Category Archives: Mystical Living

Your Greatness

By Swami Satrupananda

You are great.  Yes, you.  Repeat out loud to yourself, “I am Great!” I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.  Put  some breath into it, and don’t forget the exclamation point.  Enthusiastically repeat out loud, “I am GREAT!”

It’s not the things you do, the people you know or the places you go that make you great.  You’re great because you’re a human being.  The yoga sages tell us that you are not merely great but greatness itself.  You have greatness hidden within you right now.  You already are greatness.  You merely need to discover it.  When you find your greatness, you find your you-ness.

You know this to be true.  I can prove it to you.  When you are not feeling great, you notice and do something about it.  When your body hurts you slow down, get a massage or do some yoga poses.  When you’re sad, you look for something to make you happy.  You call a friend, read an uplifting book or repeat mantra.  In contrast, when you’re feeling great you don’t say, “Hmmm… something isn’t right here.  I should feel bad.” It’s natural for you to feel great in your body, mind and heart.

My teacher, Swami Nirmalananda, describes our inherent greatness this way:

You feel most like yourself when you are shining with light.  When your eyes twinkle, when your heart overflows, when your words have a melody hidden in them, and when your actions show your generous and loving nature – you feel so natural.  You feel like yourself.

You’ve had many of these experiences before.  You were glowing on your graduation and/or wedding day.  Your eyes twinkle when you look at someone you love.  Your heart has overflowed with love for others many times.  When you speak about something dear to you, your words flow like a smooth waltz.  You have done so many good things for others out of the kindness of your heart.  In these moments, you are living from your greatness.  It’s a sneak peek of your future.

Before yoga, one of my favorite ways to get a sneak peek into my greatness was volunteering.  I remember volunteering for my high school to serve a meal for the homeless.  I showed up and poured myself into the tasks at hand.  I put together cheese sandwiches with so much care and attention.  My heart overflowed as I ensured that everyone was offered a hot beverage.  I glowed as I helped with cleaning up.  As I left that day, there was a joyful skip in my walk.  While I was giving that day, I was the one who received the most.  I got to experience my greatness.

Yoga’s guarantee of your greatness is not limited to certain events in your life.  Yoga says you’ll glow everyday of your life.  Your eyes will twinkle when you look at everyone.  Your words will have a melody hidden in them even while reading a legal document.  All your actions will show your generous and loving nature.  You will be your greatness all the time and pour it into everything you do.

To discover your greatness, you must turn your attention inward to explore the depths of your being.  With your first look inward, you’ll probably find your mind.  You need to go deeper than your mind to find your you-ness.  You discover the beingness that is being you.  Yoga has many names for the you-ness, the greatness, that you are.  One of them is Shiva, the Ultimate Reality being you, everyone and everything.

Now the question is: how do you get beyond your mind? Yoga uses your mind to get beyond your mind.  It’s a nifty trick.  You apply your mind to the repetition of a mantra.  Specifically, an enlivened mantra passed down from a lineage of yoga masters.  They repeated the mantra and discovered their own greatness.  They’ve given us the mantra so that we can do the same.  Now your job is first to receive the mantra from an authorized teacher, then to use it.

As you repeat more mantra, you will realize your inherent greatness.  When you discover your greatness, you discover you.  Being your greatness is so natural.

Repeat out loud “I am GREAT!”

Repeat out loud “I am Greatness-Itself!”

Discover and be your own greatness.

Magical or Mystical?

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Inner Radiance

By Swami Shrutananda

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

A great sage, Shankaracharya, described it this way:

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

– Vivekachudamani 98-99,  rendered by Gurudevi Nirmalananda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing

By Swami Samvidaananda

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

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

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

Vismayo yoga-bhuumikaa.h. — Shiva Sutras 1.12

The wonders of yoga are truly amazing.

