Category Archives: Mystical Living

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…

Rama Avatar, part 4

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Rama left the forest of Chitrakoot, visiting other ashrams, meeting many sages and getting their blessings.  He also helped them by killing the rakshasas harassing them, as this was a time when demonic forces were strongly affecting the earth and her residents.  Agastya was one of the great sages Rama visited, who gave the great gift of Vishnu’s bow and arrows.

Agastya suggested that Panchavati would be an ideal place for Rama’s further stay in the Dandakaranya forest.  Thus, Rama settled in Panchavati.  On the way there, Rama met Jatayu, the king of birds.  Jatayu was so happy to meet Rama!  Jatayu promised to guard all three of them from the sky.

A rakshasi named Shurpanaka occupied Dandakaranya forest along with her brothers Khara and Dushana.  One day, Shurpanaka happened upon Rama’s hermitage.  Seeing this handsome man, she wanted to get married to him.  She changed herself into a beautiful young woman and made an advance towards Rama.  Rama refused her, saying he was married, and sent her to check with Lakshmana (for some amusement).  “Not a bad replacement,” she thought and approached Lakshmana.  Short-tempered as always, he stared at her and told her to keep away from him.

Knowing Lakshmana was not going to work out, Shurpanaka decided to harm Sita, as she was the cause for Rama’s refusal.  Shurpanaka charged towards Sita.  Lakshmana, with one swing of his sword, cut off Shurpanaka’s nose.  Shurpanaka ran to her two brothers for help; they came to Rama’s hermitage to fight him.  Rama and Lakshmana killed both the brothers with ease.  Seeing this, Shurpanaka went screaming to her beloved brother Ravana in Lankapuri (Shree Lanka).

Who is Ravana?  Ravana was the son of the great sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni), whose father was the sage Pulastya, one of the great sages of all time, son of Brahma.  Ravana’s mother was and Kaikeshi, whose father was Sumali (or Sumalaya), king of the Asuras.  Kaikesi’s brothers, Maaricha and Subahu, were Ravana’s uncles.  Ravana had six brothers:  Kubera, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana and Ahiravan, as well as Khara and Dushan, whom Rama had just killed.  His older sister was Kumbhini; his younger sister was Shurpanaka.

Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna are the second incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu.  Ravana married Mandodari, the daughter of Mayasura, and they had seven sons, Meghnaada (the most powerful one, also known as Indrajit), Atikaya, Akshayakumara, Devantaka, Narantaka, Trishira and Prahastha.

Ravana was a great scholar, having learned all four Vedas.  He was also a great musician, playing the veena (a stringed instrument), as well as a great singer from which he got the name Ravana, which means “of the terrifying roar.”  He had ten heads and twenty arms.  Above all, Ravana was known as the greatest devotee of Lord Shiva.   Ravana composed the hymn known as the Shiva Tandava Stotra.

Ravana had performed intense penance to Brahma for several years.  When Brahma appeared before him, Ravana requested immortality.  Brahma refused.  Then Ravana asked for invulnerability from gods, heavenly spirits, other asuras, serpents and wild beasts.  Thinking he was stronger than any mortal human being, he didn’t ask protection from humans.  Brahma granted his wish.

Being a great devotee of Lord Shiva, Ravana then went to see Lord Shiva at Mt.  Kailasa.  Nandi refused to let Ravana in, since Lord Shiva had asked not to be disturbed.  To show Nandi his love for Shiva, Ravana attempted to uproot and move Mt.  Kailasa.

Lord Shiva, to get rid of Ravana’s arrogance, pressed his little toe on Kailasa, pinning Ravana under the mountain.  Realizing he had made Lord Shiva angry, Ravana plucked off one of his heads, one of his hands and some of his nerves to create a makeshift veena, playing it to pacify him.  After listening to Ravana’s music for a long time, Lord Shiva released him from bondage.  Pleased with his resilience and devotion, Shiva gave him a divine sword called Chandrahas, warning if Ravana used it for any unjust deeds, it would return to Lord Shiva and Ravana’s days will be numbered.

Let’s return to the story.  Shurpanaka fled to Ravana, screaming that Lakshmana had cut off her nose and that she wants revenge.  Seeing his younger sister in distress, Ravana roared, ready for war.  His sister stopped him, saying she had learned that Rama and Lakshmana were very powerful; she recommended they get revenge in a different way.  She went on to talk about Sita, emphasizing her beauty and how she should be married to Ravana, as well as suggesting that he kidnap her.  Shurpanaka’s devastation, her persuasion towards revenge and the beauty of Sita excited Ravana’s lust and poisoned his mind.  Thus the plot was proposed and planned.

