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!