Monthly Archives: November 2018

The Yoga of Grace

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Birth is an extraordinary moment of creation — a new life beginning.  Death is an ending. Everything in-between is called “maintenance,” taking care of yourself, your life, your loved ones and your possessions.  These are three of the five cosmic powers, functioning in your life, even flowing through your own actions.

The fourth of Shiva’s cosmic powers is concealment, hiding your Divine Essence from you.  Revelation is the fifth of these powers, also called Grace.  You may have thought that “grace” meant something graceful, beautiful, flowing and elegant.

More expansively, you may know that you want Divine Grace to make your life easier: finding a new job, a new spouse or a better situation.  Yoga says, as important as these all are, they fall within the third power of God, maintenance — not Grace.  As important as these things are, they are not what Grace is about. Grace is the fifth cosmic power:  the revelation of your own Divinity.

Knowing your own Divinity does, of course, make all the maintenance easier!  That happens because you are coming from a deeper place within.  Being based in your own innermost essence, you are not as reactive.  You are not as superficial. You are not as needy.  You are more compassionate.  You are more able to go with the flow.  Life gets easier, even when it is hard.

Einstein understood revelation.  He would sit in a chair, set a spoon across his knee and stare at it until it fell.  In the time between it leaving his knee and landing on the floor, he saw the structure of the universe.  Yoga calls this pratibha, inner visions or insights.  Consider the length of time between the spoon leaving his knee and landing on the floor.  In that instant, he saw the structure of creation.

His problem was that he didn’t know how to meditate.  He needed a spoon!  In the time between his knee and the floor, he got insights about how the universe worked, then he would write mathematical formulas to try to explain it.  He wasn’t figuring out a formula that would get him to an unknown result. He knew what was there because he had seen it, so he was trying to use mathematics to explain it.  He got it from the same place the ancient sages got it from, in-sight.  Revelation.

His insights were profound and have had a significant effect on our world, but yoga says this is a limited use of your inner vision.  There is so much more to discover inside:  the Divinity of your own Being.  How do you get there?  By quieting your mind, only you don’t need a spoon.

Tadaa dra.s.tu.h svaruupe’vasthaanam — Patanjali Yoga Sutras 1.3

In the moment that your mind becomes still, you are established in your own Divine Self.

This is why Svaroopa® yogis love Shavasana.  Just as Einstein discovered, that the instant your mind settles, your own Divinity is revealed to you.  Even a moment of that experience heals all the wounds, dissolves the memories and frees you from old patterns that keep you limited.  It takes only an instant to have an experience of your own Self.

It’s like lighting a match.  How do you light a match slowly?  You can’t.  It flares in an instant.  Svaroopa® yoga is not stair-step yoga.  Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace; it is the yoga of revelation.  Grace gives you your own Self.  To receive this Grace, do more Svaroopa® yoga.

You may have thought that “grace” meant something graceful, beautiful, flowing and elegant.  More expansively, you may know that you want Divine Grace to make your life easier: finding a new job, a new spouse or a better situation.  Yoga says, as important as these all are, they fall within the third power of God, maintenance — not Grace.  Let’s look at it again.

Rama Avatar, part 3

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Rama and his new wife, Sita, along with the other newlyweds, traveled to their capital city of Ayodhya.  On their return, the whole kingdom joyfully welcomed Rama and his three brothers, all with their new wives, with great devotion and respect.  Ayodhya was flourishing more than ever, after the arrival of the princes with their consorts.

A few years passed, and there was a message from Ashwapati, Kaikeyi’s father.  He wanted his grandson Bharata to stay with him in the Kekeya kingdom for some time, as his health was not good.  Dasharatha and Kaikeyi immediately sent Bharata and his wife Mandavi there to help.  Ashwapati was very happy to have his grandson with him in his last days.  Though Bharata was Dasaratha’s eldest son, thus the heir to the throne, he extended his stay in his grandfather’s Kekeya kingdom.

After a few more years passed, the aging King Dasaratha wanted to name the Crown Prince.  He decided to crown his son Rama at the Pattabishekham ceremony at the earliest possibility.  He assembled his ministers and all the elders to announce his decision.  All of them liked and agreed to Rama as Crown Prince.  Dasaratha felt that his time was running out, so he planned the Pattabishekham for the following day, especially since the next auspicious day was a few months away.

