Author Archives: Swami Nirmalananda

About Swami Nirmalananda

Experience how easy it can be to explore the inner depths of your own beingness with these Satsangs (teachings) from Satguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati of Svaroopa Vidya Ashram.

Illness: A Blessing in Disguise

By Swami Prajñananda 

In December 2019, I flew to India to take my vows as a swami, a yoga monk.  Before I left, I was worried, “What if I get sick?”  I didn’t consciously think about it, but it was definitely brewing in my subconscious.  In the end, my worries manifested into reality.  I got a very sore and swollen throat.  It lasted throughout the vows ceremony and the duration of the trip.  Surprisingly, it was a blessing in disguise.  

Amazingly, I did not mind.  I was having such deep experiences.  And even more, I finally got it: I am not my body.  It was completely freeing.  I was able to settle deeper into my own essence which the pain of my body cannot touch. While I could still feel my throat was raw and swollen, I was abiding at a deeper level within. I was experiencing the bliss that is beyond the limitations of my body.  

Ever since, I have not been scared of getting sick.  I still do my best to take care of my body, but it is not based in fear.  

I got sick again a couple of months ago. I got Covid. I got it worse than I thought I would. I went through the gamut of symptoms: fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, congestion.  Eventually, I experienced difficulty breathing as well as fatigue.  This time, I wasn’t worried about being sick.  Even though my body was in bad shape, I didn’t feel “I am my body.” However, I did uncover a different sticky identity, “I am my capacity.” 

With Covid, I was laid up for what felt like way too long.  I couldn’t teach my classes or support the Ashram with my administrative work.  I couldn’t cook or clean.  My whole identity of someone who is competent and capable was threatened. I realized that I’ve held the belief that my self-worth comes from what I do.  

Since this underlying belief has come into my awareness, I’ve been able to look at it. Gurudevi’s recent teachings has supported me in doing so, especially this excerpt:  

Yoga says that you are the perceiver, not what you perceive. Whatever you are seeing or hearing, as well as what you are doing, you are the one who is experiencing it. You are the experiencer, not the experience. You are the doer, not the action or its results. Know who you are, even while you are perceiving and acting, and you are free. This is yoga’s promise.  – Gurudevi Nirmalananda, Perception & Action, September 2022 

Yes!  This makes so much sense to me.  I perceive my body, so I must not be my body.  I perceive my mind, so I must not be my mind.  And oh yes!  I perceive my capacity to act, so I must not be my capacity.  I am the perceiver, not what I perceive.  I am Shiva.  I am the One Divine Reality that is being my body, mind and capacity in order to participate in this world. My participation does not make me more or less of who I am.  I am the One who is being me and being all and beyond all.   

This knowing is completely freeing while at the same time profoundly grounding.  Without the knowing, you are lost in limitation.  But when you know, you can fully embody individuality without being limited by it at all.  The knowing is the key, the key to your own freedom.  Yoga gives you the key.  So if you are not yet free, you must do more yoga. 

Freedom!  Independence Day!  Liberation!

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I confess that I get it all mixed up.  The Fourth of July means so much to me because I associate it with yoga’s promise of freedom.  The original date was all about political freedom, I understand.  But the word “freedom” makes me think of yogic freedom, which is so much more.

Yogic freedom ends the inner burdens that weigh you down:  your thoughts, memories, desires and fears.  Dissolving these delusions makes you able to breath freely, laugh and love all.  You give from the depth of your being and revel in the bliss that is ever arising within. 

When the fireworks go off in the sky, I associate them with the inner fireworks that deep meditation can provide.  The light inside is so much brighter than anything that shines outside!  You’re living in the dark when you’re always looking outward for happiness.  Look inward and discover who you really are.  Your essence is Divine and always has been.  Now, finally, it is the time to know.  You have waited lifetimes for this opportunity.

I realize that I am extraordinarily fortunate. The events of 1776 laid the foundation for a society that gives me access to education and travel, as well as opportunities and lifestyle choices few people in the world enjoy. Having taken full advantage of these freedoms, I am grateful for them all.  Yet I found them unfulfilling.

No matter how many classes I took or books I read, I was still intellectually unsatisfied. No matter how many destinations to which I traveled, I never felt that I belonged, not there and not even at home.  The many opportunities turned into many successful endeavors, but I was still unsatisfied.  I wanted more.

My yearning, along with the angst of my post-war generation, called my Baba to America.  He was one of many spiritual greats who brought the yogic tradition to us.  I didn’t know enough to go looking for him, so he came and found me.  Beyond merely fortunate, I am saturated with Divine Grace.  Grace fills my life and my being.  I’m so full that it overflows, which makes me want to share it with you.

That’s why I teach.  That’s why I write.  That’s why I get up in the morning, the purpose of my life, a Divine Purpose to which I am able to dedicate myself.  I am so fortunate.  Freedom is the gift I received from my Guru, which is why I love July 4. It’s all about being free on the inside.

Freedom is your destiny.  All you have to do is want it.  Then act on that holy desire.  Do more yoga.

Free from Limitations

By Swami Satrupananda

“I am imperfect,” your mind tells you this again and again.  Does it, unfortunately, sound familiar?  Yoga calls this ignorance.  The good news is that yoga also provides a cure: Shaktipat, the sacred initiation from a Satguru.

Yoga is the science of maximizing the human experience.  Part of this science is defining what keeps us limited.  The belief that “I am imperfect” has a Sanskrit name: aanava mala.  And it is just that, a belief, not a truth.  That’s why aanava mala is often translated as ignorance.  We don’t know who we really are.  

