Monthly Archives: January 2019

Your Body is a Temple

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

Your body is a temple.  You’ve probably heard this before.  It’s a reminder to treat your body well, both because you need your body healthy and strong as well as because your body is “the house of your soul.”

You may even have begun yoga because you needed to take better care of your body. The deepest roots of such New Age teachings often come from yoga’s ancient sages, yet the sages offer more: not only is your body the house of your Divinity, your body is itself Divine.

Most people don’t treat their bodies very well.  They run their bodies ragged. They put off meeting its needs and only pay attention to it when it’s in pain.  When you’re doing yoga, it means you already take better care of your body.

Yoga’s practices give you great benefits, both physical and more than physical.  Even if you began Svaroopa® yoga to treat your body better, to heal it or decrease its pain, you soon find that our core opening practices give you more — you’re immersing yourself in the core of your being.

You discover that there is a deeper essence, the “you” that is more than your body and more than your mind.  Yoga calls it svaroopa, your own Self as Consciousness-Itself, your own Divine Self.

You may experience your own Divinity as an inner expansiveness, calmness, peace, clarity, happiness or joy. Whatever your reasons for beginning yoga, these experiences of your own Self are what keep you coming back.  It’s the true purpose of yoga.

Originally published March 2014

Rama Avatar, Part 6

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Hearing that Sita had been seen in Lankapuri, Hanuman took on his gargantuan form and made a colossal leap across the sea.  Landing on the island, he contracted himself to his usual form.

He couldn’t believe his eyes, Lankapuri was such a beautiful place with lush green mountains and valleys.  The houses were all decorated with jewels and pearls; the people were very joyful, enjoying themselves with singing and dancing.  He arrived at dusk and started moving inland, looking for the grove seen by the eagle Sampaathi.

Immediately, Hanuman encountered Lankini, a huge rakshasi (Demoness) who was the guardian of Lankapuri.  She refused to let Hanuman enter.  Hanuman knocked her to the ground with his left hand.  She accepted her defeat and let him go inland.

Hanuman searched everywhere for Sita: the castles, every house, every garden, even searching for her in Ravana’s private chamber, but was unable to find her.  He felt hopeless, and sat on a compound wall muttering the mantra, “Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram….”

Then he saw a lady in the faint moonlight, under a simsupa tree in the middle of the grove compound.  The lady was in dirty clothes, hanging her head down with unbearable sorrow.  She was surrounded by rakshasis.

Hanuman knew he had found Sita and jumped up in joy.  Immediately realizing he needed to lay low until he met Sita, he suppressed his joy and looked for an opportunity to greet her.  He got in the top of a tree close to Sita and waited impatiently.  While waiting, he heard all the rakshasis, except one, harassing Sita to get married to Ravana.  But one rakshasi was very polite to Sita, not allowing anyone to harm her in any way.

When all the rakshasis fell asleep, Hanuman crawled towards Sita.  He reached Sita and said that he is a messenger from Rama.  At first Sita refused to believe him, as Ravana had tried to get to her by taking different forms and she assumed this is again one of Ravana’s tricks.  But later, Hanuman gives her Rama’s signet ring as proof, again uttering “Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram….”  This cleared Sita’s doubt, and with tears in her eyes, she inquired of her husband’s wellbeing.

Hearing that Rama is in deep worry and lost in thought all the time made her even more depressed.  Hanuman jumped down and said he could destroy Lankapuri and take her back with him at once.  Sita disapproved of the idea, saying that Rama should be the one to come and rescue her from Ravana.  She also added that she will keep herself alive only for one more month, so Rama should come and rescue her within that month.

Hanuman bowed to Sita and worshipped her, vowing that Rama will be in Lankapuri soon to take her back.  Sita blessed Hanuman and gave him her Chudamani (jewelry for the hair/head) to give to Rama.

Being the mischievous monkey that Hanuman is, he decided to show Ravana what will be coming his way soon if he doesn’t release Sita.  Hanuman began by destroying the fine parks and gardens, hoping that the guards would capture him and take him to Ravana.  After several other people tried, Ravana’s son Indrajit himself came to capture  him, which Hanuman allowed.  He was taken to the palace for questioning by the king, exactly what Hanuman had wanted.

Brought to Ravana, Hanuman was made to stand in front of him with his hands and legs tied up.  As soon as he saw Ravana, Hanuman freed himself and grew his tail to a length where he could make a throne for himself and sat on it as an equal to Ravana.  Ravana was very upset about the “monkey’s” behavior.

Hanuman said, “I am Hanuman, a messenger from Rama!”  Obviously that led to an altercation between Ravana and Hanuman.  Hanuman tried to persuade Ravana to release Sita, which obviously didn’t succeed.  At the end, Ravana gave a verdict —the punishment for destroying the fine parks and gardens is death.

One of Ravana’s brothers, Vibhishana, intervened to stop the verdict, saying it is against the law to kill a messenger.  Therefore Ravana decided to humiliate Hanuman and ordered that his monkey tail be set on fire and that he be thrown out of Lankapuri.

