Friday, 31 January 2014

MAHASHIVARATRI: HOW TO OBSERVE IT AND BENEFIT



This holy and sacred observance, the Night of Shiva, occurs on the dark fortnight of the month of Phalgun which means this year 2014 the night of Thursday February 27th (although some parts of India celebrate it at a different time) and is a night traditionally given to worship the great Lord of Yogis and benefactor of all mankind. The most auspicious time in 2014 is Feb 28 from 12.17am to 1.17am. Try to stay awake then!

There are many different strands of legend surrounding the night, but it all boils down to the moment in the year when a full observance of a day-long fast and all-night vigil traditionally cleanses us, purifies us and — if we so wish it, entitles us to ask a boon of Maheswar, the teacher of all mankind. As He is known as easily pleased and generous to devotees, this brings us hope. But truly if we are serious about sadhana, not about material gains, it is a night of tremendous outpouring of spiritual wisdom, spiritual riches.

Your own observance will depend on your circumstances. Not everyone can stay up all night, not everyone can fast the preceding day, but the idea is to perform a little tapas, a little austerity, with a willing and giving heart.

And if you even perform just a little yoga or meditation, consider how all the Hindu scriptures agree on one point: Lord Shiva gave these gifts to humanity. He gave us Yoga, He gave us the bridge to enlightenment. Isn't this worth a "thankyou"?

This is a day to ask for blessings or what is always called "a boon" ( a wonderful English word that has fallen into disuse in everyday language) and they will come. It is a quiet day, not one of banging cymbals, dancing or yelling... everything is withdrawn, just like the moon on the sky, everything folded into the mysterious engulfing silence of the absolute. The Lord will notice you, have no doubts about it, and such is his benevolence he always rewards the hearts of the loving, just, loyal and those yearning for liberation.

Think about what blessings or boon you want. If it is things like a new car, a job, a boyfriend or girlfriend, well, the Lord will hear you. But the real blessings we mean are spiritual: help for your sadhana journey. Obstacles removed. Maybe your head burns with too many thoughts? Or your heart is full of malice, anger and pain. Or there is someone you cannot forgive. Or you simply hate your life as it is. This quiet and wonderful night could be the turning point in your entire life! This could be that decisive time when your life starts to really grow, and then the flowers will come. Use this time, therefore, wisely. Many great saints, also were born into families where people prayed intensely on Mahashivaratri. Because the Lord is merciful and lavish with his favours. 

You can be as simple or as complex as you like about observance, but whatever you do, just remember this is not a night to ignore. It is a time when the borders between the transcendent, the holy, and the earthbound are very porous and open and no harm can befall a devotee who sincerely gives his time to obervance. Even the most thick-headed and stubborn of individuals can meditate easily on this night.

It can be tough to observe, but you will remember the effort for the rest of your life.

If you are courageous enough, then this is the usual form of Shivarartri observance:

  1. The day before, ie day of 27th, (Trayodashi or 13th day of dark fortnight)  you partake of breakfast if you must, or fast entirely. Check with online panchang for timings of your region.
  2. You formulate a sankalpa, a vow or statement of determination, saying what you intend to do and for how long.
  3. As night approaches, you will have cleaned the house, tidied the puja, got everything ready and when all is ready, as the sun goes down, take a bath. The getting everything ready includes finding leaves of the Bael/Bilval Betel tree, but if you live like me in a country without such leaves... make do and see if you can find a tree which has a cluster of three leaves. These will be offered to Lord Shiva. If you cant find any, don't panic. Make yourself the offering instead. 
  4. Prepare pot of water, milk and honey but only if you have a Shiva Lingam to pour it over. Remember to get flowers.
  5. Put on clean clothes, make sure enough candles, incense/dhoop, camphor, rice, anything you wish to offer. Wear ash on your forehead in three horizontal stripes.
  6. The sun is down: Mahashivarartri begins! Here in the House of Two Wings Sadhana Kutir, there will be very stately, drumless meditative chants to Shiva, and pujas, but the real heart of the evening is diving into silence without falling asleep.
  7. A puja to Lord Shiva (you can choose your own words if you need to) is necessary. To do it properly, there are actually four separate pujas you can do through the night, as follows: 1) 5.30pm-8.50pm, 2) 8.50pm - 12.12am, 3) 12.12am - 7.30pm, 4) 7.30pm - 10.50am.
  8. You can break your fast from 6.50am to 11.19am on 28th Feb, ie the 14th day of dark fortnight or Chaturdashi.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

INSPIRATIONAL SPIRITUAL QUOTES: MESSAGES FOR YOU!


