Krishna Avatar – Part 14

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

When Ganga took their eighth son to Indra’s heaven with her, King Shantanu was very disappointed.  He returned to the palace deeply saddened, missing his sons and, most of all, he missed his beloved Ganga.  Hastinapur went into a gloomy period, as the king lost interest in everything and didn’t pay much attention to the welfare of the country.  The ministers managed the affairs to the best of their ability but, as everyone knows, it was not the same as having a king managing the nation.

Almost every day, King Shantanu returned to the banks of the river Ganga, anticipating the return of Ganga and his eighth son.  A number of long years passed, with his grief growing worse each and every single day of those years.  One day, on his daily trip to the river, he saw a young, handsome adolescent boy playing, shooting arrows.  Shantanu was fascinated by the talent this young lad had with his bow and arrows.  He had built a dam across the river by shooting arrows into the river, blocking the flow of the water. Who could have such a great talent to be able to block the flow of Ganga?

As Shantanu was watching the young man with awe, Ganga emerged from the river, saying that the young lad was his eighth son, Devavrata.  She had taken Devavrata to different realms where he was brought up and learned all the Vedas, arts of war and statecraft.  From Brihaspati, the guru for all the devas, he learned the duties of kings.  From Vasishta, one of the Sapta (seven) Rishis, he learned the Vedas.  From Shukracharya, the guru for all the asuras, he learned politics.  From Sanatkumara, one of the sons of Lord Brahma, he learned the mental and spiritual sciences.  From Markandeya, one of the immortals who had acquired the everlasting youth from Lord Shiva himself, he learned the duties of a man.  From Parashurama, one of the immortals and the sixth Avatar of Vishnu, he learned the art of warfare.  Finally, Indra, the king of the devas, bestowed celestial weapons on him.

King Shantanu was delighted to have Devavrata, his eighth son, back home.  He tried to convince Ganga to stay with him, though he knew it was not going to happen.  But in the end, he had a suitable successor to his throne.  He returned to the palace, accompanied by Devavrata.  At getting his son back, Shantanu’s joy knew no bounds.

Within a day of Devavrata’s arrival, King Shantanu ordered his ministers to arrange a grand celebration welcoming his son.  The day after the celebrations, King Shantanu called his court for a meeting and declared Devavrata as the Crown Prince of Hastinapura.  The whole of Hastinapura was thrilled and jubilant.

Devavrata was a very courageous and valiant young prince.  He had no fear about anything.  One day when he was training a new horse, he rode the horse a fair distance, from Hastinapura to one of the kingdom’s borders.  There he saw the neighboring Salva king and his army marching to invade Hastinapura.

Devavrata challenged him single-handedly and put Salva’s army to a decisive defeat.  Devavrata captured Salva king and brought him to his father, King Shantanu.  King Shantanu was very happy and proud of his son.  Yet his thoughts were still with Ganga.  He missed her very much.  It made him sad.  On most days,  he went out on his own, riding in the countryside in hopes of seeing her again.

A few years passed. Hastinapura was back to its glory days, flourishing because Crown Prince Devavrata stepped in for the king most of the time.  One day, when King Shantanu was riding in his chariot along the river Yamuna, he smelled a heavenly fragrance unlike anything he’d ever smelled before.  He searched for the source and found it to be an extremely beautiful young lady.  He asked who she was.  She replied that she was Satyavati, the daughter of the tribal fishermen chief, Dashraj.

Who is Satyavati?  There once lived a King named Vasu, a very pious and truthful King who was married to Queen Girika, a devoted wife.  By his intense penance towards Lord Indra, Vasu gained Indra’s eternal friendship, and the gift of an evergreen garland and an aircraft to travel to the heavens.  Thus, he received the name Uparichara Vasu (Upward-Going One).

On one of his hunting trips, while he was resting under an ashoka tree, the cool fragrant breeze from the leaves and the sound of singing birds provoked his lust and a longing for his wife.  A wave of passion heated him, and he couldn’t restrain his physical response.  The thought of wasting his semen bothered him, so he collected it in a leaf and called upon a hawk to carry it quickly to his beloved queen.  While carrying the leaf with the semen, the hawk was seen by another hawk who misunderstood the leaf to be food, so he attacked for it.  The fight between these two hawks made the leaf fall into the river Yamuna, landing in the mouth of a fish.

