You are pure, whole, complete, divine. You always have been. You already are.
When I first heard this teaching, I was delighted, amazed and … dubious. It rang a bell somewhere deep inside. But that contrasted with much of the time when I felt alone, empty and incomplete. So I wondered how the teaching could be true? But, inside I knew it was true. Better, I know that you can know, too.
An ancient yogic text gives the promise of your Divinity:
This is chapter one, verse one: the first and highest teaching. Your own Self is Consciousness. Consciousness is the One Ever-Existent Reality, the Divine Source and substance of everything that exists. It is who you are. You are the One, Divine Reality, who is embodied as you. When you know your inherent Divinity, you know that everything and everyone else is that same Divinity.
You get glimmers of your inner light when you do what gives you joy. You are radiant when you’re in love. You glow when you give with generosity. Others see it, but more importantly, you feel it. It’s the light of your Divinity.
You get glimpses of another’s Divinity when you look in a baby’s eyes or the eyes of a beloved. Perhaps you seek out glorious sunsets, majestic mountain vistas or walks in the quiet cathedral of a forest. The glory and majesty of nature reveals its Divinity, and triggers within you an experience of the Divine. It all happens inside.
But you don’t know your own Divinity enough of the time. The sun is gone. Sometimes weather doesn’t allow for climbing mountains. The quiet of the forest is ruined by someone on their cell phone. You have joy but you also have sorrow. Sometimes you feel whole but sometimes you feel incomplete. Most of the time, probably, you feel incomplete.
So is there a way to know your Divinity all the time? Yes.
You can always know that your own Self is Consciousness-Itself. It doesn’t come from learning the sutras, though the sutras do tell you how to attain that knowing. There are those beings who know their Divinity all the time. They live their Divinity all the time. And they have the ability to awaken that knowing in you. That awakening is called Shaktipat, so they are called Shaktipat Gurus.
My spiritual teacher is such a Guru. Her name is Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. When she gave me Shaktipat, my world changed. It was like I had been living in a dark room with blackout curtains, but I didn’t know there were blackout curtains over the windows. I simply thought it was nighttime all the time. Shaktipat opened the curtains to show me daylight.
Once you know, you can’t not know. I can pull the curtains over the window again, but I know the sun is shining outside. So if I make my world dark again, it’s my choice. Sometimes I make that choice again, from habit or old persistent patterns. But more often, I make the choices that support the light. Mainly, I meditate. It’s called Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation. And every time I do it, the light shines brighter because I’m blocking it less. I can’t even close those curtains anymore the way I used to be able to.
Here’s where the metaphor breaks down. Because you find the light inside. It’s the light of your inherent Divinity, of your own Self. You are pure, whole, complete, divine. You always have been. You already are. I don’t doubt this anymore. Though I don’t know it all the time yet, I know that one day I will. And you can too. If you want her to, Gurudevi will give you the awakening called Shaktipat. Then the curtains will open, and the light of your Divinity will be revealed. Do you want to know?
A new year, a new virus variant, a new opportunity to choose what direction you are going. Life is full of promise as well as challenges. Can you move into it with intelligence, applying needed caution, yet with enthusiasm? Enthusiasm comes from the Greek, en-theos, meaning “filled with God.” Once you find the Divine dimension within yourself, everything you do is inspired and inspirational.
It is my enthusiasm that keeps me teaching in these challenging times. For me, it is a sacred offering to all who want more out of life. Intelligence is how my mind uses the light of Consciousness so I can help you see inward. And caution demands I wear a mask when teaching in-person. I’ve gotten so used to it that I often forget to remove it.
Intelligence, caution and enthusiasm — weave them together in the brand-new year that is laying at your feet. Step onto the path and head in the direction you want to go. I say, “Head for the light!” You will find the brightest light shining from its inner source, your own Self.
Yoga specializes in giving you access to the Divine dimension of your own being. You taste it in doing Svaroopa®yoga poses. The physical benefits they provide are tangible, though superficial. The deeper effects are found in the inner stillness and peace the poses give you. Direct access is found by turning to explore inward. Dive deep by using my Baba’s sophisticated meditative methodology.
When you live from the inner depths, you soar into the skies like a bird surfing the air currents that carry you higher and higher. Shining with light, you are also lightweight. Yoga gives you an abiding tranquility and profound inner clarity. They make you able to fly high with an unerring sense of direction, even piercing through the clouds in your mind. You know what to do and where to go because the answers arise from within.
How do you access this inner stream of clarity? You have to look for it. Look into where it comes from. All your answers lie within. Your mind is the microscope by which you see into the secret inner realms. Like a microscope lens, it must be clean and clear to see what’s in there. You simply have to quiet your mind in order to see clearly.
— Yoga Sutras 1.2
Yoga is the quieting of your mind’s activities.
The sage Patanjali defines yoga as the quieting of your mind. You don’t wait for your mind to calm down; you intervene. Use yoga’s tricks to steer your mind in the direction you want it to go, into peace and clarity. Head for the light within. The best trick of all? Mantra, of course.
Based in Self, your own inner resources are more powerful than a nuclear generating plant. They empower you to choose what to do with this coming year. It glistens ahead of you, a golden opportunity. A luminous moment that you can stretch into infinity. I would love to show you how.
In Panchala, Dhrishtadyumna requested the suitors come forward for the trials to begin. Kings and princes came forward, eager to display their skills. But they soon failed and sat with their heads hung low out of shame. All eyes turned to Karna as he stood, preparing himself for the challenge. But before he even picked up the bow, a few princes objected to his participation, as he was the son of a charioteer. Hearing this, Draupadi herself refused to marry Karna, even if he were to be successful in performing the heroic act.
