Up close and personal — I’ve missed it during the pandemic. Online is so useful, but there’s nothing like being together in-person. I’m delighted to serve so many of you through Telecourses and zoom satsangs, but when we get a weekend together, so much more happens. So I’ve created a program with five weekends, interspersed through the year.
5 weekend retreats with Gurudevi
Beginning February 17
Our group size is limited so we can dive deep together. Every day, we’ll intersperse yoga practices with mental processes. The practices deepen your experience of the inner infinity of your own Self. The contemplations are to help you understand your inner experiences as well as to help you understand your life experiences.
After each weekend, you take your new sense of Self home with you. In the same place, with the same people and activities, you try out the new you. Then you come back and we work it through. What you learn about yourself makes you more powerful and more loving at the same time.
Your enrollment is for all five weekends. Carve the time out of your schedule and make these weekends a priority. Don’t miss any! Your presence is a support to others, even while you’re in the process yourself.
The birth of Jesus is celebrated today. It’s a holy day that honors a great being. Merry Christmas!
I grew up in an Italian Catholic family. I adored the baby Jesus nestled in the little wooden manger under our brightly lit Christmas tree. I was taught that Jesus was both human and divine, and I believed it. But I didn’t understand how it could be true. I wanted to know.
And then I found yoga. Yoga opened up my ability to experience Divinity ― my own and the Divinity of everything that exists. Yoga says you can experience your Divinity. This is because there is One Divine Reality, and that Reality is your own Self:
Caitanyam-aatman — Shiva Sutras 1.1
Consciousness-Itself is your own Self.
(Translated by Swami Nirmalananda)
Consciousness is the source and substance of everything that exists. The physicists and yogis agree that everything is made of energy. The yogis go a step further. They explain that everything is made of conscious energy: Divine, Sublime and Self-knowing. More than conscious, it is Consciousness-Itself.
The sun, the moon, the stars, your houseplants and your pets are all made of cosmic Consciousness. They are all inherently Divine. And so are you. Cosmic Consciousness is your own Self. Except, you don’t know your Divinity, not enough of the time. Instead, you experience yourself as limited. You feel small, separate, and painfully alone. But you have the capacity to experience your Self. This is yoga’s purpose: to reveal your Divinity to you.
How does yoga do that? Well, not with yoga poses, as beneficial as they are. Yoga says, spend time with a living yoga Master, a Siddha. That’s what I do. I meditate with Gurudevi Nirmalananda Saraswati. She knows her own Divinity. She sees everything that exists as that same radiant Divinity, all the time. In this tradition, she is described as Self-Realized.
Other traditions have their own names for those who live in a pure, steady, spiritual state. In the West, Christianity recognizes great beings as saints and mystics. The meditative traditions of the East — in India, Burma and Thailand ― call them enlightened, illumined, God-intoxicated.
What happens when you spend time with such a being? Their ecstatic, God-saturated state is catching. They love to share! They don’t even need to try. They radiate Divinity. They are like a tuning fork, emitting a pure tone of bliss. When you’re with them, you begin to vibrate with bliss too.
That’s because their bliss is your bliss. Their Divinity is your Divinity. There’s only One Divine Reality, and it is your own Self. There’s only one difference between a Self-Realized being and you. They know they are the Self and you don’t. Not yet. But you can.
With a Siddha like Gurudevi, it’s not like going to a concert. There, you catch a blissful high, then go home and lose it. The yoga masters in her lineage give you more than a temporary experience of your Self. They are empowered to give Shaktipat, the mystical initiation that awakens you to your Inherent Divinity.
She received this initiation from her beloved Guru, Baba Muktananda. And he received this initiation from his Guru. And his Guru had a Guru, who had a Guru, who had a Guru, in a lineage of Shaktipat Gurus that stretches through time.
When you receive this inner awakening, your Divinity is revealed to you. You know your Self in a way that you will not lose. Oh, you may get distracted and forget for a while, then remember again. But you can’t ever not-know your Divinity the way you did before, unto lifetimes. Meditation will clear your mind, body and heart from the inner distractions that get in your way. So one day, you will be Self-Realized. You will know your own Divinity. And you will see everything that exists as that same radiant Divinity, all the time.
I wanted to know how it’s possible to be both human and divine. Now I know. Because when I meditate with Gurudevi, she gives me my Self. I experience my Divinity reliably, unfailingly, gloriously. And I am still human. Do you want to experience your Self? Then meditate with Gurudevi Nirmalananda. She will be delighted to teach you how.
Though the killing of Shishupala generated some unpleasant moments, which were skillfully controlled by Krishna, the yaj~na ceremony was completed successfully. Soon after the ceremony, Sage Vyasa came to say goodbye and to bless Yudhishthira. He also advised Yudhishthira that he should be prepared for some unpleasant events and misfortunes soon. Yudhishthira decided that he would always be polite with all his relatives and not give them any cause to become agitated. This decision indeed cost him and his family great sorrow later.
Duryodhana was so mesmerized by the wonders of Yudhishthira’s palace that he decided to stay for few more days with his uncle Shakuni after the yaj~na ceremony was over. He went all over the palace, admiring all its features and envying the prosperity of the Pandavas. He longed to possess all of its glory to himself but didn’t know how it could be accomplished.
