Tuesday, 29 December 2015

DROP YOUR FEAR OF DOING THE WRONG THING WHEN YOU CHANT OR RECITE



One curious fact about the requests handled on this blog site is the huge number of emails along the lines of "Is it alright to..." or "I'm worried that God will be angry if..." and this has become so prevalent it is almost like a modern disease!

Was it always so? Did people always have such a lack of confidence in God, such a warped view of the Divine that they think they will be severely punished for chanting texts incorrectly, without "permission"? In this age, I fear it may be so. It is hard for an old man like me to look back in the past to see if I, too, had that sort of worry that I would say and do the wrong thing... desecrating inadvertedly a holy text or scripture. Perhaps I did, many years ago.

When your mind, body and spirit are riddled with impurities, and you finally get to a point of wanting to do something about it, then all sorts of fears naturally arise. You feel in a secret kind of a way unclean, not worthy of reciting or practising, but there is also an impulse that drives you on. So what soul be the easiest decision to make ... "I shall turn my soul back to God", rapidly and almost from the outset gets tied up in knots.

We also at the start tend to approach this kind of intention rather like a New Years Resolution, a decision to get fit and lose weight, say. We want results fast, we have an unrealistic expectation that a few minutes of japa or chanting or sitting quietly is going to solve all our problems. Instead, up comes the fear we are doing "it" wrongly, we lose hope and it all tails away, and next comes the belief "ah well, I'm too wordly anyway..."

Now just remember that your idea of God will be made up of your own mental projections, which tend to be impure. The Divine light is hidden behind many, many veils, and when we start off, our image of the Divine can be a sort of false cardboard image of a terrifying judge, angry, looking for each and every infraction, just waiting to punish you for your misdeeds. You may pay lip-service to God being in fact built of pure Love, but somehow the thought of a merciful, understanding, compassionate Divine presence slips away from you.

So please understand that one of the very first tasks in sadhana is to have courage. You need courage to confront all the false mental projections you have built up of a punishing deity.

Along with courage, comes determination, and wisdom. All three are needed so that you can ultimately stand on your own two feet in sadhana, forge your own unique path to God, and sing your very own soul's song. That is what God wants from you - your song, not anyone else's.

The way to a more spiritual life is actually much easier at first than you think, if you stick at it. The difficult tests lie ahead, when you have begun to build up an inner strength and determination. All this takes time, but few in this modern age understand how time actually works. 

Do not lose heart, either. A humble and contrite heart is all you need to approach your Divine Mother and Father. You do not have to pretend about this, or put on a great show of being a sinner etc etc and then carrying on what you normally do.

There maybe someone out there who needs to hear these words, and decides to follow the Divine light, however dim or faint the rays seem. This rare person will be impelled, will be led to sadhana in a gentle but certain way. There is always a path before you leading to higher awareness. we all have a certain inner beacon, a sort of homing instinct to get back to our source. 

Don't be lazy, too, or helpless. Above all: do not be a coward in sadhana. Set out and stick to your determination. Read the 50 sankalpas to spiritual success posted in October 2015. Go forward! Go forward! God will unfailingly help you, each and every time! 


Friday, 25 December 2015

A DIVINE MOTHER PRAYER TO RECITE EVERY DAY



This Christmas Day 2015, a day of peace on earth in the west, when the incessant traffic is finally stilled, and when people of faith of all religions turn to thank God for the constant birth of goodness and love on this troubled planet of ours.

My solitary day has been spent so far in prayer and meditation, but I wanted to share for all lovers of Divine Mother in whatever form you worship, a beautiful prayer composed by the great Swami Sivananda. He wrote, or more accurately dictated, prolifically. Like Ramakrishna and Vivekananda before him, he was a great universalist, worshipping God in 1000 forms. What a wonderful saint and teacher he was!

Anyway, onto the prayer. For those who this is intended for, you will find these words absolutely begging to be spoken from your heart and lips. Make it a daily habit to pray these words, translate them into your own mother tongue... Whatever makes them easy and natural to say. But say them softly, when you and the Divine are alone together.

SIVANANDA'S PRAYER TO DIVINE MOTHER

Oh adorable Mother of love and compassion!
Thou art the Heart of my heart;
Thou art the Life of my life;
Thou art the Light of this world.

I am Thy child, O Mother dear!
I think and sing of Thee alone;
I weep and pray to Thee alone;
I behold Thee in every form.

Thou art the source of life and light;
Thou art the light of my eyes;
Thou art the Shakti of Lord Shiva;
Thou art Lakshmi and Sarasvati.

I take my refuge in Thee alone;
Thou art my Mother dear;
Where else can I seek shelter
When I am in trouble and distress?

I find solace when I sing Thy name;
I get peace when I think of Thee;
I get power when I remember Thee;
I find joy in Thy radiant smile.

This path is thorny and slippery, O Mother!
I tumble and fall down at every step.
When I cry out to Thee... Lift me up.

I feel Thygrace and gentle touch.
Remove my veil and show Thy form, Mother!
Take me to Thy bosom and remove all obstacles.
Make me fearless and desireless;
Let me abide in Thee for ever and ever!

Monday, 14 December 2015

THE COMING AGE




What truly wonderful beings we are, what truly wonderful things are around us, some hidden, some clear to all! We are surrounded by goodness and the awesome power of love. This is no abstract word you write on a greetings card, but in fact the strongest force in the universe. Nothing can withstand love, because this is the unadorned power of the Divine realms, it is the language of God. 