You are perfect, whole, full and complete.  Whenever you feel otherwise, you don’t know the Truth of your Divine Nature.  But this is not an ignorance that can be solved with more education.  Therefore, my teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, translates aanava mala as Divine Amnesia.  You have forgotten your own Divinity.

Instead, your mind says that you are small and insignificant.  It’s right there in the Sanskrit words.  Aanava means fine, minute and exceeding smallness.  Mala means dirt, dust, filth and impurity.  Your Divine Nature is veiled by a layer of thinking that you are finite, minute and small.  That means when you feel this way, you are so close to your own Divinity.  There is just a thin layer covering your true nature.  While it is just a thin layer, it’s a scary one.  It’s painful and overwhelming to feel this exceeding smallness.  

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And there are two more veils (malas) that cover your inherent Divinity.  The next mala is maayiiya mala. Maayiiya means “proceeding from maaya.”  Maaya is the delusion of seeing the world as being different from you.  It keeps you from perceiving that everyone and everything is the same one Divine Reality covered by the malas.  Because of maayiiya mala, you see it all as separate.  

The third veil is karma mala.  Karma means action.  This veil propels you into action.  There is nothing wrong with action.  However, karma mala propels you into thinking that you are your accomplishments.  You believe you are what you do.

The truth of your existence is that you are the one Divine Reality, full, complete, perfect and whole.  Your Divinity is covered by these three veils: feeling finite; feeling different/separate from everyone and everything; and feeling your worth is based on what you do.  While you are the one Divine Reality, yet entangled in veils, you feel yourself to be so much less.  This is the human condition.

The cure is Shaktipat.  Shaktipat is an initiation given by a Satguru.  She ignites your own inner power of upliftment and pierces aanava mala.  The veil is torn.  You can thus see and feel your own Divine Nature.  The torn veil of aanava mala will never fully conceal your Divinity again.  The tear is permanent.

That was my experience.  In the moment I received Shaktipat, I had a profound experience of knowing and being my own Divine Nature.  Then I went back to my life and to my mind, which clearly needed some reprogramming.  I couldn’t live in the Beingness and Knowingness of my own Divinity all the time.  Yet I always knew that I was more.  It wasn’t a mere remembering of my experience; it was an inner knowing that I was more.  

It was so painful.  I knew that I was more, but I wasn’t experiencing the more.  I remember sitting in my apartment a few months after receiving Shaktipat and wishing that I could go back to not-knowing.  And in that moment, I realized that I could never not know.  I might not experience my Divine Nature all the time, but I would never not know that I was more than what my mind told me.

That’s the incredible gift of Shaktipat.  It tears aanava mala and gives you access to your own Divine Nature forever.  Once aanava mala is pierced and you know your own Divinity, then maayiiya mala can longer bind you.  You know that everyone and everything else is also made from the same Divine Reality.  It’s a huge masquerade party, everyone and everything seemingly separate from you – how fun!  

When you know your own Divinity, you continue to act in the world, but it does not define your worth.  Karma mala no longer limits you.  While you know that you are Divine, you take actions in the world simply because you care.  All of this, and so much more, comes from Shaktipat.

Once Shaktipat tears aanava mala, it is just a matter of time until the veil dissolves completely.  Then you live in the Knowingness of your own Divinity all the time.  It’s the promise that is described in Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s name.  Nirmala means without malas.  Gurudevi is free from the limitations of the three malas.  She always knows her own Divinity and sees it in everyone and everything.

You too can live in that freedom once you’ve received Shaktipat.  It’s just a matter of time.  And you control the timing.  If you do the practices that Gurudevi Nirmalananda did, and tells us to do, then you’ll get there.  If you do more of the practices, you’ll get there sooner.  It’s that simple.  And it’s guaranteed.  

You have the ultimate cure to the feeling of “I am imperfect” right here in America.  Come get Shaktipat and do the practices so you will know that you are perfect, whole, full and complete.

God Makers

By Swami Shrutananda

There are pastry makers, ones who are skilled in making bread.  There are peace makers, ones who bring about peace.  Also, there are God makers, ones who reveal your own God-ness, your own Divinity, to you. 

You, an ordinary human being, can be transmuted into God.  This is described as changing ordinary metal into gold.  In the Middle Ages, the so-called “philosopher’s stone” was the most sought-after substance in the world of alchemy.  Through it, alchemists could reach the legendary goal of turning ordinary metals, particularly lead, into gold.

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However, alchemy was a spiritual path, a Kundalini path, which predated medieval times.  It originated in India during the pre-Vedic times more than 20,000 years ago.  The teachings were written in a code language.  The veiled meaning was transforming the human being into the Divine, God.  The metal that was to be transformed was the human being — your body, mind and heart.

During a Weekend Workshop, I gave a talk on “You are Divine.”  As I was giving the teachings, a student kept interrupting and asking questions.  She was being a little aggressive, and other students were becoming uncomfortable.  Plus, they could not hear the teachings I was trying to give them. 

More and more frustrated, the vocal student finally blurted out, “Are you trying to tell me that I am Divine?!”  I said, “Yes!”  Then she sat quietly and listened through the rest of the talk.  Something shifted inside her.  What you believe will determine who you will become. 

