Monthly Archives: July 2020

Magical or Mystical?

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

I was confused about the difference between mysticism and magic for a long time.  One reason is because Western yoga and meditation often bring alternative theories into their yogic quest.  What is magical?  What is mystical?

Magic is when you use subtle perceptions to make material changes in your life and in the world.  You’re looking for outer fulfillment.

Mysticism is when you use subtle perceptions to explore the subtle dimensions within your own being.  You’ve figured out that, even if your life were perfect, it wouldn’t be enough.  The answer has to be found within.

By the time I took my first Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), I’d already learned about Tarot cards and the I Ching.  I studied some palmistry, astrology and other nonconformist things.  At the time, I couldn’t have explained why I was curious about these things, but now I can see that I was trying to understand myself better.  The tools I’d been given by family and in 20+ years of schooling weren’t working for me.  Even the things they told me to avoid — well, I tried them out — and they didn’t work either.

Still it surprised me when my YTT teacher brought in some of those things as well as some I hadn’t heard about previously.  She shared everything she knew about yoga but it didn’t fill up all the training hours, so it seemed like she brought in the kitchen sink.  She probably thought it was all related.  I suppose it is, but it’s a distant relationship, like gold is related to mud.

If you want genuine and profound inner expansion, you will have to give up channeling, Ouija boards, pendulums, mind-reading, foretelling the future and other psychic phenomena.  Why?  Because all those things are about finding ways to manage the world, not ways to discover your Divine Essence.  If you’re flowing your energy outward, into the world, you cannot be flowing it inward, to see and know who you really are.  It’s really quite simple.

However, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras lists many such siddhis (psychic powers) and tells you how to develop them.  While few modern translators even bother with these sutras, there are 48 of them, over 25% of the text.   In other words, yogis have always been known for having amazing powers, like levitation, being invisible, bilocation, materialization and more.  Yet Patanjali also tells you, “Don’t use these abilities.  Using them will hold you back for lifetimes.”

Spirituality is not about magic.  It’s not about impressing other people, even with your yogic body or your ability to hold your breath for a long time.  You don’t get to flaunt your inner peace or your more refined understanding of life.  Instead, show them your open heart and open mind by listening more than you speak.  Ask how you can help.  And follow through.  That’s yoga.

Right now, listening, caring and helping is a yoga practice.  It’s a practice that mimics the way you will live once you’re enlightened.  When you know your own Divine Essence, you’ll see the same in others.  Thus there’s nothing to be proud about, for you are no better than anyone else.

In addition, your inner experience of your own Self is so fulfilling that you won’t crave outer things nor pursue them.  You have nothing to fear should you somehow lose everything.  What freedom!

It gives you the freedom to listen, to care and to help.  Why?  Even when you’re enlightened, you still have a body and live in the world.  And the world needs you.  More than ever before, especially because you have more subtle and powerful perceptions, so you have more to offer.  Yet you know that it all comes from one source, the One Source that is in everyone, the One Reality that is being you – Shiva, your own Self.  This is mysticism.  And it’s pretty magical too!

Your Inner Radiance

By Swami Shrutananda

Your inherent nature is light. You are the light of consciousness, in a unique and individualized form.  That light shines through your eyes, fills your heart and is the flash of creativity.  The light of your own being arises from its inner source.

A great sage, Shankaracharya, described it this way:

Here, within your own body, through your own mind, in the secret chamber of intelligence, in the infinite universe within your heart, Self shines in its captivating splendor, like a noonday sun. By its light, the universe is revealed.

– Vivekachudamani 98-99,  rendered by Gurudevi Nirmalananda.

The physicists and yogis agree that the Big Bang emanated energy which became light; the light coalesced into matter.  Everything is made of solidified light.  Even your body is made of light.  You are embodied light. You simply start “within your own body.”  In Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, you begin by settling into your body, deepening into your seat and allowing your spine to be easily upright.  The tool used to turn your mind inward is to apply your mind to mantra.  With mantra you are using your mind to go through your mind and beyond your mind.

Mantra carries you deeper within where you find “the secret chamber of intelligence, in the infinite universe within your heart.”  The “secret chamber of intelligence” is a knowing that is beyond the mind’s knowing.  It is the fully enlivened, fully embodied, fully expanded knowing of your own Self.

Here, “Self shines in its captivating splendor, like a noonday sun.  By its light, the universe is revealed.”  This means that the Self, your own Self, does not get its light from anything else.  It is the source of light.  Also, it does not get its capacity of knowing from anything else.  It is Knowingness-Itself.  It doesn’t get its existence from anything else.  It is Existence-Itself.  Everything else in the universe that exists gets its existence, its knowing and its light from the Self.

