Monthly Archives: March 2020

Cultivate Your Yearning

By Swami Prajñananda

You have always wanted more. More than your parents could give you. More than your school could give you. More than any partner could give you. And more than life could give you.  This desire for more is cultivated in our society: more cars, more money, more gadgets, MORE things. We have a thirst. Society tries to quench it with a mirage of water in the desert. But our thirst will never be quenched by anything on the outside. Of course, you can try. I certainly did.

Even from a young age, I felt like there was something missing. I felt an emptiness inside. I did everything I could to distract myself from it. While I really did try, none of what I did was enough. That is, until I found yoga and meditation. This is the story for most yogis in the West; we tend to have tried the whole gamut before discovering the “More” in yoga.

This desire for more comes from an inner feeling that you are not enough. It makes sense that you try to fill it. Why would you want to continue feeling that painful emptiness? You have a yearning to feel good enough, to feel complete, to know your purpose. While most people feeling this yearning turn outside for the answer, yoga tells you to turn within.

While society cultivates your desire, yoga cultivates your yearning. This yearning is to be cultivated and nurtured. It keeps you going to discover the inner realms of your being. It’s the fuel that propels you to becoming established in the knowing of your Self. You need to look inward for this to happen.

When you look outward, you feel incomplete because you are identifying with things that ARE incomplete. You are identifying with your body, and is anyone’s body perfect? You are identifying with your mind. Please show me someone with a perfect mind! In this way, you are setting yourself up to feel small and imperfect.

Instead of identifying with parts of the whole, yoga gives you practices for going deeper — deeper than your body and deeper than your mind. Svaroopa® yoga and meditation give you the experience of the whole of your Self. And every time you experience your own Divine Essence, you satisfy that deep yearning. At the same time, you add fuel to your inner fire to repeat that experience.

Yoga has a name for this yearning: Bhairava. This name describes God when God is pushing you to discover God. Bhairava IS the yearning. Bhairava is the fuel for your quest. Bhairava is the one that pushes you to keep looking for the “More.” And Bhairava is the one that sets you free. As a yogi, you have a true friend in Bhairava, because he will not let you settle for any less than God.

This process can be painful. While Bhairava is trying to free you from your limitations, you hold on to them. It’s like tug of war, with Bhairava pulling on one end and you on the other. And while you can say no to God, God will not say no to you. Bhairava will continue to try to free you from your sense of being incomplete.

The Shiva Sutras explains:

Udyamo bhairava.h  — Shiva Sutras 1.5

The arising of transcendental consciousness from within shatters your unknowingness and sets you free. — Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

Bhairava is the force arising within you in the form of yearning and in the form of freedom. The yearning is what compels you to take a yoga or meditation class. You may have started a yoga class for physical, mental or emotional healing, which you get, especially with continued practice. However, it’s the yearning that keeps you coming back. Before you can put words to it, you know that you are receiving getting that “More” you have always been looking for.

What you want is the arising of transcendental Consciousness within.  This arising shatters your unknowingness, because once you know, you can never not know. What is your unknowingness? It is the not-knowing of your inherent Divinity.  It is your identification with anything other than your Self. It is the feeling of being empty, alone and not good enough. Bhairava shatters your unknowingness and opens you up to the freedom of your own being. This is the reason that you have always been dissatisfied with anything less than total inner freedom.

You experience this inner arising at times other than yoga or meditation, like when you watch a sunset or experience an “aha” moment. This inner arising is the specialty of this tradition, always available to you. The Svaroopa® Sciences, originated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda, bring the age-old tradition into our modern age. Reliable and consistent, these practices always open you up to the inner arising. You experience the freedom of your own Self and the blissful knowing of your own being.

This happens because of the generations of Masters in this tradition. Their teachings and blessings give us direct access to the inner arising. While Bhairava is the force that frees you, the Shaktipat Guru gives you reliable, consistent access to that force. Then it is up to you to continue to cultivate your yearning. This way, you don’t settle for merely feeling better, you continue to cultivate your yearning for the “More.” You do the practices that give you that inner freedom until you can live in that state. As Gurudevi says, “Do more yoga.”

