Category Archives: Mystical Living

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.

What’s the Point?

By Swami Prajñananda

Looking at all the suffering in the world, you may question, what is the point of all this?  Life can be so hard.  If you have had these thoughts, you are not alone; they are age-old.  While the world is in crisis right now, it is not the first time and it will not be the last.

You can see this in the Bhagavadgita, an ancient yogic scripture.  Arjuna, a warrior, is poised at the brink of a world war.  With his world on the verge of mass destruction, Arjuna is questioning his part in it.  Krishna, his charioteer and an incarnation of God, gives Arjuna yoga’s teachings.  Krishna explains to Arjuna that you experience both pain and pleasure.  Yet, these experiences come and go, they are not permanent.  In our current time, with a situation that feels like it can last forever, Krishna’s teachings are important to remember.

Yet beyond his teachings on impermanence, Krishna shares the priceless gem of knowledge with Arjuna, the purpose of a human life.  An eternal reality exists within us all, beyond the reach of pleasure and pain.  This eternal reality is your own Self.  It is not born and it does not die.  It does not age and it does not get sick.

Even when your body undergoes changes, your own Self is untouched.  Like an orange that falls from a tree, while the outside may get bruised, the nectar of the fruit is unaffected.  If that same orange was washed and the outside perfumed, the nectar inside would still be unchanged.  Similarly, your own Self is absolutely free from external influence, whether they are painful or pleasurable.

The heart of yoga’s teachings is that you are that eternal reality.  The problem is: you don’t know it yet.  You get caught in the idea that you are your body or that you are your mind.  It’s like dressing your dog up as a shark.  Even though the outer covering is a shark, your dog is still a dog.  It is the same for you, even though your outer covering is your body and mind, you are not your body nor your mind.  You are the one who has a body and who has a mind.  You are the Self.  To discover this truth for yourself, you must look inward.

Swami Muktananda explains:

“Inside, there is great divinity.  Just as a person absorbed in deep sleep doesn’t experience pleasure or pain, only great peace, so one who is absorbed in meditation does not experience the pleasures or pain of the outer world.  He experiences only the bliss of heaven.”

This is Muktananda’s promise to you, that you will experience the bliss of heaven no matter your external circumstances.  He tells you how you attain this: by becoming “absorbed in meditation.”  This means that you turn your attention inward.  Instead of focusing on the external world, you focus on your own divinity.  Yet, while your focus is inward, you still participate in the world.

Can you act in the world without getting caught up in its ups and downs?  If you had asked me this question before yoga, I would have said no, that it was not possible.  Now, not only do I know it is possible, I experience this inner steadiness.  This is your future, and even more.  Yoga’s promise is not only that you will experience inner steadiness, but you will abide in your own Divinity.  You are that eternal reality.  To live in this knowing, do more yoga.

Krishna Avatar – Part 11

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

King Bhishmaka of the Vidarbha kingdom had five sons and a daughter, Rukmini.  She was an incarnation of Lakshmi, who was very pretty from childhood and grew up to be a beautiful and graceful princess.  The kings and the princes used to visit Vidarbha to win her heart.  But her heart desired the one and only Krishna.

Rukmini was very impressed by the stories about Krishna she heard while growing up, especially from her grandfather and others who visited her.  She made a special place in her heart for Krishna, fell in love with him and vowed to marry none other than Krishna.  When she grew up a marriageable age, she refused to accept anyone else in all the worlds in marriage.  She had placed Krishna as her mate in her heart.

Rukmini’s parents also welcomed the idea of having Krishna as their son in law.  However, Rukmini’s eldest brother, Rukmi, did not approve of this union.  He was friends with other kings including Shishupala and Jarasandha who considered Krishna to be their archenemy.

Rukmi was an arrogant and ruthless prince.  He convinced, rather threatened, his father Bhishmaka, and arranged for Rukmini’s marriage to his dear friend Shishupala, the king of Chedi, a cousin of Krishna.  Bhishmaka knew Rukmi for who he was, thus agreed to this marriage with a heavy heart, both for the sake and safety of his people.  Bhishmaka knew Rukmi would overthrow him with no regrets and harm the people of Vidarbha with his selfish agenda.

Hurrying to get the marriage to happen, Rukmi directed the royal priest to find the earliest auspicious date for the marriage.  The date was fixed and Shishupala was formally invited to come with his royal entourage to Kaundinyapur, the capital city of Vidarbha, to marry Rukmini.

Who is Shishupala? Shishupala was born to Damaghosha, the King of Chedi and his wife Srutashrava.  Srutashrava was one of the sisters of Vasudeva, Krishna’s father.  Shishupala was born with three eyes and four arms.  His parents were horrified and scared.  They decided to cast him out but they were warned by a voice not to do so, as his time had not come.  The voice also said the child will be superior in strength and that his redundant body parts would disappear when a certain person took the child into his lap.  The voice warned that the very same person would also be the cause of his death.

Once Krishna and Balarama visited their aunt Srutashrava.  While playing, Krishna placed little Shishupala on his lap and the extra eye and arms disappeared.  Remembering the voice, she knew that Shishupala’s death would happen by Krishna’s hand.  She persuaded her nephew, Krishna, that he would pardon his cousin Shishupala for his first hundred offenses.

Shishupala had a cousin named Dantavakra.  The two of them were the third incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya wherein they had to be enemies of Lord Vishnu.  This was so they could get back to Vaikuntha to be the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu again.

At first Rukmini was horrified and devastated to hear the news that she was to be married to Shishupala, due to her brother’s arrangement.  She pleaded with her father and all of her brothers, but none could and would help her by speaking against Rukmi.