Actually the fish was a celestial nymph named Adrika, who was born as a fish due to a sage’s curse.  Catching the leaf full of semen, Adrika (as a fish) conceived twins: a boy and a girl.  Some fishermen belonged to Uparichara Vasu’s kingdom caught the fish.  When they cut the fish open and found the babies, they took the babies to their king, Uparichara Vasu.  The King chose the boy to be raised in his palace, naming him Matsya because he was born out of a fish; Vasu returned the girl to the fishermen.

The tribal chief brought her up as his daughter, naming her Kali, the dark one, which was later changed to Satyavati.  However, she was commonly called Matsyagandha, meaning one who smells like fish.  Indeed, she smelled like fish.

The tribal chief also was a ferryman on the river Yamuna, taking people across the river.  Satyavati helped her father with ferrying people.  One day, Satyavati was ferrying the sage Parashara across the river.  Through his meditative powers, he felt that the time was right for a great sage to be born.  This inner knowing would become manifest in the world if he had coitus within a short period of time.  Therefore, he wanted Satyavati agree to his wish.

She tried to dissuade him, but Parashara was persistent, desperate not to miss the opportunity to have a great sage as his heir.  Satyavati said that, with her fish-like smell, it will be hard for sage Parashara to be with her.  With a touch, sage Parashara, turned her fish-like smell into yojan-gandha, the fragrance of musk.  Satyavati was taken by this, but then she pleaded that it was not appropriate to have sex in broad daylight, such that her father and the others will be able to see them.  Sage Parashara used his powers to shroud the entire area in thick fog.  Still she protested that he would to rob her virginity and leave her shamed in society.  He blessed Satyavati that it would be a secret and her virginity would remain intact.  Unable to dissuade him, also scared that he would get angry and curse her, she agreed.

After the act, the sage had a bath in the river and left, never to meet her again.  In accordance with the sage’s blessings, Satyavati gave birth to her baby in secrecy on an island in the river Yamuna. It was a boy, who grew up in a short period of time to be a youth.  He was less handsome, but he had a blissful radiance, definitely indicating that he would become a great sage.  His name was Krishna (dark) Dvaipayana (born on an island).  He later became known as the great sage Vyasa, compiler of the Vedas, author of the Puranas and the Mahabharata, this great epic.

Krishna Dvaipayana promised his mother that he would come to her aid every time she called on him, which she could do by a mere thought.  He then left to do penance in the forest.  After this, Satyavati returned home and continued to help her father.  No one knew what had happened.  Her virginity was intact and she now had an everlasting sweet fragrance.

Let’s return to King Shantanu.  On the banks of the river, seeing and smelling her, he became love-struck.  For the second time in his life, he requested a maiden, who he saw only moments before, to marry him.  Satyavati said she had no right to answer that question, that he must ask her father, the tribal chief, for her hand.  Immediately, King Shantanu went to her father, explained who he was and requested Satyavati’s hand.

Her father said he had to marry Satyavati to someone soon, that he had no objection and it would be a great honor to give her in marriage to King Shantanu.  However, he had one condition, that a son born to Satyavati should be the successor to the Hastinapura throne.  But King Shantanu had gotten burnt due to the conditions from Ganga and had already named Devavrata to be Crown Prince.  How could he go back on his word to his son?  Rejecting this condition, disappointed and unhappy, and with a very heavy heart, King Shantanu returned to the palace.

A few days passed.  Devavrata noticed that his father was more dejected than usual.  He understood that his father missed his mother and therefore was sad all the time, but this was different.  Devavrata wanted to find out about it.  King Shantanu would not disclose anything to his son.  Determined to find out what happened, Devavrata inquired from all of the workers and others close to the king if anything happened in the past few days that would make his father unhappy.  From his father’s charioteer, he found out about the whole ordeal which had transpired at the banks of Yamuna.  Devavrata wanted to do something to make his father happy, so had the charioteer take him to Satyavati and her father at once.

Magical or Mystical?

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

I was confused about the difference between mysticism and magic for a long time.  One reason is because Western yoga and meditation often bring alternative theories into their yogic quest.  What is magical?  What is mystical?

Magic is when you use subtle perceptions to make material changes in your life and in the world.  You’re looking for outer fulfillment.

Mysticism is when you use subtle perceptions to explore the subtle dimensions within your own being.  You’ve figured out that, even if your life were perfect, it wouldn’t be enough.  The answer has to be found within.