Everything about the palace was a divine mystery. Once, while he was walking through the assembly hall built by Mayasura, he bumped his head against a wall thinking it was a door. It was not so bad for there had been no one visible to witness it. But he heard a suspicion of girlish giggle, and the voice was very familiar. It was Draupadi. She happened to be in an overlooking chamber seeing him bump into the wall and giggled.
It didn’t end there. More things happened to fuel the fire in Duryodhana’s heart. Duryodhana’s anger grew more and more out of control with each such experience in the throne room. He saw Yudhishthira sitting on a golden thrown in the hall of illusion, looking like Lord Indra, the King of the Devas, surrounded by Draupadi and his brothers. As the hall was full of illusions, Duryodhana mistook a hard floor for a pool of water, making a fool out of himself walking across the floor with his clothes pulled up to the knees. For this he received a mocking laugh from Draupadi and Bhima as well as chuckles from the others.
Infuriated by this, he strode forward and fell into a pool which appeared like a beautifully polished floor. Draupadi, unable to control her laughter, tried her best not to laugh again. Bhima with all the other onlookers had a good laugh, much to Duryodhana’s irritation. Yudhishthira, always good natured, could never bear the sight of another’s distress, so he immediately ran to comfort Duryodhana, offering him rich and fancy garments.
Yet, this incident deeply upset Duryodhana, enraging him so much he wanted to take revenge for the insult. Especially Draupadi’s laughter made him swear vengeance on her as well as the Pandavas. These incidents rejuvenated the embitterment in Duryodhana’s heart and mind against the Pandavas. Additionally, his resentment towards the Pandavas was encouraged by his uncle Shakuni.
Feeling greatly insulted, Duryodhana spoke to his uncle, saying that he could no longer tolerate the Pandava’s wellbeing and prosperity. He wanted to wage a war against them, to take away their kingdom and their pride. His cunning uncle Shakuni cautioned him, making it clear that defeating the Pandavas in a war would be nearly an impossible task. But then he told Duryodhana that he had a devious plan to win everything back while taking revenge on Draupadi who insulted him. With doubt written all over his face, Duryodhana exclaimed, “Is it really possible?”
Shakuni pointed out that Yudhishthira’s gambling habit was his true weakness. Shakuni then said he had never lost a single game due to his enchanted dice. He proposed to throw the dice on behalf of Duryodhana, who should simply leave the rest to Shakuni. So, once they returned to Hastinapura from Indraprastha, the plan was for Duryodhana to convince his father to invite the Pandavas for a gambling match. As Duryodhana was sickened to stay any longer, they departed for Hastinapura right away. Duryodhana was ruminating over his ridiculous fall. He couldn’t get the image of Draupadi laughing at his discomfiture out of his head. He could never rest in peace until he made Draupadi a laughingstock in the same way.
Duryodhana had to convince King Dhritarashtra to agree to the scheme. This would not be difficult as Dhritarashtra was weak-willed and so fond of his son that he would do anything for him. He had always ignored all Duryodhana’s mistakes and wrongdoings. At first, he would start advising his son, then he would agree to everything his son fancied.
As soon as Duryodhana returned to Hastinapura, he met his father and described the grandeur of the Pandavas’ palace of illusion, built by Mayasura. He also shared the outrageous experience of how he was insulted by Draupadi and Bhima. Seeing the anger on his father’s face, he knew that was the best time to put forth his plan to take revenge for this insult. He was now very sure his father would agree to the evil plan, due to his troubled emotions.
Duryodhana immediately told Dhritarashtra about their plan and easily persuaded him to agree to it. It wasn’t hard because he repeated the taunt of Draupadi in order to fuel the anger. He convinced his father that they would be able to win Indraprastha without war and bloodshed. Dhritarashtra fell for the scheme, thinking they could get back the other half of his kingdom.
Though he was burning under the anguish of Draupadi’s insulting act, Dhritarashtra decided to consult with his brother Vidura, the chief minister. Vidura warned about the consequences, as dishonest acts can sow seeds of conflict and ruin the peace of both sides. But Vidura’s advice was not at all acceptable to Duryodhana.
At last, as always, Dhritarashtra allowed his son to have it his way. He ordered the servants to prepare a hall for a game of dice. He requested Vidura to invite Yudhishthira to compete in the game despite his warnings. Vidura was very unhappy hearing about this, but as the chief minister he had to carry out a royal order.
At Indraprastha, Vidura gave Yudhishthira the royal invitation publicly. Then, at the personal level, Vidura told Yudhishthira that he was very much against the idea of the game. Instead of persuading Yudhishthira to attend the games, Vidura alerted him, explaining the evils of gambling. In this way he urged Yudhishthira not to accept as Vidura knew it was a trick devised by Duryodhana and Shakuni.
