Monthly Archives: February 2020

A Meditation Epidemic

By Swami Satrupananda

We are amid a meditation epidemic. The “germs of meditation” are spreading far and wide. The other day, I talked to a gentleman in the bank parking lot. He said he knew that meditation would help him sleep better. On an airplane recently, I overheard people in nearby seats conversing about their yoga. Yoga and meditation are becoming household words.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) confirmed this with a report released in November 20181. Their research showed the number of people who meditate in the USA tripled between 2012 and 2017. Additionally, in 2017 the number of people who meditated was almost the same as the number of people doing yoga. The NCHS statisticians concluded saying, “Yoga and meditation has become more mainstream.”

These statistics are not surprising to us yoga and meditation practitioners. We’ve all experienced the truly amazing benefits of these practices.  Remember how you feel rolling over after the closing Shavasana and Guided Relaxation in a Svaroopa® yoga class. Your body and mind have been transformed. You’re calm and energized at the same time.

Or remember that moment when you open your eyes after a meditation. Your mind is calm and clear. Your stress, anxiety and fears have melted away. With these experiences, you easily understand how yoga and meditation are spreading. That they are becoming mainstream is no surprise.

A Google search shows many of the scientifically proven benefits for your body, mind and emotions. The benefits list is long and impressive. Yet they are just the by-products of the true purpose of yoga and meditation. These ancient mystical practices are for the purpose of knowing and experiencing your svaroopa, your true form, your Divine Essence. This is who you truly are. It’s called your Self, with a capital-s, because it’s worthy of respect, honor and even worship. You are worthy of respect, honor and worship.

The Shiva Sutras describes the goal of meditation:

Lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham, verse 1.18

This yogi experiences the sweet bliss of the Self in every location and situation, and shares it with others.

—Translated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Thus, when you know your Self, you’ll be in bliss. If you’re not experiencing bliss, you’re not being and knowing your own Self. This sutra tells us that the goal of meditation is not merely to experience the bliss of your Self in meditation. Ultimately, the goal is having this experience in “every location and situation.” Your bliss is transportable. The promise is that your inner bliss continues whether you’re at work, with friends and family or by yourself. The bliss of your Self is always there, so you can experience it everywhere and in every situation.

This ecstatic promise is likely not the reason you started to meditate. Most beginning meditators don’t even know about the “More” that meditation offers. Often, their motivation to start was to reduce illness, stress, anxiety or emotional pain. Yet people have been faced with these challenges for centuries and longer, with many possible treatments. So why is meditation growing in popularity now?

We get a hint from this Shiva Sutra verse. The last part of the translation says that the yogi “shares it [the bliss of the Self] with others.” We Westerners have had the great good fortune of meditation masters from India sharing meditation with us for a long time. They have shared the wisdom of the ancient yogic philosophy with the West. More importantly, they shared their presence.

It began with Swami Vivekananda speaking at the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893. Starting in 1958, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi did world tours and trained over 40,000 teachers, who taught over 5 million people2. Then Swami Muktananda did three world tours between 1970 and 1981. During his extensive periods in the United States, Muktananda offered Maha Shaktipat Diksha. This initiation awakens your own inner power of revelation, called Kundalini.  Once awakened, Kundalini fuels your meditation practices and reveals your own Divine Essence to you. Thousands and thousands of people received this initiation from Baba Muktananda.

In this way, Baba spread the “germs” of meditation very tangibly. These “germs” spread effortlessly to those who simply sat in his presence. He was established in the bliss of his own Self. Since this state is your true nature, simply by being in his presence, you attune to your own inherent bliss. You can’t avoid it. It’s your inherent natural state. It’s like when someone in the room starts to giggle. You can try to resist the laughter, but resistance is futile. It doesn’t take long until the whole room is in tears of laughter.

Muktananda came and spread the germs of meditation. Gurudevi Nirmalananda spent almost seven years sitting in his presence, catching the germs of meditation.  She took those germs, followed his command, and realized their full potential. She knows and lives in the bliss of her own Self in every location and in every situation. And she shares it with others. Come sit with one who truly knows their own Self. Get infected with the germs of meditation! It will be the best “bug” you ever caught. Spend more time with bliss-full beings.

