Author Archives: Swami Nirmalananda

Creativity & Its Source

By Swami Nirmalananda & Rukmini Abbruzzi

Musicians, artists and writers base their livelihood, even their life, in their creativity. Yet everyone is creative, even if you don’t think of yourself that way. For example, coming up with a solution to a problem is creative: that moment where you think, “Oh!  I know what to do about that.” That aha moment is an inner arising; it bubbles up just as joy and happiness do. You have an amazing potential hidden inside you.  So how do you tap into that potential and become more creative?

You currently use your creativity in a limited way: to plant a garden, to decorate your home or your body, or even to bring a new life into the world.  Creativity is blissful!  This is why there are so many arts and crafts stores with so many options for you to explore and enjoy.

Rukmini remembers how much her children loved to be creative:  “They’d come home from pre-school with more drawings and paintings and macaroni art than could ever fit on the refrigerator, excited and happy to share each one with me.”  Do you remember the joy and pride of showing your mom, ”Look what I made!”  Being creative feels wonderful, because in your own small way you’re being Brahma.  You’re experiencing the flow of Consciousness, being Shiva and manifesting something from your own being.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “When my Guru was living and teaching in Los Angeles, we held many programs on creativity, which were well attended by actors, screenwriters, producers, cinematographers, musicians, set designers, etc.  The famous and the wannabes came.  They wanted to tap into their creativity and Baba showed them the way to the source of their creativity — inside.”

Your Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices progressively dissolve your creative blocks.  Energetic blockages in your spine keep you from your own creativity and worse, keep you from experiencing the source of your creativity — your own Self. Especially once Kundalini is awakened, your yogic openings clear the way for your creative capacity to blossom forth from within, along with the radiance and bliss of your own being.  Meditation is particularly effective because it is the direct route to your own source, plus it clears and reconditions your mind, so the light of creative consciousness can shine into your life and into the world.

Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked along the way.  It’s easy to lose track of your goal to know your own Self when a solution to a problem, an idea for a song or other creative impulse bubbles up during your meditation.  Your mind has a catcher’s mitt, so you start catching the arising bubbles, which makes your meditation be merely about your life, a way to solve problems or make money.  This is a trap.

Remember the goal — to know your own Self as Consciousness-Itself.  Meditation will take you all the way in, but you have to put down your catcher’s mitt and meditate longer.  Get past the rising bubbles of creativity to find the source they’re coming from – your own Self which is Consciousness-Itself.  You will not only get one answer from there; you’ll find all answers there.  You don’t merely have the capacity to be creative for a few moments.  You are the Source of creativity itself.  When you base your life and being in that inner reality, you live in an endless flow of creativity that never dries up.  You won’t have to wait until you meditate.  You will live in the experiential knowing (svaroopavidya) of your own Divine Essence.

Originally published August 2015

The Yoga of Grace

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Once I received initiation from my Guru, the fire of yoga began to blaze within me.  I wanted to surrender to this inner flame, and learned how under my Guru’s watchful care and guidance.  Kundalini taught me about core opening, through the physical movements (kriyas) she prompted in my meditations.  My gratitude will never end for what my Baba gave me.  He was one who could give the gift of enlightenment!

Yo’vipastho jna-hetushcha — “Siva Sutras 3.29

Only a yogi with mastery over the wheel of energy is capable to enlighten others

Along with this inner awakening, He taught me to trust what Kundalini brought forth within me.  Every time I had a doubt about a new level of inner opening (and I had many doubts), He reaffirmed for me that I could trust the arising of Consciousness within me.  By the time he sent me back to America and I began teaching, I knew that I knew.

Your practice of the discipline named Svaroopa® yoga, based on the key principles of precision and compassion, allow you to mimic the physical processes I went through in my early years with my Guru.  The awakened Kundalini moved me through the full range of yoga poses, but in a way that opened my spine effortlessly — a radical departure from what I was doing and what I saw others doing in our yoga classes, as we tried to move our bodies into our idea of the picture-perfect pose.  I knew that “imposing” the “pose” on my body was wrong because I experienced the grace and ease of each pose in my meditations, when Kundalini moved me.

As my process advanced, I left the physical kriyas behind and experienced Kundalini clearing my mind and heart.  She unraveled the crazy-bits, of which there were many, by tracking them to their inner-most kernel: again and again I confronted the fear that drove all the crazies.  But I couldn’t unravel the fear.  My Guru did that.  I know what Grace is, for it begins the process (through Shaktipat initiation), supports the process (the ever-present umbrella of Grace) and it completes the process (the inner revealing of who you really are).

Even if you don’t know what Grace is, Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace.  Every time you target the core tensions and melt them away, tail to top, you open yourself to Divine Grace again.  Core opening is a process of inner opening, surrendering the way you resist your own Divinity and surrendering to the inner Reality of your own Self.  The practices invoke the blessing of the ages, coming from the sages and masters of yoga, those who are gone and those still alive.  Most students of Svaroopa® yoga experience Kundalini awakening within their first two years of regular study and practice; many experience this incredible gift in their first class or in their first year.  Or you can simply come to a Shaktipat Retreat and get it in a weekend.

What will Kundalini do for you? How do you know if your Svaroopa® yoga practices have awakened this Divine Power of Revelation within you?  If you feel the inner heat climbing your spine or radiating from your core, the revelatory power of Consciousness (Kundalini) is awakened and working within you.  If you dive in deeper than deep, losing track of time and place, the doorway to your own Divinity has been opened; Kundalini is opening you from the inside out.  If you find yourself lifted or moved effortlessly into a deeper angle in a pose or even right into a painful spot (to burn it away), the fire of yoga (Kundalini) is moving you light-years in a few breaths.

When you get inner answers, always right even when they don’t make sense, Kundalini is showing you how to live your life by the inner compass.  When you stop craving things that your mind still says it wants, Kundalini is freeing you from your compulsions.   When you find that everything you thought you wanted is just a summer rerun, and you realize that what you want is something more… you’re on the path.  This is yoga.  This is Svaroopa® yoga.  The Yoga of Grace.

