Mystical Yoga, Mystical Spine

By Swami Satrupananda

Svaroopa® yoga is a mystical yoga.  What is mystical?  Mysticism is the science of attaining union with the Divine.  Yes, that’s what I want!  And that is what Svaroopa® yoga is about – experiencing and being your own Divinity.  Though the dictionary describes mysticism as “union” with the Divine, yoga mystics do not call it union.  Union implies there are two that become one. Instead, yoga says that you “realize” your own Divinity. You don’t become Divine; you realize you already are Divine.  You just don’t know it – yet.

All Svaroopa® yoga practices are for the purpose of revealing your own Divinity to you.  It’s right there in the name.  Sva means true or divine.  Roopa means form. Svaroopa means your true form, your Divine form.  Your true form is the one Divine Reality that is being you, the One that has become everyone and everything.

To become the universe and everything in it, the One first became energy, simply by moving.  The One in movement is energy, which yoga calls “shakti.” Shakti then contracts into matter to become you, your body and this physical world.  The scientists agree. Einstein described this relationship between energy and mass in his famous equation E=mc2.  Shakti contracts to be your mind, your senses and much more as well. Yoga’s ancient mystics mapped 36 levels of contraction that the One takes on in order to become everyone and everything in the universe.

These energies move in particular patterns.  They interact with each other in certain ways as they contract into matter.  In the human body, we see the physical manifestation of these energy currents represented in your body’s nervous system.  Your spinal cord is at your body’s core with your brain as the mushroom cap on top.  Everything branches out from this core.

A similar system exists in the subtler energetic realm.  The sages mapped the energy channels, naming the different channels and energies that flow through them.  The medical system of acupuncture got their map from yoga’s sages, with it being based on the same energy channels.

Your spinal cord is the center of your nervous system.  And at the same location in your body’s core, on a more subtle level, runs a central energy channel called “sushumna.”  Your spinal cord and sushumna are your main conduits of energy.  Your spinal cord is the main conduit that collects and disseminates signals within your nervous system.  The sushumna is the main conduit of energy of your mind and your spiritual meditative energy.

Kshemaraja, a yogic sage from 10th Century Kashmir, emphasized the importance of the central channel:

madhya vikaasaach chidaananda laabhah. — Pratyabhijnhrdayam, Sutra 17

You attain the bliss of Consciousness through the opening of the central channel. —Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

Kshemaraja is saying you attain the bliss of the One Divine Reality through the opening of the central channel, your spine.  Thus Svaroopa® yoga poses focus on decompressing your spine.  When you release the tensions in your spinal muscles, you make room physically and energetically.  When not pinched or kinked, your spinal cord and nervous system can function better.  This improved functioning has a ripple effect throughout the rest of your body.  This core opening simultaneously impacts the flow of energy that sources your mind and emotions.  Your energetic core is honored as the heart of your being.  As you open your spine, you open your mind, heart and emotions, plus your own Divinity is revealed, as it is found particularly within your spine.

Recently I caught my mind in the process of repeating the same thought patterns again and again.  As observed this pattern, I asked myself, “Where is this coming from?”  My spine! I could feel that the energy sourcing my mind was running through my spine but running into a kink in the path.  This kink spun my mind into a repetitive thought pattern.  That’s really nothing new.  The difference was that I noticed it.

Then I applied my mind to mantra repetition.  A few hours later, I realized that my mind had not brought up that mental pattern again.  By repeating mantra, I had unkinked the energy channel enough for the energy of my mind to flow through unobstructed.  I had a tangible experience of the effects of opening the central channel.  With a calm mind, I was sitting deeper within my own Divinity.

We’re back to mysticism – realizing and being your own Divinity.  The opening of your mystical spine gives you mystical experiences of the bliss of your own Divinity.  Do more mystical yoga.

Cultivate Your Yearning

By Swami Prajñananda

You have always wanted more. More than your parents could give you. More than your school could give you. More than any partner could give you. And more than life could give you.  This desire for more is cultivated in our society: more cars, more money, more gadgets, MORE things. We have a thirst. Society tries to quench it with a mirage of water in the desert. But our thirst will never be quenched by anything on the outside. Of course, you can try. I certainly did.

Even from a young age, I felt like there was something missing. I felt an emptiness inside. I did everything I could to distract myself from it. While I really did try, none of what I did was enough. That is, until I found yoga and meditation. This is the story for most yogis in the West; we tend to have tried the whole gamut before discovering the “More” in yoga.

This desire for more comes from an inner feeling that you are not enough. It makes sense that you try to fill it. Why would you want to continue feeling that painful emptiness? You have a yearning to feel good enough, to feel complete, to know your purpose. While most people feeling this yearning turn outside for the answer, yoga tells you to turn within.

While society cultivates your desire, yoga cultivates your yearning. This yearning is to be cultivated and nurtured. It keeps you going to discover the inner realms of your being. It’s the fuel that propels you to becoming established in the knowing of your Self. You need to look inward for this to happen.

When you look outward, you feel incomplete because you are identifying with things that ARE incomplete. You are identifying with your body, and is anyone’s body perfect? You are identifying with your mind. Please show me someone with a perfect mind! In this way, you are setting yourself up to feel small and imperfect.

Instead of identifying with parts of the whole, yoga gives you practices for going deeper — deeper than your body and deeper than your mind. Svaroopa® yoga and meditation give you the experience of the whole of your Self. And every time you experience your own Divine Essence, you satisfy that deep yearning. At the same time, you add fuel to your inner fire to repeat that experience.

Yoga has a name for this yearning: Bhairava. This name describes God when God is pushing you to discover God. Bhairava IS the yearning. Bhairava is the fuel for your quest. Bhairava is the one that pushes you to keep looking for the “More.” And Bhairava is the one that sets you free. As a yogi, you have a true friend in Bhairava, because he will not let you settle for any less than God.

This process can be painful. While Bhairava is trying to free you from your limitations, you hold on to them. It’s like tug of war, with Bhairava pulling on one end and you on the other. And while you can say no to God, God will not say no to you. Bhairava will continue to try to free you from your sense of being incomplete.

