Friday, 23 November 2012

FROM SINNER TO SAINT: THE YOGIC WAY




One of the most gritty  fault lines that exist between our human religious traditions is the problem of evil and sin. Are we inherently bad, wrongly constructed to always choose the path that ultimately leads us to painful suffering? Or are we basically good, grouped round an inner core of dazzling purity, but with a case of spiritual amnesia? Do good or evil even really exist? If they do, where do they come from? If not, why do we think they do?

These are the kind of questions that can quickly tie us into knots, and different religions provide very different answers. But as we live in our skin, as our lives play out, we get a sense of both the good and bad propensities in us.All of us are a mix of attributes, and we all have weak points that can damage both ourselves and others. 

The other day I re-read one of my favourite spiritual texts, and for once it is not a Sanskrit chant! It is one of the Psalms, revered in two religions (Judaism and Christianity) as the outpourings of religious devotion which transcend their original purpose as musical accompaniments to temple rituals. Only the hymns of the Sikh Gurus, especially Guru Nanak, hit this same wonderful devotional spot 

The Psalms are at times surprisingly and starkly honest with a surprisingly modern sensibility, and none more so than Psalm 51, the famous "Miserere" which begins "Have mercy upon me oh God... wash me thoroughly of my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin... against You and You alone have I sinned.." This is one of those Psalms that were originally ascribed to the famous King David. It is an excruciating "I'm sorry" poem, which acknowledges that when we go badly wrong, it is ultimately an occasion of sorrow.

It is the equivalent of a Buddhist tradition held by Buddhist monks of coming together and confessing their faults in front of the assembly. Similar behaviour is found in the monastic traditions of many religions: the "I'm sorry" moment. 

The Yogic way is always based on profound common sense, and the question of good and evil is not side-stepped, but simply seen from another perspective: the quest for self-mastery.

So, Yogic tradition (best found in the wonderful brief aphorisms of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita ) points out that true goodness can only spring from true purity of heart. And that in turn can only be achieved by one thing: spiritual practice, or sadhana. One more thing: this spiritual practice only really works if it is constant and uninterrupted. We need, as many wise people tell us, to cleanse the windows of perception, let the Divine Light in, and then the mystery of good and evil begins to become solvable.

Yogic tradition comforts us: we may always go wrong; but bit by bit the scope of our wrong-headedness becomes a little more limited. Bit by bit, hour by hour, resolution by resolution, sigh by sigh... in the middle of the raging storms of our worldly existence.

I spent some years in my spiritual life exploring Christian spirituality from the outside, and found that in the most exalted accounts of the lives of Catholic saints there were startling parallels to the lives of the great Yogic saints. Not exactly in terms of miracles or wisdom, but in their shared determination to live simply and nobly, to refuse to admit defeat when it came to mastering our baser impulses. 

Of course we can always simply decide to go with the flow and give up the spiritual path as simply too challenging, and saying we are all basically sinners seems to me a great cop-out that can excuse all kinds of behaviour. Saying we are all saints in the making is a better way, one I truly believe. Our hearts may indeed be treacherous, our untramelled will threatening, our past history dreadful to behold. But as the great Yogananda once said, "a saint is a sinner who never gave up".

So, reciting Psalm 51 I pondered my own life, all its twists and turns, and all the hints and omens it has contained warning of storms ahead. Earlier this year,. reciting the Chandi Path for 108 days, around day 50 or so I dropped some incense and burning frankincense on the carpet and the carpet burst into flame. That very night i had to deal with the onset of a storm of long suppressed urges, a toxic ball of rage, lust, pain, self aggrandisement that has still not subsided, and it has been long months now.Following that I had to deal with a senile mother who needed care, when the rest of the family walked away from their duties. 

This has provided a depressing glimpse of my and our humanity, but its not the whole story. All of this is hidden in our inner cupboards. But other qualities exist , too: mercy, compassion, patience, gentleness. Why do I practice spiritual disciplines? Not to suppress, not to walk away from the problem of good and evil... but to be clear sighted enough to be able top appreciate God even in the worst inner storm and the lowest mood.

The American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron gave once a wonderful illustration of how we could live, if we have the playful courage and resolution. She pointed out how the crows near where she lives on the Noprth Atlantic coast manage not just to survive the severe winter storms but even appear to be playing in the wind! She writes:

Once I saw them in an incredible hurricane-velocity wind, grabbing each others feet and dropping and then letting go and flying out. It was like a circus act.... In order to exist there they have had to develop a zest for challenge and for life. As you can see it adds up to tremendous beauty and inspiration and uplifted feeling. The same goes for us.
(from the Wisdom of No Escape)

It does take courage to get right with life after we have done something not so praiseworthy, something which might cause us to put our heads in our hands. But, hey, we're human. As Psalm 51 puts it, "Behold, a Sinner was I conceived"...we were born on this earth to work on this very problem: the problem of mastering ourselves. Or, as I like to see it, wading upstream in a fierce current when so many others are floating on sunbeds in the opposite direction. But, hey, when we finally do get it right, the joy of self-mastery is beyond description. It is a pearl of great price. 



 


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

JYOTISH: SADE SATI, AND SATURN/SANI


SANI/SATURN THE COLD DISCIPLINARIAN







Nobody likes being unpopular - but imagine if you were the kind of planet that causes humans to tremble and go weak at the knees, rather than jump with joy when you appear. Furthermore, you would even be feared by your fellow celestial bodies.

This is the fate of Lord Sani, (pronouced sha-nee) the planet Saturn, whose influence is dreaded, and who is at best respected for his powers as a bringer of harsh karmic lessons, at worst feared and shunned. Who could love such an icy, aged and implacable malefic?


In fact the popular image of a terrifying cosmic policeman or karmic debt collector is mainly a caricature, and the periods when Sani influences your chart can turn out to be the best times of your life - if you seek wisdom and higher understanding. But it is also true that if you have any karmic debts piling up, then payment time will come to you from Lord Sani, on this material world, where karma becomes actualised.

For a start, there is much more to Sani than first meets the eye. The planet has many ambiguities in its nature and influence.

The astronomical view
Perhaps the metaphor is unfortunate, because Sani does not easily meet the eye. He is visible to the naked eye from earth, but looks faded and is easy to miss in a crowded night sky. One clue is that Saturn never twinkles, unlike the stars. The planet is just over 1.4bn kilometres distant from the earth, and over 700 times bigger than our home planet. But - first ambiguity - it weighs 100 times less. It is the least dense of the planets.

Saturn is slow moving when seen from the earth and takes 29.5 years to go around the sun. Seen from space, the planet with its rings and 18 satellites has a compulsive beauty about it. Another ambiguity: It gives off more energy than it receives from the sun.
That is the physical aspect of the planet, the one which is known, plotted and measured by science.

The Vedic Sani
But in Vedic astrology, as in Roman myth, Saturn is a living being. The Romans firmly placed Saturn as earthy, as Saturn is the god of agriculture and rules the day Saturday. Lord Sani also rules the day Saturday.
In the lore of Jyotish, Saturn, Lord Sani, is cold, earthy, masculine and dry, but - yet another ambiguity, the son of the fiery, hot, energetic Sun.

Sani's mother is Chaya.. shadow, who in the myth sneaked in to unite with the Sun, much to his subsequent dismay. The Sun is therefore no friend of Lord Sani. But a planet that is parented by sun and shadow is an interesting mix indeed. The histility between the Sun and Saturn can produce dire results in your chart if the two are in mutual aspect.

Echoes in cultures
There are many different descriptions of this most unusual planet in ancient jyotish texts. Lord Sani is variously described as "dark, lame, deep eyes" or "thin and tall body, large teeth, stiff hair", or even "tall body full of arteries and veins" - the kind of physical shape called "ectomorphic" by modern science.. bony, angular, thin. His behavioural characteristics sound uncompromising: "-cruel", "pitiless", "patient", "slow".
This archetype is powerful enough to resurface time and time again in different cultures over different ages. Consider two uncanny depictions of the Saturnian essence that I have found help build a picture of Lord Sani.

