Monthly Archives: May 2020

The Indescribable You

By Swami Shrutananda Saraswati

The sages always start with the highest teaching: you are an individualized form of the formless Reality.  Hearing or reading about your own Divinity reminds you of something you already know.  It’s like with tuning forks.  Striking one gets the other to vibrate.  When your Divinity is named and described, deep inside you feel something resonating with the outer naming.

When this indescribable Reality — the unnameable Essence that is the “who” that you are — is named, you know.  This knowing is beyond words.  Yet the great sages do put it into words.  Their mystical words give you access to what they found inside: your own Divinity, the Self, your own Self.

Swami Nirmalananda translates the description of the Self by the sage Shankaracharya in the Vivekachudamani:

The Self is birthless and deathless.  It neither grows nor decays.  It is unchangeable, eternal. It does not dissolve when the body dissolves.  Any name or idea your mind has of it is limited.  It is much greater.

Each of these descriptions applies to your own Self:

“The Self is birthless.”  The Self was not born when this universe came into existence.  That One Primordial Reality decided to blossom forth the universe upon itself, within itself, as itself.  What raw material was there to form this universe?  Only the Self.  Thus, the Self was not born when this universe came into existence.  Today, moreover, physicists say the universe is expanding.  Expanding into what?  The yogis say the Self.

Your birth was not the beginning of your own existence.  You existed before you were formed in your mother’s womb.  You existed even before the universe came into being.  You, your own Self, is birthless.

“The Self is deathless.”  Things, relationships, cars, plants, even houses, come into being and then die.  Maybe the house you grew up in no longer exists.  There used to be mountains the size of the Himalayas in the middle of the US.  They are gone now, worn away by wind and rain.  Stars are born and die.  Galaxies come into existence and fade.  Even universes come and go.  According to the yogis, this universe is not the first that has come into existence.

Your mind cannot conceive of anything that is birthless and deathless.  Yet this is a description of your own Self — the One Ever-Existent Reality that underlies the foundation of your own being.  The Self, your own Self, was never born and will never die.

“It neither grows nor decays.”  Your body grows and decays.  This process started when you were born and will continue until you die.  Your mind complies with that.  We construct buildings and highways that grow into towns and cities.  Then they decay.  Whole civilizations have grown and declined.  Yet that One Reality neither grows nor decays.

This means that you, the Self, do not grow into your Self.  You are whole, full and complete as you are, though you have yet to discover your essence.  Your own Self will never decay, will never diminish.  You are unstainable, inviolable.

“It is unchangeable.”  It is very hard for our minds to understand that something can be unchangeable.  We see things change all the time.  From day to day our mind and emotions change, our bodies change, and our world changes.  Popular American author Louis L’Amour summed it up:  “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.”  Yet you, the Self, are unchangeable.

“It is eternal.”  Eternal does not mean a long time, for example, billions and trillions of years.  Eternal is ever-existent.  That One Reality has always existed, has never not existed and will continue to exist even when the universe no longer exists.  You, the Self, are that One Reality.  You, the Self, are eternal.

“It does not dissolve when the body dissolves.”  Your body comes into existence and then dissolves.  Yet you are deathless.  The Self does not stop existing when your body dissolves.  The “You” that is the Self is more than your body.  You are more than your mind.  You are more than your body and mind together.  “You” do not dissolve when your body dissolves.  You continue to exist.

I recommend that you take these descriptions of your own Self personally.  Read the statements below out loud:

“I am birthless and deathless.  I neither grow nor decay.  I am unchangeable, eternal.  I do not dissolve when my body dissolves.”

Slow yourself down and repeat these statements.  What happens?

Maybe now you have a greater idea of who you really are.  Yet “Any name or idea your mind has of it is limited — it is much greater.”  To go beyond the idea, the concept, and the theory to the knowing of your own Self, you must meditate.  The experiences you have in meditation on your own Self make your knowing possible.  The Self reveals the Self within you to you.

Your mind cannot see the Self, any more than an ant can see the top of a tree.  Your Self is greater than any idea your mind has of it.  Much greater.  When you find a Shaktipat Guru, and are given the enlivened mantra, your meditations will be deep and easy.  Each repetition of the mantra invokes Grace, which reveals your own Self to you.