Follow Every Rainbow

By Swami Samvidaananda

Climb every mountain, ford every stream. Follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream

– Rodgers & Hammerstein, 1959

As a five-year old, I was so inspired by the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound of Music.  Every time I heard it, for years and years, I knew was going to do it: search high and low to find my dream!  It was out there, I was sure, somewhere.  I was confident college would help me find it.  When that didn’t work, I thought for sure I’d find it by moving to California.  I lived in a paradise of palm trees, ocean waves and tropical flowers.  I literally climbed mountains and forded streams.  I was happy, but only sometimes.  I was blissful, occasionally.  But it simply wasn’t enough.  I felt empty most of the time.  Worse, I didn’t know why.

Then I found the answer in yoga.  I had been trying to find meaning and happiness by looking outside.  The yogic sages explain the path is one of inner exploration and discovery.  The outer things — whether career or where you live or a relationship — are unreliable sources.  A fellow yogi shared that raising her son gave her the most joy she’d ever had.  And then, she said, “He grew up.”  Children grow up, relationships end, careers change.

When you turn your attention inside with yoga, especially with meditation, you discover a reliable and inexhaustible fountain of joy.  You don’t merely experience the joy, you discover you are the source of the joy, the source of happiness, the Divine Source of everything that exists:

chidaananda-roopah shivo’ham shivo’ham. – Adi Shankaracharya, 788-820 CE

My true form is the bliss of consciousness; I am Shiva. I am Shiva. – Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

You are Shiva, the One Divine Reality, the Source of all while being beyond all.  In the same way physicists describe this universe as made of energy, yogis describe this universe as made of Divine Energy.  That Divinity is Shiva, which is being all, thus being you.  You don’t have to earn. attain or grow into your Shiva-ness.  Divinity is intrinsic to who you are, like sunlight is bright and sand is gritty.  You can’t take the light or heat out of the sunlight, and you can’t take the grittiness out of the sand.  You can’t take the Divinity out of you.

So how come you don’t know you are Shiva?  Your inner knowing is hidden from you.  Shiva hid it.  Technically, Shiva hid Shiva’s own Shiva-ness from Shiva in order to experience being not-Shiva, thus being you.  Shiva becomes the individual, who feels small, separate and alone.  Yet your Divinity is not completely obscured.  It’s like it’s hidden behind a curtain that’s not completely opaque; you can see through it sometimes.  You have moments when you know there’s more, moments you know you are more.  Those moments are so blissful that you want to experience them more of the time.  How about all the time?

Yoga promises that you will know the “More” that you already are, and you will live in that Self-knowingness all the time.  While Shiva created your not-knowing, Shiva also created a way for you to know again.  Knowing who you are is the purpose of human life.  What is concealed can be revealed.

Many paths aim to these heights. Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation is one of them: revealing your Divinity to you is the specialty of this tradition.  The process is through an inner awakening, an initiation called Shaktipat.  When your inherent Divinity is revealed to you inside, then, when you open your eyes, you can see that same Divinity in everyone and everything that exists.  Everything is Divine, because Divinity is what everything is made of.

Once you know your own Divinity, where will you go?  Anywhere you choose.  What will you do?  Anything you choose.  This is not about you leaving the world.  There’s no need to end up facing a wall in a cave in the high Himalayas.  You can do what you do, with the people you do it with, where you are now.  This path does not negate the choices you’ve made.  It embraces them.  The difference is that you will bring the whole of yourself to everything you do.  You’ll act from fullness, not emptiness and need.  You’ll shine the Light of Consciousness into your relationships, your home, your job and other activities.  You get to sculpt your life in whatever way you choose.  So climb mountains, if you want to.  Ford streams.  Follow rainbows.  Find your dream.  And, to know your own Divinity, get Shaktipat.  It opens the door to your own Self.

Krishna Avatar Part 9

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Nanda and Vasudeva decided that Krishna and Balarama should be sent to school, to the gurukul.  Garg Muni, their family Guru, recommended the great teacher Sandipani Muni’s ashram in what is now Madhya Pradesh.  Sandipani Muni accepted the request from Nanda and Vasudeva, taking Krishna and Balarama under his wing, to study the scriptures, different arts, and warrior training and even the customs for a royal prince, as they had been born into a royal family.

Krishna got friendly with a lot of the other students in the ashram, especially with Sudama, who became his best friend.  Krishna and Balarama studied well under Sandipani Muni along with other students.

