Monthly Archives: October 2019

The Yearning

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Built into your humanness is the innate yearning for transcendence, which is cultivated by the Svaroopa® yoga practices.  While you are moving your body, taking care of your aches and pains, improving your health and mood, increasing your stamina and vitality, balancing your immune system and resetting your endorphins — you are also cultivating the call of your heart for mystical experiences.  Once you truly realize that you cannot get true satisfaction from outside, you can experience the yearning in its true form.  Kusuma Sachs described it beautifully in her blog:

The yearning is a sense of deliciousness that you know is there, but just beyond your grasp.  It is a tingling vibration deep in your being, promising something more, something that you know is more than you can even imagine.  It is the welling up of tears for no reason; it is the  longing for that which you know – and yet can’t grasp onto.  It is the elation that wells up, just by contemplating yearning itself.  It is the swelling of your heart into an expectation of unknown joy.  This is the yearning.  You know it so well.

To allow yourself to feel the yearning directly, without mundanating it, is both painful and delicious at the same time.  I made up the word, “mundanate,” meaning “to make mundane.” It is the opposite of the word “sublimate,” which means to make sublime. The contemplative traditions (monks and nuns) practice celibacy and prescribe that the initiates sublimate their sexual energy.  You may have thought that sublimating means repressing, denying, avoiding or even expressing sexual energy in abnormal ways, and may even have thought that sublimation refers only to sex.  In fact, sublimation means to make the mundane into something sublime, supreme, or complete. In terms of celibacy, it means you turn that overwhelming desire and energy toward God, who provides you with a deeper, more complete satisfaction than you have ever experienced, even with good sex.

While something mundane can be made sublime, it also goes the other way.  The sublime can be turned into the mundane.  This is what I see when I look at the popular yoga calendars.  The sacred postures that open you up to the experience of your own divinity have become circus posters, showing contortionists wearing almost nothing.  When the yoga poses serve their original purpose, they are a rocket ship to God.

You yearn for this experience.  The yearning is built into you, inherent within you and every human being.  Most of the people you know mundanate the feeling and look for satisfaction in a new job, a new pair of shoes, a new spouse, etc.  You’ve tried doing it yourself; after all, you had such good role models!  But it doesn’t work for you.  Somehow you know you are looking for something more.  And you get no satisfaction from all that efforting, as Mick Jagger says:

I try, and I try, and I try, and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no…

The “trying” gets in the way.  You get satisfaction by surrendering to your own core essence, which is the divine all-pervasive, ever-existent One Reality, which yoga calls “Shiva.”  You are Shiva.  This surrender is not a “giving up,” but a “giving in” to your Self. Discover your own core essence. Know your own Self.  Be that which you already are, the source of full and complete satisfaction.  And carry that into your life.

Do more Svaroopa® yoga.


By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

An ancient yogic teaching was rendered into a modern-day sutra (aphorism) by Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones:

I can’t get no satisfaction…

I try, and I try, and I try, and I try…

Your heart and your whole being yearn for a satisfaction that the world cannot provide.  Whether you’re striving for recognition on the job or in your relationships, a new home or a new car, whiter teeth or a better nose, or anything else – you can get it, but you’re still not satisfied.  That sense of full and complete satisfaction is rare, and it is essential.  Without it, life becomes a treadmill with no end in sight.

You have had experiences of complete satisfaction, perhaps better described as supreme contentment.  One tantric text describes how nature can provide such profound experiences, whether you are looking at a vast view, getting lost in the woods or watching the ocean.  In that timeless moment, you feel complete.  You feel whole.  There is nothing you need or want; there is nothing you need to do.  I have heard people say, “If I died right now, it would be OK.”

The first time I experienced this completeness, and I knew I was having an experience while I was having it, was at the top of a mountain.  Mt. Tamalpais is not your ordinary mountain.  Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean, it is easily accessible — you can drive to the parking lot at the summit.  My cousin took me there one afternoon.  We wandered along different paths across the grassy field adjacent to the parking lot, so I had no clue what lay in my immediate future.  As I came up over a rise, the whole breathtaking scene of bridge, bay and ocean burst open in front of me.  As I write this, the hairs on my arms are standing on end.  The memory of the event places me there again!

Yet I knew that something else was happening.  Something I didn’t understand.  I looked more closely at the bridge, thinking, “Is it you that is making me feel this way?”  I looked at the sunset washing its colors over the fog bank, asking “Is it you?”  I looked for the source of this ecstasy, but I could not find it in any of the things I saw, nor in the totality of the scene.  I didn’t know that the source of what I had experienced, the sense of bursting open, was and is inside.  A few months later, I found my way to my Guru, who gave me access to that inner source, which is my own Self.  Your Self is in the same place, inside you.