Her love for Krishna made Rukmini bold, breaking her natural tendencies of being a noble, well-natured princess.  She sent a confidential messenger, a Brahmin priest who she trusted very much, with a letter from her to Krishna.  The letter described the whole situation and revealed her love and affection to Krishna, as well as and how her brother Rukmi was forcing her to marry Shishupala, whom she detested.  She pleaded with Krishna to save her honor by abducting her in a rakshasa style marriage.  Otherwise, she threatened in the letter that she would take her own life.  She then waited, spending days and nights yearning and longing to be with Krishna.

The Brahmin priest reached the gates of Dwaraka soon and was presented in front of Krishna without any delays.  Krishna received the message.  Reading Rukmini’s heart-felt plea to rescue and marry her touched his heart.  He too fell in love with Rukmini.

Krishna immediately called upon his charioteer to get his chariot prepared for the journey.  He set out on the mission to rescue Rukmini, taking along the Brahmin priest.  As soon as they reached the outskirts of Kaundinyapur, he sent the Brahmin priest to Rukmini to deliver his reply.  In his reply, he assured that he would rescue her from her evil brother and his conspiring friends, even if he had to battle against the combined forces of those evil plotters.

Soon after Krishna’s departure, Balarama returned home from an errand.  Learning about Krishna’s mission to rescue Rukmini, Balarama was not happy about Krishna leaving without his knowledge.  Even more, he was not happy with hearing who Krishna was preparing to fight.  Sensing trouble, he gathered a huge army of Yadavas to aid Krishna and rushed to Kaundinyapur.  Balarama and the army reached Kaundinyapur at about the same time as Krishna did.

Even before their arrival, Shishupala had arrived along with his royal friends and their armies.  His friends included Jarasandha, Shalva, Paundraka, Dantavakra and Viduratha, among others.  Their armies made a huge combined strength.  They were welcomed in a grand procession by the Prince of Vidarbha, Rukmi.  The streets were decorated beautifully with flags and garlands.  The citizens of Vidarbha were all on the streets wearing their best dresses celebrating the day of their beloved princess’ wedding, even though they were not so happy about whom she was marrying.

Rukmini was desperately waiting through the night, as the next day would be perhaps the last day of her life.  She was looking out for the messenger to arrive while praying intensely.  Morning dawned with no sign of the Brahmin priest.  While she was praying, she experienced her left arm, eye and thigh throbbing, which was a sure sign of good fortune.  As this was happening, the Brahmin priest arrived with the great news from Krishna.  The assurance of Krishna came as a huge relief to Rukmini who hadn’t heard anything from Krishna until then.  She worried no more.

Later that morning, Rukmini went to worship the Divine Mother at the Goddess Gauri temple, where Krishna was to kidnap her as planned.  The temple was situated outside the town.  She was in a procession accompanied by her friends and maids, per the custom that the bride visits the temple on the day of her marriage ceremony.  Her mind was absorbed on the thought of meeting her beloved Krishna for the first time.  At times, she was questioning her own self, doubting herself to be worthy of, or thinking she was not good enough for Krishna.  Yet love conquers all.  Her heart was filled with joy and gratitude to Goddess Mother for this blessing.

The message about her being on her way to the temple was relayed to Krishna, who had signaled back, confirming his arrival at the temple to Rukmini.  He was waiting at the back of the temple with his chariot.

Rukmini followed the purification rituals of washing her hands, feet and sprinkled water in her head.  Observing the vow of silence, she entered the shrine and prayed to the Mother of all, surrendering herself and asking for blessings from the Goddess for her marriage to Krishna.  After worshiping, Rukmini emerged from the temple and lifted her veil.  There he was!  Her sight landed on Krishna, to whom she lost her heart forever.

Krishna was seated in his chariot, smiling tenderly at her.  Rukmini walked directly towards Krishna and allowed herself to be lifted and placed on the chariot.  Krishna gently seated her next to him, giving her the rightful place, the place for a wife, in full view of everyone watching, including Rukmi and the other kings.

Krishna then whipped up the horses and drove away the chariot.  The maids of Rukmini pretended to be in horror and freight, as they knew the plot and put on an act of being bewildered while being filled with joy inside.  Everything happened within a few seconds, with Rukmi and his friends being in shock and surprise.  They were beyond furious that Krishna and Rukmini had tricked them.

The abduction of Rukmini from right under their noses, like a lion lifting its prey from the midst of jackals, charged up Shishupala and his friends.  They rushed up to catch up with the fleeing Krishna.  Rukmi, his brothers and their soldiers also joined the chase.  Jarasandha, seeing Krishna alive and well, couldn’t be angrier.

All their efforts to catch the couple were stalled by mighty Balarama and his enormous Yadava army, who were waiting a small distance outside the town.  Balarama ordered his soldiers to cover and attack the enemy forces, giving time for Krishna to get away.  A fierce battle raged.  Yadava archers were fully prepared and rained huge stocks of arrows towards their opponents.

But the forces of Jarasandha and Shishupala had to counterattack without much preparation.  That cost them dearly; very soon they gave up.  They had already suffered heavy losses, so they ordered their soldiers to stop the battle and retreat.  The forces fled the battlefield to save their lives.

Rukmi did not like the idea of accepting defeat.  Ridiculing his friends, he went after Krishna alone.  Rukmi was in a deep revengeful mood, taking a vow not to return to the capitol without his sister.  He somehow managed to escape Balarama and caught up with Krishna’s chariot in no time.

Krishna did not want to fight with him.  But when Rukmi started insulting Rukmini with abusive words, Krishna had to pick up his bow and arrows.  In no time he brought down Rukmi’s chariot horses and charioteer.  Rukmi came crashing to the ground and got injured.