This light is not merely physical light.  It is your mind’s capacity to know, whether you are looking inside or outside.  I experienced this in meditation.  I was looking at my mind being separate from me.  I wondered who was the one who was looking at my mind?  Who was asking the question?  I felt the vastness of my beingness that was deeper than my mind.  It was beyond my mind.  From this experience, I knew I had a mind but was more than my mind —a lot more than my mind!  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation specializes in giving you the experience of your own Self, so you can discover that you are more than your mind.  From this inner depth, you know your own radiance.  This is the goal of yoga.

Having the experience of your own Self makes you glow.  As a teacher, I can tell when someone is having a deep inner experience of their own Self because they are so radiant.  Yet at other times that light is blocked.  Svaroopa® yoga practices dissolve the tensions through the multiple levels of your body, mind and heart.  They clear away inner blockages that hide the radiance of your own Self.  Every pose, yogic breath, mantra repetition and meditation opens up your inherent flow of happiness, joy and light.  It’s like cleaning a picture window so clean that you cannot tell it is there.  Then the radiance of sunlight shines through the clear glass without being diminished by layers of dust and grime.  You experience your own radiance more and more fully, as well as share it with the world.

Kashmiri Shaivism says the whole of the light of Consciousness is intact within you.  This ancient yogic tradition promises that you can have this experience while you live your life.  The purpose of the Guru, and the service the Guru provides, is to be the embodied light of Consciousness that reveals your own Self, your own radiance, to you.  Thus, you experience and come to embody the light of Consciousness that you already are.  We call this Grace.

Amazing

By Swami Samvidaananda

Amazing.  That is how I describe the yoga and meditation that I practice.  I don’t have a better word because it’s hard to describe the wonderful and powerful experiences that unfold.

  • Physically, you get amazing benefits.  You become free from pain, and your strength and stamina increase.  You gain vitality and resilience.  A yogi friend recently shared that she did not get her usual spring allergies.  They’re gone.
  • Mentally, you get amazing improvements.  Your stress levels go down, your depression lifts, you experience equanimity.  Calmness and happiness, even joy, become your baseline.  You don’t sweat the small stuff so much.  You handle life’s big challenges more easily.  I’ve talked to many yogis who recognize that they are handling this pandemic with much less fear than BY (before yoga).  They are taking steps to keep themselves, loved ones and everyone safe.  They recognize that they are making their decisions based on intelligence, rather than anxiety.
  • You love more, and, no surprise, you are easier to love.  You light up the lives of those around you.  Like the Debbie Boone song from the Seventies, “You light up my life, you give me hope….”  I know I’m dating myself, but I loved that song.  You light up people’s lives.

Amazing, right? So I was delighted to learn that a primary text of the Kashmiri Shaivite meditation system says this:

Vismayo yoga-bhuumikaa.h. — Shiva Sutras 1.12

The wonders of yoga are truly amazing.

(rendered by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati)

Vismayo means amazement or wonder, and yoga-bhuumika.h is the stages of yogic development.  If the benefits I’ve described were the only things yoga and meditation did for you, that would be wonderful.  Yet, there’s more.  The physical and mental benefits and changes are not actually the wonders that this sutra is referring to.

This sutra is about the deeper inner experiences.  They are harder to put into words, specifically because they are beyond words.  Deeper than words, deeper than your mind, as you immerse yourself into the depths of your inner knowingness and beingness, you have amazing wonder-filled inner experiences.  They unfold within, in a progression mapped by the ancient sages.  You are following the same inner path they followed, with their teachings to guide and protect you along the way

Not long into studying with Swami Nirmalananda, I began to understand that there is an inner map.  She has already traversed it; she knows what’s around the next corner.  She knows the rocky ground that you currently may be picking your way across.  And she can assure you that an incredible vista is about to open up.  Her teachings guide you and protect you along the way.

Wherever you are on the map, there are amazing inner stages yet to come.  Whatever experiences are currently blossoming forth within you, there’s more — more than you can currently imagine.  That is because your mind cannot fully imagine the “more” of who you really are.  It is when you go beyond your mind that you discover your own Divinity.  That is the goal and purpose of Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation: for you to have the experiential knowing (vidya) of your own Divinity (svaroopa).  Awakening you to that inner knowing is the specialty of this lineage of Gurus.

Swami Nirmalananda has the calling, the capacity and the mastery to awaken you to your Divinity.  She lights the flame of your enlightenment within you, so that you realize who you are.  You will know that you are concentrated Consciousness — distilled Divinity.  You are the One Eternal Reality that is the Source of unending joy, peace, and bliss, manifesting the universe and everything in it, including you.  You have always been Divine, you have never not been Divine.  You just don’t know it all the time.

