Yogi in the World

By Swami Prajñananda

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

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

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

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

Lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham — Shiva Sutras 1.18

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

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

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

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

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

What You Say Matters

By Swami Sahajananda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All About You

By Swami Satrupananda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synchronicity

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krishna Avatar – Part 12

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Indescribable You

By Swami Shrutananda Saraswati

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

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

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

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

Each of these descriptions applies to your own Self:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow yourself down and repeat these statements.  What happens?

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

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

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

What’s the Point?

By Swami Prajñananda

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

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

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

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

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

Swami Muktananda explains:

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

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

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

Krishna Avatar – Part 11

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enlightenment is Contagious

By Swami Samvidaananda Saraswati

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

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

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

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

lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham  — Shiva Sutras, 1.18

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

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

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

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

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

Reality is Multidimensional

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the sun will come up again tomorrow.