(rendered by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yogi in the World

By Swami Prajñananda

The day of my grandma’s funeral, the sun was shining.  I remember thinking how odd it was that Mother Nature continued on while my family’s world was turned upside down.  In the past few months, the whole world has turned upside down.  Yet the sun still shines, the rain still falls and the wind still blows.  So where do we go from here?

As a yogi, you must develop your inner state and you also must act in the world; both are important.  If you deepen your inner state but hide away, the world will not be uplifted by your practices.  However, if you act from a place of fear, then your actions are ineffective, even harmful. Thus, while you participate in the world, you must develop your inner state.

To develop your inner state, meditation is your most important practice.  When you meditate, you are deepening your capacity to abide in the knowing of your own inner being.  Yet do not be so quick to leave that knowing behind when you get up from your meditation seat.  This is when your other yogic practices become important, especially mantra.  When you repeat mantra through the rest of your day, you are streaming consciousness through your mind.  Consciousness is who you really are.  When you weave mantra through your day, you are developing your ability to stay grounded in the state that you discovered in meditation.  Then, when you act in the world, your actions are powerful, uplifting and contagious.

An ancient yogic text explains the state of such a yogi:

Lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham — Shiva Sutras 1.18

Such a yogi experiences the sweet bliss of the Self in every location and situation, and shares it with others. — Translation by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Such a yogi is one who has discovered their own inner being, called the Self.  This yogi takes the knowingness of their Self into their life.  The knowing of who you are is blissful.  This is because the nature of your Self is Bliss-Itself.  Just as the nature of water is wet and the nature of fire is heat, the nature of your Self is bliss.  This is why you feel better when you meditate.  Through continued meditation, your ability to abide in the blissful knowing of your Self expands and deepens.  But this sutra does not merely promise bliss.  It goes on to say that you experience the bliss of the Self AND you share it with others.

Bliss is contagious.  You already know when someone is angry: anger spreads and infects those around them.  So why wouldn’t this happen with bliss as well?  Your inner state not only has an effect on you, it has an effect on those around you as well.  As you deepen into your Self, those around you feel it.  Your inner state makes a difference, but only when you step into the world.

While you may still be in the process of deepening into your Self, the Guru is established in Self.  The Guru is the yogi that the text describes: “The Guru experiences the sweet bliss of the Self in every location and situation, and shares it with others.”

The Guru loves to share!  When you spend time with the Guru, their blissful knowing of the Self starts to rub off on you.  While you may not be fully established in that state yet, you are on your way.  The more time you spend with the Guru, the more you deepen into the knowing of your Self.  While you and the Guru are both the Self, the difference is that you don’t know it yet and the Guru does.  Spending time with the Guru is a yoga practice, and it includes being in the Guru’s presence as well as doing the practices the Guru gives you.  To live in the knowing of who you are, spend more time with the Guru.

What You Say Matters

By Swami Sahajananda

Words powerfully affect you; you respond to words immediately.  They can lift you up to new heights of spiritual elevation.  Or they can go the other way, binding you in delusion.  Words are influential.  Politicians know this and use words to sway people to their point of view.

Did you ever hear a talk which held you spellbound?  The speaker’s choice of words created a quality of awe, greatness or wonder.  The talks of many spiritual teachers have touched me this way.  I felt they had laser-beamed right into my heart, addressing my deepest yearnings and questions.  Their profound spiritual experiences fueled their powerful words, reaching beyond my mind.  Their words brought about the ah-ha moment for which I’d been searching.  Powerful language transmits deep teachings that open you to the knowing of your own Divine Reality, your Self.

Yoga says the cosmic process is the source of the power of words and names it matrika.  All language flows from this cosmic process.  A classic teaching story tells of a teacher expounding on the power of words to an audience of seekers.  A man in the audience shouted, “Stop talking this nonsense about words.  I came here to hear about liberation!”  The teacher responded, “Hold on, hold on — I am getting there.”  Appeased for a bit, the man sat for a while longer.  But then he stood and again shouted, “I want to hear about liberation.  Not this nonsense about words!”  Seeing the man approaching, the teacher shouted, “You stupid ignorant man!”  Red-faced, the heckler was stopped in his tracks.  Then the teacher looked at him and said, “If words aren’t important, why did my words get you so upset?”  The man sat down and listened to the rest of the teacher’s talk intently.