Krishna jumped down and got hold of Rukmi.  Seeing Krishna’s anger towards her brother made Rukmini interfere, begging for mercy on behalf of her brother.  Krishna was taken by his beloved Rukmini’s plea, so he cut patches of Rukmi’s hair, moustache and beard with his sword, disfiguring Rukmi’s appearance to teach him a lesson.  This was a great insult to a prince, worse than death.

Balarama caught up soon with them, but wasn’t too happy about Krishna’s decision to insult Rukmi, as Rukmi was now their own relative.  Krishna smiled at Balarama in an ironic manner, as he knew what was going to happen to Rukmi in the hands of Balarama in the future.  As Rukmi had taken the vow that he wouldn’t return to the capital if he failed to free his sister from Krishna, he went to a place called Bhojakata.  He lived there with vengeance, vowing to kill Krishna.

Krishna and Balarama retuned to Dwaraka with Rukmini.  Later, Krishna duly married Rukmini in a grand ceremony with proper custom and traditional rituals, with the blessings from both their parents.  The royal families of Kuru, Kekaya, Vidarbha, Kunti and Sarunchaya attended the wedding and blessed the couple.

Enlightenment is Contagious

By Swami Samvidaananda Saraswati

Contagion is the rapid spread of, unfortunately, a virus.  Or of fear.  Laughter is also contagious.  So is enlightenment.  That’s why I study and live with a yoga master — a Guru.  She is enlightened.  When I see her, learn from her and do the practices she teaches, I experience a taste of enlightenment.  Everyone around her does.

How is enlightenment contagious?  It’s similar to how moods are contagious.  Spend time with a gloomy friend, and your mood will start to sink.  Do you know someone who always looks on the bright side?  They’ll have you putting on rose-colored glasses.  Yet enlightenment is deeper than a transitory mood.  It’s a blissful state of living your Divinity.  Enlightened beings are saturated with bliss.  Such a person is called God-intoxicated.  They vibrate with bliss everywhere they are, whomever they are with, whatever they are doing. They’re like a tuning fork, emitting a pure tone of bliss.  When you’re with them, you begin to vibrate with bliss too.

It’s not only yoga masters who are God-intoxicated.  There are mystics and saints within every religious tradition, as well as outside of them.  They know they are Divine and live from the depths of their beingness.  I was raised Catholic, and I loved to read about saints.  Most of them lived so long ago, I had the idea that saints only existed in the past.  But enlightenment is available now.  It’s a human capacity so it is always possible.  Mystics and saints walk among us.

We call them holy.  They are whole; they do not feel needy, limited or incomplete.  They are not looking outside of themselves for something to make them feel good, or to make them feel fulfilled.  Filled from the inside with the Light of Divinity, they radiate that light.  It spills from them in the form of their words, their actions, their glances.  When you spend time with them, or read about them, or even think about them, your state shifts.  You experience your Inherent Divinity, which yoga calls the Self.  A yogic text from more than a thousand years ago describes this:

lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham  — Shiva Sutras, 1.18

Such a yogi, living in the bliss of Consciousness, is contagious.  Everyone who comes into contact with him experiences a taste of enlightenment, according to their readiness.
— translation by Swami Nirmalananda

My Guru is a modern-day mystic.  Gurudevi Nirmalananda is contagious with the bliss of Consciousness.  Everyone who sees her, hears her or even thinks about her experiences a taste of enlightenment.  And she offers more.  She is a Satguru, which means she can awaken your inner knowing of your Self within you.  The awakening is an initiation called Shaktipat.

Once you receive Shaktipat, you don’t have to settle for merely tasting enlightenment.  Enlightenment is assured.  In this tradition, the goal is called Self-Realization, because when you are enlightened you realize, “Oh, I’m the Self.”  It’s not a startling, “drum-roll please” kind of moment, because you have always been the Self.  You are never not Divine; you just don’t know it all the time.  At least not yet.

Shaktipat gives you the ability to know all the time.  Even though it gives you the ability, abiding in the bliss of your Self 24/7 is not instantaneous.  You have to do your part.  A process blossoms forth to clear the tensions and constrictions that block your radiance from shining forth all the time. Your most important practice to support the process is meditation.

When you do abide in the bliss of your Inherent Divinity, you will recognize everyone and everything as another form of that bliss.  You will bring your bliss with you everywhere you go.  Your bliss will uplift every loved one and every stranger. This can be your future.  Enlightenment is not reserved for a few. This is the purpose for which every human is born.  This is the purpose for which you were born:  to be the one who is contagious with bliss.

Reality is Multidimensional

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda

I’m a realist.  I carefully assess whatever I’m facing so that I understand what it really is.  Then I work with it the way it is.  There’s no point in trying to make water flow uphill.  When the government ordered us to shelter-in-place, I realized the Ashram’s day-to-day needs would change.  I revised our daily practice schedule while I looked for ways to support our extended yoga-family.  I watch the death toll mount daily.  I lead us in prayers and blessings for all affected by the pandemic.  And I embrace the day-to-day process while planning for the future, even though I recognize that we cannot predict what will happen.

I’m an idealist.  In my idea of a perfect world, everyone would be doing yoga and meditation.  They’d be healthier and happier than most are now.  The virus would have trouble getting a foothold in such an ideal world.  But because I’m a realist, I know they haven’t been taking care of themselves.  So I work hard to reach them, to help them through the crisis and to motivate them to want more for themselves.  I remind everyone, “Do more yoga,” an ideal worth striving for.

I’m a dreamer.  I visualize a world where everyone has clean water and enough to eat, access to medical care and education along with the respect they are entitled to as a human being.  Yet I know it all depends on people caring about others, which won’t happen unless their hearts grow bigger than their fears.  Every day, I work on making that happen.