By the time I took my first Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), I’d already learned about Tarot cards and the I Ching.  I studied some palmistry, astrology and other nonconformist things.  At the time, I couldn’t have explained why I was curious about these things, but now I can see that I was trying to understand myself better.  The tools I’d been given by family and in 20+ years of schooling weren’t working for me.  Even the things they told me to avoid — well, I tried them out — and they didn’t work either.

Still it surprised me when my YTT teacher brought in some of those things as well as some I hadn’t heard about previously.  She shared everything she knew about yoga but it didn’t fill up all the training hours, so it seemed like she brought in the kitchen sink.  She probably thought it was all related.  I suppose it is, but it’s a distant relationship, like gold is related to mud.

If you want genuine and profound inner expansion, you will have to give up channeling, Ouija boards, pendulums, mind-reading, foretelling the future and other psychic phenomena.  Why?  Because all those things are about finding ways to manage the world, not ways to discover your Divine Essence.  If you’re flowing your energy outward, into the world, you cannot be flowing it inward, to see and know who you really are.  It’s really quite simple.

However, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras lists many such siddhis (psychic powers) and tells you how to develop them.  While few modern translators even bother with these sutras, there are 48 of them, over 25% of the text.   In other words, yogis have always been known for having amazing powers, like levitation, being invisible, bilocation, materialization and more.  Yet Patanjali also tells you, “Don’t use these abilities.  Using them will hold you back for lifetimes.”

Spirituality is not about magic.  It’s not about impressing other people, even with your yogic body or your ability to hold your breath for a long time.  You don’t get to flaunt your inner peace or your more refined understanding of life.  Instead, show them your open heart and open mind by listening more than you speak.  Ask how you can help.  And follow through.  That’s yoga.

Right now, listening, caring and helping is a yoga practice.  It’s a practice that mimics the way you will live once you’re enlightened.  When you know your own Divine Essence, you’ll see the same in others.  Thus there’s nothing to be proud about, for you are no better than anyone else.

In addition, your inner experience of your own Self is so fulfilling that you won’t crave outer things nor pursue them.  You have nothing to fear should you somehow lose everything.  What freedom!

It gives you the freedom to listen, to care and to help.  Why?  Even when you’re enlightened, you still have a body and live in the world.  And the world needs you.  More than ever before, especially because you have more subtle and powerful perceptions, so you have more to offer.  Yet you know that it all comes from one source, the One Source that is in everyone, the One Reality that is being you – Shiva, your own Self.  This is mysticism.  And it’s pretty magical too!

Your Inner Radiance

By Swami Shrutananda

Your inherent nature is light. You are the light of consciousness, in a unique and individualized form.  That light shines through your eyes, fills your heart and is the flash of creativity.  The light of your own being arises from its inner source.

A great sage, Shankaracharya, described it this way:

Here, within your own body, through your own mind, in the secret chamber of intelligence, in the infinite universe within your heart, Self shines in its captivating splendor, like a noonday sun. By its light, the universe is revealed.

– Vivekachudamani 98-99,  rendered by Gurudevi Nirmalananda.

The physicists and yogis agree that the Big Bang emanated energy which became light; the light coalesced into matter.  Everything is made of solidified light.  Even your body is made of light.  You are embodied light. You simply start “within your own body.”  In Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, you begin by settling into your body, deepening into your seat and allowing your spine to be easily upright.  The tool used to turn your mind inward is to apply your mind to mantra.  With mantra you are using your mind to go through your mind and beyond your mind.

Mantra carries you deeper within where you find “the secret chamber of intelligence, in the infinite universe within your heart.”  The “secret chamber of intelligence” is a knowing that is beyond the mind’s knowing.  It is the fully enlivened, fully embodied, fully expanded knowing of your own Self.

Here, “Self shines in its captivating splendor, like a noonday sun.  By its light, the universe is revealed.”  This means that the Self, your own Self, does not get its light from anything else.  It is the source of light.  Also, it does not get its capacity of knowing from anything else.  It is Knowingness-Itself.  It doesn’t get its existence from anything else.  It is Existence-Itself.  Everything else in the universe that exists gets its existence, its knowing and its light from the Self.

This light is not merely physical light.  It is your mind’s capacity to know, whether you are looking inside or outside.  I experienced this in meditation.  I was looking at my mind being separate from me.  I wondered who was the one who was looking at my mind?  Who was asking the question?  I felt the vastness of my beingness that was deeper than my mind.  It was beyond my mind.  From this experience, I knew I had a mind but was more than my mind —a lot more than my mind!  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation specializes in giving you the experience of your own Self, so you can discover that you are more than your mind.  From this inner depth, you know your own radiance.  This is the goal of yoga.