One is a famous character in graphic novels called "the Sandman", Morpheus the Lord of Dreams. He is tall, stiff, austere, humourless and unforgiving - but also loyal, dutiful, responsible and extremely wise. If you have never read the Sandman series - hailed as the best graphic novels ever written, take a look and you will see a faithful, almost unnerving portrayal of Sani's stiff, implacable power. Another depiction of Saturn comes from the Ifa religion of West Africa, and is the dreaded god of illness and healing Babalu Aye, who hides his face under a veil. Babula Aye resurfaces in the Santeria religion as St Lazarus - invariably depicted as an old, lame man with two dogs as companions, covered with boils.

Vedic astrology allocates a particular role to Sani, which is brilliantly summed up in the book "Greatness Of Saturn" - a reinterpretation by western astrologer Robert Svoboda of an ancient story about Saturn's powers.

Sani's remit
Sani,in brief, has a wide remit. The planet brings karmic lessons to the individual human soul in a patient but unmistakeable way. Sani's karmic retribution is always just .. and accurately balanced. But the planet is uncompromising in its action. Jyotish describes different propitiations for planets - but Sani is the one planet unlikeliest to be placated or fooled by insincere, rushed measures to ward off his ill affects. This is not Lord Sani's nature.

Sani traditionally governs age, longevity, restriction, discipline, elders, ancestors, asceticism, restriction. Lord Sani is not a planet that baulks from saying "no". Yet Sani also signifies wisdom - not the only planet to do so, but Saturnian wisdom, born of sober and probably unhappy experience has a special, "lived in" quality. The planet at its best brings temperance, moderation, and a quiet, unstated delight in a simple life.It rules hidden wealth, endurance, mental and moral courage.

In the kind of culture we currently live, these qualities are about as welcome as an undertaker at a midnight rave. But glitz, excitement, living life to the max.. this is all the antithesis of a Sani lifestyle. Our society is speeded up at a frantic pace. Sani is not. And it come as a huge shock when Lord Sani comes to slow a life down.

Another area which Lord Sani rules is servants and service. Only the best of servants would agree to the kind of job Lord Sani has to do - doling out harsh lessons is not the kind of thing anyone would volunteer for. But Lord Sani is responsible, unswerving in his duty, the perfect servant of God's instructions.

Sade Sati
To followers of Vedic astrology, Lord Sani has a special significance in one particular lengthy transit dubbed "Sade Sati". This is when Sani transits the 12th, 1st, and 2nd houses from the house in which your Moon is placed at birth. The period of influence is 7.5 years long- hence the name "Sade Sati" which means seven and a half, and occurs roughly every 30 years.

Sade Sati makes Hindus especially particularly nervous - as it seems to threaten untold miseries and calamities. But the period, especially in middle age, all depends on your attitude. Texts threaten all sorts of failure, journeys, losses, tiredness -the standard frighteners put in jyotish texts. But the reality can be entirely different: a liberation, a learning of vital life skills, a growth in maturity, tolerance and understanding.

Sani in your life
Lord Sani occupies everyone's chart, and in each chart also rules two of the twelve houses. Therefore everyone, at some point in their life, comes face to face with his influence.

In some charts he can be relatively well placed - in his own signs, or in the signs of friends Budha (Mercury) and Sukra (Venus). These placings and relationships are well documented elsewhere. But there are also exceptions to general planetary rules in Sani's case. Lord Sani gets "dik bala" - directional strength, in the seventh house, but strengthening the Sarturnian indications in the seventh house can bring great trouble in the house of partnerships and relationships.

Whichever house that Sani occupies, you can almost be guaranteed some delay, some ageing, some holding back in the house matters concerned. In charts I have studied for clients, time and time again I have been surprised by the seemingly infinite complexity of Saturn's influence, in the house he occupies, the houses he rules,the houses he aspects.

A Sani action plan
If you have to come face to face with Saturn, wise advice has come down the ages about how you can deal with it.
Your first impulse may be to run, to hide, to escape from some long-threatened disaster (Saturn's presence tends to bring crises to a head). But you can't run,. You can't hide.. at least, not for long. Lord Sani always gets his man. So, first bit of basic advice: let events come to you, and as far as possible surrender to them.

Lord Sani is a respecter of discipline, responsibility, moderation. These are all yogic virtues and vital to an ultimately rewarding life. So Sani's influence will mean a compulsory end to burning the candle at both ends. If you have never lived a regulated life, you maybe in for a shock: it is deeply satisfying!

Facing trouble, it is a common thing to look for a way out. Jyotish offers various means to propitiate the planetary deities. But Lord Sani cannot easily be fobbed off by an expensive gem, or a yantra, or mantras uttered carelessly - or worst of all, by someone other than you on your behalf. If you feel you really want to propiate Sani to ward of his ill affects, then take a little time to work out what you are trying to do. Far better than propiating Sani is to enter a relationship with him. He has gifts to offer.

I call this relationship entering the school of Sani - his gurukula, and it is a school like none other. You can only enter this school, and learn the lessons, if you check the ego by the front door, keep humble, and accept the events which come to you.

Lord Sani is a magnificent teacher! By his own example he represents effort, endeavour, endurance. He is wise, grave, not torn here and there by the demands of the senses.

You can learn to live a life full of simple goodness, grow enormously in a compassionate wisdom, and understand that in moments of unhappiness there is great beauty too. You can learn the power of humility, endurance, perseverence.

The best way to keep this relationship alive, I have found, is to do a bit of chanting and recitation of sacred texts. It is a way of focussing, of bringing the strength of Lord Sani to you.. a way of saying "Teach me what you know, I bow to your greatness" rather than "Here's a bribe now leave me alone please". Chanting is a great great tool, and it costs nothing to do.

Ideally the time for Sani propitiations is on Saturday, two hours and forty minutes before sunset. But this may seem a little too austere for some.

Here's my suggestion - that you chant on your mala beads the Sani root mantra 108 times (1 round) on a Saturday.. or once a day during Lord Sani's influence. But if you commit to do this, then don't rush it, or gabble the words. Everything is slow, deliberate, patient in the world of Sani.

The root mantra is

Om pram prim proum sah shanaye namah


A more radical way is also to make a commitment to chant this 23,000 times over a period of 40 days - which is easier than it sounds and can bring profound understanding of Lord Sani.

Yet another free method: Fast on a Saturday. Offer the fast to Lord Sani and then simply go for it. And offer the break of the fast to Sani as well.

One method I use, to good effect, is to chant the 108 names of Lord Sani every day , as a kind of simple and beneficial practice. This may need some familiarity with how to chant in sanskrit but can be done anywhere, at any time of your choosing: The chant is given below:








Shanya-astottara-shata-nama-vali (The 108 names of Shani)


Om shanaescaraya namah
Om shantaya namah
Om sarvabhistapradayine namah
Om sharanyaya namah
Om vagenyaya namah
Om sarveshaya namah
Om saumyaya namah
Om suramvandhaya namah
Om suralokaviharine namah
Om sukhasonapavishtaya namah
Om sundaraya namah
Om ghanaya namah
Om ghanarupaya namah
Om ghanabharanadharine namah
Om ghanasaravilepaya namah
Om khadyotaya namah
Om mandaya namah
Om mandaceshtaya namah
Om maha-niyaguna-atmane namah
Om martyapavanapadaya namah
Om maheshaya namah
Om dhayaputraya namah
Om sharvaya namah
Om shatatuniradharine namah
Om carasthirasvabhavaya namah
Om acamcalaya namah
Om nilavarnaya namah
Om nityaya namah
Om nilanjana-nibhaya namah
Om nilambara-vibhushaya namah
Om nishcalaya namah
Om vedyaya namah
Om vidhi-rupaya namah
Om virodha-dhara-bhumaye namah
Om bhedaspadasvabhavaya namah
Om vajradehaya namah
Om vairagyadaya namah
Om viraya namah
Om vitarogabhayaya namah
Om vipatparampareshaya namah
Om vishva-vandyaya namah
Om gridhnavahaya namah
Om gudhaya namah
Om kurmangaya namah
Om kurupine namah
Om kutsitaya namah
Om gunadhyaya namah
Om gocaraya namah
Om avidhya-mula-nashaya namah
Om vidhya-avidhya-svarupine namah
Om ayushyakaranaya namah
Om apaduddhartre namah
Om vishnu-bhaktaya namah
Om vishine namah
Om vividhagamavedine namah
Om vidhistutyaya namah
Om vandhyaya namah
Om virupa-akshaya namah
Om varishthaya namah
Om garishthaya namah
Om vajram-kushagharaya namah
Om varada bhayahastaya namah
Om vamanaya namah
Om jyeshthapatni-sametaya namah
Om shreshthaya namah
Om mitabhashine namah
Om kashtaughanashakartre namah
Om pushtidaya namah
Om stutyaya namah
Om stotra-gamyaya namah
Om bhakti-vashyaya namah
Om bhanave namah
Om bhanuputraya namah
Om bhavyaya namah
Om pavanaya namah
Om dhanur-mandala-samsthaya namah
Om dhanadaya namah
Om dhanushmate namah
Om tanu-prakasha-dehaya namah
Om tamasaya namah
Om asheshajanavandyaya namah
Om visheshaphaladayine namah
Om vashikritajaneshaya namah
Om pashunam pataye namah
Om khecaraya namah
Om khageshaya namah
Om ghana-nilambaraya namah
Om kathinyamanasaya namah
Om aryaganastutyaya namah
Om nilacchatraya namah
Om nityaya namah
Om nirgunaya namah
Om gunatmane namah
Om niramayaya namah
Om nandyaya namah
Om vandaniyaya namah
Om dhiraya namah
Om divya-dehaya namah
Om dinartiharanaya namah
Om dainyanashakaraya namah
Om aryajanaganyaya namah
Om kruraya namah
Om kruraceshtaya namah
Om kama-krodha-karaya namah
Om kalatraputrashatrutvakaranaya pariposhita-bhaktaya namah
Om parabhitiharaya namah
Om bhakta-sangha-manobhishta-phaladaya namah
Begin with a prayer, end with a prayer, and see how this settles with you.
Getting to know Lord Sani