 

1 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db325.htm

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maharishi_Mahesh_Yogi

Krishna Avatar — Part 8

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Kamsa relentlessly worked on sending more demons to kill Krishna.  He sent Arishtasura the bull demon, Kesii the horse demon and Vyomasura the demon who took the form of a mountain.  They ended up with the same fate as the other demons, all of them killed by Krishna.  Seeing that all the demons were dead, even the very powerful and cunning ones, Kamsa panicked.  Kamsa was desperately trying to think of who to send next.

On the other hand, Sage Narada was impatient, wanting things to move faster so to have Kamsa’s tyranny come to an end.  Sage Narada approached Kamsa, seemingly in a helpful manner, praising Kamsa’s strength and power.  But Sage Narada injected more fear into Kamsa, warning not to let Krishna grow and get more powerful.  He reminded Kamsa who Krishna and Balarama really are.

Even more agitated by Sage Narada’s advice, Kamsa prepared to kill Vasudeva and Devaki.  Sage Narada advised against Kamsa’s decision. Kamsa listened to Sage Narada, then deciding to imprison Vasudeva and Devaki again.  Sage Narada loved Kamsa’s decision, as it would motivate Krishna even more, to get his birth parents released.  Then, Sage Narada also adviced Kamsa that he should directly confront Krishna sooner rather than later, and disprove the prophecy.

After a long discussion, Sage Narada proposed an idea to Kamsa.  He asked Kamsa to hold a wrestling tournament, inviting all the best wrestlers and demons to participate.  He suggested inviting Balarama and Krishna to the tournament.  Sage Narada also praised Kamsa’s abilities, telling him that he could easily kill Krishna in a wrestling match, should Krishna escape all the other wrestlers and demons taking part in the tournament.  Liking the idea, and not knowing Sage Narada’s ulterior motive, Kamsa called for a wrestling tournament.

Kamsa summoned Akrura, a friend of his from the Yadava Kula, commanding him to extend the tournament invitation to Balarama and Krishna.   Devastated by the news, believing that this was a trap to kill Krishna, Akrura had to obey. Yet he was also happy that his longing to see Krishna and Balarama was becoming a reality.

Sage Narada’s aim of hastening the meeting of Krishna and Kamsa was accomplished.  The Sage left Mathura saying his usual words praising Lord Vishnu, “Narayana, Narayana,” knowing that the meeting will be Kamsa’s end.

Kamsa sent his best chariot to Akrura for fetching Balarama and Krishna.  Akrura traveled to Vrindavan with Kamsa’s invitation.  Being such an admirer of Krishna, when Akrura reached Vrindavan, he warned them about what he believed Kamsa was planning.  Krishna and Balarama looked at each other and smiled, as they accepted the invitation, even though everyone in Vrindavan was against it.

Knowing this will be his last day in Vrindavan, Krishna played his flute and danced, eating whatever anyone offered him.  There was heartache; as a human, Krishna knew this was the last day he would see Radha, his lifelong love.  Yet Radha, the other Gopiis and all the others in Vrindavan were singing and dancing, not knowing that it was their last day with Krishna.  At the end of the day, after dinner, he gave his flute to Radha as a token of love, asking her to keep it until they meet again, though he knew it was never going to happen.  That was the last day he played his flute until the end of his lifetime.  He knew that the playful mischief part of his life was over.

The next day, Krishna and Balarama got ready for their trip to Mathura, amid strong opposition from their parents and all of Vrindavan.  Yashoda was so worried that she didn’t know what she was doing, pacing up and down in the garden with no way to stop her son from going to Mathura.  Krishna calmed Yashoda, telling her it was the duty of a man to accept any challenge he received, and to face it with valor and dignity.  Balarama and Krishna mounted the chariot to leave for Mathura but getting out of Vrindavan took until noon, making it through the crowds to the outskirts of the village.

On their way, they stopped at the bank of River Yamuna.  At this stop, Akrura saw who Balarama and Krishna really were.  He saw the vision of Lord Vishnu on Adhishesha in place of Krishna and Balarama at the riverbank.  Akrura was in bliss and cherished that moment for the rest of his life.