Karna was yet again insulted in public. With a broken heart, filled with extreme hatred, he withdrew from the competition and walked out of the venue. Even Duryodhana didn’t try stopping him. After he left, many other kings and princes tried but they all miserably failed.
Drupada and his son Dhrishtadyumna were getting worried, seeing princes known for their skill at archery failing to fulfill the condition of the svayamvara, bridal contest. The challenge now seemed almost impossible to be performed by anyone. Drupada, whose dream was to get Arjuna married to his daughter, was already greatly disappointed, thinking that the Pandavas perished in the house fire in Varanavata. At this point, it was haunting him more than ever.
At the same time, with no one able to win the challenge, the audience began to talk about Arjuna and his valor. They were saying that, if only Arjuna was alive, he would have done it in no time. Hearing this boosted Arjuna’s interest in participating in the challenge. Meantime, Krishna alone recognized Arjuna. By looking straight into his eyes all the way from the podium, Krishna gave him encouragement with a beautiful smile spreading across his face. This made Arjuna make his move. Arjuna slowly got up from his seat and advanced towards the podium. The brahmins were in shock. Some of them, agitated by his stepping forward, started shouting at him, saying he would bring disgrace to the brahmins by failing badly. But some welcomed his courage and appreciated his boldness. The elders prayed and blessed him to succeed. Due to his disguise, no one recognized that he was really Arjuna, the prince.
In his disguise as a brahmin, Arjuna requested Dhrishtadyumna’s permission to participate in the contest. After consulting with his father, Drupada, and with Krishna, Dhrishtadyumna agreed. Arjuna first honored his guru within himself, bowed to everyone in the arena.
Then, giving due respect to the bow, in no time Arjuna picked it up and strung it. To everyone’s astonishment, he shot the arrow, piercing the eye of the fish successfully. The entire arena erupted with loud applause, especially from all the brahmins. They were thrilled with what they witnessed. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Their happiness was boundless.
Drupada, his son and daughter were pleased to see the brahmin’s success. Not only were they pleased, they were also relieved that the contest ended with an outcome. Only a few minutes earlier, they were worried that no one would pass the test that was set. The defeated princes were not at all happy about the outcome. They started complaining about giving permission to a brahmin to participate in a royal event.
Ignoring all the commotion among the kings and princes, Draupadi walked gracefully up to the brahmin and put the bridal garland around his neck. Her face bloomed like a lotus, meeting her future husband for the first time. Immediately, Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva went to the potter’s house to inform Kunti of the events that had taken place. Bhima decided to stay with Arjuna in case there was an attack from the unsuccessful suitors.
As expected, the happenings made some of the royal guests jealous and angry. They felt they had been humiliated and insulted by King Drupada and his son, by their marrying princess Draupadi off to a mere brahmin. They couldn’t tolerate the insult brought upon them, so they wanted to teach a lesson. They picked up their weapons and were ready for a fight.
Arjuna picked up his bow and arrows, ready to defend Draupadi and her family. The brahmins also rose in support of Arjuna, thinking that they were supporting another brahmin. Arjuna assured them that he could single-handedly manage the fight. Many kings and princes fell under the rain of arrows flashing from Arjuna’s bow. Some of them got so frightened that they ran away. Duryodhana brought Karna back into the hall so he could participate in the fight. Even though Karna was reluctant to fight a brahmin, Duryodhana instigated him to fight. But Karna also couldn’t stand up to the fiery Arjuna. He applauded the brahmin for his brilliant skill in archery.
Soon enough, Bhima thought it was time for him to join his brother in the fight. He went outside the hall and uprooted a huge tree. Using it as his weapon, he attacked the enemies. Krishna and Balarama tried their best to bring peace to the situation by calming the angry mob. Arjuna, together with his brother Bhima, were able to defeat their opponents.
After the fight was over, getting permission from Drupada, Krishna and Dhrishtadyumna, Arjuna took Draupadi with him to his mother, Kunti. Draupadi’s brother Dhrishtadyumna followed them, secretly wanting to know more about the brahmin who was marrying his sister.
Though Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva had left early to go to their mother, they we delayed by the crowd in the city. By the time they reached the potter’s home, Bhima, Arjuna and Draupadi were arriving at the same time. They found Kunti busy in her prayers. One of the brothers shouted excitedly at Kunti, saying, “Look, mother! See what Arjuna has brought home today!” Kunti had her back towards them. Without looking at them she said, “Whatever Arjuna brought, divide it equally among all the five of you as always.” This was said without her knowing that Arjuna had won Draupadi’s hand in the swayamvara and brought her with him to the hut. She only thought of the alms they brought every day.
The brothers were dumbstruck by their mother’s command. Draupadi was jolted by this command and stood still, like a stone. This silence made Kunti turn towards them. She too was shocked, seeing the beautiful princess Draupadi standing at the entrance with Arjuna. She felt embarrassed about what she had said. She somehow put herself back together and said that she misunderstood, thinking that they were talking about the alms they brought in.
That was the one and only reason she said what she said. However, her words are a command to her children. Knowing this, she was regretting what she had said. This command would make Draupadi to commit a social sin. That made her even more worried.
They were all looking for a way out of this cursed situation but couldn’t find any good solution. Talking among themselves, the brothers said that Arjuna should marry Draupadi, while the rest of them would go to the forest and renounce worldly life. Arjuna was arguing against it, saying that Yudhishthira, as the eldest, should marry to Draupadi while the other four would go to the forest. The argument went on for a long time. Kunti was heartbroken that she had ruined her children’s lives.