Enjoy these wonderful sayings from the wise, and refresh your resolution by taking in the pure vibrations of some of the master souls that have lived on our little planet. One of these quotations will be meant for you and you alone, so search carefully with a yearning heart and see which one resonates most strongly with your heart, then use it for the whole of the year as your own mini inspiration. May the words bless your journey!

Great spiritual aphorisms
     “Fix your mind on Me alone, let your thought dwell in Me. You will live thus in Me alone. Of this there is no doubt.” Sri Bhagavad Gita, 12.8

 “Surrender to God not because you are weak, but because you are strong.” Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

 “Recite your mantra in your mind when you are in bed waiting to sleep. Think of your pillow as the feet of the Divine and be peaceful in the feeling that you are protected by the Divine, cradled at the feet of the Divine.” Krishnamacharya

 “Drop by drop the pot gets filled.” Indian aphorism for sadhana discipline

 “The tree that bows low is full of fruit.” Indian aphorism for humility

 “The thoughts I cherish of transcendence aren’t something I share with worldly people. Someday I plan to give up this career and live forever with Heaven and earth.” Wei Ying-Wu

 “The traveller on the path finds it difficult and is troubled but one who has eyes to see can already see the pilgrim is advancing. The distress that is experienced burns to ashes all pleasures derived from worldly things. This is what is called tapasya.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 “Ask and Ye shall receive. Knock and the door shall be opened to you. Seek and Ye shall find.” Jesus, the Gospels

 “The nature of divine love is inexpressible. It is like the experience of joy that a mute man has when he tastes something sweet.” Narada Bhakta Sutras

 “Expand. Purify your heart. Live in the true spirit of selfless service. Live every second for the ideal and goal of life. Then and then alone will you realise the true glory of selfless service. May you shine as a dynamic Yogi by the practice of selfless service! May you enjoy the true bliss of the eternal.” Swami Sivananda



 “Serve, Love, Give, Meditate. This is Sadhana in a nutshell. Be good, Do good. Be humble. Be noble. This is the highest Sadhana. Enquire ‘Who am I’? and know thy Self. Find the knower, find the seer. This is Sadhana in essence.” Swami Sivananda

 “Make contentment your ear-rings, humility your begging bowl and meditation the ashes you apply to your body. Let the remembrance of death be the patched coat you wear. Let the purity of your virginity be your way in the world and let faith in the Lord be your walking stick. See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of Yogis; conquer your own mind and conquer the world.” Guru Nanak

 “I cry aloud in pity for myself and all the while a great eagle bears me slowly across the sky.” American Indian on life and time

“When a person is a true friend of God, even the plants in his courtyard are wish-fulfilling trees.” Tukaram Maharaj

“If you lack will-power, try to develop “won’t” power.” Paramahansa Yogananda

 “I offer obeisance to the God and Goddess, The limitless primal parents of the universe. They are not entirely the same, Nor are they not the same. We cannot say exactly what they are. How sweet is their union! The whole world is too small to contain them, Yet they live happily in the smallest particle.” Jnaneshawar Maharaj

 “This practice isn’t something you do from time to time, you know. You have to keep at it continuously throughout life. Even if it involves so much physical pain or mental anguish that tears are bathing your cheeks, you have to keep to the holy life because you are playing for real. If you don’t follow the holy life you’ll get trapped in sufferings and flames. So you have to learn lessons from pain. Try to contemplate it until you can understand it and let it go. And you’ll gain one of life’s greatest rewards.” Upasila Kee Nanayon

         “The thing to do is to open the door and step out onto the path. Keep walking. You will meet fellow wayfarers who will give you help and guidance. From you, nothing but effort is required. Revelation or realisation happens at its proper moment.” Anandamayi Ma

“The truth is this. He who is really anxious to cross the ocean of the world will break his bonds somehow. No one can entangle him. Financial difficulties, awaiting a reply, the fear of going back with unfulfilled desire — these are mere excuses.” Sri Sarada Devi

 “In this life on earth, find out by careful discrimination your friends, enemies and the indifferent. Holy men are your friends, those who hate God are your enemies. The worldly-minded are the indifferent ones.” Sri Bhasya








       ”There is nothing in life so wonderful as living according to a regular rhythm of worship.” Swami Satyananda

 “Giving up conceit, arrogance of power, yearning, ill-humour, acquisitiveness, devoid of attachment, in possession of a mind at repose, you are worthy to become one with God.” Sri Bhagavad Gita, 18.53

 “As you go the way of life you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.” Advice given to a young native American at the time of his initiation.

