It’s not just spring, there’s something more going on. New possibilities, a bounce in your step, fresh energy, even optimism – after years of laying low, it’s time to emanate again. For us in the northern hemisphere, it coincides nicely with spring.
Planetary cycles have held us up for several years, with the pandemic and fear of death hovering over every encounter. Only a few weeks ago, it felt scary to go out without a mask, but now I don’t think about it.
Unmilana is the Sanskrit word for blossoming forth. It is also translated as the opening of your eyes or the uncovering of the sun at the end of an eclipse. It feels that way. You can poke your head out. The sun is shining!
When bears emerge from their winter hibernation, they spend a couple of weeks in “walking hibernation.” They get out less; they do less. You may be in that phase yourself. After all, home has been a safe haven for quite a while. But your comfort zone can become a trap.
Unmilana also means coming forth, along with becoming visible. While online connections have made visual connections possible during our period of seclusion, there’s nothing like getting together in person. There’s even biochemistry to it.
When women get together, their bodies produce more serotonin and oxytocin, which are called “happiness hormones.” With male bonding, testosterone and cortisol are more involved. Bottom line, it’s physical as well as mental and emotional.
In yoga, we focus on a deeper reality, the spiritual dimension of your own being. This is a time of great opportunity. You could blossom forth from your deeper dimensions or you could get lost in worldly drama. It’s all described in this sutra:
By free will alone, Consciousness blossoms forth the universe on the screen of her own existence.
You’re doing the same thing as you emerge from your pandemic seclusion, with one minor exception. The sutra says the unmilana or blossoming forth of Consciousness is what created this universe, while you are blossoming forth into the universe that already exists. Since you are part of the universe, you get to choose what part you will play in it.
Will you be a consumer or a producer? If you were holed up during the pandemic, your focus was on consumption, specifically how you could get everything you needed to make it through an unknown time period. Now that you are emerging into the world, you have an opportunity to focus on what you can give.
To draw from your depths and to share with others, this is unmilana – also translated as twinkling. Like a star at night, you can bring the light of your own being into the world, which makes a difference for everyone.
How do you find the light of your own being? Look in the direction where it resides. That’s inside. Meditate.
Yes, the only Kaurava brother who protested was Vikarna. He couldn’t bear Draupadi’s suffering. He addressed the assembly saying, “Honored royal members, why are you being so silent? I am compelled to speak because you all are being silent. Even though I am young and very much a novice compared to your experiences and wisdom, I am unable to bear what’s been happening here. Yudhishthira was deceitfully pulled into this gambling game and tricked into staking Draupadi. She doesn’t belong only to him and, after losing himself, Yudhishthira doesn’t have any right to stake her. As Uncle Shakuni was the first to mention her name, influencing Yudhishthira to stake Draupadi was in the first place against the rules of the game, as it’s not allowed for the opponents to suggest what to stake. So, considering all these mishaps I believe Draupadi was not won righteously by the Kauravas.”
Hearing the young Vikarna speak, there was a lot of commotion in the crowd. All started praising Vikarna. Some said that righteousness has been spoken. But then Karna stood up and spoke to Vikarna, pointing out his inexperience in royal matters, and how Vikarna was being a traitor to his own family. Karna, along with Duryodhana, mocked Draupadi, calling her a common woman.
Due to his animosity towards the Pandavas and Draupadi, Karna found this to be a golden opportunity to disgrace them all. He could never forget the insult at of Draupadi’s swayamvara, where he was called the son of a charioteer. Draupadi herself refused to marry Karna even if he had been successful in performing the qualifying act.
Because of all this, he suggested to strip all the five brothers of their royal garments in front of audience. The Pandavas were forced to strip their clothing, thus disgraced in front of the court. Determined to adhere to dharma at all times, the Pandavas subjected themselves to this insult. Wanting to dishonor Draupadi at all costs, Karna suggested including her as well, to be stripped in the court in front of all. Hearing this with cheerfulness Duryodhana ordered Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi.
All the elders, including Grandsire Bhishma, Chief Minister Vidura and Guru Drona, protested and wanted Duryodhana to stop this evil act. Dhritarashtra was an exception, but he kept silent. As Duryodhana didn’t seem to care about the elder’s words, they turned to Dhritarashtra to command his son to abide by morality, since they knew Duryodhana would listen only to his father. Dhritarashtra continued his silence, as he saw his son happy. Plus they were winning back the kingdom, so he ignored the gravity of the act being performed by his son.
As his father was silent, Duryodhana was even more encouraged. He again gave the sign to Dushasana to fulfil his command. Dushasana got up at once and went to Draupadi. He held the open end of her saree (robe) and began to pull on it hard, intending to disrobe her in the presence of all witnessing this horrifying scene. With tears filling her eyes Draupadi looked at everyone for help while clutching her saree in desperation, but none dared come to her rescue. She pleaded again and again, continuing to do her best to hold on to the saree.
In the end, knowing what she was doing was not going to help her, she decided to invoke Divine intervention. In despair, she let go of her robe, put her hands up in the air in supplication. With deep devotion, she surrendered her body, mind and soul fully to Krishna to save her honor.