Looking at the whole thing revealed in front of her, at last Draupadi realized it was a wish she had made in her past life that brought this upon her in this life. She consoled Kunti and agreed to marry all five of them and to be their wife. Her brother, Dhrishtadyumna, following them secretly, witnessed all this. First and foremost, he was shocked to find out the brothers were none other than the Pandavas, and that the divine looking lady was Kunti herself. At first he was extremely happy that his sister had found Arjuna as her husband. But soon, when he heard the conversation about all of them sharing Draupadi as their wife, he was furious.
He rushed to the palace to disclose the pleasant news as well as the unpleasant twisted side of the reality. Drupada couldn’t believe his ears. He was so delighted to hear that his wish had come true, that Draupadi was won by the great archer, the royal prince of Hastinapura, Arjuna. But then he too was shocked and repulsed by hearing about his daughter marrying all five brothers. He was furious about the injustice brought upon his daughter by the Pandavas. A ritual of one woman marrying five men, that was never heard of. It was so against rightness. Drupada was disgusted by this news. All his happiness about Draupadi marrying Arjuna vanished.
At this pivotal time, the sage Vyasa arrived at the palace. Drupada asked Vyasa’s advice on this unthinkable crisis.
Vyasa revealed the boon Draupadi received from Lord Shiva before she was brought to the earth. Drupada was calmed down. Then he ordered stately arrangements to be made for the royal reception of the Pandavas and their mother Kunti.
I grew up in the Harry Potter generation. My generation was in grade school when the first book came out in 1998. We would read the book in wonder and then wait in anticipation for the next book to come out. This was almost yearly until the publication of the final book in 2007.
Our family had a specific order for reading the newest book. I would get it first and read it in a day, maybe two. My mom would then read it to my brother. And finally my dad read it last. I remember inhaling the books like they were food. Diving into the world of magic — wands, spells, talking paintings — I was entranced. Looking back, I see I had a hunger for more than what life offered. I wanted the magic. I wanted “The More.” Unfortunately, no matter what I did, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Fast forward 18 years. I discovered “The More” in yoga and meditation and specifically by receiving Shaktipat initiation. Shaktipat is the awakening of your own inner power, the cosmic power of the universe called Kundalini. I received this initiation from my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda. This initiation opened up a whole new world for me. But this time it wasn’t in a book; it was inside me. And I remember thinking “this is like Harry Potter, but even better!”
Why was it better? Harry Potter was incredible, magical, fantastical, yet the book didn’t touch all the levels of my being. Once I received Shaktipat, the dimensions of my own being opened up. I began meditating every day, and in each meditation, new wonders would unfold within. This experience is described in an ancient yogic text:
Vismayo yogabhuumikaa.h — Shiva Sutras 1.12
The wonders of yoga are truly amazing. — Translation by Swami Nirmalananda
Yes! The wonders of yoga are truly amazing, especially, once you have received Shaktipat. Kundalini, the energy of the universe, moves up your spine in every meditation. Her movements are based on what you need. She clears up the junk that is limiting you from experiencing your own Divinity. While she clears up that which limits you, you get spontaneous movements, called kriyas in Sanskrit. You may see colors or lights. You may experience tingling or heat or cold. You may get physical movements, hear divine sounds, have deep profound meditations, insights and more. These are all symptoms that Kundalini is working within you, clearing that which limits you.
I needed a lot of physical healing at the beginning. So in meditation Kundalini would move me into classical yogic postures. I would sit to meditate and right away I would be moved into poses that I hadn’t even learned yet. The effect was blissful! My whole body felt alive, expanded and open.
As I continued meditating, my experiences became more subtle, and my focus turned more and more inward. Instead of focusing on what my body or mind was doing, I was guided inward to discover the multiple dimensions of my own being. And to discover the source of those dimensions — my own Self. I am still in the process of this inner discovery. And the more I meditate, the more wonders I discover inside.
As the death of the demon Bakasura spread like wildfire in Ekachakra and the surrounding areas, Kunti decided it was time for them to leave Ekachakra. The thought of moving to a new place occurred due to her concern that Duryodhana and the Kauravas might feel suspicious about Bakasura’s death. If the Pandavas were to continue to live unnoticed, it was necessary to move. So they decided to go towards the Kingdom of Panchala.
There was also another reason for Kunti to choose Panchala. She overheard the news of the svayamvara, a groom selection contest for Draupadi, the daughter of the Panchala King Drupada. Deep down she knew it was an event her sons wouldn’t want to miss. After parting from the brahmin family that they had been living with for so long, they left Ekachakra and headed towards the Kingdom of Panchala.
By nightfall. they had reached the bank of the river Ganga. After the long journey, Arjuna was really thirsty and thus delighted to hear the flow of the river. As Arjuna was leading them through the darkness towards the river to quench his thirst, he suddenly saw a chariot advancing towards them. The warrior in the chariot challenged them, saying not to go near the river. He was the Angaraparana also known as Chitraratha, a chief of gandharvas, a heavenly being. He had come with his wives to bathe in the river and he didn’t want the brahmin beggars to enter the water at the same time.
Arjuna could not remain silent. He challenged back saying, “The Ganga is the most sacred river. She doesn’t belong to any one person. Anyone should be able to come to Mother Ganga at any time.” The gandharva chief was furious, for a mere human had insulted him in this way. He thundered at Arjuna, “You perhaps don’t know who I am, or my valor and physical might. The forest in the vicinity of this river belongs to me. Not just humans, even Gods and other heavenly beings dare not set foot in my territory. You better turn around with your clan and save your lives before getting crushed by me.”