Having the experience of your own Self makes you glow.  As a teacher, I can tell when someone is having a deep inner experience of their own Self because they are so radiant.  Yet at other times that light is blocked.  Svaroopa® yoga practices dissolve the tensions through the multiple levels of your body, mind and heart.  They clear away inner blockages that hide the radiance of your own Self.  Every pose, yogic breath, mantra repetition and meditation opens up your inherent flow of happiness, joy and light.  It’s like cleaning a picture window so clean that you cannot tell it is there.  Then the radiance of sunlight shines through the clear glass without being diminished by layers of dust and grime.  You experience your own radiance more and more fully, as well as share it with the world.

Kashmiri Shaivism says the whole of the light of Consciousness is intact within you.  This ancient yogic tradition promises that you can have this experience while you live your life.  The purpose of the Guru, and the service the Guru provides, is to be the embodied light of Consciousness that reveals your own Self, your own radiance, to you.  Thus, you experience and come to embody the light of Consciousness that you already are.  We call this Grace.

Amazing

By Swami Samvidaananda

Amazing.  That is how I describe the yoga and meditation that I practice.  I don’t have a better word because it’s hard to describe the wonderful and powerful experiences that unfold.

  • Physically, you get amazing benefits.  You become free from pain, and your strength and stamina increase.  You gain vitality and resilience.  A yogi friend recently shared that she did not get her usual spring allergies.  They’re gone.
  • Mentally, you get amazing improvements.  Your stress levels go down, your depression lifts, you experience equanimity.  Calmness and happiness, even joy, become your baseline.  You don’t sweat the small stuff so much.  You handle life’s big challenges more easily.  I’ve talked to many yogis who recognize that they are handling this pandemic with much less fear than BY (before yoga).  They are taking steps to keep themselves, loved ones and everyone safe.  They recognize that they are making their decisions based on intelligence, rather than anxiety.
  • You love more, and, no surprise, you are easier to love.  You light up the lives of those around you.  Like the Debbie Boone song from the Seventies, “You light up my life, you give me hope….”  I know I’m dating myself, but I loved that song.  You light up people’s lives.

Amazing, right? So I was delighted to learn that a primary text of the Kashmiri Shaivite meditation system says this:

Vismayo yoga-bhuumikaa.h. — Shiva Sutras 1.12

The wonders of yoga are truly amazing.

(rendered by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati)

Vismayo means amazement or wonder, and yoga-bhuumika.h is the stages of yogic development.  If the benefits I’ve described were the only things yoga and meditation did for you, that would be wonderful.  Yet, there’s more.  The physical and mental benefits and changes are not actually the wonders that this sutra is referring to.

This sutra is about the deeper inner experiences.  They are harder to put into words, specifically because they are beyond words.  Deeper than words, deeper than your mind, as you immerse yourself into the depths of your inner knowingness and beingness, you have amazing wonder-filled inner experiences.  They unfold within, in a progression mapped by the ancient sages.  You are following the same inner path they followed, with their teachings to guide and protect you along the way

Not long into studying with Swami Nirmalananda, I began to understand that there is an inner map.  She has already traversed it; she knows what’s around the next corner.  She knows the rocky ground that you currently may be picking your way across.  And she can assure you that an incredible vista is about to open up.  Her teachings guide you and protect you along the way.

Wherever you are on the map, there are amazing inner stages yet to come.  Whatever experiences are currently blossoming forth within you, there’s more — more than you can currently imagine.  That is because your mind cannot fully imagine the “more” of who you really are.  It is when you go beyond your mind that you discover your own Divinity.  That is the goal and purpose of Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation: for you to have the experiential knowing (vidya) of your own Divinity (svaroopa).  Awakening you to that inner knowing is the specialty of this lineage of Gurus.

Swami Nirmalananda has the calling, the capacity and the mastery to awaken you to your Divinity.  She lights the flame of your enlightenment within you, so that you realize who you are.  You will know that you are concentrated Consciousness — distilled Divinity.  You are the One Eternal Reality that is the Source of unending joy, peace, and bliss, manifesting the universe and everything in it, including you.  You have always been Divine, you have never not been Divine.  You just don’t know it all the time.