We live in an unprecedented time in Earth's evolution, a time of enormous evolutionary changes, hardly sensed by most of the population, but if you even have a hint of deeper sight, you will know it and feel it. And many masters, many teachers have told us to be alive, aware, connected to the Divine at this point in Earth's history. 

Yet when we look out at all the world, at the cruelties, barbarism, greed and pollution that is there wherever our gaze rests, it is easy to dismiss this sense of impending beauty and transformation and just think that evil is triumphant, goodness betrayed and twisted at every turn of events. 

so, from one viewpoint, all glimmers with golden promise and a secret quickening of the spiritual heart. From another, all is dismay, bondage, and oppression. mankind as never before has the ability to destroy himself and most of life on this planet, and seems bent on doing just that.

The true start in my own spiritual journey, probably years before most of you were born, began with a study of all sorts of movements which described a coming age very different from the one we live in. This was not just in western culture, but in Vedic teachings as well - both Maharishi and Yogananda were firm proponents of great times to come. Sivananda's great enlightened disciple Chidananda said similar things, that we were living in a particular time where spirituality would flower, where this time could allow deep unfolding in all of us, if we apply ourselves.

But for me, real life got in the way after early years as a meditation teacher, and this dull grey blanket descended, almost snuffing out the bright of light I had when in my early 20s. But lately, 40 years on, that sense that we are at a tremendous threshold, a turning point, has resurfaced.

There is no apparent outward reason for this. In fact since those idealistic days now 40 years ago, much that is bad has spread across the globe. The list is long: we failed to stop wars. The fall of Communism and its rigid regimes soon brought an entirely new threat - the current savage clash of cultures centred on instability in the Middle East, matched against the rise of a western culture that was at times so vacuous, so greedy and senseless and ultimately so brutal that it takes the breath away. We could never have thought up the internet, yet when it appeared this wonderful tool  brought not harmony and goodness but a further wave of evil, cheating, and scamming across the globe. Pethaps saddest of all:  the greater personal freedoms won in the twentieth century has become a sort of excuse for self indulgence, vanity, egotism, and lack of care for your neighbour.

Nevertheless... a tide is rising. 

Which brings me to the words of the great Bulgarian Master Peter Deunov, about whom I've written many times on this blog. I had no idea he had given the prophecy given below, not long before his death, which is copied below from the internet, until a week or so ago. 

I will leave you to ponder his words. Read them carefully. Now he wrote or spoke all this in the 1940s, and there have been other prophecies from other teachers. There is no point in scaring yourself but the message is simple: do spiritual discipline! Turn your life to good before it is too late. There is a story of a man who one day came running to the Master's house and begged an interview. This man had spent most of his life wavering between a very worldly life and a bit of spirituality. He never got to see Peter Deunov. Instead, the Master sent a quiet message: "Tell him, the concert is already over." He missed the opportunity to turn his life to better purposes. Do not you be like him. 

The Age to come

During the passage of time, the consciousness of man traversed a very long period of obscurity. This phase which the Hindus call "Kali Yuga", is on the verge of ending. We find ourselves today at the frontier between two epochs: that of Kali Yuga and that of the New Era that we are entering. A gradual improvement is already occurring in the thoughts, sentiments and acts of humans, but everybody will soon be subjugated to divine Fire, that will purify and prepare them in regards to the New Era. Thus man will raise himself to a superior degree of consciousness, indispensable to his entrance to the New Life. That is what one understands by "Ascension". 

Some decades will pass before this Fire will come, that will transform the world by bringing it a new moral. This immense wave comes from cosmic space and will inundate the entire earth. All those that attempt to oppose it will be carried off and transferred elsewhere.  Although the inhabitants of this planet do not all find themselves at the same degree of evolution, the new wave will be felt by each one of us. And this transformation will not only touch the Earth, but the ensemble of the entire Cosmos. The best and only thing that man can do now is to turn towards God and improve himself consciously, to elevate his vibratory level, so as to find himself in harmony with the powerful wave that will soon submerge him.

The Fire of which I speak, that accompanies the new conditions offered to our planet, will rejuvenate, purify, reconstruct everything: the matter will be refined, your hearts will be liberated from anguish, troubles, incertitude, and they will become luminous; everything will be improved, elevated; the thoughts, sentiments and negative acts will be consumed and destroyed.

Your present life is a slavery, a heavy prison. Understand your situation and liberate yourself from it. I tell you this: exit from your prison! It is really sorry to see so much misleading, so much suffering, so much incapacity to understand where one's true happiness lies. Everything that is around you will soon collapse and disappear.

Nothing will be left of this civilization nor its perversity; the entire earth will be shaken and no trace will be left of this erroneous culture that maintains men under the yoke of ignorance. Earthquakes are not only mechanical phenomen, their goal is also to awaken the intellect and the heart of humans, so that they liberate themselves from their errors and their follies and that they understand that they are not the only ones in the universe.

Our solar system is now traversing a region of the Cosmos where a constellation that was destroyed left its mark, its dust. This crossing of a contaminated space is a source of poisoning, not only for the inhabitants of the earth, but for all the inhabitants of the other planets of our galaxy. Only the suns are not affected by the influence of this hostile environment. This region is called "the thirteenth zone"; one also calls it "the zone of contradictions".

Our planet was enclosed in this region for thousands of years, but finally we are approaching the exit of this space of darkness and we are on the point of attaining a more spiritual region, where more evolved beings live.