The Shiva Sutras explains:

Udyamo bhairava.h  — Shiva Sutras 1.5

The arising of transcendental consciousness from within shatters your unknowingness and sets you free. — Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

Bhairava is the force arising within you in the form of yearning and in the form of freedom. The yearning is what compels you to take a yoga or meditation class. You may have started a yoga class for physical, mental or emotional healing, which you get, especially with continued practice. However, it’s the yearning that keeps you coming back. Before you can put words to it, you know that you are receiving getting that “More” you have always been looking for.

What you want is the arising of transcendental Consciousness within.  This arising shatters your unknowingness, because once you know, you can never not know. What is your unknowingness? It is the not-knowing of your inherent Divinity.  It is your identification with anything other than your Self. It is the feeling of being empty, alone and not good enough. Bhairava shatters your unknowingness and opens you up to the freedom of your own being. This is the reason that you have always been dissatisfied with anything less than total inner freedom.

You experience this inner arising at times other than yoga or meditation, like when you watch a sunset or experience an “aha” moment. This inner arising is the specialty of this tradition, always available to you. The Svaroopa® Sciences, originated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda, bring the age-old tradition into our modern age. Reliable and consistent, these practices always open you up to the inner arising. You experience the freedom of your own Self and the blissful knowing of your own being.

This happens because of the generations of Masters in this tradition. Their teachings and blessings give us direct access to the inner arising. While Bhairava is the force that frees you, the Shaktipat Guru gives you reliable, consistent access to that force. Then it is up to you to continue to cultivate your yearning. This way, you don’t settle for merely feeling better, you continue to cultivate your yearning for the “More.” You do the practices that give you that inner freedom until you can live in that state. As Gurudevi says, “Do more yoga.”

Follow Every Rainbow

By Swami Samvidaananda

Climb every mountain, ford every stream. Follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream

– Rodgers & Hammerstein, 1959

As a five-year old, I was so inspired by the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound of Music.  Every time I heard it, for years and years, I knew was going to do it: search high and low to find my dream!  It was out there, I was sure, somewhere.  I was confident college would help me find it.  When that didn’t work, I thought for sure I’d find it by moving to California.  I lived in a paradise of palm trees, ocean waves and tropical flowers.  I literally climbed mountains and forded streams.  I was happy, but only sometimes.  I was blissful, occasionally.  But it simply wasn’t enough.  I felt empty most of the time.  Worse, I didn’t know why.

Then I found the answer in yoga.  I had been trying to find meaning and happiness by looking outside.  The yogic sages explain the path is one of inner exploration and discovery.  The outer things — whether career or where you live or a relationship — are unreliable sources.  A fellow yogi shared that raising her son gave her the most joy she’d ever had.  And then, she said, “He grew up.”  Children grow up, relationships end, careers change.

When you turn your attention inside with yoga, especially with meditation, you discover a reliable and inexhaustible fountain of joy.  You don’t merely experience the joy, you discover you are the source of the joy, the source of happiness, the Divine Source of everything that exists:

chidaananda-roopah shivo’ham shivo’ham. – Adi Shankaracharya, 788-820 CE

My true form is the bliss of consciousness; I am Shiva. I am Shiva. – Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

You are Shiva, the One Divine Reality, the Source of all while being beyond all.  In the same way physicists describe this universe as made of energy, yogis describe this universe as made of Divine Energy.  That Divinity is Shiva, which is being all, thus being you.  You don’t have to earn. attain or grow into your Shiva-ness.  Divinity is intrinsic to who you are, like sunlight is bright and sand is gritty.  You can’t take the light or heat out of the sunlight, and you can’t take the grittiness out of the sand.  You can’t take the Divinity out of you.

So how come you don’t know you are Shiva?  Your inner knowing is hidden from you.  Shiva hid it.  Technically, Shiva hid Shiva’s own Shiva-ness from Shiva in order to experience being not-Shiva, thus being you.  Shiva becomes the individual, who feels small, separate and alone.  Yet your Divinity is not completely obscured.  It’s like it’s hidden behind a curtain that’s not completely opaque; you can see through it sometimes.  You have moments when you know there’s more, moments you know you are more.  Those moments are so blissful that you want to experience them more of the time.  How about all the time?

Yoga promises that you will know the “More” that you already are, and you will live in that Self-knowingness all the time.  While Shiva created your not-knowing, Shiva also created a way for you to know again.  Knowing who you are is the purpose of human life.  What is concealed can be revealed.

Many paths aim to these heights. Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation is one of them: revealing your Divinity to you is the specialty of this tradition.  The process is through an inner awakening, an initiation called Shaktipat.  When your inherent Divinity is revealed to you inside, then, when you open your eyes, you can see that same Divinity in everyone and everything that exists.  Everything is Divine, because Divinity is what everything is made of.

Once you know your own Divinity, where will you go?  Anywhere you choose.  What will you do?  Anything you choose.  This is not about you leaving the world.  There’s no need to end up facing a wall in a cave in the high Himalayas.  You can do what you do, with the people you do it with, where you are now.  This path does not negate the choices you’ve made.  It embraces them.  The difference is that you will bring the whole of yourself to everything you do.  You’ll act from fullness, not emptiness and need.  You’ll shine the Light of Consciousness into your relationships, your home, your job and other activities.  You get to sculpt your life in whatever way you choose.  So climb mountains, if you want to.  Ford streams.  Follow rainbows.  Find your dream.  And, to know your own Divinity, get Shaktipat.  It opens the door to your own Self.

Krishna Avatar Part 9

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Nanda and Vasudeva decided that Krishna and Balarama should be sent to school, to the gurukul.  Garg Muni, their family Guru, recommended the great teacher Sandipani Muni’s ashram in what is now Madhya Pradesh.  Sandipani Muni accepted the request from Nanda and Vasudeva, taking Krishna and Balarama under his wing, to study the scriptures, different arts, and warrior training and even the customs for a royal prince, as they had been born into a royal family.

Krishna got friendly with a lot of the other students in the ashram, especially with Sudama, who became his best friend.  Krishna and Balarama studied well under Sandipani Muni along with other students.