Akrura got them close to Mathura, wanting them to stay one night at his own home, on the outskirts of the city.  Krishna said he would definitely come and stay, but only after he ended the cruelty happening to his clan by Kamsa’s hands. Though Akrura was not happy, he accepted Krishna’s decision and dropped the brothers at the entrance of the city, then taking the chariot to Kamsa to inform him of their arrival.  Krishna and Balarama were delighted to see that Nanda and his clan from Vrindavan had arrived before them, having taken a shortcut.

Mathura was a very beautiful city with impressive gates including entrance pillars made out of marble.  The brothers walked around looking at the marvels of the city, clean broad roads, mansions, gardens, ponds and fountains.  While they were walking around, the news of their arrival spread like wildfire.  People gathered in huge numbers to see them.  Krishna performed a number of miracles while roaming in Mathura.  All the resulting pandemonium disturbed Kamsa.  He already knew that Krishna and Balarama had arrived, so he knew what the pandemonium on the roads was all about.  Kamsa felt he was on the brink of going mad; he knew no rest or peace that night.

The brothers rested in a camp outside the wrestling tournament arena that night.   They woke from their sound sleep, had their baths and prepared themselves to go to the wrestling arena.  Hurrying along, they wanted to be there for the first event of the day.  They could hear the drums and the trumpets in the arena.  However, when they reached the gate to the arena, a huge elephant was blocking it.

Kamsa had planned that the huge elephant, Kuvalayapida, would kill Krishna.  The caretaker of the elephant did something to it, making it angry, so it went on an outraged attack.  Trumpeting loudly, Kuvalayapida charged towards Krishna and Balarama.  It tried to catch Krishna with its tusk.  Krishna ducked and went behind the elephant, catching its small tail.  He lifted the elephant and spun it round and round until the elephant was very dizzy, then he smashed the elephant on the ground.  Kuvalayapida fell with a thud and died.  Krishna and Balarama pulled out one tusk each, hanging it on their back shoulders.

They entered the tournament arena.  The arena was lavishly decorated with flags, flowers and garlands.  There were special stands, platforms and seats built for the kings, ministers, priests and other important people, including the wrestlers of Mathura.  The best wrestlers from the surrounding area entered the arena, ready for the challenge.

Kamsa entered the arena with his ministers and guards and sat in the special area arranged for him.  The drums were rolling and the music was playing.  According to Kamsa’s prior orders, Mathura’s chief wrestler, Canura, challenged Krishna for a match while the assistant chief wrestler, Mustik, challenged Balarama for a match.  They set the condition that the matches end only with death, thinking it was  going to be easy to finish off the cowherd boys.  Krishna and Balarama accepted the condition.

There was a lot of audience commotion in reaction to the conditions.  The audience thought the combatants were not equally matched, and some left the arena thinking it was unfair.  Others stayed to encourage the brothers, while those on Kamsa’s side wanted the match to take place.  There was support for both sides.

The two wrestling matches started, the mighty Canura and Mustik locked in with Krishna and Balarama respectively.  Though Canura and Mustik were hitting Krishna and Balarama hard, the brothers stood there as though raindrops were falling on a mountain.  After a number of strikes from the mighty Canura and Mustik, the crowd went silent, seeing the might of the boys.  Kamsa was frowning in fear.

Krishna and Balarama danced around Canura and Mustik, then with one blow each, brought them down.  The brothers picked up their challengers, whirled them around and slammed them to the ground.  Both Canura and Mustik lay dead in the dust.  One by one, other great wrestlers from all places followed Canura and Mustik into the wrestling ring.  They endured the same fate in the hands of Krishna and Balarama.  The bodies of Kamsa’s wrestlers were piling up by the side of the ring, while Krishna and Balarama danced in the middle of the ring.

Filled with anger and fear, Kamsa jumped out of his chair.  He commanded his royal guards to drive the boys out of Mathura, to put Nanda in chains and to kill Vasudeva, Devaki and his own father Ugrasena, who were in the dungeon.  Before Kamsa could finish his command, Krishna jumped on to Kamsa’s royal platform.  Catching Kamsa him by his hair at the nape of his neck, Krushna pushed Kamsa down to the wrestling floor.  Kamsa’s crown and Kamsa tumbled down the stairs to the platform, falling on to the wresting ring.