Yoga calls this experience pratyabhij~na (prat-ya-bij-nya), which means recognition, referring to the recognition of your own inherent divinity.  This is the only thing that truly satisfies you.  This is why it is so hard to get satisfaction — you are looking in the wrong place.  You are trying so hard, you try and you try and you try to get satisfaction from things that simply cannot provide it.

Why do you try so hard?  One reason is that your hard works pays off, but only sometimes.  Sometimes, like a runner after a long race, you get satisfaction.  You might be exhausted, but somehow, through the exhaustion, that feeling of full and complete satisfaction bubbles up.  Yoga’s ancient teachings explain how this works:  when you gain something you strenuously wanted, your mind stops; every time your mind stops, the bliss of your own being arises within you.

It’s like me standing there, overlooking the San Francisco Bay, realizing that the incredible feeling didn’t come from the view.  It’s not like the view was emanating little bliss-bits that were soaking through my skin to make me happy from the outside-in.  I knew that I didn’t understand the source of my feeling, but now I know why — I didn’t know where to look.

So when you work hard at something, or you desire it hard enough, and then you get it – you experience pratyabhij~na, what the Stones call “satisfaction.”  This happens every time your mind stops, which is why so many of yoga’s practices are for the express purpose of quieting your mind.  And when your mind settles into quietude, you experience the deeper dimension within, svaroopa — your own Self.

Originally published March 2010

Krishna Avatar – Part 4

by Nirooshitha Sethuram

The whole town of Gokul was in joy, especially Nanda and Yashoda, the new parents of Krishna, named for his dark complexion.  The cowherds of Gokul were so happy that their leader had a child to continue leading them that they decorated with garlands to celebrate Krishna’s birth.  From that day onward, the life of all the Gopis (milkmaids) and Gopalas (cowherd boys) revolved around Krishna, the divine baby.

But in the city, King Kamsa was very upset that he had been unable to kill Krishna, the prophesied eighth child.  Still targeting the children who were born in the month of Shraavana, Kamsa sent out one of his seven demons, Trinavarta, to hunt for the eighth child.

Trinavarta could change himself into a whirlwind.  He roamed all around and came to Gokul.  Krishna was at the crawling age.  Yashoda was cradling him on her lap but felt his weight as unbearably heavy for some reason, so she put him on a mat on the floor and went about household work.  Knowing Trinavarta was in the area, Krishna crawled to the doorstep so that Trinavarta could see him.

Trinavarta saw Krishna, whose appearance matched what he was seeking.  Becoming a whirlwind, he made the whole of Gokul dark with the dust, picked up Krishna and took him away.  Yashoda came checking on Krishna, found him missing and fainted.

Trinavarta carried Krishna for a while but found Krishna’s weight increasing.  It increased to a point where Trinavarta was unable to carry Krishna anymore and fell on the ground, coming out of his whirlwind form.  He fell with Krishna on top of him.  The weight of Krishna increased to a point where Trinavarta choked and died under the unbearable weight of Krishna.  The villagers found Krishna playing on the chest of Trinavarta’s body.  They picked Krishna up and Trinavarta’s body turned into dust.  This was another failed attempt by Kamsa.

Krishna was so powerful, as made evident on another occasion.  This happened on his first-year birth star (janmashtami) ceremonies.  The whole of Gokul was invited, including the wise and learned pundits who beautifully recited Vedic hymns to bless Krishna.

Yashoda gave Krishna a holy bath (abhishek) and got him ready for the ceremony but, after the bath, little Krishna fell asleep.  She laid him under a cart outside for shade, a cart filled with heavy items.  Yashoda asked some older kids to keep an eye on Krishna.  She got really busy, taking care of the pundits’ and the guests at the ceremony.

Baby Krishna woke up and started crying, wanting milk.  With all the noise around her, Yashoda couldn’t hear his cry.  Krishna got angry and kicked the wheel of the cart with his tiny feet.  The huge heavy cart crumbled down into pieces.  No one in Gokul could believe that Krishna was the one to wreck the cart.

These events confirmed to the Gokul residents that Krishna was not just any child.  But what they didn’t know was that cart wheel was none other than a demon named Shakatasura who was sent by Kamsa to kill Krishna.  Shakatasura attained mukti (liberation) due to the fact that the Lord’s feet touched him.

Krishna was growing up fast in Gokul, his brother Balarama by his side.  They loved each other so much that one couldn’t live without the other.  Both of them were very mischievous.  Especially Krishna, who would provoke Balarama and all their friends into doing mischievous activities.  Sometimes they would grab the ends of the tails of the calves.  The calves would then run here and there.  The children would hold on to the tails tightly, pretending they too were scared.  The Gopis would come to their rescue and it all will be very dramatic.

Krishna and Balarama would go into all the houses in Gokul, stealing the curd (yogurt) and butter from the household, most of the time escaping, but sometimes getting caught.  Everyday there were a few villagers at Yashoda’s and Rohini’s doorsteps, complaining about the kids.  But there was no way to stop the brothers from stealing the milk, curd and butter.