Excerpted from Swami Nirmalananda’s Contemplation Article, June 2012

Yogis Helping Yogis

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

The millennia-old yogic tradition is based on yogis helping yogis.  While Western yoga is focused mainly on entry level practices (poses, breathing practices and chanting), there’s help every step of the way.  Even if you’re doing it yourself by working through a yoga book, DVD or website, you’re getting a boost from the writer of the books and cards and the makers of the DVD and websites.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

As your yoga progresses into the subtleties, into the more powerful realms of inner exploration, the help you get also becomes more subtle and more powerful.  Yoga calls this k.rpa or anugraha, Divine Grace.  Your interiorization moves through stages of contemplation (dharana) and meditation (dhyana), culminating in profound and deep experiences of inner absorption (samadhi).

Practitioners of Svaroopa® yoga’s core opening poses already know the early levels of samadhi, found so easily in the seated poses and twists, and especially in your many Shavasanas.  To excavate more deeply within, all the way to your inner Divinity, you have to sit up.  All your spinal release has prepared you for an easy seated pose, so the meditative energy (Kundalini) can climb your spine.

Divine Grace is the power of revelation, described in the “Siva Sutras:

Yo’vipastho jna-hetushcha — “Siva Sutras 3.29

Only a yogi with mastery over the wheel of energy is capable to enlighten others

This sutra is saying that there are yogis who are capable of giving enlightenment to others!  What kind of amazing gift is that?  Personally, this is what got me into yoga and kept me so focused for so long.  Having met such a yogi, my own Guru, I knew I was being given a gift beyond comparison — Grace.  I wanted it.  I knew yoga’s promise was true because I tasted it again and again; samadhi is a taste of enlightenment.  I dedicated my life to finding all that yoga promises.

Yoga leaves no stone unturned.  If yoga left stones unturned, the crawly critters in the hidden corners of your mind and emotions would keep you from knowing your own Self.  You must unmask your inner demons, but you don’t have to do it alone.  You will outgrow your fears and obsessions; this is yoga’s promise.  This is due to the power of Grace.

Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace.  For me, it is the yoga of Grace because I got it from my Guru.  For you, it is the yoga of Grace because it jump-starts your inner evolution, the discovery of your own svaroopa — your own Divine Beingness, your Self.

Excerpted from Swami Nirmalananda’s Contemplation Article, June 2012

Rama Avatar, part 7

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

As soon as the bridge was built, Rama commanded the army to move across the sea to Lankapuri.  The troops crossed the sea, reached Lankapuri and made camp at the shore.  Ravana sent two spies to gather information about the army.  They turned themselves into monkeys and roamed around the camp.  Vibhishana identified them as rakshasas and started punishing them.  Rama intervened and released them, instructing them to carry the message about the strong and aggressive army to Ravana.  When the two spies returned, they described the monkey army and its strength, but it still didn’t change Ravana’s mind.  The mandate was sent to Ravana’s commanders to roundup the troops for battle.

As Ravana’s troops were getting ready for the war, Ravana played one of his tricks on Sita, to persuade her to marry him as a last try.  He brought the severed head of a person resembling Rama, saying Sita’s husband is dead and that the only way left for her now is to marry him.  At first Sita fell, trembling, on the ground.  When she regained consciousness, she asked Ravana to behead her so she can join her husband.  At that moment a messenger arrived, bringing Ravana word from the chief of his army.  Ravana left in haste and the head of Rama disappeared, revealing to Sita that it was a yet another trick by Ravana.

Ravana left Sita at the news that Rama had reached Suvela Mountain.  Rama and others went to the top of Suvela Mountain, from where they could see the city of Lankapuri.  Ravana stood there, above a gateway to the city.  Seeing him, Sugreeva sprung into action, leaping on top of Ravana.  They dueled for a long time.  Finally, after reducing Ravana to exhaustion, Sugreeva stole his crown and came back to Rama.

Rama wanted to give a chance for Ravana to make peace so he sent Angada as a messenger.   At the palace, Ravana asked Angada who he is.  Angada replied, “I have seen you once before, when I was a baby.  One day, when my father was doing his daily pujas to all the eight directions, you followed him around due to curiosity.  Annoyed by your constant interruptions, with one blow he brought you down and tied you up in his tail so he could finish his pujas.  Afterward, forgetting that you were helplessly tied to his tail, he visited me at my crib side.  To stop my crying, he shook his tail and realized you were tied to it like a toy.  Looking at this, I stopped crying, amused by your pathetic state.  I am sure you remember my mighty father, Vali, with whose power I stand here, his son Angada.”

Embarrassed by this, Ravana replied, “I will die before making peace with my enemy.”  Angada tried his best to convince Ravana to settle it all in a peaceful manner, but Ravana was firm about going battle instead of conceding defeat.  Angada then firmly planted his foot on the ground, challenging anyone in Ravana’s court to uproot his foot.  If they could, Rama would admit defeat and return home.

All the mighty Rakshasa commanders, including the mighty Meghanada (Ravana’s son, also called Indrajit) tried their best to uproot Angada’s foot but none succeeded.  Angada warned Ravana, that this was his last chance to save himself and his kingdom.  Ravana ordered him seized, but Angada jumped to the ceiling and escaped.  Angada returned to Rama, giving him Ravana’s refusal to make peace.

So, the inevitable war began.  Ravana led his army himself on the first day of battle.  The battle was fierce, but at the end of the day Ravana’s army was destroyed and Ravana stood in the middle without his chariot or his weapons.  Rama said to Ravana, “It is not right to kill someone who has no weapons to defend himself.  I give you time, to think.  Go back today and come tomorrow if you still feel that you must go to war.”  The disgraced Ravana returned home.  Even after his defeat, he didn’t give up on his lust and greed.

The next day Kumbhakarna was awake, disturbed from his six months of sleep, with diminished powers.  He had been informed what had happened and tried his best to bring his brother Ravana to his senses, but was not successful.  Even after Ravana’s ill words against him, Kumbhakarna decided to fight for his brother, for family’s sake, unlike his other brother, Vibhishana.  Yet Kumbhakarna knew he was not on the side of righteousness.  He gathered the troops and marched to war on the second day.

Kumbhakarna did his best, but with his diminished ability and strength, was in no way a match for Rama.  By the end of the day, Rama killed Kumbhakarna, freeing the gatekeeper Vijaya from his second life on earth, leaving only one more to go before he reaches the gates of Vaikuntha again.  Over the next couple of days, Ravana’s younger sons went to battle, encountering the same result as their uncle.