Krishna and Balarama learnt everything within a span of 64 days, including fourteen types of sciences (vidya) and sixty-four skills and arts (kalas).  Once they received the teachings, according to the custom, they asked their Guru what to offer as Guru Dakshina.  Sandipani Muni said he would consult his wife and let them know.  Knowing how powerful the boys were, his wife had a special request for them, which Sandipani Muni conveyed to them.  The ask was for them to bring back their only son alive, who had drowned some time ago while having a bath in Prabhasa Tirtha.  Yes, to have his son restored to life is what he wanted for Guru Dakshina.

Krishna called upon Varuna, the god of seas, inquiring about Sandipani Muni’s son.  Varuna didn’t know much about the boy but remembered hearing that an asura named Pa~nchajanya, in the form of a conch, had killed the boy.  Immediately Krishna and Balarama went to the ocean and found the asura.  They killed him by opening his stomach.  But, to their surprise, they couldn’t find the boy.  Krishna kept Pa~nchajanya ever since that day as his conch.

Not finding Sandipani Muni’s son, they decide to visit Yama Loka, where the god of death resides.  There Krishna took his conch and made the biggest sound ever.  Hearing this, Yama appeared before them.  Knowing what Krishna and Balarama were looking for, and knowing who they really were, Yama gave the boy back to them.  Krishna and Balarama took the boy back to Sandipani Muni, successfully finishing their studies by giving the dakshina their Guru requested.  Sandipani Muni and his wife blessed both Krishna and Balarama with their highest blessings.  As Sandipani Muni was so happy, he also blessed Krishna that all his teachings to the world will be equivalent to the Vedas themselves.

Krishna and Balarama happily returned to their families and friends in the city of Mathura.  They were received with utmost welcome.  The people acted as they were found the treasure for which they have been looking for decades.

Krishna decided to send a message to Vrindaavan, to his foster parents and his dear Gopiis, including his dearest Radha.  He chose Uddhava, his cousin, friend and a wise counselor.  Uddhava was a direct disciple of Brihaspathi (Guru of the Devas) and also the son of Devabhaga, who was the brother of Vasudeva, Krishna’s father.  Uddhava was also a great devotee of Krishna.  His physical appearance was so like Krishna’s that, in some instances, he was temporarily mistaken for him.

Krishna met Uddhava in a private place and requested him to visit Vrindaavan with a message on his behalf to the Gopiis and other residents of the village, who were missing his company.  Krishna requested Uddhava to tell them that they should know there is no separation between him and them.  As all the rivers come to the ocean, they will attain him with their continuous love, devotion and austerities.  Since he was physically apart from them, they should think of him day and night, as a good wife would think about her beloved husband all the time.  So for them, to forget about everything and only to meditate on him.

Uddhava reached there at dusk when the cows were returning home.  The dust from their hooves made Uddhava’s chariot disappear in its cloudiness.  Uddhava reached Nanda’s home where Nanda treated Uddhava as he would treat Krishna, delighting that Uddhava’s physical appearance was so like Krishna’s.  Nanda asked Uddhava question after question.  He asked whether Krishna was remembering them?  He also asked whether Krishna remembered his friends and the Gopiis, Vrindaavan and Govardhana Hill?  He anxiously asked whether Krishna had any plans in the near future to come and visit them all.  He said that the minute he thought about Krishna, he forgot himself and got consumed by Krishna’s memories.  Hearing all this from Nanda, Yashoda’s heart was yearning for Krishna.  She started to sob and burst into a cry.

Uddhava was a scholar and an intellectual.  He replied, “Dear ones you attained the highest honor by raising Krishna as your own.  You gave all that you had to him, in the form of love, affection and devotion.  Krishna is none other than Lord Vishnu himself.  He will certainly come and visit you.  After all you are his beloved parents.”  He also reminded them that Krishna was not born only for them, he was born for the universe itself.  They talked all night, until the time when the sun is going to start slowly rising.

The Gopiis, always awake before the sunrise, saw the chariot in front of Nanda’s house.  They feared that Akrura had returned and wondered what he would to take away from them now.  As he was returning from the river, Uddhava met the Gopiis.  They recognized him as Krishna’s messenger, so they started singing about Krishna’s lilas.  One of them started a song teasing Uddhava, showing their anger about Krishna’s departure.  Uddhava gave the teaching that they could find Krishna inside by turning their mind within.  The Gopiis criticized, “When Akrura came to Vrindaavan, he took our Krishna with him.  Now you are trying to take away his memories from us?” At this, Uddhava was speechless.  Then he slowly and lovingly delivered Krishna’s message to think only of him.

Uddhava was so filled by the devotion that Radha and the Gopiis had towards Lord Krishna that he stayed in Vrindaavan for the next six months.  He also asked the Gopiis to be his Guru to teach love and devotion.  Some say that Uddhava longed to be in Vrindaavan, even as a shrub or a vine.  Thus, he would be rooted in the earth where the Gopiis lived, they who gave up everything for Krishna and Krishna alone, where their blessed feet stepped every day.  They say that, even now if you are in Vrindaavan, pray for the blessing of Uddhava.  He will be sure to bless you.

Uddhava returned to the city of Mathura with love and gifts from all.  Then he accompanied Krishna who wanted to fulfill Sairandhri’s boon, a royal maidservant.  Then, along with Balarama, they visited Akrura at his home as they promised him earlier.  Akrura was delighted see them all, gave them the ultimate welcome and worshipped them with great devotion.

Krishna requested Akrura to visit Hastinapura to inquire about his cousins, the five Pandavas.  Their mother Kunti had lost her husband recently, was always worried about the welfare of her sons, especially being afraid that their cousins, the Kauravas, would kill them.  She had been praying to Krishna to help her sons.  So, Krishna sent Akrura as a messenger, asking him to judge the situation in Hastinapura.