As soon as his tail was set on fire, Hanuman jumped up to do what a monkey does, jumping from pillar to pillar, structure to structure, tree to tree, burning the whole city of Lankapuri.  Then, with a world of joy, Hanuman reassumed his gargantuan form and lept across the sea to the southern beach where his search party awaited.  Hanuman told everyone the wonderful news about meeting Sita in Lankapuri and the rest of the encounter with Ravana.  Angada, Hanuman and the southerly crew returned to Kishkindha.

As soon as Hanuman saw Rama, he cried “I saw Mata Sita!” He immediately gave the chudamani to Rama.  Rama took the chudamani in his hands and immediately burst into tears.  The thought of Sita being so helpless and suffering broke his heart even more.  With great haste, everyone got ready to go to Lankapuri.  The vanara (monkey) army was mobilized in no time.

Rama, Lakshmana, Sugreeva and the army, with Hanuman, reached the southern tip of the land.  Now the hurdle was to cross the sea between India and Lankapuri.  Flabbergasted, but not losing heart, they discussed options.  They decided to build a bridge (Setubandhanam).  The architect monkey Nala, son of the master builder Vishvakarman, was given the task.

The news reached Ravana that an army of vanaras was in the southern tip of India.  He called his war council to discuss the matter.  Everyone in the council took it easy because it was only two humans (considered less powerful than themselves, the rakshasas) and the army itself consisted of monkeys.  All the counselors, including his relatives, gave speeches urging Ravana to fight, assured the victory would be easy.

The only person who voiced concern was Vibhishana, who said that it was foolish of anyone to underestimate their enemy, gauging only by their looks, without doing proper investigation.  He also reminded them that the brothers Rama & Lakshmana had already killed Ravana’s brothers Khara and Dushana, plus his uncle Maricha, in addition to other well-known figures from the rakshasas.  Vibhishana also pointed out that Rama had done nothing to Ravana, whereas Ravana had cowardly abducted Rama’s wife while she was unprotected; therefore Ravana does not have the righteousness grounds in the war in hand.

Vibhishana pleaded with his brother to return Sita to Rama, even to beg for his pardon.  He reminded Ravana that all the wealth and power he enjoyed was received from Lord Shiva, by being his ardent devotee, and it was tainted by his act.  He must do the right to undo the wrong.  Vibhishana offered to take Sita to Rama and seek his forgiveness on behalf of Ravana.

Hearing this enraged Ravana.  He accused Vibhishana of envy, ill-will and being the worst enemy of the king.  Feeling deeply offended by his brother’s words Vibhishana renounced Ravana, saying he cannot support an unrighteous person even it was his own brother.  Ravana banished Vibhishana from Lankapuri, calling him a coward, sparing his life only because he was his brother.  Ravana then continued to discuss the strategy for the upcoming war with the council.

As the first order of action, needing assistance from his other brother, Ravana directs his guards to wake Kumbhakarna.  Kumbhakarna slept six months of every year, due to a twist in his tongue when he requested a boon from Brahma after doing austerities.  He requested “Nidraasana,” the seat of sleep, instead of “Indraasana,” the seat of Indra (Lord of Heaven).  Thus he sleeps six months, then eats anything he sees for the other six months of the year, before going back sleep.  Though he was an intelligent, unchallenged warrior, Kumbhakarna lost most of his ability and strength if disturbed or woken from his six months of sleep.

Vibhishana fled Lankapuri with four of his close ministers who agreed with him.  They reached Rama’s camp at the southern tip of India, requesting to see Rama so they could ask for refuge from Ravana.  Before seeing Vibhishana, Rama discussed the matter with his council,.  Everyone opposed Vibhishana’s request, saying that he was born to the same mother as Ravana, Khara, Dushana and Surpanaka, therefore he must be the same type of person.  They added that he comes from the line of Maricha, therefore he cannot be trusted.

Then Hanuman requested permission from Rama to speak.  He described that when he was searching all the houses in Lankapuri, he always found liquor, but at Vibhishana’s he found only rose water for pujas.  He continued, saying that the reason Sita is still alive is because Vibhishana’s daughter, Trijada, who took after her father, sits near Sita all the time, not letting any rakshasis harm her.

Hanuman also mentioned that Vibhishana is the one who spoke against the capital punishment for a messenger when Ravana announced his verdict.  After hearing everyone’s opinion, Rama announced that it is the duty of a human to give refuge to anyone who seeks it.  Rama accepted Vibhishana.

The opposers were finally convinced when Vibhishana aided Rama in appealing to Samudraraja (or Sethusamudram, the Sea of the Bridge), the ocean itself, who had not given any headway to the building of the bridge under Nala’s leadership.  Even the squirrels helped the vanara army in building the bridge.  The task took five days to complete with rocks and trees, after Samudraraja had subsided.

As soon as the bridge was built, Rama commanded the army to move across the sea to Lankapuri.  The port that they left named after this event as “Setu Shore.”  The troops crossed the sea, reached Lankapuri and made camp at the shore.