Ravana went into unbearable pain due the demise of his brother and sons.  Seeing his father’s grief, the powerful Meghanada, Ravana’s eldest son, went into battle.  Meghanada had a lot of astras (energetic weapons) from boons he’d received due to his long austerities and worship.  He fought valiantly for days.  He first bound everyone on the enemy’s side with his Naga-astra (cobra astra), making all of them faint.  Garuda (Lord Vishnu’s eagle mount) came in to break the bindings.

Meghanada then wounded Lakshmana with one of his arrows.  Hanuman flew off and brought the physician Sushena to cure him.  Then Meghanada used his Brahma-astra (Brahma’s astra) to disable everyone except Hanuman, who flew to the Himalayas to bring back the hill with the “Sanjeevani” herb to cure everyone.  Having failed to defeat Rama’s monkey army with his astras, Meghanada went into a secret place to perform a yaj~na to get more powers.  Finding out about this, Vibhishana helped Rama to find Meghanada.  Lakshmana battled with him, killing Meghanada after a fierce fight.

Ravana lost his senses when he heard that his eldest son had perished.  Yet, even after all this, Ravana didn’t want to concede defeat.  He gathered all the Asuras who were alive and led them into battle.  At first he was fighting with ferocity, annihilating the monkey army by firing arrows with his twenty hands.  Using magic, he replicated himself, confusing the monkey army.  Ravana seemed to be unconquerable; though Rama cut off one of his heads several times, another took its place as soon as one head rolled off.

With the battle seeming like it would go on forever, Vibhishana revealed the secret that Ravana’s nectar of life was stored in his navel.   At the end of the war’s eighteenth day, Rama killed Ravana by firing arrows at his navel, his heads and his hands at the same time.  Thus, Jaya finished his second birth on earth, joining his brother Vijaya.

Vibhishana went into unbearable grief due to his brother’s death, and performed all the last rights for his brother.  Ravana’s wife Mandodari sacrificed herself on the funeral pyre.

Rama crowned Vibhishana as the King of Lankapuri.  Then Vibhishana released Sita from the palace’s forest garden, Asoka Vatika.  According to Rama’s request, Sita took the test of fire to prove her chastity to the world.  Then Rama performed a penance at Setu Beach, a ceremony to Lord Shiva, for being the cause of countless lives lost in the war.

Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman started their voyage to Ayodhya, just as the fourteen-year exile was nearing its end.  On the way back, they stopped at Kishkinda and the sage Bharadwaja’s hermitage.  Rama’s brother Bharata received Rama with the greatest joy.  Ayodhya was exuberant due to the return of their beloved Rama.  Vasishta and the other priests crowned Rama as King of Ayodhya. Rama ruled Ayodhya in a righteousness manner, a golden time period called “Rama Rajya.”


Spying on God

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Rama returned to Ayodhya one day early, before the 14 years was complete.  He refused to enter until his vow was complete, so he and all his party camped outside the city walls.  The sage Narada came for the great events along with many others who were awaiting the auspicious morning.

In the wee hours, well before the sunrise, Narada began to wonder, “Who does Rama worship? Maybe I can go spy on him!”  Creeping quietly through the dark campground, Narada positioned himself outside Rama’s tent.  He saw the flickering light of a flame and heard soft chanting and a bell, so he peeked through a slit in the canvas.  Ah!  Rama was worshipping Shiva!  Narada thought, “This proves it; Shiva must be the highest God!

But then Narada thought again, for Shiva was there in the camp as well, incarnated as Hanuman.  Creeping through the dark, Narada approached Hanuman’s tent.  Again he saw flickering light and heard soft chanting.  Peeking through the flap, Narada saw Hanuman worshipping Vishnu, who had incarnated as Rama!

Thus Narada, the great devotee, was confused.  Who is the highest God?  Vishnu has incarnated as Rama, and is worshipping Shiva, but Shiva has incarnated as Hanuman and is worshipping Rama.  The answer is found in the greatest mystery of all — there is only One.  That One is found within.

Unraveling: Tail-to-Top

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Vidyadevi Stillman

The universe is constructed in a spiral.  The energy that becomes the atoms that become matter moves in a spiral.  You see the spirals in the sky: over 100 billion galaxies spiraling into existence.  From the macrocosm to the microcosm, it’s all spirals: consciousness even spirals into matter by becoming your DNA.

First just enjoy the marvel of it! How incredibly beautiful! How incredibly powerful!  How incredibly Divine! Consciousness becomes everything by spiraling into contraction.  You see it outside and inside; your body, mind, emotions and even your spiritual process are based in the spiral.  You can even see the cyclical patterns in your life.

The spiral also shows up in your spine.  Your spine unfortunately has a little curvy twisty spiral, which becomes a side-to-side curvature called scoliosis.  It’s created by the compression and the twist in your spine, which starts at your tailbone.  The core opening of Svaroopa® yoga lifts and lengthens your spine, unraveling the twist just like you would unravel the twist in a garden hose by lengthening it out.  Any chiropractor or osteopath can explain how this improves the condition of your internal organs, your nervous system, your Immune system, your breathing, your vision, etc.

Along with your internal organs, the twist in your spine even affects your brain.  Everyone has their own little kinks and peculiarities; you might call it a different twist on things. Yet you know that most of these are not beneficial.  You can create self-inflicted pain by twisting your mind, by tying yourself up in knots, whether it is over stuff that happened today, yesterday or years ago, or maybe never happened and never will.  Core opening unravels the knots in your mind and emotions as well as your body, giving you the ability to grow past the stuff that you use to get stuck on.  From yoga’s perspective, this is the transformation of small “s” self.

Everyone knows they have some work to do on themselves. That is why the self-help industry is so huge.  Most people are working on their self (small-s self), the superficial sense of identity that affects how you see the world and (most importantly) affects how you see yourself.  While the changes you get from core opening do help you with your mind and emotions, yoga says there’s a point where you need to address your mind and emotions directly. This is more complicated than simple body-stuff.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “I have recommended to many yogis that they go for marriage counseling, for psychological or psychiatric counseling.  I have seen them get the support they needed to get past stuff that was tying their ‘small s-self’ up into knots.  I consider them to be spiritual warriors when they tackle that toxic waste dump in their mind and emotions.”

