Life is so precious. I think we often forget that our years are numbered. If you were to leave tomorrow, would you be satisfied with your life?
I often wondered this, especially before yoga. That made me do more. Get a degree. Get a new job. Travel here. Go there. My purpose of life always seemed a little bit beyond my grasp. I would wonder, “What is life all about?” Is it about sleeping, eating, working, unwinding and doing it all again? This felt to me like sleepwalking through life.
There once was a crow king and an owl king. They both lived in their respective parts of the forest with their family and friends. One day the two kings met up. The crow king had been pondering a question for some time. He asked the owl king, “Why do you work at night?” The owl, surprised, responded, “Oh brother, it is not I that works at night, it is you that works at night!”
The crow was taken aback. “This owl clearly is deluded,” he thought. He shared this sentiment with the owl which sparked a long and heated debate. The debate went on all through the day and into the night. As the sky grew darker and darker, the owl pointed up and said “Ah, crow, now it is day!” The crow exclaimed, “What are you talking about — look how dark it is, clearly it is night!” Now they really started to fight.
A swan came by, in the midst of their arguing, and said, “Stop your fighting. You are both right. What is day for a crow is night for an owl. And what is day for an owl is night for a crow.”
This story has a mystical meaning. Most people live like the owl, caught up in the world and unaware of the deeper dimensions of their own being. This lack of awareness is like night to a Self-Realized Being. Such a one lives in the light of their own Divine Essence. Yet the light they live in is so bright, it blinds one who does not know.
Spiritual practice is all about turning your night into day. It is about turning your not knowing into knowing. This is explained in Katha Upanishad 1.3.14:
Approach the great beings and understand the Truth.
The path is like the sharp edge of a razor,
Difficult to tread and difficult to cross.
(Translation by Swami Nirmalananda)
This sutra calls you to action: “Arise, awake!” What are you doing with your life? Sure, you can get a BA, an MA, a Ph.D. You can get your dream job, your dream house, your dream family.
Yet, what do you have if you do not know who you are? Yoga says your ultimate purpose is to know your own Divine Essence. Your Essence is the substratum of this entire universe, while at the same time completely and individually you. There is more to you than you think. Arise! Wake up to who you truly are.
How do you do this? “Approach the great beings and understand the Truth.” You go to one who knows. Just like anything else in your life, you need a teacher. In yoga, the one that guides your way on the path is called the Guru. A qualified Guru is one who lives in the knowing and being of their own Divine Essence AND can show you the way.
This is very important because the spiritual path is as sharp as a razor’s edge. It is difficult to tread and hard to cross. The spiritual path is as treacherous as climbing the steepest mountain on the narrowest trail. Without a guide, you are vulnerable to slipping, falling, getting lost and ultimately not arriving at your destination.
This is why the Guru is so important. The Guru saves you from the traps along the path. They even save you from the traps you lay down for yourself. Plus, a Shaktipat Guru, like Gurudevi Nirmalananda, can do even more. In addition to guiding you, she puts rocket fuel in your tank. You are sped through the process at lightspeed!
You have the unique opportunity to be Self-Realized in this lifetime. Yet, how far will you go? The answer is up to you. While the Guru shows you the way and fuels your progress, you must take the steps yourself. So what will it be? Are you ready to wake up?
Consciousness willingly takes on contraction, in order to become both the universe and the individuals, who have the universe as their bodies in a contracted form. – Rendered by Swami Nirmalananda
Before yoga, I looked for God outside. God was up there somewhere. My mind would imagine a white bearded guy up in the sky. Some people see God as the formless. Others see God in nature: in the sky, the trees, the majesty of the mountains, etc.
Yoga agrees that God can be experienced when you look outside. This is because the One Divine Reality manifested all things and becomes all things. Yet this sutra also says more.
The One Divine Reality, called “Consciousness” in this sutra, has chosen to become everything in this universe, including you. God has become you and me. Now, consider which is closer, God on the outside or God on the inside? This is why yoga gives you practices for looking inside — particularly meditation.
“Self” is the word yoga uses for the One Divine Reality when found inside. Meditation, especially Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, gives you deep and profound experiences of your own Self. God has not only become me, but God is also being me. God is being you. This is a pretty radical statement.
At first, I didn’t take this teaching personally. Yet I finally got it when I heard my Guru — Gurudevi — explain it. She said, “Seeing your own inner Self is more tangible than the sky.” When I heard those words, God crystalized into being me. In my physical body, with my mind, through all the levels of my own being, I experienced that I am God. I am the One Divine Reality whether looking outside or inside. There was a joy, an aliveness, a delight in being me!