While having Vyasa’s warning in his head about the future, Yudhishthira did not wish to make Dhritarashtra unhappy by refusing to attend, so he accepted the invitation. Refusing the invitation might be an insult to King Dhritarashtra. It is very common in royal affairs to invite each other for games, and refusing it is uncommon. But most of all, Yudhishthira’s addition to gambling affected his decision. He didn’t want to let the opportunity slip by. As Vidura couldn’t convince Yudhishthira, who remained firm on his decision, Vidura advised to be on guard at all times.
The Pandavas, along with Draupadi, arrived in Hastinapura. Shakuni and Duryodhana gave a passionate welcome to the Pandavas. The Pandavas were given a magnificent feast. The next day, when they entered the hall built for the dice game, the Pandavas were quite honest about their admiration of the hall. It was crowded with people, friends, relatives and teachers. Amongst them were Grandsire Bhishma, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, ministers and other prominent citizens. Dhritarashtra was sitting on his throne. Yudhishthira was determined to maintain a cordial relationship at all costs.
Shakuni was going to play on behalf of Duryodhana, as they had decided earlier. Shakuni using his own dice would easily defeat the unskilled Yudhishthira. It is said that Shakuni’s father, King Subala, had asked Shakuni to make dice from his backbone after his death, so these dice were full of powerful magic. They would roll the number Shakuni wanted when thrown. So Shakuni would decide what number would be called for each game.
On behalf of the Kauravas, Shakuni spoke to Yudhishthira to set the rules and the stakes for game. Yudhishthira insisted the games should be fair without any room for cheating. Shakuni, knowing the remark was for him, got annoyed and said to Yudhishthira, “Remember this is gambling. The dice decides the winner. So, no room for cheating.” Duryodhana said he would set the stakes while his uncle would roll the dice on his behalf. Yudhishthira at first objected to that arrangement, but later agreed due to sarcastic comments from Shakuni.
The game began. Yudhishthira would usually start anything by invoking divine blessings but somehow it slipped his mind on this important occasion. The game began and Shakuni rolled his magical dice. Yudhishthira lost the first stake. The trend continued. Yudhishthira lost every stake, one by one. The whole court watched this with pin-drop silence.
After every throw, the Kauravas would shout in triumph. Gradually, Yudhishthira lost all his worldly possessions, his jewelry, elephants, horses, chariots, army, servants, castles and finally his entire kingdom. Shakuni’s cries of triumph and Duryodhana’s victorious howls filled the hall enormously.
No one in the assembly dared to intervene as they were afraid of the Kauravas. Even at that point, it never occurred to Yudhishthira to mentally ask for help, for a divine intervention. It was clear that noble Yudhishthira was under the influence of his senses. The only question was what else could Yudhishthira stake?
When I lived in my Baba’s Ashram, one of my yoga-buddies often spoke a few words aloud, “An attitude of gratitude.” While I knew that she was reminding herself, it still had an effect on me. What I noticed was that I didn’t have an attitude of gratitude. There I was, living in an Ashram with an enlightened being, but I wasn’t grateful.
I was cranky, needy and impatient. I definitely wanted what Baba was giving — the blessings, the Grace, the inner awakening and enlivening process that he was furthering in me. I wanted all of it. I wanted it NOW! I wanted more and more, faster and faster.
Every few days I would pray silently, “Dear Baba, faster, please. Can’t you make this go a little faster?” Then a few days later, I would be buckling under the intensity of my own growing pains. So I’d pray, “Baba, Baba, softer, gentler… Can you make it easier on me, please?” The breathing space was immediate.
Yet, a few days later, I’d have amnesia and ask again for more, “Speed this up, Baba! I want to get enlightened now.” One day I realized what I’d been doing repeatedly! So I offered a new prayer, “Baba, please set the right speed for me. You know more than I do.”
Only then did I discover gratitude. From that point onward, I could see that he knew more about the process than I did. I could rely on his spiritual power to carry me through, like no one else I had ever known. This is why I now live in a continual flow of gratitude.
My life is full of Guru’s Grace. I am grateful to the one who opened up the mystical reality for me. My heart is always being filled from the inside. My gratitude expands every day.
When I teach, I am grateful for the opportunity to share this ancient spiritual science of yoga. I thank each student who chooses this profound path and shares the process with me. I am even grateful to myself, for the perseverance and diligence that made me able to receive all that Baba gave – and made me able to share it with others.
I love Thanksgiving Day. Every year we get to join in a national celebration of thanks. But for me, one day is not enough. Yes, I live in an attitude of gratitude. It’s a glorious way to live!
Do more. Try harder. I was given this advice as the key to success in life. If you want to get a promotion at work, take on more responsibility. If you want to improve your golf game, practice more. If you are struggling with establishing a new lifestyle habit, try harder. This is the notion that by doing more you’ll be more.
However, yoga approaches it differently and says that surrender is essential.
Surrender can be a scary word. We associate surrender with waving the white flag, an admission of defeat. Surrender can also be reluctantly accepting the current undesirable circumstances. This is not what the yogis meant by surrender. Throughout history, yogis have been people who were not satisfied with their personal status quo. They wanted something different from life. They applied themselves to a greater goal, even though it went against the cultural norms.
So what is yogic surrender?