Like the waves on the ocean, your mind is a superficial level of your own being.  To know your greatness, you must plunge deeper into the depths of your own being.  The function of a Shaktipat Guru is to support you in your inward exploration. A Shaktipat Guru is an agent of Grace, and my Guru — Satguru Swami Nirmalananda — is such a Guru.  Through the Grace of my Guru, I have come to know and to experience the ever-deepening, ever-timelessness and the ever-blissfulness of my own Divine Being.  This is the gift of the Guru — to reveal the indescribable You to You.

What’s the Point?

By Swami Prajñananda

Looking at all the suffering in the world, you may question, what is the point of all this?  Life can be so hard.  If you have had these thoughts, you are not alone; they are age-old.  While the world is in crisis right now, it is not the first time and it will not be the last.

You can see this in the Bhagavadgita, an ancient yogic scripture.  Arjuna, a warrior, is poised at the brink of a world war.  With his world on the verge of mass destruction, Arjuna is questioning his part in it.  Krishna, his charioteer and an incarnation of God, gives Arjuna yoga’s teachings.  Krishna explains to Arjuna that you experience both pain and pleasure.  Yet, these experiences come and go, they are not permanent.  In our current time, with a situation that feels like it can last forever, Krishna’s teachings are important to remember.

Yet beyond his teachings on impermanence, Krishna shares the priceless gem of knowledge with Arjuna, the purpose of a human life.  An eternal reality exists within us all, beyond the reach of pleasure and pain.  This eternal reality is your own Self.  It is not born and it does not die.  It does not age and it does not get sick.

Even when your body undergoes changes, your own Self is untouched.  Like an orange that falls from a tree, while the outside may get bruised, the nectar of the fruit is unaffected.  If that same orange was washed and the outside perfumed, the nectar inside would still be unchanged.  Similarly, your own Self is absolutely free from external influence, whether they are painful or pleasurable.

The heart of yoga’s teachings is that you are that eternal reality.  The problem is: you don’t know it yet.  You get caught in the idea that you are your body or that you are your mind.  It’s like dressing your dog up as a shark.  Even though the outer covering is a shark, your dog is still a dog.  It is the same for you, even though your outer covering is your body and mind, you are not your body nor your mind.  You are the one who has a body and who has a mind.  You are the Self.  To discover this truth for yourself, you must look inward.

Swami Muktananda explains:

“Inside, there is great divinity.  Just as a person absorbed in deep sleep doesn’t experience pleasure or pain, only great peace, so one who is absorbed in meditation does not experience the pleasures or pain of the outer world.  He experiences only the bliss of heaven.”

This is Muktananda’s promise to you, that you will experience the bliss of heaven no matter your external circumstances.  He tells you how you attain this: by becoming “absorbed in meditation.”  This means that you turn your attention inward.  Instead of focusing on the external world, you focus on your own divinity.  Yet, while your focus is inward, you still participate in the world.

Can you act in the world without getting caught up in its ups and downs?  If you had asked me this question before yoga, I would have said no, that it was not possible.  Now, not only do I know it is possible, I experience this inner steadiness.  This is your future, and even more.  Yoga’s promise is not only that you will experience inner steadiness, but you will abide in your own Divinity.  You are that eternal reality.  To live in this knowing, do more yoga.

Krishna Avatar – Part 11

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

King Bhishmaka of the Vidarbha kingdom had five sons and a daughter, Rukmini.  She was an incarnation of Lakshmi, who was very pretty from childhood and grew up to be a beautiful and graceful princess.  The kings and the princes used to visit Vidarbha to win her heart.  But her heart desired the one and only Krishna.

Rukmini was very impressed by the stories about Krishna she heard while growing up, especially from her grandfather and others who visited her.  She made a special place in her heart for Krishna, fell in love with him and vowed to marry none other than Krishna.  When she grew up a marriageable age, she refused to accept anyone else in all the worlds in marriage.  She had placed Krishna as her mate in her heart.

