Friday, 20 September 2013

SADHANA CHALLENGES 1: JOB LOSSES AND FINANCIAL WORRIES



1.     Introduction

Maybe the tale of sadhana, the search for the divine, can be told with one simple metaphor, maybe not. But here’s one that works very well and has been used over the ages by countless souls: sadhana is a journey that can last a whole lifetime — and beyond. In fact this journey can take countless incarnations, according to Hindu and Buddhist teachings.

The great 20th century Bengali Saint Anandamayi Ma reminded her followers many times in her long life that this journey is really ultimately about going back to our real home, our true home. She said we are in exile here on this earth plane, and that even the richest, most content person on earth will in the end feel this longing, this strange desire to head out into the unknown for an unknown purpose. This is because the inbuilt desire for the bliss of Self-realisation is part of our innate human template.

Feeling like a stranger in a strange land is a common experience amongst those who pursue spiritual practice, and it might be your experience as well. It means we are never quite settled, never quite at ease, never totally comfortable. “When one resides in a country not one’s own, how can one possibly evade the hardships that are a foreigner’s lot?” Anandamayi Ma pointed out. A Zen Buddhist Master once called our life as something akin to spending “a bad night in a bad inn”. We therefore start to look to where that necessary comfort might lie.

Perhaps we feel that a job, a partner, children, worldly wealth will provide it. But eventually we discover that none of these things last, that the flow of change in life is so relentless we can hold on to nothing because life is simply not static. People change; assets change; even we change in innumerable ways, year after year. Nothing seems to stand still, and yet we wish it would. But it is this very stillness, if we can find it, that contains the way home that we seek. The stillness, you see, contains the Presence. The Presence is what we aim to realise.

So… how to find this Presence, how to hold on to it, how to live it, all these are the preoccupations of sadhana. Somewhere along the line, if all goes well, we will encounter a silence so mysterious, so overwhelming – and so beyond name, form and category – that our life is never the same. But what if all does not go well? The journey can be fiery, tempestuous, challenging, stretch us out of our comfort zone time and time again. We may be brave, we may be cowardly. We may be impetuous, we may be prudent. But somewhere along the way we will face many obstacles and what we perceive as tests and challenges. And we can simply give up the search and opt for a normal life. And then that yearning arises again…

Layer by Layer

There’s another metaphor we could use about sadhana that also points out deep truths. It’s a process of uncovering. We strip away layer and layer that veils our real state. This stripping away helps us ultimately reflect the full value of pure consciousness, or we could say reflect the full light of the divine. Every layer is in some way false. But the stripping away can be a tough process. And the sadhaka, the spiritual practitioner, might find this process unsettling, uncomfortable, and too much to handle.

This word “process” can be misleading. In fact the “process” of sadhana — its rhythms, its development and so on — is fundamentally different from the rest of the process of life.

Let’s take a look at what this means.

Just by simple observation we can see that life itself flowers and branches out as far as possible and as much as possible, through a series of waves or pulses. This is the process of life – branching, developing, extending, then retracting, retracing, curling inwards, only for a second wave of growth to take its place. Life accumulates, elaborates, then over-elaborates, then rests and starts all over again. Creation, elaboration, dissolution – the same wave every time. Everywhere this process is at work, in our thoughts, in nature, in the march of civilisations, the birth and growth of new fads, the course of the stars in the heavens.

Life always branches out, and if you have ever studied fractal curves, fractal growth you will see how true this is even in the basic mathematics of the universe. Through periods of rest and activity, stopping and starting, life curls, curves, branches out on every level and in every activity. Check this by observing your own thoughts – how one thought will trigger another, then another, until a whole tree of thoughts is created from the original thought.

The pace of change in culture has also greatly accelerated over the last 100 years, so the changing, mutating, building of complexity in life is even more noticeable than it has been in recorded history.

But the process of sadhana is radically different. In spiritual practice we are aiming to go the other way. We are trying not to elaborate, not to branch, not to grow out of a point, but into THE point, the central bindu.

We are aiming to go back branch by branch, complexity by complexity to greater simplicity, ever greater unity, ever greater single purpose, to align our life into one point, one central point of discovery and awareness, dissolving time along the way. We are radically simplifying. We are resolving. Hence the concept of the stripping away of layers.

Now this can be done through a 1,000 or more spiritual practices. It does not matter what way you use, if it leads inward to radical simplicity and greater silence. But if you find yourself taking on ever greater complexity, watch out – you are going the wrong way.

Not too easy, not too hard

So, armed with these various metaphors we can begin to study sadhana and begin to see what can happen when spiritual practice meets challenges, when life throws up in our way troubles, perils and difficulties.

For if sadhana was ever too easy, we would all be enlightened, there would be no more wars and heaven would exist on earth – and there would be no point in creating an earth plane at all, a place where souls go to spiritual school.

And if sadhana was ever too difficult, our lives here on this earth plane would very hellish indeed and no one would strive for Self-realisation. No: sadhana is tough, but so is learning and dedicating yourself to anything. It is not impossibly tough. But only a naïve fool could ever believe your way to the divine will be an easy walk in the park.

