Yogic Freedom

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

You want to solve problems. You want to be creative. You want love and joy. You want to care and share. Where does all that come from?

It all comes from within. As you settle in deeper and deeper, you can base yourself in your own Divine Essence. It is Grace that gives you inner access, but it is your own efforts that give you the inner steadiness, the deep inner center that sets you free.

This is freedom, in Sanskrit — moksha. It means liberation. It means you won’t have to come back for another lifetime. You can if you want to, but you won’t be stuck in the repetitive cycle for eons. You’re free!

In honor of 4th of July, the American holiday celebrating freedom, I focus on freedom. I do realize that July 4 is about political freedom – but I like to use it every year to celebrate spiritual liberation. That you really can become free:

* No more inner shadows.

* No more knee-jerk reflexes.

* No more need, greed and fear.

When you find your own inner essence, and when you base yourself in your own Self, you are free from everything that used to drag you down. It’s great!

And it’s a little strange.

* For your past is still your past, but it doesn’t drag you down.

* And your life is still your life, but it’s not weighty and constraining.

* And your future is still your future, whatever you think it could be or should be – it’s up to you, but you’re not holding your breath waiting to see.

You know what freedom is? That your sense of self doesn’t come from your past, nor your imagined future, and not even from the circumstances of your life.  Your sense of self is an inner sense, an inner knowing, a wordless Knowingness… of your own Beingness. 

In the Knowingness of your own Beingness, you have fulfilled life’s highest purpose – liberation! Freedom!

And you have the freedom to create, to care and share. To give without measure. Free to be without analyzing or strategizing, without making up for or trying to attain. And your mind becomes your greatest tool. Instead of having mental shadows that block your inner light, your mind shines with the light of Consciousness. Chetana, it’s called in Sanskrit.

Expanded mind. Divine mind. Your heart overflows. What a way to live!

Changed for the Better

By Swami Shrutananda

Who can change you for the better? Who really gets you? Other yogis!

I think about all the yogis who have made — and continue to make — a difference in my life. These thoughts especially arise when I hear For Good, a song about the friendship between two witches, Glinda and Elphaba in the musical “Wicked.” Tears well up in my eyes when I hear its lines “I do believe I have been changed for the better. And because I knew you.”

One of the things I love about teaching yoga classes and immersions is how students inspire each other. When you put words to your deep inner experiences, others gain insight into their own inner experiences. Your comments and questions enrich everyone’s understanding. Perhaps it’s an understanding of how to handle a difficult situation or person in their life. Perhaps you understand yourself better. From knowing each other, you have been changed for the better. And you are inspired to do more yoga!

You become yoga buddies. You may not know if they have a partner, children or grandchildren or what they do for a living. Yet you share, understand and know one another at a much deeper level. This is the purpose of being in community with fellow yogis. As long as you continue to come to Ashram programs, I will be in relationship with you – over decades. For I, too, am changed for the better because I know you.

International Day of Yoga, observed across the world on June 21st annually, celebrates the spread of yoga throughout the world with gatherings of yogis. How can you celebrate International Yoga Day?

Get together with a few yoga buddies in person or on Zoom. Share tea or a meal, or enjoy an outing or a yogic get-together of some kind. Find new yogis to be friends with, even if they do a different style or are from another tradition. Yoga doesn’t say that one tradition is right. All paths of yoga are honored, states the sage Kshemaraja from over 1200 years ago:

Tad bhuumikah sarva-darshana-sthitayah
— Pratyabhij~nahrdayam 8

The various traditions are different roles of Consciousness.
— Rendered by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

In this text, the One Divine Essence is called by the name “Consciousness.” The One has become everything that exists. In addition to being you, Consciousness is also being all the different forms, traditions and paths of yoga. Kshemaraja explains that Consciousness becomes so many different traditions because different kinds of people need different ways and paths to the knowing of their own Divine Essence, their own Self.

I enjoy talking to yogis that come from a different tradition. I learn something more about the breadth of yoga, about them and about me. There are lots of yogis out there to meet. With the worldwide increase of people doing yoga, you are part of a huge yoga family.

According to Shri Google, the worldwide population of yoga practitioners is more than 300 million. The global number of people who meditate is anywhere between 200 and 500 million. Considering there is likely some overlap, let’s say 500 million people meditate and/or practice yoga. This is 6% of the world population. This means 6 of every 100 people you meet do yoga. This doubles to 12% when you are in the US. I am going to assume this is also true in Australia, Canada and Europe.

So yogis are everywhere. In the past two days alone, I met two while traveling. One was my Lyft driver, who takes local YMCA yoga classes twice weekly. Coming back on the plane, I sat across the aisle from a yogi. She zooms into a Mumbai teacher’s yoga classes and meditation every week. Telling me about the benefits they are getting, both yogis had such love for their yoga. Yogis love to talk about yoga!

Your yoga community and conversations are an important part of your practice. Is it expanding? Make it your practice to step into relationship with more yogis. Together you inspire each other on the path and profoundly affect the world. Together, we yogis are a Divine Force enriching the lives of others.

Remember, don’t limit yourself to those who only do your kind of yoga or meditation. All yoga is good yoga. All meditation is good meditation. Get out there and make more yoga friends. Be changed for the better!

Krishna Avatar Part 49

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Sage Durvasa agreed to Duryodhana’s request and decided to go visit the Pandavas and Draupadi in the forest. He always loved to test people. 

To fulfill his word to Duryodhana, Durvasa headed towards Kamyaka forest from Hastinapura. He and his disciples arrived at the Ashram late in the day, after all the Pandava clan had finished their meals for the day, including Draupadi. 

Draupadi with Akshaya Patra(1)

Not only had she eaten, but she also cleaned the wish-fulfilling bowl bestowed by Surya, the Sun God, and put it away. The Sun God granted Yudhishthira a boon by giving an inexhaustible vessel called “Akshaya Patra” to be given to Draupadi.  Akshaya Patra will produce the food in any quantity desired at every meal and become empty only after Draupadi has taken her own meal, to fill up the next day once again. 