Rukmini’s parents also welcomed the idea of having Krishna as their son in law.  However, Rukmini’s eldest brother, Rukmi, did not approve of this union.  He was friends with other kings including Shishupala and Jarasandha who considered Krishna to be their archenemy.

Rukmi was an arrogant and ruthless prince.  He convinced, rather threatened, his father Bhishmaka, and arranged for Rukmini’s marriage to his dear friend Shishupala, the king of Chedi, a cousin of Krishna.  Bhishmaka knew Rukmi for who he was, thus agreed to this marriage with a heavy heart, both for the sake and safety of his people.  Bhishmaka knew Rukmi would overthrow him with no regrets and harm the people of Vidarbha with his selfish agenda.

Hurrying to get the marriage to happen, Rukmi directed the royal priest to find the earliest auspicious date for the marriage.  The date was fixed and Shishupala was formally invited to come with his royal entourage to Kaundinyapur, the capital city of Vidarbha, to marry Rukmini.

Who is Shishupala? Shishupala was born to Damaghosha, the King of Chedi and his wife Srutashrava.  Srutashrava was one of the sisters of Vasudeva, Krishna’s father.  Shishupala was born with three eyes and four arms.  His parents were horrified and scared.  They decided to cast him out but they were warned by a voice not to do so, as his time had not come.  The voice also said the child will be superior in strength and that his redundant body parts would disappear when a certain person took the child into his lap.  The voice warned that the very same person would also be the cause of his death.

Once Krishna and Balarama visited their aunt Srutashrava.  While playing, Krishna placed little Shishupala on his lap and the extra eye and arms disappeared.  Remembering the voice, she knew that Shishupala’s death would happen by Krishna’s hand.  She persuaded her nephew, Krishna, that he would pardon his cousin Shishupala for his first hundred offenses.

Shishupala had a cousin named Dantavakra.  The two of them were the third incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya wherein they had to be enemies of Lord Vishnu.  This was so they could get back to Vaikuntha to be the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu again.

At first Rukmini was horrified and devastated to hear the news that she was to be married to Shishupala, due to her brother’s arrangement.  She pleaded with her father and all of her brothers, but none could and would help her by speaking against Rukmi.

Her love for Krishna made Rukmini bold, breaking her natural tendencies of being a noble, well-natured princess.  She sent a confidential messenger, a Brahmin priest who she trusted very much, with a letter from her to Krishna.  The letter described the whole situation and revealed her love and affection to Krishna, as well as and how her brother Rukmi was forcing her to marry Shishupala, whom she detested.  She pleaded with Krishna to save her honor by abducting her in a rakshasa style marriage.  Otherwise, she threatened in the letter that she would take her own life.  She then waited, spending days and nights yearning and longing to be with Krishna.

The Brahmin priest reached the gates of Dwaraka soon and was presented in front of Krishna without any delays.  Krishna received the message.  Reading Rukmini’s heart-felt plea to rescue and marry her touched his heart.  He too fell in love with Rukmini.

Krishna immediately called upon his charioteer to get his chariot prepared for the journey.  He set out on the mission to rescue Rukmini, taking along the Brahmin priest.  As soon as they reached the outskirts of Kaundinyapur, he sent the Brahmin priest to Rukmini to deliver his reply.  In his reply, he assured that he would rescue her from her evil brother and his conspiring friends, even if he had to battle against the combined forces of those evil plotters.

Soon after Krishna’s departure, Balarama returned home from an errand.  Learning about Krishna’s mission to rescue Rukmini, Balarama was not happy about Krishna leaving without his knowledge.  Even more, he was not happy with hearing who Krishna was preparing to fight.  Sensing trouble, he gathered a huge army of Yadavas to aid Krishna and rushed to Kaundinyapur.  Balarama and the army reached Kaundinyapur at about the same time as Krishna did.

Even before their arrival, Shishupala had arrived along with his royal friends and their armies.  His friends included Jarasandha, Shalva, Paundraka, Dantavakra and Viduratha, among others.  Their armies made a huge combined strength.  They were welcomed in a grand procession by the Prince of Vidarbha, Rukmi.  The streets were decorated beautifully with flags and garlands.  The citizens of Vidarbha were all on the streets wearing their best dresses celebrating the day of their beloved princess’ wedding, even though they were not so happy about whom she was marrying.