Manthara, a close personal maid of the Queen Kaikeyi, was secretly listening to this conversation and was not happy.  She remembered that Rama, as a young boy, accidentally struck her with a mud ball; she was still angry about it.  She ran to Kaikeyi with the news of Rama’s Pattabishekham on the next day.  Kaikeyi leapt out of her chair with great joy and gave Manthara the gold necklace she was wearing as a gift for bearing the happy news.

Manthara threw the necklace to the ground, asking Kaikeyi why she was so happy, “Is it because your own son, Bharatha, is not getting the crown?”  Kaikeyi replied, “No.  Rama is like a son to me; my son Rama is going to ascend the throne!”  Manthara sat with Kaikeyi and told her negative things that might happen if Rama was crowned, slowly poisoning her mind.  Manthara warned that Queen Kaushalya would be the Queen Mother, while Kaikeyi herself would be under her.  Sita, as Janaka’s daughter, might influence Rama to conquer the Kekeya kingdom, especially because Janaka and Ashwapati were not in good terms.

By the end, Kaikeyi had been convinced that her son Bharata should be the next king of Ayodhya.  But she didn’t know how to stop Rama’s Pattabishekham.  She knew her husband would not change his mind as he loved Rama so much.  Manthara slowly reminded Kaikeyi about the two boons that Dasaratha had granted her, urging her to finally use them: the first one for the Pattabishekham to be done to Bharata, the second one to send Rama into exile for fourteen years, because Bharata would not be able to serve as their real king due to the people’s great love for Rama.  Manthara also plotted with Kaikeyi about how to act when Dasaratha came to give her the news.

While Manthara was poisoning Kaikeyi’s mind, the news of Rama’s Pattabishekham spread like wildfire.  The whole of Ayodhya was singing and dancing in joy.  The people were decorating the whole kingdom in preparation for the Pattabishekham.

The king brought the news to Kaushalya and her son Rama.  Though Rama agreed to become Crown Prince, he was unhappy that Bharata was absent, so he asked for the Pattabishekham to be postponed.  Dasaratha refused, saying it needed to happen the next day.

Then Dasaratha came to Kaikeyi, thinking Kaikeyi would be the happiest of all since she was the closest to Rama.  Dasaratha was in a very happy and joyful mode when he entered Kaikeyi’s palace, but found Kaikeyi lying on the floor.  Her jewelry was thrown all around, her hair undone and she was miserably clothed like a poor person.  Manthara had been a great tutor.   Shocked, Dasaratha sat next to where Kaikeyi was lying and asked what had happened.  Was she ill; should he call for a doctor?  Liftin her head slowly, Kaikeyi said she was not ill and there was no need for a doctor.

Dasaratha helped her to a nearby chair and asked why she had such a dreadful look in her eyes.  Kaikeyi said she wanted her son, Bharata, to become the next king, and that Rama should be sent into exile for fourteen years.  This was the greatest shock of his life for Dasaratha.  He fell to his knees, asking Kaikeyi to reconsider her requests, remembering that Dasaratha had a special place in his heart for Kaikeyi.

Kaikeyi’s mind had been poisoned by Manthara so much that she said these are not simply requests.  These are the boons that she had postponed from earlier, so Dasaratha had no choice but to give them to her.  Dasaratha fell to the floor with a very heavy heart.  He spent the whole night trying to pursue Kaikeyi to change her mind, but she didn’t budge an inch.  As nothing could be done, Dasaratha agreed to her request and fainted on the floor.  While this was going on in Kaikeyi’s palace, the rest of Ayodhya was getting ready for Rama’s Pattabishekham the next day.

The next morning, the ministers came to fetch Dasaratha, but Kaikeyi refused to allow them to enter.  She asked them to send Rama to her palace so his father could speak to him.  She was thinking that Rama would throw a tantrum when he heard the new decisions, so Kaikeyi prepared herself to be strong.  Rama came at once, obedient as always.

With a stern voice, Kaikeyi told Rama that, on her request, his father had ordered him into exile for fourteen years, and that Bharata would be installed in the Pattabishekham ceremony right away.  To Kaikeyi’s astonishment, without the least change smile, Rama told Kaikeyi “Oh, dear Mother!  I will go to the forest immediately.  You could have sent me a message to go to the forest and I would have done it wholeheartedly, simply because it is my dear loving mother’s wish.  I thank you for giving me this opportunity to be with the sages who are rooted in dharma.  Please inform my father that I am taking leave.”