This is the foundation of all the yoga practices and teachings: God is being you. Where is God? Right here! You are a physical tangible expression of the One Divine Reality. Additionally, your mind is a contracted form of the One Divine Reality. God is being you.
To fully understand this radical statement, you have to personalize it. Say it out loud, or even whisper to yourself, “I am a physical, tangible expression of the One Divine Reality.”
God wants to be you. God, the Self, is willingly choosing to be you with all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. God delights in being you. All you ever wanted was to be more you. This is what yoga gives you. Yoga gives you the knowing and the experience that God is being you. It is time to know that you are truly Divine.
How do you come to know?
Do more Satsangs with Gurudevi. She offers them every Sunday and Wednesday online or in person. Gurudevi’s teachings and presence propel you inward to experience yoga’s profound, mystical truth that you are the Self.
Do more meditation. Meditate every day. For support in making your daily meditation consistent, join our online Meditation Club. Gurudevi will make meditation deep and easy for you.
The people of Hastinapura not only condemned Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra but also denounced Grandsire Bhishma, Dronacharya and other elders for their lack of judgement. Women were threatened for their safety as they feared. They questioned, “If Bhishma and Drona could not guard the honor of Draupadi, what would their fate be?” They also fully recognized that the evil force behind all these terrifying events was Shakuni, the brother-in-law of their King Dhritarashtra.
Soon after the departure of the Pandavas from Hastinapura, Sage Narada appeared in Dhritarashtra’s court. He told the king that he came to inform him that whatever the evil deeds Dhritarashtra allowed to happen in his court, he must repent. Narada cautioned that, in about thirteen to fourteen years, the Kaurava dynasty will be destroyed, and the Pandavas shall emerge triumphant.
Dhritarashtra and the Kauravas were astounded, as they all knew that Narada’s divinations always came true. Duryodhana and his clan went to their Guru Drona and surrendered to him, asking for help. Guru Drona, due to his son’s friendship with Duryodhana and his past ties to Bhishma and the throne of Hastinapura, assured his alliance to them, but advised them to do good deeds going forward and to perform a lot of austerities. He also reminded about the Pandavas strength and valor, suggesting that they make peace with them. As always, that was not something Duryodhana wanted to hear, so he dismissed it.
As the Pandavas left the city, their priest Dhaumya joined them on their journey. As it was Yudhishthira’s duty to take care of all who followed him, he was worried that he would not be able to feed everyone fully. He sought advice from his priest Dhaumya. As advised by the priest, along with his brothers, he began to worship the Sun God, since he is the reliever of all hunger.
The Sun God was very pleased by the Pandavas’ sincere devotion, so he appeared in front of them and asked what they needed. Yudhishthira with respect, asked for a boon by which he could feed Draupadi, his brothers and the guests in a fulfilling way. The Sun God granted his boon by giving an inexhaustible vessel called “Akshaya Patra,” to be given to Draupadi.
Akshaya Patra would produce the food in any quantity desired at every meal and become empty only after Draupadi took her own meal, only to fill up the next day once again. Draupadi accepted the pot respectfully. From that day onwards Draupadi would feed sages, guests and the Pandava brothers. Then she would sit down to take her meal, after which the leftover food would duly disappear. This blessing helped the Pandavas throughout their exile, feeding them and their countless guests.
The Pandavas moved to the Kamyaka forest. As they were entering, a demon named Krimira confronted them, holding a blazing torch. He demanded to know why they entered his forest. Yudhishthira introduced himself and his family, revealing who they are.
Hearing who they were, the demon got furious. He was none other than the brother of Bakasura and a dear friend of Hidimba. As both of them had been killed by Bhima, Krimira didn’t waste any time attacking Bhima. But Bhima was already burning with rage at the disgrace suffered by Draupadi and the Pandavas, so he was more ready than ever before. He took on the demon with all his might and a dreadful battle followed.
Finally, Bhima uprooted a huge tree and hit Krimira with it firmly on his chest. The asura fell with a resounding thud. At the end they both wrestled with their bare arms. The fight ended with Bhima strangling Krimira to death. By destroying the demon, he was able vent some of his anger and quietened a little bit.
In Hastinapura, Vidura kept reminding Dhritarashtra about his wrongdoings. He said that Duryodhana had committed many crimes and had betrayed Yudhishthira. He was advising his stepbrother about righteousness, reinforcing his role as a father to his deceased brother Pandu’s children. Vidura asked the king to invite the Pandavas back to the palace and to rein in Duryodhana.
Hearing this repeatedly, Dhritarashtra got mad at Vidura. He yelled at him, saying Vidura was very partial to the Pandavas and had never liked Dhritarashtra’s children, that he was always complaining or talking against them. Dhritarashtra also said that he didn’t trust Vidura anymore and told him to leave Hastinapura and go be with the Pandavas.