Yudhishthira and the Pandava brothers were shocked and puzzled to see the sage visiting so late in the afternoon. They invited them wholeheartedly. When Draupadi saw Durvasa and his disciples, her heart ached as she had already eaten and washed the wish-fulfilling bowl. She was bewildered about how to serve them. 

She heard Yudhishthira say that they were going to the river to take a bath and refresh themselves before coming for a good meal. Now Draupadi had a real problem! She was desperate. She was thinking of ways to get some food. 

After the sage and his disciples left for the river, the five brothers joined her in brainstorming the solution. Remembering Krishna, Draupadi told the Pandavas that only Krishna could help them.  She then thought of Krishna deep in her heart. She prayed to Krishna, pleading to him to save her from the predictable anger of Sage Durvasa, to avoid them getting a curse from him. 

Her desperate calling reached Krishna’s ears. There he was, right in front of her smiling. Confused and full of fear, Draupadi started to describe her desperate situation, unable to find words to describe it. Krishna stopped her from talking. He asked for food, saying that he was very hungry. 

Krishna, Draupadi & Pandavas (2)

Draupadi exclaimed, saying that it is not the time for jokes as she continued trying to explain the situation. Krishna asked her to bring the cooking vessels to him. She told Krishna that she had already washed and put the vessel away for the day.  She didn’t even have a single grain left to feed him or the sage and his disciples. But as Krishna insisted again and again, she brought and handed the vessels over to him.

To her surprise, Krishna scraped the bottom of the pot and got a bit of greens along with a single grain of rice. Holding the grain in his hand, he said that it would not be enough to fulfill the hunger of the sage and his disciples, therefore he was going to eat it so that his hunger is fulfilled. He said a prayer and ate the single grain of rice with full satisfaction. 

He then told her that he was fully satisfied and for Bhima to invite Sage Durvasa and disciples for the meal.  At first, Draupadi was embarrassed that she hadn’t washed the pot well.  Recovering from it, she wondered how Krishna was going to provide the meal for the sage and his disciples.  But, trusting Krishna as always, Draupadi requested Bhima to go bring the guests. 

Sage Durvasa (3)

When Bhima went to the riverbank, he was astonished to see the sage and disciples burping after their bath as if they had a big wholesome meal. They indeed excused themselves to go along with Bhima to the Ashram, as they were too full to eat. Of course, through his yogic powers, Sage Durvasa knew the reason for them suddenly feeling full. He apologized for not returning to the Ashram and blessed the Pandavas for them to have success in completing their time in exile in the forest, plus the year afterwards where they had to live in disguise untraced, and then to regain their kingdom. He also told Bhima to convey his regards to the other visitor who was at the Ashram.

Time passed. Only a few more days remained for the Pandavas to finish their twelve years of exile. One day a brahmin who was passing through Kamyaka forest came to the Pandavas seeking help. He said that his churner and igniting rod that he had for making his yaj~na fires had been taken by a stag. He explained that he hung them on a tree, but a stag rubbed against the tree, so they fell and got caught in its antlers. The frightened stag ran away with them. He requested the Pandavas to find and return them to him. 

The Pandavas set off looking for this stag which disappeared magically into the forest. They searched around for hours with no success. Exhausted, the Pandavas sat down under a tree to rest. They were all both hungry and thirsty. 

Lake (4)

Nakula was asked to bring some water to quench their thirst. When he went in search of water, he spotted a beautiful lake with crystal clear water. He was so happy and went closer to drink some water, hoping to take some back for his brothers as well. When he was just about to drink the water, he heard a strange voice saying, “If you want to drink the water from this lake you have to answer all my questions.” 

Nakula simply ignored the voice as he was too thirsty and started drinking the water. In no time, he fell dead on the ground. As Nakula didn’t return, Sahadeva decided to go look for him. He met the same fate as Nakula. 

Arjuna went in search for them and found them lying dead without any injuries to their bodies. Puzzled, Arjuna started shooting arrows reciting mantras, but the strange voice said that those arrows are not going to be of use. It requested Arjuna to answer his questions and drink the water or else he will attain the same fate as his younger brothers. Arjuna too refused to answer and drank the water and fell dead. 

Yudhishthira finds brothers (5)

Yudhishthira sent Bhima, who saw his three brothers’ fate and thought this must be a demon’s work.  Yet he decided to quench his thirst before he could battle the demon. He was asked to answer the questions by the voice, but he too didn’t comply and met the same fate.

Yudhishthira was puzzled and worried about the delay in them returning. He decided to go look for them himself. He was shocked to see all his brothers lying beside the lake, breathless. At first his heart sank and tears started rolling down. Then looking at their bodies more carefully, he realized that there was no injury. They looked as if they were sleeping. There were no signs of any enemies’ attack. He wondered if the lake was poisonous. 

As he was reaching down towards the water, he too heard the same strange voice saying not to drink the water until he answered all the questions, as the lake belonged to him. The voice also said that his brothers drank the water without answering the questions and met their end. “Do you wish to suffer the same fate?” it asked Yudhishthira.  

Yaksha asking questions of Yudhishthira (6)

Yudhishthira happily agreed to answer the questions. He humbly said, “If you claim this lake to be yours, I am happy to satisfy you, by answering your questions to the best of my knowledge. Please kindly show yourself to me.”

A yaksha (nature spirit) appeared in front of Yudhishthira and started with some simple questions, then continued with more difficult ones. 

Here are some questions that were asked and answers from Yudhishthira.

What brings out the sun every day?

Brahman.

What is more important than the earth itself?

Mother.

What is higher than the heavens?

Father.

Who is the best mate/companion for a man?

