Monthly Archives: April 2020

Reality is Multidimensional

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda

I’m a realist.  I carefully assess whatever I’m facing so that I understand what it really is.  Then I work with it the way it is.  There’s no point in trying to make water flow uphill.  When the government ordered us to shelter-in-place, I realized the Ashram’s day-to-day needs would change.  I revised our daily practice schedule while I looked for ways to support our extended yoga-family.  I watch the death toll mount daily.  I lead us in prayers and blessings for all affected by the pandemic.  And I embrace the day-to-day process while planning for the future, even though I recognize that we cannot predict what will happen.

I’m an idealist.  In my idea of a perfect world, everyone would be doing yoga and meditation.  They’d be healthier and happier than most are now.  The virus would have trouble getting a foothold in such an ideal world.  But because I’m a realist, I know they haven’t been taking care of themselves.  So I work hard to reach them, to help them through the crisis and to motivate them to want more for themselves.  I remind everyone, “Do more yoga,” an ideal worth striving for.

I’m a dreamer.  I visualize a world where everyone has clean water and enough to eat, access to medical care and education along with the respect they are entitled to as a human being.  Yet I know it all depends on people caring about others, which won’t happen unless their hearts grow bigger than their fears.  Every day, I work on making that happen.

I’m a mystic.  I see the Divine at work in our current crisis.  Even though things are hard, it’s a type of yogic austerity (tapas) that always pays off.  People are rearranging their priorities, asking life’s important questions and choosing new ways to spend their time.  How do you get the whole world to do this at the same time?  I see a Divine Hand pushing the reset button for everyone.

I’m a yogi.  I know how to maximize the benefits of simple things.  While we’re in an enforced time out, it’s an opportunity for a time of looking inward.  I’m building on-ramps to inner peace and the bliss of Consciousness through online courses and social media.  Now is the time to help people find what they’re missing — their own Self.

I’m a human being.  I recognize my dependency on the others that make necessities available.  I am grateful to all who are working so hard for our benefit.  My heart aches for those living in fear and hardship, along with those who are ill and those isolated by fear of illness.  I am grateful for being safe, warm and cared for, while I wish I could do more to help.

And the sun will come up again tomorrow.

Self-Care Outside and Inside

By Swami Sahajananda

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched the lives of all of us.  We are all faced with the reality of the rising number of cases of infection and death.  Deliberating about how to deal with this worldwide situation, you may be feeling at a loss.  Reading the news or talking to others, you may even feel hopeless.  With the dramatic shifts in numbers from day to day, you may wonder what you can do.  How can I affect this situation?  How can I take care of myself, both inside and outside, during this time?

Wash your hands!  This directive tops the list of information about protecting yourself from the COVID-19 virus.   Today, this one message is the most important for keeping safe and healthy.  Diligent, consistent hand washing is the best action to take for protecting yourself from the virus.  This is how you protect yourself on the outside.

The most important message about taking care of yourself on the inside comes from yoga.  Gurudevi Nirmalananda conveys it: do more japa and more meditation.  These practices turn you inward to find your own divine Self.  Being in your Self gives you strength and steadiness in how you live in the world, especially in these difficult, challenging times.

Both handwashing and japa require attention, dedication and perseverance.  This correlation came to me as I was washing my hands for the 10th or 20th time within an hour.  You must remember to wash your hands often.  Who knows where you may encounter the virus?  Then, to manage inner self-care, remember to repeat mantra.  Bring mantra back over and over again, over and over again.  Both handwashing and japa resonate with an ancient yogic teaching, the principle of abhyasa:

sa tu diirgha-kaala-nairantarya- satkaaraasevito d.r.dhabhuumi.h. — Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.14

Abhyasa (practice) becomes firmly grounded by being cultivated for a long time, without interruption and with devotion. — Rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Results are attained by consistent and dedicated practice.  Washing my hands has becomes a practice I do often and with dedication or perseverance.  I am engaging in abhyasa on a very practical level.  Remembering why I am doing it encourages me to continue.  There are no shortcuts to being diligent about hygiene and health in this time of a pandemic.

