.  In addition, others unfortunately suffer from widespread misinformation that makes Kundalini sound terribly scary.  The greatest blessing a human being can receive in their life is the awakening of this inner force of radiance, but the media makes it sound terrifying.  It’s not.

Another reason that we don’t publicize Svaroopa® yoga as Kundalini yoga is because another style of yoga practice that uses that name.  We choose to be respectful and not to create confusion.  You may have done some Kundalini Yoga classes, which usually feature pumping your breath in rhythm with repetitive movements.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “While, from my perspective, it’s spinal tightening, it is also ecstatic.  They pump enough prana that the bliss pushes past the knots in their spine.  In Svaroopa® yoga, we don’t pump the prana because we dissolve the knots in your spine and let the prana flow of its own accord, 24/7.”  We allow Grace to awaken Kundalini so the whole interior process takes place naturally, organically, smoothly and grace-fully.  We call this “Alignment with Grace.”

Once your own Kundalini is awakened, most yogis get a feeling of physical warmth or inner spaciousness.  Within a short time it may become a periodic surge of energy, while you are doing poses or meditating, which further dissolves the blocks you carefully installed, probably even lifetimes ago.  As you open more, this inner current becomes a reliable flow that expands your knowing of your own Being and makes you able to see the world in a whole new way.

Each stage along the way offers profound transformations, which help to uncover your deeper identity as Consciousness-Itself.  This is Self, svaroopa.  This is the inner blossoming of your own Divine Essence.  Vidyadevi describes, “At first, waves of bliss would move up my spine in meditation. As my spine became more open, I had a stronger experience of that bliss.  In meditation, it was like a geyser was flowing through, not made of water, but of pure bliss.  It was so powerful, so wonderful.  I know now what Sage Shankaracharya describes in the Vivekachudamani — ‘ever expanding ecstasy.’  It is always flowing through your spine.  It is there to be experienced and so much more… your own Self.”  Do more yoga.  Do more Svaroopa® Yoga.

Originally published in May 2013

Your Spine: Anatomy, Energy & Consciousness

by Vidyadevi Stillman &
Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Everything physical is made of atoms, including you.  Atoms are made up of subatomic particles, which are tiny bits of contracted energy swirling around in seemingly-empty space.  The subatomic particles that make up your Svaroopa® blankets and that make up the floor and the air that you breathe aren’t any different than the subatomic particles that make up your body. Everything is made of protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, muons and other things the average person doesn’t really understand.  Everything is made of these same “building blocks,” yet everything is different.  The difference arises from the patterns in which the particles swirl. Different patterns create different objects, including you.

There is an energetic pattern for the human body — a template.  We all have two eyes, one nose, one mouth, two arms, two legs, etc.  The ancient yogis mapped the energy patterns of the template, an atomic map of the human body. Their map is the foundation for acupuncture as well as many of yoga’s practices.  Acupuncture calls these energy flows meridians. Yoga calls them nadis.

Thousands of years ago, yogis mapped all of the 720 million nadis in the human body.  All of them branch out from the core flow, in middle — your spine.  Your nervous system is the physical equivalent of the nadis with all your nerves branching off from your spinal cord.  If scientists designed an instrument to detect these energy flows in the human body, they would find the template the yogis describe, and tell you that your spine and nervous system hold the highest concentration of energy in your whole body.   Unfortunately this means that your spinal tensions have not only physical effects, but they also block the flow of the energy that keeps you alive.  Svaroopa® yoga specializes in core opening, which is the decompression of your spine, both physically and energetically.

When you begin Svaroopa® yoga, you get rapid, almost miraculous improvement in your physical condition.  From foot and knee pain, through digestive imbalances, to neck or jaw pain and even headaches, core opening helps all of them, even all at the same time.  Chiropractors and osteopaths explain how this works, a familiar paradigm.  Yet yoga describes more:  the energy that makes your body’s energy grid work, called prana in Sanskrit, is the power of your own presence enlivening your own body.  Decompressing your spine is like getting the kinks out of a garden hose, so your whole body becomes more fully alive, enlivened by you, from your spine outward.

When we use a particular pose to release tension in muscles connected to your tailbone or another part of your spine, we are working on your physical anatomy.  Your body feels more open and free, which creates an instantaneous effect on your mind.    Yet more is going on, whether you’ve been able to identify it or not yet.  Simultaneously, the angles of all the poses are opening up subtle energetic levels.  Yoga describes that the fullest potential of a human being becomes available through this inner opening, specifically through your spine.

Madhya vikaasaach chidaananda laabhah

Pratyabhijnahrdayam Sutra 17

By means of the middle channel (your spine),

you attain the bliss of consciousness.