You don’t have to read very much in the history of great saints both east and west to see what I mean. Admittedly saints have a specialised role which involves an extraordinary training in both the visible and invisible worlds, but their lives reveal sometimes extraordinary periods of suffering.

If they face tough trials then for the rest of us, the prospect of an easy time for sadhana may not be guaranteed.

This short pamphlet deals with some common challenges and difficulties that arise as you live life while keeping a spiritual perspective, as well as some tips and advice how to overcome adversity of every type and description.

Rounding your character

The troubles, perils and difficulties we face in our lives will only really be revealed in their true perspective years after the event. We will then begin to see their effect, how they pushed us down one particular path, and how they confronted us with lessons that we had to learn in order to develop and round out our character.

There’s a great American gospel song sung by Shirley Caesar (an African American gospel star blessed with a very powerful, raw voice) which explains that all the troubles you face have one aim: “He is filling you out,” she sings: Bhagavan/God, is “filling you out”. Beautiful words and sentiment. The verses go on:

He’s filling you out
He’s filling you out
I don’t know what it is you’re going through
But of one thing there’s no doubt:
He’s filling you out


Perhaps up until the crisis we have unconsciously lived a life which contains some or more of these common character failings:
  •        Excessive selfishness
  •        Vanity
  •         Lack of consideration for family
  •         Lack of consideration for others
  •         Determined to push others out of the way to get material things
  •         Manipulating others
  •         Bullying others
  •         Out of control addictions
  •         Chronic anger
  •         Violent tendencies
  •         Ruthlessness
  •         Lack of self confidence
  •         General timidity
  •         Cowardliness
  •         Hypochondria

These all need to be addressed and filled out. When you start sadhana, you may be unaware of how deep-rooted some tendencies can be. But they will present themselves in a stark new light, and you can get a little dismayed when you realise exactly what you are really like! Here are some simple pointers to solutions:
·       

  •     Excessive selfishness/ practise loving kindness to others
  •         Vanity/Stop spending on yourself. A day without a mirror.
  •         Lack of consideration for family/revise your thinking, open yr heart
  •         Lack of consideration for others/as above
  •         Determined to push others out of the way to get material things/let others win
  •         Manipulating others/as above
  •         Bullying others/embrace Ahimsa, non violence
  •         Out of control addictions/explore your psychology, find inner strength
  •         Chronic anger/as above
  •         Violent tendencies/as above
  •         Ruthlessness/practice of Daya, compassion and empathy
  •         Lack of self confidence/courage, Virya
  •         General timidity/as above
  •         Cowardliness/as above
  •         Hypochondria/loving kindness, metta bhavana


I hope you will find this booklet (split into sections on this blog which we will deal with, post by post) useful.

2.     Financial and Material Crises

If you are lucky enough to be living in an ashram, monastery or spiritual institution, then this particular challenge will not arise. But it is always a sobering surprise to discover how prevalent financial and material crises are among people who are attracted the spiritual life – way above the average for the general population.

Indeed, attraction to spiritual life can simply be the desire of a perfectly normal materialistic person to get some quick-fix miracle to serious problems. The Bhagavad Gita refers to this kind of seeker as “The Person of Sorrows”.

Thus, God or the Devi in whatever form is seen as the material supplier or withholder of financial security or employment. So, in exchange for ritualistic adoration – through prayer, vow or recitation – the seeker hopes to attract a solution to the problem. This is spirituality as a transaction, where you give X and expect back Y and is a common facet of spiritual practice in human experience down the ages. It implies God’s grace can be bargained for.

There is nothing inherently wrong in asking Bhagavan for assistance and help, so lets not get too high-handed about this. Many saints were born on this earth, for example, only because their mothers prayed and did penance for offspring. And as many people understand, that saying "there are no atheists in a crisis" really does hold true when you are in a life threatening situation. God wants us to know Him, to merge with Him, to come home. And we are humans with all our weaknesses and failings, so we do need help. The thing that is not really very praiseworthy is hypocritical prayers for material possessions, then ignoring God until our next point of desire.


Ancient Greek and Roman theatre employed a theatrical device known as the “deus ex machina”, the God who would arise — or more likely descend via a rope pulley — at a certain climactic point in the play and set things to right, resolving the problems of the narrative and providing a happy or just ending.

That’s what most of us are looking for when trouble hits. We want help — and fast. We want divine intervention on our side.

The loss of a job hits at the very heart of life, because it throws into sharp relief the tenuous line between living a relatively normal life and the tough struggle for survival, and the situation becomes even more agonising if the seeker has dependents and must bring home money. What to do? Where to go? Panic sets in, a frenzy of insecurity and fear. Our bodies switch into the fight or flight reflex mode, we lose sleep, we cannot even eat properly, such is our stressful state. And on a psychological level, our whole sense of self-worth is under direct assault.

So it does not seem practical to say to a jobless, anxious even starving person “Meditate for an hour every day and clear your mind”. This is not what that person needs. They want food, not words. Nor would it seem to be prudent to tell someone desperate to secure a job “Be unattached to the result.” How can they be? The levels of anxiety from being in such a situation are extremely hard to bear.