Keeping my hands off my face requires a heightened awareness of what I am doing.  Moment to moment, I must be more aware.  Being conscious of every detail of what I’m doing has become a consistent, dedicated practice.  I cannot drift.  Similarly, I must also dedicate myself to not losing awareness of my mind and thoughts.  If my mind wanders, then my actions become automatic and often unconscious.  Thus, I must not veer from the consistent, dedicated practice of being aware.  This consistent dedication to awareness is not only a lofty spiritual goal.  It is an essential preventative measure to keep my body safe and healthy.  In that way, it illuminates the interweaving of the spiritual and the mundane.

The applicability of yogic principles to how you live on the outside is clear.  In response to this worldwide crisis, what do you do with the emotions, feelings and spiritual angst that arise within?  News has always been good at fanning the fires of fear and panic.  Of course, you do want to be informed.  Can you do so without getting caught up or lost in your reactions to the news?

Yoga tells you to turn within and find the deeper dimension within.  Yoga urges you to experience your own beingness on the inside.  Yoga specializes in working with the mind.  Japa — mantra repetition — has been called scrubby bubbles for the mind.  Practice japa to wash your mind, just like you wash your hands!  Repeating mantra brings you inside, beyond the chatter of your mind.  Even if your mind is active, use mantra’s scrubby bubbles to clear it out.  Simply repeat the mantra along with your thoughts.  It will work.

Our Svaroopa® yoga mantra is enlivened.  Handed down to us through generations of meditation masters, this mantra vibrates with their blessings.  It takes you inward, to essence of your own being easily.  When you approach your life from the knowing of your own Divine Essence, everything changes.

For many now, the demands that usually keep you busy have lessened.  You can do things that you have wanted to do for a long time.  You did not have time for them before in your busy, hectic life.  You can catch up on your favorite TV shows, try out new recipes or take virtual museum tours.  Yet you may find yourself becoming bored after a week or two.  You may also find your mind has time to dwell on “negativities” and to get caught in old, familiar limiting thought patterns.  You may be watching too much news about the virus, and it sets you off into worry and fear.  When you have exhausted the ways of looking outside for distraction, you may find discontent and deeper emotions arising.  It is now time for a course correction, even before this happens.

This time of enforced staying at home is the perfect setup for inner exploration.  Now, you have an opportunity to be quiet, to settle and become still.  You can dive more deeply into the practices that bring you in touch with your own Self.  You have the golden opportunity to explore inward.

Yoga practices excel at inner exploration.  This time is a perfect time to learn how to meditate or to lengthen your meditation time.  This time is perfect to do more japa.  Incorporate it into your day more consistently.  Use your developing awareness of being more conscious on the outside to remember to take care or your inside.  Repeat mantra and meditate.

When you practice mantra, panic and worry take a back seat.  You may find that the thoughts and emotions are gone.  All that is left is mantra. The mantra settles you into your Self. You have a deep inner knowing that arises out of being seated within. You know your Self. You will still respond to situations that arise, but you will do so intelligently, from a settled place within.  You will be able to look at a situation and make decisions based on knowledge and wisdom.  You won’t being reacting to fear, loneliness or despair.  Instead, you will respond from a stable knowingness within your own being.

Take this time to dive deeper within to find that vast expanse of your own being.  It is right there within you; it is you, your own Divine Essence.  And it is so close.  Mantra and meditation will take you there.  You can set up an enhanced schedule for yourself so that these practices are a part of your life.  Practice abhyasa by doing your yoga practices consistently, with dedication and perseverance, just like washing your hands.  Make a commitment to yourself, so even when you don’t want to do more yoga, you do it!

This is a sacred time.  Use it to honor and serve yourself and the world around you.  You don’t have the distractions that have habitually pulled you outside of yourself.  You don’t have the excuses that have kept you focused on the outside.  Take the time now to turn within.  When you turn within you will find that which has always been there, your own Self. You can turn this crisis into a celebration of your inherent nature of being.  You can explore on the inside that who you truly are and have always been.  Do more yoga and wash your hands often!

Krishna Avatar Part 10

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Jarasandha was a very powerful king who expanded the Magadha kingdom.  Alliances with other kings made him become a mighty king of that area.  Both his daughters married Kamsa of Mathura, but they returned to him when Krishna killed Kamsa.  Jarasandha was very angry and decided to kill Krishna.

Jarasandha took his massive army to war with Krishna, arriving at the gates of Mathura.  Krishna debated whether to kill Jarasandha or to teach him a lesson by destroying his army.  While Krishna was contemplating, two beautiful chariots appeared from the skies, full of weapons and all that was needed for a battle.