Ravana’s uncle Maaricha had the ability to change his form.  Becoming a beautiful, golden deer, he roamed near Rama’s hermitage to catch Sita’s attention.  Captivated by the beauty of the deer, wanting to pet it, Sita requested that Rama catch it for her.  Rama went to catch the deer but it led Rama far away.  A bit annoyed by the deer’s evasive techniques, sensing something was not right; Rama shot an arrow at the deer.  The arrow hit Maaricha, but before dying, he shouted out, in Rama’s voice, “Oh Lakshmana! Lakshmana!”

Sita heard this scream.  Worried about Rama’s safety, even afraid for his life, Sita requested Lakshmana to aid his brother.  Lakshmana did not believe the cry was Rama’s, so he refused to go, as Rama’s order had been to stay and guard Sita.  After Sita’s forceful persuasion and insisting behavior, Lakshmana agreed to go search of Rama.  Before leaving, he drew a circle around the hermitage to guard it with mantra, casting a spell that prevented anyone from entering that boundary.

Ravana saw that the coast was clear.  Making use of this opportunity, he disguised himself as an ascetic and came to the hermitage asking for food.  As a good housewife never refuses to give food to an ascetic, the unsuspecting Sita stepped out of Lakshmana’s circle to offer the food, since the ascetic was unable to come into the circle.

At that moment, Ravana turned into himself.  He took Sita along with the earth she was standing on, as he was unable to get close to her due to her chastity and her devotion to Rama.  He put the dug-up earth with Sita on it into his flying chariot, “Pushpaka Vimana,” and flew towards Lankapuri.  As she was being carried away, Sita cried for help and began dropping her jewelry pieces, one-by-one.

Hearing Sita’s cry, Jatayu, the king of birds, confronted Ravana.  Though Jatayu did his best, he was no match for the mighty Ravana.  Ravana cut off one of Jatayu’s wings; mortally wounded Jatayu fell to the ground.  Ravana continued south to reach Lankapuri, and imprisoned Sita in his garden, Ashokavana, guarded by rakshasas.

Meanwhile, Lakshmana found Rama with the dead deer.  Figuring there was some conspiracy in what happened, the brothers rushed back to the hermitage.  They found only strewn rice and the other food Sita had been offering to the ascetic.  Sita was missing.

They began a vigorous search, going about the forest to find her.  They came across ornaments she had dropped one-by-one.  They continued in the direction the ornaments were found.  They found Jatayu.  He’d been saving his last breath to inform Rama that Sita had been abducted in a flying chariot going south.  Rama put Jatayu on his lap with great sorrow; Jatayu died in Rama’s hands.  Rama performed the last rites for Jatayu and continued south.  Rama forged onward, with a broken heart and tears in his eyes shouting, calling “Sita, Sita, Sita…” asking anyone they encountered if they had seen Sita.

Goddess Parvati was sitting next to Lord Shiva on Mt.  Kailasa.  She asked, “My Lord Shiva, has Lord Vishnu forgotten who he is?  Why is he searching for Sita like this?”  Lord Shiva replied, “Why don’t you find out?”  So Goddess Parvati changed herself into an elderly woman and came before Rama.  Rama saw the old woman, and immediately said, “Devi Parvati, please accept my pranams.  How is Lord Shiva?”  Astonished, Goddess Parvati greeted Rama and returned to Kailasa.

Lord Shiva explained, “You are who you are, but when you take the form of a human being, you will have to abide by the rules of human nature, which means you forget your own divine nature.”  Lord Shiva continued, “I have not helped Lord Vishnu in his past incarnations.  I need to help him in this one.”  Goddess Parvati agreed.

After meeting Goddess Parvati, Rama continued his search as though nothing had happened.  During the search, Rama came across a demon named Kabandha who tried to swallow both the brothers.  They fought and killed him.  With his last breath, he thanked them, saying that he had been waiting for them to release him from a curse that made him demoniacal.  He advised the brothers to visit Shabari, an old ascetic living in the nearby forest.

Delighted by their visit, Shabari greeted them with respect and served them food.  Especially she served Rama, offering rare fruits that could be very sweet but were sometimes sour.  To be sure she offered only the best, she first tasted each one to insure that it was ripe and tasty.  Rama was pleased by her intention and loving care, so he whole-heartedly accepted each of the fruits.

She directed them to go to Mount Mathanga.  After blessing her with liberation, Rama traveled to Mount Mathanga, searching for Sita.  Near Mount Mathanga, they come across a great strong monkey, who introduced himself as Hanuman.

More to come…

Following a Path

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

In 1969 Swami Satchidananda opened the Woodstock Music Festival, ending with teaching everyone to chant Hari OM.  A modern-day Guru and cultural icon, he was famously quoted as saying, “All paths lead to the same goal.”  This is not the whole quote.  Unfortunately, this partial quote is often used to justify spiritual dabbling.  What he said was, “All paths lead to the same goal, but you have to pick one and follow it to the end.”

Just like a mountain with many paths, you must pick one in order to get to the mountain peak.  If you keep switching trails, you will wander around the mountain forever.  You will certainly have wonderful experiences but you’ll never make it to the top.