To understand yogic surrender, let’s compare the underlying principles between modern success and yogic attainment. In the West, we are taught that by doing more you’ll be more.
In contrast, yoga is based on the principle that you are already great, whole and complete. You are not merely great, you are Greatness itself. Any word you use to describe the whole of your being is limited. You are that Divine Essence which is beyond words. The ancient yogis called it “That”.
The problem is, your Greatness is hidden inside, just behind your mind. Since you don’t know your own Greatness, you feel lost, small, unworthy and alone. You look for a replacement. You construct identities around the work you do, the relationships you are in and the places you live. Your mind works hard at creating and maintaining these identities.
This is where yogic surrender comes in. You are already Greatness; you are That. To discover That, you surrender your constructed identities. You give up the notion that you are merely what you do, who you know and where you live. You embrace that you are That. You see and be your own That-ness, and you see it in everyone and everything. Baba Muktananda described it:
Surrender means to become one with That, to merge with That.
You let go of your idea of being small and step into your Greatness. You surrender to your Greatness. It’s a great promise but not necessarily easy. Letting go of your constructed identities can be difficult. They are so familiar. And they are so painful.
A few years ago, I had a busy mind at the beginning of a meditation period. My mind was comparing me to others, and I was ending up on the bottom. I was feeling small. My constructed identity of being someone valuable and worthy was being threatened. My mind wanted to do more and try harder to patch up my shaky constructed identity.
But I couldn’t find a solution that made me feel like it would work. I was scared. If I gave up this constructed identity, who would I be? I didn’t know. Yet I did know the instructions that my Guru gave me for meditation. I followed them and repeated mantra. As I continued to repeat mantra, a shift happened inside. I settled deeper into my That-ness. Then I could see that I was holding onto the constructed identity. The act of comparing myself was what was keeping me small. So I surrendered the comparison. I surrendered my smallness, and I got my Greatness.
We can learn about surrendering from a way to catch a monkey. In India, they take a jar with a wide base and a narrow opening. The opening would be just wide enough for monkey to slide its hand into the jar. The jar was then tied with a rope to something solid. A shiny coin or piece of food was placed in the jar. A monkey would pass by the jar and become interested in the treat inside. It slipped its hand into the jar and grabbed the lucky prize. Now, however, the fist, grabbing the treat, was too big to go through the jar’s narrow opening. The monkey was trapped. The monkey had a simple way of getting free. Just let go of the little treat.
But the monkey holds on tight and starts screaming. They gave up their freedom for a little treat.
The same is true for us. We are the ones holding onto our limited constructed identities. And the price we pay is our freedom. We give up our Greatness.
So how do you develop your ability to surrender? Swami Muktananda tells us:
Meditate more and surrender will come.
Swami Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite, page 322
Every time you meditate, you experience your own Greatness. The more you experience and know your own Greatness, the easier it is to surrender to your Greatness. Then you abide in your Greatness all the time.
So meditate more, not to be more, but to surrender to your Greatness. It can be a tricky balance to play. I recommend meeting and studying with one who has fully surrendered and lives from the knowing of their Greatness within. They know the yogic path to surrender and want to share it with you. Come meet Satguru Nirmalananda. She will help you surrender to your Greatness.
After Jarasandha agreed to have a duel with Bhima, a fierce duel began. It attracted a large crowd of people. For thirteen days they remained engaged in a ferocious battle with no winner in sight. They both showed no signs of exhaustion. On the fourteenth day, Krishna addressed Bhima encouragingly, “The enemy looks very tired so don’t attack him with all your force, as it’s sure you would kill him if you did. Also don’t use your divine powers, with which you are so blessed by the Wind God.”
Bhima got the message that it was time to put an end to Jarasandha’s life on earth. Bhima attacked Jarasandha in full fury, lifted him up in the air and tossed him down with a thud. Jarasandha was lying there for a moment, trying to regain his strength. Krishna caught Bhima’s attention by tearing a leaf into two. Bhima took this as a signal. He tore Jarasandha’s body into two in the same manner. As described earlier in the story, Jarasandha’s body was a vertical join of two halves of bodies, joined by the demoness Jara. So, Bhima could tear his body apart into two pieces without much difficulty.
He threw the pieces, each on its own side, and turned towards Krishna and his brother with joy. But the happiness didn’t last long. When he turned back, he was horrified to see that the two parts of Jarasandha’s body drew closer and closer together and in no time joined again. Jarasandha was standing right in front of Bhima with a fierce look on his face.
Again, the duel continued. Again and again, Bhima tried his best, tearing Jarasandha’s body apart a few times relentlessly. But each time the same thing happened. The two parts of Jarasandha’s body drew closer and closer and joined together, again and again. Bhima felt quite helpless seeing this. So, he turned his eyes towards Krishna with frustration. He saw Krishna tearing a leaf vertically and throwing the halves in opposite directions.
Bhima was able to understand the hint. He fell upon Jarasandha, flung him down and tore his body into two pieces once again. Now he threw the right side of his body to the left and the left side to his right. To his astonishment, the torn pieces didn’t move from where they had been thrown. That was the end of Jarasandha.