Swami Nirmalananda describes your spine as the “conduit of consciousness.” What is consciousness? Consciousness is beingness, the pure Is-ness that has always existed, and existed before anything existed.  Consciousness also moves and flows, being the energy that materializes this world out of nothing.  Your body is one of the things being materialized.  In your body, a current of energy flows through your spine, keeping you alive and giving you the unique capacities of a human being. One of those capacities is something that few people have interest in exploring – an inner potentiality.  Most people explore the world outside of them, but yoga says your greatest potentiality lies within.

Once you get a certain amount of core opening, the prana (life-energy) in your spine is amped up by a higher frequency moving through.  Swami Nirmalananda’s presence and teaching assures these reliable effects of core opening:  the release beginning at your tailbone provides:

  1. Profound physical benefits
  2. Transformative changes that improve how you feel in your life, and
  3. The awakening of a profound energy flow through your spine, assuring you access to your own Divinity.

Alignment with Grace is core opening — the spinal release that opens up what was hidden inside you; opening and aligning your spine opens a profound doorway to experiencing your own Self.  Do more yoga.  Do more Svaroopa® Yoga.

Originally published May 2013

A Path of Grace

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

Svaroopa® yoga is a path of Grace.  Everyone else is on the other path, the path of self-effort.  In Rukmini’s first yoga class, the movements of those athletic, acrobatic yogis were graceful.  But the Grace of Svaroopa® yoga is completely different.  Swami’s beloved Guru, Baba Muktananda, gave her Shaktipat initiation, awakening the dormant energy called Kundalini.  Kundalini is your own Divinity in a seed form that grows and blossoms within.  That transmission created Svaroopa® yoga and enlivens it today.

“After Baba sent me back to America, I could see that my students were not getting the openings that the poses are meant to provide, the openings I knew so deeply and so intimately.  So I taught variations, using angles to target their spinal tensions, providing the core opening that is now named Svaroopa® yoga,” says Swami Nirmalananda.  It surprised me when people started getting Shaktipat.  Now I realize that I was carrying my Guru’s Grace, a gift to the next generation. Over several decades, I have watched a few teachers take the poses out to teach under a different name.  While the poses are still enjoyable, their students don’t get Shaktipat.  That flow of Grace doesn’t enliven their teaching or their students’ practice.”

Yet Svaroopa® yoga is a hatha yoga, so there still is self-effort involved.  This is a path of both self-effort and Grace. Self-effort is very important:  you must apply yourself to the practices.  Yet, on a path of Grace, you have to remember to make space for something more to happen.

“I remember my first yoga class,” Rukmini describes. “I had done yoga at home with a book, so I was awed to encounter a group of acrobatic, athletic yogis wearing spandex and using towels on their mats to catch the sweat.  I wanted a peaceful, quiet mind, and I found it – the intense physical effort made me focus on my body, so there was little room for other thoughts. The class pushed me to exhaustion, so then I was too tired to think.  Ahh, peace…”

Svaroopa® yoga provides a reliable experience of peace as well but brings it about in an entirely different way.  You don’t become exhausted; instead you are filled from your own Inner Source.  You are “blissified.”

Patanjali pairs self-effort and surrender in Yoga Sutras 1.12, promising that your churning mind will be stilled by abhyasa and vairagya. Abhyasa is persistent practice.  Vairagya is surrender, a profound letting-go. Patanjali puts the two together:  self-effort and surrender.  Why?

  • Self-effort is very important; you must persist in order to accomplish anything. But self-effort alone makes you prideful and arrogant, or you become mean and self-punishing.
  • Surrender is essential. In Svaroopa® yoga, we surrender to svaroopa, your own Divine Self, which is found through Grace, the gift of Freedom. Yet surrender alone makes you into a doormat, without any clarity or will, and leaves you stranded in helplessness.

You must have both:  self-effort and surrender.  You already know about self-effort, so we teach surrender in every class.  When Rukmini tried out her first Svaroopaâ yoga class, she was used to doing Shavasana in other styles of yoga — flat-on-your-back, flat-on-your-mat, 90-seconds of ticking clock at the end of class.

She grudgingly accepted two zeds and a roll under her knees. And that final Shavasana was a revelation!  She says, “It felt like coming home. I felt a deep comfort and ease in my body, a calm and peace in my mind.  I felt bliss.”

The surrender and Grace are there in the final Shavasana; they are in every pose.  Svaroopaâ yoga arose out of Grace. It’s suffused with Grace in the same way that ice is made out of water.  How can you take the water out of the ice?

Svaroopa® yoga is unique, a hatha yoga that’s full of Grace.  You put forth effort. You make time to attend a class or have a private session. Or you practice Ujjayi Pranayama, do the Magic Four, meditate, or you do it all.  Grace supports you every step of the way.  But where are you going?  There’s really nowhere to go.  You’re not travelling to your Self because you already ARE the Self.  You already ARE Consciousness-itself. Do more yoga.  Do more Svaroopa® Yoga.

Previously Published, April 2013

Svaroopa® Yoga is Different!