Wife.

Who is the best friend of man?

Patience.

What is faster than the wind? 

The mind.

What is the most valuable possession? 

Knowledge.

What is the greatest happiness? 

Contentment

What is ignorance?

Not knowing one’s duty.

What is the highest dharma? 

Not to injure any of the living – ahimsa, non-harming.

What is that must be controlled and restrained?

The mind.

What must be renounced to make a man wealthy?

Desire.

What is man’s greatest invisible enemy? 

Anger.

What must be renounced to make a man delightful?

Pride.

Losing what makes one rich? 

Greed.

What is truly amazing in this world?

The fact that day after day everyone sees deaths occurring, yet all feel that they will never die. Everyone goes about their life as if they are going to be here forever.

What is real knowledge?

Knowledge of Self, God.

Yaksha, Yudhishthara & 4 dead brothers (7)

The yaksha was greatly pleased with Yudhishthira’s answers. As he was fully satisfied with Yudhishthira’s answers, he decided to revive one of Yudhishthira’s brothers. He asked Yudhishthira to choose one out of the four brothers, who were lying dead. Who would Yudhishthira pick?

More to come…

  1. Draupadi with Akshaya Patra https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/divine-dinners-by-moses-jesus-hindu-saints-draupadi
  2. Krishna, Draupadi & Pandavas https://lightofgodhead.com/logstaging/durvasa-muni-visits-the-pandavas
  3. Sage Durvasa https://www.spiritualbee.com/posts/why-is-tantric-knowledge-kept-hidden-durvasas-hasty-boon
  4. Lake https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-flat-design-lake-scenery_20006025.htm#query=lake%20cartoon&position=7&from_view=keyword&track=ais_user&uuid=38b2acbd-9e3a-4186-8dc0-63841866371f
  5. Yudhishthira finds brothers https://pragyata.com/yakshas-lake-and-the-fire-drill
  6. Yaksha asking questions of Yudhishthira https://nirvandiaries.com/yaksha-prashna-stories-from-the-mahabharata
  7. Yaksha, Yudhishthira & 4 dead brothers https://storysangam.com/mythology-stories-yaksha-prashna

Discovering the Source of Happiness

By Swami Samvidaananda

Self-help gurus. Fashion gurus. Investment gurus. Health gurus. When I’m looking for help or to learn something new, I want to learn from an expert.

If you are really good at what you do, and you help a lot of people, you are called a guru. It’s not inaccurate. Guru, a Sanskrit word, means “teacher” when spelled with a small-g, “guru.” What about when you want spiritual help? It would make sense to go to a spiritual Guru. Wouldn’t it? Yet that seems to be a less popular option.

I didn’t know I was looking for a spiritual, capital-G “Guru.” I just knew that underlying my day-to-day life, with its responsibilities, relationships, happiness and pain, there was a quiet despair. I wanted my life to have more meaning, but I couldn’t find it. I had moments of joy, even bliss. But I couldn’t hold onto them. It wasn’t enough.

Then I met Gurudevi Nirmalananda. I didn’t know the word Guru, and I would not have said I was looking for one. But I recognized her as my teacher. So I began to orient my life in her direction. I had been like a lost sunbeam that had somehow gotten disconnected from the sun. And now, when I aimed my beam towards her, I shone brighter, like a sunbeam radiates from the sun.

I was being lit up with my own inner light. I began to experience more joy, more happiness, more peace. She didn’t give me her light; she awakened my own light within me. It’s the light of my Divinity, of my own Self.

Yoga’s mystical teachings say there is One Divine Reality. Everything that exists comes from and is made of the One. This universe, the stars and the planets, and everything on the earth down to the smallest ant and grain of sand is Divinity, concentrated into form. Including me. Including you. That Divinity is inherently who you are, so the One is called your Self.

Because you are the Self, you have the capacity to know you are the Self. But you need help to get to that knowing because it is hidden from you. It’s a cosmic setup. So, what do you do? You get help from someone who knows. Someone who is an expert at awakening you to your deeper knowing. That’s a Guru.

Guru is spelled, “Gee, you are you.” It means that you have someone in your life who gives you your Divine Self — Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Gurudevi is such a Guru. She knows her Divine Self, and she can give that knowing to you. She does it through an initiation called Shaktipat. Shaktipat is a transmission of energy that sparks your inner knowing. This is like a cosmic jump-start.

Your knowing of your Divine Essence will fill you with joy, love, creativity, peace and bliss. You’ll discover you are the source of the happiness you’ve been seeking out in the world. And you’ll come to recognize that everyone and everything is a form of the same Divinity. How glorious!

How did Gurudevi become a Guru who can do this for you? She found her Guru, Baba Muktananda. And he gave her Shaktipat. He could do this for her because he found his Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda, who gave him Shaktipat. Gurudevi is part of a lineage of Shaktipat Gurus that stretches through time.

Each Guru was at some point a seeker, looking for something they could not find on their own. And they found a teacher who could give them what they were looking for. They were looking for an expert. And they found one!

Of course, when you find an expert, the story doesn’t end there. Like anything you want to accomplish, you have to apply yourself. Baba Muktananda gave Shaktipat to thousands and thousands of people. He wanted to awaken and uplift as many people as he could. And he gave them practices to do, especially meditation and repeating mantra.

Once your inner flame is ignited, it’s up to you to nurture and grow it. Many people took Baba’s teaching to heart. Because of him, there are many more meditators in the world. However, very few people applied themselves to blossoming the inner awakening all the way, to Self-Realization. Gurudevi did. She gave it her all.

Once she received Shaktipat from Baba, she tirelessly dedicated herself to her own upliftment. She became Self-Realized, meaning she knows she is the Self, all the time. And she became authorized as a Guru, so she can give the inner awakening of Shaktipat to you. Now, she tirelessly dedicates herself to uplifting you. She’s not a Guru because she wants attention or fame or followers.