When you experience your own Self, it feels so familiar.  This is because you have accessed your own Divinity so many times, by using reliable external triggers, like a beautiful view, a walk in the woods, the sky, the ocean, or the taste of chocolate, freshly brewed coffee or any other favorite food.  You love these things because they stop your mind; when your mind stops, you experience your own Self.  Yoga teaches you, instead of looking for external triggers, how to stop your mind directly, so you can live in the ever-arising bliss of consciousness that is your own Self.

Yoga explains that seeking happiness from outer things works for you, but it works indirectly:

tadaa dra.s.tu.h svaruupe ‘vasthaanam — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.3

In the moment your mind stops, you experience the bliss of svaroopa.[1]

Let’s say you are visiting someone and when you arrive, you smell baking chocolate.  Mmm!  You ask, “What’s going on in the kitchen?”   They bring out a plate of warm, fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies.   As the cookies come closer to you, you start getting happy.  Does happiness emanate from the cookie, as if “happy-molecules” were traveling through the air?  No, the joy arises within; it’s an inner experience.

Look more closely at how the experience occurs.  Your mind is fixated on the cookie as it comes toward you, “Cookie!  Cookie!  Cookie!”   Then you take hold of a cookie and your mind stops.  When your mind stops, the joy arises from its inner source, which is svaroopa, your own Self.  Your joy does not come from the cookie; joy does not spread through your mouth.  You think it is about the cookie, but it’s not.  Actually what happened is that you just found a way to quiet your mind.

The happiness that you think comes from an external object is actually an inner experience, the experience of capital “S” Self arising within you.  Arising from inside, it blasts your mind and heart open, even if only for a moment.  This is why people love hiking, their pets, certain songs or anything else.  The yogis promise that you can live in the inner arising all the time.

The most powerful way to get there is through the flow of consciousness that is ever vibrating in your spine.  To open up the full flow is the purpose of all the Svaroopa® sciences, to uncoil the coiled energy that is anchored just below the tip of your tailbone. That energy is Consciousness-Itself, installed within you, in a specific form that uplifts and transforms you completely.

As Consciousness spirals everything in the universe into existence, it spirals down in the human being (from top-to-tail) into a coil of 3½ spirals, rooted at the tip of your tailbone.  This specific energy now is named Kundalini because “kundala” means coiled.  The Grace inherent in the practices of Svaroopa® Yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya unravels the contraction, so this energy of Consciousness now arises within you, from tail-to-top.

This is the specialty of the Svaroopa® sciences.  Some yogis want to go for that inner opening directly, so they get the mantra and learn to meditate, or they come to a Shaktipat retreat.  Other yogis wait until their poses and practices trigger that bolt of illumination to climb their spine.  Do you suppose this could already be happening for you?  If you have experienced heat when you’re in a well-propped, well-aligned pose, especially a seated pose or reclining pose, the answer is yes.  You are not “working out,” so how can you be getting hot?  It is important to know that it is not a hot flash (for females of a certain age).  The inner heat is one of the earliest signs that Kundalini is awakened and is beginning to do your work for you.

This inner energy of upliftment works most powerfully in meditation.  Vidyadevi describes, “In meditation, I feel Kundalini climb from the base up, unraveling my spine and giving me a lift and a lengthening.  She opens an inner doorway for me to settle deeper and deeper into my own Self.”

Everything comes into existence by spirals.  Consciousness ravels into form — your form.  There, Consciousness is coiled, ready for the inner unraveling.  While you may be focusing on your physical tensions, the real problem is that they slow the flow of consciousness through your spine, in the same way a river with lots of curves has a slower current than a straighter river.   Unraveling your spinal compression is very beneficial:  to make your body function more effectively, to make your mind function more powerfully, but also to open up a greater spiritual depth within.

Svaroopa® yoga opens up access to your own inherent spirituality.  You get all three at once: body, mind and Self.  You find your own wholeness by working in all the dimensions simultaneously; it works no matter what practice you do.  This tantric interweaving is the secret power hidden in the Svaroopa® sciences.   You do a single practice, but you get benefits in multiple dimensions simultaneously.  Do more Svaroopa® yoga.

Originally published in October 2014

[1] Svaruupe is a form of svaroopa, meaning your own Self, your Divine Essence.  Sutra rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Your Body is Sacred

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

I wondered what people got from walking a labyrinth, so I decided to try one.  I didn’t have any kind of special experience at the one in my nearby park, so I thought I’d try a better labyrinth and went to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  They had just installed two labyrinths, outside in the garden and inside the cathedral.

From my hotel, I took the cable car up the hill, then stepped down into the street.  I walked across a little strip of grass and a cement sidewalk to place my foot on the first stair step up to the Cathedral’s property.  A bolt of energy shot up through my whole body!

I stopped, very clearly experiencing Kundalini’s message, ‘This is holy ground.’  I wasn’t even in their garden yet, only on the cement steps leading up almost two floors to get to their grounds.  Wow!

I climbed the steps, tried out both labyrinths and still found nothing special there, but that’s because I was already in the center — in the Self.  Yoga gave that to me, not anything outside.  But I did learn about sacred ground.  It’s not just the statue or flame in the temple that is sacred; it’s the whole temple and the ground on which it stands.  The same is true of your body.

If your body were merely a house for your soul, your body would be an inert substance or form, enlivened by your Divine Essence.  Instead, your body itself is Consciousness, every cell formed of Consciousness-concentrate.   One yoga text explains the details by mapping how Consciousness becomes the Universe, including you, even your body and your mind:

Sa chaiko dviroopas trimayash chaturaatmaa sapta panchaka svabhaavah.

 — Pratyabhijnahrdayam sutra #7

Though Consciousness is One, She becomes 2-fold, 3-fold, 4-fold and of the nature

of 7 pentads (7 x 5= 35).[1]

Every sutra is rich and dense with meaning, yet this one gives more than most by naming 4 different maps of creation!  There is the 2-fold map, the 3-fold map, the 4-fold map and the 35-fold map.  While all these maps are true and all of them are occurring simultaneously, right now we’ll focus on the four-fold map.  In the sutra, Shiva is the One Reality, being named as “Consciousness,” also referred to as “She” when manifesting a universe.