This story illustrates the supreme energy of words, which flows from matrika. The philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism explains the power of words by tracing matrika, their source, back to the creation of our universe.  Shiva is Consciousness-Itself, the Primordial Oneness, that is everything and beyond everything that exists.  Shiva is stillness.  Then Shiva decided to move; Shiva in movement is called Shakti.  This movement is the cosmic energy that manifests the universe by contracting into all the various forms of existence, seen and unseen.  The first and subtlest movement of that manifestation is the constant vibration which can be perceived as sound.  The primordial sound is OM.  It is so sacred that it is not to be spoken aloud, but is called the pranava.

As the process of contraction continues, the cosmic matrika splinters the one primordial sound into many sounds.  They are the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, which combine to form words.  Matrika is a form of Consciousness-Itself, that which created the universe.  This ultimate source of words accounts for their profound power.

Now you can see how words have the power to either bind or liberate you.  Every feeling and emotion originates from your mind, powered by words.  The yogic texts promise that whatever you are thinking, that is what you are becoming.

For instance, if you congratulate yourself for a good job on a project, you feel good, even elated.  Or if you berate yourself, trying to figure out what you did wrong, you feel bad.  Words bring you pleasure or pain.

It’s not just spoken words that have this effect.  Words create thoughts that control how you feel.  Such words weaken you and make you feel small.  When you tell yourself that you are no good, not smart enough, etc., your own words enhance your bondage.  They keep you stuck in the endless patterns of your mind.  Your mind can do this without help from anyone else!

A Siva Sutra states that the power of words can bind you by giving you limited knowledge:

J~nanadhi.s.thana.m mat.rka. — Shiva Sutras, 1.4

Matrika (the cosmic power of words) is the source of limited knowledge (the not-knowing of your own Divinity).

Words trap you in limited knowledge.  Fortunately, they can also be used in the opposite way: to take you to new heights.  Your mind is the place where you have free reign to say whatever you want to yourself.  This means you can make a choice about the content of your thoughts.  You can use words to unbind you and reverse the direction back to Consciousness, which is the essence of your own being.  These words take you towards liberation, back to the source.

To become liberated, use words that are sacred.  Sacred words remind you that you are Consciousness Itself, open you into Consciousness and take you toward liberation.  Mantra repetition is one of the main practices of Svaroopa® Yoga.  Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda received the mantra of divine sounds from her Guru, Baba Muktananda; he received it from his Guru, Bhagawan Nityananda, who was given it by his Guru, and so on back through countless ages.

The mantra of Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation is permeated with the blessings and Grace of all the yogic sages who have repeated it, going back thousands of years.  It was passed down from one Enlightened Being to the next.  The mantra holds the abundance of benefits of their practices.  When we repeat it, we are the beneficiaries of their practices, which allow us to steep in their Grace and blessings.  These sacred words are thus imbued with the enlivened power of Guru’s Grace.  They expand you past your limitations.  Repeating mantra, you are using your mind to go beyond your mind.  These powerful words will set you free.

Matrika is the secret behind mantra.  With these sacred sounds, you can access Grace.  Through the Gurus of this lineage, who imbued the mantra with their blessings, it is readily available.  Words have the power to bind us or to set us free.  Words give us the opportunity to dive deeper inside to access our Divine Essence.  The Self has always been there, waiting for us to take the journey inside.  Mantra, the sound form of God, is the vehicle that takes you to your own Self, your Divine Essence.  Mantra makes it easy to access the Self.  It is your choice what you are going to say to yourself.

It’s All About You

By Swami Satrupananda

It’s all about you.  That’s the good news and the bad news.