You have all experienced your God-ness.  This is certainly true if you’ve received Shaktipat.  Yet it is also true if you have not.  Watching a sunset, upon first seeing a loved one, or listening to your favorite piece of music — any of these open your experience of God:

Unfortunately, most people have only a momentary experience.  Mysticism is about the difference between experiencing God momentarily compared to always knowing that you are God.  And yoga is pure mysticism. 

— Gurudevi Nirmalananda [1]

In yoga, through the Grace of the Guru, you come to live in this knowing you are God.  Who is the Guru? 

The texts are clear: the Guru is God.  So are you, but you don’t know it all the time, not yet anyway. How do you understand someone who lives in the knowing, who settles deep within — into being the Self and never loses it?  What would you want to call that person?  Even from ancient times, they have been called the “God-men of India,” tracing back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians as well as those from India.

— Swami Nirmalananda [2]

The Guru lives in the knowing of their own God-ness.  The  Guru’s job is to make you into Himself — into that which the Guru has already become.  That is God.  This process unfolds from the inside out.

In Kashmiri Shaivism, the pivotal point is whether or not the Guru can give Shaktipat.  A Shaktipat Guru is a God maker.  God makers are very rare.  Swami Nirmalananda is such a Guru.  When you receive Shaktipat, your Kundalini is awakened.  Kundalini is the energy of revelation, ready to flow up your spine from tail to top. 

This profound movement clears away all that gets in the way of knowing you are God.  Your thoughts, the way you use your mind, your memories and feelings, along with your physical body are transmuted.  Through Kundalini, you are uplifted and purified.  Through this transformation you come to know you are God, you are the Self.

Our meditation system comes from a lineage of God makers.  They support you in your meditations, so you experience the depths of your own being, your own Self.  I had a very tangible experience of this in meditation.  As usual, I began meditation by repeating the mantra given to me by my Guru.  I was carried deep within by the mantra. 

Nityananda of Ganeshpuri

Then I saw a God maker.  It was Nityananda, another Guru from this lineage.  He was walking on a dirt path away from me, walking through the mist. 

I kept repeating mantra and got on the dirt path to follow him.  I wanted to go where he was going.  I knew where he was leading me, to my own God-ness, my own Divinity, my own Self. 

As I followed him, I was propelled even deeper within.  I was immersed so deep within that I couldn’t remain conscious at that level of my being.  When I surfaced from that deep plunge within, and I opened my eyes I felt more like my Self.  I was sitting in timeless space, settled and expanded at the same time. 

Once you have received Shaktipat, your most important practice is meditation.  Meditate every day.  Every meditation is alchemy — transmuting, transforming you. 

When do you become God?  You are in charge.  Do more yoga.


[1] Enlightenment in the Midst of Life, Lesson #1: Stepping Into Life (Downingtown PA, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, Year-Long Programme 2018)

[2] Guru & Self, Lesson #5:  Guru is God (Downingtown PA, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, Year-Long Programme 2014)

Everything Is Inside

By Swami Satrupananda


You can find everything you ever wanted by looking inside.  That’s a bold statement.  It’s true because the source of everything is inside of you.  Another even bolder statement. The yogic sages of India have been saying this for thousands of years.  

In searching for a complete understanding of the universe, Stephen Hawking turned to look within.  At age 21, he was diagnosed with ALS and given two years to live.  He lived another 55 years and made significant contributions to theoretical physics and cosmology.  

Hawking said, “Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free.  I have spent my life travelling across the universe, inside my mind.”  He explored the universe inside his mind.  He didn’t travel across the universe to measure, feel and see blackholes on the outside.  He explored them within himself.  That’s where knowledge comes from, the inside.

I had a tangible experience of this in meditation.  I was settled deep inside.  Then an insight arose, answering one of the unanswered questions in my dissertation.  After my meditation session, I contemplated this, surprised that this insight had come.  I had not been thinking about my graduate research for over eight years.  Yet here was new knowledge.  And in that moment, I realized that all knowledge, all answers, come from within.  The yogic sages say all knowledge can be found within.  

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The source of knowledge is within.  The source of everything is within you.  When I first heard this teaching, my scientific mind struggled: “How can the universe be within me; it is so large?”  Yet the scientists now describe that the whole universe banged from a single point called a singularity.  This point contained the mass of the whole universe in a space that is 0” by 0” by 0”.  In these conditions, space and time don’t function like we are used to.  Scientist don’t yet have the math or tools to understand this.  But yogis do.

The yogic sages describe how the universe came from a singularity — called “bindu” in Sanskrit.  In explaining the teachings from the sages, Gurudevi says:

In meditation, you see the bindu inside… You find it inside because the source of the universe is also the source of your own being.

The bindu within you is the source of the universe.  This bindu is the source of your own being.  That same bindu is in me and everyone else.  There is only one source here, which you find by looking within.  You don’t have to go searching in blackholes or far away galaxies.  You find the source of everything inside.  Everything is inside. 

Though everything is inside, you don’t yet have access to it.  Your mind keeps you distracted by turning your attention outward.  With your attention turned outward, you see the world as separate from you.  You feel incomplete and empty.  This drives you to go searching for something to fill you up.  You go looking for more external distractions.

There’s nothing wrong with the external world.  The only problem is that you allow yourself to be distracted by it.  In a Shaktipat tradition, the distractions melt away with time and practice.  The more you do the yoga practices, the more you experience of your own Self.  The more you discover of your own Self, the less external things distract you.