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

In India, the land of its origin, the poses are only 10% of yoga’s technology.  The other 90% is about your mind and getting beyond your mind, to experience svaroopa, your ever-blissful Divine Essence. Body-centered practice goes by the generic hatha yoga.  The West offers many brand names, including Svaroopa® yoga.

The generic hatha has two translations, literal and mystical.  Literally “effort-filled,” it is even translated as “forceful” and “violent.”  It doesn’t mean you should hurt yourself!  It means you can propel yourself towards enlightenment through rigorous self-effort.  You can push yourself.  Hatha yoga is DIY (Do-It-Yourself).

Contrast this with 90% of the yogis in India.  They are sitting:  sitting to listen to their Guru expound on the teachings, sitting to contemplate the teachings they’ve heard, sitting in meditation, sitting to watch the sunrise or sunset, sitting as they participate in rituals, sitting and waiting for their own Divinity to fill into the stillness they’ve created in their mind.

Hatha yogis keep busy.  They don’t sit and watch the sunrise; they do Sun Salutations.  They don’t listen to teachings or contemplate them; they practice the poses and try to make their body measure up.  They don’t regulate their breath in order to quiet their mind; they pump their breath in order to sustain continual movement.  They don’t create stillness in their mind; they keep moving.

Swami Nirmalananda describes a yoga therapy conference she attended, “I arrived fresh from a yoga retreat in India.  I’d been sitting for long sweet hours of meditation and traditional ceremonies.  I joined 2,000 other yoga teachers and yoga therapists for the first plenary session, a full two hours of PowerPoint presentations by medical researchers, showing how they proved that yoga works.  I arrived a little late, so I sat in the back of the hall and watched the drama play out.

“Within 30 minutes, the 2,000 yoga teachers and therapists were squirming in their seats.  They couldn’t pay attention to the presenters.  They were wiggly, noisy and distracting.  After another 30 minutes, the moderator announced, ‘I know it’s hard for you to sit, so we’re adding in a break after our next presenter.’ I was shocked.  They couldn’t sit!  They think yoga is about movement.”

Yoga has been growing in the West since 1893, when Swami Vivekananda brought it from India.  Western yogis now compete for championships and even Gold Medals.  Google it; yoga is a sport.  This is a different direction than the sages intended.  Hatha yoga is described in the texts as efforting practice, a way to apply yourself physically, but for progress toward Enlightenment, not towards mastering a pose or perfecting your body.  Ultimately your physical mastery gives you the ability to apply yourself to more subtle and interior practices.

Let’s look at the second meaning of hatha, the mystical meaning, found in every Sanskrit word.  The syllables ha and tha name the energies that flow along the two sides of your spine:  ha — along the right side of your spine; tha — along your left.  When you open and balance these two flows, the energy shifts and flows through the center of your spine.  In the beginning, this flow is prana, your body’s own healing power.  Grace invokes a stronger flow: the transformative power of Consciousness, the power of your own upliftment.  This is Kundalini.  This is the Svaroopa® yoga difference.

In this mystical meaning, hatha doesn’t mean effort-filled or forceful.  You won’t get any spinal release if you’re forcing.  You have to ease off.  You may have already experienced the difference: working, pushing and trying in a pose compared to propping, softening and settling into the precise angles. More change happens when you effort less.  When you combine precision with compassion, something happens. This is Grace, the power of inward expansion.

To summarize, hatha has two meanings:

  • Effort-filled or forceful, meaning your progress towards Enlightenment is self-propelled through first cultivating physical mastery, then applying your highly developed will to subtle practices.
  • Opening and balancing the energies flowing along the two sides of your spine, so the flow of Consciousness can arise from tail to top, revealing your own Divinity to you.

One is a path of self-effort, and the other is a path of Grace – two radically different paths.

Svaroopa® yoga is a path of Grace.  Everyone else is on the other path.  In Rukmini’s first yoga class, the movements of those athletic, acrobatic yogis were graceful.  But the Grace of Svaroopa® yoga is completely different.  Swami’s beloved Guru, Baba Muktananda, gave her Shaktipat initiation, awakening the dormant energy called Kundalini.  Kundalini is your own Divinity in a seed form that grows and blossoms within.  That transmission created Svaroopa® yoga and enlivens it today.

Parashurama Avatar

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Lord Vishnu incarnated as Parashurama in order to exterminate the evil kings who had derailed from their path of justice and righteousness.  These kshatriyas (warriors) had become a great burden to Bhumata (Mother Earth) and her children.

The great king Gadhi had a beautiful daughter, Satyavati.  Richika, son of Bhrigu (one of the seven Rishis), wanted to marry Satyavati, so asked for her hand from King Gadhi.  Richika was an ascetic, so King Gadhi was not interested in marrying his daughter to him.  The king decided to demand something extraordinary from Richika, to bring an extraordinary gift for his daughter — one thousand white horses who each had one green ear.

Being the son of a great rishi, Richika went to God Varuna for help and was thus able to bring these unique horses.  King Gadhi was very pleased by Richika’s determination and gave his daughter in marriage to him.  The king gave blessings to both of them to live happily.