Vidura had been bitterly treated by both Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra, so he left the palace and met the Pandavas in the forest and spent some time with them. But it didn’t last long as Dhritarashtra could not live for a long time without Vidura. In desperation, he sent Sanjaya, his charioteer, to bring Vidura back.
Knowing how much Dhritarashtra would need him Vidura decided to go back and resume his duties. Though the Pandavas hated the fact that their uncle had to leave them, they encouraged him to go back and assist the king.
Several sages and priests visited the Pandavas, enjoying their hospitality and blessing them with all their heart. One day, Sage Maitreya visited them and priest Dhaumya at the hermitage. He saw how Yudhishthira and his brothers were coping with their exile.
After visiting them, Sage Maitreya arrived at the court of Dhritarashtra. Dhritarashtra received him with all due respect and asked him about the Pandavas. After the civilities, Sage Maitreya addressed Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana saying that, even though the Pandavas might appear weak at this moment, they were very powerful and united.
Bhima had killed the demon Kirmira and Yudhishthira was unwavering on the path of virtue. He added that it is well known to all that the truly virtuous cannot be vanquished. So he encouraged Duryodhana to do the right thing, to bring back his cousins from the forest. He should ask for their forgiveness and invite them to rule their part of the kingdom.
By saying this Sage Maitreya was trying to reason out with Duryodhana, encouraging him to do the right thing.Duryodhana listened to Maitreya’s advice, and then smiled and slapped his thigh discourteously showing his refusal in a very insulting manner. Angered by this, Sage Maitreya cursed Duryodhana, saying that Bhima’s vow will come true, that he would lose his life when his thigh is broken by Bhima. The vow taken by Bhima at the dice game, therefore, became potent with the curse of Maitreya.
In the Kamyaka forest, Bhima and Draupadi had been persuading Yudhishthira to attack the Kauravas, to take revenge for the insult brought upon them. Especially Draupadi, often reminding Yudhishthira about the disgrace she was subjected to at the Hastinapura court.
She stressed that, if that can happen to her, a daughter-in-law of the Kuru dynasty, what would the other women of Hastinapura face. As much as Yudhishthira wanted to bring justice to Draupadi, he firmly said that they should be patient and first fulfil the condition of the game and complete their exile. He also reminded them that it was their duty to do so. These arguments happened in the Pandava hermitage often.
Krishna wanted to console Draupadi and the Pandavas, so he went to meet them along with King Drupada, Dhrishtadyumna and other well-wishers of the Pandavas, including some of the Yadavas. They all tried to talk to the Pandavas and inconsolable Draupadi, to bring some peace to their minds.
Full of emotions, Draupadi burst out in anger, “While Duryodhana committed such wild atrocities upon me, the wife of the brave Pandavas, daughter and sister of the Panchalas and well-wisher of Yadavas, why was I left alone to defend myself? Why did my five husbands, those who can win the earth if they desire to, stand with hung heads, watching it, doing nothing to protect me while the enemy proceeded to remove the one piece of cloth covering my body? Why is it that Karna, son of a charioteer, was allowed to insult me with such harsh words? Where was my father? Where were my brothers? I had no one, but only myself. Oh, Krishna if not for your grace, what would have happened to me?”
She broke into tears. Krishna came up to console her and wiped the tears off her face. He assured her saying that the wives of those who committed these offences would weep one day, just like she was that day. Krishna continued to comfort her, saying not to worry and that those who were the reason for her heartache would perish in a pool of blood.
Krishna vowed that he would wield all his powers to make these words come true. He will not yield until justice is brought to her. He also promised Draupadi that she would be an empress again and he would be always there for the Pandavas, as and when they need him.
He then turned to Yudhishthira and said that he wouldn’t have allowed the dice game to happen, if only he wouldn’t have been preoccupied with his battle with King Salva. King Salva, a good friend of Shishupala, heard about the killing of Shishupala. Wanting revenge, Salva invaded Dwaraka while Krishna was away. The city was under siege.
So Krishna had to rush to Dwaraka to safeguard the city and kill Salva. Otherwise, he added that he would have used all his powers of persuasion to prevent King Dhritarashtra from taking such a step. That it was unfortunate he got to know of what had happened only after he returned to Dwaraka. By then, it was already too late.
Hearing Krishna’s promise, Draupadi was relieved of her pain. Arjuna added that all Krishna was promising will come true, and that he will make sure of it too. Draupadi’s brother, Dhrishtadyumna, also promised her that he will fight to kill Drona, and that Shikandi will kill Bhishma and Karna will die in the hands of Arjuna.