Krishna and Balarama learnt everything within a span of 64 days, including fourteen types of sciences (vidya) and sixty-four skills and arts (kalas).  Once they received the teachings, according to the custom, they asked their Guru what to offer as Guru Dakshina.  Sandipani Muni said he would consult his wife and let them know.  Knowing how powerful the boys were, his wife had a special request for them, which Sandipani Muni conveyed to them.  The ask was for them to bring back their only son alive, who had drowned some time ago while having a bath in Prabhasa Tirtha.  Yes, to have his son restored to life is what he wanted for Guru Dakshina.

Krishna called upon Varuna, the god of seas, inquiring about Sandipani Muni’s son.  Varuna didn’t know much about the boy but remembered hearing that an asura named Pa~nchajanya, in the form of a conch, had killed the boy.  Immediately Krishna and Balarama went to the ocean and found the asura.  They killed him by opening his stomach.  But, to their surprise, they couldn’t find the boy.  Krishna kept Pa~nchajanya ever since that day as his conch.

Not finding Sandipani Muni’s son, they decide to visit Yama Loka, where the god of death resides.  There Krishna took his conch and made the biggest sound ever.  Hearing this, Yama appeared before them.  Knowing what Krishna and Balarama were looking for, and knowing who they really were, Yama gave the boy back to them.  Krishna and Balarama took the boy back to Sandipani Muni, successfully finishing their studies by giving the dakshina their Guru requested.  Sandipani Muni and his wife blessed both Krishna and Balarama with their highest blessings.  As Sandipani Muni was so happy, he also blessed Krishna that all his teachings to the world will be equivalent to the Vedas themselves.

Krishna and Balarama happily returned to their families and friends in the city of Mathura.  They were received with utmost welcome.  The people acted as they were found the treasure for which they have been looking for decades.

Krishna decided to send a message to Vrindaavan, to his foster parents and his dear Gopiis, including his dearest Radha.  He chose Uddhava, his cousin, friend and a wise counselor.  Uddhava was a direct disciple of Brihaspathi (Guru of the Devas) and also the son of Devabhaga, who was the brother of Vasudeva, Krishna’s father.  Uddhava was also a great devotee of Krishna.  His physical appearance was so like Krishna’s that, in some instances, he was temporarily mistaken for him.

Krishna met Uddhava in a private place and requested him to visit Vrindaavan with a message on his behalf to the Gopiis and other residents of the village, who were missing his company.  Krishna requested Uddhava to tell them that they should know there is no separation between him and them.  As all the rivers come to the ocean, they will attain him with their continuous love, devotion and austerities.  Since he was physically apart from them, they should think of him day and night, as a good wife would think about her beloved husband all the time.  So for them, to forget about everything and only to meditate on him.

Uddhava reached there at dusk when the cows were returning home.  The dust from their hooves made Uddhava’s chariot disappear in its cloudiness.  Uddhava reached Nanda’s home where Nanda treated Uddhava as he would treat Krishna, delighting that Uddhava’s physical appearance was so like Krishna’s.  Nanda asked Uddhava question after question.  He asked whether Krishna was remembering them?  He also asked whether Krishna remembered his friends and the Gopiis, Vrindaavan and Govardhana Hill?  He anxiously asked whether Krishna had any plans in the near future to come and visit them all.  He said that the minute he thought about Krishna, he forgot himself and got consumed by Krishna’s memories.  Hearing all this from Nanda, Yashoda’s heart was yearning for Krishna.  She started to sob and burst into a cry.

Uddhava was a scholar and an intellectual.  He replied, “Dear ones you attained the highest honor by raising Krishna as your own.  You gave all that you had to him, in the form of love, affection and devotion.  Krishna is none other than Lord Vishnu himself.  He will certainly come and visit you.  After all you are his beloved parents.”  He also reminded them that Krishna was not born only for them, he was born for the universe itself.  They talked all night, until the time when the sun is going to start slowly rising.

The Gopiis, always awake before the sunrise, saw the chariot in front of Nanda’s house.  They feared that Akrura had returned and wondered what he would to take away from them now.  As he was returning from the river, Uddhava met the Gopiis.  They recognized him as Krishna’s messenger, so they started singing about Krishna’s lilas.  One of them started a song teasing Uddhava, showing their anger about Krishna’s departure.  Uddhava gave the teaching that they could find Krishna inside by turning their mind within.  The Gopiis criticized, “When Akrura came to Vrindaavan, he took our Krishna with him.  Now you are trying to take away his memories from us?” At this, Uddhava was speechless.  Then he slowly and lovingly delivered Krishna’s message to think only of him.