While Satyavati adjusted well to an ascetic life due to this blessing, she did not have any children.  Meanwhile, at her home kingdom, her father had no heir to the throne.  She pleaded with Richika to help her and her mother with getting children.   Richika agreed to help both of them.  With the help of his father, Rishi Bhrigu, Richika prepared two portions of sacred rice and milk.  The portion for Satyavati was so she would have a son who would become a great sage; the portion for her mother was for her to have a mighty kshatriya son to rule the kingdom.

Unfortunately, not trusting her son-in-law, Satyavati’s mother switched the containers.  In time, both mother and daughter found they were expecting children.  Looking at both women, Richika knew that something was not right, asked his wife about his concern.  Coming to know what had happened, he said to his wife that her mother has committed a grave blunder.  Satyavati’s brother will be a great sage instead of a warrior, and Satyavati’s son, though being a sage, will be an ill-tempered warrior, far from the sage Satyavati was expecting to have.  Seeing her distress, unable to turn everything around, Richika made amends, such that her grandson would be of such ill-tempered nature.

Satyavati gave birth to a son, Jamadagni, who became a great rishi.  Once grown, Jamadagni was married to Renuka, known for her chastity and devotion to her husband.  Such was her faith that she was able to fetch water every day from the river for her husband’s puja in a leaky pot of unbaked clay she made each day, with the pot held together only by the strength of her devotion.

Rishi Jamadagni’s Ashram was on the banks of the Narmada River, where he educated whomever sought knowledge.  Due to the family’s poor financial situation, Jamadagni meditated and received a sacred cow, “Kamadhenu,” from Brahma, capable of fulfilling the needs of any number of people in Jamadagni’s Ashram.

Renuka gave birth to five sons (some stories say seven): Vasu, Viswa Vasu, Brihudyanu, Brutwakanwa and Rambhadra (also known as Rama).  Rama was the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, an ill-tempered warrior sage known as Parashurama.  For good or bad, due to His grandmother and great-grandmother’s mistake, though being a rishi’s son, Parashurama had an inordinate love for weapons and had Kshatriya (warrior) traits in him.

Parashurama always carried an axe, which he had received from Lord Shiva after pleasing him with His meditation, thus the name “Parashu” (axe) + Rama = Parashurama.  He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, from whom he learned the methods of warfare and other skills.  Parashurama would not tolerate any harm done to Shiva’s name or Shiva’s devotees.

As usual one day, Renuka went to the riverbank to make her clay pot and bring water to the Ashram.  While at the river, in the water she saw the image of a gandharva (heavenly being) in a chariot, passing by in the sky above.  She thought, “What a handsome man!” and lifted her head up to look at him.  Filled with desire for only a moment, losing her chastity, the unbaked pot she held dissolved in the river.  She tried making the pot over and over again, but failed.  Afraid to return to her husband, she waited at the riverbank, uncertain of what to do next.

It was getting unusually late and Jamadagni grew impatient.  Through the power of his meditation, Jamadagni came to know what had happened at the riverbank.  Unusually enraged, he ordered his first four sons to behead their mother.  Horrified, they refused and the enraged rishi turned them into stones.  He waited for his youngest son, Parashurama to return from an errand and gave him the same order.

Without any questions, not knowing what had happened, Parashurama, the ever-obedient son, went to the river bank.  He worshiped Renuka Devi and beheaded her.  He returned to the Ashram with unbearable grief.  Pleased with Parashurama, Jamadagni offered to give anything Parashurama wanted.

Parashurama asked for two boons, by one he wanted His father to forgive His mother, purify her of her sin and bring her back to life with no memory of this event.  The other boon was to bring back His brothers to life and flesh, again with no memory of this event.  Impressed by the affection and devotion of his son, Jamadagni granted both His requests.  Then, Parashurama went to the forest to do a severe penance for killing His mother.  He returned to the Ashram after years of penance.

The kshatriya king of the local kingdom was Kartavirya Arjuna.  He was an evil ruler, harming all the people and the earth for selfish reasons.  Kartavirya Arjuna was born as a deformed child with no legs.  He worshipped a God known as Dattatreya, embodiment of Lord Vishnu himself, born to Sage Atri as his son.  For Kartavirya Arjuna’s obeisance, Dattatreya had granted him a flying golden chariot that could travel wherever he wished, as well as one thousand arms.

With these boons, Kartavirya Arjuna became immeasurably powerful, conducting many military conquests with ease.  He also was fond of hunting with his entourage, ranging in the forests of his kingdoms.  Kartavirya Arjuna’s violence was unbearable.  All the sages, people and even Devas approached Lord Vishnu, requesting him to help them.  Understanding the agony everyone was going through, Lord Vishnu said that he will be taking incarnation to protect them all.  This is why Lord Vishnu incarnated as Parashurama.