I’m a mystic.  I see the Divine at work in our current crisis.  Even though things are hard, it’s a type of yogic austerity (tapas) that always pays off.  People are rearranging their priorities, asking life’s important questions and choosing new ways to spend their time.  How do you get the whole world to do this at the same time?  I see a Divine Hand pushing the reset button for everyone.

I’m a yogi.  I know how to maximize the benefits of simple things.  While we’re in an enforced time out, it’s an opportunity for a time of looking inward.  I’m building on-ramps to inner peace and the bliss of Consciousness through online courses and social media.  Now is the time to help people find what they’re missing — their own Self.

I’m a human being.  I recognize my dependency on the others that make necessities available.  I am grateful to all who are working so hard for our benefit.  My heart aches for those living in fear and hardship, along with those who are ill and those isolated by fear of illness.  I am grateful for being safe, warm and cared for, while I wish I could do more to help.

And the sun will come up again tomorrow.

Self-Care Outside and Inside

By Swami Sahajananda

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched the lives of all of us.  We are all faced with the reality of the rising number of cases of infection and death.  Deliberating about how to deal with this worldwide situation, you may be feeling at a loss.  Reading the news or talking to others, you may even feel hopeless.  With the dramatic shifts in numbers from day to day, you may wonder what you can do.  How can I affect this situation?  How can I take care of myself, both inside and outside, during this time?

Wash your hands!  This directive tops the list of information about protecting yourself from the COVID-19 virus.   Today, this one message is the most important for keeping safe and healthy.  Diligent, consistent hand washing is the best action to take for protecting yourself from the virus.  This is how you protect yourself on the outside.

The most important message about taking care of yourself on the inside comes from yoga.  Gurudevi Nirmalananda conveys it: do more japa and more meditation.  These practices turn you inward to find your own divine Self.  Being in your Self gives you strength and steadiness in how you live in the world, especially in these difficult, challenging times.

Both handwashing and japa require attention, dedication and perseverance.  This correlation came to me as I was washing my hands for the 10th or 20th time within an hour.  You must remember to wash your hands often.  Who knows where you may encounter the virus?  Then, to manage inner self-care, remember to repeat mantra.  Bring mantra back over and over again, over and over again.  Both handwashing and japa resonate with an ancient yogic teaching, the principle of abhyasa:

sa tu diirgha-kaala-nairantarya- satkaaraasevito d.r.dhabhuumi.h. — Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.14

Abhyasa (practice) becomes firmly grounded by being cultivated for a long time, without interruption and with devotion. — Rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Results are attained by consistent and dedicated practice.  Washing my hands has becomes a practice I do often and with dedication or perseverance.  I am engaging in abhyasa on a very practical level.  Remembering why I am doing it encourages me to continue.  There are no shortcuts to being diligent about hygiene and health in this time of a pandemic.

Keeping my hands off my face requires a heightened awareness of what I am doing.  Moment to moment, I must be more aware.  Being conscious of every detail of what I’m doing has become a consistent, dedicated practice.  I cannot drift.  Similarly, I must also dedicate myself to not losing awareness of my mind and thoughts.  If my mind wanders, then my actions become automatic and often unconscious.  Thus, I must not veer from the consistent, dedicated practice of being aware.  This consistent dedication to awareness is not only a lofty spiritual goal.  It is an essential preventative measure to keep my body safe and healthy.  In that way, it illuminates the interweaving of the spiritual and the mundane.

The applicability of yogic principles to how you live on the outside is clear.  In response to this worldwide crisis, what do you do with the emotions, feelings and spiritual angst that arise within?  News has always been good at fanning the fires of fear and panic.  Of course, you do want to be informed.  Can you do so without getting caught up or lost in your reactions to the news?

Yoga tells you to turn within and find the deeper dimension within.  Yoga urges you to experience your own beingness on the inside.  Yoga specializes in working with the mind.  Japa — mantra repetition — has been called scrubby bubbles for the mind.  Practice japa to wash your mind, just like you wash your hands!  Repeating mantra brings you inside, beyond the chatter of your mind.  Even if your mind is active, use mantra’s scrubby bubbles to clear it out.  Simply repeat the mantra along with your thoughts.  It will work.

Our Svaroopa® yoga mantra is enlivened.  Handed down to us through generations of meditation masters, this mantra vibrates with their blessings.  It takes you inward, to essence of your own being easily.  When you approach your life from the knowing of your own Divine Essence, everything changes.

For many now, the demands that usually keep you busy have lessened.  You can do things that you have wanted to do for a long time.  You did not have time for them before in your busy, hectic life.  You can catch up on your favorite TV shows, try out new recipes or take virtual museum tours.  Yet you may find yourself becoming bored after a week or two.  You may also find your mind has time to dwell on “negativities” and to get caught in old, familiar limiting thought patterns.  You may be watching too much news about the virus, and it sets you off into worry and fear.  When you have exhausted the ways of looking outside for distraction, you may find discontent and deeper emotions arising.  It is now time for a course correction, even before this happens.

This time of enforced staying at home is the perfect setup for inner exploration.  Now, you have an opportunity to be quiet, to settle and become still.  You can dive more deeply into the practices that bring you in touch with your own Self.  You have the golden opportunity to explore inward.

Yoga practices excel at inner exploration.  This time is a perfect time to learn how to meditate or to lengthen your meditation time.  This time is perfect to do more japa.  Incorporate it into your day more consistently.  Use your developing awareness of being more conscious on the outside to remember to take care or your inside.  Repeat mantra and meditate.