This was enough to fuel Arjuna’s anger. He shouted back at him saying, “Is it worthy of a heavenly being to indulge in such false pride? And without knowing someone’s might, isn’t it foolishness to start a fight? I’m sure you have never measured arms with a true warrior so far, otherwise your language would not have been so irresponsible. You may have been successful frightening the weak, but now that you challenged me, I am all in to show you what I’ve got.”
Angaraparana drew out his sword and attacked Arjuna. And in turn, Arjuna with the burning torch in hand attacked Angaraparana. The mighty Arjuna brushed his attack aside magnificently, using the burning torch he had in his hand. He then chanted an incantation on the torch and aimed it at Angaraparana, using it as a weapon. The torchlight set fire to Angaraparana’s chariot, burning it and forcing him to jump down from it. While doing so he fell down and became senseless. Arjuna jumped in at once and saved him from the fire, dragging him to Yudhishthira, the elder Pandava.
The wives of Angaraparana rushed out of the river and ran to Yudhishthira, begging mercy for their husband. They pleaded with Yudhishthira to spare his life. Yudhishthira kindly said, “It is against our values to kill a person who has been already defeated and insulted in the very presence of his wives. So, don’t worry, we will not harm him as he was punished already for his actions.”
Angaraparana regained consciousness. Seeing his wives standing before Yudhishthira begging to save his life, he felt highly ashamed. Bowing his head down Angaraparana expressed his gratitude to the Pandavas. He requested them to accept his humble gift in return for sparing his life. He gifted them the knowledge of the art of creating illusions in war. This science is called chakshushi. This heavenly art named chakshushi enables one to see anything at any time at any place in the three worlds merely through the earthly eyes. He also gifted a thousand swift horses of the gandharvas. These horses can put on any desired color and can move with any speed desired by their master. They will never grow old nor will their speed ever slow down.
Yudhishthira gladly said that he will accept both gifts, but as a token of friendship, rather than a gift for sparing his life. Yudhishthira also said that they would like Angaraparana to keep the horses with him until the Pandavas required them. Thus, they became close friends from that time onwards. After quenching their thirst, Yudhishthira along with his mother and brothers continued their journey towards the kingdom of Panchala.
As the preparations for Draupadi’s svayamvara started, guests from nearby cities and kingdoms started to flock towards Panchala. Pandavas joined in with some of the brahmins who were going. After days of travel by foot, at last they arrived at the beautiful city. The whole of Panchala was celebrating the svayamvara of their lovely princess Draupadi, the girl born from the sacred fire.
Due to wanting revenge against Drona, Drupada, the King of Panchala, had performed Putrakameshti Yajna to produce a son to avenge him. After admiring Arjuna’s might, Drupada also wanted a daughter who could marry Arjuna. This would also give him an advantage to lessen enmity against Drona because of Arjuna being his favorite student. Even if there was a war, Arjuna would be always on Drupada’s side, if Arjuna was married to Drona’s daughter.
At the successful completion of the Yajna, from the fire of the Yajna, the twins Dhrishtadyumna and Draupadi emerged. Dhrishtadyumna was glowing like a flame; his looks spoke of his valor, great warriorship and glory. A divine voice spoke from the heavens, saying, “Here is the divine son who is born for you to avenge your insult done by Dronacharya.” All those present at the Yajna were very pleased to hear the divine voice.
A beautiful dark-skinned maiden also emerged out of the sacred fire. She had captivating looks and lovely long hair that gave out a sweet fragrance. King Drupada was delighted to see his children who were born from the sacred fire. He was so grateful to be gifted with two divine children, a son and a daughter. The daughter whom he named Krishnaa, though later on she came to be popularly known as Draupadi. She was also called Panchali, being the favorite princess of the kingdom Panchala. It was her svayamvara drawing all the attention, including bringing the Pandavas there.
The Pandavas ended up staying in a potter’s home. They carried on their disguise as brahmins as they went around the city admiring its grandeur. They saw the special accommodations built for the kings, princes and guests coming from all corners of the world. And they enjoyed all the shows and entertainment happening through the day and night. But wherever they went, all they heard was people talking about the flaming beauty of their princess, her charm and divine qualities.
Krishna arrived in Panchala, having accepted Drupada’s invitation for the svayamvara. While home in Dwaraka, Krishna had already received Uddhava’s report on the situation with the Pandavas. Knowing that they were alive and safe, he was the one who arranged the next steps to follow, even without the Pandavas knowing. It was per Krishna’s request that Vyasa advised the Pandavas to go to Ekachakra and suggested they disguise themselves as brahmins. In fact, the whole swayamvara was happening due to the advice Drupada had gotten from Krishna in his previous visit to Panchala.
Krishna also suggested to arrange a challenging contest for the suitors, so the winner would have Draupadi’s hand in marriage. The challenge arranged was very difficult to achieve. A pole was erected in the court, over which a wooden fish was fixed on a revolving wheel. A pan of water was kept at the bottom of the pole. Anyone who could shoot an arrow through the eye of the revolving fish, by looking at the reflection in the water, would be garlanded by Draupadi.
On the day of the svayamvara, the venue was filled with kings and princes. The Pandavas took their seats among the brahmins. The gathering consisted of princes from many kingdoms including the Kauravas, Karna, Shakuni, Drona’s son Ashwatthama, Shishupala, Jarasandha of Magadha and many others. Krishna and Balarama were seated much closer to King Drupada.