Rukmini was desperately waiting through the night, as the next day would be perhaps the last day of her life.  She was looking out for the messenger to arrive while praying intensely.  Morning dawned with no sign of the Brahmin priest.  While she was praying, she experienced her left arm, eye and thigh throbbing, which was a sure sign of good fortune.  As this was happening, the Brahmin priest arrived with the great news from Krishna.  The assurance of Krishna came as a huge relief to Rukmini who hadn’t heard anything from Krishna until then.  She worried no more.

Later that morning, Rukmini went to worship the Divine Mother at the Goddess Gauri temple, where Krishna was to kidnap her as planned.  The temple was situated outside the town.  She was in a procession accompanied by her friends and maids, per the custom that the bride visits the temple on the day of her marriage ceremony.  Her mind was absorbed on the thought of meeting her beloved Krishna for the first time.  At times, she was questioning her own self, doubting herself to be worthy of, or thinking she was not good enough for Krishna.  Yet love conquers all.  Her heart was filled with joy and gratitude to Goddess Mother for this blessing.

The message about her being on her way to the temple was relayed to Krishna, who had signaled back, confirming his arrival at the temple to Rukmini.  He was waiting at the back of the temple with his chariot.

Rukmini followed the purification rituals of washing her hands, feet and sprinkled water in her head.  Observing the vow of silence, she entered the shrine and prayed to the Mother of all, surrendering herself and asking for blessings from the Goddess for her marriage to Krishna.  After worshiping, Rukmini emerged from the temple and lifted her veil.  There he was!  Her sight landed on Krishna, to whom she lost her heart forever.

Krishna was seated in his chariot, smiling tenderly at her.  Rukmini walked directly towards Krishna and allowed herself to be lifted and placed on the chariot.  Krishna gently seated her next to him, giving her the rightful place, the place for a wife, in full view of everyone watching, including Rukmi and the other kings.

Krishna then whipped up the horses and drove away the chariot.  The maids of Rukmini pretended to be in horror and freight, as they knew the plot and put on an act of being bewildered while being filled with joy inside.  Everything happened within a few seconds, with Rukmi and his friends being in shock and surprise.  They were beyond furious that Krishna and Rukmini had tricked them.

The abduction of Rukmini from right under their noses, like a lion lifting its prey from the midst of jackals, charged up Shishupala and his friends.  They rushed up to catch up with the fleeing Krishna.  Rukmi, his brothers and their soldiers also joined the chase.  Jarasandha, seeing Krishna alive and well, couldn’t be angrier.

All their efforts to catch the couple were stalled by mighty Balarama and his enormous Yadava army, who were waiting a small distance outside the town.  Balarama ordered his soldiers to cover and attack the enemy forces, giving time for Krishna to get away.  A fierce battle raged.  Yadava archers were fully prepared and rained huge stocks of arrows towards their opponents.

But the forces of Jarasandha and Shishupala had to counterattack without much preparation.  That cost them dearly; very soon they gave up.  They had already suffered heavy losses, so they ordered their soldiers to stop the battle and retreat.  The forces fled the battlefield to save their lives.

Rukmi did not like the idea of accepting defeat.  Ridiculing his friends, he went after Krishna alone.  Rukmi was in a deep revengeful mood, taking a vow not to return to the capitol without his sister.  He somehow managed to escape Balarama and caught up with Krishna’s chariot in no time.

Krishna did not want to fight with him.  But when Rukmi started insulting Rukmini with abusive words, Krishna had to pick up his bow and arrows.  In no time he brought down Rukmi’s chariot horses and charioteer.  Rukmi came crashing to the ground and got injured.

Krishna jumped down and got hold of Rukmi.  Seeing Krishna’s anger towards her brother made Rukmini interfere, begging for mercy on behalf of her brother.  Krishna was taken by his beloved Rukmini’s plea, so he cut patches of Rukmi’s hair, moustache and beard with his sword, disfiguring Rukmi’s appearance to teach him a lesson.  This was a great insult to a prince, worse than death.