Uddhava was so filled by the devotion that Radha and the Gopiis had towards Lord Krishna that he stayed in Vrindaavan for the next six months.  He also asked the Gopiis to be his Guru to teach love and devotion.  Some say that Uddhava longed to be in Vrindaavan, even as a shrub or a vine.  Thus, he would be rooted in the earth where the Gopiis lived, they who gave up everything for Krishna and Krishna alone, where their blessed feet stepped every day.  They say that, even now if you are in Vrindaavan, pray for the blessing of Uddhava.  He will be sure to bless you.

Uddhava returned to the city of Mathura with love and gifts from all.  Then he accompanied Krishna who wanted to fulfill Sairandhri’s boon, a royal maidservant.  Then, along with Balarama, they visited Akrura at his home as they promised him earlier.  Akrura was delighted see them all, gave them the ultimate welcome and worshipped them with great devotion.

Krishna requested Akrura to visit Hastinapura to inquire about his cousins, the five Pandavas.  Their mother Kunti had lost her husband recently, was always worried about the welfare of her sons, especially being afraid that their cousins, the Kauravas, would kill them.  She had been praying to Krishna to help her sons.  So, Krishna sent Akrura as a messenger, asking him to judge the situation in Hastinapura.

Visiting Hastinapur, Akrura realized that King Dhritarashtra was partial towards his own sons, the Kauravas, and wanted them to take over the throne.  However, rightfully the throne belonged to the Pandavas, who were the sons of Pandu, Dhritarashtra’s brother.  Akrura also realized that Dhritarashtra always supported his sons, even in their attempts to kill the Pandavas.  Akrura indirectly advised Dhritarashtra to give up his evil plans, and to give the Pandavas the throne because it was rightfully theirs.  But Dhritarashtra refused to change himself.  In fact, he explained all the righteous advice that he gets doesn’t stay in his heart, as they were like lightning strikes for him.  Akrura returned to Krishna and Balarama and told them about the situation in Hastinapur.  This is the beginning of the great Mahabharata story.  We will come back to this soon, with the full details, including the relationships and descriptions of the family and other members.

After the death of Kamsa, his two wives, Asti and Prapti, had to return to their father as they didn’t have any children to take care of them.  Their father was Jarasandha, the king of Magadha.  Jarasandha’s father was King Brihadratha, who was married to the twin daughters of King of Kashi, but they didn’t have any children for a long time.  Though he loved both his wives and his kingdom, having no one to take his kingdom forward put him in a depressed state.

Sage Chandakaushika visited Brihadratha’s kingdom. The King served him with respect.  This pleased Sage Chandakaushika very much, so he granted King Brihadratha a boon.  King Brihadratha requested a son.  The sage gave him a mango and ordered him to give it to one of his wives.  After the sage left, as King Brihadratha was fond of both of his wives, he cut the mango in equal two halves and gave one piece to each of his beloved wives.  Both of them got pregnant and the king was very happy.

Nine months later, both his wives gave birth to a child, or rather half a child each.  Seeing this, the midwives decided the two halves should be disposed of; they dumped the two lifeless pieces of flesh outside of the kingdom.  There lived a demoness named Jara, who sensed the human flesh and hurried to the spot.  Hoping to carry the flesh pieces home for dinner, she placed them side by side in her basket.  By the time she reached home, miraculously the two haves had joined to make a complete human child.  Coming to know that the human baby was really the son of the King of Magadha, she decided to take the child to the palace, wanting a great reward.  The heartbroken king, who thought he had lost the child, was ecstatic to find his child alive.  He rewarded Jara generously, naming the child Jarasandha in honor of Jara’s service to him.

Jarasandha grew up to become a very powerful king and expanded the Magadha kingdom.  Many other kings made an allegiance with him, making him a mighty king of that area.  He married both his daughters to Kamsa of Mathura, to make his kingdom more powerful with Kamsa’s allegiance.  When his daughters returned to him due to the death of Kamsa, Jarasandha was very angry.  Jarasandha decided he was going to kill Krishna and annihilate the entire Yadava kula.

More to come…

Amazing Grace: A Mystical Force

By Swami Shrutananda

“Amazing Grace” is a song I heard growing up, for my parents were active in our local church.  Eventually, my father became a minister. “Amazing Grace” was one of my favorite hymns.  Even to this day, it’s a hymn I remember, and I find myself humming it.