I had a tangible experience of this process a few years ago.  I was having a difficult day.  My mind was keeping me very distracted by external things.  I felt incomplete on the inside.  Driving home, I decided I was going to remedy my challenging day with a delicious meal.  When I got home, I made mac and cheese, adding extra cheese for good measure.  I took the first bite and was so disappointed.  While the meal was delicious, I knew the food would not fulfill me.  I knew that only knowing my own Self would address my feeling of incompleteness.  And since that moment, food never distracted me like it used to.

And that’s why this blog began with my bold statement that everything you ever wanted is inside.  The mac and cheese that I wanted was not about the food.  It was about changing how I felt on the inside.  With everything you’ve ever wanted, the reason you wanted it was in order to feel different — on the inside.  You’ll only feel complete and full on the inside when you know who you truly are.  Do more yoga.  Then you’ll get everything you ever truly wanted — your own Self. 

Krishna Avatar Part 28

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

The Pandavas, with their new bride Draupadi and their mother Kunti, entered the fully decorated royal kingdom of Hastinapura. Guru Drona, Kripacharya, Vikarna and other dignitaries came to receive them at the gate.  A very grand welcome was accorded to the Princes, their bride and Kunti by the citizens of Hastinapura.  Their joy over this event was boundless.  They were not only happy to see them alive but also delighted to see their new beautiful bride.  They always saw Yudhishthira as an image of their old king Pandu, who was famous for his bravery and justice. They had full faith in Yudhishthira and believed he was to rule the kingdom of Hastinapura, reviving it to its old glory. 

The Pandavas got blessings from their grandsire Bhishma, the Gurus and King Dhritarashtra.  Gandhari’s joy knew no bounds. She hugged Kunti with utter delight, but inside her heart was aching for what her son Duryodhana had done to them. 

Yudhishthira is crowned
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As promised, half of the kingdom was ready to be given to the Pandavas. First and foremost, the rituals to crown Yudhishthira as a King started.  Dhritarashtra crowned Yudhishthira in a grand ceremony and gave his blessings to rule half of the Kingdom of Hastinapura. 

He addressed Yudhishthira, “Dear son, your father and my beloved brother Pandu developed this kingdom and ruled it with honor.  He was popular, not only among the citizens of our kingdom, but also among the neighboring kingdoms.  I bless you to do the same.  My brother always followed my commands with utter respect.  I would like you to love me the way he loved and respected me.  You are very wise and tolerant. Unfortunately, my son’s heart is filled with pride and ego.  Pandu’s untimely death and my makeshift possession of the kingdom has incited Duryodhana to develop a longing to be the next ruler of Hastinapura. Due to this, I am dividing the kingdom into two, to prevent a war between the brothers, so that there will be peace among all of you. “I have chosen Khandavaprastha as the capital for your kingdom.  You can start ruling your half of the kingdom from Khandavaprastha. Our great ancestors Pururavasu, Nakusan and Yayati ruled the whole kingdom from that city. It is our oldest capital.  There is a lot be done there.  You may have to build it back from scratch. I give my best blessings for you to reconstruct and restore Khandavaprastha, to bring back its glory. I am sure that you will accept this arrangement in the interest of our Kuru dynasty.”  

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Dhritarashtra, by giving this sweet talk, gave Pandavas a barren land which had been unused for centuries. Most of its ruins were turned into a forest.  It was overrun by wild animals and demons. Hearing this, Yudhishthira’s brothers and all who were present were horrified.  But Yudhishthira, modest and accommodating as always, gave his acceptance to Dhritarashtra’s proposal.  The satisfaction he showed to all who were present at the royal court was well received.  Yudhishthira was praised by the elders for his compliant nature and generosity, and he was showered with blessings.

In due time they proceeded towards Khandavaprastha, followed by some of the loyal citizens of Hastinapura.  After taking Krishna’s advice, Yudhishthira got enough cattle, craftsmen and gold to establish a city. Krishna and Arjuna led the journey.  They started early in order to clear the forest.  When they arrived, they were met by the God of fire, Agni, who looked very ill.  He requested help from both of them, begging them to free him from his misery.

Agni was suffering because of the consumption of too much ghee (clarified butter).  This was due to King Svetaki’s yaj~na, the sacrificial fire which he did nonstop for twelve years in order to please Lord Shiva, so that he could go to heaven.  While Svetaki succeeded in his sacrificial fire, Agni was left with all that ghee, which was making him very sick due to indigestion.  He was looking for something to burn, so to restore his strength. Thus he decided to burn the forest in Khandavaprastha.  But he had not been successful in doing it, so he sought help from Lord Brahma.  Lord Brahma advised Agni to get the help from Krishna and Arjuna who were on their way to the very same place. 

Agni bhagavatam-katha.com

The reason why Agni couldn’t burn the forest was that it was the home to a serpent king named Takshaka, who ruled the Nagas, the snakes.  Takshaka was very devoted to Indra, the King of the Devas, also being a very close friend of his.  Takshaka and his clan were well protected by the grace of Indra.  In addition, Takshaka was a good friend of the Asuric architect Mayasura.  With the help of Mayasura he made the forest into a magical one.  Every time Agni tried to consume the forest with his flames, Indra would bring a shower of rain and put it out.  

Hearing this Krishna and Arjuna decided to help Agni.  In the meantime, Yudhishthira, along with the other brothers and Draupadi, as well as all who accompanied them from Hastinapura, arrived at Khandavaprastha.  They realized that the forest was already taken by Takshaka and the Nagas.