Dhrishtadyumna, the son of Drupada, opened the proceedings by escorting his sister to the court. Draupadi gracefully walked with her brother into the venue. She was tall and dark with gleaming eyes and long black locks. She was truly dazzling in her finery, looking like a goddess. At once, all eyes were turned to her. The kings and the princes stared at her stunning beauty. As soon as she entered the court she paid obeisance to the sages, her kula guru, her father, Krishna & Balarama and all the elders before taking her seat.
Dhrishtadyumna, as the master of the ceremony, addressed the guests. He announced the rules of the swayamvara, “Whosoever can bend the bow and pierce the eye of the fish hanging above, by looking at its image in the water, may marry my beloved sister, Draupadi.” Then he requested the suitors to come forward to take part in the swayamvara.
“Who am I?” a devotee asked Ramana Maharshi, a sage living in a cave. Not understanding the first answer led the devotee to ask many more questions, 27 follow-up questions. Here are a few:
What is the nature of the mind? What is the nature of the Self? Is not everything the work of God? What is non-attachment? Is there no difference between waking and dream? What is happiness? What is the relation between desirelessness and wisdom? What is liberation?
If he had known his true nature, his confusion would have fallen away with the first answer. Swami Muktananda described it this way: “God dwells with you as you.” This is easy to understand because God, the Ultimate Reality by whatever name you chose, is omnipresent. Therefore, God exists everywhere. And “everywhere” does not end at the edge of your skin. Your body, heart, and mind are also part of “everywhere.”
However, Muktananda takes it a step further and adds, “God dwells within you as you.” God is being you. This is the answer to the question “Who am I?” When you can answer this question, all other questions fall away.
Literature explores the same question. All stories fit into seven basic plots, according to author Christopher Booker. In The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, he shows these plots are true for everyone across cultures and time. A friend doing a PhD in literature added that all these plots explore the question “Who am I?” Whatever the story, the hero is on an adventure to discover who they really are. The same is true for your life. Your life is an adventure to discover who you really are.
Yoga leads you to the realization of your true nature. Yoga is not merely a philosophical system that gives you a theoretical answer. Instead, yoga is more like a full-contact sport. It includes practices that engage all your capacities: body, breath, mind, heart and more. You don’t merely intellectualize who you are; you experience it.
What does yoga promise you will experience? How will you answer the question “Who am I?” You will realize that you are you, yet the you that you are is mystical.
When I first started yoga, I could sense the truth in these teachings. But my mind misunderstood them. I thought I had to let go of the non-divine parts of me and add the missing divine pieces. I started to give away stuff that I didn’t need anymore. One afternoon, I was stuffing bags with things to give away. When I noticed my Canadian engineering ring on my hand, I paused. An engineer is not divine, so I needed to give the ring up. I took the ring off. I panicked. “If I am not a Canadian engineer, then who am I?” asked my mind in fear. I quickly put the ring back on. I knew that one day I would be freed from the ring. But I knew I wasn’t ready yet.
Two years ago, I faced the sacred fire to become a sannyasin (a renunciant). I decided to let go of everything. During the initiation, the hooks of desires dissolved, and the weight of worldly aspirations lifted. I settled deeper into my own Divinity. For the first few days, I was learning how to live from the new depth and freedom. The world was familiar but my experience of being the Divine in a divine world was new. Two days after the ceremony, noodles were served at a meal. As I took the first bite, an internal voice shouted in delight, “I still love noodles!” I was surprised that, while being the Divine, I still had the same preferences. My mind jumped in, “I wonder if I still know calculus. What’s the derivative of x2? 2x. Yup, I still know calculus.”
In that moment, I knew who I was. I knew that I was God. I knew that everyone and everything around me was also God. And, at the same time, I was God being the same Canadian engineer who loves noodles.
You don’t stop being you. You stop being merely you. You work so hard to be unique and special. Then you get caught up in your uniqueness. You compare your unique quirks and traits to others. You work hard to maintain or change your unique qualities. It’s hard work that never ends. Worse yet, you are so much more than your uniqueness. You are the One who is being unique. When you find the Beingness that is being you, you find God. And God is being you. You find You.
Yoga is the mystical science that gives you practices for discovering who you truly are. You simply need to do them. Of course, guidance along the way is helpful if not necessary. Swami Nirmalananda has done the practices and knows the path. She guides you along the way. She helps you to embrace your uniqueness. At the same time, she insists that you look deeper to find God being you. Come spend time with Swami Nirmalananda and learn from her. . Do the practices she recommends. They will help you answer life’s ultimate question: “Who am I?” You will then one day give the divine answer “Me.”
The Self is free from old age, so says yoga. Take it personally: understand that your essence is free from old age. Yet the human experience begins with, “I am my body.” Thus, so much time is spent beautifying the body and trying to keep it looking young. You diet and exercise. You buy hair products as well as oils and lotions for your skin. There is so much time, money and worry around aging.
It is true that your body is getting older. This process has been happening since you were born. It is the human condition. As you get old, you lose the capacity to act in the world. You lose your potency. You feel less aliveness, enthusiasm and joy. This is a description of your future.
While you do have a body, there is more to you. You have a body as well as a mind and heart, yet you are more. You are Consciousness-Incarnate. When you know your Self as Consciousness, you are free from old age. How can this be?
The Shiva Sutras describes how such a yogi lives in the world:
Iccha “saktir-umaa kumari. — Shiva Sutras 1.13
The will power of a great yogi is the Divine creative force, Uma-Kumari.