All the brothers did was sit silently, like good boys, yet they were planning the heist for the next day.  Different strategies and different techniques had to be planned every day as the villagers made hurdles and preventive methods against the previous strategies the brothers had used.

For example, the pots containing the curd and butter were usually kept on the floor. Then the villagers moved the pots to high tables.  When that too didn’t work, they hung the pots from the roof.  The brothers were so bad that, if they were unable to get to the curd and butter, they broke the pots and ate whatever they could, making the rest unusable.  The villagers were having quite a time with the mischievous brothers.

Krishna was always the leader, while he made sure he shared it with all the kids in Gokul, thus they were always on his side.  He shared it not only with his human friends, but also with his animal friends, especially with the charming monkeys, who were as mischievous as he.

Yashoda and Rohini didn’t know what could be done.  However, much punishment was given to Krishna and Balarama, they always found a way to convince their mothers to forgive them.  One day, Yashoda and Rohini sat the two brothers in the garden and made sure they didn’t get any food, as their punishment.  The brothers were hungry.  Krishna took a handful of dirt, ready to put it in his mouth.  Balarama saw this and thought their mothers would be angry if he let Krishna eat dirt.  Trying to stop Krishna, he couldn’t get the dirt out of Krishna’s mouth.  He took Krishna by his hand and pulled him over to mother Yashoda, telling her that he tried to stop Krishna from eating dirt. but Krishna wouldn’t listen.

Yashoda was worried that Krishna was going to get sick and asked him to open his mouth so she could get the dirt out.  First, he refused to open his mouth, then later he opened it, due to his mother being persistent.  Yashoda looked inside Krishna’s mouth and saw all the worlds, stars, galaxies and universes in it, including all that exists, movable and immoveable.  Most surprisingly, she saw herself just as she was at the very moment, looking in her darling Krishna’s mouth.  Unable to comprehend, she fainted and fell on the floor.

On regaining consciousness, she was unable to describe what she had seen.  All she could do was hug Krishna and not let him out of her arms for the longest time.  It was the play of Lord himself, filling her with great maternal affection, making her forget the vision she’d witnessed.

The complaints about the butter thieves kept on coming.  On another day, Rohini locked Balarama in a room.  Yashoda took a stick in her hand and chased Krishna, who was running as fast as he could, through houses, courtyards and gardens.  At last she caught him!  She tied Krishna to a mortar.  Of course, the Lord let himself be caught by his mother.

It wasn’t easy for Yashoda to tie little Krishna to the mortar.  A motor is a cup-shaped receptacle made of heavy hard wood, in which ingredients are crushed, ponded or ground, using a heavy pole with a smooth bottom, especially used in cooking and pharmacies.  As she picked up the rope to tie around him, she found the rope to be two inches too short.  She found another piece of rope and tied it to the first one, wrapping it again.  It also was two inches too short.  Then she tried another one and another one, but they were always two inches too short.

She was bewildered and got tired of trying to tie little Krishna.  Lord Krishna felt compassion for his mother and decided to get bound, because of her true love for her son.  Yashoda thought that the mortar was so heavy that small Krishna would not be able to get around to his mischiefs.  She went to the kitchen to continue her household work.

Krishna couldn’t stay long.  He got bored so he started pulling the motor around the garden to try and get free from it.  He came across two gigantic arjuna trees, growing side-by-side.  Thinking that was the way for his great escape, he pulled the mortar between the two trees, thinking that will free him.  But, with his mighty power, he uprooted both the trees, which fell on the ground with a thud.  Two celestial beings appeared out of the trees.  They worshipped Krishna in a thankful manner and disappeared joyfully.  Who are these two celestial beings?

Once there were two brothers named Nalakubera and Manigriva, sons of Kubera, the king of wealth.  Handsome and wealthy, they were accustomed to worldly enjoyment such as drinking, smoking, dancing and pursuing other mundane desires.  One day they were so enamored of their wives that they didn’t notice the arrival of the great Sage Narada.  Insulted by their behavior, Narada cursed them to remain as two trees in Gokul forever.

Hearing this, their wives fell at the sage’s feet, asking him to forgive their husbands and take back his curse.  Narada relented, but a curse once given cannot be retracted; it can only be modified.  So Narada amended the curse, such that Lord Vishnu would release their husbands when he incarnates as Krishna.  Thus, Lord Krishna fulfilled the prophecy of his dear devotee Narada.

Yashoda and Nanda heard a thunderous sound, as if a thunderbolt had struck the village, and came out running.  The found that Krishna had uprooted the two huge trees which had been next to each other in the garden.  Shocked to see what Krishna had done, Yashoda stood amazed.  It was, after all, impossible for a little boy to knock down two huge trees.  But they remembered the words of Garga Muni, who named Krishna, announcing that the Supreme Lord had appeared as this child.

More to come…