Visiting Hastinapur, Akrura realized that King Dhritarashtra was partial towards his own sons, the Kauravas, and wanted them to take over the throne.  However, rightfully the throne belonged to the Pandavas, who were the sons of Pandu, Dhritarashtra’s brother.  Akrura also realized that Dhritarashtra always supported his sons, even in their attempts to kill the Pandavas.  Akrura indirectly advised Dhritarashtra to give up his evil plans, and to give the Pandavas the throne because it was rightfully theirs.  But Dhritarashtra refused to change himself.  In fact, he explained all the righteous advice that he gets doesn’t stay in his heart, as they were like lightning strikes for him.  Akrura returned to Krishna and Balarama and told them about the situation in Hastinapur.  This is the beginning of the great Mahabharata story.  We will come back to this soon, with the full details, including the relationships and descriptions of the family and other members.

After the death of Kamsa, his two wives, Asti and Prapti, had to return to their father as they didn’t have any children to take care of them.  Their father was Jarasandha, the king of Magadha.  Jarasandha’s father was King Brihadratha, who was married to the twin daughters of King of Kashi, but they didn’t have any children for a long time.  Though he loved both his wives and his kingdom, having no one to take his kingdom forward put him in a depressed state.

Sage Chandakaushika visited Brihadratha’s kingdom. The King served him with respect.  This pleased Sage Chandakaushika very much, so he granted King Brihadratha a boon.  King Brihadratha requested a son.  The sage gave him a mango and ordered him to give it to one of his wives.  After the sage left, as King Brihadratha was fond of both of his wives, he cut the mango in equal two halves and gave one piece to each of his beloved wives.  Both of them got pregnant and the king was very happy.

Nine months later, both his wives gave birth to a child, or rather half a child each.  Seeing this, the midwives decided the two halves should be disposed of; they dumped the two lifeless pieces of flesh outside of the kingdom.  There lived a demoness named Jara, who sensed the human flesh and hurried to the spot.  Hoping to carry the flesh pieces home for dinner, she placed them side by side in her basket.  By the time she reached home, miraculously the two haves had joined to make a complete human child.  Coming to know that the human baby was really the son of the King of Magadha, she decided to take the child to the palace, wanting a great reward.  The heartbroken king, who thought he had lost the child, was ecstatic to find his child alive.  He rewarded Jara generously, naming the child Jarasandha in honor of Jara’s service to him.

Jarasandha grew up to become a very powerful king and expanded the Magadha kingdom.  Many other kings made an allegiance with him, making him a mighty king of that area.  He married both his daughters to Kamsa of Mathura, to make his kingdom more powerful with Kamsa’s allegiance.  When his daughters returned to him due to the death of Kamsa, Jarasandha was very angry.  Jarasandha decided he was going to kill Krishna and annihilate the entire Yadava kula.

More to come…

Amazing Grace: A Mystical Force

By Swami Shrutananda

“Amazing Grace” is a song I heard growing up, for my parents were active in our local church.  Eventually, my father became a minister. “Amazing Grace” was one of my favorite hymns.  Even to this day, it’s a hymn I remember, and I find myself humming it.

One of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world, it’s estimated to be performed about 10 million times a year, which averages to 27,397 times a day!  This hymn touches many hearts. Why?

For me, it is the meaning of the words and the experience they evoke.  This hymn evokes an incredible longing — a longing to be delivered from the human condition through God’s Grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home.

— John Newton, published 1779

This poem touches your heart whether you’re looking outside for God or you’re looking inside to find God as your own Self, your own inherent Divinity.  In yoga, when you look outside, the One Reality is called Brahman.  When you look inside, the One Reality is called Atman, the Self. That Ultimate Reality is the only One, whether you are looking outside or inside.

Yoga specializes in looking inward to see, to know and to experience the One Reality that has become you — and is being you.  The yogic process is one of coming home to the knowing of your own Self. That knowing has a feeling — a feeling of being home in your Self.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.

Yoga describes the human condition as the painful delusion of wretchedness.  Before yoga, you may feel abandoned, not good enough, miserable, dejected, even desolate. This feeling is what motivates many people to begin yoga.  You yearn to be happier, to feel better about yourself, to find meaning in life.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “It’s the yearning to know God.  You will know God when you know your own Self.”

I once was lost, but now am found…

I truly felt lost.  Fresh out of college, in my first job, I thought I finally had it made. Life was going to be good from now on. I had more freedom. I could do what I wanted.  Within a few months, I realized my life was very repetitive.  Five days a week, I got up, had breakfast, went to work, came home, had dinner and went to bed. On weekends, I worked hard at having fun.  After a few months, I called one of my wiser older brothers.  I asked, “Is this it?”  He said, “Yes.”

I was extremely disappointed.  Life was not what I had been promised.  Unfortunately, since my brother was not Self-Realized, he couldn’t really help me. Was I going to be stuck in this meaningless existence for the rest of my life? I was lost with no way out.  Yoga calls this “the human condition.”

To fill the gap, you look for meaning in what you do and in your relationships. Yet you never feel fully satisfied nor complete.  You are always looking for more, even when you don’t know what the more is that you are looking for. What are you searching for?  The song promises, “…but now I’m found.”  You want to find your Self. This is yoga’s specialty; it is yoga’s goal.  To see and to know and to experience your own Divinity — within.  To discover, technically it is to re-discover, your Divine Essence which is hidden within, the One Reality which you have always been.

T’was blind but now I see.

Looking back to life before yoga, I realize that I was going through life wearing blinders. Yoga makes your blinders fall away.  You perceive more of what is really here — inside and outside.  Yoga empowers your perception, so you see yourself more clearly, even more deeply.  You see through the surface levels of your being, body and mind, all the way to the Divinity that is your own existence.

And Grace, my fears relieved…

Unfortunately, most thoughts are fear driven.  Anxiety is acknowledged as a growing epidemic.  In 2018, almost 40% of Americans were more anxious than they were a year earlier [poll by the American Psychiatric Association (APA)].  Fortunately, through the Grace-filled practices of Svaroopa® yoga, you experience freedom from fear.  You lengthen your tailbone, decompress your spine, breathe, repeat mantra, chant and meditate.  You are growing into your Self, an inner experience that is beautifully described as “freedom from fear.”

And Grace will lead us home.