Balarama caught up soon with them, but wasn’t too happy about Krishna’s decision to insult Rukmi, as Rukmi was now their own relative.  Krishna smiled at Balarama in an ironic manner, as he knew what was going to happen to Rukmi in the hands of Balarama in the future.  As Rukmi had taken the vow that he wouldn’t return to the capital if he failed to free his sister from Krishna, he went to a place called Bhojakata.  He lived there with vengeance, vowing to kill Krishna.

Krishna and Balarama retuned to Dwaraka with Rukmini.  Later, Krishna duly married Rukmini in a grand ceremony with proper custom and traditional rituals, with the blessings from both their parents.  The royal families of Kuru, Kekaya, Vidarbha, Kunti and Sarunchaya attended the wedding and blessed the couple.

Enlightenment is Contagious

By Swami Samvidaananda Saraswati

Contagion is the rapid spread of, unfortunately, a virus.  Or of fear.  Laughter is also contagious.  So is enlightenment.  That’s why I study and live with a yoga master — a Guru.  She is enlightened.  When I see her, learn from her and do the practices she teaches, I experience a taste of enlightenment.  Everyone around her does.

How is enlightenment contagious?  It’s similar to how moods are contagious.  Spend time with a gloomy friend, and your mood will start to sink.  Do you know someone who always looks on the bright side?  They’ll have you putting on rose-colored glasses.  Yet enlightenment is deeper than a transitory mood.  It’s a blissful state of living your Divinity.  Enlightened beings are saturated with bliss.  Such a person is called God-intoxicated.  They vibrate with bliss everywhere they are, whomever they are with, whatever they are doing. They’re like a tuning fork, emitting a pure tone of bliss.  When you’re with them, you begin to vibrate with bliss too.

It’s not only yoga masters who are God-intoxicated.  There are mystics and saints within every religious tradition, as well as outside of them.  They know they are Divine and live from the depths of their beingness.  I was raised Catholic, and I loved to read about saints.  Most of them lived so long ago, I had the idea that saints only existed in the past.  But enlightenment is available now.  It’s a human capacity so it is always possible.  Mystics and saints walk among us.

We call them holy.  They are whole; they do not feel needy, limited or incomplete.  They are not looking outside of themselves for something to make them feel good, or to make them feel fulfilled.  Filled from the inside with the Light of Divinity, they radiate that light.  It spills from them in the form of their words, their actions, their glances.  When you spend time with them, or read about them, or even think about them, your state shifts.  You experience your Inherent Divinity, which yoga calls the Self.  A yogic text from more than a thousand years ago describes this:

lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham  — Shiva Sutras, 1.18

Such a yogi, living in the bliss of Consciousness, is contagious.  Everyone who comes into contact with him experiences a taste of enlightenment, according to their readiness.
— translation by Swami Nirmalananda

My Guru is a modern-day mystic.  Gurudevi Nirmalananda is contagious with the bliss of Consciousness.  Everyone who sees her, hears her or even thinks about her experiences a taste of enlightenment.  And she offers more.  She is a Satguru, which means she can awaken your inner knowing of your Self within you.  The awakening is an initiation called Shaktipat.

Once you receive Shaktipat, you don’t have to settle for merely tasting enlightenment.  Enlightenment is assured.  In this tradition, the goal is called Self-Realization, because when you are enlightened you realize, “Oh, I’m the Self.”  It’s not a startling, “drum-roll please” kind of moment, because you have always been the Self.  You are never not Divine; you just don’t know it all the time.  At least not yet.

Shaktipat gives you the ability to know all the time.  Even though it gives you the ability, abiding in the bliss of your Self 24/7 is not instantaneous.  You have to do your part.  A process blossoms forth to clear the tensions and constrictions that block your radiance from shining forth all the time. Your most important practice to support the process is meditation.

When you do abide in the bliss of your Inherent Divinity, you will recognize everyone and everything as another form of that bliss.  You will bring your bliss with you everywhere you go.  Your bliss will uplift every loved one and every stranger. This can be your future.  Enlightenment is not reserved for a few. This is the purpose for which every human is born.  This is the purpose for which you were born:  to be the one who is contagious with bliss.