Nevertheless, both these injunctions are on another level true and profound advice, which the wisest of seekers will take on board — and show considerable courage in doing so. But such people are extremely rare on this earth. “God will provide”, is their cry, “Everything happens for the best” their motto. Thus, inauspicious times help strengthen their faith and their resolve. And, sure enough, times slowly improve again.

For most ordinary seekers, the motto is “Help me, give me.” Some will understand that this bargain might involve some effort on their part, and undertake a spiritual promise or a vow in return for the hoped-for help. Others will simply expect help through the belief that, as they secretly think, the universe exists to cater to their whims and desires – and that the current situation is a sort of cosmic mistake of which they are the innocent and aggrieved party.

Here we have to introduce the law of karma — reaping the consequences of whatever action you sow — and the concept of reincarnation. The one concept supports the other. In Vedic thought, we have the concept of “Parabdha Karma”, or karma from a previous incarnation, which can be judged by a judicious analysis of the native’s birth chart, or Rashi Kundali. Good or bad, karmic consequences are inevitable. Even if we seem to be living in a world where the rascals prosper, in reality this is really not so. Sooner or later, there is a reckoning.

A loss of job, a disastrous loss of wealth or status may or may not be the result of past karma from a previous lifetime. Perhaps it is also something our personalities have caused, through questionable practices or an inability to work with others. Rare, too, are those who can rigorously analyse themselves and the way they interact in the world.

One 20th century American therapist used to explain that there are four aspects or “boxes” about our personalities and the world. They are:
a.      What we know about ourselves that others do not know
b.      What we know about ourselves that others also know
c.      What others know about us that we do not know
d.      What neither ourselves or others know about ourselves

The interesting point in this context is point C. Our faults are often blindingly obvious to others, yet blind to us. Someone who is impossible to be around for whatever reason tends to be completely unaware of it. 

Hence constant job losses and personal problems seem like a dreadful punishment for no reason to them, whereas from the outside the reasons are clear. Basic self-knowledge is therefore important when looking at a crisis. Did you directly cause it? Will it happen all over again with another job?

But situations can arise which have no apparent direct individual cause, but which are devastating: the company you work for goes under; your money is stolen etc etc. You are bullied and intimidated by a superior in the company. These can seem like cruel acts of a vengeful and arbitrary god out to make your life a misery.

In Christian and Judaic traditions, a whole scripture is devoted to this upsetting state of affairs. It is called “the Book of Job” and describes an appalling sequence of misfortune that befalls on Job, a lover of God.  In beautiful poetry, Job defends his faith but is bowed down by troubles and upsets. Eventually God replies with some memorable verses, the gist of which explains that life has a far wider dimension which He knows but we do not, a dimension stretching over aeons of time.

Vedic wisdom reminds us that we have lived many times before, and forgotten all about it. Karma comes knocking, and the weather turns bad for us. But life also moves in cycles and phases, constantly changing. Inauspicious circumstances give way once again to better and easier times.

Here are some practical tips in relation to sadhana while facing job losses and money worries, which I hope will be of help:
      
1. Be practical and deal with the crisis step by step.
You will feel overwhelmed, but try to get clear in your own mind what is most pressing and necessary to do.

2.      Ditch anything unnecessary and hunker down.
The storm will pass eventually – that is the cosmic law.

3.      Life is difficult, certainly. Don’t be naïve about it.
Spiritual practice does not mean wearing rose-tinted glasses at all times,
but facing reality fairly and squarely.
As Buddhism teaches us, the truths of human life are rooted in impermanence and “dukkha”, suffering or discomfort, being birth, sickness, old age and death…

4.      Conversely, God will never give you trials that are beyond your capacity.
If you feel utterly overwhelmed and suicidal, just pray intensely
“This burden is too much. Please help me, I can’t carry it!”

5.      Courage is often the only thing we might be able to cling on to into a crisis:
the courage to deal with the challenge in hand. Do not knock this great quality.

6.      Equally, the true devotion to your God that you have cultivated shows up when the going gets tough.
You may have filled your mouth with flowery phrases, which you cannot sustain in a time of trial.
Be honest, and simple.
Just a word, a feeling, a simple turning of the heart is enough.
Imagine your heart as a distress beacon beginning to flash in a stormy sea, crying out for God.
This beacon will be picked up. Help WILL manifest.

7.      Timing is a central issue. We humans want help in an instant. Even an hour may seem too late.
But in my experience it seems to take time for an urgent prayer for help to be answered,
and often our return to fortune can take much longer than we might feel is necessary.

8.      To deal with overwhelming panic: Bach’s Flower Remedies, Rescue Remedy. Really helps.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

NAVARATRI OBSERVANCE



The observance of Navratri (also known as Navaratri) is the prime festival of the Devi in the Hindu world, especially in the autumn — 9 days of worship climaxing in one glorious moment. It's also one of those festivals that most of the rest of the world will have dimly heard about, based on images of excited Bengalis carrying massive clay statues into the river or ocean as a climax of the festival. But outside the crowds, excitement, blowing of horns and waving of lights, Navarartri observance can be a quiet and yet intense personal opportunity to re-align with Divine Mother in all her manifestations and different forms.