You may not yet be attuned to the Grace that can lead you home.  How do you access more Grace?  The mystical secret is that the Guru is the embodiment of Grace.  Nirmalananda says, “You need the Guru, one who takes you from darkness (gu) to light (ru). You’ve probably already had a few rugus in your life, those who have taken you from light to darkness. It’s time to go the other way.”

It’s the Divine power of Grace that is named by the word ”Guru,” not the person or personality.  The title Guru honors one who has given her or his life over to the Divine force of Grace. Thus, the Guru becomes a reliable source for others. Just as you can count on getting wet when you step into a shower, you can count on being saturated with Grace in the Guru’s presence.

A Shaktipat Guru like Swami Nirmalananda invokes the mystical force of Grace to arise within you.  She awakens your own inner power of upliftment, Kundalini, to arise within you and reveal your own Self to you.  Svaroopa® yoga is the Yoga of Grace, specializing in Shaktipat, this profound and life-changing inner awakening. With Svaroopa® yoga, you get outer support from a real live person, someone who has been through the whole process and knows what you need.  The process begins with Shaktipat, bringing you home to your own Self. Supporting you outside and inside, Amazing Grace leads you HOME.

A Meditation Epidemic

By Swami Satrupananda

We are amid a meditation epidemic. The “germs of meditation” are spreading far and wide. The other day, I talked to a gentleman in the bank parking lot. He said he knew that meditation would help him sleep better. On an airplane recently, I overheard people in nearby seats conversing about their yoga. Yoga and meditation are becoming household words.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) confirmed this with a report released in November 20181. Their research showed the number of people who meditate in the USA tripled between 2012 and 2017. Additionally, in 2017 the number of people who meditated was almost the same as the number of people doing yoga. The NCHS statisticians concluded saying, “Yoga and meditation has become more mainstream.”

These statistics are not surprising to us yoga and meditation practitioners. We’ve all experienced the truly amazing benefits of these practices.  Remember how you feel rolling over after the closing Shavasana and Guided Relaxation in a Svaroopa® yoga class. Your body and mind have been transformed. You’re calm and energized at the same time.

Or remember that moment when you open your eyes after a meditation. Your mind is calm and clear. Your stress, anxiety and fears have melted away. With these experiences, you easily understand how yoga and meditation are spreading. That they are becoming mainstream is no surprise.

A Google search shows many of the scientifically proven benefits for your body, mind and emotions. The benefits list is long and impressive. Yet they are just the by-products of the true purpose of yoga and meditation. These ancient mystical practices are for the purpose of knowing and experiencing your svaroopa, your true form, your Divine Essence. This is who you truly are. It’s called your Self, with a capital-s, because it’s worthy of respect, honor and even worship. You are worthy of respect, honor and worship.

The Shiva Sutras describes the goal of meditation:

Lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham, verse 1.18

This yogi experiences the sweet bliss of the Self in every location and situation, and shares it with others.

—Translated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Thus, when you know your Self, you’ll be in bliss. If you’re not experiencing bliss, you’re not being and knowing your own Self. This sutra tells us that the goal of meditation is not merely to experience the bliss of your Self in meditation. Ultimately, the goal is having this experience in “every location and situation.” Your bliss is transportable. The promise is that your inner bliss continues whether you’re at work, with friends and family or by yourself. The bliss of your Self is always there, so you can experience it everywhere and in every situation.

This ecstatic promise is likely not the reason you started to meditate. Most beginning meditators don’t even know about the “More” that meditation offers. Often, their motivation to start was to reduce illness, stress, anxiety or emotional pain. Yet people have been faced with these challenges for centuries and longer, with many possible treatments. So why is meditation growing in popularity now?

We get a hint from this Shiva Sutra verse. The last part of the translation says that the yogi “shares it [the bliss of the Self] with others.” We Westerners have had the great good fortune of meditation masters from India sharing meditation with us for a long time. They have shared the wisdom of the ancient yogic philosophy with the West. More importantly, they shared their presence.

It began with Swami Vivekananda speaking at the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893. Starting in 1958, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi did world tours and trained over 40,000 teachers, who taught over 5 million people2. Then Swami Muktananda did three world tours between 1970 and 1981. During his extensive periods in the United States, Muktananda offered Maha Shaktipat Diksha. This initiation awakens your own inner power of revelation, called Kundalini.  Once awakened, Kundalini fuels your meditation practices and reveals your own Divine Essence to you. Thousands and thousands of people received this initiation from Baba Muktananda.

In this way, Baba spread the “germs” of meditation very tangibly. These “germs” spread effortlessly to those who simply sat in his presence. He was established in the bliss of his own Self. Since this state is your true nature, simply by being in his presence, you attune to your own inherent bliss. You can’t avoid it. It’s your inherent natural state. It’s like when someone in the room starts to giggle. You can try to resist the laughter, but resistance is futile. It doesn’t take long until the whole room is in tears of laughter.

Muktananda came and spread the germs of meditation. Gurudevi Nirmalananda spent almost seven years sitting in his presence, catching the germs of meditation.  She took those germs, followed his command, and realized their full potential. She knows and lives in the bliss of her own Self in every location and in every situation. And she shares it with others. Come sit with one who truly knows their own Self. Get infected with the germs of meditation! It will be the best “bug” you ever caught. Spend more time with bliss-full beings.

 

1 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db325.htm

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maharishi_Mahesh_Yogi

Krishna Avatar — Part 8

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Kamsa relentlessly worked on sending more demons to kill Krishna.  He sent Arishtasura the bull demon, Kesii the horse demon and Vyomasura the demon who took the form of a mountain.  They ended up with the same fate as the other demons, all of them killed by Krishna.  Seeing that all the demons were dead, even the very powerful and cunning ones, Kamsa panicked.  Kamsa was desperately trying to think of who to send next.

On the other hand, Sage Narada was impatient, wanting things to move faster so to have Kamsa’s tyranny come to an end.  Sage Narada approached Kamsa, seemingly in a helpful manner, praising Kamsa’s strength and power.  But Sage Narada injected more fear into Kamsa, warning not to let Krishna grow and get more powerful.  He reminded Kamsa who Krishna and Balarama really are.