When you practice mantra, panic and worry take a back seat.  You may find that the thoughts and emotions are gone.  All that is left is mantra. The mantra settles you into your Self. You have a deep inner knowing that arises out of being seated within. You know your Self. You will still respond to situations that arise, but you will do so intelligently, from a settled place within.  You will be able to look at a situation and make decisions based on knowledge and wisdom.  You won’t being reacting to fear, loneliness or despair.  Instead, you will respond from a stable knowingness within your own being.

Take this time to dive deeper within to find that vast expanse of your own being.  It is right there within you; it is you, your own Divine Essence.  And it is so close.  Mantra and meditation will take you there.  You can set up an enhanced schedule for yourself so that these practices are a part of your life.  Practice abhyasa by doing your yoga practices consistently, with dedication and perseverance, just like washing your hands.  Make a commitment to yourself, so even when you don’t want to do more yoga, you do it!

This is a sacred time.  Use it to honor and serve yourself and the world around you.  You don’t have the distractions that have habitually pulled you outside of yourself.  You don’t have the excuses that have kept you focused on the outside.  Take the time now to turn within.  When you turn within you will find that which has always been there, your own Self. You can turn this crisis into a celebration of your inherent nature of being.  You can explore on the inside that who you truly are and have always been.  Do more yoga and wash your hands often!

Krishna Avatar Part 10

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Jarasandha was a very powerful king who expanded the Magadha kingdom.  Alliances with other kings made him become a mighty king of that area.  Both his daughters married Kamsa of Mathura, but they returned to him when Krishna killed Kamsa.  Jarasandha was very angry and decided to kill Krishna.

Jarasandha took his massive army to war with Krishna, arriving at the gates of Mathura.  Krishna debated whether to kill Jarasandha or to teach him a lesson by destroying his army.  While Krishna was contemplating, two beautiful chariots appeared from the skies, full of weapons and all that was needed for a battle.

Krishna and Balarama jumped in the chariots and went outside the city to battle with Jarasandha.  Using his mighty bow called Saranga, Krishna destroyed Jarasandha’s army in no time.  But he spared Jarasandha’s life.  When Balarama leaped like a lion to kill Jarasandha, Krishna calmed Balarama, saying that the time for Jarasandha’s end hadn’t yet come.  Jarasandha, his pride having been wounded, decided to give up his kingdom and become a renunciant in the forest.

He was consoled by other Kings not to take such a drastic decision.  They reminded him that victory and defeat should be treated equally and accepted by true heroes.  Many Kings who previously had alliances with Kamsa joined hands with Jarasandha.  Jarasandha, along with other Kings, attacked Mathura seventeen times, failing bitterly — each time worse than before.  Under the leadership of Krishna, the people of Mathura bravely repulsed each attack.

Unable to defeat Krishna, Jarasandha made an alliance with Kalayavana, a Yavana (Greek) king who had gotten a boon from Lord Brahma that he would be undefeated on any battlefield.  Kalayavana, being a fierce worrier, was seeking a fight with a worthy opponent and thought Krishna would be the best fit.

When Krishna heard about Jarasandha’s new alliance, he knew the combined armies would destroy Mathura.  Already, due to the many battles, the daily life of Mathura was disrupted.  Commerce and trade were ruined.  Krishna realized the kingdom had to face many dangers if they stayed there.

He summoned Vishvakarma, the divine architect, requesting him to build a city which would be hard for his enemies to reach.  For this reason, Vishvakarma decided to build this city in the middle of the sea.  Thus, he wanted some land from the sea, but if only Varuna, the Lord of the Sea) would allow.

Krishna called upon Varuna, who gracefully gave the land.  Vishvakarma built the magnificent Dvaraka, a city like none before.  It was a city so golden that it cast its radiance on the ocean for miles and miles around.  First the citizens of Mathura were moved safely to Dvaraka.  Then Krishna, together with Balarama, started strategizing the war with Kalayavana and Jarasandha.  They decided they needed a lustrous plan to kill Kalayavana, since it was not possible to kill him on the battlefield due to his boon.

Krishna decided to meet Kalayavana without any weapons or chariot.  When Krishna walked towards Kalayavana, without anything to protect himself, Kalayavana was surprised and puzzled all at the same time.  Kalayavana had heard so much about Krishna from Sage Narada, so what he was seeing matched everything he’d heard, but he was taken by Krishna’s actions.  According to the principles of war, Kalayavana decided to challenge Krishna for a duel without weapons, making things easy for the brothers.

Krishna strategically fled the battlefield and lured Kalayavana into a cave.  This cave is where Muchukunda, the great king of Ishvakhu Dynasty, was in deep sleep for thousands of years after helping devas in epic wars with the asuras for many many years.  The devas granted this undisturbed sleep as a boon to Muchukunda for his service to them.  Muchukunda had also requested Devas that anyone who would disturb his sleep would get burnt to ashes immediately.  After entering the cave, knowing this boon, Krishna covered Muchukunda with his shawl.  Then Krishna hid in the cave.

Chasing Krishna, determined to kill him, Kalayavana entered the cave and found someone sleeping there.  As Krishna’s shawl was covering the sleeper, Kalayavana assumed it was Krishna who made him chase all the way to the cave and now was pretending to be sleeping.  He got really mad at Krishna and kicked Muchukunda, assuming him to be Krishna, thus disturbing Muchukunda’s sleep.  Muchukunda woke up from his sleep and looked at Kalayavana, thus burning him to ashes.

Krishna appeared in front of Muchukunda, who was delighted to see Krishna there, who was none other than Lord Vishnu.  Krishna advised him to perform tapas in order to cleanse the accumulated sins and attain moksha (liberation).  After meeting the Lord, Muchukunda left the cave, going to Badrikashram to do penance to achieve liberation.