I have evolved another technique that works for me, which is to visualise Lord Sani appearing, in a landscape I have often used before. For me, this is actually a kind of 1950's sci-fi version of the moon - all jagged mountains and a black sky. I compose this landscape in my mind and then ask for the sight (darshan) of Lord Sani.

He is not unnapproachable - but you need to be open, not treacherous, and willing to listen to his lessons. Why bother? Well, don't you want to get a little bit of wisdom from your life on earth?
I once read a story about two teachers - one, who was always smiling and joking, and who created great gusts of laughter in the big crowds as he taught. But, afterwards, no one could remember a word he said. The other was grim, silent, said very little. Only a few disciples sat with him. But every word he said they carried with them until the end of their days, and never forgot.

This is the kind of teacher Lord Sani is. He can teach you acceptance of the impossible; he can move you past grief, past addiction, past miseries, past the worst humiliations and unhappiness. Within his protective grasp is much to enrich your life. And, in his own way, Lord Sani is loveable. The rest is up to you ... 


Thursday, 11 October 2012

GANGA DEVI: LOVE FOR THE GODDESS OF THE RIVER




In most of what are sometimes derisively called older or indigenous religions, an instinctive reverence for the forces of the natural world is clearly evident, part of our natural DNA as spiritual beings. But our strange obsession with cities and industry has destroyed this link with natural surroundings. Take water... for most of us, a cup of water is simply something we get anonymously from a tap or from a bottle, impersonal, lifeless, probably chemically altered. Water is water, right? Well, then, you have probably never seen the Ganges.

In the Sanatan Dharma, or the Vedic tradition, water is greatly venerated  and in the daily ritual of the Sandhya Vandana, - the practice of Gayatri veneration morning, noon and evening - water plays a central role as a purifier and embodiment of Varuna, Deva of the waters and various other deities associated with water, loosely collected together as Apo, or the spirit of God manifested in water. But there is a further layer, and a prayer at the start to the great rivers of old India, which nearly every Hindu knows by heart:

Gange ca Yamune caiva
Godavari Sarasvati
Narmade Sindhu Kaveri
Jale'smin sannidhim kuru
Puskaradyani tirthani
Gangadyah saritas tatha
Agacchantu pavitrani
Snanakale sada mama.

It is a beautiful prayer for Ganges and all holy rivers such as the Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati and others  to be present and give blessings when we take a bath.

The River Ganges has a simple conventional religious iconography, being the form of the celestial Goddess Gangadevi whose overwhelming of the earth is stopped and softened by Lord Shiva's matted locks. This is the elemental movement of life we are invited to contemplate: the great personification of yoga and austerity (Shiva), breaking, filtering and softening the raging forces of nature (our greeds, lusts, animal propensities). So it's a handy pointer to our own spiritual efforts.

The Ganges is universally hailed as Mother Ganges, the river that accepts all, nourishes all, moves ceaselessly and yet remains eternally the same. The Ganges is untouched by any poisons and yet blesses every place in Her path. She is worshipped by millions of people, many of whom have never actually seen Her. Such is the power of Mother Ganges.

On an earthly level, what you see when you look at the Ganges depends on where you are along its considerable length. Up in the mountains at its Himalayan source the river is icy cold, an enchanting  light ultramarine and sparkling turqouise colour. By the time it gets to the plains of India it has turned a rich impenetrable brown. It passes at various points along great holy cities, industrial plants, cremation ghats and lonely mountain valleys. All sorts of unsavoury things can float in her embrace, but still she flows through the land, emptying at last into the Bay of Bengal.

But when you look at Mother Ganges through the eyes of a spiritual practitioner you might, if you are lucky, get a sense of just why She is worshipped in this way.

My first experience of the Ganges came relatively late in life, when I visited Rishikesh and spent a little time practising sadhana in a riverside cave above Her. At this particular point in her ceaseless journey, She is alive and sparkling with a very light greeny blue colour, leaping through rocks and narrow passages. 

I was gripped by a surprisingly strong emotion at seeing Her. It was one of those precious moments when time seemed to dissolve, when the hint of ancient memories surfaced. I was unprepared to be so moved by a river. But I was, caught in a joy that I could not rationally explain.

From where I sat, the river burst continually over an outcrop of stone that formed a natural lingam, but you could only see this site at the precious angle at which the cave was situated in the cliff. The river leapt in crystalline forms in the bright sunshine, taking shapes of what seemed to my fancy like figures with long watery hair, playing and dancing.

It was a winter's day, few were around, and the river was relatively high. The sound of the river was entrancing, a song many people have noticed and remarked upon. 

Then the very strangest thing happened, perhaps a hallucination, a trick of the eye. But it seemed that the very far bank resolved itself briefly into an enormous crocodile that had been perfectly camouflaged up to that point. This crocodile moved... just slightly. Then the vision vanished.

It was only much later back in the UK after this India Yatra that I remembered what I had completely consciously forgotten: The mount or vehicle associated with Mother Ganga is indeed the crocodile! I must have known this before and buried it in my subconscious. But, whether a trick of the eye and of perspective, or a real experience, the result to me was wonderful. Just for a few hours I felt I met the living spirit of Mother Ganga and her attendants. And that experience has stayed with me ever since. 

This explains my love for the river Ganges and reverence to Her. She is included in my daily prayer. You can in fact even buy packaged Ganges water in London, believe it or not. I have an unquestioning faith in Her healing power and urge you to do the thing. The luckiest destiny in the world is to be born near Her banks and live next to Her, this I truly believe! alas, not my fate this time round... there is always the next life!

Perha[ps this is a way to say to you who read this: revere water! Revere this wonderful substance, its mysteries and properties. Perhaps, too, the Goddess is part of your heart. I  am sure it must be so! If you suffer from agonies of the mind - take Ganges water. If you are overwhelmed by desires, anger, restlessness - take the water. Drink the blessings, and learn the lessons that when life seems bleak, a simple drop of water contains every good thing for you. And all glories to Mother Gangadevi!!




Thursday, 23 August 2012

ANANDAMAYI MA: TIPS FOR SADHANA



Some words from one of India's most inspiring saints:
(You can find over 1hr of a YouTube slide show with these quotes at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJF9gpLwEhI&feature=related )

Anandamayi Ma was no ordinary person, and throughout her long life she inspired thousands of seekers across the world. She had a celestial beauty and the pictures of the youthful saint seem to show someone who is not entirely human, but divine. She physically met my own Guru Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi just once and in mysterious circumstances, but She met many of the great Yogis then alive in India and there are many accounts of such meetings. Two you may not know about come from the Austrian/Canadian Guru Swami Sivananda Radha, and the now disgraced British Buddhist teacher Sangarasikta. But in every account there seems to be the same changeless greatness manifesting as Her presence. The other aspect about her was her wonderful punning and alliterative way with words in Her own native tongue, that unfortunately gets a little lost in translation. Who was She really? From where did She come? We may never really know while we are alive on this earth plane,  but we do know that at a time of great peril for this earth as Russia and the US squared off with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, She was one of the great saints incarnated on this earth to help avoid disaster. How great She was!