Krishna had been watching what was happening in the court of Hastinapura through his inner vision, but as no one requested his help, he didn’t intervene. So Krishna, who was waiting for her appeal, at once responded. Through his Divine powers, he made a miracle take place.
How strange, as soon as the first saree ended, Dushasana found another joined to it, and another, and then another. The sarees never stopped appearing. Dushasana continued to pull on her saree, but it unwound in a never-ending stream. Finally, Dushasana fell on the floor exhausted, with no more strength to pull the saree.
The entire floor was covered with mounds of cloth, but Draupadi was still clothed as before, chanting to the Lord in ecstasy. She proved that no one is ever as helpless as they think they are, if they have devotion to the Lord.
Nature itself showed its fury in a terrible storm with thunder and lightning, with which the howling of wolves, brays of donkeys and screech of vultures were heard. Along with these terrible omens, a voice from the heavens thundered a threat to destroy Dushasana with lightning. Terrified, Dushasana fled the hall.
Everyone present stood with amazement, failing to understand who saved Draupadi’s chastity so surreptitiously. But wicked Duryodhana was beyond any possibility of change. He patted his thigh and commanded Draupadi to come and sit on it. He was taking revenge on her by insulting her in every way possible, yet unable to understand the grave injustice he was performing.
Hearing this, Bhima couldn’t stay silent anymore. With fury, he thundered loudly and said, “Duryodhana, I take a vow at this moment to break the thigh that you invited Draupadi to sit on. I shall break it with my mace in a battle. As for your brother, the cruel Dushasana, I shall tear open his chest and drink the blood that comes out. And I shall wash Draupadi’s hair with the same blood.”
Draupadi, with anger, swore her hair would remain loose to remind everyone of her shame. She would tie it up only after Bhima had avenged the disgrace she had been subjected to. The other Pandava brothers motivated by Bhima made vows of revenge known to everyone.
Bhima’s vow brought terror to all who were hearing it. Especially to Dhritarashtra who was horrified. The miracle of the saree, the voice from the heavens threatening Dushasana, and now this dreadful vow of Bhima frightened him to death. Realizing that his sons were going to be punished in an unimaginable way, the weak Dhritarashtra decided the only way out of this misery would be to release the Pandavas out of Duryodhana’s slavery and to return to Yudhishthira all that he lost in the game.
He called Draupadi to his side and begged her to forgive his sons for what they had done. He gave Draupadi two boons for her to choose. She told Dhritarashtra that the first boon would be that her husbands needed to be freed and with the second she needed to be freed. But she continued and said that the vow not to tie up her hair would not be withdrawn.
Dhritarashtra then called upon Yudhishthira, returning all that Yudhishthira lost in the game of dice. However, Yudhishthira and his brothers didn’t feel right about the way they got their lost belongings back. They left the hall.
Duryodhana, Shakuni, Karna and the Kaurava brothers, except Vikarna, were very angry with Dhritarashtra’s decision. As Duryodhana was afraid of the Pandava’s revenge, he got upset with his father for letting this opportunity slip from their hands. He insisted that they should recall Yudhishthira for another game.
As everyone knew, Dhritarashtra believed that the crown was passed on to his brother Pandu unfairly. After Pandu’s death, he was made the guardian of the kingdom, although he was blind. Thus he felt the crown belonged to him and should be passed to his own son, Duryodhana. So, as usual, his son persuaded him once again, this time to request Yudhishthira to play another game of dice.
This time it was decided that the loser would go into exile for 12 years, then live in disguise untraced for one year. If they were discovered in the 13th year, then the 12-year exile would begin again. Yudhishthira was addicted to gambling and he had decided not to oppose his relatives, so once again he foolishly fell for the trap all over again. Everyone tried their level best to discourage Yudhishthira, so he would not repeat the same mistake. But Yudhishthira hastily agreed, insisting he would not go against the principles of dharma and disobey his elders.
Yudhishthira did not know that Shakuni used charmed dice. The Pandava king was defeated yet again. There were no words to describe Duryodhana’s joy. He was sure he will be able find the Pandavas in the 13th year, to send them into exile for the next 12 years, and on and on.
After Yudhishthira lost the game, the Pandavas, disgraced and resentful, prepared for their period of exile. Yudhishthira assured them that they will be back after the incognito year to reclaim all they lost in the gambling. Bhima cried out loud, promising to kill Duryodhana once they returned. Arjuna also took a vow to avenge Draupadi’s insult by punishing those who stood in silence without helping her and Nakula and Sahadeva joined in with their vows as well.
Their mother Kunti was too weak to face the hardships of exile, even for a day. But she refused to stay in the palace where Duryodhana lived. So Vidura kindly took her to his home. Draupadi’s five sons, by the five Pandava brothers, were sent to their grandparents at Panchala. Arjuna’s wife Subhadra and son Abhimanyu departed for Dwaraka to stay in the care of Krishna.
The Pandavas left the city followed by weeping citizens and well-wishers who didn’t want anything to do with Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra. Yudhishthira was able to pursue the people to return home once they reached the suburbs of the city.
We teach this saying to our children to help them be resilient to hurtful words.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words shall never hurt me.
The reality is that words hurt. They don’t only hurt children, they hurt everyone. Words are powerful. Unfortunately, they are sometimes used to be hurtful. As children we are taught to say nice words to others.