Even more agitated by Sage Narada’s advice, Kamsa prepared to kill Vasudeva and Devaki.  Sage Narada advised against Kamsa’s decision. Kamsa listened to Sage Narada, then deciding to imprison Vasudeva and Devaki again.  Sage Narada loved Kamsa’s decision, as it would motivate Krishna even more, to get his birth parents released.  Then, Sage Narada also adviced Kamsa that he should directly confront Krishna sooner rather than later, and disprove the prophecy.

After a long discussion, Sage Narada proposed an idea to Kamsa.  He asked Kamsa to hold a wrestling tournament, inviting all the best wrestlers and demons to participate.  He suggested inviting Balarama and Krishna to the tournament.  Sage Narada also praised Kamsa’s abilities, telling him that he could easily kill Krishna in a wrestling match, should Krishna escape all the other wrestlers and demons taking part in the tournament.  Liking the idea, and not knowing Sage Narada’s ulterior motive, Kamsa called for a wrestling tournament.

Kamsa summoned Akrura, a friend of his from the Yadava Kula, commanding him to extend the tournament invitation to Balarama and Krishna.   Devastated by the news, believing that this was a trap to kill Krishna, Akrura had to obey. Yet he was also happy that his longing to see Krishna and Balarama was becoming a reality.

Sage Narada’s aim of hastening the meeting of Krishna and Kamsa was accomplished.  The Sage left Mathura saying his usual words praising Lord Vishnu, “Narayana, Narayana,” knowing that the meeting will be Kamsa’s end.

Kamsa sent his best chariot to Akrura for fetching Balarama and Krishna.  Akrura traveled to Vrindavan with Kamsa’s invitation.  Being such an admirer of Krishna, when Akrura reached Vrindavan, he warned them about what he believed Kamsa was planning.  Krishna and Balarama looked at each other and smiled, as they accepted the invitation, even though everyone in Vrindavan was against it.

Knowing this will be his last day in Vrindavan, Krishna played his flute and danced, eating whatever anyone offered him.  There was heartache; as a human, Krishna knew this was the last day he would see Radha, his lifelong love.  Yet Radha, the other Gopiis and all the others in Vrindavan were singing and dancing, not knowing that it was their last day with Krishna.  At the end of the day, after dinner, he gave his flute to Radha as a token of love, asking her to keep it until they meet again, though he knew it was never going to happen.  That was the last day he played his flute until the end of his lifetime.  He knew that the playful mischief part of his life was over.

The next day, Krishna and Balarama got ready for their trip to Mathura, amid strong opposition from their parents and all of Vrindavan.  Yashoda was so worried that she didn’t know what she was doing, pacing up and down in the garden with no way to stop her son from going to Mathura.  Krishna calmed Yashoda, telling her it was the duty of a man to accept any challenge he received, and to face it with valor and dignity.  Balarama and Krishna mounted the chariot to leave for Mathura but getting out of Vrindavan took until noon, making it through the crowds to the outskirts of the village.

On their way, they stopped at the bank of River Yamuna.  At this stop, Akrura saw who Balarama and Krishna really were.  He saw the vision of Lord Vishnu on Adhishesha in place of Krishna and Balarama at the riverbank.  Akrura was in bliss and cherished that moment for the rest of his life.

Akrura got them close to Mathura, wanting them to stay one night at his own home, on the outskirts of the city.  Krishna said he would definitely come and stay, but only after he ended the cruelty happening to his clan by Kamsa’s hands. Though Akrura was not happy, he accepted Krishna’s decision and dropped the brothers at the entrance of the city, then taking the chariot to Kamsa to inform him of their arrival.  Krishna and Balarama were delighted to see that Nanda and his clan from Vrindavan had arrived before them, having taken a shortcut.

Mathura was a very beautiful city with impressive gates including entrance pillars made out of marble.  The brothers walked around looking at the marvels of the city, clean broad roads, mansions, gardens, ponds and fountains.  While they were walking around, the news of their arrival spread like wildfire.  People gathered in huge numbers to see them.  Krishna performed a number of miracles while roaming in Mathura.  All the resulting pandemonium disturbed Kamsa.  He already knew that Krishna and Balarama had arrived, so he knew what the pandemonium on the roads was all about.  Kamsa felt he was on the brink of going mad; he knew no rest or peace that night.

The brothers rested in a camp outside the wrestling tournament arena that night.   They woke from their sound sleep, had their baths and prepared themselves to go to the wrestling arena.  Hurrying along, they wanted to be there for the first event of the day.  They could hear the drums and the trumpets in the arena.  However, when they reached the gate to the arena, a huge elephant was blocking it.

Kamsa had planned that the huge elephant, Kuvalayapida, would kill Krishna.  The caretaker of the elephant did something to it, making it angry, so it went on an outraged attack.  Trumpeting loudly, Kuvalayapida charged towards Krishna and Balarama.  It tried to catch Krishna with its tusk.  Krishna ducked and went behind the elephant, catching its small tail.  He lifted the elephant and spun it round and round until the elephant was very dizzy, then he smashed the elephant on the ground.  Kuvalayapida fell with a thud and died.  Krishna and Balarama pulled out one tusk each, hanging it on their back shoulders.

They entered the tournament arena.  The arena was lavishly decorated with flags, flowers and garlands.  There were special stands, platforms and seats built for the kings, ministers, priests and other important people, including the wrestlers of Mathura.  The best wrestlers from the surrounding area entered the arena, ready for the challenge.

Kamsa entered the arena with his ministers and guards and sat in the special area arranged for him.  The drums were rolling and the music was playing.  According to Kamsa’s prior orders, Mathura’s chief wrestler, Canura, challenged Krishna for a match while the assistant chief wrestler, Mustik, challenged Balarama for a match.  They set the condition that the matches end only with death, thinking it was  going to be easy to finish off the cowherd boys.  Krishna and Balarama accepted the condition.

There was a lot of audience commotion in reaction to the conditions.  The audience thought the combatants were not equally matched, and some left the arena thinking it was unfair.  Others stayed to encourage the brothers, while those on Kamsa’s side wanted the match to take place.  There was support for both sides.