  1. .       Without loving God you will not get anywhere. Remember this at all times.
  2. .       The positive proof that the aspirant is centred on God is that he ceases to hate any person or object.
  3. .       Endeavour to keep you mind surrendered at God’s Holy Feet — then alone can there be a prospect of the shadows of restlessness growing faint.
  4. .       When one resides in a country not one’s own, how can one possibly evade the hardships that are a foreigner’s lot?
  5. .       Improper, ill-fated, degrading actions that give expression to one’s animal nature lead to misery even though they may be pleasurable.
  6. .       To find all by losing all is what is wanted.
  7. .       Do you know what the essential thing is? To realise that the unbroken current of aspiration itself is a revelation of Him who is the indivisible whole.
  8. .       When your mind becomes vacant, endeavour to fill it with the awareness of god and His contemplation.
  9. .       Whether it pleases you or not, you will have to make the Eternal your constant companion just like a remedy that has to be taken.
  10. .    When man becomes a traveller on the path to his inner being, the distance that separates him from his goal gradually vanishes.
  11. .    It is possible to practise God’s name under the most adverse circumstances. He causes everything to happen and therefore is always near.
  12. .    Any line of behaviour that fails to quicken the Divine in mine should be eschewed, however enticing it might appear.
  13. .    In order to advance in Self-Realisation it is absolutely necessary for an aspirant to yearn constantly for his sublime goal.
  14. .    He and He alone is needful. All else is worthless.
  15. .    Even though others may be unjust to you, you yourself should neither do or say anything unseemly.
  16. .    To live up the highest ideals may be irksome at first, but leads to real well-being and peace.
  17. .    Anger and greed and the like should be altogether abandoned.  Neither should you be swayed by praise and prestige.
  18. Meditation should be practiced every day of one's life. look, what is there in this world? Absolutely nothing that is lasting. Therefore direct your longing towards the eternal. Pray that the work done through you, His instrument, may be pure. In every action remember Him. The purer your thinking, the finer your work.
  19. Even if you do not feel inclined to meditate, conquer your reluctance and make an attempt. The habit of countless lives is pulling you in the opposite direction and making it difficult for you — persevere in spite of this!
  20. Some severe blow of fate may drive you towards God. This will be but an expression of His mercy. However painful, it is by such blows that one learns one's lessons.
  21. When vairagya becomes a living inspiration... each and everything belonging to the world begins to burn. One cannot touch it.
  22. If a sadhaka cannot maintain firm control over his mind, he will be liable to see and hear many things, both illusory and genuine, all mixed up.
  23. If you feel the desire to practice some extra japa or meditation, it shows you have caught a glimpse, however faint, and there is then hope that gradually the rhythm of your true nature may emerge.
  24. When intense interest in the supreme quest awakens, ever more time and attention will be given to religious thought, religious philosophy the remembrance of God as immanent in all creation until thereby every knot is untwisted. 
  25. One is stirred by a deep yearning: "How can I find Thee/" As a result of this, the rhythm of the body and mind will grow steady, calm, serene.
  26. At the supreme summit of love, exuberance, excessive emotion and the like cannot possibly occur. Emotional excitement and supreme love are in no wise to be compared. They are totally different from one another.
  27. The wise ever live in remembrance of God.
  28. Open the door and step out. The path will become visible. Once on the way, you will meet other wayfarers who will advise and guide you as to to the path. Your job is to muster whatever strength you have to get underway. Thereafter, help is assured. 





Wednesday, 22 August 2012

GRIHASTA HOUSEHOLDER SADHANA: A WAY TO OPEN THE HEART



This is an update and refresh of a blog entry that always kind of niggled me, as I did not think I'd done full justice to a subject that is so central to the sadhana that most of have to deal with in this life. Plus, I accidentally deleted all the text! 

The fates of all but a very few on this plane of reality are not to don orange robes and set forth on dusty roads with a begging bowl given food by a grateful population, but try and make a living, find love, raise and satisfy our family, and negotiate through all the challenges that life throws at us. Not easy, not easy at all. Rare is the life that does not experience suffering and trouble, be it tragic loss of life, job worries, financial concerns, family disputes, political oppression,  its a fairly extensive list!

If you throw into the mix a sensitivity, a desire for spiritual practice, a yearning for union with God, then it can appear to be even more of a challenge. The rest of the world is busy heading one way, you the other.The temptation to simply give up and give in, succumb to the allure of the world can be overwhelming.

But I can think of no better way to really open the heart than the way of the householder. It is a path pursued by countless wise and holy beings through the ages, all the way back to the householder Rishis of distant cultures. So it is not just an opportunity to learn lessons, but to experience the really indispensable part of being human: learning to love others, learning to get along with a group; learning to live ethically and with a minimum of trouble and upset to others.

The Core

The core to a householder life is partner,children, family. Everything that develops comes from living in this triangle of influence. The householder life also gives us a sort of college degree in facing our own inner enemies - greed, fear, anger, lust, envy, depression. Hidden away in a monastery gives you lots of things, but not the same in-your-face direct daily confrontation with others who may not be of the same mind, may indeed be actively opposed to your spiritual leanings - or may deeply support you in everything you do.

There is a touch of heaven on earth about being around a truly happy family, one where respect is a given, where laughter outweighs every obstacle. I have never forgotten a family I once spent a day with, when I was a young and lonely TM teacher in Belfast, northern Ireland at the height of the bombing troubles in 1979. 

This family had learned to meditate but were also staunch Catholics. They lived in a large converted barn by the coast. Their house seemed to be built by love, it seeped from every corner. I was dazzled by the happiness the family radiated and  began to realise that a householder life was in lots of ways superior to a monastic existence. Their happiness was not forced or unnatural, a sort of feigned cheerfulness covering cracks of dissent and stress. It was tried, tested and true. No bright lights surrounded them, it was as natural as the beautiful landscape around them, entirely pure and clear, like a mountain stream. It contrasted especially strongly with the cold-hearted demeanour of the movement I served at the time.

I've done my own time as a householder, and it has certainly been an education - moving through extremes of wealth, of joys and troubles and learning (often reluctantly) how to deal with the world - how to earn a living, raise kids, have relationships and so forth. The key lesson has been about the heart. Life has often seemed overwhelming, so how to keep that heart open despite everything that comes our way? For me, life in this way has only worked when I have found some private space and time. That's my own personality imprint — a love of my own company and need to recharge my batteries. In know for many others its the opposite - friends, crowds, events, social gatherings are the deep consolations which help them.

Life's exam

The intimate relationships are the most crucial part of your life's exam. Whatever your views on near-death experiences, it is remarkable how many tell the same story - of being asked at the point of death not how much money you made, how many times you meditated or gave to charity, but who did you love... how much love you managed to express. Sometimes this thought has been like a goad to me, a fear that I never loved enough or consistently. But over the years, I've learned another magical thing about the householder life: as you grow older, you cannot help grow a little bit wiser. That's the way life is set up.

Sadhana of the householder needs a way to be able to dip into silence, but with the understanding that such times will be brief: there will always be life waiting outside your door. Always will be responsibilities, burdens, needs and necessities. The tests are many. You are going to stumble.

The generation of western ex-hippies who started to meditate in the 1960s and 1970s mostly found themselves back in the world with their own life stories to complete. It's been a fascinating story for our generation. Many I know from those days faced fates as different from each other that you could possibly imagine. Some young teachers became millionaires. Others criminals. Some divorced many partners. Others found they could not have children. Some worked in mundane occupations, others carved exceptional niches as true originals. One I know became a beggar. Same teachings, different karma...

The real attainment: giving

Spiritual groups based around yogic masters tend to talk about "attainment" about what, in the end you sow and reap. The real attainment of a householder is often as simple as surviving what life throws at you. But it ultimately comes down to two things: learning how to love, and - just as important - learning how to let go. A householder collects so much, not just in terms of possessions but in terms of attitudes, likes, dislikes, addictions, habits. All of it at some point will leave you. 