Once you have received the inner awakening, called Shaktipat, every time you meditate, you experience your Divinity.  Your mind and senses are increasingly saturated in your own Divine Essence.  The light and bliss of your own being shine into and through you, more and more.  Your Divinity is not only in you, it is you, and everything else.  And when you go inside, you know this, in progressively deepening stages.  The sutra is saying that it keeps getting better.  I can vouch for it from my own experience, it keeps getting better.  How amazing, how wonderful!  But don’t take my word for it.  Have the experience yourself.

Krishna Avatar – Part 13

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Even though Krishna returned from Hastinapura in haste due to Satrajit’s death, he never stopped fulfilling his duties to the Kuru family.  Knowing in his heart that the Kuru cousins were safe, still he sent Uddhava to find them and report back to him.

So, who are these cousins of Krishna from the Kuru family?

The above question takes us into the epic of Mahabharata!  They were the Pandavas of the Lunar Dynasty.  We have to go back a few generations to start the story of the Pandavas.  Let’s begin with the name of the epic, “Mahabharata.”  While it is a long story, we will look at a concise version of it.

There once lived a king of the Lunar Dynasty, named Dushyanta.  He had a great passion for hunting.  On one of his hunting trips in the jungle, he found Shakuntala, the daughter of Menaka, a celestial nymph of Lord Indra’s court and the great sage Vishwamitra.  It is said that Lord Indra himself, frightened by Vishwamitra’s yogic powers and fearful of losing his position as Lord of the devas, sent Menaka from heaven to earth to lure Vishwamitra and disturb his intense meditation.  Menaka successfully inflamed Vishwamitra’s lust and passion; she succeeded in breaking his meditation.

However, she genuinely fell in love with him and had a baby girl.  The baby girl born to them was left at Rishi Kanva’s ashram with both the parents departing to follow their own pursuits.  Rishi Kanva found the baby surrounded by shakunta birds, so he named her Shakuntala.  Thus Shakuntala became the foster-daughter of Rishi Kanva.

Mesmerized by her beauty, Dushyanta married Shakuntala in a Gandarva marriage (love marriage with no rituals or witnesses), promising to return for her even though being with her in the jungle for only a few days.  He gave his royal ring, embossed with his name, as a token of love.  Shakuntala anxiously waited for Dushyanta, losing herself in thoughts of him.

One day Sage Durvasa, known for his fiery temper, visited Rishi Kanva.  However, Shakuntala was inattentive to Durvasa as she was thinking about Dushyanta.  Angered, Durvasa cursed that the person of whom she was thinking would forget her.  Shakuntala pleaded with Durvasa, but he said he couldn’t take the curse back, but that she could show Dushyanta something he had given her, such as the ring, and he would be freed from the curse.

Due to the curse, Dushyanta forgot Shakuntala.  He never came back for her.  Desperate, Shakuntala went to Dushyanta’s kingdom.  On the way, she lost the ring in the river.  A fish swallowed it and swami away.  As Shakuntala didn’t have the ring to bring Dushyanta out of the curse, he didn’t recognize her.  Shakuntala had to return to the forest and remain deserted by Dushyanta.

In time, Shakuntala gave birth to a baby boy.  Shakuntala’s son was brave and courageous.  His name was Bharata.  From an early age, he played with lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals.  It is told that he opened a lion’s mouth with his bare hands to count the number of teeth it had.  Shakuntala, watching her son, was sure that he would become a great courageous leader one day.

A few years later, a fisherman found the royal ring in a fish in his catch.  He took it to Dushyanta, as his name was on it.  Upon seeing the ring, the curse was lifted.  Dushyanta remembered Shakuntala and rushed to the jungle to find her.  Arriving at Rishi Kanva’s Ashram, he found Bharata playing with the wild animals like toys.  He approached the little boy, asking who he was?  The little boy replied that he was Bharata, the son of the great king Dushyanta and Shakuntala.  Astonished by this answer, Dushyanta sadly realized his error of leaving Shakuntala.  He hugged his son with great love and affection.  He took Shakuntala and Bharata back to the palace.  Succeeding his father, Bharata became the king and soon an Emperor.  He became the greatest of all the kings, a universal emperor.  India’s original name came from him, “Bharat” or “Bharatavarsha,” before the European invasion.  Hence we see the name, “Mahabharata,” which is Maha + Bharata, meaning Great Bharata.

A number of descendants in Bharata’s line ruled Bharatavarsha.  In that line, King Hasti and his grandson King Kuru, were very popular.  Hastinapura was named after King Hasti and the Kuru family got the name after King Kuru.  Kuru’s son was Pratipa, whose son was Shantanu.  The saga of Mahabharata formally begins with the rule of King Shantanu, known for his valor and wisdom.