There are in fact two Navrartri's one at the start of spring, one marking the start of autumn, but it is the autumn festival, Maha Navrartri  that attracts the most attention. This traditionally begins in the 10th day of the bright half of the lunar month of Ashwin, which this year (2013) starts on 5th October and lasts until 13th October. There are many different regional forms of observance but broad tradition has the 9 days split into different groups of 3 days. The first 3 days is dedicated to worship of Durga, the middle 3 days to Lakshmi, the final 3 days to Saraswati. Or, Saraswati is worshipped first, while Durga is worshipped last, which is the way I observe it.

Along the way, depending in which part of India you live, the 8th day is traditionally set as Durga Ashtami, a special observance involving 9 small pots and 9 different aspects of Durga. The 9th day is known as Vijayadashami or Dussehra, celebrating the victory of Durga over the fearsome buffalo demon Mahishasura, or Lord Rama over Ravana. Whichever way you approach it, through whatever tradition, the idea is to end with a big noisy celebration!

Navrartri may be so completely entwined in your culture that you have memories of this festival stretching back or your life, and you will be familiar with all its seperate events, so that it is more a social holiday gathering than anything else.



Its spiritual import

But what if you want to go the extra mile at Navrartri? What if you want to pursue some special spiritual discipline or vow over its 9 days?

This is the time when you both give thanks to Ma, and ask her blessings and boons. So, you both give and get, which is how it should be with a mother. 

The spiritual import is turning both hearts and minds to one sankalpa, a resolve to be attuned to the energies of Shakti in all Her manifestations. Over 9 days we are invited to deeply contemplate different aspects of the Mother, loosely represented as the essence of sattvic wisdom, Maha Saraswati, the essence of auspicious dharma Maha Lakshmi, and the essence of compassionate protection Durgama/Ambika . In addition we worship Mahakali as the fierce destroyer of our sins.

This is quite a lot to take in, and there is a rich sequence of pujas and such like that you can do in each case. With the right funds, the right family, caste, regional traditions you can spend funds on really lavish celebrations. But that's not the real point of the 9 days.

The inner mission, should you take it up, is alignment - alignment to the divine impulses that flood the earth at this special time for the upliftment of Devi worshippers. These are subtle and not easily felt, but if you meditate over this period you may feel them in your secret chamber of the spiritual heart. A time when the doors to the inner temple are flung open and light floods out.

This can be a time where you feel lifted, exalted, where all of a sudden you see the world around you and you realise it is ALL Mother in front of you, around you, behind you, up, down, everywhere. Then further you realise that your body, thoughts, senses, these are all Mother, too! Finally "You" that silent witness is revealed to be Ma, so Mother looks on Mother. Then you will feel tremendous freedom from fear and anxiety, and you will want to utter Her sacred mantras everywhere. What a great blessing to see Her in this way!


Suggested observances

Perhaps the biggest tapasya would be to recite the Devi Mahatyam (see many separate blog posts on this site) every day, or at least once during this time. A brave and sweet undertaking. If you need to obtain Her blessings and attention, this is a great way to do it. But follow the practical advice contained in this blog and don't do it if you feel you can't practically achieve it. This is not just a matter of reading the text, but of reciting it, so be clear over your abilities.

Another tapasya, recite the Sri Lalita Sahasranam every day. Much easier to do, much sweeter exercise, very joyful discipline. This reveals Her playful, changing side.

Offer a puja at least once over this period, with red flowers, red cloth, and do this just for yourself, making it as simple or as complex as you like. Offer your self, your evil tendencies in a private ceremony behind closed dooors so that no one knows what you are doing, and don't tell! it will be your secret love moment with your Divine Mother. If you can keep a lit flame alive for 9 days without burning down the house, try and do so, this is very beneficial.

But, above all, meditate. Meditate, meditate, meditate. No excuses. Do it.. in silence, by yourself. Resolve to meditate every day, to dive into silence and be in Her presence.

Fasting

Some observe a milk and fruits fast for all the 9 days. If this is practically impossible, keep nevertheless to a strict vegan diet or vegetarian diet if your culture permits. Or maybe forego some luxury over the period. Fasting bears real fruit (excuse the pun) in sadhana. Cut out any harmful habits such as tobacco or alchohol. Avoid any gambling.

Continence

Can you maintain brahmacharya, sexual continence  for 9 days? Surely you can! Give it a go. But don't obsess over it.

Be simple and natural above all. No need to dress strange, act oddly, fake emotions etc etc, just bring yourself and a guest - ie your own heavy karma - to Mother's party. She will attend to the guest, and She will feed you richly.

Charity 

If you are lucky, the Mother may appear before you in the guise of a person asking for money or help over this period. This will be a really auspicious opportunity for you, so be vigilant! Give to the needy and the poor where you can and look out for any unusual meetings over this time. 

So... 9 days... 9 daily chances to get reacquainted with your real Divine Mother. This could be your year, so be inspired, be sweet, be uplifted, be bold, and commit to a spiritual Nanrarti this year. Many souls will be linked together doing the same thing all across the world. What a wonderful truth!

