Once you have received the inner awakening, called Shaktipat, every time you meditate, you experience your Divinity.  Your mind and senses are increasingly saturated in your own Divine Essence.  The light and bliss of your own being shine into and through you, more and more.  Your Divinity is not only in you, it is you, and everything else.  And when you go inside, you know this, in progressively deepening stages.  The sutra is saying that it keeps getting better.  I can vouch for it from my own experience, it keeps getting better.  How amazing, how wonderful!  But don’t take my word for it.  Have the experience yourself.

Krishna Avatar – Part 13

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Even though Krishna returned from Hastinapura in haste due to Satrajit’s death, he never stopped fulfilling his duties to the Kuru family.  Knowing in his heart that the Kuru cousins were safe, still he sent Uddhava to find them and report back to him.

So, who are these cousins of Krishna from the Kuru family?

The above question takes us into the epic of Mahabharata!  They were the Pandavas of the Lunar Dynasty.  We have to go back a few generations to start the story of the Pandavas.  Let’s begin with the name of the epic, “Mahabharata.”  While it is a long story, we will look at a concise version of it.

There once lived a king of the Lunar Dynasty, named Dushyanta.  He had a great passion for hunting.  On one of his hunting trips in the jungle, he found Shakuntala, the daughter of Menaka, a celestial nymph of Lord Indra’s court and the great sage Vishwamitra.  It is said that Lord Indra himself, frightened by Vishwamitra’s yogic powers and fearful of losing his position as Lord of the devas, sent Menaka from heaven to earth to lure Vishwamitra and disturb his intense meditation.  Menaka successfully inflamed Vishwamitra’s lust and passion; she succeeded in breaking his meditation.

However, she genuinely fell in love with him and had a baby girl.  The baby girl born to them was left at Rishi Kanva’s ashram with both the parents departing to follow their own pursuits.  Rishi Kanva found the baby surrounded by shakunta birds, so he named her Shakuntala.  Thus Shakuntala became the foster-daughter of Rishi Kanva.

Mesmerized by her beauty, Dushyanta married Shakuntala in a Gandarva marriage (love marriage with no rituals or witnesses), promising to return for her even though being with her in the jungle for only a few days.  He gave his royal ring, embossed with his name, as a token of love.  Shakuntala anxiously waited for Dushyanta, losing herself in thoughts of him.

One day Sage Durvasa, known for his fiery temper, visited Rishi Kanva.  However, Shakuntala was inattentive to Durvasa as she was thinking about Dushyanta.  Angered, Durvasa cursed that the person of whom she was thinking would forget her.  Shakuntala pleaded with Durvasa, but he said he couldn’t take the curse back, but that she could show Dushyanta something he had given her, such as the ring, and he would be freed from the curse.

Due to the curse, Dushyanta forgot Shakuntala.  He never came back for her.  Desperate, Shakuntala went to Dushyanta’s kingdom.  On the way, she lost the ring in the river.  A fish swallowed it and swami away.  As Shakuntala didn’t have the ring to bring Dushyanta out of the curse, he didn’t recognize her.  Shakuntala had to return to the forest and remain deserted by Dushyanta.

In time, Shakuntala gave birth to a baby boy.  Shakuntala’s son was brave and courageous.  His name was Bharata.  From an early age, he played with lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals.  It is told that he opened a lion’s mouth with his bare hands to count the number of teeth it had.  Shakuntala, watching her son, was sure that he would become a great courageous leader one day.

A few years later, a fisherman found the royal ring in a fish in his catch.  He took it to Dushyanta, as his name was on it.  Upon seeing the ring, the curse was lifted.  Dushyanta remembered Shakuntala and rushed to the jungle to find her.  Arriving at Rishi Kanva’s Ashram, he found Bharata playing with the wild animals like toys.  He approached the little boy, asking who he was?  The little boy replied that he was Bharata, the son of the great king Dushyanta and Shakuntala.  Astonished by this answer, Dushyanta sadly realized his error of leaving Shakuntala.  He hugged his son with great love and affection.  He took Shakuntala and Bharata back to the palace.  Succeeding his father, Bharata became the king and soon an Emperor.  He became the greatest of all the kings, a universal emperor.  India’s original name came from him, “Bharat” or “Bharatavarsha,” before the European invasion.  Hence we see the name, “Mahabharata,” which is Maha + Bharata, meaning Great Bharata.