Let’s start with the good news.  Yoga is all about you.  The practices of yoga are for the purpose of discovering who you truly are.  Who are you?  You might answer that question with any, or all, of the following:

Profession – I am what I do. “I am a doctor. I am an engineer. I am a yoga teacher.”

Relationships – I am who I know. “I am a son. I am an aunt. I am a friend.”

Location – I am my location. “I am a Pennsylvanian. I grew up in Kansas.”

While these are all true, there is even more to you.  Yoga asks: who is the one being you while you do these things?  Who is the one in these relationships and living in these places?  And when these life circumstances change, do you become a different person?  Yoga says, “No.”  While your external circumstances change, and even as you adapt to then, there is an unchanging you.  When you get a new job, who is the one who did your old job?  It is the same you who is doing your new job.  Who is that you?

Who are you, really?  The answer is found inside.  Yoga specializes in turning your attention inward and discovering who you truly are.  That could be surprising, given the popularity of yoga poses.  Yet the original purpose of the poses is to prepare your body to sit for meditation.  It is in the practice of meditation that you turn your attention inward and explore who you truly are.

Who do you find when you turn your awareness inside?  The yoga sage Shankaracharya described it this way:

Chid-aananda-roopah shivo’ham shivo’ham.

My nature is the bliss of pure consciousness. I am Shiva. I am Shiva.

Yoga has many names for your inherent “you-ness.”  Shankaracharya uses the name Shiva for your you-ness.  Around 800 CE in India, he composed the Atma Shatkam, his poem of bliss and Consciousness.  His refrain “Shivo’ham Shivo’ham” follows each verse. Thus he repeats, “I am Shiva, I am Shiva.”  He knew that we need the repetition.  That’s because we don’t yet know who we are.  And that’s the bad news.

When you don’t know your inherent nature as bliss — as Shiva — you think you are something less.  You think you are your profession, your relationships and locations.  You work hard at getting the right job, having perfect relationships and living in a beautiful location.  Your mind keeps you busy with worries and anxieties.  “What do I need to do?  What do they think about me?  Where do I want to live?”  It’s all about you.  Unfortunately, it’s all about a small sense of you.

The problem is that you are focused on who you are on the outside.  You are simply focused on the wrong you.  Yoga says to turn your attention inside.  There you find your inherent you-ness.  Then you will live in the pure bliss of Consciousness.

When I first learned these teachings, I got distracted by the pure bliss of Consciousness.  Can you really blame me?  This promise was such a radical change from my day-to-day experience.  Yoga was promising me not merely joy but bliss.  Without realizing it, I assumed that I had to change who I was to achieve it.  I was missing the key part of this teaching.  Bliss is my nature.  I already am the bliss of Consciousness.  The Svaroopa® yoga practices have opened me up to my inherent nature.  When I am settled into bliss — my own Divine Essence, I feel that I’ve come home.  I describe it as, “I am me.”

That’s the good news.  You are you.  You don’t need to do anything to become you.  Your nature is the bliss of pure Consciousness.  Inherently, you are bliss itself.  It is the fundamental quality that makes you “you.”  This “you” has been the same, from childhood through adolescence and into your adulthood.  If you took bliss away, then you wouldn’t be you.  It’s like if you took water and tried to make it not wet.  You can’t.  Water is inherently wet.  You are inherently the bliss of Consciousness.  This is the good news.  Yoga is all about discovering who you are.  And you discover that your true essence is bliss.

You simply need to focus on your true Divine Essence.  Yoga’s practices are designed to get you beyond your external sense of who you are to a deeper sense within.  So it’s all about you.  Which “you” are you going to focus on?

Synchronicity

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”  I remember the first time I heard this saying, recognizing instantly how true it is.  My life had newly been full of surprising and serendipitous happenings, quite different from the hard slog I’d known before.  I was on the cusp of a new lifestyle, though I didn’t know it at the time.