Krishna and Balarama jumped in the chariots and went outside the city to battle with Jarasandha.  Using his mighty bow called Saranga, Krishna destroyed Jarasandha’s army in no time.  But he spared Jarasandha’s life.  When Balarama leaped like a lion to kill Jarasandha, Krishna calmed Balarama, saying that the time for Jarasandha’s end hadn’t yet come.  Jarasandha, his pride having been wounded, decided to give up his kingdom and become a renunciant in the forest.

He was consoled by other Kings not to take such a drastic decision.  They reminded him that victory and defeat should be treated equally and accepted by true heroes.  Many Kings who previously had alliances with Kamsa joined hands with Jarasandha.  Jarasandha, along with other Kings, attacked Mathura seventeen times, failing bitterly — each time worse than before.  Under the leadership of Krishna, the people of Mathura bravely repulsed each attack.

Unable to defeat Krishna, Jarasandha made an alliance with Kalayavana, a Yavana (Greek) king who had gotten a boon from Lord Brahma that he would be undefeated on any battlefield.  Kalayavana, being a fierce worrier, was seeking a fight with a worthy opponent and thought Krishna would be the best fit.

When Krishna heard about Jarasandha’s new alliance, he knew the combined armies would destroy Mathura.  Already, due to the many battles, the daily life of Mathura was disrupted.  Commerce and trade were ruined.  Krishna realized the kingdom had to face many dangers if they stayed there.

He summoned Vishvakarma, the divine architect, requesting him to build a city which would be hard for his enemies to reach.  For this reason, Vishvakarma decided to build this city in the middle of the sea.  Thus, he wanted some land from the sea, but if only Varuna, the Lord of the Sea) would allow.

Krishna called upon Varuna, who gracefully gave the land.  Vishvakarma built the magnificent Dvaraka, a city like none before.  It was a city so golden that it cast its radiance on the ocean for miles and miles around.  First the citizens of Mathura were moved safely to Dvaraka.  Then Krishna, together with Balarama, started strategizing the war with Kalayavana and Jarasandha.  They decided they needed a lustrous plan to kill Kalayavana, since it was not possible to kill him on the battlefield due to his boon.

Krishna decided to meet Kalayavana without any weapons or chariot.  When Krishna walked towards Kalayavana, without anything to protect himself, Kalayavana was surprised and puzzled all at the same time.  Kalayavana had heard so much about Krishna from Sage Narada, so what he was seeing matched everything he’d heard, but he was taken by Krishna’s actions.  According to the principles of war, Kalayavana decided to challenge Krishna for a duel without weapons, making things easy for the brothers.

Krishna strategically fled the battlefield and lured Kalayavana into a cave.  This cave is where Muchukunda, the great king of Ishvakhu Dynasty, was in deep sleep for thousands of years after helping devas in epic wars with the asuras for many many years.  The devas granted this undisturbed sleep as a boon to Muchukunda for his service to them.  Muchukunda had also requested Devas that anyone who would disturb his sleep would get burnt to ashes immediately.  After entering the cave, knowing this boon, Krishna covered Muchukunda with his shawl.  Then Krishna hid in the cave.

Chasing Krishna, determined to kill him, Kalayavana entered the cave and found someone sleeping there.  As Krishna’s shawl was covering the sleeper, Kalayavana assumed it was Krishna who made him chase all the way to the cave and now was pretending to be sleeping.  He got really mad at Krishna and kicked Muchukunda, assuming him to be Krishna, thus disturbing Muchukunda’s sleep.  Muchukunda woke up from his sleep and looked at Kalayavana, thus burning him to ashes.

Krishna appeared in front of Muchukunda, who was delighted to see Krishna there, who was none other than Lord Vishnu.  Krishna advised him to perform tapas in order to cleanse the accumulated sins and attain moksha (liberation).  After meeting the Lord, Muchukunda left the cave, going to Badrikashram to do penance to achieve liberation.

Krishna came out of the cave and wiped out Kalayavana’s mighty army.  Then Krishna and Balarama returned, finding Jarasandha besieging Mathura with all his might, fighting vigorously to fulfill his vengeance.  Krishna and Balarama decided to lure Jarasandha away by pretending to be afraid.  They ran away from the battlefield to climb a hill.  Seeing them flee, Jarasandha decided to finish them once and for all by setting fire to the hill.  Krishna and Balarama, with their yogic powers, jumped clear of the flames and escaped without Jarasandha’s knowledge.  Jarasandha returned home happily, bragging about how he got rid of the Yadava brothers.  Yet he would face Krishna and Balarama on another day in the future.