The two wrestling matches started, the mighty Canura and Mustik locked in with Krishna and Balarama respectively.  Though Canura and Mustik were hitting Krishna and Balarama hard, the brothers stood there as though raindrops were falling on a mountain.  After a number of strikes from the mighty Canura and Mustik, the crowd went silent, seeing the might of the boys.  Kamsa was frowning in fear.

Krishna and Balarama danced around Canura and Mustik, then with one blow each, brought them down.  The brothers picked up their challengers, whirled them around and slammed them to the ground.  Both Canura and Mustik lay dead in the dust.  One by one, other great wrestlers from all places followed Canura and Mustik into the wrestling ring.  They endured the same fate in the hands of Krishna and Balarama.  The bodies of Kamsa’s wrestlers were piling up by the side of the ring, while Krishna and Balarama danced in the middle of the ring.

Filled with anger and fear, Kamsa jumped out of his chair.  He commanded his royal guards to drive the boys out of Mathura, to put Nanda in chains and to kill Vasudeva, Devaki and his own father Ugrasena, who were in the dungeon.  Before Kamsa could finish his command, Krishna jumped on to Kamsa’s royal platform.  Catching Kamsa him by his hair at the nape of his neck, Krushna pushed Kamsa down to the wrestling floor.  Kamsa’s crown and Kamsa tumbled down the stairs to the platform, falling on to the wresting ring.

Krishna leapt from the platform down to the wrestling ring and straddled Kamsa’s belly.  Terrified, his past actions flashing before him, knowing the prophecy was coming true, Kamsa couldn’t say a word.  Krishna’s bare handed blows killed him.  A great roar and cheer went up from the crowd.   All the people who had earlier left the arena returned, surprised on hearing the news.  Kamsa’s eight brothers sought revenge for their brother’s death, ending up with the same fate.

Though Kamsa had been thinking negatively of Krishna, he was thinking of Krishna twenty-four hours of the day, three-hundred-sixty-five days of the past many years, since the day Krishna was born.  Due to this, Kamsa was cleansed of all his karma and became one with Krishna at his death.

After Kamsa’s death, Krishna and Balarama rushed to the dungeon and freed Vasudeva and Devaki from their chains.  They fell at their feet and bowed with utmost respect and received their blessings. Vasudeva and Devaki’s happiness at seeing their sons after all these years is beyond the power of any words to describe.

The boys then released Ugrasena, the rightful king, who had been in prison all these years.  They crowned him as the king again.  All the people of Mathura were in joy as their benevolent king was reinstated in full power once again.

Living Life in Your Fullness

By Swami Prajñananda

I took a bite of a crisp, juicy, red apple.  An apple had never tasted so sweet, so satisfying.  I wondered how this apple could taste so different, like I had never truly tasted one before.  The answer was, I had it after my yoga practice.  The apple wasn’t different. I was.

Have you noticed this?  Food tastes different after you take a yoga class or do your own home practice.  If you haven’t, you can do a little experiment: cut an apple in half, or any food for that matter.  Eat half before your yoga and then have the other half after.  Then see, is there a difference?

There will be!  Yoga makes everything better.  It isn’t just food that improves when you do your yoga.  Everything in your life improves.  You know this by the difference in your first Shavasana compared to the Shavasana at the end of your yoga class.  In only an hour and a half, you are changed.  Your body feels better, your mind is quieter, inner joy is welling up inside.  And the change in you doesn’t end when you leave your blankets.  This inner shift stays with you.

All of yoga’s practices are for the purpose of giving you the “More” inside.  It may be a softening or a settling, a feeling of peace, even feeling you are more comfortable in your own skin.  When this inner shift happens, you experience life in a whole new way.

It’s like the Wizard of Oz.  Until she went to Oz, Dorothy’s life was black and white.  Once she arrived in Oz, everything was in technicolor.  You are like Dorothy, except you don’t need to go anywhere to live life in technicolor.  In fact, what you really need is to be more here, to be more present.  When you inhabit your body and look inside to experience the deeper dimension of your being, life is fuller and more satisfying.  A sutra explains this principle:

J~naanam annam. — Shiva Sutras 2.9

Pure knowledge is the only real nourishment,

that which gives full satisfaction.

(translated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda)

There is a difference between knowledge and pure knowledge.  Knowledge can be anything you know.  It can be your knowledge in camping, university, cooking and the list goes on.  There are so many forms of knowledge!  But when it comes to pure knowledge, there is only one type: the knowing of your own Divine Essence.  This knowing is a deep knowing.  While other forms of knowledge are useful and important, pure knowledge nourishes you in a way that no other type of knowledge can touch.

We human beings are constantly looking for that satisfaction.  Yet we look for it on the outside.  Our culture, steeped in consumerism, feeds on the idea that you can buy happiness.  I like the example of Cheetos.  They are so addictive, because they were engineered to be that way.  The way it works is that Cheetos melt in your mouth.  Called “vanishing caloric density,”[1] this tricks your brain into thinking you are not consuming anything.  So you can eat and eat and eat and eat, and you will not feel full.

There is nothing nourishing, nothing fulfilling when you eat them yet you keep eating.  Why?  Yes, they are tasty, but it is more than that.  There is a motivation to keep consuming.  Because you are not yet satisfied, you keep eating them.  You do not feel full.  No matter how many you eat, however, it won’t touch that emptiness you are trying to fill.

Yoga says you are not empty inside; far from it.  Even more than food, the knowledge of who you are fills you.  It fulfills your craving for that “something more.”  Technically, the knowledge isn’t what fills you; it is your own Self that fills you.  Whether you know it or not, your Self is always present.  You were and are always full.  Without the knowing, however, you feel lost, alone and empty.

The purpose of all yoga’s practices is to cultivate your ability to know.  Once you know your own Divine Essence, you can never go back to not knowing.  You may forget from time to time.  That is why you have your yoga, to get you back to your inner knowing.  This inner knowing is the only real nourishment.