Krishna along with Bhima and Arjuna freed all the imprisoned kings. The kings expressed their heartiest gratitude to Krishna and the two Pandava brothers for freeing them. Accepting that with humility, they invited each one of them to take part in the Rajasuya Yajňa at Indraprastha.
Krishna, along with Bhima and Arjuna, were cordially invited into the palace of Jarasandha by his son Sahadev. He apologized on behalf of his father for his behavior and his arrogance. The three of them decided to forgive Sahadev and crowned him as the next king of Magadha kingdom. He wore his father’s crown with humility and gratitude. All congratulated and blessed him whole heartedly.
Bhima’s victory was celebrated at the uppermost level. He was praised highly for his skill in wrestling. Sahadev praised Bhima for his immense prowess. But Bhima remained modest and attributed the credit of his success to his cousin Krishna. Krishna was duly honored and respected too. Krishna and the Pandava brothers then said their farewells to all and departed to Indraprastha.
As soon as the three of them returned to Indraprastha, they conveyed the successful news about Bhima slaying Jarasandha. Yudhishthira was very happy to hear the news of Jarasandha’s end. He was so pleased with Krishna that he celebrated him and, as a token of gratitude, presented a beautiful chariot to him.
Yudhishthira was now cleared of all obstacles toward performing the Rajasuya Yajňa. Invitations were sent to saints and learned brahmins to participate in the yajňa. Invitations were also sent to all kings, respected merchants and other prominent citizens from all kingdoms to take part in the yajňa. Yudhishthira sent one of his brothers to Hastinapura in order to invite grandsire Bhishma, Vidura, Guru Drona, Kripacharya, Dhritarashtra and all the Kaurava princes. All of them came with valuable gifts for the Pandava King.
As Saint Dhaumya was the Pandava’s royal priest, he was appointed as the chief priest to perform the yajňa. After all arrangements had been completed Yudhishthira inaugurated the yajňa. Sage Vyasa was there to supervise all rituals, making sure they were done according to the scriptures. By the grace of God, the yajňa was completed successfully without any interruption.
It was customary to select one guest as the special honored guest, to be honored before honoring everyone else who were present. Yudhishthira chose to leave this choice to the assembly of kings who were gathered. He addressed the assembly, requesting them to choose the best participant so that the ritual of honoring can be initiated, then all the participants could be honored thereafter. Sahdev, the King of Magadha stood up and proposed Krishna’s name. Bhishma seconded along with Guru Drona.
Even though a large number of kings agreed with the decision, a small group of kings opposed the proposal. They suggested either Bhishma or Drona should be honored as the best participant. The opposition group was led by Shishupala, a cousin of Krishna from his father’s side. He stood up and started attacking Sahadev verbally for proposing Krishna. He went to the extent of insulting Bhishma and Drona for supporting the proposal. Then he demanded that Krishna refuse to accept the honor, as Shishupala thought that Krishna was not worthy of it.
Shishupala kept launching abusive words towards Krishna who was standing quietly and patiently. Calling him a mere cowherd, Shishupala insisted that Krishna was worthless to be honored. The Kauravas were thoroughly enjoying all the verbal abuses, especially the ones targeted at Krishna and the Pandavas.
Bhishma stood up, asked Shishupala to calm down, then addressed the assembly. He said, “Among the kshatriyas the most valiant deserves this honor. In my opinion, Krishna stands above all of us in many ways. His courage, fame and his knowledge of Vedas and scriptures, as well as the wisdom and patience that he has, which he demonstrated at the moment when Shishupala used abusive words to insult him.”
Shishupala was outraged by this praise of Krishna by Bhishma and burst into fury, now starting to use abusive and offensive language towards Grandsire Bhishma. Insulting Bhishma, Shishupala called his great vow to remain celibate throughout his life an act of cowardice.
When Krishna heard the impolite words used against the elderly honorable Bhishma, he stood up and addressed the assembly. He said “Shishupala, my cousin, has repeatedly caused a lot of distress to me and my family. Every time when I tried to punish Shishupala for his misdeeds, his mother, my aunt came to me, begging to spare his life. So, I promised my aunt that I would pardon Shishupala for his first hundred offenses. I have been counting his misdeeds. They have already come to hundred. One more offence and I will have to punish him, as an example for all who don’t follow righteousness.”
When Krishna said this, Shishupala laughed and again came out cursing and insulting Krishna using vulgar language. When these words were uttered by Shishupala, Krishna wielded his Sudarshana Chakra, which whirled around and went straight to targeting Shishupala. It chopped his head off his body, killing him on the spot.
All who were witnessing this stood frozen to their feet. Krishna consoled them all, then helped and guided Shishupala’s son to perform the last rites for his father. Krishna also crowned Shishupala’s son as the next king of Chedi. Shishupala was none other than Jaya, the gatekeeper of Vaikuntha. This was his third and last birth before his return to Vaikuntha. Thus, Jaya ended his three-birth curse on earth at Krishna’s hand, as promised by Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha.