But what do you say to yourself? Too few of the thoughts you think are positive, encouraging and uplifting. Instead, you worry about the future, remember hurtful memories or complain about the present. Perhaps you compare yourself to others or wish for things you don’t have. Your mind harasses with you with all these thoughts.
This was my main takeaway from my first meditation retreat. I had graduated from the university. I was taking a semester off before starting graduate school. Travelling in Southeast Asia, I decided to take a 10-day meditation retreat. I was in a peaceful, tropical monastery, being fed delicious vegetarian meals and receiving ancient teachings. It seemed like it was great.
But during my meditations, I was in hell. My mind harassed me relentlessly. It reminded me of my most hurtful memories and biggest fears for the future. While I was horrified by what my mind was doing, I was grateful to be aware of it.
Even though your mind can harass you, your mind is not being bad. It is doing exactly what it is designed to do. Your mind is designed to distract you from the truth of your own existence. Your existence is the One Divine Existence that has always existed and will always exist. The One Divine Existence is the basis of existence for everyone and everything.
In some way, you can give your mind a bit of credit. It has the enormous job of blocking you from the Truth of your Existence. You are Existence Itself. How powerful is your mind and your thoughts that it can block you from Existence Itself?
Yet while your mind is doing a formidable job, you are not enjoying its harassment. As a human being, you have the incredible ability to actively choose what you think. You can even choose to know your own Self which is beyond your mind. You can experience and live in the knowingness and beingness of your own Divine Existence. Yoga is the methodology that gets you there.
To manage your harassing mind, yoga highly recommends mantra repetition:
Mananaat traayate iti mantra.h
Mantra is that which protects and uplifts one who contemplates it.
Yes, you need protection from your mind. Mantra is a Sanskrit phrase that names your own Divine Existence. Repeating your Divine Name, again and again, will protect you from the thoughts you normally think. It is a huge upgrade to what you normally repeat.
From repeating your Divine Name, you get more than protection. Researchers have shown that positive thinking can reduce your chance of a heart attack, lower your blood pressure and lengthen your life span. Positive thinking also gives you more creativity, greater problem-solving skills and clearer thinking.
Mantra repetition gives you all these benefits and more. You are not merely thinking positively. You are calling your own Divine Name. What happens when you call someone’s name? They respond. When you repeat your own Divine Name, your own Divine Existence shows up.
Sanskrit is a mystical language that specializes in names for your own Divine Existence. There are millions of Sanskrit mantras that you can repeat. The most powerful mantra is one from a Meditation Master who knows their own Divine Existence. They repeated the mantra to come to know their own Divine Existence.
When they share the mantra with you, they put their blessings into it. This is called a chaitanya mantra, an enlivened mantra. The mantra is enlivened with the Master’s own knowing of the One Divine Existence. Swami Nirmalananda is such a Meditation Master. She gives you an enlivened mantra.
The mantra only protects and uplifts you if you repeat it. So your job is to repeat mantra, all the time. With our mantra, you use it for meditation and also throughout your day. You can repeat the mantra when you get out of bed in the morning. Repeat the mantra while you brush your teeth and bathe. Repeat mantra while you eat and drink. Repeat mantra while you drive. Repeat mantra when chatting with your friend. Repeat mantra while you work.
You have proven that you can think while doing all of these things. Now your task is to repeat your own Divine Name, the mantra, instead. While this is a simple task, it is not necessarily easy. But it is worth the effort to remember to repeat your own Divine Name, the mantra the Guru gives you. The mantra protects you and uplifts you to the knowing of your own Divine Existence.
I wished I could stop time. In the dark of the night, I used to wake up terrified, remembering that one day I would die. I was only a child, but my looming death weighed heavily on me. I wished for time to stop, but I could feel it still ticking steadily onward. During the day, it was easy to forget about death. But, in those quiet moments in the dark, I couldn’t push the thoughts away.
Part of the reason it was so scary was that I wasn’t experiencing God. I had some basic training in religion growing up, but I wasn’t actually having the experience. So, death felt like the end — absolute oblivion.
This nihilistic belief system continued for me until I met Gurudevi Nirmalananda. Being in her presence and receiving her teachings, I experienced that there is more to me than I thought. Sitting for meditation and turning inward, I would feel a sense of eternity. This eternality would fill me from the inside. Meditation after meditation gave me this inner fullness without start or end.
Each day, I would look forward to my daily meditation. I was finding that “something” that I had been missing and looking for, for so long. My usual inner feeling of emptiness was replaced by expansive fullness. Over time, I realized the eternality I was finding inside was in fact God. God is eternal, Existence-Itself. God has no beginning or end. God is all-pervasive. This means God is being this entire world, including me.
I hadn’t been successful at reaching for God on the outside. However, thanks to Gurudevi, I was having major success at finding God on the inside. Gurudevi explains this more:
For a yogi, reaching to God is an inward reach, turning your attention, turning your mind and heart to the sacred space inside, finding the Divine dimension that is yoga’s focus and yoga’s specialty.