“Synchronicity” was what Carl Jung called it, explaining it as a “meaningful coincidence.”  He also described it as a “connecting (togetherness) principle” that is without identifiable cause.  Except that we have the power to cause synchronicities to happen!

For me, that’s what International Day of Yoga is about.  When we put our heads and hearts together, honoring this important part of our lives, we create an energy wave that impacts the whole world.  What if Yoga Day became as big as Thanksgiving — that everyone would get together to celebrate the incredible gift that yoga is.

This year, many Yoga Day events will be held online due to the pandemic.  In some ways this is incredibly empowering, with teachers able to reach people who would never walk in the yoga studio’s door.  I’ve been deeply touched by my students’ comments about having SVA’s online programs bringing yoga and meditation into their home.  The online connection is serving yogis in a whole new way.  How can we use that for Yoga Day?

I’m hoping to get everyone to hold a party!  We’ve got one planned in Downingtown, but you don’t have to be in Downingtown to come.  Several hours of free programs are stretching over the whole weekend, June 20-21.  Of course, if you were here, I’d feed you too.

You can create your own yoga party by simply doing more yoga, or getting a few friends online and doing it together.  Maybe your teacher is holding an event.  If not, invite her or him to yours.  And post it on our Facebook page — we want to know what’s up.

When we get more people doing more yoga, the world will change.  Together we can create the synchronicity that uplifts and heals the world.  It certainly needs our help!

Krishna Avatar – Part 12

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Krishna and Rukmini were happily living in Dwaraka.  Rukmini gave birth to a healthy baby boy, who was named Pradyumna.  People of Dwaraka rejoiced.  Pradyumna, the eldest son of Krishna, is none other than Kamadeva, the God of Love.  Kamadeva was reborn as Pradyumna due to a curse by Lord Shiva.  We will come back to this story about Pradyumna in a later chapter.  For now, let’s continue with Krishna and the precious Syamantaka Jewel.

There once lived a king named Satrajit.  He was a great friend and devotee of Surya Deva, the Sun God.  Once Lord Surya gave Satrajit the precious Syamantaka Jewel as a gift due to Satrajit’s adoration towards him.  Satrajit was in absolute delight.

This particular gem is said to have great power.  Whichever land this jewel resided in would never encounter any misfortunes such as droughts, floods, earthquakes, untimely deaths or scarcities.  It would always be full of prosperity.  It also would give the bearer of the gem the dazzling appearance of the Sun God.

Satrajit, who belongs to the Yadava clan, coming from the same family as Akrura, returned to Dwaraka with the Syamantaka Jewel.  People mistook him for the Sun God as the dazzling gem was shining its light on Satrajit.  Such news didn’t take much time to reach the palace.  When Krishna heard about this glorious gem he asked Satrajit to present the jewel to Ugrasena, the mighty king of the Yadavas.  But the greed-stricken Satrajit did not comply with this request.  He refused to give the jewel to the King.

One day, Satrajit’s brother, Prasena, who was also the ruler of a Yadava province, wore the Syamantaka Jewel of his brother while hunting in the forest.  While wearing it, he was attacked by a lion, which killed him and fled with the jewel to a nearby mountain range.  Soon after a bear attacked the lion and, after a fierce fight, killed the lion.  The bear took off with the jewel.

The bear was none other than Jambavan, the King of the Bears who was loyal to Rama of Ayodhya during the Ramayana period of Treta Yuga.  He was also considered one of the seven immortals or Chiranjeevis.  Jambavan gave the jewel to his child as a play toy.

When Prasena went missing with the jewel, Satrajit suspected that Krishna was the cause of his brother’s mysterious disappearance.  He therefore accused Krishna of killing his brother, based on the fact that Krishna had requested the jewel be presented to King Ugrasena.  The rumor was that Krishna had an eye on the Syamantaka Jewel, so Prasena’s disappearance with the jewel became the talk of the town.  The people began to doubt and accuse Krishna of murder and theft.