Takshaka deviantart.com

Takshaka was furious to see humans trying to occupy the only home he had ever known.  He started attacking the Pandavas and the people who followed them to Khandavaprastha.  Mayasura warned Takshaka not to fight the Pandavas, for he was aware of their bravery.  Despite the advice from his friend, Takshaka went all in for a mighty war with the Pandavas. The Nagas started poisoning everyone who they came across. 

Yudhishthira was very upset and tried to talk to Takshaka explaining that they are not there to chase them away, but they could live in harmony together in Khandavaprastha. His words failed to get through the deaf ears of Takshaka.  Arjuna decided to put an end to the quarrel and started attacking Takshaka. Wounded, Takshska went back to the thick magical forest and started praying to Indra, seeking help from him. 

To fulfill the promise that Krishna and himself made to Agni, Arjuna used his bow & arrow to invoke Agni so he could consume the magical forest of Takshaka.  In the fire, the wife of Takshaka burned to death.  Takshaka and his son Ashvasena escaped with some of their clan.  Indra, being the friend of Takshaka, got angry about the whole ordeal and came to fight Arjuna directly. 

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A fierce fight started between the two of them.  Indra, being the king of the Devas, used mighty weapons against Arjuna.  But Arjuna was actually Indra’s son, by the boon he had given to Kunti.  Not having any other choice, Arjuna was compelled to fight with the very person who brought him to life.  The other four Pandava brothers stood there a bit frightened about the fight and wondered about its outcome.  Krishna silently stood there, witnessing it all with a smile.

Arjuna was carefully choosing arrows which would defend him against Indra’s weapons.  That provoked Indra’s anger.  As a last resort, Indra used his ultimate weapon, Vajrayudha, the thunderbolt.  Seeing this, the Pandava brothers were frozen in place.  Draupadi was begging Indra to withdraw his Vajrayudha before it attacked Arjuna.  Arjuna respectfully answered with the best arrow from his quiver.  The Vajrayudha, with its thundering noise advanced towards Arjuna with immense speed.  While everyone watching this, trembling in fear, all of sudden the Vajrayudha was suspended in midair.  To everyone’s surprise, it was Krishna’s Sudarshana chakra that caused this suspension. Krishna called out to Indra to withdraw his weapon. Indra couldn’t refuse Krishna’s request and stopped the fight with Arjuna. 

Arjuna fell to his knees apologizing to Indra and asked for forgiveness for taking up arms against him, his own father.  Yudhishthira came forward and explained his plan to rule Khandavaprastha along with Nagas with peace, and that he doesn’t have any intention to chase them away.  Indra was very happy hearing this and blessed Arjuna and his brothers.  

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Indra asked Arjuna what he would want from Indra. Per Krishna’s advice Arjuna asked Indra to lend Vishwakarma, the divine architect, to build the kingdom and revive the city of Khandavaprastha.  Indra immediately called upon Vishwakarma, commanding him to build a beautiful city for the Pandavas.  The Pandavas thanked Indra wholeheartedly and promised him that they would name the new built capital city Indraprastha, in honor of Indra. 

Seeing all this, the Nagas slowly started to emerge from the forest and came towards Yudhishthira and the Pandavas. Yudhishthira welcomed them with an open heart.  The Nagas pulled back the poison they had rendered against the people.  Among the demons who came out of the forest was Mayasura.  Krishna was sure to kill him, therefore the asura sought protection from Arjuna. 

Agni was free to consume the forest without any disturbances. Once Agni’s fire ceased, Mayasura thanked Arjuna and agreed to prepare a beautiful assembly hall for the court of Yudhishthira in the new city.  He gave Bhima a very heavy mace.   To Arjuna he presented Devadatta, a conch whose sound would create terror in the hearts of warriors at any war.

Agni had finally gotten his strength back. He was so grateful and happy for Arjuna’s help that he rewarded Arjuna with a bow called Gandiva, along with an inexhaustible supply of arrows, due to the help of Varuna, the God of sea. Arjuna humbly accepted these gifts from Agni.  The city of Indraprastha sprung from the ashes. 

More to come…

Boredom: A Stage of Enlightenment

By Swami Shrutananda 

People ask me, “What are you up to?”  I say, “Nothing”.  Every day is the same.  I have become boring!  This monotony is not just due to the pandemic.  I blame Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi), our Master Teacher, for my boredom and for me being boring.

For us Ashram residents, she has created a repetitive daily practice.  We start a chant at 5:15 am six days a week and meditate every day at 6:30 am.  We have breakfast with the same people, and then do seva (selfless service).  We have lunch with the same people, and then do more seva.  In the evening, we gather for a reading, chant, and meditation.  Every single day is the same — day in and day out. 

My mind has had nowhere to go except inward.  When I was first beginning to look inward, I bumped into what my mind found important and interesting — but was not.  I found my mind repeating things relentlessly.  Rather than bringing up the best stuff in my life, it presented the worst.  My mind was planning and worrying how to get everything done in a short amount of time.  It kept me thinking about what I want, what I don’t want, and unpleasant experiences and conversations.  Worse, it constantly asked about who’s to blame?

When you do enough yoga, whatever that is for you, the mind begins to quiet down.  It’s more peaceful.  Then comes the boredom.  When this happened for me, I looked inside, and nothing was happening.  Nothing.  The entertaining mental and emotional rollercoaster ride had slowed to a crawl.  When I looked outside, what most people like to do and talk about no longer entertained me.  This being in the in-between is painful.  I am not who I used to be, but not yet who I will be — abiding in my own Divine Essence. 