She wants you to have what she has. Do you want it?

Location, Location, Location

By Swami Satrupananda

You decide it’s time for a vacation. You need a change of scenery, so you pack up your suitcase and head out.

After some travel, you get to your new location. You unpack and settle down to have a bite to eat or something to drink. You are enjoying your new location with new views, smells, tastes and more. And then your mind brings up the same worries and fears you left miles behind.

The reality of this was a shock to me. During university, I took a semester off and traveled to Southeast Asia. I spent my days exploring the exotic land, food and culture. I even took a meditation retreat. I was shocked when my mind would not stop obsessing on problems that were over 7,500 miles away.

The yogic texts say that your challenges come from your limited knowledge.

Jñanam bandhah.

Limited knowledge is bondage.

Shiva Sutras 1.2

Knowledge is not the problem. It is limited knowledge that creates bondage. Your mind works hard at knowing. Unfortunately, it works only on limited knowledge. You focus on knowing the external world. When all you know is the external world, you get your sense of self from it. As a result, you are impacted by your surroundings.

And even when you change your location, the distance does not protect you from your mind. Your mind can bring up problems from thousands of miles away.

In yoga practices, you stop looking outside for a sense of self. You turn your attention inward to know who you truly are. With each yoga practice, you experience your true Divine Self. With each experience, you come to know who you really are.

This knowledge is not limiting, it is freeing! You don’t merely find the knowledge of who you are. Ultimately, you find the Knowingness itself.

This shift from being outwardly focused to inward is emphasized in our Guided Awareness. In yoga classes, we guide you in being aware of your body on the outside and inside. “Become aware of your toes… all ten toes… outside and inside.”

In meditation, we take it a step farther. You turn your attention inward beyond your body and even beyond your mind. You dive deep inside directly to your own Self.

https://dietandi.com/why-you-should-meditate-meditation-benefits/

At first it can be challenging to turn your attention inward. We all have spent so much of our life looking outward. So you practice turning your attention inward again and again. Then it becomes a delight to have the opportunity to close your eyes and turn within.

I remember a few years ago, I was going through a challenging time. I no longer wanted to run away to the other side of the planet like during university. Instead, I wanted to escape inside. One morning, I didn’t want to end my meditation period. I wanted to stay inside. The inner space was my safe haven. This was progress.

Instead of chasing for external realities, I knew that I would only be satisfied by resting in my own Self. While it was progress, it was still limited. I couldn’t settle deep enough inside that I stayed there while also being in the world, regardless of the challenges.

This tantric system is not about leaving the world to find your Self on the inside. However, in the beginning, you do need to take recesses from the external world. You turn your attention inward to discover who you are. Then you learn how to live from your own Self while you step into the world. You go from the outside to the inside, then inside to the outside. You know and be your own Self while you are in the midst of the world. Then you can be in any location.

And there’s more. As you dive deeper into knowing and being your own Self, you come to know that Self is the source of everything. Then when you look inside, you see only your own Self. When you look outside, you see only your own Self. Then there is no inside and outside. There is only the One, who is you.

Yet there is still an inside and outside, and you are still impacted by the world outside you, but you go from outside to inside to outside. Do more yoga.

Krishna Avatar, Part 48

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Once a brahmin priest, who was a scholar in Vedas and who exceled in penance and discipline visited the court of King Dhritarashtra. The king greeted him with respect and offered him a seat. 

While they were talking, the brahmin revealed that he had seen the Pandavas in the forest. He went on describing the details, explaining the hardship they were living under. Hearing about the condition of the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra’s heart ached and tears fell from his eyes. 

Brahmin priest (1)

The brahmin continued, saying that even with all the hardship, the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira, with his severe penance had acquired boons not only from the sages on this earth but also from the celestial beings. Bhima had gotten new physical strength and power as blessings from Lord Hanuman. Arjuna, because of his austere penance, received Pashupata Astra from Lord Shiva, and he also got incomparable weapons from Indra. 

The brahmin added that Nakula & Sachdeva along with Draupadi were stronger than ever before in their hearts & minds. He also mentioned how all the rishis and yogis were visiting them and, most of all, Krishna himself was visiting them quite often.

King Dhritarashtra (2)

Hearing all this from the brahmin, Dhritarashtra’s mood changed from sympathy to fear & worry. Karna and Shakuni also heard all this, along with Duryodhana. Duryodhana got angry and really wanted to humiliate and insult the Pandavas while in their unfortunate circumstances. He decided to get permission from his father to go witness the suffering of the Pandavas. This was something he had been wanting to do for a very long time. As he knew his father would not allow him to humiliate or insult the Pandavas, he had to devise an alternate plan.

Duryodhana told his father Dhritarashtra that they wanted to visit the village near the forest where the Pandavas lived. They were going to inspect a cow farm which belonged to the Hastinapura kingdom. As the King was afraid of them going so close to where the Pandavas lived, it took a lot of convincing to get the permission.

The three of them along with other Kauravas went to the forest. They brought men and women in fine clothing and jewelry, hoping that it would provoke the Pandavas and Draupadi. They first came across a serene stream and decided to refresh themselves by taking a bath in it. But they were not the only ones in the stream. There were some Gandharvas, celestial beings, including their chief Chitrasena, already there having a nice time. 

That was disturbing to the Kauravas. Duryodhana demanded that the Gandharvas leave. They ignored Duryodhana and refused to leave. So the Kauravas ended up fighting them, only to lose badly. Karna was insulted so much that he ran away. The Gandharvas defeated the Kauravas and imprisoned them, including the men and women who came along with them.

Chitrasena of the Gandharvas (3)

The Pandavas heard the news about Kauravas’ capture from the soldiers deserting the Kauravas. Bhima was so delighted to hear the news, thinking that the Gandharvas had done what he had been wanting to do so badly. But Yudhishthira advised Bhima and Arjuna to go save them, as it’s their dharma to be there for their family. 