Krishna came out of the cave and wiped out Kalayavana’s mighty army.  Then Krishna and Balarama returned, finding Jarasandha besieging Mathura with all his might, fighting vigorously to fulfill his vengeance.  Krishna and Balarama decided to lure Jarasandha away by pretending to be afraid.  They ran away from the battlefield to climb a hill.  Seeing them flee, Jarasandha decided to finish them once and for all by setting fire to the hill.  Krishna and Balarama, with their yogic powers, jumped clear of the flames and escaped without Jarasandha’s knowledge.  Jarasandha returned home happily, bragging about how he got rid of the Yadava brothers.  Yet he would face Krishna and Balarama on another day in the future.

As the people worked in the rice fields near Dvaraka, one day two strangers approached, an elderly King-like figure and a young woman.  Their approach caused complete chaos.  Why the chaos?  These strangers were giants.  Talking among themselves, they were saying that everything they were seeing had changed, that the people have become very small.  The young woman asked the King-like person, “Father, is this our capital?”  He answered, “I don’t know, Revati, let’s ask those tiny men.”

The people were shouting “Giants! Run, run, run!”  The giant man politely said, “Wait, don’t run away!  We won’t hurt you.  We are friends.”  But the people were running away in all directions.  The running didn’t help; the giant man caught a couple of them and said, “We are friends.  Is this Kusasthali?”

The men were trembling in fear of being eaten alive.  One of them in a shivering voice said “K-K-Kusasthali? N-N-No, this is D-D-Dvaraka.  This is King Ugrasena’s k-k-kingdom and Krishna is our crown prince.”  The giant man replied, “My name is Raivata.  Some people even call me Kakudmi.  I am the ruler of Kusasthali.”  The men were clueless but offered to show the way to the castle in Dvaraka and take them to the king.  Raivata and his daughter Revati arrived at the castle gates.

Now the chaos moved into the city, all the way to the castle gates.  King Raivata requested the guards to ask King Ugrasena to see him.  Though King Ugrasena had not heard of a King Raivata, he ordered his guards to lead the two strangers in.  Even the elder ministers of Dvaraka didn’t know the name Raivata, except for one of them.  He had read about a King Raivata who lived thousands of years, perhaps some yugas before.  All of them were even more puzzled than before.

Though King Ugrasena was confused, as a benevolent king, he welcomed the giant visitors, offering them special giant-sized seats.  Krishna and Balarama were also present in the royal court.  Balarama was mesmerized by the beauty of Revati.  Krishna noticed it and was enjoying his elder brother’s infatuation in his usual mischievous way.

King Raivata, sensing the confusion in the court, started telling his story.  “I am Raivata, also known as Kakudmi.  I am a great grandson of Manu.  I think I reigned over this land centuries ago.  My kingdom was known as Anarta, with my capital Kusasthali situated where your city, Dvaraka, stands today.  This is my daughter Revati, who is lovely, talented and virtuous.  I wanted to find a good husband for my daughter but was unable to find anyone in all of the earth suitable for her.  So, I decided to take her to Satyaloka, to see Lord Brahma and seek his advice.

“For her sake, I left my kingdom and set off to Satyaloka with her.  When we reached Satyaloka, Brahma was listening to a musical presentation of the Gandharvas, the musicians of the devas.  Not wanting to disturb him, we waited until the program was over.  When the program ended, I did my pranams to Lord Brahma, told my story and asked my question.  I requested him to suggest a suitable groom for Revati.

“He asked me if I knew how much time had elapsed on earth while I waited for the musical performance to finish.  Brahma said all the people I knew, including my friends, ministers, servants, wives, kinsmen, armies and treasures had now vanished.  Only then did I realize my mistake in waiting for so long.  As you know, a minute in Satyaloka is a number of years on earth.  I don’t know how many years or yugas have passed.  I didn’t know if anyone who is alive at this point might marry my daughter.

“Then Brahma asked me to go back to my own kingdom, where I would find a wielder of the plough, who would be more than worthy of marrying my daughter.  So, I have come to my kingdom, or which was once my kingdom to find the wielder of the plough,” Raivata said.

King Ugrasena, said that they knew who the wielder of the plough was.  Obviously, everyone knew who the wielder of the plough was, everyone except the wielder of the plough himself.  Balarama was still mesmerized, staring at Revati.  King Ugrasena, shouted, “Well, Balarama, what do you say?”

Coming out of his dreamland, Balarama was clueless as to what had happened.  Krishna had to pull him aside and tell him what transpired.  Balarama now knew why Krishna had such a mischievous look on his face.  Balarama was so happy, his face saying it all.  He said, “Yes, I will marry Revati.”

Both Balarama and Revati were blushing.  Balarama then said, “The height is a bit of a problem.”  He then instructed Revati to touch his ploughshare with her toe.  What a miracle: as soon as Revati touched the ploughshare with her toe, she grew shorter and shorter until she shrunk to Balarama’s size.

Raivata, delighted that he had found the right match for his daughter, shouted “Perfect!  This match is perfect!”  Later, amidst great rejoicing, on an auspicious day, Balarama and Revati were united in marriage.  Revati and Balarama had two sons, Nisatha and Ulmuka, and a daughter named Vatsala, who is also known as Sasirekha.

More to come…

Mystical Yoga, Mystical Spine

By Swami Satrupananda

Svaroopa® yoga is a mystical yoga.  What is mystical?  Mysticism is the science of attaining union with the Divine.  Yes, that’s what I want!  And that is what Svaroopa® yoga is about – experiencing and being your own Divinity.  Though the dictionary describes mysticism as “union” with the Divine, yoga mystics do not call it union.  Union implies there are two that become one. Instead, yoga says that you “realize” your own Divinity. You don’t become Divine; you realize you already are Divine.  You just don’t know it – yet.