— Gurudevi Nirmalananda, “You’re in the Holidays,” December 4, 2022
Yes! Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation excels at this. While I am sharing my personal experience with you, it is not a rare or unique experience in this tradition. When you meditate with Gurudevi, you will discover the same, even in your first meditation. This is because everyone has the same sacred space inside. It is God’s space. It is your space. You simply need someone to guide you there.
Gurudevi is a Meditation Master who serves as your spiritual GPS. Your usual worldly GPS rivets your attention outside of yourself. Focused on your relationships and what you see and do, you lose track of your own Divine Essence. When you replace your worldly GPS with a spiritual one, your attention is directed inside. I call it a God Positioning System, for it places you right where God is. Right here. Right now. Right inside.
How? Through meditation.
Gurudevi’s own depth, coming from the lineage of Masters who precede her, gives you an inner boost. In meditation, you are glided inward, past the pitfalls and snags of your mind. You are guided all the way to the deepest dimension of your being. You experience God inside. When you open your eyes, you can see God outside too. And at the same time, you are the one being both. Inside and outside, all at the same time. To discover this for yourself, meditate with a Master.
Yes, Shakuni asked Yudhishthira what else he could stake! Shakuni further provoked Yudhishthira by saying that he has brothers who might bring some luck to him. Yudhishthira pointed at his brother Nakula and said he would stake him.
Shakuni threw the dice while shouting “Look! Your beloved brother Nakula will be ours now!” To everyone’s surprise, or maybe not, he won, just as he said. The audience were taken by this. Then Yudhishthira called out Sahadeva and said, “This brother of mine who is scholarly and virtuous. Even though I am not supposed to stake him, I will.” “Sure,” said Shakuni and threw the dice, winning Sahadeva too.
Now that Yudhishthira had lost two of his brothers, Shakuni was afraid that he would quit the game. So he said provokingly, “In your opinion, Bhima and Arjuna are of a higher standard than your stepmom Madri’s children, right? That’s why you wouldn’t stake them.”
Yudhishthira exclaimed, “You fool are you, trying to divide us brothers? As you always live in the wrongdoings you wouldn’t understand righteousness. Here I am, staking the brother who would always save us from all odds, the great victor Arjuna. Now play.”
Shakuni threw the dice again. Yudhishthira lost Arjuna too. Now, with tears in his eyes, Yudhishthira said, “The one whom can never be defeated in a physical combat, the mighty Bhima, I stake him too.” He lost Bhima too. In this way, Yudhishthira wagered all his brothers and lost them all.
Shakuni asked again if Yudhishthira had anything else to stake? Yudhishthira stubbornly said, “Yes. If you win, I will be yours too.” “Here I am winning you,” Shakuni shouted loudly in a thundering voice, and he did win indeed.
With this Shakuni announced to the audience that the five Pandavas are now slaves to Duryodhana, himself and the Kauravas. The audience were frozen to their seats.
After losing himself, defeated Yudhishthira said to Shakuni that he had nothing more to stake. But Shakuni’s game was not over yet. He pointed out to Yudhishthira that someone belonged to him that he could stake. In fact, that someone might bring blessings, so he could gain all that he had lost. That someone he suggested was none other than Empress Draupadi, the beloved wife of the Pandavas.
Hearing this. both Vidura and Bhishma raised their voices in disapproval. Bhima and Arjuna picked up their weapons to show their rage. Finally, persuaded by Duryodhana and Shakuni, Yudhishthira wagered Draupadi, then screamed loudly in sorrow. Despite the shame and disgust among the spectators and the strong objections by Vidura, Duryodhana had overruled everyone. Only the Kauravas, Shakuni and Karna were delighted about the situation.
Duryodhana persuasively said if the Empress Draupadi was to be staked, and if Yudhishthira would win this throw, Duryodhana would return all that Yudhishthira had lost so far. Yudhishthira fell for this. as he was deeply lost in his troubled mind and clouded senses. Hoping for a miracle to happen, he staked his beloved queen, something no man would ever do. The result was nothing other than expected. Shakuni won. The whole assembly was in upheaval. Duryodhana was overjoyed when Yudhishthira lost the throw, losing Draupadi.
Duryodhana’s plot had worked. He gained, not only the other half of the kingdom, but he also owned the Pandavas as well. He was laughing like a madman, arrogantly ordering Vidura to go to the chamber of Draupadi to bring her to him. He announced to the public that Draupadi would work as a maidservant in the palace from then onward. He hurried Vidura to fetch her soon so she could start her cleaning duties.
With anger bursting out of his face, Vidura yelled, “Duryodhana, you fool, inviting death home. You don’t know how much trouble you are inviting to yourself and to the kingdom. Talking like a lunatic!” Then he addressed the assembly, “Yudhishthira, after losing himself, had no right to stake his wife Draupadi. The end for the Kauravas is nearing, as they refused to listen to the wise and good. They are paving their way to hell.”
Duryodhana was furious about Vidura’s comments and insulted Vidura, accusing him of siding with the Pandavas. He added that Vidura’s alliance was always with Pandavas, that he is afraid of them and hates him and his family. Later, he yelled at his charioteer, asking him to bring Draupadi to the court. He said to the charioteer, “You don’t fear the Pandavas, do you? Now go fetch Draupadi and bring her.”