So, the Pandavas gathered the Kaurava soldiers who had scattered and went to war with the Gandharvas. Chitrasena’s anger vanished as soon as he saw the Pandavas, especially Arjuna, his beloved student. He respected the Pandavas’ request to release their family members. Per their wish, Chitrasena released the Kauravas.

Yudhishthira advising Duryodhana (4)

Yudishthira advised Duryodhana to stop doing unkind acts in the future. He sent Duryodhana and the others back to Hastinapura, lovingly asking them to convey his best regards to the elders and other family members. Duryodhana was terribly humiliated by this incident and felt miserable. He was so angry.  He couldn’t accept that the Pandavas rescued him and his family from the Gandharvas. He didn’t want to live with this disgrace. But after Karna, Shakuni and the other brothers convinced him otherwise, they all returned to Hastinapura.

Later one day, when the Pandavas had gone out hunting, Jayadratha was on his way to Hastinapura and saw Draupadi in the forest. Jayadratha was the King of the Sindhu Kingdom, married to Duryodhana’s sister Dushala. Jayadratha was struck by the beauty of Draupadi. Not knowing who she was, he sent a soldier to inquire about her. After knowing who she was, he invited her to come live with him, mocking her situation with the Pandavas.

Draupadi being kidnapped by Jayadratha (5)

Draupadi was furious about this request and refused harshly, telling Jayadratha to leave the ashram immediately. Filled with lust, Jayadratha kidnapped her. He forcibly pulled her into his chariot and drove away. Draupadi screamed so loudly that those who were nearby heard the cry and ran to rescue her, but the chariot drove away fast. 

When the Pandavas reached the ashram, they heard about the incident from those who were nearby. They immediately went after Jayadratha. Jayadratha’s army was no match for the angry Pandavas. When Jayadratha saw Bhima and Arjuna approaching, he did his best to save his life by pushing Draupadi out of the chariot. Seeing this Bhima got furious and captured Jayadratha in no time. 

Jayadratha (6)

They took him to Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira asked Draupadi to decide the punishment for Jayadratha, reminding her that he was the husband of their cousin Dushala. Even though she was filled with rage and bitterness, Draupadi valued Yudhishthira’s comments and asked Jayadratha’s head to be shaved, leaving only a few clumps of hair. The punishment was carried out according to her wish and Jayadratha was let go to return to his kingdom.

Jayadratha was too ashamed to go home to his family and remained in the forest. He did intense austerities and meditation on Lord Shiva, seeking a boon to take revenge on the Pandavas. Pleased with his deep tapas, Lord Shiva appeared before Jayadratha. Jayadratha asked Lord Shiva to give him a boon to defeat the Pandavas and their army in a battle. 

As Lord Shiva had already given a boon to Arjuna that he couldn’t be defeated, Shiva altered the boon that Jayadratha asked. Lord Shiva said that Jayadratha could resist the other four Pandava brothers for one day of the battle. With no other choice, Jayadratha accepted the boon and went home. After getting the boon, he forgot the fact that he was the one who wronged them in the first place. 

Duryodhana, inspired by Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya Yaj~na, always wanted to perform one himself. But the brahmins and the elders didn’t agree with his idea. So instead, he planned to do a different special yaj~na. All the rishis and sages visited the kingdom to attend this yajna. With Karna’s dedication and loyalty, Duryodhana successfully finished the yaj~na. At this ceremony, Karna made a promise to Duryodhana that he would kill Arjuna in war. He vowed to give up eating meat and alcohol until then. It is also believed this is when Karna took the vow of giving as well. By this, he became the benevolent King of the age.

Rishi Durvasa (7)

One fine day, Rishi Durvasa visited Hastinapura with his many disciples. Knowing the sage’s hot temper, Duryodhana didn’t want to be cursed, so he served Durvasa at his best to please him. The sage was delighted by Duryodhana’s service and asked him to request a boon. Duryodhana cunningly requested the sage to visit the Pandavas in the forest. Of course, the reason behind this request is that he was hoping that this was a great opportunity to bring downfall to the Pandavas. Knowing the sage’s temperament, Duryodhana was thinking it would be hard for the Pandavas to serve and satisfy the sage and his many disciples with their limited resources. 

Duryodhana also requested that the sage visit the Pandavas late in the afternoon. This was to make sure that Draupadi had taken care of everyone, so she would have nothing to offer to the sage and his disciples. The ill mind of Duryodhana was such that, instead of getting blessings from the sage, he was scheming to cause harm to others.  

Sage Durvasa agreed to Duryodhana’s request and promised to go visit the Pandavas and Draupadi in the near future.  Duryodhana was happy that his plot to bring downfall to the Pandavas was working.  He hoped that they would be severely cursed by Rishi Durvasa.

More to come…

  1. Brahmin priest https://www.bardaionline.com/religion-culture/brahmin/2011/11/20
  2. King Dhritarashtra https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:King_Dhritarashtra.jpg
  3. Chitrasena of the Gandharvas https://www.facebook.com/104289227956814/photos/a.112341960484874/146032953782441/?type=3
  4. Yudhishthira advising Duryodhana https://www.sawanonlinebookstore.com/duryodhanas-humiliation
  5. Draupadi being kidnapped by Jayadratha http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_RtUxUYEE7k0/TCf5_1lG91I/AAAAAAAACno/bojrLGnVaKg/s1600/24890_384907723735_171041283735_3934194_7637117_n.jpg
  6. Jayadratha https://www.sawanonlinebookstore.com/jayadratha-seeks-revenge
  7. Rishi Durvasa https://hindutempletalk.org/2023/08/17/durvasaa-sage-of-wonder-and-fury/amp

Freedom From Worldly Fatigue

By Swami Prajñananda

I used to wish that I didn’t need to sleep. It seemed like such a waste of time.