It may leave you... so why not begin to practice the magical secret of distribution: ie, passing onto others your time, money, friendships, passing it on and giving it out. This is one of the secrets of attracting Lakshmi, from whose hands flow gold and prosperity. Just like Her famous iconography, give! It will come back multiplied...

A householder looking for spiritual practice often does so out of desperation, or misery in their current circumstances - looking for the right mantra or magical formula to lift them out of the rut. Rarely does anyone do it for the love of life, without a point to prove or a possession to gain. In truth, the real attainment is there, latent inside all of our hearts. Let the householder life unlock your love! Start by reevaluating your relationship, by blessing every aspect of your life. Grow from there, bravely and simply. 

Some say the householder life is like carrying around a jewel, which strung around your neck seems burdensome and heavy until you begin to rub away at its surface to reveal the jewel's true beauty. For it is there, in every case...

Ethical code

Any householder life must be based on an ethical code to truly flower. Different ages have different moral codes, that's for sure, but nevertheless you scan usefully live using basic principles, to become a person of goodwill and loving kindness. How you create your code is up to you, but it can usefully include the following elements:
  1. Speak the truth, but not as a way to break the hearts of others. Baba Muktananda advised "Speak the truth that is pleasing."
  2. Forgive and don't nurture grudges. Lack of forgiveness becomes a toxic legacy which can ultimately manifest as pains and sickness in your body. Don't be hard hearted. 
  3. Do not cheat, do not steal. The rest of the world might think this is OK, but don't follow the crowd! Honesty and Integrity in all things
  4. Nurture others. Don't drag them down by complaints, sarcasm, passive-aggressive behaviour. This is especially true of bringing up children.
  5. Joke and laugh. Overly serious people miss a vital healing dimension of life. But don't be excessively childish or wounding in your humour.
  6. Enjoy your sex life - but recognise its many different dimensions and don't treat your partner just as an object made for your pleasure.
  7. Save your money where possible. Build up a security blanket of savings. Avoid get rich quick schemes. They are scams. Be frugal, and don't flaunt your wealth. Your relatives will end up despising you if you do.
  8. Keep in touch with your parents as much as you can. If they badly let you down when young, you owe them nothing. But be better than they were.
  9. Give to others. Don't be mean, give and learn that inner approval of your heart that will tell you who is going to need that gift. Not every beggar is a rogue!




Monday, 25 June 2012

BRAHMACHARYA: VOWS & MARRIAGE KEY POINTS


## COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED FOR THIS BLOG POST##

For a fascinating Question and Answer on Brahmacharya, please go to February 2014

First, some definitions:


Brahmacharya, the restraint of the senses especially with regards to sexuality, is mentioned in many famous Vedic texts, most especially in Patanjali's seminal Yoga Sutras, and has come to assume a subtly different meaning from its original intention. 

Brahmacharya has now become synonymous with sexual continence and celibacy, but in fact was considered as the first of the broad stages of life in ideal Vedic culture, lasting roughly until marriage at the age of 25. 

So, the Brahmachari in days gone by would ideally have studied at the Gurukula, the school of the Guru, and lived in continence and simplicity, imbibing the vibrations of the gUru and thus providing the strong pillar for society. As Patanjali puts it, the maintenance of brahmacharya gives one Virya, vigour or enthusiasm, a sort of inner golden fire that would in any age is so necessary to deal with the subsequent challenges of life.

Living brahmacharya in a forest steeped in the beneficial atmosphere of a Sage and an ashram is one thing: a supreme blessing if this chance falls to you. 

But what about those out in this crazy modern world? Is it possible, desirable to be a brahmacharya if, say, you are in a marriage or relationship, or single? If so, why does society so firmly seem to tell us otherwise? 

I hope these key points might be of help to you, if you are caught in a dilemma where your spirit wants to head one way, but your body, tendencies, relatives, worldly connections urge you another:

1) BRAHMACHARYA IS UNPARALLELED SO GIVE IT A GO!
This experience of maintaining continence - and that involves no genital manipulation at all, no fantasies, a sort of determined erasure of your sexual history - brings you something surprising. Many men especially have a sort of image of sexual needs as "an overfull pot that needs to emptied" otherwise life gets uncomfortable, like a constant itch. 

This is far from the biological truth of the matter. The "Overfull pot" tends not be physical but mental, and anything mental need not rule your life.

If you maintain brahmacharya, some very wonderful inner state dawns in you. This was alluded to at some length by the great Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna, but there's also a very helpful booklet by Swami Sivananda. Brahmacharya gives you an inner golden glow like a wonderful comforting gentle fire. It truly is a state of peace from cravings and is not a negative state; on the contrary brahmacharya helps you truly come alive in the most intimate and wonderfully joyful way.

But remember that the other point is that what you are seeking is the state which brahmacharya can reveal: serenity, peace, and the dawn of love in your life. And great sober clarity.

The other real gift of brahmacharya is the far greater ability to focus and channel will-power. The power of our individual will determines our success in life. When will-power is pure, it becomes laser-sharp and very effective.

2) MEDITATION IS THE KEY TO MAINTAINING BRAHMACHARYA
You need to "cool the mind", to be able to still the mental agitations which can so trouble an adult of either sex. The only tool that really works in my experience is meditation, which means silent, eyes closed meditation, not just japa or recitation of a mantra. When the mind is withdrawn, its control becomes easy. Without meditation, it can be a big struggle to free yourself from the agitating world of fantasies and wishes.

Having said that, a word of caution:

If you enthusiastically dive into extra spiritual practices, and you are used to a regular marital relationship, you can find yourself drawn into stocked up fires of desires and thoughts: energy gets activated such that at times you can feel like you are sitting on a powder keg. And you desperately feel you need some relief at this point. Be careful, here. Notice what is going on with you. Unusual agitation in the particular parts of the body which are to do with this area is a sure sign that you are on fire.

Your choice about what to do with this, but don't make your life a total guilty misery by wanting to be a great sannyasin, but doing just the opposite! Accept that is a force overwhelms you, why that's your teacher... and it will not always be that way, so don't whip yourself with self-blame. If you cannot maintain Brahmacharya, do not worry. Let timer pass.

Meditation on the space between the eyebrows is what is meant here... and meditate intensely at times of great lust on something you revere, picture it between your eyebrows. It should help calm the fires.


3) YOU CAN BE A BRAHMACHARI IN A RELATIONSHIP!
Most married couples as they grow older will find themselves naturally turning to brahmacharya, if their relationship lasts over many years and has been physically satisfactory. It is no big deal when you get a little older. More rarely, couples can negotiate for a period of mutual brahmacharya. This is only achievable if it creates no discord and upset - and my advice is simply to try this for short periods and see how you get on. IE two weeks, three weeks then four weeks and so on.

If you do try, carefully note what happens when you make the attempt. These may seem stupid questions to ask yourself, but nevertheless go ahead and ask away. Only you and God need know the replies!

Typical questions to ask:
What time of the day is most difficult in terms of lust?
Is having sex a way to feel good and more of a man/woman? If so, why?
What is more important to you ... the numbing down of sexual fantasy, or sharing the experience with others?
Why do brahmacharya? What is your motivation?

Disaster happens if you determine on brahmacharya secretly and are not open in your aspirations. But let me assure you that a marriage or a relationship can benefit immeasurably from voluntary continence. All it takes is a clearly agreed period; mutual negotiations; mutual encouragement. It should also not be an excuse hiding other problems - such as lack of mutual attraction or even disgust.

Be very very clear about this, don't make it a big drama. If the relationship needs the comforts of intimacy, keep things as they are. There is absolutely no shame at all from staying a full householder. You are not a monk, you are out in the world. Do not torment yourself with a new inner tyrant forcing you to do things gfor which you are not ready.


4) VOWS
Are vows necessary? If you are lucky enough to belong to a spiritual school that supports these vows and bears witness to them, then vows are good. But when it is You and You alone, such vows can easily get trampled and cast aside,and when that happens all you are left with is considerable shame and upset. My experience is: stay away from vows until you have managed to be a brahmachari for a year. And be aware that when such vows are uttered, the shadow side of your personality will go all out to drag you down and break the vows. In terms of sexuality, you will be tiptoing past sleeping lions and tigers... so be very careful about over-rigid promises.