King Pratipa had three sons; Shantanu was the youngest.  King Pratipa’s eldest son, Devapi, had leprosy and therefore gave up his inheritance to the throne and became a hermit.  The second son, Bahlika, abandoned Hastinapura, and lived with his uncle in Balkh, later inheriting his kingdom.  Thus, Shantanu was crowned as the king of Hastinapura.  He was young when crowned because his father had him later in life.

Shantanu was a benevolent and wise ruler, very much liked by the people of his nation.  One day, the young king Shantanu was walking along the river Ganga, and saw a beautiful young lady.  She walking on the water as though she was walking on the ground, then came ashore and continued to walk on the riverbank.  He was mesmerized and fell in love with her in an instant.  He told the beautiful lady that he had lost his heart to her, that he is the king of Hastinapura who wants to marry her.  He would make her the queen of Hastinapura.  She said she would accept his proposal under two conditions: 1) he must never ask her about who she is or where she came from, and 2) he should never interfere in what she does.  Continuing, she told him that if he violated either of these conditions, she will leave him immediately.

The conditions stunned Shantanu; they would never be agreeable to a king.  But, for the love stricken Shantanu, it was unthinkable to refuse any of her demands, in order to have her hand.  He accepted both conditions immediately.  The beauty married Shantanu under the Gandarva marriage rites (love marriage with no rituals or witnesses) on the spot.

King Shantanu left his ministers to take care of the kingdom and completely concentrated only on his wife.  He called her “Ganga,” as he had found her near the river Ganga.  Shantanu’s life went smoothly and happily for some time.  In due course, Ganga gave birth to a lovely baby boy.  Shantanu was overjoyed to hear the news and rushed to his wife’s quarters.  The queen was silently taking the newborn towards the river Ganga, where Shantanu had met her for the first time.  Shantanu was puzzled but followed her quietly.  When she arrived at the riverbank, she turned and smiled at Shantanu, then put the newborn into the river, letting the currents wash the baby away.  She started walking back to the palace with satisfaction in her face.  Shantanu was speechless, unable to believe what he had seen the love of his life do to their child.  He wanted to ask her, why she did it, but remembered the conditions and kept quiet.

A few weeks passed, then Shantanu came to know that Ganga was pregnant again.  His sadness about the earlier son faded away.  He was eagerly awaiting the birth of his child.  The day came and he was blessed with another son.  To his astonishment, Ganga marched with the baby in her arms towards the river again.  It was the same fate for the second son as the earlier one.  Shantanu was in great grief, but he could not say or do anything as he was bound by his promise.

Ganga did the same thing over and over again, giving Shantanu’s sons to the river.  After she drowned the seventh son, Shantanu was lost in deep thought all the time.  Life was very painful for him.  He couldn’t tolerate what Ganga was doing, but his love for her prevented him from saying anything as he didn’t want to lose her.

Running out of patience, Shantanu decided to stop the drowning of the eighth child.  The time came.  His eighth son was born.  As usual, the queen was off to the river.  When she was about to drop the baby into the river, Shantanu shouted “Stop!  You are murdering my eighth son, and I can’t allow it to happen.  Are you here to put an end to my kingdom and my dynasty?  Why, my love?”

The queen looked at Shantanu.  She said “Dear King, I am Ganga, the river itself, who came from the heavens.  Now that you have questioned me, you have broken your promise.  As for the conditions, I will not be able to stay with you any longer.  But before I leave, I will reveal the entire secret of what has happened here.”  She continued, “The children born to you were the eight Vasus, the eight elemental attendants of Indra, representing the aspects of nature.  Once, sage Vasishta got angry with them as they stole his pet cow Nandini.  He cursed them to be born as humans and undergo mental embarrassments.  Hearing this curse, seven of them implored the sage to be excused, but the eighth stood without any remorse.  Vasishta compassionately amended his curse for the first seven, so they would as soon as they are born on earth, to be able to return to Indra’s heaven.  But the eighth would have a very long miserable life due to mental suffering.  The eight Vasus came to me, asking me to be their mother on earth.  To fulfill their wish, I had to take a human form and free them from their curse.  I liberated the first seven.  My job is done here.  I will take your eighth son with me, to teach him to be potent enough to withstand what this world is going to throw at him, mentally and physically.  When he grows up to an age, studying everything he needs to know, I will come back and return him to you.”  Saying this, hugging her baby, she flashed into the sky.

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.