Friday, 6 September 2013

KALI YUGA PROPHECIES


Vedic wisdom teaches that the world passes through different cycles or ages, and that the assumptions about the age of human culture are way off the mark and completely wrong. The ground breaking massive book by Hare Krishna devotee Michael Cremo, Forbidden Archeology, provides ample proof that western science has consistently ignored or supressed anomalous archeological finds that point to some amazing discoveries showing the antiquity of advanced human artefacts. Another book, the Yugas, by two Yogananda devotees, also patiently uncovers evidence of the same thing: we tend to believe a narrative about human evolution that is just plain mistaken.

In addition, modern archeology keeps discovering signs of extensive civilisations and buildings that are far older than they should be. The basic problem here is the legacy of Judeo-Christian mind-sets in the 19th century, and the famous assertion that the world was only 4,000 years old. Doh. Classic case of trying to fit the facts into some mind-set, when the facts dictate something else entirely.


In Vedic terms we pass through 4 ages time and time again. We are in fact right now, just to apply a spiritual satnav precise location in time and space... in the the second half of the hundred years of Brahma in the Divine White Boar cycle, when the 7th Manu Vaivasvata is ruling in the first foot of the 28th Kali Yuga during the incarnation of the Buddha in Shalivahana's era. In other words, civilisations have risen and fallen of which we have very little idea. The death of Lord Krishna traditionally is said to have ushered in the current age, Kali Yuga, the age in which  spirituality is constrained and humanity's wisdom dwindles.

The Age of Kali is often characterised as "The Age of Quarrel" and this, I reckon, is pretty accurate down to the microscopic level: Think about this is your own life, it is such an ubiquitous experience we fail to recognise how odd conditions really are: families in constant disagreement; even ashrams quarreling about land rights; wars between nations; rape, abuse, violence: all the symptoms of violence in the heart, of a human race angry most of the time, bent on lashing out and destruction. And that's not even looking at nature, with its constants wars between species.   

Here's some chilling words from Skanda XII, Chapter 2 ( a few edits also made) of the Vaishnava masterpiece Srimad Bhagavatam (excellent translation in the Ramakrishna Mission version of the text, avoid the Prabhupada/Hare Krishna version altogether because it is dogmatically and polemically written). These verses were written way before our present time, at the very least in the Middle Ages but probably long before:

In the age of  Kali wealth takes the place of high birth, virtuous conduct and character in estimating a man's worth.

Might will become right, being accepted as the factor determining what is dharma and what is justice.

Mutual attraction will become the sole consideration in marital relationship.

Business will become tantamount to the practice of fraud.

Skill in love-making will be recognised as the chief excellence in man and woman.

The sacred thread will become the sole distinctive feature of a brahmana.

If a man is too poor to conduct a case, his case will be considered weak in the eyes of the law. If a man is a master of abusive vocabulary, he will be considered a scholar.

Poverty will be looked upon as sufficient proof of guilt in a case, and ostentation and show will become the hallmark of character.

Mating will be looked on as marriage.

Bathing will be significant only hygienically and not ceremonially.

A well-dressed hair style will become the criterion of beauty. Men will live to eat, not eat to live.

Mere audacious profession will be taken as adherence to truth.

A person who maintains their family by hook or by crook will be considered resourceful and respectable.

Dharma will be observed solely for reputation.

When men degenerate in this way, whoever is powerful among Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras will become the rulers.

These greedy and cruel rulers, following the way of brigands and plunderers, will lay their hands on the womenfolk and wealth of their subjects who will therefore be forced to take shelter in mountains and forests.

When....
due to the evil influence of Kali people become physically weak
the dharma of the Vedas has perished
the ways of atheists and their teachings have become widespread
kings have degenerated into thieves
people indulge in theft, falsehood and vain slaughter
monastries and ashrams have become merely places of enjoyment
sex relationship has come to be recognised as the only relationship
clouds have begun to emit only lightening
homes have become devoid of holy rites
people have begun to be animal like

Then the Lord will incarnate in the form of Sattva for the protection of the Dharma.

Some more prophecies from Skanda XII, this time Chapter 3 ( a few edits also made):

Under the influence of Kali Yuga people will be dull and narrow in outlook, luckless, gluttonous, poverty-stricken and extremely lustful. Women will all become adultresses.

Thieves will lead the country.

The Veda will be perverted by atheists. Kings will be mere tyrants. The twice-born ones will be the votaries of sexuality and gluttony.

The Bramacharis will live contrary to their vows and will have no sense of purity.

The householders will cease to give holy alms, but themselves take to begging.

Ascetics and sadhus will begin to be residents of villages and sannyasins will be greedy in the extreme. 

Women will be short-statured, gluttonous, highly prolific, shameless, sharp-tongued and addicted to theft, to crooked ways and to reckless behaviour.

Vile men who are no better than cheats will take to trade and business and introduce dishonest practices in buying and selling. 

Men will adopt prohibited means of livelihood as honourable and righteous even when there is no threat of danger in social life. 

Abandoning association with family, people will transfer their allegiance to friends and associates in sexual matters, will be weak in spirit and absorbed in sexual affairs.