He returned to his residence to prepare for the exile.  Upon telling Sita that he must go, and that she should stay in the palace until he returns, she outright refused.  She started getting ready to join him, saying, “Where Rama is, is the Ayodhya for me!”  Lakshmana found out what had happened.  Always short tempered, he was enraged, so Rama had help him bring his temper down.  Lakshmana would never part from Rama, so he joined Rama as his brother and personal attendant.  Rama, Sita and Lakshmana said their goodbyes to their mothers and started their journey by foot to the forest.

The news of Rama’s exile spread like wildfire.  The people of Ayodhya were following Rama to the forest, saying they had no reason to remain in the kingdom without Rama.  No matter how much convincing Rama tried to do, it didn’t work, so he let them follow him to the forest.

When everyone fell asleep that night, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana sneaked deeper into the forest.  He asked the Chief Minister Sumantra to take everyone back to Ayodhya.  The next morning, with Rama missing, they returned to Ayodhya with a heavy heart, as commanded by Sumantra.

Meanwhile in Ayodhya, Dasaratha came to his senses after fainting the previous night, but found Rama gone.  He told Kaikeyi that she got her boons at the price of her husband’s life, and will live as a widow for the rest of her life.  He went into unbearable grief, suffering from the separation from Rama.  Not able to bear his son’s departure, remembering the curse from his early years, Dasaratha died with the same fate as that of Shravan’s blind parents.

Immediately Bharata was sent for.  Learning what led to such a catastrophe in the family, due to his own mother’s greed, Bharata looked at his mother severely, uttering very harsh words, “O!  Enemy of mine, in the guise of my mother!  You should enter the cremation fire or disappear into the Dandaka forest.  No other fate befits you.  I am no longer your son; neither are you my mother!  I can’t imagine, of all people, that you who loved Rama the most, can exile my dearest loving brother to the forest.  I will go to him, beg his forgiveness and bring him back with me to Ayodhya.  Or else I will join him in his path.  Do not ever come in my presence again, my demon-personified mother!”  Hearing these words, Kaikeyi realized the atrocity she had caused by her actions.

Bharata performed the funeral rites of his father.  As always, followed by his brother Shatrugna, Bharata gathered a large company of soldiers, preceptors, elders and the leaders of Ayodhya.  They went to the forest to search for Rama.

Meanwhile, in the forest, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana walked to the banks of the holy river Ganga.  There, Rama met Guha, the leader of the boatmen, who cordially served them well.  Rama, Sita and Lakshmana stayed one night with Guha, then got his help to reach the other bank of Ganga.  Extremely pleased with Guha, Rama declared he had gained a brother, so there are now five brothers in total.  Guha was overjoyed by Rama’s words, yet he had to goodbye.  Rama, Sita and Lakshmana walked slowly through the jungle, enjoying its splendor, to reach Sage Bharadwaja’s hermitage near Chitrakoot.  Invited by Sage Bharadwaja, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana decided to stay in Chitrakoot for a while.  Lakshmana made a beautiful hut for them; they started their life in exile.

After a long and hard search, and with the help of Guha, Bharata and his entourage came to Sage Bharadwaja’s hermitage.  Bharadwaja first advised Bharata not to get emotional, telling him that what happened was not caused by a single human being, but was fulfilling a Divine Purpose.

Sage Bharadwaja then helped Bharata to find Rama.  Bharata rushed towards Rama’s hermitage.  The short tempered Lakshmana thought Bharata was there to fight Rama, and leapt up with his bow and arrow, ready to fight.  Lakshmana had to be pacified by Rama once again.

Bharata reached Rama and fell at his feet, not able to speak a word due to sobbing uncontrollably.  Bharata was wearing the same ascetic’s rags as Rama had adopted.  At once, Rama helped Bharata to rise/  Embracing Bharata, Rama asked why he was in such attire, since he was the King of Ayodhya.  Rama went on asking about their father and their mothers.

In the midst of sobs, Bharata broke the news that their father was gone.  At this, Rama lost his steadiness, then slowly regained his composure after a few minutes.  Then Bharata pled his case, begging for forgiveness for what his mother had done, and begging Rama to return to Ayodhya in order to rule the kingdom.  Rama replied that he had given his word and could only return only after fourteen years.