As ordered by his master, the charioteer went to Draupadi’s chamber. He told her the unfortunate news about how Yudhishthira had fallen into the trap of gambling and lost her to Duryodhana. He also told her why he was sent.
Being the Empress, due to the great Rajasuya Yaj~na, Draupadi was shocked to hear this news. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She refused to believe that anyone on earth would stake their wife at a gambling game. “Didn’t he have anything else to stake, other than me, his wife?”
To her question the charioteer quietly answered. “Yes, Empress! He didn’t have anything other than you to stake, as he had lost everything else already.” He told her about the appalling things that had happened at the court.
This news broke Draupadi’s heart into pieces, killing every inch of her. But after all, she is the Empress Draupadi, who was born out of a yaj~na fire. She was able to console herself. With a firm and fierce voice, she said, “Oh charioteer, go and ask the man who staked me in the assembly, in front of the audience, whether he lost himself first or me, his wife, first? After getting the answer to this question, you can come and get me.”
So, the charioteer went back to the court and asked Yudhishthira, in front of all, the question from Draupadi. Yudhishthira remained like a dead man, not uttering a word, with his head hanging low. Losing his patience, Duryodhana insisted that Draupadi herself should come to the court and ask this question of Yudhishthira so the charioteer was sent back again to bring Draupadi to court.
Draupadi once again sent him back to the court, demanding that he ask the same question, but now to the whole assembly. The charioteer didn’t have any other choice but to return to the court and announce the question from the Empress to the audience at large.
Angry, Duryodhana yelled at the charioteer, calling him a coward. Duryodhana ordered his brother Dushasana to bring Draupadi to the hall, dragging her in if necessary. Dushasana was delighted to carry out the order and rushed to Draupadi’s chamber. He told her not to make any trouble, as she was already won by them so it’s only fair for her obey them, to be at their mercy and to serve them. Saying this, he started to move towards her.
Screaming loudly, Draupadi started to run towards Queen Gandhari’s chamber. Chasing her from behind, and swiftly catching her, Dushasana dragged her by the hair into the assembly hall.
Empress Draupadi was brought to the hall in this disheveled state which made the assembly stop in horror. Containing her emotions, Draupadi stood bravely with her head held high addressed the assembly in a stern voice. “How could you all in this great assembly, let all the evil master minds of gambling get together and devise this terrible plot to make Emperor Yudhishthira stake me in a gambling game? How could you agree to this shameful deed? How can a man who lost everything he had, his kingdom, his belongings, his freedom, his brothers and himself, stake anything else, let alone his wife? Did he have any right at all to keep me as the stake in the game, as I belong to all five of the Pandava brothers?”
Draupadi continued in a voice filled with fury and distress, “You Kauravas, belonging to this ancient house of the great Kuru dynasty, those of you who have wives, daughters and daughters-in-law can answer my plea.” In this way Draupadi pleaded with the Kauravas, the elders and her husbands. But none answered nor helped her.
Witnessing the state of their wife Draupadi, the Pandavas hung their heads in shame. Bhima trembled with fury. His anger towards his brother Yudhishthira was very clear on his face as well as in his words. When Bhima started uttering angry words towards Yudhishthira, Arjuna consoled him and reminded him never to lose his state. Arjuna warned him that the unrighteousness deeds of the Kauravas were provoking the Pandavas to do the same. He cautioned not to fall into that trap, as that’s what the Kauravas were plotting to do anyway.
Hearing this Bhima kept his silence. The elders sat in misery at the shameful action of the Kauravas. The only Kaurava brother who protested was Vikarna.
My tears began to flow. I was on a long drive back to the Ashram. I found several religious stations that played upbeat and positive music. A Christmas song about Jesus was the one full of the most tenderness and devotion, “Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.
The song makes Jesus personal: “Mary, did you know… when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?” “Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?” Mary, did you know “that sleeping child you’re holding is the great, I Am?” Probably not.
For me, the song describes the potential of a human being by describing the Jesus’ greatness. Probably your mother did not know your greatness unless she herself was Self-Realized. Yet, more importantly and more personally, do you know your own greatness, your own Divinity, your own Self? Probably not. Some students describe their knowingness of their own Beingness when they were young. However, they shut it down as they grew.
Does your mother need to know the greatness of your being for you to know? Do others in your life? If so, you will be waiting for a long time. Yet this is what the Guru sees in you when they look at you or think about you. Even if you cannot, the Guru sees your own greatness, your own Divinity, your own Self.
When I hear devotional songs about other great beings, I think of my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda. I feel fortunate to have a living Guru. I can tangibly see her form. I can hear her teachings, made so relevant to me in this day and age. I can talk to her on the outside or inside. She is always accessible. The yoga we practice comes from Siddha Yoga. It is the yoga of being in relationship with a siddha, a Self-Realized being. Gurudevi is such a being.
This song “Mary Did You Know?” touches me so deeply. It touches my inner yearning to know my own greatness, my own Divinity, my own Self. It brings up tears because the knowing is so close, yet just beyond my reach.
Fortunately, I have a Guru, a living Guru, who reveals my own Divinity to me. It is the function of the Guru to help you to reveal your own greatness to yourself. This happens through the Guru’s presence, teachings and the practices they give you. This is the gift of a living Guru.