The One Reality has the power of choice, the ability to initiate action. This is Shiva’s power of will. You have the same power of will to a lesser degree. But Shiva’s will is completely unimpeded. Shiva’s will is perfect will.
Omnipotence is Shiva’s power of potency. Shiva can do anything, making a choice and then following through on that choice. This is will power or the power of will. Shiva emanates the universe within his own being through his power of will.
Your essence is already Shiva, the One. At this level, you already are omnipotent but you don’t yet know it. Therefore, you don’t have access to that power. But how about when you know you are Shiva? What kind of power will you have? Your age won’t matter! Your experience will be like that of Uma-Kumari. Uma and Kumari are both names of the Goddess. This omnipotence of Shiva is expressed through Shakti, energy, and Shakti is the Goddess.
Uma is the mature goddess, like a grandmother. My grandmother had big cushy thighs, a soft belly and big heavy breasts. When my grandmother wrapped her arms around me and nestled me in, there was nothing that could touch me. Do you know what I mean? Also, she had a constancy in her love that a mother is not able to attain. Only a grandmother can do this. A grandmother can give everything else up for that grandchild, at least in that moment. She can be that safe harbor. While your relationship with your mom can be stormy, a grandma is a whole different thing.
Uma is has this incredible inner stability and constancy in love and support. This is so incredibly beautifully expressed in the ancient statues of the fertility goddesses. In many countries, a woman is considered beautiful when she has a little flesh on her bones. She is so beautiful both physically and spiritually. Her mind is so clear, so pure, and her emotions are stable. The American ideal of feminine beauty does not correspond to most of the world.
The Goddess Kumari is the 12-to-16-year-old girl, still developing, with a beautiful face. She dresses up in silks and golden bracelets. The bangles on her ankles have little bells on them. She wears earrings and flowers in her hair. Her long hair flows down her back. She is absolutely intoxicating.
Dressed like this, young maidens draw your attention. How beautiful the young girls and even the boys can be at that age. While still virgins, they have never been touched and never been kissed. They are on the verge of life’s promise, “The whole world is ahead of me. I can do anything. I can be anything. I don’t even know what I want to be.” This is Kumari.
Now what does all this have to do with you and omnipotence? Experiencing your own Self is having that ability to manifest anything, to do anything, to bring anything into existence. This is the feeling of Uma and Kumari together.
You experience the innocence and the joy of discovery that Kumari has in every moment. When you were young, you experienced that everything was new. You had a curiosity about the world. You wanted to go places and do things. You felt, “The world is my oyster.” You were open to everything and anything.
When you live in the knowing of your own Self, you have all of this with the stability, the depth and maturity of Uma. You have both at the same time — Uma Kumari. As a yogi, you have the energy — the power of will — that is both Kumari (ever new) and Uma (full, stable, mature and all-knowing).
You see this capacity in the great masters of Consciousness. They are free from old age, omnipotent, ever young. They are the embodiment of knowledge. Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda is such a master. She has not retired from life, but fully participates. For the Ashram she is involved in program development, marketing and management. She oversees interior design and decor in the Ashram’s two buildings. She makes yoga’s ancient teachings relevant and available in the modern world through her writing and discourses. As an active citizen in society, she votes and keeps current with the news. She is up to date with technology, scientific studies, etc. This is Uma.
And I also see Gurudevi’s delight in the newness of a sunrise, a monarch butterfly, a returning student. She makes me laugh when she marvels again and again over what she calls “golden globes of goodness” — chickpeas. There is a delight that arises from within her in every moment. This is Kumari. There is a newness of things, even though Gurudevi has seen it or done it before. Everything in every moment is ever new! Except it is all known thoroughly. This is Uma Kumari. This is how a great master lives in the world.
This is also a description of your future. Your essence is free from old age. When you know the Self, that newness and maturity both arise within you. You experience this incredible capacity to do anything you choose, pouring yourself into this divine play of the world. Every moment will be fresh, new, and known. What a dynamic joyful way to live in the world. How do you get there? Do more mantra. More yoga and more meditation.
The Pandavas with their mother Kunti continued their journey through the forest, facing many hardships along the way. As they couldn’t find any safe and suitable place to stay, they wandered around. One day they came across Sage Vyasa. Even though they did not know who he was, yet the Pandava brothers paid their respects humbly. The great sage blessed them all. Staring at his face, Kunti recognized him. She had seen him when he came to the Royal Palace in Hastinapura to escort Queen Satyavati with him to his ashram when she renounced the royal life. Recognizing the sage as none other than Vyasa, Kunti burst into tears and narrated all that happened to them.
The sage counseled her to keep patient. He gave her the teachings of the reality of life, advising them to follow the path of righteousness and be patient in adversity. He promised that prosperity is bound to follow for those who walk on the path of righteousness.
Sage Vyasa directed them towards a nearby town named Ekachakra. Following the advice of Sage Vyasa Kunti and her sons went to Ekachakra and started living in disguise as bhramins in the house of a brahmin.
They went begging for alms in the town by day, coming back at dusk with the alms. Whatever they brought, they placed before their mother Kunti. She divided all of it into two halves. One half was given to Bhima alone while the other half was shared by her and his four brothers. The major share was given to Bhima as his immense appetite had to be fulfilled at any cost. Bhima was also called “Vrahothan” due to his huge appetite. Vrahothan means a person with a wolf’s stomach. A wolf’s stomach is small, making it hard for its appetite to be satisfied. Bhima was the gift of Vayu Bhagavan, the God of wind, thus having his characteristics, fiercely forceful, strong and the biggest appetite ever.