In order to prove his innocence, Krishna decided to find out the true cause of Prasena’s disappearance and straighten out the story.  Along with a few people from Dwaraka, he followed on the trail of the deceased Prasena.  They arrived at the spot where Prasena was killed, finding the corpses of Prasena and his horse still lying there.  They saw the evidence that a lion had attacked and killed Prasena and his horse.

From there Krishna, accompanied by the people of Dwaraka, followed the footsteps of the lion, which led him to the spot of the second incident, where he found the corpse of the lion.  The marks on the corpse led him to believe a mighty bear had killed the lion.

So from there, he followed the tracks of the bear, which finally led him and his clan to the entrance of Jambavan’s cave.  At the entrance of the cave, Jambavan’s little child was playing with the priceless jewel.  The maid who was looking after the child screamed at the site of Krishna and his clan, alerting Jambavan.  She took the little child and ran into the cave.

Krishna, asking the people to stay outside, followed them into the cave.  Jambavan, hearing the maid’s cry,  immediately came to the rescue, finding Krishna following his child and the maid.  Not knowing who Krishna was or the reason why he was there, Jambavan engaged in a furious and prolonged fight with Krishna for 28 days.  Jambavan gradually grew tired and wondered who could have the sustained power to weaken him.  Being an immortal and having the strongest body, he couldn’t understand who fought back with this enormous strength and valor.

It was then that Jambavan realized that he had been fighting none other than Shri Rama himself.  At the moment of that realization, he immediately stopped fighting and prayed to Krishna asking for forgiveness.  Krishna embraced Jambavan, full of love, and explained about his visit.  Jambavan placed the jewel at Krishna’s feet, offering it to him with devotion.  He also requested Krishna to accept his daughter Jambavati in marriage as an offering for his sins earned by fighting him.  Krishna accepted both Jambavati and Syamantaka Jewel.

The people were waiting outside the cave for Krishna to come out.  On the 12th day, fearing that something had happen to Krishna, they sent a messenger to Dwaraka.  They did not have the courage to enter the cave and continued to wait outside for some time.  But with little hope, they finally returned to Dwaraka, unable to bear the thought they had lost Krishna.  The messenger informed Vasudeva and Devaki about the danger that they anticipated.

Hearing this news Devaki immediately gathered all family and friends, arranged a puja for Goddess Durga and prayed to her with piety for Krishna’s safe return.  They heard a voice from the sky saying that Krishna will arrive soon.  They were delighted and satisfied, accepting that message as Divine Mother Durga’s pronouncement.  Vasudeva and Devaki were confident that Krishna would return.

After the 28 days of battle, Krishna returned to Dwaraka with Jambavati, his new wife, and the precious Syamantaka Jewel.  All of Dwaraka rejoiced at his return.  He summoned Satrajit to his royal assembly and explained what happened.  Krishna then handed the jewel over to Satrajit, saying that he never was interested in the jewel in the first place.  The only reason he had wanted to find it was to prove his innocence.  He also warned Satrajit to keep the jewel safe.

Satrajit’s heart was saddened by this knowledge, feeling ashamed of doubting Krishna.  He accepted the jewel with great remorse.  He wanted to make things right and acted immediately with an opportunity to get out of his bad deed.  He gave his daughter Satyabhama in marriage to Krishna, and gave the Syamantaka Jewel as a token of love.

Satyabhama is an incarnation of Bhudevi, Goddess Earth.  Satyabhama was in great delight as she was greatly in love with Krishna and didn’t want to marry any of the other suitors her father was arranging for her.  Krishna accepted only Satyabhama and refused to accept the jewel.  He returned it to Satrajit, saying he could keep the jewel as long as he lived and let it come to Satyabhama as an inheritance afterwards.

Soon after all this, Krishna and Balarama heard that their cousins from the Kuru family were in great danger.  They rushed to Hastinapura to help.  While they were gone, Akrura and Kritavarma of the Yadava Family, who had their eyes on the dazzling jewel, went to see Satadhanva, a wicked king.  They wanted to use him to get the jewel from Satrajit for themselves.