It’s heartening to know that this boredom is a stage along the way to the knowing of your own Divine Essence — your Self.  It is a stage of enlightenment.  What a relief to know this is temporary.  Gurudevi described this stage in one of the lessons in her 2018 Year-Long Programme: “Enlightenment in the Midst of Life”:

The 10th century Kashmiri sage, Abhinavagupta, writes:

nija-“si.sya-vibodhaaya prabuddha-smaranaaya ca

maya-abhinavaguptena “sramo’ya.m kriyate manaak.

For enlightening my own disciples, and for reminding the already enlightened ones (of their own enlightenment), I, Abhinavagupta, am making some effort (in writing this commentary). (1)

This means there are stages of enlightenment.  It also means that, when you’re enlightened, you need help understanding your state.(2)

I have had the privilege of living and studying with Gurudevi for almost 30 years.  I watched as she deepened and became fully enlightened.  Now I watch as she continues to expand into that state of Self Knowingness.  I see that it just keeps getting better and better.  She lives in the steady, continuing, expansive, blissful inner state.  I see it fill her heart, her mind and her life.

Gurudevi knows the stages along the way because she has been through them.  Therefore, she can guide you.  She can help you to understand your state and get beyond where you are stuck.  

Patanjali says there are seven stages of enlightenment: 

Tasya saptadhaa praanta-bhuumi.h praj~nyaa.— Yoga Sutras 2.27

The highest stage of enlightenment unfolds by seven stages.(3)

He is not saying that you go through seven stages on the way to enlightenment.  These are stages your mind goes through once you attain enlightenment.  Boredom is on the list.  Like a tour guide, Patanjali shows you the scenery along the way as you go upriver to the source.  His system gives you arduous practices to work on your mind, specifically to free you from your mind.  

Gurudevi’s teachings are based in a different yogic system, Kashmiri Shaivism.  Through Shaktipat, she takes you more quickly and easily inward to the knowing of your own Self.  You glide on the river of Grace to the source of your own Beingness.  Grace makes all this happen, the revelation of your own Self to you.

Shaktipat is the turning point, creating an inner opening that overwhelms your mind.  That inner opening stays open forever after.  But most people don’t get instantly enlightened.  Why not?  Oh, your mind!  Instead of looking through the opening deeper inside, most people continue to look outward.  Then their mind must go through the processes Patanjali describes. 

If you want to avoid that laborious process, keep looking through the opening inward.  How do you do that?  More mantra.  Repeating mantra is what Gurudevi did.  If you do what Gurudevi did, you will get what she got.  You will become fully enlightened.  Do more mantra.

(1) Jaidev Singh, A Trident of Wisdom (Albany, New York, State University of New York 1989), page 5

(2) Saraswati, Swami Nirmalananda, Enlightenment in the Midst of Life: Stepping Into Life (Downingtown PA,  Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram 2018), page 5

(3) Rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Always, Already Self

By Swami Samvidaananda

You are pure, whole, complete, divine.  You always have been.  You already are.  

When I first heard this teaching, I was delighted, amazed and … dubious.  It rang a bell somewhere deep inside.  But that contrasted with much of the time when I felt alone, empty and incomplete.  So I wondered how the teaching could be true?  But, inside I knew it was true.  Better, I know that you can know, too.

An ancient yogic text gives the promise of your Divinity:

Chaitanyam-aatmaa — Shiva Sutras 1.1

Your own Self is Consciousness-Itself [1]

This is chapter one, verse one: the first and highest teaching.  Your own Self is Consciousness.  Consciousness is the One Ever-Existent Reality, the Divine Source and substance of everything that exists.  It is who you are.  You are the One, Divine Reality, who is embodied as you.  When you know your inherent Divinity, you know that everything and everyone else is that same Divinity.   

You get glimmers of your inner light when you do what gives you joy.  You are radiant when you’re in love.  You glow when you give with generosity.  Others see it, but more importantly, you feel it.  It’s the light of your Divinity.

You get glimpses of another’s Divinity when you look in a baby’s eyes or the eyes of a beloved.  Perhaps you seek out glorious sunsets, majestic mountain vistas or walks in the quiet cathedral of a forest.  The glory and majesty of nature reveals its Divinity, and triggers within you an experience of the Divine.  It all happens inside.

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But you don’t know your own Divinity enough of the time.  The sun is gone.  Sometimes weather doesn’t allow for climbing mountains.  The quiet of the forest is ruined by someone on their cell phone.  You have joy but you also have sorrow.  Sometimes you feel whole but sometimes you feel incomplete.  Most of the time, probably, you feel incomplete.  

So is there a way to know your Divinity all the time?  Yes.  

You can always know that your own Self is Consciousness-Itself.  It doesn’t come from learning the sutras, though the sutras do tell you how to attain that knowing.  There are those beings who know their Divinity all the time. They live their Divinity all the time.  And they have the ability to awaken that knowing in you.  That awakening is called Shaktipat, so they are called Shaktipat Gurus. 

My spiritual teacher is such a Guru.  Her name is Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  When she gave me Shaktipat, my world changed.  It was like I had been living in a dark room with blackout curtains, but I didn’t know there were blackout curtains over the windows.  I simply thought it was nighttime all the time.  Shaktipat opened the curtains to show me daylight. 