When Kartavirya Arjuna was on one of his usual hunting trips, he accidentally came upon the hermitage of Jamadagni.  Parashurama was away in the forest at the time.  As with any visitor, Jamadagni greeted the king and offered food to him and his entourage, as Jamadagni had Kamadhenu to feed any number of people.

Amazed by the amount of food offered to him and his entourage, coming to know that it is from Kamadhenu, Kartavirya Arjuna decided that Kamadhenu should belong to him.  As Jamadagni refused to give Kamadhenu to him, Kartavirya Arjuna ordered his soldiers to forcefully take the cow and its calf with them to the palace, devastating the Ashram.

Parashurama found His mother and father in dismay on His  return from the forest.  Enraged, he went to the palace requesting the cow and the calf back.  When Kartavirya Arjuna refused, Parashurama challenged him to a battle.  Kartavirya Arjuna came out to fight, with his one thousand arms firing five hundred arrows at the same time.  Parashurama defended himself with ease, cut all of Kartaviryaa Arjuna’s one thousand arms and killed the mighty king with His invincible and terrible axe.  Retrieving the cow and the calf, he returned to the Ashram.  Hearing what had happened, Jamadagni ordered his son to undertake a pilgrimage to holy places to get rid of His sin of killing a king.

While Parashurama was away on the pilgrimage, Kartavirya Arjuna’s sons came to Jamadagni’s hermitage to avenge their father’s death.  Jamadagni was meditating in the Ashram; they beheaded him.  The virtuous Renuka Devi’s cry reached the ears of Parashurama, who returned to the Ashram at once.

Coming to know what had happened, took the vow to punish any kshatriya king who was deviating from the path of justice and righteousness.  He started with the sons of Kartavirya Arjuna, slaying any king who he found guilty.  Soon, kshatriyas across the land learned to fear Parashurama and His great axe.  So great was their fear of Parashurama, that they sent their women and children into hiding, disguised as brahmins.

Parashurama travelled around the earth twenty-one times and exterminated twenty-one evil king dynasties, as His mother in agony had pounded her chest 21 times after her husband was killed.  At last, Parashurama’s great anger was appeased.  He had accomplished the mission that he was born for.

He then donated all the kingdoms that he conquered.  Most of the kingdoms were without a ruler.  Some of the kshatriya children, who escaped by going into hiding, continued the line of kings, so a new ruling class emerged.  These new rulers remembered the lesson that Parashurama’s dance of destruction had taught them.  They were a great deal better than their predecessors and ruled justly.

Parashurama is chiranjivi (immortal), still living among us.  Parashurama’s story continues all through the rest of Lord Vishnu’s avatars.  He will be the martial arts Guru to Kalki, the tenth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, yet to come.

There is another interesting episode in Parashurama’s story that isn’t part of any other of Vishnu’s avatars.  While there are many versions of the story of Lord Ganesha’s broken tusk, this is the version with Parashurama.

Once Parashurama went to see Lord Shiva in Kailasa.  Lord Ganesha stood in His  way, having been ordered by His  mother Parvati to prevent anybody disturbing them.  As Parashurama doesn’t tolerate anyone coming in between him and Lord Shiva, he threatened Ganesha and challenged him to a fight.  Lord Ganesha agreed and a fierce fight started between Lord Ganesha and Parashurama.

They fought for a long time without clear victory in sight for either one of them.  Finally, Parashurama, with a lot of anger, took His axe, the Parashu given to him by Lord Shiva himself, and threw it towards Lord Ganesha.  Lord Ganesha saw the axe coming, while knowing that His father had given the axe to Parashurama.  He didn’t want to disrespect His father’s gift, so He allowed the axe to strike him.  It struck one of Lord Ganesha’s tusks, breaking it with a thundering sound.

Seeing this, Parashurama stopped fighting.  Hearing the sound, Mother Parvati came rushing out.  Seeing what had happened, She was enraged, ready to punish Parashurama for what He had done.  Lord Ganesha pleaded with His Mother to forgive Parshurama and somehow succeeded in calming her down.  Parashurama was so pleased with Ganesha that He gave Him His axe and blessed Him.

Om Namah Shivaya

Inner Impulse Toward Upliftment

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Yoga’s ancient sages tell us that a perfect body is not enough.  Once you achieve physical health, beauty, strength, stamina and vitality, you’ll still be looking for something more.  You can set your whole life up perfectly and you’ll still be looking for something, an indefinable something.  You can’t find it because you don’t know what it is you are looking for.  What you are looking for is your own Self.  It isn’t found outside of you; you find your Self inside yourself.

You need help in this inner discovery.  You had help in learning how to look outside.  From your earliest days, people wiggled toys in front of your cute baby face.  They tweaked your nose, talked in squeaky voices and marveled at your big beautiful eyes.  They did everything they could to draw your attention outward and make you dependent on them.  Well, the truth is that you were dependent on them:  food, drink, body care — even life itself came from them and still depended on their care.