In the four-fold map, Consciousness (She) first manifests as the void. When you have a deep and profound meditative experience, you’ve experienced the void, an infinite inner nothingness, except that it is NOT nothing.  It’s Shiva, becoming the void to hide Himself/Herself/Itself from yourself.

Within the void, while being the void, Shiva moves.  That movement is called prana.  This second level of manifestation is the energy that brings life to this universe, called prana.

Prana, the energy of life itself, begins to coalesce into subtle forms, like moisture coalescing into clouds in the sky.  These different forms of prana become individual and separate beings on the subtle levels, pouring themselves into the five senses and the mind — becoming your five senses and your mind.  This is the third level, made of pure energy.

That Divine energy condenses and concentrates into the fourth level of manifestation, your physical body.  This is how your body comes to exist (with your parents getting involved too, of course).  This is how everyone’s body, and every tree and every bunny and every rock comes into existence.  It’s all energy, the “She” in the sutra, manifesting as matter.  The physical form you see is just the outermost level of the Divine levels of manifestation that are all going on at the same time.

Rukmini describes being in a class led by Swamiji:

“At the end of the class, Swamiji invited us to open our eyes.  And when I did, the expansiveness and fullness I had been feeling inside was visible outside too. It felt like I was the ocean, and my body a wave of the ocean, each breath a gentle bob of the wave.  Every other body around me was another wave of the same ocean, bobbing slightly with each breath and small movement.  Even the air around us, the sounds that moved through it, the floor beneath us, was the same ocean.”

Your body is a Divine Temple.  It is Consciousness-Itself that houses the Divinity (you) that is Consciousness-Itself.  Whether you study the teachings or not, the core opening practices of Svaroopa® yoga will give you the experiential knowing of your own Self, the Divinity that is Consciousness-Itself.body

Yoga’s timeless goal is the continuing experience of your own Divinity and to see that in all others. Do more yoga.

[1] English rendering by Swami Nirmalananda

Originally published March 2014

Your Body is a Temple

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

Your body is a temple.  You’ve probably heard this before.  It’s a reminder to treat your body well, both because you need your body healthy and strong as well as because your body is “the house of your soul.”

You may even have begun yoga because you needed to take better care of your body. The deepest roots of such New Age teachings often come from yoga’s ancient sages, yet the sages offer more: not only is your body the house of your Divinity, your body is itself Divine.

Most people don’t treat their bodies very well.  They run their bodies ragged. They put off meeting its needs and only pay attention to it when it’s in pain.  When you’re doing yoga, it means you already take better care of your body.

Yoga’s practices give you great benefits, both physical and more than physical.  Even if you began Svaroopa® yoga to treat your body better, to heal it or decrease its pain, you soon find that our core opening practices give you more — you’re immersing yourself in the core of your being.

You discover that there is a deeper essence, the “you” that is more than your body and more than your mind.  Yoga calls it svaroopa, your own Self as Consciousness-Itself, your own Divine Self.

You may experience your own Divinity as an inner expansiveness, calmness, peace, clarity, happiness or joy. Whatever your reasons for beginning yoga, these experiences of your own Self are what keep you coming back.  It’s the true purpose of yoga.

Originally published March 2014

Rama Avatar, Part 6

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Hearing that Sita had been seen in Lankapuri, Hanuman took on his gargantuan form and made a colossal leap across the sea.  Landing on the island, he contracted himself to his usual form.

He couldn’t believe his eyes, Lankapuri was such a beautiful place with lush green mountains and valleys.  The houses were all decorated with jewels and pearls; the people were very joyful, enjoying themselves with singing and dancing.  He arrived at dusk and started moving inland, looking for the grove seen by the eagle Sampaathi.

Immediately, Hanuman encountered Lankini, a huge rakshasi (Demoness) who was the guardian of Lankapuri.  She refused to let Hanuman enter.  Hanuman knocked her to the ground with his left hand.  She accepted her defeat and let him go inland.

Hanuman searched everywhere for Sita: the castles, every house, every garden, even searching for her in Ravana’s private chamber, but was unable to find her.  He felt hopeless, and sat on a compound wall muttering the mantra, “Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram….”

Then he saw a lady in the faint moonlight, under a simsupa tree in the middle of the grove compound.  The lady was in dirty clothes, hanging her head down with unbearable sorrow.  She was surrounded by rakshasis.

Hanuman knew he had found Sita and jumped up in joy.  Immediately realizing he needed to lay low until he met Sita, he suppressed his joy and looked for an opportunity to greet her.  He got in the top of a tree close to Sita and waited impatiently.  While waiting, he heard all the rakshasis, except one, harassing Sita to get married to Ravana.  But one rakshasi was very polite to Sita, not allowing anyone to harm her in any way.

When all the rakshasis fell asleep, Hanuman crawled towards Sita.  He reached Sita and said that he is a messenger from Rama.  At first Sita refused to believe him, as Ravana had tried to get to her by taking different forms and she assumed this is again one of Ravana’s tricks.  But later, Hanuman gives her Rama’s signet ring as proof, again uttering “Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram….”  This cleared Sita’s doubt, and with tears in her eyes, she inquired of her husband’s wellbeing.

Hearing that Rama is in deep worry and lost in thought all the time made her even more depressed.  Hanuman jumped down and said he could destroy Lankapuri and take her back with him at once.  Sita disapproved of the idea, saying that Rama should be the one to come and rescue her from Ravana.  She also added that she will keep herself alive only for one more month, so Rama should come and rescue her within that month.

Hanuman bowed to Sita and worshipped her, vowing that Rama will be in Lankapuri soon to take her back.  Sita blessed Hanuman and gave him her Chudamani (jewelry for the hair/head) to give to Rama.

Being the mischievous monkey that Hanuman is, he decided to show Ravana what will be coming his way soon if he doesn’t release Sita.  Hanuman began by destroying the fine parks and gardens, hoping that the guards would capture him and take him to Ravana.  After several other people tried, Ravana’s son Indrajit himself came to capture  him, which Hanuman allowed.  He was taken to the palace for questioning by the king, exactly what Hanuman had wanted.