Seeing purple crocus blossoms lifting their heads from the winter soil makes me joyful. I delight in each sign of spring. You have your favorite things that trigger joy. Perhaps you like to sit with a hot cup of tea, or snuggle with a pet. Maybe you enjoy taking a walk in the woods, or a stroll along an ocean shore. How wonderful that you have things that trigger happiness and joy for you.
Baba Muktananda, my Guru’s Guru, says you must have joy:
What is necessary is inner joy. When all the senses become quiet and you experience bliss, that is the attainment. —Swami Muktananda, Meditate, page 37
Who wouldn’t agree that joy is necessary? Without joy, life is dry. It feels empty and meaningless.
Unfortunately, there are two problems with your favorite method. One, the joy is not long lasting. You feel it while you’re sipping the tea, or taking the walk. But it inevitably fades. Then you have to reach for something again.
Two, it’s unreliable. Sometimes you’re distracted while drinking the tea. The cup is empty before you even noticed you were drinking it. Or the pet you want to snuggle with is not interested. They scratch you as they scrabble out of your arms! Maybe it’s cold and wet outside, and you don’t feel like going out. Then, no joy for you. You’re back to feeling empty.
The good news is the joy doesn’t come from the tea or your beloved pet or nature. No joy-rays are radiating from them to steep you in joy, the way sunrays warm your skin. The joy arises from inside you. That’s why Baba calls it inner joy.
There’s another reason he calls it inner joy. The joy and bliss that arise are not experiences that you merely have in life. They are an expression of your nature.
When you’re happy, when you’re joyful, when you’re loving and shining with light, you feel your best. You feel like you. That’s because in those moments you are being You. You’re being what yoga calls your Self, which is Consciousness-Itself.
Consciousness is the divine substance of everything that exists. Everything is made of Consciousness, like everything is made of energy. A classic yogic example is a gold bracelet, gold earrings, and a gold necklace. They all have different shapes and forms, and they are all made of gold.
A tree, a person, a planet, a universe, a multi-verse — it’s all the One Divine Reality. Consciousness is joyfully, blissfully choosing to dance everything that exists into existence. YOU are Consciousness, joyfully, blissfully choosing to dance everything that exists into existence.
The joy you experience in your day-to-day life is that Divine Joy, only on a smaller scale. And because you rely on things outside of yourself to trigger it, it’s intermittent and short-lived. However, you have the capacity to experience your Divine Joy to its fullest, most glorious extent.
How? By turning your attention inside. That is what meditation is. Baba says, “When all the senses become quiet and you experience bliss, that is the attainment.” Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation does this for you. The attainment is experiencing your own Self.
Once you know your own Self, you can still enjoy your tea. You can love your pet, and revel in nature. But you won’t do those things from an inner emptiness, looking to feel full. Instead, you’ll bring your joy with you into everything you do. And you’ll recognize every being and every thing as another expression of that same joy.
The most powerful and effective way to meditate is with a meditation master. My Guru, Swami Nirmalananda, meditated with her Guru, Baba Muktananda. And you can meditate with her. Swami Nirmalananda’s practices, her presence and her teachings give you your Self. Are you interested?
It’s not just spring, there’s something more going on. New possibilities, a bounce in your step, fresh energy, even optimism – after years of laying low, it’s time to emanate again. For us in the northern hemisphere, it coincides nicely with spring.
Planetary cycles have held us up for several years, with the pandemic and fear of death hovering over every encounter. Only a few weeks ago, it felt scary to go out without a mask, but now I don’t think about it.
Unmilana is the Sanskrit word for blossoming forth. It is also translated as the opening of your eyes or the uncovering of the sun at the end of an eclipse. It feels that way. You can poke your head out. The sun is shining!
When bears emerge from their winter hibernation, they spend a couple of weeks in “walking hibernation.” They get out less; they do less. You may be in that phase yourself. After all, home has been a safe haven for quite a while. But your comfort zone can become a trap.
Unmilana also means coming forth, along with becoming visible. While online connections have made visual connections possible during our period of seclusion, there’s nothing like getting together in person. There’s even biochemistry to it.
When women get together, their bodies produce more serotonin and oxytocin, which are called “happiness hormones.” With male bonding, testosterone and cortisol are more involved. Bottom line, it’s physical as well as mental and emotional.
In yoga, we focus on a deeper reality, the spiritual dimension of your own being. This is a time of great opportunity. You could blossom forth from your deeper dimensions or you could get lost in worldly drama. It’s all described in this sutra:
By free will alone, Consciousness blossoms forth the universe on the screen of her own existence.
You’re doing the same thing as you emerge from your pandemic seclusion, with one minor exception. The sutra says the unmilana or blossoming forth of Consciousness is what created this universe, while you are blossoming forth into the universe that already exists. Since you are part of the universe, you get to choose what part you will play in it.