Krishna leapt from the platform down to the wrestling ring and straddled Kamsa’s belly.  Terrified, his past actions flashing before him, knowing the prophecy was coming true, Kamsa couldn’t say a word.  Krishna’s bare handed blows killed him.  A great roar and cheer went up from the crowd.   All the people who had earlier left the arena returned, surprised on hearing the news.  Kamsa’s eight brothers sought revenge for their brother’s death, ending up with the same fate.

Though Kamsa had been thinking negatively of Krishna, he was thinking of Krishna twenty-four hours of the day, three-hundred-sixty-five days of the past many years, since the day Krishna was born.  Due to this, Kamsa was cleansed of all his karma and became one with Krishna at his death.

After Kamsa’s death, Krishna and Balarama rushed to the dungeon and freed Vasudeva and Devaki from their chains.  They fell at their feet and bowed with utmost respect and received their blessings. Vasudeva and Devaki’s happiness at seeing their sons after all these years is beyond the power of any words to describe.

The boys then released Ugrasena, the rightful king, who had been in prison all these years.  They crowned him as the king again.  All the people of Mathura were in joy as their benevolent king was reinstated in full power once again.

Living Life in Your Fullness

By Swami Prajñananda

I took a bite of a crisp, juicy, red apple.  An apple had never tasted so sweet, so satisfying.  I wondered how this apple could taste so different, like I had never truly tasted one before.  The answer was, I had it after my yoga practice.  The apple wasn’t different. I was.

Have you noticed this?  Food tastes different after you take a yoga class or do your own home practice.  If you haven’t, you can do a little experiment: cut an apple in half, or any food for that matter.  Eat half before your yoga and then have the other half after.  Then see, is there a difference?

There will be!  Yoga makes everything better.  It isn’t just food that improves when you do your yoga.  Everything in your life improves.  You know this by the difference in your first Shavasana compared to the Shavasana at the end of your yoga class.  In only an hour and a half, you are changed.  Your body feels better, your mind is quieter, inner joy is welling up inside.  And the change in you doesn’t end when you leave your blankets.  This inner shift stays with you.

All of yoga’s practices are for the purpose of giving you the “More” inside.  It may be a softening or a settling, a feeling of peace, even feeling you are more comfortable in your own skin.  When this inner shift happens, you experience life in a whole new way.

It’s like the Wizard of Oz.  Until she went to Oz, Dorothy’s life was black and white.  Once she arrived in Oz, everything was in technicolor.  You are like Dorothy, except you don’t need to go anywhere to live life in technicolor.  In fact, what you really need is to be more here, to be more present.  When you inhabit your body and look inside to experience the deeper dimension of your being, life is fuller and more satisfying.  A sutra explains this principle:

J~naanam annam. — Shiva Sutras 2.9

Pure knowledge is the only real nourishment,

that which gives full satisfaction.

(translated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda)

There is a difference between knowledge and pure knowledge.  Knowledge can be anything you know.  It can be your knowledge in camping, university, cooking and the list goes on.  There are so many forms of knowledge!  But when it comes to pure knowledge, there is only one type: the knowing of your own Divine Essence.  This knowing is a deep knowing.  While other forms of knowledge are useful and important, pure knowledge nourishes you in a way that no other type of knowledge can touch.

We human beings are constantly looking for that satisfaction.  Yet we look for it on the outside.  Our culture, steeped in consumerism, feeds on the idea that you can buy happiness.  I like the example of Cheetos.  They are so addictive, because they were engineered to be that way.  The way it works is that Cheetos melt in your mouth.  Called “vanishing caloric density,”[1] this tricks your brain into thinking you are not consuming anything.  So you can eat and eat and eat and eat, and you will not feel full.

There is nothing nourishing, nothing fulfilling when you eat them yet you keep eating.  Why?  Yes, they are tasty, but it is more than that.  There is a motivation to keep consuming.  Because you are not yet satisfied, you keep eating them.  You do not feel full.  No matter how many you eat, however, it won’t touch that emptiness you are trying to fill.