The Guru performs miracles. The Guru’s miracles don’t include walking on water, curing blindness or bringing the dead alive. The Guru’s miracle is much more personal to you. She burns away that which gets in the way of you knowing your own Self. You will feel fresh and new, and full of joy.
Gurudevi’s Guru said:
The power of the human being is so great that he can even transform himself into God. God lives hidden in the heart of every human being, and everyone has the power to realize that.
-Swami Muktananda, Where Are You Going? page 5
You are embodied Divinity. You already are God. That is amazing. But you simply don’t know, not yet. Through your yoga practices, you come to know that you are God. You are the Lord of all creation. You are the great I Am. The knowing is hidden within. The Guru reveals that which is hidden in your own being. It is the Guru’s function to reveal your own Self to you.
Traditionally, yoga does not honor a great Guru’s birthday. We honor the anniversary of their death. At the end of life, you see what that little baby did with their life. Those we honor knew their own greatness, their own Divinity, their own Self. And they helped others to find That within themselves.
Do you know? Do you want to know? Get a Guru. I have one and I’ll share.
Up close and personal — I’ve missed it during the pandemic. Online is so useful, but there’s nothing like being together in-person. I’m delighted to serve so many of you through Telecourses and zoom satsangs, but when we get a weekend together, so much more happens. So I’ve created a program with five weekends, interspersed through the year.
5 weekend retreats with Gurudevi
Beginning February 17
Our group size is limited so we can dive deep together. Every day, we’ll intersperse yoga practices with mental processes. The practices deepen your experience of the inner infinity of your own Self. The contemplations are to help you understand your inner experiences as well as to help you understand your life experiences.
After each weekend, you take your new sense of Self home with you. In the same place, with the same people and activities, you try out the new you. Then you come back and we work it through. What you learn about yourself makes you more powerful and more loving at the same time.
Your enrollment is for all five weekends. Carve the time out of your schedule and make these weekends a priority. Don’t miss any! Your presence is a support to others, even while you’re in the process yourself.
The birth of Jesus is celebrated today. It’s a holy day that honors a great being. Merry Christmas!
I grew up in an Italian Catholic family. I adored the baby Jesus nestled in the little wooden manger under our brightly lit Christmas tree. I was taught that Jesus was both human and divine, and I believed it. But I didn’t understand how it could be true. I wanted to know.
And then I found yoga. Yoga opened up my ability to experience Divinity ― my own and the Divinity of everything that exists. Yoga says you can experience your Divinity. This is because there is One Divine Reality, and that Reality is your own Self:
Caitanyam-aatman — Shiva Sutras 1.1
Consciousness-Itself is your own Self.
(Translated by Swami Nirmalananda)
Consciousness is the source and substance of everything that exists. The physicists and yogis agree that everything is made of energy. The yogis go a step further. They explain that everything is made of conscious energy: Divine, Sublime and Self-knowing. More than conscious, it is Consciousness-Itself.
The sun, the moon, the stars, your houseplants and your pets are all made of cosmic Consciousness. They are all inherently Divine. And so are you. Cosmic Consciousness is your own Self. Except, you don’t know your Divinity, not enough of the time. Instead, you experience yourself as limited. You feel small, separate, and painfully alone. But you have the capacity to experience your Self. This is yoga’s purpose: to reveal your Divinity to you.
How does yoga do that? Well, not with yoga poses, as beneficial as they are. Yoga says, spend time with a living yoga Master, a Siddha. That’s what I do. I meditate with Gurudevi Nirmalananda Saraswati. She knows her own Divinity. She sees everything that exists as that same radiant Divinity, all the time. In this tradition, she is described as Self-Realized.
Other traditions have their own names for those who live in a pure, steady, spiritual state. In the West, Christianity recognizes great beings as saints and mystics. The meditative traditions of the East — in India, Burma and Thailand ― call them enlightened, illumined, God-intoxicated.
What happens when you spend time with such a being? Their ecstatic, God-saturated state is catching. They love to share! They don’t even need to try. They radiate Divinity. They are like a tuning fork, emitting a pure tone of bliss. When you’re with them, you begin to vibrate with bliss too.
That’s because their bliss is your bliss. Their Divinity is your Divinity. There’s only One Divine Reality, and it is your own Self. There’s only one difference between a Self-Realized being and you. They know they are the Self and you don’t. Not yet. But you can.
With a Siddha like Gurudevi, it’s not like going to a concert. There, you catch a blissful high, then go home and lose it. The yoga masters in her lineage give you more than a temporary experience of your Self. They are empowered to give Shaktipat, the mystical initiation that awakens you to your Inherent Divinity.
She received this initiation from her beloved Guru, Baba Muktananda. And he received this initiation from his Guru. And his Guru had a Guru, who had a Guru, who had a Guru, in a lineage of Shaktipat Gurus that stretches through time.
When you receive this inner awakening, your Divinity is revealed to you. You know your Self in a way that you will not lose. Oh, you may get distracted and forget for a while, then remember again. But you can’t ever not-know your Divinity the way you did before, unto lifetimes. Meditation will clear your mind, body and heart from the inner distractions that get in your way. So one day, you will be Self-Realized. You will know your own Divinity. And you will see everything that exists as that same radiant Divinity, all the time.