Will you be a consumer or a producer? If you were holed up during the pandemic, your focus was on consumption, specifically how you could get everything you needed to make it through an unknown time period. Now that you are emerging into the world, you have an opportunity to focus on what you can give.
To draw from your depths and to share with others, this is unmilana – also translated as twinkling. Like a star at night, you can bring the light of your own being into the world, which makes a difference for everyone.
How do you find the light of your own being? Look in the direction where it resides. That’s inside. Meditate.
Yes, the only Kaurava brother who protested was Vikarna. He couldn’t bear Draupadi’s suffering. He addressed the assembly saying, “Honored royal members, why are you being so silent? I am compelled to speak because you all are being silent. Even though I am young and very much a novice compared to your experiences and wisdom, I am unable to bear what’s been happening here. Yudhishthira was deceitfully pulled into this gambling game and tricked into staking Draupadi. She doesn’t belong only to him and, after losing himself, Yudhishthira doesn’t have any right to stake her. As Uncle Shakuni was the first to mention her name, influencing Yudhishthira to stake Draupadi was in the first place against the rules of the game, as it’s not allowed for the opponents to suggest what to stake. So, considering all these mishaps I believe Draupadi was not won righteously by the Kauravas.”
Hearing the young Vikarna speak, there was a lot of commotion in the crowd. All started praising Vikarna. Some said that righteousness has been spoken. But then Karna stood up and spoke to Vikarna, pointing out his inexperience in royal matters, and how Vikarna was being a traitor to his own family. Karna, along with Duryodhana, mocked Draupadi, calling her a common woman.
Due to his animosity towards the Pandavas and Draupadi, Karna found this to be a golden opportunity to disgrace them all. He could never forget the insult at of Draupadi’s swayamvara, where he was called the son of a charioteer. Draupadi herself refused to marry Karna even if he had been successful in performing the qualifying act.
Because of all this, he suggested to strip all the five brothers of their royal garments in front of audience. The Pandavas were forced to strip their clothing, thus disgraced in front of the court. Determined to adhere to dharma at all times, the Pandavas subjected themselves to this insult. Wanting to dishonor Draupadi at all costs, Karna suggested including her as well, to be stripped in the court in front of all. Hearing this with cheerfulness Duryodhana ordered Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi.
All the elders, including Grandsire Bhishma, Chief Minister Vidura and Guru Drona, protested and wanted Duryodhana to stop this evil act. Dhritarashtra was an exception, but he kept silent. As Duryodhana didn’t seem to care about the elder’s words, they turned to Dhritarashtra to command his son to abide by morality, since they knew Duryodhana would listen only to his father. Dhritarashtra continued his silence, as he saw his son happy. Plus they were winning back the kingdom, so he ignored the gravity of the act being performed by his son.
As his father was silent, Duryodhana was even more encouraged. He again gave the sign to Dushasana to fulfil his command. Dushasana got up at once and went to Draupadi. He held the open end of her saree (robe) and began to pull on it hard, intending to disrobe her in the presence of all witnessing this horrifying scene. With tears filling her eyes Draupadi looked at everyone for help while clutching her saree in desperation, but none dared come to her rescue. She pleaded again and again, continuing to do her best to hold on to the saree.
In the end, knowing what she was doing was not going to help her, she decided to invoke Divine intervention. In despair, she let go of her robe, put her hands up in the air in supplication. With deep devotion, she surrendered her body, mind and soul fully to Krishna to save her honor.
Krishna had been watching what was happening in the court of Hastinapura through his inner vision, but as no one requested his help, he didn’t intervene. So Krishna, who was waiting for her appeal, at once responded. Through his Divine powers, he made a miracle take place.
How strange, as soon as the first saree ended, Dushasana found another joined to it, and another, and then another. The sarees never stopped appearing. Dushasana continued to pull on her saree, but it unwound in a never-ending stream. Finally, Dushasana fell on the floor exhausted, with no more strength to pull the saree.
The entire floor was covered with mounds of cloth, but Draupadi was still clothed as before, chanting to the Lord in ecstasy. She proved that no one is ever as helpless as they think they are, if they have devotion to the Lord.
Nature itself showed its fury in a terrible storm with thunder and lightning, with which the howling of wolves, brays of donkeys and screech of vultures were heard. Along with these terrible omens, a voice from the heavens thundered a threat to destroy Dushasana with lightning. Terrified, Dushasana fled the hall.
Everyone present stood with amazement, failing to understand who saved Draupadi’s chastity so surreptitiously. But wicked Duryodhana was beyond any possibility of change. He patted his thigh and commanded Draupadi to come and sit on it. He was taking revenge on her by insulting her in every way possible, yet unable to understand the grave injustice he was performing.