Sudras will pretend to be ascetics and make a living receiving gifts.

Men who are authorites on Adharma will begin to interpret Dharma sitting on the seats of respected teachers.

For a pittance people will quarrel, abandon bonds of affection, and fight with kith and kin.

People will fail to take care of even their old parents. Interested only in their own food and sexual satisfaction, they will neglect even talented children of theirs...

These prophecies are not the only ones on Kali Yuga. There are similar words in the Shaivite scriptures. But the more you read the words, the more accurate they seem.

We have seen the most cruel, brutal ruthless and awful leaders in recent history: Josef Stalin, Chairman Mao, Saddam Hussein. We have seen the relentless flood of sex-based media plumbing ever lower standards. The world is wash by fake gurus of no wisdom, but cunning manipulators sucking up the energy of others. Cruelty to animals, murder of cows, factory farming, ecological devastation, demonic trends, serial killers, a culture of curses and rudeness... it's all flooded this beautiful earth and represents a low point in the cycle of the Yugas.

That particular Skanda of the Srimad Bhagavatam offers its own solution to living in this kind of age, which is the hardest for all those trying to practice sadhana:

When the worshipful Lord, the Mahapurusha, enters into the hearts of people, He destroys all evil wrought in the minds by Kali Yuga through food, place of residence and sense contacts.


By being heard about, 
hymned about, 
meditated upon
worshipped
or
adored
The Lord enters into ours hearts

And when he so enters... he destroys all evil tendencies acquired in the course of innumerable lives. 

It is only when the Lord enters into the heart of a spiritual aspirant that all the evil in him is is destroyed....

Therefore strive your best to instal Keshava in your heart!


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

SHIVABALAYOGI: HIDDEN WORLD SAVIOUR



A Zulu shaman called Credo Mutwa once predicted that in the late 20th century two hidden people would be saving the world - without anyone realising it. And one, he predicted, would be an Indian man. The other, a woman.

Much of what we know about the life of my Guru the great yogi Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi is hidden. We know he spent 12 years in tapasya at a very young age. We know he then entered the world, establishing ashrams across India. We know at a late stage in his short life, he went to the West. We know, too, that wherever he went he established Shiva linga. But, unless we ourselves are of powerful Yogic attainment, we have no idea how he worked on a subtle level and what exactly he did "behind the scenes".

He was enormously powerful, an enlightened adept whose presence was so filled with shakti that in the early years as his tapasya finally concluded, no one could even sit in the same room as him. His presence helped trigger mass trances, displays called "Bhava Samadhi" where devotees would be filled with the energies of different devis and devas, but his message was simple, boiling down to one key message: "Do sadhana".

But a few utterances of his and strange actions are revealed in the voluminous book Swamiji's Treasures which point to a key role in saving humanity from nuclear disaster and outright wars which run out of control.

Take for example Swamiji's days as a hostage at the beginning of the Gulf War in 1990. The great Yogi was gifted by foreknowledge of events, as clearly shown in some of the unusual preventative measures he took just before he and others were taken hostage by the Iraqis (he was in Kuwait on a stopover flight when it was invaded). Why was Shivabalayogi in Kuwait at that precise time? And what did the influence of such a powerful Yogi have on the events of the subsequent brief war?

Mysteries upon mysteries. More mysterious still are some brief utterances he made about having played a part in stopping nuclear disaster. He would not elaborate, and I  suspect ordinary mortals could not understand anyway. 

But one fact is also true of Swamiji, that his health began to suffer greatly especially after Kuwait - he aged suddenly and quickly. Many thought this was because he took on the poisons of bad karma of devotees, but did he take on more than that on a global scale? 


 

When I  was growing up it seemed ominously apparent that the world was on the brink of a nuclear war between Russia and the US. The fact that this never happened, that indeed the communist regime simply fell apart like overripe fruit, has always seemed odd, as if we do not really know the whole story, the story of the influences that pervade our normal human existences, of which we are unaware.

The mythology of Hinduism like many other religions describes the seven wise Rishis who guard our planet and protect the people, even if they are not incarnate on the earthly plain. My Guru would always say he was following orders and on a mission, a mission he could not complete in physical form because the body wore out too quickly - but that he would be present in his astral form for devotees for many years to come.

Was Shivabalayogi the Indian man foreseen a continent away by an African shaman (who correctly foresaw many things that have come to pass) who saved the world? Perhaps we will never know while we are alive on earth, but I know that after my death I would love to find out the hidden history of our times. 

Great Yogis incarnate for the good of all humanity. I believe that Shivabalayogi, as with the greatest Yogis of our time, Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, Neem Karoli Baba, Anandamayi Ma, played a vital role in saving the world from nuclear destruction. But can I prove it? No... Do I feel it? Yes.   


Monday, 2 September 2013

RUDRAKSHA BEADS: LORD SHIVA'S GIFT TO US ALL






Few of us can afford the gems that are traditionally prescribed to help with an unfortunate astrological jyotish chart or planetary placement. Rudraksha beads are a far cheaper option.