Satadhanva was among those who had wanted to marry Satyabhama.  Satrajit had once promised Satadhanva to give his beautiful daughter in marriage to him.  Later Satrajit changed the decision, out of guilt and to win the favor of Krishna, and married his daughter to Krishna.  Satadhanva was very hurt and angry with this, as he was madly in love with Satyabhama, even though she hated him unequivocally.

Akrura and Kritavarma conspired with Satadhanva to make use of Krishna’s absence from Dwaraka as an opportunity to get the jewel from Satrajit.  They consoled Satadhanva and praised him, firing up his anger, boosting his ego and greed, all to push him into doing what they desired.  One night, Satadhanva entered the house of Satrajit, killed him in his sleep and took off with the jewel.

Satyabhama was devastated to hear the news about her father’s murder.  She rushed to Hastinapura to inform Krishna about the frightening, cruel killing of her father.  Satyabhama, unlike Krishna’s other wives, was well trained by her father in many skills, including warfare.  She had been a very independent woman with a mind of her own.  Krishna consoled Satyabhama and returned to Dwaraka right away with her and Balarama to do last rites and rituals for his father-in-law.  Then he left with his brother Balarama to avenge Satrajit’s death.

When Satadhanva heard about the Yadava brothers coming for him, he fled on his horse, seeking help from Akrura and Kritavarma.  They both refused to help him; they had never wanted to go against Krishna.  Satadhanva left the jewel with Akrura and ran away to save his life.  The horse he was riding collapsed on the outskirts of Mithila.  Terrified, he abandoned his horse and fled on foot.  He was chased down by Krishna and Balarama, finally killed by Krishna by his Sudarshana Chakra.  Balarama decided to stay in Mithila, as he was a good friend of the King of Mithila.

Krishna returned to Dwaraka with the knowledge of Akrura now owning the jewel.  He found that Akrura had already left on a pilgrimage to Kashi with the Syamantaka Jewel.  People of Dwaraka were suspicious about Krishna returning after avenging the death of Satrajit, but without Syamantaka Jewel.  They started to wonder the fate of this jewel.

In the meantime Akrura’s absence from Dwaraka spread like wild fire.  People of Dwaraka were disturbed by the belief that there was going to be famine and drought due to Akrura’s absence from Dwaraka.  This was due to the fact that once, in the province of Kashi, there was severe drought.  At that time the King of Kashi, in accordance with advice from an astrologer, arranged the marriage of his daughter Gandini with Svaphalka, the father of Akrura.  Soon after their wedding, there was sufficient rainfall to bring Kashi back to its glory.  Due to this, people were under the impression that wherever Svaphalka or his son Akrura stayed, there would be no natural disasters.

To set things right, Krishna summoned Akrura from Kashi and asked him to show the Syamantaka Jewel in his possession to all.  When Akrura complied and showed the Syamantaka Jewel at the royal assembly, Krishna let him keep it, on the condition that it was to remain in the city of Dwaraka.  The people of Dwaraka were relieved to hear the truth and delighted about the jewel as well as Akrura’s return to Dwaraka.

The Indescribable You

By Swami Shrutananda Saraswati

The sages always start with the highest teaching: you are an individualized form of the formless Reality.  Hearing or reading about your own Divinity reminds you of something you already know.  It’s like with tuning forks.  Striking one gets the other to vibrate.  When your Divinity is named and described, deep inside you feel something resonating with the outer naming.

When this indescribable Reality — the unnameable Essence that is the “who” that you are — is named, you know.  This knowing is beyond words.  Yet the great sages do put it into words.  Their mystical words give you access to what they found inside: your own Divinity, the Self, your own Self.

Swami Nirmalananda translates the description of the Self by the sage Shankaracharya in the Vivekachudamani:

The Self is birthless and deathless.  It neither grows nor decays.  It is unchangeable, eternal. It does not dissolve when the body dissolves.  Any name or idea your mind has of it is limited.  It is much greater.