Hearing this, Bhima couldn’t stay silent anymore. With fury, he thundered loudly and said, “Duryodhana, I take a vow at this moment to break the thigh that you invited Draupadi to sit on. I shall break it with my mace in a battle. As for your brother, the cruel Dushasana, I shall tear open his chest and drink the blood that comes out. And I shall wash Draupadi’s hair with the same blood.”
Draupadi, with anger, swore her hair would remain loose to remind everyone of her shame. She would tie it up only after Bhima had avenged the disgrace she had been subjected to. The other Pandava brothers motivated by Bhima made vows of revenge known to everyone.
Bhima’s vow brought terror to all who were hearing it. Especially to Dhritarashtra who was horrified. The miracle of the saree, the voice from the heavens threatening Dushasana, and now this dreadful vow of Bhima frightened him to death. Realizing that his sons were going to be punished in an unimaginable way, the weak Dhritarashtra decided the only way out of this misery would be to release the Pandavas out of Duryodhana’s slavery and to return to Yudhishthira all that he lost in the game.
He called Draupadi to his side and begged her to forgive his sons for what they had done. He gave Draupadi two boons for her to choose. She told Dhritarashtra that the first boon would be that her husbands needed to be freed and with the second she needed to be freed. But she continued and said that the vow not to tie up her hair would not be withdrawn.
Dhritarashtra then called upon Yudhishthira, returning all that Yudhishthira lost in the game of dice. However, Yudhishthira and his brothers didn’t feel right about the way they got their lost belongings back. They left the hall.
Duryodhana, Shakuni, Karna and the Kaurava brothers, except Vikarna, were very angry with Dhritarashtra’s decision. As Duryodhana was afraid of the Pandava’s revenge, he got upset with his father for letting this opportunity slip from their hands. He insisted that they should recall Yudhishthira for another game.
As everyone knew, Dhritarashtra believed that the crown was passed on to his brother Pandu unfairly. After Pandu’s death, he was made the guardian of the kingdom, although he was blind. Thus he felt the crown belonged to him and should be passed to his own son, Duryodhana. So, as usual, his son persuaded him once again, this time to request Yudhishthira to play another game of dice.
This time it was decided that the loser would go into exile for 12 years, then live in disguise untraced for one year. If they were discovered in the 13th year, then the 12-year exile would begin again. Yudhishthira was addicted to gambling and he had decided not to oppose his relatives, so once again he foolishly fell for the trap all over again. Everyone tried their level best to discourage Yudhishthira, so he would not repeat the same mistake. But Yudhishthira hastily agreed, insisting he would not go against the principles of dharma and disobey his elders.
Yudhishthira did not know that Shakuni used charmed dice. The Pandava king was defeated yet again. There were no words to describe Duryodhana’s joy. He was sure he will be able find the Pandavas in the 13th year, to send them into exile for the next 12 years, and on and on.
After Yudhishthira lost the game, the Pandavas, disgraced and resentful, prepared for their period of exile. Yudhishthira assured them that they will be back after the incognito year to reclaim all they lost in the gambling. Bhima cried out loud, promising to kill Duryodhana once they returned. Arjuna also took a vow to avenge Draupadi’s insult by punishing those who stood in silence without helping her and Nakula and Sahadeva joined in with their vows as well.
Their mother Kunti was too weak to face the hardships of exile, even for a day. But she refused to stay in the palace where Duryodhana lived. So Vidura kindly took her to his home. Draupadi’s five sons, by the five Pandava brothers, were sent to their grandparents at Panchala. Arjuna’s wife Subhadra and son Abhimanyu departed for Dwaraka to stay in the care of Krishna.
The Pandavas left the city followed by weeping citizens and well-wishers who didn’t want anything to do with Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra. Yudhishthira was able to pursue the people to return home once they reached the suburbs of the city.
We teach this saying to our children to help them be resilient to hurtful words.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words shall never hurt me.
The reality is that words hurt. They don’t only hurt children, they hurt everyone. Words are powerful. Unfortunately, they are sometimes used to be hurtful. As children we are taught to say nice words to others.
But what do you say to yourself? Too few of the thoughts you think are positive, encouraging and uplifting. Instead, you worry about the future, remember hurtful memories or complain about the present. Perhaps you compare yourself to others or wish for things you don’t have. Your mind harasses with you with all these thoughts.
This was my main takeaway from my first meditation retreat. I had graduated from the university. I was taking a semester off before starting graduate school. Travelling in Southeast Asia, I decided to take a 10-day meditation retreat. I was in a peaceful, tropical monastery, being fed delicious vegetarian meals and receiving ancient teachings. It seemed like it was great.