I love wearing them,  love the sense of connection they bring and I love the tradition from which they spring. If you do not wear rudrakshas and you meditate, remedy this situation and obtain a mala. Then see for yourself their subtle astral benefits.

Background

There are those who like their spirituality straight, shorn of colour and decoration - natural puritans. Others like a bit more colour and life, and still others look for every little advantage that spiritual sites and artefacts bring - often displaying astonishing greed, credulousness, and ignorance. We are all different in our tastes and inclinations.But one thing is undoubtedly true of humanity - many of us have a predisposition to venerate even the merest hint of the divine manifesting in daily life... statues drinking milk; 5 legged cows; miraculous pictures and so on. One of my favourite examples is people rushing to venerate the "holy toast", a humble bit of bread which emerged from the toaster with the vaguest shape of a head which people took to be of Jesus. I don't know what happened to the toast in the end!

So the idea that a simple seed off a tree common throughout the Indian subcontinent and even as far away as Hawaii should have a powerful impact on spiritual practice will seem absurd to some, interesting to others, and unquestioned by a whole other group. But is it actually true? The only way is to test it out, which I've been deliberately doing for a few years... so you don't have to! Results, later on down the post...

In the Hindu traditions, the rudraksha seed is associated with the "tears of Shiva" or the legend of one tear of Lord Shiva that fell to the earth after he opened his eyes after a long period of tapasya, from which all rudraksha trees subsequently spring. They are his gift to us.

Rudraksha is derived from Rudra, the name of a fiercer and older version of Lord Shiva worhipped in the famous Sri Rudram, and aksha, eye or axis point. The actual seeds are covered with a blue coating when ripe which turns to black, and within that outer casing you discover the rudraksha beads themselves.

These beads in turn are worn as protective and cleansing talismans, or as japa malas. They are worn in great profusion by particular schools of Yogis, although never by Vaishnavas who principally venerate the Tulsi/basil tree. 

So far so good, they are beads.. picked up in a tradition...

But as always, traditions evolve and branch out (forgive the pun) in a profusion of unexpected twists and turns. The rudraksha bead story has therefore now become the story of how many "mukhi" or faces each seed has, and a complex heirarchy of what rudraksha bead is considered the most potent etc.

By far the greatest majority of rudraksha seeds are 5-Mukhi, 5 faced, another link with Lord Shiva and the famous panchadashi mantra.  But a seed can have either fewer or more Mukhi, and below is a simple list of their different benefits: A good explanation can be found in a website called http://www.rudraksham.com but there are many such websites to choose from. 

Why wear it 

For the benefits, essentially the simple guide would be, therefore:

ALL MANTRAS TO BE RECITED 9 TIMES ON WEARING AND 9 TIMES ON TAKING OFF RUDRAKSHAS…

1 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM NAMAH SHIVAYAH, OM HREEM NAMAH
RULING DEITY: SHIVA
RULING PLANET: ALL
Ruled by Lord Shiva, therefore this rudraksha will greatly help in aiding detachment from worldly affairs, even when the storms of life are raging. Helps govern and balance the sahasra chakra, so it is of great value and use in meditation practice, especially prolonged meditation. An aid, too in clearing unwanted vrittis and samskaras, mental tendencies and troubling repetitive thought patterns.
Governs Sahasra Chakra

2 MUKHI:
MANTRA: AUM NAMAH, OM SHIVA-SHAKTI NAMAHA
RULING DEITY: ARDANARISHWAR
RULING PLANET: SOMA/CHANDRA
The 2 faces of this rudraksha bead are symbolic of union of spirit and matter, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Shiva-Shakti, hence Ardanarishwar. This helps balance the wearer’s psyche in a great and gentle way, bringing into harmony the differihng elements of the body of masculine and feminine energy. Especially useful; for harmonious relationships, couples, conception.
Governs Svadisthana chakra

3 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM KLEEM NAMAH
RULING DEITY: AGNI
RULING PLANET: SURYA
Increases self confidence, removes sense of inferiority, sense of shame or self-disgust caused by legacy of sinful or impure actions in this or indeed in past lifes. Will no longer be defeated by self or others. House safe from being burnt by fire. .
Governs Manipura Chakra

4 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM HREEM NAMAH
RULING DEITY: BRIHASPATI/GURU
RULING PLANET: GURU
This aids in all forms of eloquence, public address, imparting of knowledge, wise utterances, melodious speech etc. Great for studying of all kinds, and increases virtue and renown.  
Governs Vishuddhi Chakra

5 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM HREEM NAMAHA, OM NAMA SHIVAYAH
RULING DEITY: RUDRA KALAGNI
RULING PLANET: GURU
This maybe the most common of all rudraksha beads but nevertheless is also highly auspicious and beneficial. It shares many of the beneficial propertiers of the 4 mukhi beads, alleviates distress, helps with joy, self confidence and auspicious behaviour.   
Governs Vishuddhi Chakra

6 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM HREEM NAMAHA, OM NAMA SHIVAYAH
RULING DEITY: KARTIKKEYA/MURUGAN
RULING PLANET: MANGAL
This mukhi bead has connections with the energy of Mars, pascifying kujadosha, giving energy that might otherwise be trapped, helping remove lust and vices, curing all sorts of duiseases like loss of semen through bad habits etc. It is an energy rebalance and vital in facing the stresses of modern urban life in particular.  