Yoga says you are not empty inside; far from it.  Even more than food, the knowledge of who you are fills you.  It fulfills your craving for that “something more.”  Technically, the knowledge isn’t what fills you; it is your own Self that fills you.  Whether you know it or not, your Self is always present.  You were and are always full.  Without the knowing, however, you feel lost, alone and empty.

The purpose of all yoga’s practices is to cultivate your ability to know.  Once you know your own Divine Essence, you can never go back to not knowing.  You may forget from time to time.  That is why you have your yoga, to get you back to your inner knowing.  This inner knowing is the only real nourishment.

The next time you feel that inner craving for something more, pause.  Notice that you are not feeling satisfied.  Instead of heading to your usual “go to” — whether that be chips, TV, Internet surfing, etc. — pick one of yoga’s tools.  For a few minutes you can repeat mantra or meditate.  You can do some Ujjayi breaths or a pose or two.  Or choose another yoga tool that works for you.

After those few minutes, check in with yourself.  Do you feel more satisfied?  More nourished from the inside?  Every time you take a dip in the pure knowledge of your own inner fullness, you experience the nourishment and satisfaction that only your Self can provide.  And, yes, you can still have chips.  But can you be based in your Self while you have them?  Ultimately, the purpose of your yoga is to live your life, to be in the world, and at the same time to be sourced from your inner Source.  This is yoga’s promise.  As Gurudevi says, “Do more yoga.”

[1] Moss, Michael. “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2013.

 

Know Thy Self

By Swami Samvidaananda

From my airplane window, I watched the brilliant orange sun setting over a cloud bank.  Luminous rays transformed the clouds into a glowing field of orange, then red, then pink and gold.  I was transfixed.  I was flooded with joy.  I felt a peaceful, soaring freedom.

Everyone has these euphoric moments, though what triggers them will be unique to each.  For you, perhaps it’s a snowstorm, a song, or the vista from a mountain peak.  For a moment, time stops.  You are propelled into an ecstatic, elevated state.  Whatever the external trigger, your euphoria is happening inside.

Where did the joy I was experiencing come from?  While the rays of the sun were beautiful, they weren’t bathing me with joy-rays.  The joy, peace and freedom flashed up from within.  This inner arising is your own “capital-s Self.”  Your own Self is the One Reality that is being everything that exists, including the sun, the snow, the song, and you.  You are that One Divine Reality, Consciousness-itself, that yogis call by the holy name, “Shiva.”

The rest of the time, you simply don’t know that that’s who you really are.  You experience yourself as small, separate and alone.  You are bound by not-knowing.  Yet the system is rigged so that you can know.  My teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, says:

“The arising of transcendental consciousness from within shatters your unknowingness and sets you free.  This is the specialty of this tradition.”

With each arising flash of your own Self, you discover that you are more than you thought you were.  Once you experience being awash with the nectar of your inner Divinity, you can’t completely not-know ever again.  Your unknowingness is shattered.  You are free of your limitations and fears… for a moment.  Or an hour.  Or until the sun sets, the snow melts, the song ends, or you come down off the mountain.  And then you want to go back there.  But “there” is “here,” within you.

It’s wonderful that outer things can trigger an experience of your Self, but they are not always reliable.  The sun isn’t shining every day; the weather doesn’t cooperate.  So, what if you could trigger it for yourself?  You can.  once you’ve received Shaktipat initiation, meditation makes it easily accessible, anytime, anywhere.

This tradition’s specialty is initiation that flashes your Self to arise within you, so you can know your Self.  This inner awakening means you can bring your Self up within again, at any time, through meditation.  So you meditate again and again, until the day that you live as that illumination all the time, outside and inside.  To “know thyself,” as Socrates said, is the ultimate goal of the human being — to know your own Self, to be the beingness that you already are, no matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter who you are with.  That’s Gurudevi’s promise.

You want to know your own Self.  You have been searching.  You are ready to know, because you are reading a blog about yoga’s mysticism.  That decision came from an impulse arising from your innermost depths.  That impulse is the uplifting energy of your own Self, arising within you, striving to set you free.  To know your own Self, you must meditate.