Ravana sent two spies to gather information about the army.  They turned themselves into monkeys and roamed around the camp.  Vibhishana identified them as rakshasas and started punishing them.  Rama intervened and released them, instructing them to carry the message about the strong and aggressive army to Ravana.

Ravana called his war council again.  Ravana’s grandfather, Sumali, recommended releasing Sita and making peace as the best option for the rakshasas.  Many in the council turned this down.  Ravana showed his anger against his grandfather.  When the two spies returned, they described the monkey army and its strength, but it still didn’t change Ravana’s mind.  The mandate was sent to Ravana’s commanders to roundup the troops for battle.

More to come…

The Full Range of Yoga’s Technology

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda &
Vidyadevi Stillman

Avail yourself of yoga’s full range of technology, which goes beyond mere physical development to incorporate mental, devotional and meditative practices.  The poses are meant to prepare you for the study of sutras, along with chanting and meditation.  Each of these disciplines offers you significantly more than yoga poses can ever provide.

Your mind is more powerful than your body. This means that using yogic tools to develop your mental capacity gives you more benefits than poses could ever do.  These tools are called j~nana yoga, the study of the texts.  In addition, in the Svaroopa® Sciences, we work proactively on unraveling the way you use your mind.  Instead of tying yourself up in knots, you can begin unraveling it with vichara (Svaroopa® yoga’s guided self-inquiry).

As you understand yoga’s teachings, you better understand life, as well as yourself and others around you.  This changes everything.  This is why we include contemplations, like mini-sutras,  at the end of every Svaroopa® yoga class.

Your heart is more powerful than your mind.  You develop your heart’s capacity through yoga’s devotional practices.  When your heart meets God, or even turns toward God, who is going to be changed — God or you?  You don’t even have to believe in God for it to work, just like you don’t have to believe in gravity for it to work.  The yoga of your heart, bhakti yoga, is included in Svaroopa® yoga through the background music of sutras and chants, as well as in the final pose, Yoga Mudra.  In this yogic seal, you place your head below your heart, bowing to your teacher and her/his whole lineage of teachers.

Meditation is the most powerful and most beneficial of yoga’s technologies.  How amazing that you get so much when you are doing nothing!  Modern research is beginning to prove what the sages always emphasized, that this is the cream of the practices, called raja yoga (king’s yoga).  As wonderful as each of the other practices is, their purpose is to give you easy and deep meditation.

This is the point at which Gurus come into the picture.  In earlier stages, the busy-ness of your body, mind and heart kept you focused on the practices instead of where they came from.  The doing-ness seemed most important.  Yet you got those practices from someone who had already done them.  That teacher is called “guru,” even if she/he lives in your home town and isn’t yet enlightened.  Even your local piano teacher is called a “piano guru.”  In the West, we use a capital letter on the title Guru only when we’re referring to an authorized spiritual teacher, one who can take you all the way.

For true and fast spiritual development, you must pick a path and follow it to its end.  Every genuine path has a living Guru.  Mindfulness meditation, Zen, Tibetan, Christian contemplation, the power of now, kabbalah and Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation — all have living Gurus.  If there’s no Guru, the path is not true.  Someone must have attained the promise or it is another false promise.  The one who attains and shares is called Guru.

Do you want to climb with a guide who has only seen satellite photos of the trail?  Vidyadevi says, “I have climbed in the Himalayas.  I always had a guide.  I was protected and took the safest and most direct route to the top.  In the same way, I have a spiritual guide — Swami Nirmalananda.”

The texts emphasize you must test the Guru.  The test is two-fold:  inside and outside.

First you check inside to see if you are getting uplifted in the Guru’s presence or by their teachings.  It’s obviously working if you’re experiencing the bliss of consciousness, your own svaroopa.  But it is also working if you are churning inside, with all your “stuff” coming up in order to be expelled from your system.  To test the Guru further, follow their teachings for six months and then reevaluate how this is working for you.

Secondly, you look at those who have been studying with the Guru for the longest.  See if they are more peaceful and more blissful, but also if they are becoming more effective in the world.  Or are they using their spirituality to escape?  Another thing to look for is that they are unique individuals, not all clones of each other and of the Guru.

When the Guru passes these tests, you can apply yourself to their practices for another six months.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “After doing several six month periods, I realized one day that I’d forgotten to check in with myself.  I was surprised to see that I’d been studying with my Baba for over six years.  It was then that I knew that this path was working for me.  It made me able to apply myself more fully.”

Svaroopa® yoga offers all the above yogic technologies because it is a maha yoga, one that interweaves all the yogas together.  While your Svaroopa® yoga class emphasizes the physical practices, every class introduces mental, devotional and meditative processes.

Most importantly, Svaroopa® yoga is a Shaktipat yoga.  Whether you begin at your tailbone, or with the sutras, devotional practices or meditations, studying with Swamiji guarantees you will receive this inner awakening.  This is the beauty of a Kundalini master.  Nirmalanandaji received Shaktipat from her Guru more than 40 years ago.  She knows the path and what it will give.  This is why she continues to say, “Do more yoga.”

Originally published March 2016