Here's something I aim to recite every day for brahmacharya which I find useful, because I remember it is a gift to God:

"From me alone
To Thee alone"

Very simple to say, but that sums it up .

Here is a September 2013 statement from the Catholic Pope which is interesting, because it reminds us about the positive aspect of vows. In this Catholic context, vows are only made by Priests and members of religious orders, but its a nice quote:

"Religious men and women are prophets. They are those who have chosen a following of Jesus that imitates his life in obedience to the Father, poverty, community life and chastity. In this sense, the vows cannot end up being caricatures; otherwise, for example, community life becomes hell, and chastity becomes a way of life for unfruitful bachelors. The vow of chastity must be a vow of fruitfulness."

5) UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN SEXUALITY
In this modern age there is no excuse for not really learning things that over the past 2,000 years have tended to be overlooked, such as the role sexuality plays in life expression. It is NOT as some western psychologists would put it, the be-all and end-all of life, but it does express a very basic and powerful energy and you must be aware of how this energy can pop up in unexpected places. Brahmacharya is a golden state, yes, but you cannot really relax your guard in the initial stages. Unexpressed life energy can easily turn to cruelty an subtle sadism in spiritual life,to bullying or to arrogance as well. Brahmacharya must be accompanied by humility and modesty or it is better not undertaken at all.


6) REMEMBER THE PHYSIOLOGY OF SEX
The Sexual act,be it through intercourse or masturbation, produces powerful pleasure chemicals in the brain, endorphins, which are what gives you that "high". This in turn can keep the body alive, tonicked, according to judicious use as suggested by Chinese Taoist practice.

So if you are drawn to brahmacharya, it may be a good, sane idea to realistically and wisely plan for some OTHER activity that will give you pleasure, unless you are that rare soul who can live in the world with no pleasure at all. Be very creative about this.

Often the sex urge if frustrated and blocked up can turn next to the oral satisfaction of food... and you pile on weight. Best idea is to set up goals, and give due space in your life to something that gives you peaceful joy. Gardening? Painting? Music? Friendships? Something... but think about this.

The link below gives you a wonderful series of affirmations to clear up your subconscious. You need headphones for the full effects, but try this out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3J_O2q2BOM&feature=related

7) DON'T BOAST ABOUT IT TO OTHERS
There's a wonderful quote by that great Yogi Jesus (apologies if that offends anyone) about saying your prayers in secret, not out in public "and your father will reward you in secret" - the point being don't make a great public spectacle of yourself about how holy you are.

There's a salutory lesson to draw from the strange history of the Hare Krishna Isckon organisation. Their Guru started off by marrying every couple in a bid to get some stability, but that went wrong, so he emphasised that brahmacharya was better. There then rapidly grew up a ridiculous heirarchy of the "good" ie the brahmacharis, looking down on "the bad" ie the householder couples. The movement ran into severe difficulties because these immature young brahmacharis proved to be bad leaders and unfit to hold responsibilities. They talked the talk, they did not walk the walk.

8) DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP IF YOU KEEP LAPSING
Trying to maintain brahmacharya in a world increasingly addicted to lustful expression is a heroic endeavour. You are human. You may get overcome, time and time again. What normally happens after that is either a bout of enormous self-blame and self-recrimination, or you project your negative feelings on to the other: your partner, your parents, or whatever scapegoat you may find. Just accept that, as the great Yogananda said, "a wrestler only becomes great by being knocked over again and again", and that old Hindu proverb "drop by drop the pot gets filled". It will all come right in the end.

Just get up off the ground then, and remember the many things that you a long time to learn - how to walk, how to read and write, how to be an adult etc etc.

9) ENJOY THE TUSSLE!
The sexual instinct is like a sort of itch, but its also very deeply a teaching instrument for all of us. What is really going on with this blind urge? What is the rush towards? Pleasurable union. And what is the ultimate expression of union? Blissful union. And where do you find that? Blissful union and interpenetration is the central mystery of the entire cosmos, the union of Shakti with Shiva. So you have a ringside seat to observe some of the fundamental truths of our manifested and unmanifested reality. Fantastic! Also you get to see how the world of Maya is so wonderfully glued together by this instinct for procreation, this squelchy, undignified, messy, raptuorous, animalistic set of behaviours. That's how Mother Shakti hooks us all... amazing really.

With brahmacharya you are NOT just joylessly denying yourself legitimate fun. You are redirecting your energy, you are offering a gift, you are staying sober. Dhira is a useful sanskrit word, you could call it steadiness or sobreity, with Adhira being the opposite... as soon as a cause for agitation appears, you will be the victim... in other words business as usual.

10) PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK ONCE IN A WHILE
If you want to try brahmacharya, and your partner is willing... congratulate yourselves. Your light will penetrate the highest heavens. They will see this light, the gods and goddesses. It is a rare light in this world, in this age, in this fallen culture. So, well done!

11) BRAHMACHARYA FOR WOMEN
Having being intimately around women and spiritual practice for much of my life, and asked many female devotees what's it actually like to observe brahmacharya or approach the subject, this is what they tell me and please, if you are a female sadhaka... don't shoot me down in flames!

Women naturally take to brahmacharya far more easily than a man, and their capacity for exalted states of consciousness is actually far greater than for most men, given the exquisite sensitivity of a woman's physical make up. A woman's back, for example, has been scientifically proven to be around 8 times more sensitive than a man's back! So, the senses are refined, and on a subtle level this means a greater ability to apprehend the subtle ladders of spiritual ascent.

The big difference in terms of barriers is the natural cycle of a woman. Whereas a man can feel especially lustful 24/7 pretty much, for a woman this is generally not so, but the times just before ovulation, just before menstruation, just after menstruation can produce a temporary hormonal mix that can upset the equanimity of the female seeker - but its all good. The kind of gross mental fantasies that bedevil men are not so overwhelming for most women. But the woman's body, too, has urges... which also can be cleverly harnessed for the inward journey.

So... generally nature gives the female an easy time, especially if a woman is a mother, has children already, and is beginning to settle down in life. One problem, though, may be an instinctive need for company, for attention and for validation that makes a solitary life difficult - perhaps more difficult than for a man. Another challenge: the deep rooted biological urge not just to reproduce, but to have a comfortable home, security on all levels.

In a marriage, though, the woman can be the inspiration, the guide, the shining star in a celibate relationship. So many men also haven't a clue when it comes to opening the heart or keeping the heart open. But the path of bhakti, the gorgeous pastel lights of true devotion - these fit extremely well with a woman's make-up. I'm one of those who see that the beauty of women never fades, all are the expressions of aspects of the divine Mother, the dear one. Remember how beautiful the great bengali saint Anandamayi Ma looked throughout her life, radiating a timeless vibration of compassion, playfulness, deep dignity and integrity.

Perhaps the greatest blessing of being a woman is the fate of being called to a deep connection with God in whatever form: no surprise that the preponderance of modern Catholic women saints have been young women, who have a truly extraordinary purity and light shining from them.

The clue to both men and women's ability to be a brahmachari is patience, endurance, repeated endeavour. But if there is one thing that makes a human being truly beautiful, ever-youthful, it is conscious and good-humoured brahmacharya.

There is a whole interview Q&A on Brahmacharya in FEBRUARY 2014 posting, so if you are interested, read that... many tips on Brahmacharya


HERE'S A GREAT RESOURCE FROM  SWAMI KRIPALVANANDA'S WRITINGS:

Yoga and Celibacy 

I. Yoga

Yoga is known as Brahmavidya (knowledge of the supreme spirit). This great knowledge
is ancient and extremely difficult to attain. For its accomplishment, many lifetimes are
required. If it were evaluated objectively, it would be defined as the supreme religion, the
global religion, the universal religion, the human religion or the eternal religion. It is true
that India is the land of its origin, but the entire world has equal claim to it. For its
accomplishment, the grace of a guru versed in yoga is necessary. This yoga is included in
the six philosophies.

Two approaches are prominent in the world: that of knowledge and that of action. Thus
yoga, too, can be of two types: jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge) and karma yoga (yoga of
action). Bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion to God) is included in both jnana and karma yoga,
because knowledge and action are useless without devotion.

