By Swami Prajñananda
When I was a little girl, my dad would put me up on his shoulders. I loved to be lifted up in the air. At the fair one summer, he boosted me up in the night sky. I soared above the crowds. I wanted to stay there forever in timeless suspension. But what goes up must come down. And so I did.
As I grew, I got too big to be boosted up. So, I tried to boost myself up. Oh, how I wanted to soar. And sometimes I did. Yet, it seemed that gravity would always have its way as I came back down to “reality” every time.
My world changed though when I found my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda. I got boosted in a whole new way. This time the boost was an inner boost. I discovered that the heights I’d looked for on the outside were just as vast on the inside. In fact, I realized that I had always sought the inner expanse.
It’s like when you climb a mountain. You get to the top and look out at the view. You see the vastness on the outside, which then triggers the feeling of the vastness within. When I received the inner boost, I was given a superpower. I no longer needed to climb a mountain to access the vastness inside. How does the Guru do this? Gurudevi’s Guru, Swami Muktananda, describes this boost:
“Make friends with him who lifts you up to his own height, who releases you from the snare of name and form, and makes you as free as himself. “-Swami Muktananda, Mukteshwari, p. 181
A true Guru lifts you up to his or her own height. This height describes not how tall they are but rather their spiritual greatness. The Masters in this lineage are spiritual giants. They are completely free within. And they have the ability to free those who come to them.
What are they freeing you from? Muktananda says it is from “the snare of name and form.” Does that mean you won’t have a name? And you won’t have a body? No. It means while you still have a name and body, you are not limited by them.
The way that you interact with the world is through name and form. You have names for everything you see. And if you don’t have a name for it, you can simply look it up on the Internet. Your mind categorizes everything by giving it a name. This is quite necessary so that you can participate in the world. Yet your mind uses names to limit you.
On a more neutral level, your mind gives you names to define who you are. For example, you are a daughter or a son, a mother or a father, a teacher or student, a gardener, a baker, an athlete, a reader. These words name the things that you do and the relationships that you have. Yet, you are more than any of those names can describe.
In a more harmful way, your mind names your doubts and fears: I am not smart enough; I am not pretty or handsome enough; I am not charming enough; I am not good enough. Your mind can name all the things that make you feel small. Yet you are not small at all. The names are small, but you are more than the names. You are the vastness that you discover inside. You are that vastness and even more.
But what about form? Muktananda tells you to make friends with one who releases you from the snare of name and form. You don’t let go of form; rather, you let go of the snare of form. How does form snare you? Through the belief that you are your body. Yes, you have a body and how magnificent it is. As a human being you can do so much with your body. And it can be a trap. When you think that you are your body, you are then limited by what your body can do. And you know what? Your body can only do so much.
And then, there is your focus on the other forms of the world. You compare them to yourself. You question whether you measure up. You think that you want them, or you want to avoid them. In this way, you get completely lost in form.
A true Guru releases you from the snare of both name and form. Gurudevi guides you in finding the more that you are. A true Guru lifts you up to her own height by giving you inner freedom. This freedom is the freedom she found within herself. This freedom is the freedom her Guru gave her. This freedom is your own freedom. All you need to do is discover it, inside. How? By making friends with the Guru. You make friends with the Guru by doing the practices she gives you. Ah, that means you must do more yoga!