They took you through the essential steps of human conditioning, training your mind in how to desire, need, fear, grieve, project onto others, get angry, blame and feel guilty.  Play came naturally to you.  Joy, laughter, tears — none of these needed to be taught.  But dependency on others had to be taught.  The seeds were already within you, planted by your own actions in lifetimes preceding this one, thus those who birthed and raised you simply nurtured your own karmic seeds, helping you to bring them to fruition.  Thus you were inclined toward looking outside for fulfillment and they helped you learn how to do it.

Your inner impulse toward upliftment comes naturally to you.  The more you lose your Self, the more your Self pushes up within you, demanding to be recognized.  The more lost you get in the outer world, the less happy you are and the more you yearn for that indefinable something.  Everyone yearns, but not everyone seeks.  You’re a seeker.  You’re looking for what you’ve never lost, but you’re looking on the outside.  It’s time to look inward.

Let’s say that you decide to give it a try.  You buy a book or tape on meditation. You sit in the corner, look inward and what you find is your crazy mind.  Some meditative systems teach you to watch your mind.  Yoga teaches you how to still your mind and look deeper, a profoundly different approach, and (important!) yoga offers more.  Yoga makes the inward shift easy, through Grace.

I learned about Grace when I met my Guru.  I didn’t know that it was possible that someone could help me find me.  Through decades of practice, and especially through the way his Guru had propelled Baba into consciousness, Baba was able to give the same gift to me.  The gift of Grace makes the inward turning easy, even irresistible.  That Grace flows through Svaroopa® yoga.  That Grace flows through your spine.  This is why Svaroopa® yoga works so deeply and profoundly — this is a path of Grace.  Do more yoga.

Alignment with Grace

By Swami Nirmalaananda Saraswati

Svaroopa® Yoga’s core opening is not merely a physical opening.  More importantly, it is a deeper inner opening to the experiential knowing of your own Divinity.  How does this work?  When you track your spine from your tail to top, methodically opening up inner space in stages along the way, you get a profound spinal alignment.  Along with aligning your spine, you are aligning yourself with Grace.

You might think that it is as simple as good posture, except that good posture is not so simple.  You can easily lift up into a good “look,” especially if someone is taking your photo, but your spine collapses down into its habitual slump as soon as you forget.  When you straighten up, suck in your gut, open your chest and lengthen your neck upward, you do look good.  But you are tightening muscles to get there.  You can feel it.  So is this what good posture is all about?  No.

Your spinal muscles are each relatively small, not as big and impressive as your thigh muscles or gluteals.  Yet each spinal muscle is pivotally placed, making even that small muscle very powerful.  A structural engineer, taking our Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga course told me, “One-quarter inch change in your tailbone makes a three-inch change in your neck.  I did the math!”  She was right.

When your spinal muscles are tight, they compress and twist your spine, creating the universal slump, as well as the scoliosis (side-to-side curvature) that most people suffer from.  Chiropractors and osteopaths explain the detrimental effects of spinal compression on your nerves, organs and glands.  Even your skin is affected!  The light in your eyes dims when your spine collapses.  The lift in your heart flattens.  The upward flow of inner joy sinks down, and your face dries up like a prune.

“Stand up straight,” your mother (hopefully) said to you.  But what you did was: tighten your back muscles to overpower the spinal tensions already compressing your spine.  When you lift your torso up straight, you are layering tensions over tensions.  All those layers of tension are exhausting.  So you relax, and your spine slumps again.  Your head and neck push forward and you get a headache.  Your belly sags and your digestion begins to degrade.  The back of your waist caves in and you get shorter.  You get bunions.

In Svaroopa® yoga, we treat the cause of the compression by finding the spinal muscles that are pulling your spine downward.  The bones of your spine are amazingly engineered to stack in a way that lifts you up.  You don’t actually need any muscles to lift and straighten your spine!  Currently, however, your spinal muscles grip your spinal bones and pull them too close together, twist them sideways and even compress your inter-vertebral discs.

To understand the anatomy of it, consider what you already know:  when a muscle is working, it shortens.  Every muscle has at least two ends, each attached to different bones, so a working muscle pulls those bones closer together.  In other words, any time a spinal muscle is working, it is shortening your spine.  This is why we teach you spinal release.  In addition, we teach you how to use your abdominals, arm and leg muscles, so you use different muscles to stand, walk and carry things.

The precision and compassion of Svaroopa yoga is a laser-beam system, utilizing props and alignments.  Specific spinal muscles are released so that your vertebrae naturally realign.  Your spine lifts and lengthens, taking pressure off your discs, nerves, organs and glands.  No wonder your body becomes healthier and stronger!

If that were the whole story, it would be a great story.  Like seeing a great movie, it would be worthwhile to repeat the experience.  You could do Svaroopa® yoga every day for the rest of your life, motivated by the physical benefits alone.  If that’s all you want, you can stop reading here.  But you’ll be getting more, whether you understand it or not.