As for Vijaya, he was born as Dantavakra, a cousin of Shishupala from his mother’s side, who was also a cousin of Krishna. He was very fond of Shishupala, thus hated Krishna. He refused to go to the Rajasuya Yajňa of Yudhishthira as he was furious about the death of his other friend, Jarasandha. To protest the killing of Jarasandha, he had not attended the Yajňa.
When he heard about the death of Shishupala, he was outraged. To avenge Shishupala’s death, Dantavakra attacked Krishna on his way home to Dwaraka after the Rajasuya Yajňa. Dantavakra was killed by Krishna in a duel with maces during this attack. Thus Vijaya, born as Dantavakra, also successfully completed his third lifetime on earth due to the curse. He joined his brother Jaya, returning to Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu. Both Jaya and Vijaya were very thankful to Lord Vishnu, who was on earth as Krishna, for liberating them from their curse. They were delighted to be back in Vaikuntha, awaiting their Lord’s return.
In December 2019, I flew to India to take my vows as a swami, a yoga monk. Before I left, I was worried, “What if I get sick?” I didn’t consciously think about it, but it was definitely brewing in my subconscious. In the end, my worries manifested into reality. I got a very sore and swollen throat. It lasted throughout the vows ceremony and the duration of the trip. Surprisingly, it was a blessing in disguise.
Amazingly, I did not mind. I was having such deep experiences. And even more, I finally got it: I am not my body. It was completely freeing. I was able to settle deeper into my own essence which the pain of my body cannot touch. While I could still feel my throat was raw and swollen, I was abiding at a deeper level within. I was experiencing the bliss that is beyond the limitations of my body.
Ever since, I have not been scared of getting sick. I still do my best to take care of my body, but it is not based in fear.
I got sick again a couple of months ago. I got Covid. I got it worse than I thought I would. I went through the gamut of symptoms: fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, congestion. Eventually, I experienced difficulty breathing as well as fatigue. This time, I wasn’t worried about being sick. Even though my body was in bad shape, I didn’t feel “I am my body.” However, I did uncover a different sticky identity, “I am my capacity.”
With Covid, I was laid up for what felt like way too long. I couldn’t teach my classes or support the Ashram with my administrative work. I couldn’t cook or clean. My whole identity of someone who is competent and capable was threatened. I realized that I’ve held the belief that my self-worth comes from what I do.
Since this underlying belief has come into my awareness, I’ve been able to look at it. Gurudevi’s recent teachings has supported me in doing so, especially this excerpt:
Yoga says that you are the perceiver, not what you perceive. Whatever you are seeing or hearing, as well as what you are doing, you are the one who is experiencing it. You are the experiencer, not the experience. You are the doer, not the action or its results. Know who you are, even while you are perceiving and acting, and you are free. This is yoga’s promise. – Gurudevi Nirmalananda, Perception & Action, September 2022
Yes! This makes so much sense to me. I perceive my body, so I must not be my body. I perceive my mind, so I must not be my mind. And oh yes! I perceive my capacity to act, so I must not be my capacity. I am the perceiver, not what I perceive. I am Shiva. I am the One Divine Reality that is being my body, mind and capacity in order to participate in this world. My participation does not make me more or less of who I am. I am the One who is being me and being all and beyond all.
This knowing is completely freeing while at the same time profoundly grounding. Without the knowing, you are lost in limitation. But when you know, you can fully embody individuality without being limited by it at all. The knowing is the key, the key to your own freedom. Yoga gives you the key. So if you are not yet free, you must do more yoga.
I had years with him. I lived and studied with my Baba, both in America and India. After I got past my initial awe of his incredible teachings, I relaxed into his energetic embrace. I deepened into inner realms beyond my imagining. Subtle unravelings freed me from psychological patterns laid down in my childhood, which I now recognize as karmas brought from lifetimes past.
He left this earthly plane 40 years ago today. It was overwhelming to lose him. I didn’t know who I was without him as an external anchor. Yet it was even more overwhelming to discover that his presence had become stronger. The anchor was now inside.
He had prepared us so well, explaining countless times that a great being doesn’t leave when they die. Such a Master merges into Self, thus is found in the Self of all. Their external form was only a masquerade anyway. Living in the whole of Beingness, they are only seemingly limited to a single form. I didn’t understand, of course, not until I experienced it. And even then, I didn’t understand, not until I’d experienced the passing of other loved ones. There’s a difference – a big difference.
When Baba left, I was sitting by the sea, watching the most extraordinary sunset I’ve ever seen. It had more colors and it lasted for hours. All the while, inside, he was revealing truths I need to know. I sat in a Divine communion with him that has never ended.
But to call it Divine communion is misleading, for there must be two in order to commune. Inside, there is only One, which yoga calls Shiva. But for me, that One is Baba. Shiva became Baba in order to give me my Self, who is Shiva. Yes, it’s circular reasoning, even confusing. Yes, it’s entrancing, entwining, enrapturing, enchanting – and Baba was all of that. I live in that Divine mystery. He unveiled it for me while he embodied it. He set me free. Thank you, Baba.