All Svaroopa® yoga practices are for the purpose of revealing your own Divinity to you.  It’s right there in the name.  Sva means true or divine.  Roopa means form. Svaroopa means your true form, your Divine form.  Your true form is the one Divine Reality that is being you, the One that has become everyone and everything.

To become the universe and everything in it, the One first became energy, simply by moving.  The One in movement is energy, which yoga calls “shakti.” Shakti then contracts into matter to become you, your body and this physical world.  The scientists agree. Einstein described this relationship between energy and mass in his famous equation E=mc2.  Shakti contracts to be your mind, your senses and much more as well. Yoga’s ancient mystics mapped 36 levels of contraction that the One takes on in order to become everyone and everything in the universe.

These energies move in particular patterns.  They interact with each other in certain ways as they contract into matter.  In the human body, we see the physical manifestation of these energy currents represented in your body’s nervous system.  Your spinal cord is at your body’s core with your brain as the mushroom cap on top.  Everything branches out from this core.

A similar system exists in the subtler energetic realm.  The sages mapped the energy channels, naming the different channels and energies that flow through them.  The medical system of acupuncture got their map from yoga’s sages, with it being based on the same energy channels.

Your spinal cord is the center of your nervous system.  And at the same location in your body’s core, on a more subtle level, runs a central energy channel called “sushumna.”  Your spinal cord and sushumna are your main conduits of energy.  Your spinal cord is the main conduit that collects and disseminates signals within your nervous system.  The sushumna is the main conduit of energy of your mind and your spiritual meditative energy.

Kshemaraja, a yogic sage from 10th Century Kashmir, emphasized the importance of the central channel:

madhya vikaasaach chidaananda laabhah. — Pratyabhijnhrdayam, Sutra 17

You attain the bliss of Consciousness through the opening of the central channel. —Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

Kshemaraja is saying you attain the bliss of the One Divine Reality through the opening of the central channel, your spine.  Thus Svaroopa® yoga poses focus on decompressing your spine.  When you release the tensions in your spinal muscles, you make room physically and energetically.  When not pinched or kinked, your spinal cord and nervous system can function better.  This improved functioning has a ripple effect throughout the rest of your body.  This core opening simultaneously impacts the flow of energy that sources your mind and emotions.  Your energetic core is honored as the heart of your being.  As you open your spine, you open your mind, heart and emotions, plus your own Divinity is revealed, as it is found particularly within your spine.

Recently I caught my mind in the process of repeating the same thought patterns again and again.  As observed this pattern, I asked myself, “Where is this coming from?”  My spine! I could feel that the energy sourcing my mind was running through my spine but running into a kink in the path.  This kink spun my mind into a repetitive thought pattern.  That’s really nothing new.  The difference was that I noticed it.

Then I applied my mind to mantra repetition.  A few hours later, I realized that my mind had not brought up that mental pattern again.  By repeating mantra, I had unkinked the energy channel enough for the energy of my mind to flow through unobstructed.  I had a tangible experience of the effects of opening the central channel.  With a calm mind, I was sitting deeper within my own Divinity.

We’re back to mysticism – realizing and being your own Divinity.  The opening of your mystical spine gives you mystical experiences of the bliss of your own Divinity.  Do more mystical yoga.

Cultivate Your Yearning

By Swami Prajñananda

You have always wanted more. More than your parents could give you. More than your school could give you. More than any partner could give you. And more than life could give you.  This desire for more is cultivated in our society: more cars, more money, more gadgets, MORE things. We have a thirst. Society tries to quench it with a mirage of water in the desert. But our thirst will never be quenched by anything on the outside. Of course, you can try. I certainly did.

Even from a young age, I felt like there was something missing. I felt an emptiness inside. I did everything I could to distract myself from it. While I really did try, none of what I did was enough. That is, until I found yoga and meditation. This is the story for most yogis in the West; we tend to have tried the whole gamut before discovering the “More” in yoga.

This desire for more comes from an inner feeling that you are not enough. It makes sense that you try to fill it. Why would you want to continue feeling that painful emptiness? You have a yearning to feel good enough, to feel complete, to know your purpose. While most people feeling this yearning turn outside for the answer, yoga tells you to turn within.

While society cultivates your desire, yoga cultivates your yearning. This yearning is to be cultivated and nurtured. It keeps you going to discover the inner realms of your being. It’s the fuel that propels you to becoming established in the knowing of your Self. You need to look inward for this to happen.

When you look outward, you feel incomplete because you are identifying with things that ARE incomplete. You are identifying with your body, and is anyone’s body perfect? You are identifying with your mind. Please show me someone with a perfect mind! In this way, you are setting yourself up to feel small and imperfect.

Instead of identifying with parts of the whole, yoga gives you practices for going deeper — deeper than your body and deeper than your mind. Svaroopa® yoga and meditation give you the experience of the whole of your Self. And every time you experience your own Divine Essence, you satisfy that deep yearning. At the same time, you add fuel to your inner fire to repeat that experience.

Yoga has a name for this yearning: Bhairava. This name describes God when God is pushing you to discover God. Bhairava IS the yearning. Bhairava is the fuel for your quest. Bhairava is the one that pushes you to keep looking for the “More.” And Bhairava is the one that sets you free. As a yogi, you have a true friend in Bhairava, because he will not let you settle for any less than God.