Brought to Ravana, Hanuman was made to stand in front of him with his hands and legs tied up.  As soon as he saw Ravana, Hanuman freed himself and grew his tail to a length where he could make a throne for himself and sat on it as an equal to Ravana.  Ravana was very upset about the “monkey’s” behavior.

Hanuman said, “I am Hanuman, a messenger from Rama!”  Obviously that led to an altercation between Ravana and Hanuman.  Hanuman tried to persuade Ravana to release Sita, which obviously didn’t succeed.  At the end, Ravana gave a verdict —the punishment for destroying the fine parks and gardens is death.

One of Ravana’s brothers, Vibhishana, intervened to stop the verdict, saying it is against the law to kill a messenger.  Therefore Ravana decided to humiliate Hanuman and ordered that his monkey tail be set on fire and that he be thrown out of Lankapuri.

As soon as his tail was set on fire, Hanuman jumped up to do what a monkey does, jumping from pillar to pillar, structure to structure, tree to tree, burning the whole city of Lankapuri.  Then, with a world of joy, Hanuman reassumed his gargantuan form and lept across the sea to the southern beach where his search party awaited.  Hanuman told everyone the wonderful news about meeting Sita in Lankapuri and the rest of the encounter with Ravana.  Angada, Hanuman and the southerly crew returned to Kishkindha.

As soon as Hanuman saw Rama, he cried “I saw Mata Sita!” He immediately gave the chudamani to Rama.  Rama took the chudamani in his hands and immediately burst into tears.  The thought of Sita being so helpless and suffering broke his heart even more.  With great haste, everyone got ready to go to Lankapuri.  The vanara (monkey) army was mobilized in no time.

Rama, Lakshmana, Sugreeva and the army, with Hanuman, reached the southern tip of the land.  Now the hurdle was to cross the sea between India and Lankapuri.  Flabbergasted, but not losing heart, they discussed options.  They decided to build a bridge (Setubandhanam).  The architect monkey Nala, son of the master builder Vishvakarman, was given the task.

The news reached Ravana that an army of vanaras was in the southern tip of India.  He called his war council to discuss the matter.  Everyone in the council took it easy because it was only two humans (considered less powerful than themselves, the rakshasas) and the army itself consisted of monkeys.  All the counselors, including his relatives, gave speeches urging Ravana to fight, assured the victory would be easy.

The only person who voiced concern was Vibhishana, who said that it was foolish of anyone to underestimate their enemy, gauging only by their looks, without doing proper investigation.  He also reminded them that the brothers Rama & Lakshmana had already killed Ravana’s brothers Khara and Dushana, plus his uncle Maricha, in addition to other well-known figures from the rakshasas.  Vibhishana also pointed out that Rama had done nothing to Ravana, whereas Ravana had cowardly abducted Rama’s wife while she was unprotected; therefore Ravana does not have the righteousness grounds in the war in hand.

Vibhishana pleaded with his brother to return Sita to Rama, even to beg for his pardon.  He reminded Ravana that all the wealth and power he enjoyed was received from Lord Shiva, by being his ardent devotee, and it was tainted by his act.  He must do the right to undo the wrong.  Vibhishana offered to take Sita to Rama and seek his forgiveness on behalf of Ravana.

Hearing this enraged Ravana.  He accused Vibhishana of envy, ill-will and being the worst enemy of the king.  Feeling deeply offended by his brother’s words Vibhishana renounced Ravana, saying he cannot support an unrighteous person even it was his own brother.  Ravana banished Vibhishana from Lankapuri, calling him a coward, sparing his life only because he was his brother.  Ravana then continued to discuss the strategy for the upcoming war with the council.

As the first order of action, needing assistance from his other brother, Ravana directs his guards to wake Kumbhakarna.  Kumbhakarna slept six months of every year, due to a twist in his tongue when he requested a boon from Brahma after doing austerities.  He requested “Nidraasana,” the seat of sleep, instead of “Indraasana,” the seat of Indra (Lord of Heaven).  Thus he sleeps six months, then eats anything he sees for the other six months of the year, before going back sleep.  Though he was an intelligent, unchallenged warrior, Kumbhakarna lost most of his ability and strength if disturbed or woken from his six months of sleep.

Vibhishana fled Lankapuri with four of his close ministers who agreed with him.  They reached Rama’s camp at the southern tip of India, requesting to see Rama so they could ask for refuge from Ravana.  Before seeing Vibhishana, Rama discussed the matter with his council,.  Everyone opposed Vibhishana’s request, saying that he was born to the same mother as Ravana, Khara, Dushana and Surpanaka, therefore he must be the same type of person.  They added that he comes from the line of Maricha, therefore he cannot be trusted.

Then Hanuman requested permission from Rama to speak.  He described that when he was searching all the houses in Lankapuri, he always found liquor, but at Vibhishana’s he found only rose water for pujas.  He continued, saying that the reason Sita is still alive is because Vibhishana’s daughter, Trijada, who took after her father, sits near Sita all the time, not letting any rakshasis harm her.

Hanuman also mentioned that Vibhishana is the one who spoke against the capital punishment for a messenger when Ravana announced his verdict.  After hearing everyone’s opinion, Rama announced that it is the duty of a human to give refuge to anyone who seeks it.  Rama accepted Vibhishana.

The opposers were finally convinced when Vibhishana aided Rama in appealing to Samudraraja (or Sethusamudram, the Sea of the Bridge), the ocean itself, who had not given any headway to the building of the bridge under Nala’s leadership.  Even the squirrels helped the vanara army in building the bridge.  The task took five days to complete with rocks and trees, after Samudraraja had subsided.

As soon as the bridge was built, Rama commanded the army to move across the sea to Lankapuri.  The port that they left named after this event as “Setu Shore.”  The troops crossed the sea, reached Lankapuri and made camp at the shore.

Ravana sent two spies to gather information about the army.  They turned themselves into monkeys and roamed around the camp.  Vibhishana identified them as rakshasas and started punishing them.  Rama intervened and released them, instructing them to carry the message about the strong and aggressive army to Ravana.

Ravana called his war council again.  Ravana’s grandfather, Sumali, recommended releasing Sita and making peace as the best option for the rakshasas.  Many in the council turned this down.  Ravana showed his anger against his grandfather.  When the two spies returned, they described the monkey army and its strength, but it still didn’t change Ravana’s mind.  The mandate was sent to Ravana’s commanders to roundup the troops for battle.