The mechanical opening of your spine removes the blocks suppressing the energy always flowing through.  Your core opening makes you feel more alive, more vibrant and clear headed, more positive and ready to tackle life.  Yoga calls this flow “prana,” explaining that it is your own individual power plant, the energy that makes you alive.  Unblocking the flow of prana is profoundly beneficial and happens any time your spine is aligned and lifted.  This happens in a Svaroopa® yoga class.

Thus the physical benefits described above are even more powerful; you get energetic benefits simultaneously.  The full flow of your own prana gives you an energy boost.  You feel “up.”  You have more creativity, more compassion, even more time available and more ways to use it.  Core opening gives a lift to your spine and to your life.  But this is not the whole story.  There is more.

Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace.  It comes from the initiation I received from my Guru, so it carries Baba’s blessing to the next generation — you.  Svaroopa® yoga’s approach to the yoga poses is so radically different than other styles of yoga because we work your body from the inside out.  I learned this from Kundalini, the cosmic power of enlightenment, as She arose from my tail and worked Her way up, giving me insight into the body’s role in this process.  It was Baba’s Grace that awakened Kundalini in me, opening me to my own Self.

Thus when you use Svaroopa® yoga to align your spine, you place yourself in that flow of Grace.  My relationship with my Baba guarantees it.  This is why Svaroopa® yoga works so deeply and profoundly — this is a path of Grace.  Do more yoga.

Originally published January 2013

Vamana: Dwarf Avatar

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

From the time of the Churning of the Ocean of the Milk, the Devas and Asuras have been in turmoil, because the Asuras had to forego the Amrita due to their attempt to steal all of it.  Victory alternated from one to the other.  The defeated party then declared war at a favorable time later.  The continuous hatred between the Devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons) affected all three worlds, due to the suffering and death of war as well as the fear of war.

After the successful reign of Prahlad, his son Virochana became the king of Asuras. Virochana’s son Mahabali (Bali) often played on the lap of his grandfather, Prahlad.  Bali became a great leader who brought peace to his land.  Like Prahlad, Bali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.  Bali learned the Vedas from his grandfather and later from his Guru, Sukracharyara, the Great Guru of the Asuras.

The Asuras became bold and courageous with Bali as their king.  Many heroes and scholars, who had previously taken shelter elsewhere, now rallied together under the Bali’s leadership.  Bali appointed scholars and wise men as officers in his administration.  Sukracharyara, the renowned wise ascetic, continued as their Guru, also serving as chief priest and chief adviser to the king.

Bali set out on an adventure of world conquests with his ministers and generals at the head of his army.  Who could have opposed the invincible warrior-king?  A few kings accepted his over-lordship, surrendering without fighting.  A few did so after their defeat.  A few more courted his friendship.  Having conquered the whole world, Bali became the emperor.

Not content with his emperorship of Patalaloka (the Nether World) and Earth, due to some of the Asura’s influence, Bali became greedy and wanted to rule Heaven too.  In order to take the place of Indra (the King of Heaven), being guided by his Guru Sukracharyara, Bali performed the Vishwajit sacrifice on the bank of the Narmada River, a yaj~na for the purpose of becoming the king of three worlds.

Bali then set out to conquer Amravati, the capital of Heaven, in his divine chariot which he had obtained from Agni, the fire God.  Bali was also wearing the lotus flower garland presented by his grandfather and carrying the conch gifted by his Guru.  Lord Indra knew He was not going to be able to stop Bali, due to the guidance of His Guru Brihaspati, He abandoned Heaven and went into exile.  Bali ascended the throne of heaven and became the lord of the three worlds.

Indra’s mother Aditi was saddened by His defeat and, with the help of her husband Sage Kashyapa, made a vow to seek help from Lord Vishnu.  Pleased by Aditi’s devotion, Lord Vishnu appeared and asked what she wanted.  Aditi said that she wanted her son Indra to be reinstated as the King of Heaven.  Lord Vishnu said, “Even though Bali is a great king and a great leader, your worship shall not prove fruitless.  Since Bali has become greedy and has shortened your son’s rule, I will be born as a son to you to protect Indra and the Devas.”

A few months later, Lord Vishnu was born to Aditi as His sixth incarnation.  As Kashyapa and Aditi stood amazed, Lord Vishnu changed His form to a very short-statured brahmin (priest).  Named Vamana, clad in a loincloth, with matted hair, He carried a wooden umbrella in one hand and a kamandala (a small water-pot) in other one.

Though Bali was ruling all three worlds, his desire continued to grow.  To become even more powerful, he performed the Great Yaj~na, as guided by his Guru Sukracharyara.  For the yaj~na to be successful, the person performing it must give whatever anyone asks from him.  Last in the line of people waiting to receive gifts stood the short brahmin, Vamana.  Everyone watched him, as He was illuminating the whole place with His gracefulness, even though He was a dwarf.