Each of these descriptions applies to your own Self:

“The Self is birthless.”  The Self was not born when this universe came into existence.  That One Primordial Reality decided to blossom forth the universe upon itself, within itself, as itself.  What raw material was there to form this universe?  Only the Self.  Thus, the Self was not born when this universe came into existence.  Today, moreover, physicists say the universe is expanding.  Expanding into what?  The yogis say the Self.

Your birth was not the beginning of your own existence.  You existed before you were formed in your mother’s womb.  You existed even before the universe came into being.  You, your own Self, is birthless.

“The Self is deathless.”  Things, relationships, cars, plants, even houses, come into being and then die.  Maybe the house you grew up in no longer exists.  There used to be mountains the size of the Himalayas in the middle of the US.  They are gone now, worn away by wind and rain.  Stars are born and die.  Galaxies come into existence and fade.  Even universes come and go.  According to the yogis, this universe is not the first that has come into existence.

Your mind cannot conceive of anything that is birthless and deathless.  Yet this is a description of your own Self — the One Ever-Existent Reality that underlies the foundation of your own being.  The Self, your own Self, was never born and will never die.

“It neither grows nor decays.”  Your body grows and decays.  This process started when you were born and will continue until you die.  Your mind complies with that.  We construct buildings and highways that grow into towns and cities.  Then they decay.  Whole civilizations have grown and declined.  Yet that One Reality neither grows nor decays.

This means that you, the Self, do not grow into your Self.  You are whole, full and complete as you are, though you have yet to discover your essence.  Your own Self will never decay, will never diminish.  You are unstainable, inviolable.

“It is unchangeable.”  It is very hard for our minds to understand that something can be unchangeable.  We see things change all the time.  From day to day our mind and emotions change, our bodies change, and our world changes.  Popular American author Louis L’Amour summed it up:  “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.”  Yet you, the Self, are unchangeable.

“It is eternal.”  Eternal does not mean a long time, for example, billions and trillions of years.  Eternal is ever-existent.  That One Reality has always existed, has never not existed and will continue to exist even when the universe no longer exists.  You, the Self, are that One Reality.  You, the Self, are eternal.

“It does not dissolve when the body dissolves.”  Your body comes into existence and then dissolves.  Yet you are deathless.  The Self does not stop existing when your body dissolves.  The “You” that is the Self is more than your body.  You are more than your mind.  You are more than your body and mind together.  “You” do not dissolve when your body dissolves.  You continue to exist.

I recommend that you take these descriptions of your own Self personally.  Read the statements below out loud:

“I am birthless and deathless.  I neither grow nor decay.  I am unchangeable, eternal.  I do not dissolve when my body dissolves.”

Slow yourself down and repeat these statements.  What happens?

Maybe now you have a greater idea of who you really are.  Yet “Any name or idea your mind has of it is limited — it is much greater.”  To go beyond the idea, the concept, and the theory to the knowing of your own Self, you must meditate.  The experiences you have in meditation on your own Self make your knowing possible.  The Self reveals the Self within you to you.

Your mind cannot see the Self, any more than an ant can see the top of a tree.  Your Self is greater than any idea your mind has of it.  Much greater.  When you find a Shaktipat Guru, and are given the enlivened mantra, your meditations will be deep and easy.  Each repetition of the mantra invokes Grace, which reveals your own Self to you.

Like the waves on the ocean, your mind is a superficial level of your own being.  To know your greatness, you must plunge deeper into the depths of your own being.  The function of a Shaktipat Guru is to support you in your inward exploration. A Shaktipat Guru is an agent of Grace, and my Guru — Satguru Swami Nirmalananda — is such a Guru.  Through the Grace of my Guru, I have come to know and to experience the ever-deepening, ever-timelessness and the ever-blissfulness of my own Divine Being.  This is the gift of the Guru — to reveal the indescribable You to You.