 “As you proceed through life following your own path, birds will drop their droppings on you. Don’t bother to brush them off. Getting a comedic view of your situation gives you spiritual distance. Having a sense of humour saves you.” Joseph Campbell

 “I urge you: Do your part. Follow the teachings; meditate deeply each day; serve others; and throughout all your activities keep your heart and mind ever turning to the One Source of security, fulfillment, and unconditional love. Entertain no fears.” Sri Daya Mata

 “Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing frighten thee. All things are passing. God does not change. Who possesses God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.” St Teresa of Avila

 “The brahmachari should completely renounce the following 8 things: his lust, anger, greed, desire for sweets, sense of decorating the body, excessive curiosity, excessive sleep and excessive endeavour for bodily maintenance.” Nita Shastra 11.10

 “It is my open advice for everyone that one who is disturbed by sex must take the responsibility of married life.” Srila Prabhupada

 “Life has to disciplined so that when the kundalini awakes you can remain unconfused. You have to discharge your responsibilities. You have to go the office, bank, shops, and drive a car as well. Not everybody can become a swami or stay in an ashram.” Swami Satyananda Saraswati

 “Do as you would be done by.” Jesus Christ








 “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” Gautama Buddha

 “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life; dream of it; think of it; live on that idea. Let the brain, the body, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced.” Swami Vivekananda

 “When flower is ready, bee will come.” Shree Maa

  “If the yamas and niyamas are practiced, one will have universal compassion towards all living beings and internal purity. Personal peace and order in society will arise from their practice. Their absence leads to problems between father and son, king and subjects, and husband and wife. “ Krishnamacharya

 “Water the root to enjoy the fruit.” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

 Totus Tuus (Wholly Thine alone).” Personal motto of Pope John Paul II to Mary, the Mother of God.

 “The path of Yoga is full of wonders (Vismayo Yoga bhumikah).” Shiva Sutras

“Even if a man of the most sinful conduct worships Me with undeviating devotion, he must be reckoned righteous for he has rightly resolved.” Sri Bhagavad Gita 9.30

 “We can talk together and share ideas… but energetically there’s a sense of something beyond the words. I could describe it maybe as a sense that there is emptiness. It’s just emptiness. There’s no one there. And the whole idea you had a life, and you have a life, and that you will have a life, simply falls away. The whole idea of karma, cause and effect, action, doing, paths, simply collapses. This message turns everything on its head.” British advaita teacher Tony Parsons.

 “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Zen saying







       “He who checks the evil deeds he did by doing wholesome deeds instead, illuminates the world like a moon freed from a cloud.” Angulimala Sutta

 “Every man on earth is sick with the fever of sin, with the blindness of sin and is overcome with its fury. As sins consist mostly of malice and pride, it is necessary to treat everyone who suffers from the malady of sin with kindness and love. This is an important truth, which we often forget. Very often we act in the opposite manner: we add malice to malice by our anger, we oppose pride with pride. Thus, evil grows within us and does not decrease; it is not cured – rather it spreads.” Father John of Kronstadt 

“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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

“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!” Sri Anandamayi Ma

“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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 “When vairagya becomes a living inspiration... each and everything belonging to the world begins to burn. One cannot touch it.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 “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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 “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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

“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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma




"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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 “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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 “The wise ever live in remembrance of God.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 “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.” Sri Anandamayi Ma

 Question: “I can observe anger and work with greed, but how does one observe delusion?”. Answer: “You’re riding a horse and asking ‘Where’s the horse?’. Pay attention. Ajaan Chah

"Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful rare animals will come to drink at the pool and you will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. This is the happiness of the Buddha.” Ajaan Chah

 “The Guru is the means” (Guru Upayah) Shiva Sutras

 “People who have tasted the glory of self-sacrifice, the glory of helping our brothers, once we have been given a jewel of such magnitude, nothing can deviate us from our path of love and duty to displaying its lustre, pure and unadorned to the people of the world.Dr Edward Bach, founder of Bach Flower Remedies

 “When you wear shoes, the whole world is covered in leather.” Baba Ramdass

Everybody talks about the ascent of kundalini, but few ever discuss the descent. When the descent of kundalini occurs, it means the lower mental plane of the human being is no longer influenced by the ordinary mind, the supermind takes over instead.” Swami Satyananda

 “Whatever happens in spiritual life, it is related to the awakening of kundalini. And the goal of every form of spiritual life, whether you call it Samadhi, nirvana, moksha, communion, union, kaivalya, liberation or whatever, is in fact awakening of kundalini.” Swami Satyananda