But during my meditations, I was in hell. My mind harassed me relentlessly. It reminded me of my most hurtful memories and biggest fears for the future. While I was horrified by what my mind was doing, I was grateful to be aware of it.
Even though your mind can harass you, your mind is not being bad. It is doing exactly what it is designed to do. Your mind is designed to distract you from the truth of your own existence. Your existence is the One Divine Existence that has always existed and will always exist. The One Divine Existence is the basis of existence for everyone and everything.
In some way, you can give your mind a bit of credit. It has the enormous job of blocking you from the Truth of your Existence. You are Existence Itself. How powerful is your mind and your thoughts that it can block you from Existence Itself?
Yet while your mind is doing a formidable job, you are not enjoying its harassment. As a human being, you have the incredible ability to actively choose what you think. You can even choose to know your own Self which is beyond your mind. You can experience and live in the knowingness and beingness of your own Divine Existence. Yoga is the methodology that gets you there.
To manage your harassing mind, yoga highly recommends mantra repetition:
Mananaat traayate iti mantra.h
Mantra is that which protects and uplifts one who contemplates it.
Yes, you need protection from your mind. Mantra is a Sanskrit phrase that names your own Divine Existence. Repeating your Divine Name, again and again, will protect you from the thoughts you normally think. It is a huge upgrade to what you normally repeat.
From repeating your Divine Name, you get more than protection. Researchers have shown that positive thinking can reduce your chance of a heart attack, lower your blood pressure and lengthen your life span. Positive thinking also gives you more creativity, greater problem-solving skills and clearer thinking.
Mantra repetition gives you all these benefits and more. You are not merely thinking positively. You are calling your own Divine Name. What happens when you call someone’s name? They respond. When you repeat your own Divine Name, your own Divine Existence shows up.
Sanskrit is a mystical language that specializes in names for your own Divine Existence. There are millions of Sanskrit mantras that you can repeat. The most powerful mantra is one from a Meditation Master who knows their own Divine Existence. They repeated the mantra to come to know their own Divine Existence.
When they share the mantra with you, they put their blessings into it. This is called a chaitanya mantra, an enlivened mantra. The mantra is enlivened with the Master’s own knowing of the One Divine Existence. Swami Nirmalananda is such a Meditation Master. She gives you an enlivened mantra.
The mantra only protects and uplifts you if you repeat it. So your job is to repeat mantra, all the time. With our mantra, you use it for meditation and also throughout your day. You can repeat the mantra when you get out of bed in the morning. Repeat the mantra while you brush your teeth and bathe. Repeat mantra while you eat and drink. Repeat mantra while you drive. Repeat mantra when chatting with your friend. Repeat mantra while you work.
You have proven that you can think while doing all of these things. Now your task is to repeat your own Divine Name, the mantra, instead. While this is a simple task, it is not necessarily easy. But it is worth the effort to remember to repeat your own Divine Name, the mantra the Guru gives you. The mantra protects you and uplifts you to the knowing of your own Divine Existence.
I wished I could stop time. In the dark of the night, I used to wake up terrified, remembering that one day I would die. I was only a child, but my looming death weighed heavily on me. I wished for time to stop, but I could feel it still ticking steadily onward. During the day, it was easy to forget about death. But, in those quiet moments in the dark, I couldn’t push the thoughts away.
Part of the reason it was so scary was that I wasn’t experiencing God. I had some basic training in religion growing up, but I wasn’t actually having the experience. So, death felt like the end — absolute oblivion.
This nihilistic belief system continued for me until I met Gurudevi Nirmalananda. Being in her presence and receiving her teachings, I experienced that there is more to me than I thought. Sitting for meditation and turning inward, I would feel a sense of eternity. This eternality would fill me from the inside. Meditation after meditation gave me this inner fullness without start or end.
Each day, I would look forward to my daily meditation. I was finding that “something” that I had been missing and looking for, for so long. My usual inner feeling of emptiness was replaced by expansive fullness. Over time, I realized the eternality I was finding inside was in fact God. God is eternal, Existence-Itself. God has no beginning or end. God is all-pervasive. This means God is being this entire world, including me.
I hadn’t been successful at reaching for God on the outside. However, thanks to Gurudevi, I was having major success at finding God on the inside. Gurudevi explains this more:
For a yogi, reaching to God is an inward reach, turning your attention, turning your mind and heart to the sacred space inside, finding the Divine dimension that is yoga’s focus and yoga’s specialty.