The next time you feel that inner craving for something more, pause.  Notice that you are not feeling satisfied.  Instead of heading to your usual “go to” — whether that be chips, TV, Internet surfing, etc. — pick one of yoga’s tools.  For a few minutes you can repeat mantra or meditate.  You can do some Ujjayi breaths or a pose or two.  Or choose another yoga tool that works for you.

After those few minutes, check in with yourself.  Do you feel more satisfied?  More nourished from the inside?  Every time you take a dip in the pure knowledge of your own inner fullness, you experience the nourishment and satisfaction that only your Self can provide.  And, yes, you can still have chips.  But can you be based in your Self while you have them?  Ultimately, the purpose of your yoga is to live your life, to be in the world, and at the same time to be sourced from your inner Source.  This is yoga’s promise.  As Gurudevi says, “Do more yoga.”

[1] Moss, Michael. “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2013.

 

Know Thy Self

By Swami Samvidaananda

From my airplane window, I watched the brilliant orange sun setting over a cloud bank.  Luminous rays transformed the clouds into a glowing field of orange, then red, then pink and gold.  I was transfixed.  I was flooded with joy.  I felt a peaceful, soaring freedom.

Everyone has these euphoric moments, though what triggers them will be unique to each.  For you, perhaps it’s a snowstorm, a song, or the vista from a mountain peak.  For a moment, time stops.  You are propelled into an ecstatic, elevated state.  Whatever the external trigger, your euphoria is happening inside.

Where did the joy I was experiencing come from?  While the rays of the sun were beautiful, they weren’t bathing me with joy-rays.  The joy, peace and freedom flashed up from within.  This inner arising is your own “capital-s Self.”  Your own Self is the One Reality that is being everything that exists, including the sun, the snow, the song, and you.  You are that One Divine Reality, Consciousness-itself, that yogis call by the holy name, “Shiva.”

The rest of the time, you simply don’t know that that’s who you really are.  You experience yourself as small, separate and alone.  You are bound by not-knowing.  Yet the system is rigged so that you can know.  My teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, says:

“The arising of transcendental consciousness from within shatters your unknowingness and sets you free.  This is the specialty of this tradition.”

With each arising flash of your own Self, you discover that you are more than you thought you were.  Once you experience being awash with the nectar of your inner Divinity, you can’t completely not-know ever again.  Your unknowingness is shattered.  You are free of your limitations and fears… for a moment.  Or an hour.  Or until the sun sets, the snow melts, the song ends, or you come down off the mountain.  And then you want to go back there.  But “there” is “here,” within you.

It’s wonderful that outer things can trigger an experience of your Self, but they are not always reliable.  The sun isn’t shining every day; the weather doesn’t cooperate.  So, what if you could trigger it for yourself?  You can.  once you’ve received Shaktipat initiation, meditation makes it easily accessible, anytime, anywhere.

This tradition’s specialty is initiation that flashes your Self to arise within you, so you can know your Self.  This inner awakening means you can bring your Self up within again, at any time, through meditation.  So you meditate again and again, until the day that you live as that illumination all the time, outside and inside.  To “know thyself,” as Socrates said, is the ultimate goal of the human being — to know your own Self, to be the beingness that you already are, no matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter who you are with.  That’s Gurudevi’s promise.

You want to know your own Self.  You have been searching.  You are ready to know, because you are reading a blog about yoga’s mysticism.  That decision came from an impulse arising from your innermost depths.  That impulse is the uplifting energy of your own Self, arising within you, striving to set you free.  To know your own Self, you must meditate.

The Heart of Seva

By Swami Sahajananda

Seva (selfless service) is doing your work, and everything else, as an act of worship.  Without expecting results, you make this offering to God and/or Guru.  You see and honor the Divine in each person whatever the task may be.  Swami Muktananda said that no work can be an obstacle on the spiritual path. He promised that anyone worshipping God while fulfilling his or her vocation is fulfilling the purpose of their birth.  It’s a beautiful practice, no matter what you do in the world, dedicating it to God makes it a spiritual pursuit.

Last month, I was immersed in the seva of supporting many people in our India Retreat.  This experience gave me a richer understanding of this deeply powerful practice.  All our retreatants lovingly attended to their various sevas. Throughout, they were present and grounded in their assigned tasks.  To a sevite who cleared and cleaned the tent 3 or 4 times daily, I expressed my appreciation for her attentiveness and positive attitude.  I marveled that she stacked up the very heavy blankets each time.  Without hesitation she said, “It’s my seva!”  That said it all.

Also many people served and supported me while I was in India. I became aware of feeling their actions emanating from their heart.  Each action was a dedication to God.  The power of their attitude of service amazed me.  I felt they saw each person they were serving as God. God was serving God —never a sigh of exhaustion, exasperation or complaint. Always, a friendly smile readily emanated from their heart through their eyes.  Yes, many receive pay for their work; still, I experienced their service coming from their deeper essence.  A human heart-to-heart layer is always there.  Their gaze lingers eye to eye, with their hands in front of their heart, as they say, “Namaste.”

I can trace this feeling back to before my sannyas (swami) initiation.  Even before I considered becoming a swami, I decided to offer my teaching work as seva.  It felt right, even amidst some objections from my mind.  That decision shifted me.  It has changed how I live my life.  It has allowed me to attend to teaching in a whole new way.  My attitude now is that I am serving God.  I remind myself that the Divine is within each student whom I teach or talk with.  This knowing expands as I interact with them and see and feel the Divine within everyone.

Looking at life this way shifts everything.  Doing all for God, I am going to do the best I can.  For what else is there?  It’s not about competition or making more money.  It’s not about status or fame.  It’s about giving what I can from a place inside of me that is free of the constrictions that make me small.  I serve from my heart, which is my Self.  Seva thus opens the contracted space my mind has created, dissolving the walls and divisions.  When relating to the people in my life this way, my being expands.  I am just serving God.

To serve God from my own Divine Essence frees me from the tethers of my mind. There are so many ways to experience and offer seva.  In giving of herself or himself, free from expectations, the sevite receives so much.  The gift of offering seva is that is takes you into the essence of your own being, your own Self.