And I did a pretty good job over the years of burning the candle at both ends. The most extreme of which was when I was part of a dance team that started practice at midnight. After practice I would walk home, get about three hours of sleep, wake up, go to work and then do it all again. Yeah, I only lasted a couple months on that schedule.

In retrospect, I can see that part of me was onto something with my lifestyle. I wanted to be awake. I couldn’t put words to it at the time, but it was a desire to know that my life was meaningful — that I was meaningful.

So I kept busy and poured myself into everything that I did. Unfortunately, the main thing I got from all this was exhaustion, called “shrama” in Sanskrit. Technically shrama means the fatigue that comes from worldliness.

What is worldliness? It is the focus and pouring of your energies into the world. When you do this without being based in your own inner depth, you drain yourself easily. You are not present in your body, but rather “out there” somewhere.

You may want to blame it on a busy day, but there is more going on. Truly, you drain yourself more with your mind than anything you can do with your body. For how many thoughts do you think in a day? Some research says the average is about 60,000 with 80% of those thoughts being negative.

Worldly exhaustion (1)

Unfortunately, everyone’s mind loves to dwell on painful memories and future worries, yours too. Each time you do, your own presence leaves your body and goes out with your thoughts. Not only is this painful, it is also draining. This is why we fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted. We’ve lost our own presence and have drained our own energy.

This is a big reason why people come, or should come, to an ashram. For “ashram” means without (“a-”) fatigue (“shrama”). When you come to an ashram, you begin to dissolve your lifetime’s worth of exhaustion (or perhaps from many lifetimes). You also learn how to live in a way as to not create more.

Yet this is not about escaping the world. No, that’s not it at all. In fact you don’t even have to physically go to an ashram. Rather, you can do the practices that the ashram recommends: poses, breathing, chanting, mantra, meditation and more. When you apply yourself to these practices, you learn how to live in your body in a whole new way. And this completely changes your experience of the world.

Instead of looking outward for what you think you need, or running away from what you think you don’t, you stay grounded inside. You are centered in your own presence, your own Self. This is truly what it means to be awake. This is described in the Shiva Sutras 1.8:

J~naana.m jaagrat

Knowledge is wakefulness

We usually think of knowledge as what you learn with your mind. But, this sutra describes a deeper knowing. It is the experience of your own presence, beyond your mind. This is your essence, the light of your own being.

When you ground into the inner infinity of your own light, it is called wakefulness. You are awake! When you are lost looking outward to the world to complete you, this is called darkness. You don’t know who you are. You are asleep even with your eyes open.

So how do you move from darkness to light? It is not something you do easily on your own. Otherwise, you would have done it by now. You need someone who can show you the way. Just like you needed someone to teach you how to tie your shoes, learn the ABC’s and ride a bike, you also need a teacher to show you how to move towards the light.

This is the literal translation of the Sanskrit word “Guru.” Guru is a compound word: “gu” means darkness and “ru” means light. The Guru is one who takes you from darkness to light. They give you an inner awakening, so you begin to shine from the inside out. You learn how to stay based in your own light and even to see the same light in the world.

Now, when you act, even when you think, you aren’t creating shrama. You aren’t draining your energy. For, the fact is, you are based in the source of energy itself. You can be a light onto the world. Living in joy and spreading that joy everywhere you go. If you like how this sounds, well, it’s time to wake up.

(1) coloradoparent.com

I Remember the Sunrise

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Sitting in a folding chair on a sandy beach, I watched the sun rise. Many others would be arriving soon to set up for the Easter sunrise service. It seemed strange to me that it was scheduled for an hour after the actual sunrise. So I simply went early.

After a while, people arrived and the service got going. It was full of beautiful hymns along with moving readings and an inspiring sermon. But I was confused. Why wasn’t I being filled by God, I wondered, especially on this holy morning?

I had been wonderfully uplifted by the sunrise, in a way that the songs and stories didn’t touch. As I sat facing the minister, my eyes kept wandering toward the ocean. My gaze fixed itself on the horizon, the meeting of sky and sea. My mind settled into a deep and expansive peacefulness, then I would think, “Pay attention to the service.”

When I looked at the horizon, my mind widened like my gaze. When I looked at the minister, my mind narrowed to a pinpoint focus on a man who died 2,000 years ago. The minister was telling me that Jesus could give me God. Yet the sunrise, the sand and sea were already filling me. And especially the meeting place between sky and sea – it was like the juncture between form and formless.

This is yoga’s focus, the dynamic stillness where form and formless meet and merge. As a tantric, I live on this tantalizing edge. The formless is being form, Shiva being the universe while being more. The whole of formlessness is present in every form, being you and being me, being all and beyond all.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/scenic-view-of-ocean-during-dawn-774285/
Ocean at Dawn

Yes, the sunrise is a special time, the juncture between night and day. Yogis love to start before the dawn, preparing for the inner arising that comes with every sunrise. In this liminal zone, it’s easy to know that every form is holy, even your own body and mind. Every moment is a doorway into eternity, even the breath you’re taking now. Every being is Divine, whether you know it or not. The goal is to know.

I’m not confused anymore. That’s because a Divine human showed me the way inside. I needed a living teacher, one who could awaken me to my Divine Essence. Thank you, Baba.

You gave me the sun, the sand and sea, and especially the horizon line on the outside and inside. You gave me Jesus and all the other Divine beings who have ministered to humankind through the millennia. You broadened my heart along with my gaze. You gave me my own Self, which is the all in all, while being beyond the all.

That’s the whole point – to have easy access to the Divine experience that everyone seeks on such a holy day. It is an inner experience, the only kind that counts.

Krishna Avatar Part 47

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

After visiting many sacred places of pilgrimage and listening to wonderful stories, the Pandavas reached Badrikashrama, located on the way to the holy mountain Kailash. This is the place where the great rishis Nara and Narayana performed their austerities. 