This process can be painful. While Bhairava is trying to free you from your limitations, you hold on to them. It’s like tug of war, with Bhairava pulling on one end and you on the other. And while you can say no to God, God will not say no to you. Bhairava will continue to try to free you from your sense of being incomplete.

The Shiva Sutras explains:

Udyamo bhairava.h  — Shiva Sutras 1.5

The arising of transcendental consciousness from within shatters your unknowingness and sets you free. — Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

Bhairava is the force arising within you in the form of yearning and in the form of freedom. The yearning is what compels you to take a yoga or meditation class. You may have started a yoga class for physical, mental or emotional healing, which you get, especially with continued practice. However, it’s the yearning that keeps you coming back. Before you can put words to it, you know that you are receiving getting that “More” you have always been looking for.

What you want is the arising of transcendental Consciousness within.  This arising shatters your unknowingness, because once you know, you can never not know. What is your unknowingness? It is the not-knowing of your inherent Divinity.  It is your identification with anything other than your Self. It is the feeling of being empty, alone and not good enough. Bhairava shatters your unknowingness and opens you up to the freedom of your own being. This is the reason that you have always been dissatisfied with anything less than total inner freedom.

You experience this inner arising at times other than yoga or meditation, like when you watch a sunset or experience an “aha” moment. This inner arising is the specialty of this tradition, always available to you. The Svaroopa® Sciences, originated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda, bring the age-old tradition into our modern age. Reliable and consistent, these practices always open you up to the inner arising. You experience the freedom of your own Self and the blissful knowing of your own being.

This happens because of the generations of Masters in this tradition. Their teachings and blessings give us direct access to the inner arising. While Bhairava is the force that frees you, the Shaktipat Guru gives you reliable, consistent access to that force. Then it is up to you to continue to cultivate your yearning. This way, you don’t settle for merely feeling better, you continue to cultivate your yearning for the “More.” You do the practices that give you that inner freedom until you can live in that state. As Gurudevi says, “Do more yoga.”

Follow Every Rainbow

By Swami Samvidaananda

Climb every mountain, ford every stream. Follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream

– Rodgers & Hammerstein, 1959

As a five-year old, I was so inspired by the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound of Music.  Every time I heard it, for years and years, I knew was going to do it: search high and low to find my dream!  It was out there, I was sure, somewhere.  I was confident college would help me find it.  When that didn’t work, I thought for sure I’d find it by moving to California.  I lived in a paradise of palm trees, ocean waves and tropical flowers.  I literally climbed mountains and forded streams.  I was happy, but only sometimes.  I was blissful, occasionally.  But it simply wasn’t enough.  I felt empty most of the time.  Worse, I didn’t know why.

Then I found the answer in yoga.  I had been trying to find meaning and happiness by looking outside.  The yogic sages explain the path is one of inner exploration and discovery.  The outer things — whether career or where you live or a relationship — are unreliable sources.  A fellow yogi shared that raising her son gave her the most joy she’d ever had.  And then, she said, “He grew up.”  Children grow up, relationships end, careers change.

When you turn your attention inside with yoga, especially with meditation, you discover a reliable and inexhaustible fountain of joy.  You don’t merely experience the joy, you discover you are the source of the joy, the source of happiness, the Divine Source of everything that exists:

chidaananda-roopah shivo’ham shivo’ham. – Adi Shankaracharya, 788-820 CE

My true form is the bliss of consciousness; I am Shiva. I am Shiva. – Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

You are Shiva, the One Divine Reality, the Source of all while being beyond all.  In the same way physicists describe this universe as made of energy, yogis describe this universe as made of Divine Energy.  That Divinity is Shiva, which is being all, thus being you.  You don’t have to earn. attain or grow into your Shiva-ness.  Divinity is intrinsic to who you are, like sunlight is bright and sand is gritty.  You can’t take the light or heat out of the sunlight, and you can’t take the grittiness out of the sand.  You can’t take the Divinity out of you.

So how come you don’t know you are Shiva?  Your inner knowing is hidden from you.  Shiva hid it.  Technically, Shiva hid Shiva’s own Shiva-ness from Shiva in order to experience being not-Shiva, thus being you.  Shiva becomes the individual, who feels small, separate and alone.  Yet your Divinity is not completely obscured.  It’s like it’s hidden behind a curtain that’s not completely opaque; you can see through it sometimes.  You have moments when you know there’s more, moments you know you are more.  Those moments are so blissful that you want to experience them more of the time.  How about all the time?

Yoga promises that you will know the “More” that you already are, and you will live in that Self-knowingness all the time.  While Shiva created your not-knowing, Shiva also created a way for you to know again.  Knowing who you are is the purpose of human life.  What is concealed can be revealed.

Many paths aim to these heights. Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation is one of them: revealing your Divinity to you is the specialty of this tradition.  The process is through an inner awakening, an initiation called Shaktipat.  When your inherent Divinity is revealed to you inside, then, when you open your eyes, you can see that same Divinity in everyone and everything that exists.  Everything is Divine, because Divinity is what everything is made of.

Once you know your own Divinity, where will you go?  Anywhere you choose.  What will you do?  Anything you choose.  This is not about you leaving the world.  There’s no need to end up facing a wall in a cave in the high Himalayas.  You can do what you do, with the people you do it with, where you are now.  This path does not negate the choices you’ve made.  It embraces them.  The difference is that you will bring the whole of yourself to everything you do.  You’ll act from fullness, not emptiness and need.  You’ll shine the Light of Consciousness into your relationships, your home, your job and other activities.  You get to sculpt your life in whatever way you choose.  So climb mountains, if you want to.  Ford streams.  Follow rainbows.  Find your dream.  And, to know your own Divinity, get Shaktipat.  It opens the door to your own Self.