As the people worked in the rice fields near Dvaraka, one day two strangers approached, an elderly King-like figure and a young woman.  Their approach caused complete chaos.  Why the chaos?  These strangers were giants.  Talking among themselves, they were saying that everything they were seeing had changed, that the people have become very small.  The young woman asked the King-like person, “Father, is this our capital?”  He answered, “I don’t know, Revati, let’s ask those tiny men.”

The people were shouting “Giants! Run, run, run!”  The giant man politely said, “Wait, don’t run away!  We won’t hurt you.  We are friends.”  But the people were running away in all directions.  The running didn’t help; the giant man caught a couple of them and said, “We are friends.  Is this Kusasthali?”

The men were trembling in fear of being eaten alive.  One of them in a shivering voice said “K-K-Kusasthali? N-N-No, this is D-D-Dvaraka.  This is King Ugrasena’s k-k-kingdom and Krishna is our crown prince.”  The giant man replied, “My name is Raivata.  Some people even call me Kakudmi.  I am the ruler of Kusasthali.”  The men were clueless but offered to show the way to the castle in Dvaraka and take them to the king.  Raivata and his daughter Revati arrived at the castle gates.

Now the chaos moved into the city, all the way to the castle gates.  King Raivata requested the guards to ask King Ugrasena to see him.  Though King Ugrasena had not heard of a King Raivata, he ordered his guards to lead the two strangers in.  Even the elder ministers of Dvaraka didn’t know the name Raivata, except for one of them.  He had read about a King Raivata who lived thousands of years, perhaps some yugas before.  All of them were even more puzzled than before.

Though King Ugrasena was confused, as a benevolent king, he welcomed the giant visitors, offering them special giant-sized seats.  Krishna and Balarama were also present in the royal court.  Balarama was mesmerized by the beauty of Revati.  Krishna noticed it and was enjoying his elder brother’s infatuation in his usual mischievous way.

King Raivata, sensing the confusion in the court, started telling his story.  “I am Raivata, also known as Kakudmi.  I am a great grandson of Manu.  I think I reigned over this land centuries ago.  My kingdom was known as Anarta, with my capital Kusasthali situated where your city, Dvaraka, stands today.  This is my daughter Revati, who is lovely, talented and virtuous.  I wanted to find a good husband for my daughter but was unable to find anyone in all of the earth suitable for her.  So, I decided to take her to Satyaloka, to see Lord Brahma and seek his advice.

“For her sake, I left my kingdom and set off to Satyaloka with her.  When we reached Satyaloka, Brahma was listening to a musical presentation of the Gandharvas, the musicians of the devas.  Not wanting to disturb him, we waited until the program was over.  When the program ended, I did my pranams to Lord Brahma, told my story and asked my question.  I requested him to suggest a suitable groom for Revati.

“He asked me if I knew how much time had elapsed on earth while I waited for the musical performance to finish.  Brahma said all the people I knew, including my friends, ministers, servants, wives, kinsmen, armies and treasures had now vanished.  Only then did I realize my mistake in waiting for so long.  As you know, a minute in Satyaloka is a number of years on earth.  I don’t know how many years or yugas have passed.  I didn’t know if anyone who is alive at this point might marry my daughter.

“Then Brahma asked me to go back to my own kingdom, where I would find a wielder of the plough, who would be more than worthy of marrying my daughter.  So, I have come to my kingdom, or which was once my kingdom to find the wielder of the plough,” Raivata said.

King Ugrasena, said that they knew who the wielder of the plough was.  Obviously, everyone knew who the wielder of the plough was, everyone except the wielder of the plough himself.  Balarama was still mesmerized, staring at Revati.  King Ugrasena, shouted, “Well, Balarama, what do you say?”

Coming out of his dreamland, Balarama was clueless as to what had happened.  Krishna had to pull him aside and tell him what transpired.  Balarama now knew why Krishna had such a mischievous look on his face.  Balarama was so happy, his face saying it all.  He said, “Yes, I will marry Revati.”