There cannot be different types of yoga. But there are differences in the natures of
different sadhakas, differences of background, differences of methods used for spiritual
practice; differences in fitness for practice, and many other differences. For this reason,
multiplicity may be seen in yoga. The meaning of yoga is samadhi.

As wakefulness, dream, and sleep are three states of mind, so also is samadhi a state of
mind. This fourth state is not experienced by everyone; it can be experienced only by an
advanced yogi. There are two intrinsic divisions of yoga: sakama (with desire) and
niskama (without desire). Sakama yoga is known as 'social religion' or religion for the
masses, and niskama yoga is known as 'individual religion' or the religion of liberation.
Among the various religions of the world, only the branch of social religion is available.

But among Indian religions, both the above religions are available. This is the distinctive
feature of Indian religions. By observance of social religion, the individual, the family,
the society, and the nation are elevated. This religion is universally practicable.
Individual religion is the religion of enlightened persons only. The basis of social religion
is individual religion. At different times, according to the prevailing circumstances of the
society, external changes are made, but the basic principles remain the same.

II. Importance of Celibacy 

In yoga terminology, non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and nonpossessiveness
are called 'yamas' (moral restraints) and purity, contentment, self-study, worship of God,
and austerity are called 'niyamas' (moral observances). Restraints and
observances (yama-niyama) are the strong-hold of yoga or religion. Without them, the
preservation of yoga or religion is impossible.

Wise yogis have described these restraints and observances as the great universal codes
of conduct. The principles of these restraints and observances form the greatest part of
social religion.

Celibacy is of prime importance in social religion. If it is abandoned and only the
remaining codes of conduct are accepted, social reliigion will he dead and insentient. The
character of the individual, the family, the society, and the nation is based on social
religion.

In ancient India, four ashramas (orders or periods of religious life) were established.
Three of these ashramas (the ashrama of the celibate student, the retired householder
sadhaka and the ascetic were carried on in the forest. Only the ashrama of the
householder was practiced in the city. Besides the ashramas of the householder, in all
other orders, celibacy was predominant. There were limitations in the life of the
householder, too, by which partial celibacy was achieved.

By observing this arrangement, it is understood that in the building of character, there is
no means equal to celibacy. The yoga in which there is no place for celibacy and yet is
called yoga is mere ignorance. The antonym of the term 'bhoga' is yoga, and the synonym
of yoga is celibacy.

Among the yoga scriptures, there is an independent scripture named 'Bindu yoga' (yoga
of semen). Thus the importance of celibacy is easily seen. Bhoga is descent while yoga is
ascent. There is ascent (sublimation) of semen in yoga and descent (ejaculation) of semen
in bhoga. In spite of being a knowledgeable person, one who does not know the
importance of celibacy is a fool.

Without celibacy, the personality of an individual does not develop in the least.
Maharishi Patanjali has stated in his Yoga Aphorisms: "After becoming an urdhvareta (a
yogi who has accomplished perpetual sublimation of semen) through yoga, a yogi
becomes all-powerful. That yogi alone can realize the supreme truth. Since through
celibacy the impossible becomes possible, the gain of fame, wealth, and other material
things is assured to the celibate. At one place Lord Siva said to Goddess Parvatiji, "O
Parvati, what is there on this earth which cannot be accomplished if one has control over
his sexual fluid?" That is, all powers reside at the divine feet of the enlightened
urdhvareta.

Only a yogi, through the practice of yoga, can become urdhvareta. The divinity of deities,
too, is dependent on celibacy. "Deities have conquered death through the penance of
celibacy ". Where even death is overcome, what power do poor diseases have to enter the
body of the urdhvareta saint?

III. Aim of Celibacy 

Lord Krsna stated in the Bhagavad Gita, "'Partha, I am the eternal seed of all individual
souls. That is, I myself am the supreme truth (Brahma), everybody's soul, semen, and the
cause of the entire universe. That is why the sage s practiced the exceedingly difficult
worship of celibacy."

The true importance of semen is known only to a yogi. That is why the great yogi
Goraksanatha, chanting in praise of semen, has said, "As a fair lady grieves due to
2separation from her beloved, so does an ascetic grieve due to his separation from his
semen". Eminent yogic scriptures say, "As long as there is death there is birth, and as
long as there is birth there is death." Birth is inevitable; one has no power to stop it. But
there is a possibility of restricting death.

Ancient yoga science has proved that the cause of death is the descent of bindu (semen)
and the source of immortality is the sublimation (ascent) of semen. If death is one end to
life, eternity should be the other. If there is a cause of death, a human being may possess
an ability to eradicate that cause. When a machine stops due to some defect, a mechanic
can reactivate it. Similarly, if the body machine ceases due to some defect, a perfect yogi
can reactivate it.

Svetasvatar Upanisad is extremely ancient. In it, it is said, "Disease, old age, and death
cannot enter the body of a yogi who has attained the body purified by yoga fire". On
achieving sabija samadhi, the yogi acquires the divine body purified by yogic fire. This
divine body itself is the external manifestation of a true yogi.

IV. The Form of Celibacy and its Two-Fold Practice: 

Sage Vyasaji in Yogadarshana has defined celibacy in this way, "To abandon the
pleasure gained through the sexual organs by restraint is defined as celibacy". The
restraint of the sexual organs is defined as nishkam karma yoga (yoga of action without
expectation of fruits). It is also known as Brahmavidya (knowledge of the supreme
spirit). Through its performance, the yogi becomes urdhvareta. This knowledge is
esoteric, ancient, and the source of all knowledge. After it is attained, nothing remains to
be known.

Thousands of sadhakas, aware of the importance of celibacy, attempt to practice it, but
they are unable to maintain the celibacy necessary for the attainment of Brahmavidya
(knowledge of the supreme spirit truth). That is why in scripture it is said, "Celibacy
alone is the supreme penance. Of course, other penances are also penances, but they are
all inferior. That urdhvareta saint who has done penance over the restraint of the sexual
organ is not a human being but a god."

A. Celibacy of a Brahmachari

In our body, there are two types of glands: endocrine and exocrine. The secretion of
the ductless endocrine glands is absorbed by the lymphatics and veins. In this manner,
the secretion absorbed by the blood is distributed to the entire body. In the second
type of gland, the secretion of the ductal exocrine glands is distributed to different
parts of the body. During childhood the testes of a boy and ovaries of a girl secrete
these fluids as they are absorbed by the blood.

On the advent of youth, the sexual energy in the bodies of young men and women
becomes active and agitates them. Finally, there is discharge. Once there is discharge,
the path of decent is opened up for ever. To carry out the formidable task of
restraining and sublimating this energy is as difficult as making a river flow back to
its source high in the mountains.

To be a celibate is one thing, and to become urdhvareta is another. The celibacy of a
celibate student, a retired householder sadhaka and an ascetic is ordinary celibacy,
but the yogi's celibacy is extraordinary. Those practicing ordinary celibacy seek
refuge in ordinary (willful) yoga with yama and niyama. The yogi, practicing
extraordinary celibacy, seeks refuge in sahaja yoga (spontaneous yoga) also with
yama and niyama.

Some very important rules for practicing celibacy: One should not have lustful
thoughts about the opposite sex, nor should one enter into discussions about him or
her because these discussions agitate the mind. One should not amuse oneself with
him or her. One should not talk with him or her in solitude. One should not want to
use him or her for sexual purposes or possesses him or her in a sexual way. One
should not engage in sexual intercourse.

B. Scientific Methods for the Preservation of Celibacy for the Common
Sadhaka. 

(1.) Yoga Technique 

If for any reason there is a thought of sexual desire, the eyes should be fixed between
the eyebrows. This will pacify this undesired awakening. With the strengthening of
apana vayu, the sexual organ awakens and the mind becomes troubled. As the mind is
absorbed into this passion, the apana vayu and the sexual organ become unrestrained.
In this situation, one should seek refuge in prana in order to restrain the momentum of
apana.

This refuge in prana may be attained by fixing the eyes between the eyebrows. On
attaining this refuge, the apana is weakened and the awakening of the sexual organ is
subdued. Frequent concentration of the eyes between the eyebrows alters the
momentum of the vayu and due to this change in momentum; the direction of the
mind is also altered.