— Gurudevi Nirmalananda, “You’re in the Holidays,” December 4, 2022
Yes! Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation excels at this. While I am sharing my personal experience with you, it is not a rare or unique experience in this tradition. When you meditate with Gurudevi, you will discover the same, even in your first meditation. This is because everyone has the same sacred space inside. It is God’s space. It is your space. You simply need someone to guide you there.
Gurudevi is a Meditation Master who serves as your spiritual GPS. Your usual worldly GPS rivets your attention outside of yourself. Focused on your relationships and what you see and do, you lose track of your own Divine Essence. When you replace your worldly GPS with a spiritual one, your attention is directed inside. I call it a God Positioning System, for it places you right where God is. Right here. Right now. Right inside.
How? Through meditation.
Gurudevi’s own depth, coming from the lineage of Masters who precede her, gives you an inner boost. In meditation, you are glided inward, past the pitfalls and snags of your mind. You are guided all the way to the deepest dimension of your being. You experience God inside. When you open your eyes, you can see God outside too. And at the same time, you are the one being both. Inside and outside, all at the same time. To discover this for yourself, meditate with a Master.
My tears began to flow. I was on a long drive back to the Ashram. I found several religious stations that played upbeat and positive music. A Christmas song about Jesus was the one full of the most tenderness and devotion, “Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.
The song makes Jesus personal: “Mary, did you know… when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?” “Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?” Mary, did you know “that sleeping child you’re holding is the great, I Am?” Probably not.
For me, the song describes the potential of a human being by describing the Jesus’ greatness. Probably your mother did not know your greatness unless she herself was Self-Realized. Yet, more importantly and more personally, do you know your own greatness, your own Divinity, your own Self? Probably not. Some students describe their knowingness of their own Beingness when they were young. However, they shut it down as they grew.
Does your mother need to know the greatness of your being for you to know? Do others in your life? If so, you will be waiting for a long time. Yet this is what the Guru sees in you when they look at you or think about you. Even if you cannot, the Guru sees your own greatness, your own Divinity, your own Self.
When I hear devotional songs about other great beings, I think of my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda. I feel fortunate to have a living Guru. I can tangibly see her form. I can hear her teachings, made so relevant to me in this day and age. I can talk to her on the outside or inside. She is always accessible. The yoga we practice comes from Siddha Yoga. It is the yoga of being in relationship with a siddha, a Self-Realized being. Gurudevi is such a being.
This song “Mary Did You Know?” touches me so deeply. It touches my inner yearning to know my own greatness, my own Divinity, my own Self. It brings up tears because the knowing is so close, yet just beyond my reach.
Fortunately, I have a Guru, a living Guru, who reveals my own Divinity to me. It is the function of the Guru to help you to reveal your own greatness to yourself. This happens through the Guru’s presence, teachings and the practices they give you. This is the gift of a living Guru.
The Guru performs miracles. The Guru’s miracles don’t include walking on water, curing blindness or bringing the dead alive. The Guru’s miracle is much more personal to you. She burns away that which gets in the way of you knowing your own Self. You will feel fresh and new, and full of joy.
Gurudevi’s Guru said:
The power of the human being is so great that he can even transform himself into God. God lives hidden in the heart of every human being, and everyone has the power to realize that.
-Swami Muktananda, Where Are You Going? page 5
You are embodied Divinity. You already are God. That is amazing. But you simply don’t know, not yet. Through your yoga practices, you come to know that you are God. You are the Lord of all creation. You are the great I Am. The knowing is hidden within. The Guru reveals that which is hidden in your own being. It is the Guru’s function to reveal your own Self to you.
Traditionally, yoga does not honor a great Guru’s birthday. We honor the anniversary of their death. At the end of life, you see what that little baby did with their life. Those we honor knew their own greatness, their own Divinity, their own Self. And they helped others to find That within themselves.
Do you know? Do you want to know? Get a Guru. I have one and I’ll share.
Up close and personal — I’ve missed it during the pandemic. Online is so useful, but there’s nothing like being together in-person. I’m delighted to serve so many of you through Telecourses and zoom satsangs, but when we get a weekend together, so much more happens. So I’ve created a program with five weekends, interspersed through the year.
5 weekend retreats with Gurudevi
Beginning February 17
Our group size is limited so we can dive deep together. Every day, we’ll intersperse yoga practices with mental processes. The practices deepen your experience of the inner infinity of your own Self. The contemplations are to help you understand your inner experiences as well as to help you understand your life experiences.
After each weekend, you take your new sense of Self home with you. In the same place, with the same people and activities, you try out the new you. Then you come back and we work it through. What you learn about yourself makes you more powerful and more loving at the same time.
Your enrollment is for all five weekends. Carve the time out of your schedule and make these weekends a priority. Don’t miss any! Your presence is a support to others, even while you’re in the process yourself.