When Vamana came forward, Bali and his wife followed tradition by washing His feet.  Bali then asked, “O holy brahmin, what can I do for you?  Ask from me whatever you desire.  Do not hesitate; ask for whatever you want!  Cows, elephants, horses, chariots, villages, anything?”

Vamana shook His head and said, “All I need is the amount of land that is three paces long as measured by my stride.”  Bali was very disappointed with Vamana’s humble demand and said, “I am ready to grant you a whole continent, but all you wish is three paces of land?”  Bali laughed, “You shall have as much as you want.”

At that moment, Shukracharya felt something was wrong.  He stopped Bali as he took the holy water kamandala in his hand, to grant the request.  Pulling Bali aside, Shukracharya said, “Stop!  There is some scheme or plot behind this midget brahmin.  He is not the person He looks to be!”  Bali replied, “Nothing can be done now, I have given my word.  How can Bali, the grandson of Prahlad, refuse to fulfill a promise, like a common cheat?”

Shukracharya was convinced that this little Vamana was none other than Lord Vishnu himself, the sustainer of the three worlds, but in disguise to help Indra and the Devas.  He warned Bali, but it only made Bali happier, knowing that his Lord had come to ask something from him.  Since he couldn’t persuade Bali from his own destruction, Shukracharya changed himself into an insect and went inside the kamandala to blocked the spout so that Bali couldn’t pour the water to fulfill the request.

Lord Vishnu saw the situation.  He took a stem of holy grass and poked open the spout of the kamandala with it.  That injured one of the eyes of Shukracharya so that water flowed out from it.  Taking that water in his hand, Bali announced, “Holiest of all brahmins, Vamana, with this water I grant your wish.”

To everybody’s surprise, except Shukracharya, Vamana began to grow and grow.  Bali and everyone were astounded when Vamana began to measure the three paces with His feet.  With the first stride He covered the entire Earth & Patalaloka.  With His second stride, He covered Heaven.

Then Vamana asked Bali, “You promised me three paces of land.  I have covered all that was yours in two.  Where should I place my third stride?”  Now, confirmed that Vamana was none other than Lord Vishnu, Bali said, “O Lord, I am humbled by Your presence.  Please place your third step on my head and get rid of my greed!”  Lord Vishnu smiled and placed His third step on Bali’s head.  With the immense pressure of Lord Vishnu’s foot, Bali was pushed down to Patalaloka.

Indra was reinstated to Heaven’s throne, which made Aditi happy.  The Devas were very happy for getting their kingdom back.  As Bali had been His true devotee, Lord Vishnu blessed him and gave him the right to rule Patalaloka as long as he wanted to.

Then He told Bali to ask for anything he wished for.  Bali asked Lord Vishnu to be present in front of him day and night, so that he can worship him constantly.  Lord Vishnu said, “Your wish is granted, you will see me all the time!” and vanished.  To keep His promise, Lord Vishnu became Bali’s doorkeeper, standing in front of Bali all the time, though Bali had no clue.

Goddess Lakshmi and all of the Devas missed Lord Vishnu, who was not in Vaikuntha.   earning what had happened, She disguised herself as an ordinary woman and visited Bali in Patalaloka.  She said to Bali, “Your Majesty! My husband has gone to fulfill some errands and is not at home.  I need protection.  I heard that your kingdom is the safest place, please give me protection too!”   Moved by Her words, Bali said, “Lady!  You are like a sister to me.  Please come and stay in my palace, stay here as long as you wish!”

She thanked Bali and started living in the palace in Patalaloka.  Since the Goddess of wealth was in Patalaloka, it became a very prosperous place and everyone living there was very happy; Bali’s kingdom was flourishing.

One day Bali heard his sister saying her prayers.  Bali asked, “What are you praying for?”  She said, “I am praying for a long and healthy life for you, my brother.”  Bali was so happy and said, “Ask me for whatever you want, I will give it to you, my sister!”  She smiled and said, “Brother, I want my husband back.”  With a puzzled look Bali asked, “Your husband…?”  She then pointed towards the gatekeeper and said, “That is my husband….” Bali was unable to wrap his head around what was going on, but was intent on keeping his word, so he said, “Yes, you may have Him back…”

Before Bali realized what was going on, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi appeared.  Bali was shocked to learn that, all these days, it was Lord Vishnu as his gatekeeper and that his so-called sister was Goddess Lakshmi.  He fell to their feet and apologized.  “I was keeping my word!”  Lord Vishnu said and continued, “It was your honesty and which brought me here.  As promised, I was in front of your eyes day and night.”

Bali then sought forgiveness from Goddess Lakshmi for unknowingly keeping Lord Vishnu away from Her for a long time.  Goddess Lakshmi said, “Bali, it is not your fault, this is always His behavior.  He is always in front of His devotees, day and night, even if they don’t realize it!”  Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi returned to Vaikuntha. Bali wisely ruled Patalaloka as long as he wanted and attained moksha at His Lord’s feet.