The earth is now following an ascending movement and everyone should force themselves to harmonize with the currents of the ascension. Those who refuse to subjugate themselves to this orientation will lose the advantage of good conditions that are offered in the future to elevate themselves. They will remain behind in evolution and must wait tens of millions of years for the coming of a new ascending wave.  The earth, the solar system, the universe, all are being put in a new direction under the impulsion of Love.

 Most of you still consider Love as a derisory force, but in reality, it is the greatest of all forces! Money and power continue to be venerated as if the course of your life depended upon it. In the future, all will be subjugated to Love and all will serve it.

But it is through suffering and difficulties that the consciousness of man will be awakened. The terrible predictions of the prophet Daniel written in the bible relate to the epoch that is opening. There will be floods, hurricanes, gigantic fires and earthquakes that will sweep away everything. Blood will flow in abundance. There will be revolutions; terrible explosions will resound in numerous regions of the earth. 

There where there is earth, water will come, and there where there is water, earth will come.
God is Love; yet we are dealing here with a chastisement, a reply by Nature against the crimes perpetrated by man since the night of time against his Mother; the Earth. After these sufferings, those that will be saved, the elite, will know the Golden Age, harmony and unlimited beauty.


Thus keep your peace and your faith when the time comes for suffering and terror, because it is written that not a hair will fall from the head of the just. Don't be discouraged, simply follow your work of personal perfection. You have no idea of the grandiose future that awaits you. A New Earth will soon see day.

In a few decades the work will be less exacting, and each one will have the time to consecrate spiritual, intellectual and artistic activities. The question of rapport between man and woman will be finally resolved in harmony; each one having the possibility of following their aspirations.

The relations of couples will be founded on reciprocal respect and esteem. Humans will voyage through the different planes of space and breakthrough intergalactic space. They will study their functioning and will rapidly be able to know the Divine World, to fusion with the Head of the Universe.

The New Era is that of the sixth race. Your predestination is to prepare yourself for it, to welcome it and to live it. The sixth race will build itself around the idea of Fraternity. There will be no more conflicts of personal interests; the single aspiration of each one will be to conform himself to the Law of Love. The sixth race will be that of Love.

The earth will remain a terrain favourable to struggle, but the forces of darkness will retreat and the earth will be liberated from them. Humans seeing that there is no other path will engage themselves to the path of the New Life, that of salvation. In their senseless pride, some will, to the end hope to continue on earth a life that the Divine Order condemns, but each one will finish by understanding that the direction of the world doesn't belong to them.

A new culture will see the light of day, it will rest on three principal foundations: the elevation of woman, the elevation of the meek and humble, and the protection of the rights of man. The light, the good, and justice will triumph; it is just a question of time.

The earth will soon be swept by extraordinary rapid waves of Cosmic Electricity. A few decades from now beings who are bad and lead others astray will not be able to support their intensity. They will thus be absorbed by Cosmic Fire that will consume the bad that they possess. Then they will repent because it is written that "each flesh shall glorify God".  Our mother, the earth, will get rid of men that don't accept the New Life. She will reject them like damaged fruit.

They will soon not be able to reincarnate on this planet; criminals included. Only those that possess Love in them will remain. There is not any place on earth that is not dirtied with human or animal blood; she must therefore submit to a purification. And it is for this that certain continents will be immersed while others will surface. Men do not suspect to what dangers they are menaced by.

They continue to pursue futile objectives and to seek pleasure. On the contrary those of the sixth race will be conscious of the dignity of their role and respectful of each one's liberty. They will nourish themselves exclusively from products of the vegetal realm. Their ideas will have the power to circulate freely as the air and light of our days.The words "If you are not born again." apply to the sixth race.

After the Tribulations, men will cease to sin and will find again the path of virtue. The climate of our planet will be moderated everywhere and brutal variations will no longer exist. The air will once again become pure, the same for water. The parasites will disappear. Men will remember their previous incarnations and they will feel the pleasure of noticing that they are finally liberated from their previous condition.

In the same manner that one gets rid of the parasites and dead leaves on the vine, so act the evolved Beings to prepare men to serve the God of Love. They give to them good conditions to grow and to develop themselves, and to those that want to listen to them, they say: "Do not be afraid! Still a little more time and everything will be all right; you are on the good path. May he that wants to enter in the New Culture study, consciously work and prepare."

Thanks to the idea of Fraternity, the earth will become a blessed place, and that will not wait. But before, great sufferings will be sent to awaken the consciousness. Sins accumulated for thousands of years must be redeemed. The ardent wave emanating from On High will contribute in liquidating the karma of peoples.  The liberation can no longer be postponed. Humanity must prepare itself for great trials that are inescapable and are coming to bring an end to egoism.Under the earth, something extraordinary is preparing itself. A revolution that is grandiose and completely inconceivable will manifest itself soon in nature. God has decided to redress the earth, and He will do it! It is the end of an epoch; a new order will substitute the old, an order in which Love will reign on earth." 

Peter Deunov- Propos on the Future 1944 Adaptation: Olivier de Rouvroy - September 2003





Thursday, 19 November 2015

THE YOGIC VIEW ON PEACE, HARMONY ...AND TERRORISM





This post is written in the middle of rapidly unfolding events after the latest terrorist bombing of Paris in November 2015, following months of brutal incidents including the bombing of a plane full of Russian passengers, a foiled bombing plot on a train in France, a wave of desperate immigrants overwhelming EU border controls ... and the pervasive fear that something just as bad is coming round the bend.