Kunti would weep every day seeing the sad state of her sons. The Royal Princes of Hastinapura were begging for food as mendicants. But the Pandavas would console her by all means, telling jokes and acting silly to make their mother laugh. Soon the Pandavas became popular among the people of the town because of their virtuous deeds.
One day, as Kunti was ill, the four Pandavas went on their daily begging, leaving Bhima to take care of their mother. While resting, all of a sudden Kunti heard a huge cry coming out of the brahmin’s house. She immediately alerted Bhima and went to their home. The whole family was in tears, sobbing while sitting in a very frightened state.
The brahmin father was saying to his wife, “Oh, I was anticipating this day from the beginning and advising to leave this place. But you did not heed my advice. See, the imminent danger is knocking at our door right now. You are a pious and a patient lady, following my dharmic path. Like a mother you are nourishing and nurturing me. The very gods have sent you as my friend, philosopher and guide. How can I now desert you and go there?”
He continued, “See our cute small son. He has not yet grown; he is still a child. How can I leave him? This is our beloved daughter. The gods have given her to me for me to perform Kanyaadaana (gift of a maiden in marriage). I and my forefathers will attain divine abodes by virtue of the children born to her. A few may say that the father loves his son more, and a few others say that he loves his daughter more. I love both of them equally. Now what can I do? I can’t leave them,” the brahmin grieved.
The Brahmin’s wife said, “Oh, my lord! Don’t lament over this issue. Today I will go and sacrifice my life. A wife is supposed to protect her husband. That is dharma. You married for progeny, and I got relieved from the debt by giving children to you. The purpose of my life is fulfilled. If you die and I outlive your death, I can’t bring up these two children on my own. I can’t even protect this girl from the evil eyes of envious men. Further, a lady without a husband would be akin to the fallen flesh ready to be picked up by all men around. I can’t protect myself and lead on the dharmic path. I will be despised and demeaned.” She continued, “Further, a woman is not to be killed as per dharma. Thus the demon may leave me because I am a woman. A man is certain to be killed but a woman has the chances of being relieved. Hence, only I should go and do my duty as a wife.”
Hearing this from her mother, the brahmin’s daughter offered to sacrifice her life. “Listen to me. I am your daughter and one day you must let me go with whoever I marry. I will save my parents by sacrificing my life and leave you now. Oh father, for the sake of dharma, and for the sake of all of us let me die for a noble cause.”
Then the small boy came up with a stick and childishly said that he would kill the demon with the stick, and that he would go to the demon the next day. Everyone hugged him for his innocence. Then the father said, “Death for all of us is the only alternative.”
At that point Kunti entered the house. They all looked at Kunti as she asked them for the reason for their sorrowful state. When they hesitated, Kunti insisted the brahmin to explain what is going on in the town that she is not aware of. She said to consider she and her sons as family to the brahmins.
Hearing this brahmin said, “A man-eating demon named Bakasura lives on a hill near this town. To protect the town from the terrible demon and to live without fear in the town, the elders of the town have made a deal with him. According to the deal, the town will send a human being along with a bullock cart full of food daily to satisfy the hunger of the demon. For this to happen, every family has to send one of its members when their turn comes. By doing this the town is protected from Bakasura’s raid. As you can see, it’s my turn to arrange for the demon’s food tomorrow. Each member of my family was insisting on going but finally we have decided that all of us should go, to be devoured by the demon.”
Kunti was listening quietly. Then she consoled them by saying one of her sons will go instead of them. The brahmin family were delighted to hear the consoling words of Kunti. The father thanked her for her kindness & compassion towards them. Then he said, “The misfortune that we are going to face cannot be shared by anyone else, as every family in this town has to face this when it’s their turn.” He continued and said that they are guests. In order to save his family, he would not let guests sacrifice one of their family members. The wife joined in with her husband on the matter.
Kunti assured them that her son Bhima would be the best person to deal with the demon. “He will not only save your family, but also all the other families in Ekachakra.” She added that she and her sons are obliged to the brahmin family in many ways, and it’s their duty to be there for them. Hearing of Bhima’s valor from Kunti, they decided to agree to her proposal.
Kunti went straight to Bhima and told him about Bakasura. She instructed him to put an end to the demon. She emphasized that it’s their duty to stand by the brahmins in this time of adversity. She was so grateful to the brahmin family who had embraced them when they walked into the town by giving them shelter. Bhima was delighted to have this opportunity to fight for the brahmins and the town. He bowed his head to his mother and asked for her blessings to kill the demon.
When the other four brothers returned home Kunti narrated the incident to them as well. Hearing this, Yudhishthira didn’t like the idea of Bhima putting himself into danger, knowing he was the one who can protect their family. However, Yudhishthira also realized it is kshatriya dharma, the righteousness of a royal prince and warrior. He blessed Bhima to go fight the demon.
The next morning, Bhima set out towards the demon’s dwelling with a cart loaded with food. Once he reached the destination, he unloosed the bullocks pulling the cart and started eating the food which was meant for the demon. While eating all he had brought, he made loud noises to get the attention of the demon.
When Bakasura heard a human voice, he came out of his dwelling and was shocked to see his victim eating his food and making loud noises. Bakasura was an awfully ferocious demon with a wide mouth, big teeth and fiery eyes. He was already hungry and waiting for his daily food and he was enraged at what he saw.
Bakasura thundered, “You human! How dare you touch my food and ignore me. Are you wishing to die the worst cruel death in my hands? I will happily grant you your wish!” He advanced towards Bhima. Bhima simply ignored him and went on eating. The ferocious demon was unable to hold his anger and attacked Bhima.