After a lot of hesitation and pushback, Bharata agreed to be the guardian of the kingdom, as the representative of Rama, until Rama’s return.  He set the condition that, if Rama is even a day late at the end of the fourteenth year, Bharata would take his own life.

He requested Rama’s sandals, so he could place them on the throne so that he doesn’t deviate from dharma.  Agreeing, Rama gave his sandals to Bharata.  Bharata carried them on his head all the way back to Ayodhya.  He ruled the kingdom as a guardian and representative, but not living in the palace.  He lived and ruled from a place called Nandigram, located in the outskirts of the city of Ayodhya.  More to come…

The Power of Revelation

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

There are so many wonderful things about Shavasana, especially when you have the props that make it possible for your spine to relax.  But the real reason you love it is because you dive in deeper.  What is deeper?  Deeper is the experience of your own Self.

Shavasana is not a nap.  If your head stays in the middle, you’re not sleeping.  You’re experiencing your own Self, your Divine Essence.  If your head turns to one side, even slightly, you do fall asleep; you are not experiencing the Self.  Check it out.  In a Shavasana, turn your head toward one side a little bit and remain in the pose for the same amount of time.  You can tell that it’s not the same. The nap makes you feel a little tired as you are getting up.  Instead, with your head in the middle during your Shavasana, you experience a profound deep immersion into Self.

The physical improvements you get from Svaroopa® yoga are amazingly easy.  It works from the inside-out; we call it core opening.  This spinal decompression provides physical benefits, plus it creates a deeper opening, into your Self.  It becomes easy to explore who you are at the innermost level.

Deeper than your body, deeper than your mind and heart — who and what are you?  You find your answer by finding your Self, “svaroopa,” which is your Divine Essence.  Knowing your own Self is the real purpose of Svaroopa® yoga, the mystical secret hidden in the seemingly simple physical processes.

Your body is a living body because the energy of enlivenment flows through your spine.  Named “chi” in Chinese, Sanskrit calls this energy “prana.”  As your core opening increases, your pranic flow opens up, making you progressively healthier, more alive and even younger.

Once you get enough opening at your tailbone, the Grace of Svaroopa® yoga ignites a more powerful current: the enlivening and enlightening power named “Kundalini.” This is your own inner force of upliftment, working within you to reveal your own Self to you.  This is Shaktipat, the specialty of Svaroopa® yoga.  This is why Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace.

Grace is a technical term in yoga, classified as the fifth of Shiva’s Divine Powers, clearly described in the Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam:

Aabhaasana-rakti-vimar”sana-biijaa-vasthaapana-vilaapana-tastaani.  — Sutra 11

Shiva performs the five processes on the cosmic level [as well as on the individual level]:  manifesting, sustaining, ending, concealing and revealing.

Shiva is the name we use for Ultimate Reality, the “who” that brings these powers into being and uses them to create the world and to become you.  As an individual, you use all five of these powers, though in a more limited way because you don’t yet know you are Shiva.   These five powers are:

  • Manifesting: Shiva creates the universe and all that is in it, including you. As an individual, you create a family, music, a beautiful meal, a garden, etc.
  • Sustaining: Shiva maintains the universe, keeping it going, including continuing to be you. As an individual, you maintain your relationships, your home, your car, your job, and more.
  • Ending: Shiva is the destroyer as well, bringing about endings every day. A tree falls in the forest.  A beloved person or pet dies.  Everything that was created reaches an ending point.  As an individual, you destroy things:  even relationships, jobs, or a place where you live (when you move).  Sometimes endings are thrust upon you; sometimes you choose them.
  • Concealment: Shiva conceals His own Presence within each being, each object and each atom of the universe, including you. As an individual, you hide your feelings, you hide parts of your life from others, and you hide your mistakes or your ability to do things well.  The power of concealment means a hidden dimension is there in everything, including the Divinity hidden within you.
  • Revelation (Grace): Shiva reveals His own Presence within all that exists. Grace is the power of revelation. The ultimate revelation is your own Divinity — Shiva is revealed as your own Self.  As an individual, you also reveal things.  You show someone an easy way to do something, you say something that sheds light on the situation, or you do something uplifting for others or for yourself.

Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace, meaning it is the yoga of revelation.

swami-hands-cropped-65OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.

excerpt from article published June 2013