The Pandavas decided to stay there at Badrikashrama for some time, as it was near the time for Arjuna’s return from mountain Kailash. The forest in the area was lovely, full of flowers with many different colors. As Draupadi was enjoying it all, she found a beautiful fragranced flower which had been blown by the wind from the north. 

Bhima & Draupadi (1)

Caught up by its beauty and smell, she asked Bhima to find the place where the flower came from so he could bring her more flowers of that kind. She wanted to offer them to Yudhishthira. To fulfill her desire, Bhima went into the forest full of enthusiasm. He walked like an elephant who was rampaging the forest. The birds started to flee in fear.

Bhima came across a big old monkey sleeping in the middle of a banana plantation, with his tail stretched across the forest path. To wake the giant monkey, Bhima shouted like thunder and stamped his foot on the ground. The monkey opened its eyes and said to Bhima, “You look like a decent man, but you are behaving like someone who is less than a layman. Why are you disturbing the creatures of this forest? This is not the righteous way.” 

Angry, Bhima exclaimed that he was in a hurry, telling the monkey to move away and give space for Bhima to move forward. The monkey replied saying that he was too tired and half asleep, so he simply couldn’t move. But he gave permission for Bhima to jump over his tail. 

Bhima & old monkey (2)

Bhima replied that, if it was a young monkey, he would have jumped over it just like Hanuman jumped over the sea. But, as it was an elderly monkey, it would be disrespectful to do that to an elderly being. So the monkey gave permission for Bhima to move his tail to make way. Since he was an old monkey, Bhima decided not to give too much importance to it and disrespectfully used his left hand to lift his tail. To Bhima’s surprise, he couldn’t move the tail even an inch. He then used his right hand with no success. Puzzled, he then tried with both of his hands to move it, but failed big time. Bhima was in disbelief at this defeat, being unable to move an old monkey’s tail.

Therefore, Bhima realized that this was not an ordinary monkey. So he surrendered to the monkey and accepted his defeat. He introduced himself as one of the Pandava brothers and bowed, asking humbly, who was the monkey? The monkey said that he was the son of the wind God Vayu and of Anjanaa Devi. 

Hanuman (3)

He added, “Just earlier, you were talking about Hanuman, right? I am he. I am the servant of Ram and you are my brother.” Hanuman showed his true form to Bhima and embraced him. Bhima experienced that the hug by Hanuman gave him the strength that was no match for anyone. 

Hanuman blessed Bhima with a boon saying that every time Bhima would roar in the battlefield, Hanuman’s voice will be heard in that too. That would give strength to the Pandava army while giving fear to the Kaurava army. Also, Hanuman promised to be in the flag of Arjuna’s chariot. He also blessed Bhima with a lot of strength and love. 

Hanuman also warned Bhima that the place that he was wandering, in search for the flower, was not a safe place for him to be. The reason why Hanuman came to Bhima was to warn him about it. Hanuman showed the way to the flowers that Draupadi wanted, which were from Lord Kubera’s garden. Bhima thanked Hanuman dearly, and happily went to collect all the flowers that Draupadi wanted. After facing some challenges at the garden with the guards of Lord Kubera, Bhima was able to collect the flowers. 

Arjuna (4)

The Pandavas stayed in the Badrikashrama area as planned, awaiting Arjuna’s arrival. At last that great day arrived. There was a chariot shining with light, beaming from heaven. It landed near their Ashram. Arjuna jumped out of the chariot and bowed at the feet of his elder brothers with great respect, then embraced the younger ones with affection. 

Arjuna, brothers & Draupadi (5)

Draupadi and the brothers were delighted to see Arjuna. He was wearing the crown given by his father Lord Indra, and he was adorned with jewelry along with all the weapons that had been gifted to him. He started telling them all the stories about the blessings from Lord Shiva and his stay at Amaravati, the abode of his father. 

Yudhishthira was very much interested in knowing all about the weapons that Arjuna received and how they could use them. When Arjuna started sharing the knowledge about them, Maharishi Narada appeared. He warned Arjuna that these weapons were not to be trifled with. They can be used only when dire need arises. They must be used with extra caution. He also reminded all of the reason why Arjuna was chosen to go to heavens to learn them. Narada told Arjuna to keep the knowledge within himself, without unnecessarily sharing it with anyone. This knowledge could be dangerous if anyone who is not suitable for the task hears about it and if ever would try to use them. 

They had been staying in Badrikashrama for a long time. It was already ten years. So they decided to finish their last two years of exile back in the Kamyaka forest. One day while looking for food, Bhima came across a huge serpent. Before he could do anything, the serpent coiled itself around him tightly with an intension of eating him. Bhima could feel himself losing all his strength. 

Bhima, serpent (Nahusha) & Yudhishthira (6)

He decided to be brave at heart.  Without fear, he introduced himself, saying that he was Yudhishthira’s brother and asked why the serpent was holding him. The python replied saying, “My name is Nahusha. I am one of your ancestors. As I once insulted Agastya Muni, I was cursed by the great sage to become a serpent. I caught you with the intension of eating you. Now that you have mentioned Yudhishthira’s name, I cannot do that. I was given the boon by Agastya Muni that only Yudhishthira can break my curse by answering my questions. I have been waiting for him for so long.”

Meanwhile, Yudhishthira had been looking for Bhima and came upon the scene, shocked to find Bhima coiled round by a huge serpent. Yudhishthira stayed calm and inquired what was going on. Nahusha revealed himself to Yudhishthira, telling him about his curse. Yudhishthira paid his respect to his ancestor Nahusha and agreed to answer his questions. Some of the questions and answers are as follows…

Nahusha: “Who is a brahmin? What is his ideal?” 