      “Bhakti is love — loving God, loving your own Self, and loving all beings. The small heart should become bigger and bigger and, eventually, totally expansive. A spark can become a forest fire. So to have only a spark is enough, for the spark is also fire. Keep blowing on it, fanning it. Sooner or later it will burn like a forest fire, sending out long tongues of flame." Ammachi

 "Anyone who has tasted prema bhakti — devotion with supreme love — even for a second, will never waver from it. But such devotion does not arise in everyone. Not everyone who enters a lottery gets first prize. That only goes to one person among millions. True devotion is like that; only one in a million will experience it." Ammachi

“Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.” Sri Ramakrishna

”God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole.” Sri Ramakrishna

 “Unless you can fix your mind on God, you will find it very difficult to keep yourself pure in this world. Mahamaya (The Divine Mother) sports in diverse ways and it is not easy to withstand the innumerable temptations created by Her. Lust, anger, greed are almost invincible; to conquer them is no child’s play. Through the strength of the Lord alone, not by any other means, can you cut the meshes of Maya and make yourself free.” Swami Brahmananda

 “Bear in mind that it is very hard to lead a pure and unsullied life. It is like walking on the edge of a drawn sword. Every moment there is the chance of a fall, of being sliced to pieces. Perfect continence is the only condition of success in this life. And it is difficult, nay impossible, to practise absolute purity without love and faith in God. You have to live in a world full of passions and enjoyments. Every day you have to see before you more than ninety-nine per cent of people running mad after sensual pleasures; there is constant risk of your mind being contaminated with evil thoughts. If your mind becomes tainted by them, there is no hope for you. Those who want to lead a life of brahmacharya (continence) should always engage their minds in thinking good thoughts, studying good books and in discussing elevating subjects. They must spend their time in worship of God, service of holy men, in the company of pious people, and in the practice of meditation and other kinds of spiritual discipline. This is the only way to mould one’s character.” Swami Brahmananda

 “You can succeed in brahmacharya if the mind is totally taken up by something so wonderful, so big, it absorbs you and elevates you, and the mind is simply gripped by it.” Swami Chidananda

 “The best cure is to become unfamiliar with sex. Once you stay away from sex for one or two years, then you forget all about it. That is the nature of the mind. Do you understand that? It is like if you stayed away from your friend for two years then your mind will forget him.Dadashri

“Everyone should understand one’s own limitations and not aspire for unmerited spiritual experience. One should first strive to earn the adhikara – the merit for what he can aspire for. The experience of a vision of Brahman is not for any and everyone. It requires an arduous, austere penance, a totally purified heart and genuine merit. How can ordinary eyes which cannot even gaze at the Sun stand the radiance of Brahman with the effulgence of billions of Suns? Cultivation of a purified heart and total detachment – these are the prerequisites for higher spiritual experiences.” Akkalkot Swami

"Who wants God? Practically nobody. Everyone wishes to be free from suffering and to find happiness. Pure devotion without any ulterior motive is very rare. I knew a man who used to say he wanted nirvana. One day he asked me if he should marry again. You see, when there is an earnest longing for nirvana, even to be the emperor of emperors is a trifling thing. The very desire for nirvana brings such tranquillity to the mind. How can anybody then think of marriage!” Swami Turiyananda




      "A Yogi is like an ocean. All who come can take a bath in it without any harm to it." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

"Yogis come in their astral bodies and guide you. All the Yogis do that. A Yogi has many astral bodies of different kinds. The Yogi guides and helps people through these astral bodies." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

"If you worship the formless you get a lot of power and at the same time you gain control of the mind. If you worship the form, you can get a lot of devotion but you may not get control of the mind. The worship of formless is best to control the mind." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

"What's in your heart is your soul. When you look at something and get carried away by it, that's the mind. What makes you think whether to take it or not, that's the intellect." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

"For self-realisation, you have to do tapas." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

Q: Is it possible to meditate successfully without a teacher or guru as a guide?
      A: "No. One can meditate but after a while you will get stuck in a circle. At that time the Guru is required to show you which road leads to God." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

"A true Guru will never mistake. A true Guru follows the orders of God, that is why there is no chance of failure." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

"You can do whatever you feel like but you should meditate for an hour daily. Then you will gain understanding on what you have to do and you will come to know what is your path." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi

"If you do good meditation then the meditation itself will keep telling you from time to time. The meditation will always keep telling you the correct path." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi 

"Tapas is for the soul. Your job/employment is for the physical body. It is for your stomach." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi 

"Swami gives you a guarantee: If you learn he will teach you samadhi. If you practice daily then you can reach samadhi in this lifetime." Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi