Monthly Archives: February 2019

Rama Avatar, part 7

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

As soon as the bridge was built, Rama commanded the army to move across the sea to Lankapuri.  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.  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.

As Ravana’s troops were getting ready for the war, Ravana played one of his tricks on Sita, to persuade her to marry him as a last try.  He brought the severed head of a person resembling Rama, saying Sita’s husband is dead and that the only way left for her now is to marry him.  At first Sita fell, trembling, on the ground.  When she regained consciousness, she asked Ravana to behead her so she can join her husband.  At that moment a messenger arrived, bringing Ravana word from the chief of his army.  Ravana left in haste and the head of Rama disappeared, revealing to Sita that it was a yet another trick by Ravana.

Ravana left Sita at the news that Rama had reached Suvela Mountain.  Rama and others went to the top of Suvela Mountain, from where they could see the city of Lankapuri.  Ravana stood there, above a gateway to the city.  Seeing him, Sugreeva sprung into action, leaping on top of Ravana.  They dueled for a long time.  Finally, after reducing Ravana to exhaustion, Sugreeva stole his crown and came back to Rama.

Rama wanted to give a chance for Ravana to make peace so he sent Angada as a messenger.   At the palace, Ravana asked Angada who he is.  Angada replied, “I have seen you once before, when I was a baby.  One day, when my father was doing his daily pujas to all the eight directions, you followed him around due to curiosity.  Annoyed by your constant interruptions, with one blow he brought you down and tied you up in his tail so he could finish his pujas.  Afterward, forgetting that you were helplessly tied to his tail, he visited me at my crib side.  To stop my crying, he shook his tail and realized you were tied to it like a toy.  Looking at this, I stopped crying, amused by your pathetic state.  I am sure you remember my mighty father, Vali, with whose power I stand here, his son Angada.”

Embarrassed by this, Ravana replied, “I will die before making peace with my enemy.”  Angada tried his best to convince Ravana to settle it all in a peaceful manner, but Ravana was firm about going battle instead of conceding defeat.  Angada then firmly planted his foot on the ground, challenging anyone in Ravana’s court to uproot his foot.  If they could, Rama would admit defeat and return home.

All the mighty Rakshasa commanders, including the mighty Meghanada (Ravana’s son, also called Indrajit) tried their best to uproot Angada’s foot but none succeeded.  Angada warned Ravana, that this was his last chance to save himself and his kingdom.  Ravana ordered him seized, but Angada jumped to the ceiling and escaped.  Angada returned to Rama, giving him Ravana’s refusal to make peace.

So, the inevitable war began.  Ravana led his army himself on the first day of battle.  The battle was fierce, but at the end of the day Ravana’s army was destroyed and Ravana stood in the middle without his chariot or his weapons.  Rama said to Ravana, “It is not right to kill someone who has no weapons to defend himself.  I give you time, to think.  Go back today and come tomorrow if you still feel that you must go to war.”  The disgraced Ravana returned home.  Even after his defeat, he didn’t give up on his lust and greed.

The next day Kumbhakarna was awake, disturbed from his six months of sleep, with diminished powers.  He had been informed what had happened and tried his best to bring his brother Ravana to his senses, but was not successful.  Even after Ravana’s ill words against him, Kumbhakarna decided to fight for his brother, for family’s sake, unlike his other brother, Vibhishana.  Yet Kumbhakarna knew he was not on the side of righteousness.  He gathered the troops and marched to war on the second day.

Kumbhakarna did his best, but with his diminished ability and strength, was in no way a match for Rama.  By the end of the day, Rama killed Kumbhakarna, freeing the gatekeeper Vijaya from his second life on earth, leaving only one more to go before he reaches the gates of Vaikuntha again.  Over the next couple of days, Ravana’s younger sons went to battle, encountering the same result as their uncle.

Ravana went into unbearable pain due the demise of his brother and sons.  Seeing his father’s grief, the powerful Meghanada, Ravana’s eldest son, went into battle.  Meghanada had a lot of astras (energetic weapons) from boons he’d received due to his long austerities and worship.  He fought valiantly for days.  He first bound everyone on the enemy’s side with his Naga-astra (cobra astra), making all of them faint.  Garuda (Lord Vishnu’s eagle mount) came in to break the bindings.

Meghanada then wounded Lakshmana with one of his arrows.  Hanuman flew off and brought the physician Sushena to cure him.  Then Meghanada used his Brahma-astra (Brahma’s astra) to disable everyone except Hanuman, who flew to the Himalayas to bring back the hill with the “Sanjeevani” herb to cure everyone.  Having failed to defeat Rama’s monkey army with his astras, Meghanada went into a secret place to perform a yaj~na to get more powers.  Finding out about this, Vibhishana helped Rama to find Meghanada.  Lakshmana battled with him, killing Meghanada after a fierce fight.

Ravana lost his senses when he heard that his eldest son had perished.  Yet, even after all this, Ravana didn’t want to concede defeat.  He gathered all the Asuras who were alive and led them into battle.  At first he was fighting with ferocity, annihilating the monkey army by firing arrows with his twenty hands.  Using magic, he replicated himself, confusing the monkey army.  Ravana seemed to be unconquerable; though Rama cut off one of his heads several times, another took its place as soon as one head rolled off.

With the battle seeming like it would go on forever, Vibhishana revealed the secret that Ravana’s nectar of life was stored in his navel.   At the end of the war’s eighteenth day, Rama killed Ravana by firing arrows at his navel, his heads and his hands at the same time.  Thus, Jaya finished his second birth on earth, joining his brother Vijaya.

Vibhishana went into unbearable grief due to his brother’s death, and performed all the last rights for his brother.  Ravana’s wife Mandodari sacrificed herself on the funeral pyre.

Rama crowned Vibhishana as the King of Lankapuri.  Then Vibhishana released Sita from the palace’s forest garden, Asoka Vatika.  According to Rama’s request, Sita took the test of fire to prove her chastity to the world.  Then Rama performed a penance at Setu Beach, a ceremony to Lord Shiva, for being the cause of countless lives lost in the war.

Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman started their voyage to Ayodhya, just as the fourteen-year exile was nearing its end.  On the way back, they stopped at Kishkinda and the sage Bharadwaja’s hermitage.  Rama’s brother Bharata received Rama with the greatest joy.  Ayodhya was exuberant due to the return of their beloved Rama.  Vasishta and the other priests crowned Rama as King of Ayodhya. Rama ruled Ayodhya in a righteousness manner, a golden time period called “Rama Rajya.”

 

Spying on God

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Rama returned to Ayodhya one day early, before the 14 years was complete.  He refused to enter until his vow was complete, so he and all his party camped outside the city walls.  The sage Narada came for the great events along with many others who were awaiting the auspicious morning.

In the wee hours, well before the sunrise, Narada began to wonder, “Who does Rama worship? Maybe I can go spy on him!”  Creeping quietly through the dark campground, Narada positioned himself outside Rama’s tent.  He saw the flickering light of a flame and heard soft chanting and a bell, so he peeked through a slit in the canvas.  Ah!  Rama was worshipping Shiva!  Narada thought, “This proves it; Shiva must be the highest God!

But then Narada thought again, for Shiva was there in the camp as well, incarnated as Hanuman.  Creeping through the dark, Narada approached Hanuman’s tent.  Again he saw flickering light and heard soft chanting.  Peeking through the flap, Narada saw Hanuman worshipping Vishnu, who had incarnated as Rama!

Thus Narada, the great devotee, was confused.  Who is the highest God?  Vishnu has incarnated as Rama, and is worshipping Shiva, but Shiva has incarnated as Hanuman and is worshipping Rama.  The answer is found in the greatest mystery of all — there is only One.  That One is found within.

Unraveling: Tail-to-Top

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Vidyadevi Stillman

The universe is constructed in a spiral.  The energy that becomes the atoms that become matter moves in a spiral.  You see the spirals in the sky: over 100 billion galaxies spiraling into existence.  From the macrocosm to the microcosm, it’s all spirals: consciousness even spirals into matter by becoming your DNA.

First just enjoy the marvel of it! How incredibly beautiful! How incredibly powerful!  How incredibly Divine! Consciousness becomes everything by spiraling into contraction.  You see it outside and inside; your body, mind, emotions and even your spiritual process are based in the spiral.  You can even see the cyclical patterns in your life.

The spiral also shows up in your spine.  Your spine unfortunately has a little curvy twisty spiral, which becomes a side-to-side curvature called scoliosis.  It’s created by the compression and the twist in your spine, which starts at your tailbone.  The core opening of Svaroopa® yoga lifts and lengthens your spine, unraveling the twist just like you would unravel the twist in a garden hose by lengthening it out.  Any chiropractor or osteopath can explain how this improves the condition of your internal organs, your nervous system, your Immune system, your breathing, your vision, etc.

Along with your internal organs, the twist in your spine even affects your brain.  Everyone has their own little kinks and peculiarities; you might call it a different twist on things. Yet you know that most of these are not beneficial.  You can create self-inflicted pain by twisting your mind, by tying yourself up in knots, whether it is over stuff that happened today, yesterday or years ago, or maybe never happened and never will.  Core opening unravels the knots in your mind and emotions as well as your body, giving you the ability to grow past the stuff that you use to get stuck on.  From yoga’s perspective, this is the transformation of small “s” self.

Everyone knows they have some work to do on themselves. That is why the self-help industry is so huge.  Most people are working on their self (small-s self), the superficial sense of identity that affects how you see the world and (most importantly) affects how you see yourself.  While the changes you get from core opening do help you with your mind and emotions, yoga says there’s a point where you need to address your mind and emotions directly. This is more complicated than simple body-stuff.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “I have recommended to many yogis that they go for marriage counseling, for psychological or psychiatric counseling.  I have seen them get the support they needed to get past stuff that was tying their ‘small s-self’ up into knots.  I consider them to be spiritual warriors when they tackle that toxic waste dump in their mind and emotions.”

When you experience your own Self, it feels so familiar.  This is because you have accessed your own Divinity so many times, by using reliable external triggers, like a beautiful view, a walk in the woods, the sky, the ocean, or the taste of chocolate, freshly brewed coffee or any other favorite food.  You love these things because they stop your mind; when your mind stops, you experience your own Self.  Yoga teaches you, instead of looking for external triggers, how to stop your mind directly, so you can live in the ever-arising bliss of consciousness that is your own Self.

Yoga explains that seeking happiness from outer things works for you, but it works indirectly:

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

In the moment your mind stops, you experience the bliss of svaroopa.[1]

Let’s say you are visiting someone and when you arrive, you smell baking chocolate.  Mmm!  You ask, “What’s going on in the kitchen?”   They bring out a plate of warm, fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies.   As the cookies come closer to you, you start getting happy.  Does happiness emanate from the cookie, as if “happy-molecules” were traveling through the air?  No, the joy arises within; it’s an inner experience.

Look more closely at how the experience occurs.  Your mind is fixated on the cookie as it comes toward you, “Cookie!  Cookie!  Cookie!”   Then you take hold of a cookie and your mind stops.  When your mind stops, the joy arises from its inner source, which is svaroopa, your own Self.  Your joy does not come from the cookie; joy does not spread through your mouth.  You think it is about the cookie, but it’s not.  Actually what happened is that you just found a way to quiet your mind.

The happiness that you think comes from an external object is actually an inner experience, the experience of capital “S” Self arising within you.  Arising from inside, it blasts your mind and heart open, even if only for a moment.  This is why people love hiking, their pets, certain songs or anything else.  The yogis promise that you can live in the inner arising all the time.

The most powerful way to get there is through the flow of consciousness that is ever vibrating in your spine.  To open up the full flow is the purpose of all the Svaroopa® sciences, to uncoil the coiled energy that is anchored just below the tip of your tailbone. That energy is Consciousness-Itself, installed within you, in a specific form that uplifts and transforms you completely.

As Consciousness spirals everything in the universe into existence, it spirals down in the human being (from top-to-tail) into a coil of 3½ spirals, rooted at the tip of your tailbone.  This specific energy now is named Kundalini because “kundala” means coiled.  The Grace inherent in the practices of Svaroopa® Yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya unravels the contraction, so this energy of Consciousness now arises within you, from tail-to-top.

This is the specialty of the Svaroopa® sciences.  Some yogis want to go for that inner opening directly, so they get the mantra and learn to meditate, or they come to a Shaktipat retreat.  Other yogis wait until their poses and practices trigger that bolt of illumination to climb their spine.  Do you suppose this could already be happening for you?  If you have experienced heat when you’re in a well-propped, well-aligned pose, especially a seated pose or reclining pose, the answer is yes.  You are not “working out,” so how can you be getting hot?  It is important to know that it is not a hot flash (for females of a certain age).  The inner heat is one of the earliest signs that Kundalini is awakened and is beginning to do your work for you.

This inner energy of upliftment works most powerfully in meditation.  Vidyadevi describes, “In meditation, I feel Kundalini climb from the base up, unraveling my spine and giving me a lift and a lengthening.  She opens an inner doorway for me to settle deeper and deeper into my own Self.”

Everything comes into existence by spirals.  Consciousness ravels into form — your form.  There, Consciousness is coiled, ready for the inner unraveling.  While you may be focusing on your physical tensions, the real problem is that they slow the flow of consciousness through your spine, in the same way a river with lots of curves has a slower current than a straighter river.   Unraveling your spinal compression is very beneficial:  to make your body function more effectively, to make your mind function more powerfully, but also to open up a greater spiritual depth within.

Svaroopa® yoga opens up access to your own inherent spirituality.  You get all three at once: body, mind and Self.  You find your own wholeness by working in all the dimensions simultaneously; it works no matter what practice you do.  This tantric interweaving is the secret power hidden in the Svaroopa® sciences.   You do a single practice, but you get benefits in multiple dimensions simultaneously.  Do more Svaroopa® yoga.

Originally published in October 2014

[1] Svaruupe is a form of svaroopa, meaning your own Self, your Divine Essence.  Sutra rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Your Body is Sacred

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

I wondered what people got from walking a labyrinth, so I decided to try one.  I didn’t have any kind of special experience at the one in my nearby park, so I thought I’d try a better labyrinth and went to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  They had just installed two labyrinths, outside in the garden and inside the cathedral.

From my hotel, I took the cable car up the hill, then stepped down into the street.  I walked across a little strip of grass and a cement sidewalk to place my foot on the first stair step up to the Cathedral’s property.  A bolt of energy shot up through my whole body!

I stopped, very clearly experiencing Kundalini’s message, ‘This is holy ground.’  I wasn’t even in their garden yet, only on the cement steps leading up almost two floors to get to their grounds.  Wow!

I climbed the steps, tried out both labyrinths and still found nothing special there, but that’s because I was already in the center — in the Self.  Yoga gave that to me, not anything outside.  But I did learn about sacred ground.  It’s not just the statue or flame in the temple that is sacred; it’s the whole temple and the ground on which it stands.  The same is true of your body.

If your body were merely a house for your soul, your body would be an inert substance or form, enlivened by your Divine Essence.  Instead, your body itself is Consciousness, every cell formed of Consciousness-concentrate.   One yoga text explains the details by mapping how Consciousness becomes the Universe, including you, even your body and your mind:

Sa chaiko dviroopas trimayash chaturaatmaa sapta panchaka svabhaavah.

 — Pratyabhijnahrdayam sutra #7

Though Consciousness is One, She becomes 2-fold, 3-fold, 4-fold and of the nature

of 7 pentads (7 x 5= 35).[1]

Every sutra is rich and dense with meaning, yet this one gives more than most by naming 4 different maps of creation!  There is the 2-fold map, the 3-fold map, the 4-fold map and the 35-fold map.  While all these maps are true and all of them are occurring simultaneously, right now we’ll focus on the four-fold map.  In the sutra, Shiva is the One Reality, being named as “Consciousness,” also referred to as “She” when manifesting a universe.

In the four-fold map, Consciousness (She) first manifests as the void. When you have a deep and profound meditative experience, you’ve experienced the void, an infinite inner nothingness, except that it is NOT nothing.  It’s Shiva, becoming the void to hide Himself/Herself/Itself from yourself.

Within the void, while being the void, Shiva moves.  That movement is called prana.  This second level of manifestation is the energy that brings life to this universe, called prana.

Prana, the energy of life itself, begins to coalesce into subtle forms, like moisture coalescing into clouds in the sky.  These different forms of prana become individual and separate beings on the subtle levels, pouring themselves into the five senses and the mind — becoming your five senses and your mind.  This is the third level, made of pure energy.

That Divine energy condenses and concentrates into the fourth level of manifestation, your physical body.  This is how your body comes to exist (with your parents getting involved too, of course).  This is how everyone’s body, and every tree and every bunny and every rock comes into existence.  It’s all energy, the “She” in the sutra, manifesting as matter.  The physical form you see is just the outermost level of the Divine levels of manifestation that are all going on at the same time.

Rukmini describes being in a class led by Swamiji:

“At the end of the class, Swamiji invited us to open our eyes.  And when I did, the expansiveness and fullness I had been feeling inside was visible outside too. It felt like I was the ocean, and my body a wave of the ocean, each breath a gentle bob of the wave.  Every other body around me was another wave of the same ocean, bobbing slightly with each breath and small movement.  Even the air around us, the sounds that moved through it, the floor beneath us, was the same ocean.”

Your body is a Divine Temple.  It is Consciousness-Itself that houses the Divinity (you) that is Consciousness-Itself.  Whether you study the teachings or not, the core opening practices of Svaroopa® yoga will give you the experiential knowing of your own Self, the Divinity that is Consciousness-Itself.body

Yoga’s timeless goal is the continuing experience of your own Divinity and to see that in all others. Do more yoga.

[1] English rendering by Swami Nirmalananda

Originally published March 2014