Yudhishthira: “A Brahmin is one who possesses the qualities of truthfulness, virtue, compassion, penance and mercy. He is the conqueror of the senses. He doesn’t deviate from truthfulness. His dharma is to seek great knowledge and to impart that knowledge to others and that is the ideal of a Brahmin.” 

Nahusha: “Knowing what would make a human be omniscient?”

Yudhisthira (7)

Yudhishthira: “Brahman is the source of the mystical universe. One who knows that Brahman thus becomes omniscient.”

Nahusha: “What is worth knowing?”

Yudhishthira: “Immeasurable God, who cannot be reached by any amount of land, time or material, but when reached, there is no rebirth, that God alone is worthy of knowing.”

Nahusha: “Who is a wise Brahma J~nani? What is the use of Brahma wisdom?”

Yudhishthira: “Attaining the Brahma wisdom is the ultimate goal of life, the pinnacle. A Brahma J~nani comes to know the truth, merging with the Oneness, by knowing he is not the body but the soul. He becomes beyond birth and death. He is not be affected by the pleasures and pains of this world. He is the wise Brahma J~nani. All people who come in contact with that Brahma J~nani progresses in moral and spiritual development.”

Yudhishthira answered all Nahusha’s questions and freed Nahusha from his curse. Nahusha started his journey to heaven and Bhima got all his strength back. The two brothers happily went back to the Ashram.

More to come…

Bliss Is Everywhere

By Swami Samvidaananda

I went to India and met other swamis — Australian swamis!  It felt like a sweet reunion with family members I’ve never met.  There was an ease, a ready friendliness, and an enjoyment of each other’s company.  We were all there for a retreat hosted by the Aussies at our lineage home of Ganeshpuri MH, India.  

The Aussies were sweet and welcoming in general, but underlying that was something more. The swamis’ deep practice and commitment to yoga really showed.  How? It was their bliss.  My experience with them is described in a yogic text:

Lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham. — Shiva Sutras 1.18

This yogi experiences the sweet bliss of the Self in every location and situation, and shares it with others.
[rendered by Gurudevi Nirmalananda]

This yogi is a knower of the Self.  They know their Divinity. Such a yogi experiences the sweet bliss of the Self everywhere — in every location and every situation.  

There are other names for “a Knower of the Self”: Self-Realized, Enlightened, Illumined, God-intoxicated.  When you are Enlightened, you take your illumined Self-Knowing everywhere you go.  No place or circumstance can diminish your bliss, nor can it enhance it.

Meditation doesn’t make you more blissful.  Being out in the world doesn’t make you less so.  Your experience of the bliss of the Self is steady.  

And you share it with others.  God-intoxicated beings love to share! They don’t even need to try. They vibrate with bliss everywhere they are, whomever they are with, whatever they are doing.  They radiate bliss the way the sun radiates light and heat. 

The swamis I met in India have dedicated themselves to becoming a yogi like this.  Actually, they have dedicated themselves to a yogi who is already like this.  They are on the traditional Guru-disciple path. Just like me!  Their Guru, Swami Shankarananda (called Guruji), and my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda (called Gurudevi), are Self-Realized beings. More than that, they are both Shaktipat Gurus.  A Shaktipat Guru has the capacity to awaken you to the inner knowing of your Self, an initiation called Shaktipat.

Shaktipat Gurus are extremely rare. And I was in India with two of them. Actually, three.  No, four! Another Shaktipat Guru was there at his Ashram, just outside of town.  His name is Swami Nityananda (of Magod).  And Swami Brahmananda was there as well, another Shaktipat Guru. 

One afternoon, I had the unique and delightful opportunity to spend time with them as well as several other swamis. They had all lived at the Ashram in Ganeshpuri together many years ago, studying with their Guru, Swami Muktananda. You could call them Guru-brothers and Guru-sisters.

Avengers shawarma scene (1)

For me, being in the presence of these Great Beings was like being among superheroes.  My heroes.  But for them, it seemed more like the after-credits scene I loved from one of the Avengers movies.  All the superheroes had banded together and saved the world.  End of movie — roll the credits.  Then, there’s a brief scene of all of them together around a table in a tiny restaurant, eating in companionable silence.

What happens when Shaktipat Gurus get together? They chat.  They catch up.  They drink some chai. They enjoy each other’s company.  They are present, engaged and happy.  And then, they say goodbye, and go on to their next task, equally present, engaged and happy. They certainly appreciated the opportunity to spend some time with each other.  But they are Knowers of the Self: Lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham.  And so their bliss was not increased by being together, nor was it diminished when they said goodbye.

This constancy and steadiness doesn’t mean that an Enlightened being’s life is boring, every day the same. It’s not that they’re “beyond it,” meaning they don’t care.  The opposite is true.  Enlightened beings are some of the most active, engaged, loving, generous, caring people you’ll meet.  This is their state, and it can be yours.

I don’t mean you have to become a Shaktipat Guru.  Nor do you have to become a swami, wear orange or move to an Ashram.  I mean you can live your life, do what you do, with the people you love, and you can be more YOU.  

You can be you at your best all the time: happy, content, loving, generous.  You can be your glorious Divine Self in every location and every situation.

How? First, get Shaktipat. This sacred and ancient initiation jumpstarts your knowing of your Self like nothing else can.  Then, you have your part to do: meditate.  Svaroopa® Vidya meditation gives you the experiential knowing of your Divinity.  

Meditation by meditation, your inner realization that you are the Self deepens and develops.  Until one day, you’ll never not know that you are the Self.  And you will recognize that everyone and everything is another form of the same Self.  Everything is Divine, and YOU are that Divinity.  

Then you will be the yogi who experiences the sweet bliss of the Self in every location and situation, and shares it with others. This is your future, if you want it to be.

  1. Avengers shawarma scene – https://ew.com/article/2012/11/29/avengers-shawarma-scene/