A number of descendants in Bharata’s line ruled Bharatavarsha.  In that line, King Hasti and his grandson King Kuru, were very popular.  Hastinapura was named after King Hasti and the Kuru family got the name after King Kuru.  Kuru’s son was Pratipa, whose son was Shantanu.  The saga of Mahabharata formally begins with the rule of King Shantanu, known for his valor and wisdom.

King Pratipa had three sons; Shantanu was the youngest.  King Pratipa’s eldest son, Devapi, had leprosy and therefore gave up his inheritance to the throne and became a hermit.  The second son, Bahlika, abandoned Hastinapura, and lived with his uncle in Balkh, later inheriting his kingdom.  Thus, Shantanu was crowned as the king of Hastinapura.  He was young when crowned because his father had him later in life.

Shantanu was a benevolent and wise ruler, very much liked by the people of his nation.  One day, the young king Shantanu was walking along the river Ganga, and saw a beautiful young lady.  She walking on the water as though she was walking on the ground, then came ashore and continued to walk on the riverbank.  He was mesmerized and fell in love with her in an instant.  He told the beautiful lady that he had lost his heart to her, that he is the king of Hastinapura who wants to marry her.  He would make her the queen of Hastinapura.  She said she would accept his proposal under two conditions: 1) he must never ask her about who she is or where she came from, and 2) he should never interfere in what she does.  Continuing, she told him that if he violated either of these conditions, she will leave him immediately.

The conditions stunned Shantanu; they would never be agreeable to a king.  But, for the love stricken Shantanu, it was unthinkable to refuse any of her demands, in order to have her hand.  He accepted both conditions immediately.  The beauty married Shantanu under the Gandarva marriage rites (love marriage with no rituals or witnesses) on the spot.

King Shantanu left his ministers to take care of the kingdom and completely concentrated only on his wife.  He called her “Ganga,” as he had found her near the river Ganga.  Shantanu’s life went smoothly and happily for some time.  In due course, Ganga gave birth to a lovely baby boy.  Shantanu was overjoyed to hear the news and rushed to his wife’s quarters.  The queen was silently taking the newborn towards the river Ganga, where Shantanu had met her for the first time.  Shantanu was puzzled but followed her quietly.  When she arrived at the riverbank, she turned and smiled at Shantanu, then put the newborn into the river, letting the currents wash the baby away.  She started walking back to the palace with satisfaction in her face.  Shantanu was speechless, unable to believe what he had seen the love of his life do to their child.  He wanted to ask her, why she did it, but remembered the conditions and kept quiet.

A few weeks passed, then Shantanu came to know that Ganga was pregnant again.  His sadness about the earlier son faded away.  He was eagerly awaiting the birth of his child.  The day came and he was blessed with another son.  To his astonishment, Ganga marched with the baby in her arms towards the river again.  It was the same fate for the second son as the earlier one.  Shantanu was in great grief, but he could not say or do anything as he was bound by his promise.

Ganga did the same thing over and over again, giving Shantanu’s sons to the river.  After she drowned the seventh son, Shantanu was lost in deep thought all the time.  Life was very painful for him.  He couldn’t tolerate what Ganga was doing, but his love for her prevented him from saying anything as he didn’t want to lose her.

Running out of patience, Shantanu decided to stop the drowning of the eighth child.  The time came.  His eighth son was born.  As usual, the queen was off to the river.  When she was about to drop the baby into the river, Shantanu shouted “Stop!  You are murdering my eighth son, and I can’t allow it to happen.  Are you here to put an end to my kingdom and my dynasty?  Why, my love?”

The queen looked at Shantanu.  She said “Dear King, I am Ganga, the river itself, who came from the heavens.  Now that you have questioned me, you have broken your promise.  As for the conditions, I will not be able to stay with you any longer.  But before I leave, I will reveal the entire secret of what has happened here.”  She continued, “The children born to you were the eight Vasus, the eight elemental attendants of Indra, representing the aspects of nature.  Once, sage Vasishta got angry with them as they stole his pet cow Nandini.  He cursed them to be born as humans and undergo mental embarrassments.  Hearing this curse, seven of them implored the sage to be excused, but the eighth stood without any remorse.  Vasishta compassionately amended his curse for the first seven, so they would as soon as they are born on earth, to be able to return to Indra’s heaven.  But the eighth would have a very long miserable life due to mental suffering.  The eight Vasus came to me, asking me to be their mother on earth.  To fulfill their wish, I had to take a human form and free them from their curse.  I liberated the first seven.  My job is done here.  I will take your eighth son with me, to teach him to be potent enough to withstand what this world is going to throw at him, mentally and physically.  When he grows up to an age, studying everything he needs to know, I will come back and return him to you.”  Saying this, hugging her baby, she flashed into the sky.