One fine day, while Krishna was in the assembly hall of the palace, one of his guards came in and announced the arrival of a stranger. Krishna gave permission to admit this person to the royal court. The stranger came in and bowed to Krishna, explaining he was sent by the kings imprisoned by Jarasandha, the mighty king of Magadha. He said he came seeking help to save the kings from the tyrant Jarasandha. He also said that Jarasandha was planning to capture as many kings as he could, to do a sacrifice to Rudra. While Krishna was trying to console the stranger, and the stranger was praying to Krishna to save the kings, Sage Narada walked in.
Krishna welcomed the sage, offering due respect and a seat in the assembly. Krishna said to Narada, “Honorable Sage, there is nothing you don’t know about. You know all that happens in this manifestation of Ishvara (God). So, we are delighted to hear about your visit to the Pandavas from you.”
Narada was happy to share the details of his visit with the Pandavas. “I visited the Pandavas in Indraprastha. I was duly received by Yudhishthira. I was very much honored and warmly welcomed by them all. Then I conveyed to them that I was going to tell them a wish their father King Pandu had. Yudhishthira with respect immediately said that he will fulfill his father’s wish at any cost.
Then I disclosed the wish of Pandu by saying, ‘You must perform the Rajasuya Yaj~na to establish your superiority to all other kings. Yudhishthira immediately called his royal priest and conveyed his desire. He also wanted to consult you, Krishna, about this matter.”
Hearing this, Krishna immediately started his journey to Indraprastha to advise Yudhishthira on the Rajasuya Yaj~na and the need to eliminate Jarasandha. As soon as Krishna reached Indraprastha, he was lovingly welcomed by Yudhishthira and his brothers. Krishna embraced them all with love and affection and gave his respects to Kunti, their mother and his aunt. Draupadi received Krishna’s wives cordially and led them to their rooms.
Yudhishthira begin to explain his plan about the yaj~na, also expressing his concerns about Jarasandha and Shishupala. After listening to Yudhishthira Krishna started to devise a plan. Yudhishthira then asked, “How can we accomplish the killing of Jarasandha? He is gifted with inimitable strength by Lord Shiva and has thus become invincible.”
Krishna assured Yudhishthira not to worry but to simply send Bhima and Arjuna with him. He said that he would make sure Bhima kills Jarasandha. Bhima defeating Jarasandha would establish Yudhishthira as the mightiest king, capable of performing the Rajasuya Yaj~na. As Yudhishthira completely trusted Krishna, he had no fear in sending Bhima and Arjuna with him. Still knowing Jarasandha’s valor very well he had several doubts in his mind which disturbed his peace.
Krishna again assured Yudhishthira saying, “Bhima will challenge Jarasandha for a wrestling duel. Knowing Jarasandha, he will be sure to accept it. By dueling with him, mighty Bhima will get a chance to kill him.” Yudhishthira was satisfied as he knew that, with the help and guidance from Krishna, Bhima will be victorious. Also, the invincible archer Arjuna will be there with them. Krishna also pointed out that Jarasandha’s end is imminent because his misdeeds have crossed all limits. Nature never spares a man whose excesses exceed the appropriate norms. Yudhishthira was certain that the Gods would be on their side because, by killing Jarasandha, they would be rescuing the kings who were imprisoned by him for sacrifice.
As a first step towards this, Krishna advised Yudhishthira to send Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva on a journey in all four directions to conquer all the other neighboring kings. They went as emissaries to all these other kings, demanding a vassal fee. This showed their willingness to accord Yudhishthira the position of an Emperor. This was done easily and all four of them returned in no time, with vassal fees sent to Yudhishthira willingly as he was loved by them all.
Now only Jarasandha remained. As planned earlier by Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna set out with Krishna to Magadha Kingdom, traveling in the guise of brahmins. After a long journey they reached the capital city. On their way, they destroyed the revered mountain of the Magadha kingdom. The brahmins belonging to the mountain took this as an ill omen. Right away, they informed Jarasandha about the mountain having been destroyed by some strangers.
Advised by his priests, Jarasandha started a Yaj~na to resolve the effect of the bad omen and to avert the misfortunes that looked to be looming large upon him and his kingdom. This was a great opportunity that created a way for Krishna and the Pandava brothers to enter the venue of the Yaj~na and meet Jarasandha.
They presented themselves before King Jarasandha and were cordially welcomed by him since he didn’t recognize who they were, because of their disguise. According to Krishna’s plan, both Pandava brothers stayed silent without uttering a word. Jarasandha was annoyed that the two men didn’t acknowledge his warm welcome. Krishna addressed their silence saying that they were both on a silence fast and they will not speak until midnight. Jarasandha requested them to rest and agreed to return after midnight to meet them.
As agreed, Jarasandha came to the place where Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna were staying and offered his salutations to them again. Arjuna blessed him and asked him to take a seat. Jarasandha gazed carefully at both the Pandava brothers and got suspicious of them. When they spoke, he recognized their voices to be familiar. Even their appearance was recognizable, despite the clothing they were wearing. And looking at their wrists confirmed his doubts that brahmins in front of him were not at all brahmins but kshatriyas (warriors).