Tragic loss of innocent lives through the murderous actions of mostly young males with a harsh, partial understanding of their own religious dogma has become a feature of modern life across the world. Savage acts by the few provoke in turn equally savage retaliation, and this sad dynamic has become the way societies deal with a virus in their midst - more bombs, more attacks involving expensive and lethal military equipment, sowing even more bitterness, hatred, desire to kill and destroy. 

Now somewhere in the middle of all this terrible carnage are those dedicated to bringing the light of peace into this troubled world, those who also seek to understand the wider issues, and somehow prevent the vicious circle of death from eternally perpetuating itself, like a crazy, out of control machine of destruction.

And when bombs destroy civilian communities, and the earth is rent by a fresh rounds of wailing, grief and loss, what is the truly wise, loving and Yogic approach to it? 

Take a step back

The first useful thing to do is retain your own centre, your own connection to calmness and wisdom, and not immediately rush to judgement and condemnation. 

Now this is not easy. But I hope I can claim some experience in this.

In my life I've lived through many terrorist incidents. As a young meditation teacher in Belfast in the late 1970s, I witnessed our little centre (on a very quiet university street) escape bombs which destroyed a bank two doors down, and an old peoples home on the other side of the road. The old peoples home bombing was particularly pointless - 80 years old and helpless people wandering around in tattered nightshirts while the place burst into thick smoke and flames. I remember, too, a member of the meditation community there turning up at our centre after being caught by a bomb - escaping with their lives by a stroke of extraordinary good fortune. They were young, but beneath their bravado, you could instantly feel their shock and fear.

I was there in London on the way to work on 7/7/2005 when the city was devastated by bombs. Like many others I saw 9/11 unfold on the TV screens. Acquaintances died in the twin towers. I was in Bali, Indonesia, a few months after a bomb destroyed a packed nightclub full of tourists, and the whole place was eerily empty of visitors.  In addition I have robbed many times, and once attacked on the streets by a carload of  young men (I fought them off by saying "I have a Guru, and the powerr of the Guru protects me!!" which I think surprised them so much they hopped in the car and drove away at high speed!).

Taking that step back means facing a very difficult challenge: loving the Lord, the Divine Mother, the creator of all when a terrible loss of life occurs. Reconciling faith with reality at such times calls for very deep reserves, an inner courage that does not shy away from the devastation... but admits that we cannot, with our limited human understanding actually really know what is going on with the Lord's Lila, the play of the creator. 

It is one thing to believe this intellectually, quite another to find some kind of solace in the heart. And many find their faith broken at this point, especially those directly touched by brutal and terrible tragedy. Sometimes all we can really do is weep - weep for the suffering we face on this earth, weep for the brutal ideology that propels young men to kill themselves and others, and the brutally efficient ways we humans have evolved in terms of weaponry, armies, bombs and so forth. What sadness, what senseless destruction.

Taking a step back also is also needed, because when society loses its wise leaders, when everyone rushes to one immediate call to arms, then good sense gets thrown out of the window. 

The roots of events

The wise will look for the roots behind terrible events. These roots can stretch back into time, stretch through generation after generation. 

Western societies, with their belief in individual freedoms, now feel a way of life is threatened. Some religious groups, with their belief in a harsh, angular submission to laws supporting mass punishments, equally feel their way of life is threatened. In between is the breeding ground of those feeling bitterly disenfranchised, at the bottom of an economic pyramid, cut off from the lives of privilege and ease that only a few in the west actually enjoy. 

When you rewind history to the 17th to 19th centuries, then it is with caution - as the West and the greed for land, territory and mineral rights, become the villains, conquering lands, peoples, societies, cultures. Wind back still further - and it is Genghis Khan and his hordes, the Roman empire, the Persians, the Assyrians, The Babylonians, Chinese emperors - the list stretches back and back. Always, dire threats, pillage, innocence broken, lives lost. Nations have karma to resolve just as individuals, and what seems to be happening has deep and tangled karmic roots.

What do the precepts of Yoga tell us?

The very first thing to grasp is the roots of war. War may become a collective effort, but it begins in the minds of individuals. It is on the individual level that the hopes of a peaceable kingdom really lie.

Only when the virtues are mastered by the majority can society ever be truly safe. These virtues, a guide to ethical behaviour are clearly laid out in the famous Yamas and Niyamas, the "do's and don't" of sprirual practice. One absolutely key observance is Ahimsa, peacefulness. This is allied to Satyam, truth. And its power , when actually harnessed by a group, is astonishing. 

There have been so many terrible events in my lifetime, year after year. But there have been also many wonderful miracles: consider how the Berlin Wall came down; or how India won independence from peaceful non-violent protest; or how Martin Luther King used the same principles to win Civil Rights in the US; or how South African apartheid crumbled away without terrifying war; or even how peace finally came to Northern Ireland, Rwanda,Peru - the list goes on. The mass application of Ahimsa is a tantalising possibility that humanity has so far failed to truly harness. When it is, the results will be awesome.

So, cultivating inner peace is a fundamental requisite for successful spiritual practice. Then learning to use this for the benefit of others is the next step. Peace, a bit like the fragrance of a flower, naturally pervades the atmosphere from the wise, just, peaceful individual. I have witnessed this many, many times - and it is often forgotten that just as violent people poison the atmosphere, the hidden saints filter the poison away, unknown and unnoticed by anyone.

The counter argument is to say "Well, then, look what happened to Jesus" - the society of the time murdered an innocent, beautiful presence. But he has been crucified many times since. And in every age, the wise are born, and act as beacons for the distressed and fearful and suffering. Goodness is not absent on this earth, even in this age.