Both Balarama and Revati were blushing.  Balarama then said, “The height is a bit of a problem.”  He then instructed Revati to touch his ploughshare with her toe.  What a miracle: as soon as Revati touched the ploughshare with her toe, she grew shorter and shorter until she shrunk to Balarama’s size.

Raivata, delighted that he had found the right match for his daughter, shouted “Perfect!  This match is perfect!”  Later, amidst great rejoicing, on an auspicious day, Balarama and Revati were united in marriage.  Revati and Balarama had two sons, Nisatha and Ulmuka, and a daughter named Vatsala, who is also known as Sasirekha.

More to come…

Mystical Yoga, Mystical Spine

By Swami Satrupananda

Svaroopa® yoga is a mystical yoga.  What is mystical?  Mysticism is the science of attaining union with the Divine.  Yes, that’s what I want!  And that is what Svaroopa® yoga is about – experiencing and being your own Divinity.  Though the dictionary describes mysticism as “union” with the Divine, yoga mystics do not call it union.  Union implies there are two that become one. Instead, yoga says that you “realize” your own Divinity. You don’t become Divine; you realize you already are Divine.  You just don’t know it – yet.

All Svaroopa® yoga practices are for the purpose of revealing your own Divinity to you.  It’s right there in the name.  Sva means true or divine.  Roopa means form. Svaroopa means your true form, your Divine form.  Your true form is the one Divine Reality that is being you, the One that has become everyone and everything.

To become the universe and everything in it, the One first became energy, simply by moving.  The One in movement is energy, which yoga calls “shakti.” Shakti then contracts into matter to become you, your body and this physical world.  The scientists agree. Einstein described this relationship between energy and mass in his famous equation E=mc2.  Shakti contracts to be your mind, your senses and much more as well. Yoga’s ancient mystics mapped 36 levels of contraction that the One takes on in order to become everyone and everything in the universe.

These energies move in particular patterns.  They interact with each other in certain ways as they contract into matter.  In the human body, we see the physical manifestation of these energy currents represented in your body’s nervous system.  Your spinal cord is at your body’s core with your brain as the mushroom cap on top.  Everything branches out from this core.

A similar system exists in the subtler energetic realm.  The sages mapped the energy channels, naming the different channels and energies that flow through them.  The medical system of acupuncture got their map from yoga’s sages, with it being based on the same energy channels.

Your spinal cord is the center of your nervous system.  And at the same location in your body’s core, on a more subtle level, runs a central energy channel called “sushumna.”  Your spinal cord and sushumna are your main conduits of energy.  Your spinal cord is the main conduit that collects and disseminates signals within your nervous system.  The sushumna is the main conduit of energy of your mind and your spiritual meditative energy.

Kshemaraja, a yogic sage from 10th Century Kashmir, emphasized the importance of the central channel:

madhya vikaasaach chidaananda laabhah. — Pratyabhijnhrdayam, Sutra 17

You attain the bliss of Consciousness through the opening of the central channel. —Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

Kshemaraja is saying you attain the bliss of the One Divine Reality through the opening of the central channel, your spine.  Thus Svaroopa® yoga poses focus on decompressing your spine.  When you release the tensions in your spinal muscles, you make room physically and energetically.  When not pinched or kinked, your spinal cord and nervous system can function better.  This improved functioning has a ripple effect throughout the rest of your body.  This core opening simultaneously impacts the flow of energy that sources your mind and emotions.  Your energetic core is honored as the heart of your being.  As you open your spine, you open your mind, heart and emotions, plus your own Divinity is revealed, as it is found particularly within your spine.

Recently I caught my mind in the process of repeating the same thought patterns again and again.  As observed this pattern, I asked myself, “Where is this coming from?”  My spine! I could feel that the energy sourcing my mind was running through my spine but running into a kink in the path.  This kink spun my mind into a repetitive thought pattern.  That’s really nothing new.  The difference was that I noticed it.

Then I applied my mind to mantra repetition.  A few hours later, I realized that my mind had not brought up that mental pattern again.  By repeating mantra, I had unkinked the energy channel enough for the energy of my mind to flow through unobstructed.  I had a tangible experience of the effects of opening the central channel.  With a calm mind, I was sitting deeper within my own Divinity.

We’re back to mysticism – realizing and being your own Divinity.  The opening of your mystical spine gives you mystical experiences of the bliss of your own Divinity.  Do more mystical yoga.