More to come…

The Full Range of Yoga’s Technology

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda &
Vidyadevi Stillman

Avail yourself of yoga’s full range of technology, which goes beyond mere physical development to incorporate mental, devotional and meditative practices.  The poses are meant to prepare you for the study of sutras, along with chanting and meditation.  Each of these disciplines offers you significantly more than yoga poses can ever provide.

Your mind is more powerful than your body. This means that using yogic tools to develop your mental capacity gives you more benefits than poses could ever do.  These tools are called j~nana yoga, the study of the texts.  In addition, in the Svaroopa® Sciences, we work proactively on unraveling the way you use your mind.  Instead of tying yourself up in knots, you can begin unraveling it with vichara (Svaroopa® yoga’s guided self-inquiry).

As you understand yoga’s teachings, you better understand life, as well as yourself and others around you.  This changes everything.  This is why we include contemplations, like mini-sutras,  at the end of every Svaroopa® yoga class.

Your heart is more powerful than your mind.  You develop your heart’s capacity through yoga’s devotional practices.  When your heart meets God, or even turns toward God, who is going to be changed — God or you?  You don’t even have to believe in God for it to work, just like you don’t have to believe in gravity for it to work.  The yoga of your heart, bhakti yoga, is included in Svaroopa® yoga through the background music of sutras and chants, as well as in the final pose, Yoga Mudra.  In this yogic seal, you place your head below your heart, bowing to your teacher and her/his whole lineage of teachers.

Meditation is the most powerful and most beneficial of yoga’s technologies.  How amazing that you get so much when you are doing nothing!  Modern research is beginning to prove what the sages always emphasized, that this is the cream of the practices, called raja yoga (king’s yoga).  As wonderful as each of the other practices is, their purpose is to give you easy and deep meditation.

This is the point at which Gurus come into the picture.  In earlier stages, the busy-ness of your body, mind and heart kept you focused on the practices instead of where they came from.  The doing-ness seemed most important.  Yet you got those practices from someone who had already done them.  That teacher is called “guru,” even if she/he lives in your home town and isn’t yet enlightened.  Even your local piano teacher is called a “piano guru.”  In the West, we use a capital letter on the title Guru only when we’re referring to an authorized spiritual teacher, one who can take you all the way.

For true and fast spiritual development, you must pick a path and follow it to its end.  Every genuine path has a living Guru.  Mindfulness meditation, Zen, Tibetan, Christian contemplation, the power of now, kabbalah and Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation — all have living Gurus.  If there’s no Guru, the path is not true.  Someone must have attained the promise or it is another false promise.  The one who attains and shares is called Guru.

Do you want to climb with a guide who has only seen satellite photos of the trail?  Vidyadevi says, “I have climbed in the Himalayas.  I always had a guide.  I was protected and took the safest and most direct route to the top.  In the same way, I have a spiritual guide — Swami Nirmalananda.”

The texts emphasize you must test the Guru.  The test is two-fold:  inside and outside.

First you check inside to see if you are getting uplifted in the Guru’s presence or by their teachings.  It’s obviously working if you’re experiencing the bliss of consciousness, your own svaroopa.  But it is also working if you are churning inside, with all your “stuff” coming up in order to be expelled from your system.  To test the Guru further, follow their teachings for six months and then reevaluate how this is working for you.

Secondly, you look at those who have been studying with the Guru for the longest.  See if they are more peaceful and more blissful, but also if they are becoming more effective in the world.  Or are they using their spirituality to escape?  Another thing to look for is that they are unique individuals, not all clones of each other and of the Guru.

When the Guru passes these tests, you can apply yourself to their practices for another six months.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “After doing several six month periods, I realized one day that I’d forgotten to check in with myself.  I was surprised to see that I’d been studying with my Baba for over six years.  It was then that I knew that this path was working for me.  It made me able to apply myself more fully.”

Svaroopa® yoga offers all the above yogic technologies because it is a maha yoga, one that interweaves all the yogas together.  While your Svaroopa® yoga class emphasizes the physical practices, every class introduces mental, devotional and meditative processes.

Most importantly, Svaroopa® yoga is a Shaktipat yoga.  Whether you begin at your tailbone, or with the sutras, devotional practices or meditations, studying with Swamiji guarantees you will receive this inner awakening.  This is the beauty of a Kundalini master.  Nirmalanandaji received Shaktipat from her Guru more than 40 years ago.  She knows the path and what it will give.  This is why she continues to say, “Do more yoga.”

Originally published March 2016

Rama Avatar, part 5

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Sita had been kidnapped.  Searching for her, Rama and Lakshmana came across a great strong monkey, who introduced himself as Hanuman.

Who is Hanuman?

Many stories are told about the great ones!  So it is with Hanuman.  One story tells that Hanuman was the incarnation of Lord Shiva, coming to help Lord Vishnu in his Rama avatar.

Hanuman is also called the son of Vayu, the Wind God.  This is what gave him the ability to fly and to take on different forms.  Hanuman was born to Anjana and Kesari.  Anjana had prayed diligently to Lord Shiva, asking him to take birth as her son.  Thus the great and mighty Hanuman came into being.

The mischievous Hanuman, when he was young, swallowed the sun, which he released only after the Devas had prayed to him.  Hanuman began using his supernatural powers in a mischievous way.  One day he pranked a meditating sage.  In a fury, the sage cursed Hanuman to forget his powers temporarily.  Later, when he became an adult, the curse lifted and Hanuman remembered all of his godlike powers.

When Rama found him, Hanuman was living near Mount Rishyamukha with Sugreeva.  Sugreeva was hiding from his brother Vali, the king of the vanaras (monkeys).  Seeing Rama & Lakshmana, Sugreeva misunderstood them to be allies of his brother, coming to harm him.  Sugreeva sent Hanuman, his friend and minister to go find out about them.

Hanuman introduced himself to Rama and Lakshmana who shared their devastating story with Hanuman.  Hearing this, Hanuman’s heart was filled with love, respect and devotion towards Rama.  After he listened to the story of the kidnapping, Hanuman told about Sugreeva, who was in a similar predicament, being in exile in the forest.