Spreading peace

If wars, and peace, begin in the minds of men, then how can we help the suffering in the world? By spreading peace through the sacrifice of prayers for others is one great way. This is a bit like holding a vigil at the same time every evening. This is the blogger's response and I want to share with you my own amateurish ways of going about it: The peace initiative is on top of all the other sadhana - meditation, chanting, japa, done each day.

Anyway, at around 9pm, in a darkened puja room lit by just one small candle which casts a light on one particular picture of the Divine, the blogger visualises light, healing light, and gradually visualises himself linked with many other souls, girdling the earth and floating in space, beaming love from the palms down on the troubled face of the world. The session lasts about 20 to 30 minutes, no more than that.

Also, the session begins with the following prayers, which are adapted from the Bulgarian mystic Peter Deunov who lived about 100 years ago, to suit the blogger's Vedic faith. Feel free to use or not, but the words (spoken aloud) offer an immediate focus:

Peace Prayers

Lord Bless and Strengthen my Soul.

I pray to Thee, Oh Gopala, protector and sustainer, and to Thee, Oh Mother of mercy and light. Guard dharma on this earth plane! The good souls need Thy help and protection.

You set all in order and harmony everywhere. Help us live in peace and harmony.

I pray for the coming of peace amongst the people and in the hearts and souls of those who work in the service of Love.

Let every righteousness, goodness, love and wisdom and every truth be set into action and overthrow the rule of the wicked.

Let the spirit of Dharma and justice, and the wisdom of all the great saints and sages incarnate amongst us.

I pray for the fulfilment of the will of Love in all the worlds, in all the heavens, forever in joy and peace.

May our Mother Earth, the plants, the animals, be protected from evil and harm.

Let those with a desire for service be inspired to offer themselves. May their missions prosper.

Deliver the people from all scourges of evil and the sly one. Protect them from those who wish humanity great harm and upset.

Illuminate us when all is dim, and make us strong and robust to fulfill good will, to be clever and good-natured and merciful so that we may walk with Thee in fullness, balance, and loving-kindness.

Mother be merciful! We are frail and weak on our own! Help protect Thy children!

OM SHANTI SHANTI  SHANTI

I will sustain my mind with Divine thoughts
I will sustain my heart with Divine Love
I will develop the soul which God has given me, with that which is beautiful, wonderful, proceeding from God.

May peace prevail on the earth.
Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men!









Tuesday, 3 November 2015

ONLINE LECTURE 14: SELF RELIANCE AND SELF EFFORT



One particular quality stands out time and time again in the stories of great Yogis and seekers of Truth of all religions: determined self-reliance. 

Equally, one quality is mostly present in those who make fitful and failed attempts at sadhana: Self-pitying timidity.

With the first of these qualities, humans do amazing things in sadhana. Like the Doctor in Malaysia who steadily increased his sadhana to such an extent - all without a Guru - that he ended up ruining his health by standing for hours in the icy waters of the Ganges doing Japa. His name? Swami Sivananda, now revered as one of the greatest Gurus in the 20th century.

Or take the case of the young Indian male with blazing eyes and nowhere to stay, nothing to eat, or drink in a windy street in Chicago, US, at the turn of the nineteenth century. He is better known as Swami Vivekananda and off he went to forge a remarkable pioneering role as the bringer of the teachings of the East to the rest of the world. 

With the second of these qualities, opportunities simply dribble away. One famous example was a young man who lived in one of the ashrams of the great avadhut, Bhagavan Nityananda. Now Nityananda showered this boy with all sort of favours and attention. But the boy was actually far more interested in going fishing. An opportunity wasted. 

Another more complex example is the story of Paramahansa Yogananda's childhood friend - and companion on his early spiritual journeys. He, too, became a monk called Dhirananda. After Yogananda began to establish some success in the US in the 1920s, he begged Dhirananda, as his closest friend, to come from India and help in the mission. Dhirananda resisted, then went. Yogananda's great Guru Sri Yukteswar ominously predicted that out of this apparently simple decision, trouble would eventually come. and sure enough, Dhirananda at first enjoyed great success. Then he fell for an American woman, ended up renouncing his monkhood, complaining about life, and suing the Self Realisation Fellowship. A chance missed.

Sadhana is about timing, but knowing what to do and when also involves cultivating an inner wisdom and great self-reliance that sadly is all too rare in this day and age. 

Social sadhana

The first thing most people do when pursuing sadhana is look for a model of living, a discipline, something structured, and then try and live within these boundaries and be praised for being "good pupils". Perhaps the most deadening practice in many ways is when following a Guru, attending, say, a weekly meeting, making friends, raising a bit of devotional noise, doing a bit of meditation, and then going back to normal life. So, sadhana becomes rapidly ossified into rigid patterns, rigid expectations, and fits around the individual very comfortingly. 

Following instructions can rapidly become following orders. Or, even worse, doing what everybody else does for fear of making some error or making a fool of oneself - all very understandable. But such rigidity can lead to entire groups shunning the new, the strangers and so forth. I had my fill of all that years ago, when I  realised one weekly satsang under a Guru was mostly an excuse for people to chatter noisily as they had their snacks. The volume of noise was deafening, as all remembrance of why people come to satsang was forgotten. Satsangs as social events - this is pleasant, but no better than going to the cinema with friends. it becomes an entertainment and distraction.

Baba Muktananda was well aware of this tendency, and warned that a visit to an ashram was not a social amusement, but a place where the Guru killed the ego of the disciple - so a place of white-hot spiritual trial. Otherwise, why go?