Bakasura was taken by Bhima’s might. Without losing any time, Bhima sprang at his opponent in full force. He lifted the demon up and hurled him violently to the ground. The demon could not stand the attack and fell down on the ground with a heavy thud, dying on the spot. Bhima put a cloth around the neck of the dead demon and dragged his body to the town. Leaving it there to be viewed by the townspeople, he quietly went home.
Soon the people of the town came to know of the fearful demon’s death and assembled to see his dead body lying at the outer gate of the town. The news spread like wildfire in the entire neighboring area and people began to dance in joy, reveling in their newly found freedom.
Everyone in the town was astonished by the mysterious death of the demon. They tried to figure out who would have killed the demon and dragged his body to the town. It remained a puzzle for them. The brahmin family knew everything, yet they kept their mouth shut.
“You matter.” “Don’t give up.” “You are not alone.” These signs touched me deeply when I saw them around our neighborhood. I looked them up online and found that they are called “signs of hope.” They all started with a mom in Oregon. She started these “signs of hope” after a string of suicides in her hometown. They made a difference. Starting with only 20 signs, now her signs and tokens number over one million. They are located in more than 28 countries and all 50 states. I was not the only one touched by these signs. What is it about them?
For one, they are beautiful expressions of affirmation. Yet, what really touched me about them is what was left unsaid. They are a response to the pain and despair that leads someone to take their own life. They are signs of hope when you feel like you don’t matter. They lift you up when you are ready to give up and feel completely and utterly alone.
This angst and despair is called the human condition. You feel that you are small and unworthy. It is the “human” condition because everyone feels this way. You may not notice it all the time. Most people do a very good job of distracting themselves. Yet, instead of merely distracting yourself, what if you could discover the more that you are?
In our yoga retreat center, a dorm room sign says, “You are more than you think you are.” And it’s true. You are more than your mind could ever imagine. Our Master Teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, describes it this way:
“Infinite Reality is taking on all the forms in the universe in order to experience being the forms. Shiva is being you in order to experience being you. You are the One, the divine, scintillating light of consciousness, in individualized form.”
You are so much more than you think you are. You are the Divine Reality that has always existed, exists now and will always exist. You are Shiva — Infinite Reality. Shiva is being this entire universe: from the atoms to the planets, the trees, animals and very personally you. You see it in the phrase “You matter.” You are made of matter, made of energy. But what is the source of that energy? Shiva. You are not only made of Shiva, but Shiva is being you.
This can seem quite abstract, and yet it is actually extremely personal. I really understood this when I experienced it after taking vows as a yoga monk. There was both a deepening that happened and a crystallization of my individuality. The deepening was an inner opening and settling into my own essence — Shiva. And at the same time, there was this blissful tangible embodiment of my body and mind. It’s like I finally accepted that this body and mind are Shiva. And they are the equipment Shiva needs to shine into the world. From then on, I have loved myself more than I ever had or could before.
This is what happens, and more, when you discover who you truly are. To discover your own essence, you must go deeper than your body and mind. While they are made of Shiva, they will never give you the knowing that you are Shiva. For that, you must meditate. Meditation is your pathway inward. It gives you the tangible experience of cosmic Shiva while in your own individual form. When you open your eyes, you are sitting deeper within yourself. As you continue to meditate, you will fully embody your own body and mind. You will shine into the world. You can enjoy your life knowing that you are the One experiencing your life. For you are Shiva being you for the pure delight of being you.
When I was a teenager, I felt my face and body did not measure up. The “look” promoted in all the movies and magazines seemed completely unattainable. Especially I disliked my nose. I remember telling a friend that I thought she had a perfect nose. I wished mine was like hers. Surprised, she shared that she thought my nose was perfect and she wished hers was like mine. I was shocked! We were both wishing for what the other had. Worse, we were in pain about it. Any time you see differences, you will be in pain.
Just as noses come in all sizes and shapes, so do trees. Recently I walked through the woods on a sun-dappled afternoon. I sat and watched the light flickering through the leaves of a stand of trees. The trees featured many shapes and sizes, all of them so beautiful. It’s easy to see beauty in the differences when you look at trees, but not when you look at people. Why?
It’s because you don’t feel threatened by a tree. But with every person, you wonder if they are friend or foe. Your mind harbors a background anxiety that undermines your ability to be welcoming and friendly. Worse, you compare yourself with everyone you see. It’s painful, whether you come out on top or they do.
There’s another way to live. You can see the differences, yet love and appreciate them all. My children taught me this – all so different, yet all so loveable. I have the same experience with meditation students. They bring their mind and body, which have been through life experiences as well as prior studies and trainings. Each of them that asks a question gives me a gift, an insight into their starting point and an opportunity to help them with their upliftment. It’s so beautiful to see their uniqueness, yet with the Divine shining through.
It’s like a building with stained glass windows. The light shining through is the one light, yet each window colors that light in its own unique way. But a visitor will walk down the row and say, “I like this one and don’t like that one.” What if you looked at the light that’s shining through? Every window is a marvel, a work of art that can move you, if you let it.
In the same way, this entire world is a glorious creation, with one light shining through all beings. People, like trees, are all worthy of being treasured and cared for. Regardless of the shape of their nose or color of their hair or skin, they shine. There is one light shining through all eyes, regardless of their color or shape. Look at the light! See it in all its glorious forms.
This is easy to do when you have found it in yourself. This is your starting point. Once you find the light of your own Divine Essence, you see it in all. The differences remain, yet they don’t matter. This is mysticism. This is yoga.