7 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM HUM NAMAHA, OM MAHALAKSHMI NAMAH
RULING DEITY: MAHALAKSHMI
RULING PLANET: SHUKRA
This mukhi bead is tremendously auspicious and great good fortune to obtain a mala of said bead. Why because this is the symbol and energy of pauspicious prosperity, of Mother Lakshmi herself. So, amazing good fortune if this comes your way! . Those whose main concern is the accumulation of wealth, riches and so forth or are frightened of losing it, would do well simply to invest in the money needed to by a 7 mukhi mala, usually of 33 beads. Pacifies the negative effects of Shukra (Venus), gives so many secret opportunities for wealth.. but only ewthical wealth, and only for good purpose. Removes bad luck and misfortune.

8 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM HOOM NAMAHA
RULING DEITY: GANESH
RULING PLANET: KETU
This mukhi bead is associated with the energies of Lord Ganesh. It has many striking effects: stops lying, removes serious obstacles, helps all those incolved in intellectual work, helps business flourish, and helps brahmacharya, Lord Ganesh being the Lord of Brahmacharis.  If you ensnared by opposition and enemies, wearing this really helps free you from the nets meant to trap you
Governs the Muladhara chakra

9 MUKHI:
MANTRA: OM DUM DURGAYI NAMAHA, OM HREEM HOOM NAMAHA
RULING DEITY: DURGA
RULING PLANET: RAHU
This mukhi bead is associated with the great Shakti, Devi Durga, and has enormous help in uniting the devotee with the energies of Shakti. Durga is the remover of serious obstacles in an often dramatic way, and this mukhi will destroy and zap your deep rooted sinful tendencies, addictions, nervous problems, lack of self confidence, hysteria and misery. You gain the fearlessness of being protected by your Ma.

 Are the claims true? 
These are kind of tall order claims, and it just so happens that many people make a living selling rudraksha beads, so they have a vested interest in the topic and the rarer beads can go for considerable sums of money. It is tempting to dismiss all of this as superstitious nonsense with no sound evidence, a money-making scam for the wolves and jackels amongst our communities.

But this does not explain quite why so many saints and sages have worn the rudraksha and swear by the benefits, above and beyond their symbolic value.

The spiritual theory is that each item in the universe vibrates at a frequency, each has what English biologist has dubbed a "morphic resonance", which can also be seen as a faint light emanating from all objects by the spiritually aware and second-sighted. Rudraksha beads have a vibrational pattern that beneficially interacts with the different sheaths that make up our body, mind and senses, aligning or re-aligning us on a subtle level. Sort of like a filter in a muddy pond (to switch metaphors).

My own experience with rudrakshas has been pretty lengthy, but not always successful. For many years I could not wear any rudrakshas next to my skin, as they caused irritation to the skin and seemed to up my bodily temperature to fever dimensions. The only palatable rudrakshas I could wear were massive beads still covered in their outer shell, so smooth like billiard balls, which I bought in the Maharastran pilgrimage village of Ganeshpuri.

But I finally decided to give rudrakshas another go, commissioning a japa mala maker in England to make a really hard-wearing set, able to resist my long sweaty bicycle rides to and from home and my workplace. The beads were very small, 5 mukhi, and finally I could wear them.

This coincided with a wonderful upsurge in meditation energy and committment and a really sattvic period in my life. I had larger malas which I would also wear, and the result was a far greater clarity and calmness than usual. Hard to prove, impossible to quantify, but a definite effect, only uncovered in silent meditation.

A while ago, I decided to try out some other rudrakshas, and now wear a 1 faced, 2x4 face, and 9 faced rudrakshas most of the time around the neck. I have also malas for 6 mukhi, 2 mukhi, 7 mukhi. The 7 mukhi mala is particularly special and kept on my puja surrounding a 3 dimensional metal Shri-Yantra. It is the wealth and prosperity guardian, generator of auspiciousness.

These are a whole different experience from the 5 mukhi rudrakshas, and the 9 and 1 faced mukhis especially have to do with the heart and with past good karma returning unexpectedly. They are on me as I write this, now part of my life and as a Shakta worshipper, the 9 mukhi bead (just a single bead) seems like a beacon, a light in the universe that says "Hey, Ma, I'm your devotee and child. I am wearing something connected to you."

I'm not after riches, fame, and all that... but the idea of plants as helpers of humanity is one I really agree with. It is, after all, the foundation of basic medicine and enshrined in the lore of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The ancients weren't stupid. They evolved through aeons deep knowledge the plants that help, the plants that harm, the plants to which humanity is indifferent.

Few of us can afford the gems that are traditionally prescribed to help with an unfortunate astrological jyotish chart or planetary placement. Rudraksha beads are a far cheaper option.

I love wearing them,  love the sense of connection they bring and I love the tradition from which they spring. If you do not wear rudrakshas and you meditate, remedy this situation and obtain a mala. Then see for yourself their subtle astral benefits.