Looking at them closely, he said to them, “You claim yourself to be brahmins. Except for your clothing, your physique and all your deeds are like those of kshatriyas. Upon your arrival, I am hearing about our revered mountain been destroyed. Plus you refused to accept my honor this morning on the pretext of observing a silence vow. So, I demand you disclose your true identity and the purpose of your visit, like true kshatriyas.”
Krishna replied, saying they didn’t accept his honor that morning as they were then, and even now, in the presence of their enemy. Jarasandha couldn’t quite understand what Krishna was saying and asked how they are enemies to him, demanding an explanation. So, Krishna pointed out how he has imprisoned kings for no fault of theirs. As kshatriyas, they came to Magadha for those who were imprisoned. Therefore, they considered Jarasandha as an enemy. Jarasandha argued, saying that he imprisoned them after defeating them in fierce battles. As victor, it is his right to treat them as he wishes.
Jarasandha was an ardent devotee of the brahmins and followed the dharma of giving. Due to his visitors’ brahmin attire, he decided to fulfill their wish, despite what consequences it might would bring. So, he asked what their wish was.
Krishna said that they were not there to beg for food but to challenge him to a duel. He then disclosed their identity, saying, “I am Krishna, the son of Vasudeva of the Yadava clan. This is Arjuna, the greatest archer of all times and a Pandava prince. And this is Bhima, his elder brother, destroyer of demons Hidimba and Bakasura.” Then he threw out a challenge to duel, asking him to choose one of them for the duel.
Jarasandha was furious at once. Especially his arch enemy Krishna being right in front of him, he couldn’t refuse the challenge, because of his arrogance. He then roared with laughter and exclaimed, “Hey Yadava! you are so afraid to fight with me that you deserted Mathura and took refuge in the city of Dwaraka. So, I wouldn’t want to fight you. Arjuna is youngest of you all and wouldn’t be a match for me in a duel either.
“The only one whom I can even consider is Bhima. Even though he is incomparable to my valor, he is better than both of you. So, I am willing to have a fight with him.” So, the day was fixed for the ferocious fight between the two mighty men.
The Truth is your inherent nature is limitless. Limitlessness is inherent to your essence like the wet is the inherent nature of water. Water would not be water if it were not wet. In the same way, your own essential nature is limitless, unbound, and free. While this is your human potential, your current condition is that you are bound.
Gurudevi Nirmalananda describes it this way in her commentary on Divine Sutras 1.2:
Consciousness takes on limitations, binding Herself with limited knowledge, limited happiness, limited ability, limited time. This is called bondage and is caused by the not-knowingness of your own Divine. The purpose of yoga is freedom, the freedom to know and to be your own Divine Self.
Consciousness is the One, the Source, the Ultimate Reality. To become the universe and everything in it, including you and me, Consciousness takes on levels of contraction — limitation. Due to this contraction, we feel like small, limited human beings.
I see these limitations play out when I’m teaching a Yoga Pain Clinic. I love to help people with their aches and pains; they come to find out how yoga can help. Yet they have a limited idea of the true healing capacity of their own body.
They also suffer from limited happiness, especially due to their pain. They have a limited ability to conceive of what they can really do with their body and in their life. They feel they have limited time, so how can they fit yoga into their already too-busy life? Yet, if they don’t do the yoga, they will not heal. It only works if you do it.
Near the program’s end, I teach a few easy Svaroopa® yoga poses they can do at home. I know the yoga poses will help many of the conditions that participants brought in. Yet many think they cannot do what I’m teaching because of their condition. It is like they have put a plaster cast on their body with their mind. They think, “I can’t move this way. I can’t move that way.” During the Pain Clinic, the yoga poses work on their mind as well their body. This frees them from the limitations they have imposed on themselves.
A few years ago, a new yogi told me he could not get on the floor. He had had a double knee replacement. I told him that yoga could still help him. I was teaching the Svaroopa® Yoga Magic 4, to release spinal tension from tail-to-top. The first two poses are in a chair, which he could do.
The third pose, Anjaneyasana (Lunge), is done by kneeling on the floor. He restated he could not get on the floor. So I had him do a variation of the pose in his chair. The final pose was Jathara Parivrttanasana (Rotated Stomach Pose), for which you must get on the floor. I demonstrated it. Then I looked over. He was on the floor doing it!
The shackles of his mind were beginning to loosen. He was freed from the limitation of what he thought his body could not do.
This same student had already signed up for my four-hour yoga workshop later that afternoon. He asked me, “Can I do it?” I said, “Yes.” As the afternoon progressed, I watched as this student got up and down off the floor many times. Each time was quicker and easier.
By the end of class, he wanted to try Anjaneyasana (Lunge) on the floor. He tried, but the limited movement in his knees would not allow it. Yet his mind was open to the possibility. This was huge! The shackles, the limitations, which he had put on his body, were dissolved. By the end of class, his face glowed, his were eyes bigger and brighter, and his body was lighter. He was radiant!
Svaroopaâ poses and the breathing practice give you great benefits, both physical and more than physical. You may have begun yoga to heal your body or decrease its pain. You soon discover that there is a deeper essence. You discover the “you” that is more than your body and more than your mind. Yoga calls it svaroopa, your own Divine Self — limitless You.