Once you know, you can’t not know.  I can pull the curtains over the window again, but I know the sun is shining outside.  So if I make my world dark again, it’s my choice.  Sometimes I make that choice again, from habit or old persistent patterns.  But more often, I make the choices that support the light.  Mainly, I meditate.  It’s called Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation.  And every time I do it, the light shines brighter because I’m blocking it less.  I can’t even close those curtains anymore the way I used to be able to. 

Here’s where the metaphor breaks down.  Because you find the light inside.  It’s the light of your inherent Divinity, of your own Self.  You are pure, whole, complete, divine.  You always have been.  You already are.  I don’t doubt this anymore.  Though I don’t know it all the time yet, I know that one day I will.  And you can too.  If you want her to, Gurudevi will give you the awakening called Shaktipat.  Then the curtains will open, and the light of your Divinity will be revealed.  Do you want to know?


[1] Rendered by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Here We Go Again!

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

A new year, a new virus variant, a new opportunity to choose what direction you are going.  Life is full of promise as well as challenges.  Can you move into it with intelligence, applying needed caution, yet with enthusiasm?  Enthusiasm comes from the Greek, en-theos, meaning “filled with God.”  Once you find the Divine dimension within yourself, everything you do is inspired and inspirational.

It is my enthusiasm that keeps me teaching in these challenging times.  For me, it is a sacred offering to all who want more out of life.  Intelligence is how my mind uses the light of Consciousness so I can help you see inward.  And caution demands I wear a mask when teaching in-person.  I’ve gotten so used to it that I often forget to remove it.  

Intelligence, caution and enthusiasm — weave them together in the brand-new year that is laying at your feet.  Step onto the path and head in the direction you want to go.  I say, “Head for the light!”  You will find the brightest light shining from its inner source, your own Self.

Yoga specializes in giving you access to the Divine dimension of your own being.  You taste it in doing Svaroopa®yoga poses.  The physical benefits they provide are tangible, though superficial.  The deeper effects are found in the inner stillness and peace the poses give you.  Direct access is found by turning to explore inward.  Dive deep by using my Baba’s sophisticated meditative methodology.

When you live from the inner depths, you soar into the skies like a bird surfing the air currents that carry you higher and higher.  Shining with light, you are also lightweight.  Yoga gives you an abiding tranquility and profound inner clarity.  They make you able to fly high with an unerring sense of direction, even piercing through the clouds in your mind.  You know what to do and where to go because the answers arise from within.

How do you access this inner stream of clarity?  You have to look for it.  Look into where it comes from.  All your answers lie within.  Your mind is the microscope by which you see into the secret inner realms.  Like a microscope lens, it must be clean and clear to see what’s in there.  You simply have to quiet your mind in order to see clearly.

Yogas-chitta-vrtti-nirodhah.

— Yoga Sutras 1.2

Yoga is the quieting of your mind’s activities.

The sage Patanjali defines yoga as the quieting of your mind.  You don’t wait for your mind to calm down; you intervene.  Use yoga’s tricks to steer your mind in the direction you want it to go, into peace and clarity.  Head for the light within.  The best trick of all?  Mantra, of course. 

Based in Self, your own inner resources are more powerful than a nuclear generating plant.  They empower you to choose what to do with this coming year.  It glistens ahead of you, a golden opportunity.  A luminous moment that you can stretch into infinity.  I would love to show you how.

Krishna Avatar Part 26

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

In Panchala, Dhrishtadyumna requested the suitors come forward for the trials to begin.  Kings and princes came forward, eager to display their skills.  But they soon failed and sat with their heads hung low out of shame.  All eyes turned to Karna as he stood, preparing himself for the challenge.  But before he even picked up the bow, a few princes objected to his participation, as he was the son of a charioteer.  Hearing this, Draupadi herself refused to marry Karna, even if he were to be successful in performing the heroic act.

Karna was yet again insulted in public.  With a broken heart, filled with extreme hatred, he withdrew from the competition and walked out of the venue.  Even Duryodhana didn’t try stopping him.  After he left, many other kings and princes tried but they all miserably failed.

Drupada and his son Dhrishtadyumna were getting worried, seeing princes known for their skill at archery failing to fulfill the condition of the svayamvara, bridal contest.  The challenge now seemed almost impossible to be performed by anyone.  Drupada, whose dream was to get Arjuna married to his daughter, was already greatly disappointed, thinking that the Pandavas perished in the house fire in Varanavata.  At this point, it was haunting him more than ever.

At the same time, with no one able to win the challenge, the audience began to talk about Arjuna and his valor.  They were saying that, if only Arjuna was alive, he would have done it in no time.  Hearing this boosted Arjuna’s interest in participating in the challenge.  Meantime, Krishna alone recognized Arjuna.  By looking straight into his eyes all the way from the podium, Krishna gave him encouragement with a beautiful smile spreading across his face.  This made Arjuna make his move.  Arjuna slowly got up from his seat and advanced towards the podium.  The brahmins were in shock.  Some of them, agitated by his stepping forward, started shouting at him, saying he would bring disgrace to the brahmins by failing badly.  But some welcomed his courage and appreciated his boldness.  The elders prayed and blessed him to succeed.  Due to his disguise, no one recognized that he was really Arjuna, the prince.

In his disguise as a brahmin, Arjuna requested Dhrishtadyumna’s permission to participate in the contest.  After consulting with his father, Drupada, and with Krishna, Dhrishtadyumna agreed.  Arjuna first honored his guru within himself, bowed to everyone in the arena. 