This has been so over many ages. In the 1600s in Spain, a very zealous Spanish girl, intent on following Christ, entered a monastery. Unfortunately, all she found was a glorified satsang type situation. The highlight of the nuns days were "open" afternoons when all their relatives visited, gossip and chatter rang out ... and this in a house of nuns! Even worse, those from a rich family ruled the roost and got all sorts of comforts. After a while the Spanish girl grew up, and decided to revolutionise the current spiritual practice and far more strictly observe her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Her name was Teresa of Avila and she founded a whole new branch of the Carmelite Order - the "Discalced" ie barefoot Carmelites. She faced furious and sometimes actually physically violent opposition, of course. But she followed her own inner promptings and had the determination and self-reliance to forge a break-through. She had many mystic visions and wrote some astonishing spiritual books which all should read - such as the Interior Castle. She is now accorded the honour of being a "doctor" of the Catholic Church - only a very few are so named.


The call of the flute

Even the desire to do sadhana is very rare in humans. It is there from past life efforts. The impulse if followed properly is like the call of a flute in your inner ear and becomes stronger and stronger - and if you have the courage to follow, it leads you out of the door, out of your comfortable life, out of the world of doing something because someone else told you to do it. Then you find yourself thrown on your own resources and at this point most people think sadhana is way too hard, so they give it up and pour scorn on others wanting to do spiritual practice or what they regard as bogus monks leeching from the public.

Swami Kripavalu  was a saint in the latter half of the twentieth century who had a wide following in India, but suddenly went to live in the US in the last years of his life. He used to do 10 hours of meditation a day. Anyway, once his devotees in India prepared this great feast and speaking event for him, and he had to take a boat across a river to get to it. In the boat was a pompous and angry man who looked at the quiet unassuming Swami, dressed in his robes and started berating him for living off the gullibility of others. "Wait til you see my Guru," the man airily declared, "He is a man of miracles and will see through you in an instant. he will expose you with one glance your way! I am going over to see him, he is speaking to us all and this will mean trouble to you!" the man continued in this way the entire journey and Kripavalu said not a single word but patiently endured the insults. Of course when the boat arrived.. and people crowded forward to pranam at Kripavalu's feet with cries of enthusiasm, the pompous man suddenly realised his horrible mistake. Not only had he never actually met Kripavalu, but Kripavalu was the very Guru whos praises he had been so pompously extolling! He grovelled, but what a teaching of equanimity from Kripavalu!

Most people are far too lazy to begin sadhana , and if they do are spiritually without any muscles at all, draping themselves around an imagined teacher or Guru with flattery, whining, self-pity, crude attempts at passive-aggressive blackmail ("Guruji if you don't help me, I  will kill myself"). They will complain about their lack of love, lack of luck, lack of respect from others, no jobs, etc etc and will happily spend all day detailing what they cannot do... and then want someone else to do their sadhana. This kind of sadhana is "Wave a magic wand" kind of Sadhana: a mistaken belief that they will be elevated to the heavens without lifting a finger. 

Such figures always appear, then disappear when a new craze or imagined source of luck and prosperity come their way, driven by superstitions and rumours.

Doing it properly

Now the real seeker of Truth learns to recognise and avoid these pitfalls. They may be poor, may be rich. Might be unmarried or married. They may be jobless or in a busy job. Where they are and what they do is immaterial: it is merely a starting point. But what happens next is that they actually DO start! They apply self-effort. They are doggedly self-reliant. They learn to build two vital subtle organs - the ability to discriminate, and the ability to endure challenges, viveka and titiksha. When such seekers appear the Guru rejoices, oh how great a joy is felt! Then the inner work begins. But only with such seekers can the work the Guru does on a silent level bear fruit. 

The point about self-reliance is hammered home time and time again by two great teachers who are often very similar in their approach - the Buddha, and Swami Vivekananda. In fact Vivekananda always felt a close bond to the Buddha, and his first ever pilgrimage - done even before he became a monk - was to Buddha's birthplace. The Buddha says "Be your own lamp of salvation!" Vivekanda said much the same thing: after spending time in the West he came back convinced that India's only hope of progress lay in the strengthening of character, the development of self-reliance in all things.

Self reliance does not mean you never listen to anyone or follow anything. But it does mean you can take one word of the Guru, just one word, and not bother the Guru again. It means you can look fairly and squarely at the depth of teachings and understand that if a Guru says "worship me and pay me money", that Guru is not true. But  if a Guru says "look, brother, look sister, look within you: your Guru is there and has been all the time," now that is truth and it doesn't cost you a penny. And the true Guru says:"Find out for yourself! I will be waiting!"

For this inner Guru will nurture you through the initial stages of sadhana. we all have to go through tough purification on sadhana but in measured doses. The Inner Guru knows how much, when, and when not to apply tapasya to the soul. Listening brings success in self-effort. listening is the act of grace itself. And how simple it is, yet how rare! 


 Questions

So, in your own life, how much did you listen to your inner Guru?

I went through many years of the whole sadhana ritual, both as a teacher and a follower. But it became an increasingly strange mystery why people were so stuck, year after year - and apparently happy to be so. People used to cling to all sorts of spurious notions about superiority and how many times they had seen the Guru, prizing special blessed shawls etc etc. So if you were new in some organisations, what chance did you have? It just ultimately didn't square with real efforts at sadhana, and I also began to strongly disagree with the concepts of course and "Intensives" charging huge amounts of money - for what and for whom? So, I left it behind and went rogue, and formed a determination: "From now on, I will pursue Self Realisation based on my own efforts". 