I wanted to know how it’s possible to be both human and divine. Now I know. Because when I meditate with Gurudevi, she gives me my Self. I experience my Divinity reliably, unfailingly, gloriously. And I am still human. Do you want to experience your Self? Then meditate with Gurudevi Nirmalananda. She will be delighted to teach you how.
Though the killing of Shishupala generated some unpleasant moments, which were skillfully controlled by Krishna, the yaj~na ceremony was completed successfully. Soon after the ceremony, Sage Vyasa came to say goodbye and to bless Yudhishthira. He also advised Yudhishthira that he should be prepared for some unpleasant events and misfortunes soon. Yudhishthira decided that he would always be polite with all his relatives and not give them any cause to become agitated. This decision indeed cost him and his family great sorrow later.
Duryodhana was so mesmerized by the wonders of Yudhishthira’s palace that he decided to stay for few more days with his uncle Shakuni after the yaj~na ceremony was over. He went all over the palace, admiring all its features and envying the prosperity of the Pandavas. He longed to possess all of its glory to himself but didn’t know how it could be accomplished.
Everything about the palace was a divine mystery. Once, while he was walking through the assembly hall built by Mayasura, he bumped his head against a wall thinking it was a door. It was not so bad for there had been no one visible to witness it. But he heard a suspicion of girlish giggle, and the voice was very familiar. It was Draupadi. She happened to be in an overlooking chamber seeing him bump into the wall and giggled.
It didn’t end there. More things happened to fuel the fire in Duryodhana’s heart. Duryodhana’s anger grew more and more out of control with each such experience in the throne room. He saw Yudhishthira sitting on a golden thrown in the hall of illusion, looking like Lord Indra, the King of the Devas, surrounded by Draupadi and his brothers. As the hall was full of illusions, Duryodhana mistook a hard floor for a pool of water, making a fool out of himself walking across the floor with his clothes pulled up to the knees. For this he received a mocking laugh from Draupadi and Bhima as well as chuckles from the others.
Infuriated by this, he strode forward and fell into a pool which appeared like a beautifully polished floor. Draupadi, unable to control her laughter, tried her best not to laugh again. Bhima with all the other onlookers had a good laugh, much to Duryodhana’s irritation. Yudhishthira, always good natured, could never bear the sight of another’s distress, so he immediately ran to comfort Duryodhana, offering him rich and fancy garments.
Yet, this incident deeply upset Duryodhana, enraging him so much he wanted to take revenge for the insult. Especially Draupadi’s laughter made him swear vengeance on her as well as the Pandavas. These incidents rejuvenated the embitterment in Duryodhana’s heart and mind against the Pandavas. Additionally, his resentment towards the Pandavas was encouraged by his uncle Shakuni.
Feeling greatly insulted, Duryodhana spoke to his uncle, saying that he could no longer tolerate the Pandava’s wellbeing and prosperity. He wanted to wage a war against them, to take away their kingdom and their pride. His cunning uncle Shakuni cautioned him, making it clear that defeating the Pandavas in a war would be nearly an impossible task. But then he told Duryodhana that he had a devious plan to win everything back while taking revenge on Draupadi who insulted him. With doubt written all over his face, Duryodhana exclaimed, “Is it really possible?”
Shakuni pointed out that Yudhishthira’s gambling habit was his true weakness. Shakuni then said he had never lost a single game due to his enchanted dice. He proposed to throw the dice on behalf of Duryodhana, who should simply leave the rest to Shakuni. So, once they returned to Hastinapura from Indraprastha, the plan was for Duryodhana to convince his father to invite the Pandavas for a gambling match. As Duryodhana was sickened to stay any longer, they departed for Hastinapura right away. Duryodhana was ruminating over his ridiculous fall. He couldn’t get the image of Draupadi laughing at his discomfiture out of his head. He could never rest in peace until he made Draupadi a laughingstock in the same way.
Duryodhana had to convince King Dhritarashtra to agree to the scheme. This would not be difficult as Dhritarashtra was weak-willed and so fond of his son that he would do anything for him. He had always ignored all Duryodhana’s mistakes and wrongdoings. At first, he would start advising his son, then he would agree to everything his son fancied.
As soon as Duryodhana returned to Hastinapura, he met his father and described the grandeur of the Pandavas’ palace of illusion, built by Mayasura. He also shared the outrageous experience of how he was insulted by Draupadi and Bhima. Seeing the anger on his father’s face, he knew that was the best time to put forth his plan to take revenge for this insult. He was now very sure his father would agree to the evil plan, due to his troubled emotions.
Duryodhana immediately told Dhritarashtra about their plan and easily persuaded him to agree to it. It wasn’t hard because he repeated the taunt of Draupadi in order to fuel the anger. He convinced his father that they would be able to win Indraprastha without war and bloodshed. Dhritarashtra fell for the scheme, thinking they could get back the other half of his kingdom.
Though he was burning under the anguish of Draupadi’s insulting act, Dhritarashtra decided to consult with his brother Vidura, the chief minister. Vidura warned about the consequences, as dishonest acts can sow seeds of conflict and ruin the peace of both sides. But Vidura’s advice was not at all acceptable to Duryodhana.