Vali and Sugreeva were very close and loving brothers.  Vali was king of Kishkindha, the vanara kingdom; Tara was his wife.  A demon named Maayaavi came to Kishkindha, challenging Vali for a fight.  Vali accepted, but Maayaavi ran into the jungle and inside his deep cave so he could have the upper hand.  The brothers followed him through the jungle.  Though Sugreeva tried to stop Vali, Vali entered the cave, telling Sugreeva to wait outside.  Many days went by but Vali didn’t return.  Sugreeva didn’t leave his post.

Suddenly one day Sugreeva heard Maayaavi’s roar.  Then a stream of blood gushed out of the cave, followed by another roar.  Sugreeva thought it was Maayaavi’s cry of triumph and that Vali had been killed.  Sugreeva thought for a while and decided to block the entrance of the cave with a huge boulder, in order to stop Maayaavi from coming out and attacking Kishkindha.  He returned home with a heavy heart, not talking to anyone for days.

However, inside the cave, Vali had killed Maayaavi.  Eagerly coming out to see Sugreeva, Vali found the entrance blocked by a boulder.  He thought that Sugreeva betrayed him for the throne.  There was no way out of the cave but Vali continued trying to push the boulder aside.

Back in the kingdom, Sugreeva continued to be silent.  Hanuman was one of the nobles at the court as well as a dear friend.  He approached Sugreeva, insisting that the throne must not remain vacant.  As Vali’s brother, Sugreeva should take Vali’s place.  With great hesitation, and after a lot of thought, Sugreeva agreed.  He ascended the throne for the sake of his people.  Hanuman served him well as his minister.

Time passed.  One day, Vali succeeded in pushing the boulder a little so he could scrape through a small opening.  He arrived at the palace a few days later.  While Sugreeva was delighted to see his beloved brother alive, Vali was not in a mood for loving reunions.  He furiously accused his brother of being a hypocrite who trapped him in the cave.  He was not willing to listen to Sugreeva or anyone.

Vali banished Sugreeva from Kishkindha.  When Sugreeva’s wife, Ruma, attempted to go with him, Vali claimed her to be his property and would not let her go.  Hanuman somehow managed to join Sugreeva and both of them left Kishkindha.  They reached the Rishyamukha Mountains, where Sugreeva was safe, since Vali could not go there due to a curse from Rishi Matanga.

Hanuman finished Sugreeva’s story.  He thought Rama and Lakshmana would be able to help Sugreeva free his wife, so he invited them to meet Sugreeva.  They accepted the invitation, so Hanuman took his gargantuan form, picked up Rama and Lakshmana and flew through the woods to Sugreeva’s hiding place.  There, Rama promised to help Sugreeva to retrieve his wife, Ruma.  In return, Sugreeva promised to help Rama find Sita and help him in every way.

In a duel, Vali gained half his opponent’s strength, thus no one was able to beat Vali in direct combat.  Knowing his brother’s strength, Sugreeva doubted that Rama could win.  After a few tests, which Rama passed with ease, Sugreeva started to believe in Rama.  Hanuman became an ardent admirer of Rama, very loyal to him, not letting Rama out of his sight.

They decided it was time to free Ruma.  The plan was for Sugreeva to challenge Vali, then Rama was to kill Vali while he and Sugreeva were in combat.  Sugreeva went to Kishkindha, followed by Rama.  As planned, Sugreeva challenged his brother.  The duel was fierce.  Rama was unable to get a clear shot at Vali because both brothers looked very much the same.

Unable to defeat Vali, Sugreeva retreated to Rishyamukha Mountains.  They decided that Sugreeva would wear a garland so that Rama could identify Vali.  Through some spies, Vali’s wife Tara found out that Sugreeva had the support of a prince from the North.  She tried to stop Vali from going to the duel when Sugreeva challenged him again.  Vali disregarded his wife and went to the fight.  This time, though Vali had the upper hand, Rama was able to distinguish Vali from Sugreeva, and kill him with his arrow, shot from behind a tree.

With his last few breaths, Vali asked Rama to defend his action of killing someone who was not in combat with him.  Rama explained that it is the duty of a king to uphold justice, and that Vali should have listened to his brother without prior judgment and treated him as his son.  Rama also pointed out his worst mistake of keeping Ruma, Sugreeva’s wife with him.  Because Vali had wronged Sugreeva, Rama had done justice.

Vali was full of remorse when he heard Rama’s words, and requested Sugreeva and Rama both to pardon his actions.  He also requested them not to vest his sins on his wife and his son Angada, but to look after them.  With a heavy heart, Sugreeva told his brother that all he had wanted from him was his love and nothing more.  Vali blessed Sugreeva and died.

After doing the last rites for his brother, Sugreeva ascended the throne.  He crowned Vali’s son Angada as the crown prince.  However, Sugreeva soon forgot his promise to Rama, spending his time in enjoying his regained status.  The clever former ape queen Tara and Hanuman calmly intervened to prevent an enraged Lakshmana from destroying the ape citadel.  They made Sugreeva understand his duty and honor his pledge.

Sugreeva then sent search parties in all four directions, but they returned without success from the north, east and west.  Under the leadership of Angada and Hanuman, the southern search party reached the southern tip of the great land and sat on the south shore, depressed.  Angada said, “We have tried our best, but we have failed miserably.  I, as the leader of the party, am not prepared to go back to Kishkindha empty handed.  In fact I would like to kill myself here and equal myself to Jatayu the king of eagles who had sacrificed his life in service to Rama.”

Everyone in the search party was talking about the failed end of their search, when someone called to them from behind, “Friends!”  Everyone turned to see an eagle slowly walking towards them.  The eagle said, “Friends, I heard my brother Jatayu’s name come up in your conversation.  May I know how you came to know of my Jatayu?”  Angada told the eagle about Sita’s kidnapping.

The bird continued, “My name is Sampaathi.  We eagles are bestowed with very keen eyesight.  We are capable of pinpointing things at great distance.  I have seen Sita in a grove in Lankapuri.”  Uttering these words, Sampaathi, flew away.

Hearing this, Hanuman without wasting a second, took on his gargantuan form and made a colossal leap across the sea to Lankapuri.

More to come…