This all went well for some years, and then, grace of graces, all of a sudden in meditation the True Guru appeared for me, unbidden, out of the blue! And of course now being so self-reliant I didn't really know what to do about it. I tried in the beginning various rituals of worship but it seemed dishonest and laboured, adding a layer of distance that was not needed. So the intimacy with my Guru remains 99.9pc silence. He has only spoken in my inner ear three times, I  think. and that voice was unmistakeable. 

So, you can be self-reliant and still worship, still bow, still follow a Guru. It's just that you realise, well, we are all on the same road, the same destination. We are all one.

But surely rules are necessary, especially in the performance of yagnas, mantras, pujas etc?

Each action does have its own protocol and dharma, and some rules do need to be observed by the seeker in terms of ethical, correct conduct or chaos spreads in society. This is not, though, what we are addressing. The problem is the pervasive human impulse to believe that there needs to be an intermediary between them and God: such as a Guru figure, a priest, rules and regulations, commandments, routines, mantras, even time itself. Every single one is an intermediary when really the link between the individual and God is closer than the breath ALL the time. Brave is the soul who explores this truth and ditches all spiritual paraphanalia. You can only safely do this if you can create silence. Intense inner silence is the ground zero for this kind of direct immediacy.

But what if we feel way too impure to meet God in this way?
It's an odd phenomenon, but there is a kind of reverse index, a relationship between how wicked your life is, and how distant you feel God to be. Cruel, selfish, narcissistic people with dreadful habits might on the outside be ruling the roost, but inside something in them tells them exactly what they are like. Now they will only conceive of God as a terrible punisher. The cleaner your life, the more you can admit of a more sattvic version of Divinity. That first impulse "Lord, I'm a sinner, I really am, but... help me!" now that takes courage, but it is between you and God.  The unacceptable version of that is to approach someone you may not even know, and say "Oh Holy one, God listens to you more than me because you are cleaner... can you ask him to.." This is mistaken, every time mistaken. the only time this is relevant is when you have done lots of sadhana yourself.

What if we simply cannot go on on our own?
Tough times come. For me, I remember one really dreadful time when my then Girlfriend had an open affair, and I found out about it. I went for a walk in the rain.. sheltering under a bridge in London two teenaged girls came up, total strangers, and started abusing and insulting me. This was so odd and wierd, a low point of low points - and yet I  had to laugh! How magnificently dramatic! If you feel you cannot advance a step further, for goodness sake pray! Just pray! You need no fancy mantras, no initiation, no this, no that. Simply talk to God on your own and ask for help.

What if help still doesn't come?
It always comes. just not that very second. Timing is all. But the real devotee, the one who endures and progresses - that is the devotee with the wisdom to say "Ok, then, I might not like it, but Thy Will Be Done."

Some people, though, are born with more "get up and go" than others
Ah, self-determination is not about having tons of energy. you are not doing aerobics. But it is true that we are all born with different personalities, strengths and weakness. Get up and go, as you say, may in another light be dangerous because you can be over-rash - if Mars is strong in your jyotish chart, this can be so.

What, then, is the ultimate no-no in Sadhana?
I would say without a doubt self-pity. And it is a remarkable fact that those who are filled to the brim with this awful quality seem to be utterly oblivious to it, and get very annoyed if you happen to point it out. Self-pity breeds this endless whining, this tiresome repetition of your hard-luck story, a truly dismal mirror people can spend their whole lives polishing. When you are filled with self-pity you don't love God, or truth, or humility, or self sacrifice. you are a a stranger to joy, simplicity, freshness. The blog attracts many such people filled with tears they shed for themselves and their misery. It carries a particular unpleasant smell on the astral level. Such people can suck the life out of a teacher.

That's a bit harsh! Surely Christ and others say "Come to me, all Ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest?
Yes, the great Yogis, Adepts and Masters are of a different order entirely. But think how few and rare they are! They give teachings, comforts, faiths and a path so well-lit that all you have to do is follow it. They might even carry you over the most difficult parts. They are the saviours of humanity in a very dark age.

Nevertheless many other teachers out of compassion take on the sins and impurities of their disciples, and their bodies can only take so much. Those Yogis who have created secret deathless bodies, are, again, a whole other topic. But teachers face often the test that others in need bring. In my own experience, though, I've found there are sometimes personalities that can never really be helped because their inner noise is so great, and they continue a relentless narrative with them. Some traumas can take many, many years to heal. Some seekers, too, have recognisable psychological personality disorders that render steady practice impossible. Such people need to directly link with God, directly pour their prayers to the Divine only, not to any human personality, because only God has the skill to heal deep lifelong wounds.








Friday, 16 October 2015

CHANDI PATH/DEVI MAHATYAM: THE DEEPER CURRENTS



As regular readers of this blog know, a huge slice of audience traffic is mostly Indian and mostly heading to reading about how to chant the 700 slokas of the Chandi Path, or Devi Mahatyam, which is a little like some adventurous walker in the mountains coming up against a huge steep cliff and scratching their heads, wondering how to climb them. 

This Navararti (Oct 2015) I've gone back to chanting the Chandi Path for 9 days, while still working for a living, in addition to all the other practices such as Japa, meditation, brahmacharya etc which go on. This is an annual task, and the 2015 effort is dedicated to the ancestors and dead relatives, as a thank you gift for letting this fool have a human birth.