In yoga, the goal is the experience of your own Self, the Ultimate Reality within.  Even more, it is about living in that Reality all the time, “Self-Realization.”

You may be motivated by a simpler goal: you do yoga so you will feel better.  This is a great reason to do yoga.  In Svaroopa® yoga you get what you want because this practice excels at healing what ails you.  Pain and stress melt away as you lengthen your tail.  Illness and injury heal more quickly.  Yoga even improves conditions that modern medicine doesn’t know how to treat.

Many different styles of yoga poses are available in the West.  They all provide dramatic physical benefits as well as stress reduction.  However research shows that exercise also provides the same benefits, sometimes even more effectively.  If exercise gives you the same results as yoga, then what’s so special about yoga?

Swami Nirmalananda describes, “When I returned from my Guru’s Ashram, I discovered that yoga was changing in America.  A teacher of another style told me proudly, ‘We’re taking the mysticism out of yoga.’   I was shocked!  I’d given years of my life to learn the mysticism of yoga.  They were doing everything they could to make it merely physical.  It’s no wonder I had to create a new yoga style.”

This means is that it matters what “brand” of yoga you do.  While one will give you beauty and gracefulness, does it free you from anxiety?  Other styles make you sweat or jump in and out of poses, but you may still have back pain.  You can do yoga poses on a trapeze but still get upset when life brings you back down to earth.

Svaroopa® yoga is a mystical science, not merely an athletic endeavor.  This means it gives you mystical experiences, fulfilling the promise made by the ancient sages of India.  Svaroopa® yoga is spiritual yoga.

Upliftment

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

When you are touched by the raw power of a lightning storm, the quietude of a forest glen or the softness of a deer’s eyes, you are using something in nature to effect an internal change.  It’s like a switch is flicked inside.  You are suddenly stilled.  You are deeply still and profoundly aware.

Yoga says you don’t need an external trigger to experience this deep inner beingness-awareness-bliss — it is your own Self.  Every time you have an experience of the Divine Within, you are irrevocably changed.  It’s not just a change; it’s upliftment.  One Sanskrit text describes it this way,

Tajjah samskaaro’nya-samskaara-prati-bandhee. — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.50

After an experience of The Self, your mind bears an impression of consciousness within it, which prevents other impressions from taking hold.

You must imprint your mind with more experiences of consciousness!  It already has too many imprints that lead you in other directions.  Your mind has the accumulated imprints of all the things you’ve experienced in this life as well as powerful impressions from your previous lifetimes, all impelling you toward repeating the same things again.  To get off the karmic merry-go-round, you must actively intervene in the process or it becomes a “Willy Wonka” tunnel with no escape:

There’s no earthly way of knowing

Which direction we are going

There’s no knowing where we’re rowing

Or which way the river’s flowing…[1]

Upliftment is the key.  Yoga is the science of upliftment.  But you are not being lifted up into another realm; you become more present in this realm, on this earth, in your own body, in your own life.  You become radiant with your own Divine Essence.  The way upward is inward.

This is a different direction than most systems, even most religions, teach you.  There are even meditation systems that say you must transcend this earthly plane, you must be lifted up into the light and that you will only arrive once you leave your body.  Years ago I flew into my then-home in San Diego, arriving to the news that 31 people had killed themselves so they could ascend to a higher level.  This is not yoga.

The yoga poses come from the Tantric Sages who practiced in the Himalayan caves, far away from the mainstream spirituality of the time, partly because mainstream spirituality said you had to reject the body in order to find God.  The tantrics said, “Your own teachings say that Shiva has brought forth all that exists out of His own Divine Beingness.  Thus, everything is holy, even my own body.”

Their spiritual endeavors began with Grace, through a transmission of energy from the Guru, which awakened the yogi’s inner power of upliftment, Kundalini.  As this sacred energy unfurled from tail to top, different yogis had different experiences depending on their personal readiness and individualistic nature.

Those who were more kinesthetic, rather than visual or auditory, experienced physical movements.  Others copied their spontaneous movements, which are today’s yoga poses.  Some yogis believe the forest sages made up the poses, having their disciples stand like a tree or move like a cobra, but the origin of these sacred body movements is in the sacred — not in the mind.

Doing the poses invokes the experience that those initiates were having, the inner experience of your own Divinity.  Svaroopa® yoga excels at this because it is the yoga of Grace.  I have devoted my life to the force of Grace, as did my Guru and his Guru before him.  We focus on core opening so that your spine becomes open and breathing and your spinal energy moves freely.  In other words, while you get the physical benefits that Svaroopa® yoga promises, you are getting more.

Yoga guarantees the upliftment of your own consciousness while you live in your body, a body that is being purified and made sacred through your breathing and your poses.  These changes in your body makes you able to see and to be the Divine Reality.  You also see, and even revel in, a Divine World made of out one thing:  Shiva.

Originally published July 2012

[1] Excerpt from “Wondrous Boat Ride,” song from the 2005 movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”