At last, as always, Dhritarashtra allowed his son to have it his way. He ordered the servants to prepare a hall for a game of dice. He requested Vidura to invite Yudhishthira to compete in the game despite his warnings. Vidura was very unhappy hearing about this, but as the chief minister he had to carry out a royal order.
At Indraprastha, Vidura gave Yudhishthira the royal invitation publicly. Then, at the personal level, Vidura told Yudhishthira that he was very much against the idea of the game. Instead of persuading Yudhishthira to attend the games, Vidura alerted him, explaining the evils of gambling. In this way he urged Yudhishthira not to accept as Vidura knew it was a trick devised by Duryodhana and Shakuni.
While having Vyasa’s warning in his head about the future, Yudhishthira did not wish to make Dhritarashtra unhappy by refusing to attend, so he accepted the invitation. Refusing the invitation might be an insult to King Dhritarashtra. It is very common in royal affairs to invite each other for games, and refusing it is uncommon. But most of all, Yudhishthira’s addition to gambling affected his decision. He didn’t want to let the opportunity slip by. As Vidura couldn’t convince Yudhishthira, who remained firm on his decision, Vidura advised to be on guard at all times.
The Pandavas, along with Draupadi, arrived in Hastinapura. Shakuni and Duryodhana gave a passionate welcome to the Pandavas. The Pandavas were given a magnificent feast. The next day, when they entered the hall built for the dice game, the Pandavas were quite honest about their admiration of the hall. It was crowded with people, friends, relatives and teachers. Amongst them were Grandsire Bhishma, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, ministers and other prominent citizens. Dhritarashtra was sitting on his throne. Yudhishthira was determined to maintain a cordial relationship at all costs.
Shakuni was going to play on behalf of Duryodhana, as they had decided earlier. Shakuni using his own dice would easily defeat the unskilled Yudhishthira. It is said that Shakuni’s father, King Subala, had asked Shakuni to make dice from his backbone after his death, so these dice were full of powerful magic. They would roll the number Shakuni wanted when thrown. So Shakuni would decide what number would be called for each game.
On behalf of the Kauravas, Shakuni spoke to Yudhishthira to set the rules and the stakes for game. Yudhishthira insisted the games should be fair without any room for cheating. Shakuni, knowing the remark was for him, got annoyed and said to Yudhishthira, “Remember this is gambling. The dice decides the winner. So, no room for cheating.” Duryodhana said he would set the stakes while his uncle would roll the dice on his behalf. Yudhishthira at first objected to that arrangement, but later agreed due to sarcastic comments from Shakuni.
The game began. Yudhishthira would usually start anything by invoking divine blessings but somehow it slipped his mind on this important occasion. The game began and Shakuni rolled his magical dice. Yudhishthira lost the first stake. The trend continued. Yudhishthira lost every stake, one by one. The whole court watched this with pin-drop silence.
After every throw, the Kauravas would shout in triumph. Gradually, Yudhishthira lost all his worldly possessions, his jewelry, elephants, horses, chariots, army, servants, castles and finally his entire kingdom. Shakuni’s cries of triumph and Duryodhana’s victorious howls filled the hall enormously.
No one in the assembly dared to intervene as they were afraid of the Kauravas. Even at that point, it never occurred to Yudhishthira to mentally ask for help, for a divine intervention. It was clear that noble Yudhishthira was under the influence of his senses. The only question was what else could Yudhishthira stake?
When I lived in my Baba’s Ashram, one of my yoga-buddies often spoke a few words aloud, “An attitude of gratitude.” While I knew that she was reminding herself, it still had an effect on me. What I noticed was that I didn’t have an attitude of gratitude. There I was, living in an Ashram with an enlightened being, but I wasn’t grateful.
I was cranky, needy and impatient. I definitely wanted what Baba was giving — the blessings, the Grace, the inner awakening and enlivening process that he was furthering in me. I wanted all of it. I wanted it NOW! I wanted more and more, faster and faster.
Every few days I would pray silently, “Dear Baba, faster, please. Can’t you make this go a little faster?” Then a few days later, I would be buckling under the intensity of my own growing pains. So I’d pray, “Baba, Baba, softer, gentler… Can you make it easier on me, please?” The breathing space was immediate.
Yet, a few days later, I’d have amnesia and ask again for more, “Speed this up, Baba! I want to get enlightened now.” One day I realized what I’d been doing repeatedly! So I offered a new prayer, “Baba, please set the right speed for me. You know more than I do.”
Only then did I discover gratitude. From that point onward, I could see that he knew more about the process than I did. I could rely on his spiritual power to carry me through, like no one else I had ever known. This is why I now live in a continual flow of gratitude.
My life is full of Guru’s Grace. I am grateful to the one who opened up the mystical reality for me. My heart is always being filled from the inside. My gratitude expands every day.
When I teach, I am grateful for the opportunity to share this ancient spiritual science of yoga. I thank each student who chooses this profound path and shares the process with me. I am even grateful to myself, for the perseverance and diligence that made me able to receive all that Baba gave – and made me able to share it with others.
I love Thanksgiving Day. Every year we get to join in a national celebration of thanks. But for me, one day is not enough. Yes, I live in an attitude of gratitude. It’s a glorious way to live!