Just as one may stop the turning of the wheel of a machine by pressing a switch, so
the activated sexual urge of the body-machine may be restrained by fixing the eyes
between the eyebrows frequently. This urge will invariably be restrained by this yogic
technique. To abstemious sadhakas, this technique is a divine treasure.

(2.) Ordinary Techniques 

(a) If there is a thought of sexual desire in the mind, it can be pacified
simply by drinking a glass of cold water and engaging the mind in good
thoughts.

(b) At that time the sex drive is restrained by fixing the mind on the idea
of a mother, sister, daughter, deity, or holy idol of revered Sadguru.
However, it is to be kept in mind here that this device will succeed only if
there is extreme reverence for the person one has in mind.

(c) By abandoning solitude, too, sexual desire may be subdued.

(d) At that time a fine stream of cold water should be poured on the sexual
organ after urination. This will interfere with the sexual thoughts in the
mind and replace them with new thoughts. Thus the sexual desire will be
weakened and destroyed.

(e) A bath of cold water will also quieter the sexual desire.

(f) By standing in waist deep water or sitting in a tub filled with cold
water, one may destroy sexual desire.

(g) By performing fifteen to twenty anuloma-viloma pranayamas along
with the recitation of the Guru mantra, one may also pacify this desire.
Instead of anuloma-viloma, bhastrika pranayama may be practiced. In
anuloma-viloma, the energy of the incantation is increased, thus the mind
is strengthened and is not dominated by sexual desire.

(h) By studying Holy Scriptures, praying to the Lord, and chanting
mantra, the sexual desire is destroyed.

C. Celibacy of the Urdhvareta Yoga 

Without being an urdhvareta, the knowledge of the supreme truth (Brahma jnana)
cannot be attained. Hence Sri Bhagavan has said in the Bhagavad Gita, 'Kaunteya!
Unsatisfied desire is the restless foe of the jnani. Brahma jnana is concealed by it."
(Chapter 3, verse 39).

As an astonishing energy is generated by the steam in a machine, similarly an
extraordinary energy is generated by sublimating the sexual fluid in the body. As a
result of this process, the yogi acquires the divine body. The stage of yoga during
which the yogi acquires divine body is defined by the scriptures as sarupya mukti;
emancipation during which the seeker acquires the sought after form. After attaining
that liberation, i.e. after transcending that stage, the yogi attains sarstya mukti in the
fourth stage of yoga. In sarupya mukti, the yogi achieves a form identical with that of
Sri Hari (the Lord) and in sarstya mukti, he achieves all the powers of the Lord. In
this manner, the yogi resembles the Lord. This fourth stage of liberation is the
pinnacle of samkhya yoga, niskama karma yoga, and bhakti yoga.

Lord Siva and Lord Krsna are not bhogas. They are urdhvareta yogis. They are the
first propounders of Brahmavidya (knowledge of the supreme truth). What the
sadhaka should do first of all to become an urdhvareta is shown by Sri Krishna in the
Bhagavad Gita, "Thus O Bharatsrestha! First restrain the senses and decisively
abandon this evil lust which destroys knowledge and realization." (Chapter 3, verse
41).

Now He depicts the device by which this passion should be dispelled, "O Mahabaho!
In this way, consider this unconquerable enemy mightier than the intellect; abandon it
by restraining Atman with Atman."

In order to dispel desire, Bhagavan has directed Arjuna to restrain Atman with Atman.
This is an esoteric yoga practice. Here I interpret the term Atman as sukra (semen). In
Sanskrit the term Atman has many meanings. Among these are 'vital element' and
'essential element'. Sukra is both a life element and an essential element. Thus these
terms can be used in the place of Atman. This is also related to the dispelling of
passion. The second term Atman is used for the purified mind.

To restrain Atman with Atman is to restrain the discharge of semen by the purified
mind. The description of this method is as follows. In comparison to the battle of the
Mahabharata, the battle of sensual passion is extremely formidable. In Niskama
karma yoga (yoga of rewardless acts) the sadhaka has to produce semen in his testes
through siddhasana and sublimate it. Semen is produced in the testes when there
appears a powerful awakening in the penis.

When apana vayu forcibly attracts the semen on the inferior path, the unperturbed
sadhaka has to execute the exceedingly formidable task of elevating apana vayu with
the help of prana vayu. This task can be carried out only through a yoga device and
the grace of the guru. When the true form of niskama karma yoga was not
understood, the Vama Marga (the left handed path) prevailed in the Buddhist religion
and in the Siva, Vaisnava and Shakta branches of Sanatana Dharma.

Thus, after the purification of each nadi in the body, the body becomes steady and
perfectly straight naturally. Then the stage of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
terminates and the stage of dharana (contemplation) begins. In this stage, the external
senses cooperate with dhyana and do not create any sort of hindrance. Due to this,
restraint of the mind becomes easy. In other words, after the steadying of the senses
the mind introverts naturally because the cause of the extroversion of the mind is the
wavering of the senses. The restraint of the senses is accomplished with the help of
prana and mind, thus with the eradication of the vacillation of the senses there
pervades a steadiness in prana and mind both.

Only after the accomplishment of this stage does samkhya yoga begin from the ajna chakra.
By niskama karma yoga, the
muladhara chakra, svadhistana chakra, manipura chakra, anahata chakra,
vishuddha chakra, and the brahma granthi, vishnu granthi and rudra granthi are
pierced.

Since these chakras are situated within the boundaries of the organs of action
(karmendriyas), this is called the field of niskama karma yoga. After the penetration
of the inferior chakras and granthis, the process of piercing the ajna chakra and
sahasradala chakra begin. These chakras are situated within the boundaries of the
perceptive senses (jnanendriya). This is known as the field of jnana yoga or
samhkhya yoga.

Now Sri Bhagavan depicts the deserving sadhaka who attains this extremely esoteric
and most eminent Brahmavidya: 'Seeking my refuge, one who strives 'to relinquish
old age and death realizes this Brahma, perfect spiritual knowledge and complete
actions."

This verse is worthy of intense contemplation. It means that only a yogi who becomes
urdhvareta and attains divine body is liberated from old age, death, and the bondage
of worldly life. Only such a yogi is a real perceiver of truth and an enlightened
person. In this verse the term 'old age' is of great, importance. One who is free from
death is also free from birth. Thus it is inappropriate here to accept the term 'birth death'
instead of 'old age-death.' To be freed from old age and death is to attain a
divine body purified by yogic fire.

During the period when the yogi reaches the stage of attaining divine body, citta is
purified. The common sign of the accomplishment of nirbija (without the seed of
desire) samadhi is the divine body. That samadhi is accomplished only when extreme
non-attachment arises in the yogi's inner self constituted of citta (mindstuff), buddhi
(intellect), mana (mind), and ahankara (ego). Thus it is clear that such a yogi feels no
desire for a mortal or immortal body. If he has such interest or desire we cannot say
that extreme non-attachment has been generated in his inner self. Such a yogi cannot
accomplish nirbija samadhi. The yogi desiring liberation does not meditate for the
acquisition of siddhis (miraculous powers); he is desirous only of liberation and that,
too, disappears after the generation of this extreme non-attachment. Thereafter,
becoming desireless and dauntless, he performs sadhana. This is the science of yoga.
In theory, even the Indian Tantras accept the possibility of divine body, and even the
Buddhist Tantras give importance to the principle of divine body. There are three
great principles of Buddhism, which occur in stages: sila (chastity), samadhi, and
prajna (knowledge). The first two stages mean the purification of the body as well as
the mind. As a result of the first two stages, prajna is attained.

The chronological order of these stages is: intellect arises from chastity and samadhi.
Until the body is perfectly purified, the ability to retain the intellect or absolute
knowledge is not attained. Pure knowledge can manifest only in a pure body. Physical
purification occurs through chastity and the purification of citta (mind stuff) occurs
through samadhi. Only when rajas and tamas (restlessness and inertia) are attenuated
through kriya yoga and sattvaguna (purity) is greatly strengthened is citta purified. In
the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, rtambharaprajna (omniscience) is described
as sattvica buddhi (pure or sublime intellect). Looking at it from this angle, the terms
nadi shuddhi and citta shuddhi are synonymous. Sri Krsna advises his beloved
disciple thus "The yogi is deemed superior to the ascetic and the philosopher; he is
also greater than the ritualist. Therefore be a yogi, O Arjuna !" To be a yogi is to be
urdhvareta.