One of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world, it’s estimated to be performed about 10 million times a year, which averages to 27,397 times a day!  This hymn touches many hearts. Why?

For me, it is the meaning of the words and the experience they evoke.  This hymn evokes an incredible longing — a longing to be delivered from the human condition through God’s Grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home.

— John Newton, published 1779

This poem touches your heart whether you’re looking outside for God or you’re looking inside to find God as your own Self, your own inherent Divinity.  In yoga, when you look outside, the One Reality is called Brahman.  When you look inside, the One Reality is called Atman, the Self. That Ultimate Reality is the only One, whether you are looking outside or inside.

Yoga specializes in looking inward to see, to know and to experience the One Reality that has become you — and is being you.  The yogic process is one of coming home to the knowing of your own Self. That knowing has a feeling — a feeling of being home in your Self.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.

Yoga describes the human condition as the painful delusion of wretchedness.  Before yoga, you may feel abandoned, not good enough, miserable, dejected, even desolate. This feeling is what motivates many people to begin yoga.  You yearn to be happier, to feel better about yourself, to find meaning in life.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “It’s the yearning to know God.  You will know God when you know your own Self.”

I once was lost, but now am found…

I truly felt lost.  Fresh out of college, in my first job, I thought I finally had it made. Life was going to be good from now on. I had more freedom. I could do what I wanted.  Within a few months, I realized my life was very repetitive.  Five days a week, I got up, had breakfast, went to work, came home, had dinner and went to bed. On weekends, I worked hard at having fun.  After a few months, I called one of my wiser older brothers.  I asked, “Is this it?”  He said, “Yes.”

I was extremely disappointed.  Life was not what I had been promised.  Unfortunately, since my brother was not Self-Realized, he couldn’t really help me. Was I going to be stuck in this meaningless existence for the rest of my life? I was lost with no way out.  Yoga calls this “the human condition.”

To fill the gap, you look for meaning in what you do and in your relationships. Yet you never feel fully satisfied nor complete.  You are always looking for more, even when you don’t know what the more is that you are looking for. What are you searching for?  The song promises, “…but now I’m found.”  You want to find your Self. This is yoga’s specialty; it is yoga’s goal.  To see and to know and to experience your own Divinity — within.  To discover, technically it is to re-discover, your Divine Essence which is hidden within, the One Reality which you have always been.

T’was blind but now I see.

Looking back to life before yoga, I realize that I was going through life wearing blinders. Yoga makes your blinders fall away.  You perceive more of what is really here — inside and outside.  Yoga empowers your perception, so you see yourself more clearly, even more deeply.  You see through the surface levels of your being, body and mind, all the way to the Divinity that is your own existence.

And Grace, my fears relieved…

Unfortunately, most thoughts are fear driven.  Anxiety is acknowledged as a growing epidemic.  In 2018, almost 40% of Americans were more anxious than they were a year earlier [poll by the American Psychiatric Association (APA)].  Fortunately, through the Grace-filled practices of Svaroopa® yoga, you experience freedom from fear.  You lengthen your tailbone, decompress your spine, breathe, repeat mantra, chant and meditate.  You are growing into your Self, an inner experience that is beautifully described as “freedom from fear.”

And Grace will lead us home.

You may not yet be attuned to the Grace that can lead you home.  How do you access more Grace?  The mystical secret is that the Guru is the embodiment of Grace.  Nirmalananda says, “You need the Guru, one who takes you from darkness (gu) to light (ru). You’ve probably already had a few rugus in your life, those who have taken you from light to darkness. It’s time to go the other way.”

It’s the Divine power of Grace that is named by the word ”Guru,” not the person or personality.  The title Guru honors one who has given her or his life over to the Divine force of Grace. Thus, the Guru becomes a reliable source for others. Just as you can count on getting wet when you step into a shower, you can count on being saturated with Grace in the Guru’s presence.

A Shaktipat Guru like Swami Nirmalananda invokes the mystical force of Grace to arise within you.  She awakens your own inner power of upliftment, Kundalini, to arise within you and reveal your own Self to you.  Svaroopa® yoga is the Yoga of Grace, specializing in Shaktipat, this profound and life-changing inner awakening. With Svaroopa® yoga, you get outer support from a real live person, someone who has been through the whole process and knows what you need.  The process begins with Shaktipat, bringing you home to your own Self. Supporting you outside and inside, Amazing Grace leads you HOME.