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Then, giving due respect to the bow, in no time Arjuna picked it up and strung it.  To everyone’s astonishment, he shot the arrow, piercing the eye of the fish successfully.  The entire arena erupted with loud applause, especially from all the brahmins.  They were thrilled with what they witnessed.  They couldn’t believe their eyes.  Their happiness was boundless. 

Drupada, his son and daughter were pleased to see the brahmin’s success.  Not only were they pleased, they were also relieved that the contest ended with an outcome.  Only a few minutes earlier, they were worried that no one would pass the test that was set.  The defeated princes were not at all happy about the outcome.  They started complaining about giving permission to a brahmin to participate in a royal event. 

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Ignoring all the commotion among the kings and princes, Draupadi walked gracefully up to the brahmin and put the bridal garland around his neck. Her face bloomed like a lotus, meeting her future husband for the first time.  Immediately, Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva went to the potter’s house to inform Kunti of the events that had taken place.  Bhima decided to stay with Arjuna in case there was an attack from the unsuccessful suitors.

As expected, the happenings made some of the royal guests jealous and angry.  They felt they had been humiliated and insulted by King Drupada and his son, by their marrying princess Draupadi off to a mere brahmin.  They couldn’t tolerate the insult brought upon them, so they wanted to teach a lesson.  They picked up their weapons and were ready for a fight. 

Arjuna picked up his bow and arrows, ready to defend Draupadi and her family.  The brahmins also rose in support of Arjuna, thinking that they were supporting another brahmin.  Arjuna assured them that he could single-handedly manage the fight.  Many kings and princes fell under the rain of arrows flashing from Arjuna’s bow.  Some of them got so frightened that they ran away.  Duryodhana brought Karna back into the hall so he could participate in the fight.  Even though Karna was reluctant to fight a brahmin, Duryodhana instigated him to fight.  But Karna also couldn’t stand up to the fiery Arjuna.  He applauded the brahmin for his brilliant skill in archery. 

Soon enough, Bhima thought it was time for him to join his brother in the fight.  He went outside the hall and uprooted a huge tree.  Using it as his weapon, he attacked the enemies.  Krishna and Balarama tried their best to bring peace to the situation by calming the angry mob.  Arjuna, together with his brother Bhima, were able to defeat their opponents. 

After the fight was over, getting permission from Drupada, Krishna and Dhrishtadyumna, Arjuna took Draupadi with him to his mother, Kunti.  Draupadi’s brother Dhrishtadyumna followed them, secretly wanting to know more about the brahmin who was marrying his sister. 

Though Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva had left early to go to their mother, they we delayed by the crowd in the city.  By the time they reached the potter’s home, Bhima, Arjuna and Draupadi were arriving at the same time.  They found Kunti busy in her prayers.  One of the brothers shouted excitedly at Kunti, saying, “Look, mother!  See what Arjuna has brought home today!”  Kunti had her back towards them.  Without looking at them she said, “Whatever Arjuna brought, divide it equally among all the five of you as always.”  This was said without her knowing that Arjuna had won Draupadi’s hand in the swayamvara and brought her with him to the hut.  She only thought of the alms they brought every day. 

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The brothers were dumbstruck by their mother’s command.  Draupadi was jolted by this command and stood still, like a stone.  This silence made Kunti turn towards them.  She too was shocked, seeing the beautiful princess Draupadi standing at the entrance with Arjuna.  She felt embarrassed about what she had said.  She somehow put herself back together and said that she misunderstood, thinking that they were talking about the alms they brought in.

That was the one and only reason she said what she said.  However, her words are a command to her children.  Knowing this, she was regretting what she had said.  This command would make Draupadi to commit a social sin.  That made her even more worried.

They were all looking for a way out of this cursed situation but couldn’t find any good solution.  Talking among themselves, the brothers said that Arjuna should marry Draupadi, while the rest of them would go to the forest and renounce worldly life.  Arjuna was arguing against it, saying that Yudhishthira, as the eldest, should marry to Draupadi while the other four would go to the forest. The argument went on for a long time. Kunti was heartbroken that she had ruined her children’s lives.

Looking at the whole thing revealed in front of her, at last Draupadi realized it was a wish she had made in her past life that brought this upon her in this life.  She consoled Kunti and agreed to marry all five of them and to be their wife.  Her brother, Dhrishtadyumna, following them secretly, witnessed all this.  First and foremost, he was shocked to find out the brothers were none other than the Pandavas, and that the divine looking lady was Kunti herself.  At first he was extremely happy that his sister had found Arjuna as her husband.  But soon, when he heard the conversation about all of them sharing Draupadi as their wife, he was furious.

He rushed to the palace to disclose the pleasant news as well as the unpleasant twisted side of the reality.  Drupada couldn’t believe his ears.  He was so delighted to hear that his wish had come true, that Draupadi was won by the great archer, the royal prince of Hastinapura, Arjuna.  But then he too was shocked and repulsed by hearing about his daughter marrying all five brothers.  He was furious about the injustice brought upon his daughter by the Pandavas.  A ritual of one woman marrying five men, that was never heard of.  It was so against rightness.  Drupada was disgusted by this news.  All his happiness about Draupadi marrying Arjuna vanished. 

At this pivotal time, the sage Vyasa arrived at the palace.  Drupada asked Vyasa’s advice on this unthinkable crisis. 

Vyasa revealed the boon Draupadi received from Lord Shiva before she was brought to the earth.  Drupada was calmed down.  Then he ordered stately arrangements to be made for the royal reception of the Pandavas and their mother Kunti.

More to come…