It is also a chance to contemplate this daunting but magnificent text from a new and fresh perspective. Yet it is still a surprise at how difficult, angular, and simply tiring Chandi Path recitation can be - and this is not reading, by the way, but chanting out loud. It is not easy or mellifluous like the famous Sahasranams. It is not playful, either. 

"A gory comic book"

On the surface it seems initially almost like a gory comic book, dwelling with a disturbing relish on violence, destruction, mass slaughter, interspersed by three beautiful and famous hymns which seem composed in an entirely different mood. And yet, there it is. A challenge, lengthy, hard to enjoy, a relief when it is over, like taking bitter medicine which will do you good. More than one seeker has simply turned tail and decided the cliff is way too steep to climb! Normally these are the ones who want to chant it to get something in terms of material possessions, glory, relief, a change in luck. 

There is a reason why some say that every one of the verses is a mantra in its own right. The Chandi Path does manifest the Devi to the reciter. And Durga as the formidable warrior face of the mother has a certain spikiness - with a formidable arsenal of weapons and powers, a ferocious lion or tiger as a vehicle, a sort of impossibly efficient killing machine. Killing what, exactly?

This is where you can find entrance into its mysteries. Because beneath the surface, the Devi Mahatyam acts directly on your nervous system if you chant it, and the parts which hold samskaras, the subtle tendencies which if allowed to sprout can lead to harmful behaviours, and problems in every way. They are the detritus from the functioning of one of the senses, in this case, hearing. So, they are a symbol of reacting to sensory impressions, which is exactly what happens with samskaras: they get awoken or triggered by sensory input. This is the inner battle that goes on. These samskaras ultimately sprout as urges which then bifurcate into thoughts. So the battle seems to the chanter to be between concentrating on the text, and then dealing with the swarming thoughts that might be carrying on an increasingly pained inner dialogue. But actually, the inner struggle is on a deeper level, right where samskaras sprout.

The angularity of the Chandi Path is real enough. The cliff face analogy holds many truths: there are no easy footholds. With a Sahasranam, you can mostly sit down, chant and there you have it, an easy sadhana practice with genuine devotion at its core. The Chandi Path is battle. It is a text that is stripped right down to bare bones for action, And this kind of battle is almost invariably painful for the reciter, which is why most souls quickly fall away from the task. And time-wise, it's a serious commitment that you cannot avoid.

So who or what is Durga?

There are many curious features about the Chandi Path. When in the introduction we hear about the Devi, there are a few cautionary shlokas that set out Her omnipresence, and manifestation in many different forms. This stress on the Devi's universality is important to remember in what follows.

The very first ritual struggle sees the Devi's presence only noticeable when she actually moves from Her interpenetration of the sleeping Lord Vishnu. I can imagine what the strict Vaishnavas would say about this! But it is a symbolic way of pointing out that until sadhana really begins, the individual will have no clue how their lives are interpenetrated by the Mother, in the form of Maya, illusion. The Mother keeps us bound until She moves away, and in the first episode this is at the request of the creator, Lord Brahma.

We next read how She as Durga was created, in a very colourful way, by all the Devas in various stages of rage, panic, determination and collaboration. Thus, Durga is always manifesting from something else - again we read how she manifests from a bathing Parvati in Ch 5. Thus, Durga, the divine Principle of overwhelming upliftment, is moving, active, and engaged. This tell us that when we do do battle with our inner enemies, the active principle of the Devi, that part which upholds and saves, is immediately enlivened. The doing the battle, or sadhana, is the trigger and catalyst. 

The first victory

We read how Durga Ma springs into action right in the first chapter, with the mysterious descriptions of two ferocious, malign but tiny demons issuing essentially from Vishnu's ear wax to try and destroy Lord Brahma, the creator. What do these demons represent? Here is a wonderful coded way of looking at the sprouting of samskaras - very small to begin with, but with malign intent. If not stopped at the beginning, they will create havoc later on. The Devi comes to the rescue, and the demons ask to be slain on "ground untouched by water". Water in this case represents emotional engagement which begins to wrap samskaras in a body of thought and feeling. So the first chapter directs us to the message: "Look, the Devi is working on a very subtle level indeed, before thoughts manifest fully."

Further battles

On goes the narrative to a number of set pieces, including the deeply inappropriate desires of the demon kings, one of whom wishes in no uncertain terms to have the Devi as his wife. Of course such hideous arrogance has its own message for us: our own utter arrogance at believing ourselves individuals somehow able to command Divine Mother. This manifests for most as a desire to chant in order to get things, a crude attempt to outwit destiny and bamboozle the Devi with a feigned devotion, an arrogant belief too that somehow our lives are wrong, that the Devi's play of the entire creation is flawed in some way. 

The problem with most seekers is this attitude of non-acceptance of ones place in life, anger at being where they are, and a completely selfish feeling that their problems are of course by the far the most important things going on in this universe at any given moment. 

So the ritual battles show us how such arrogance is dealt with. As we proceed along each set piece, we conjure up the might of whole armies, processions of troops with their proud leaders, facing at times a multitude of Devis, at times just the Devi with her forces gathered back inwards. And the most terrifying moments come when Kali is unleashed, and is completely unstoppable.

The unleashing of Kali in our inner battle is an important symbol. There comes a time when sadhana heats up to a superfast movement of inner energy redistribution, when purificiation becomes the task of Mata Kundalini. Depending on our inner impurities, this can be extremely painful. A bit like water, when it is boiled, goes through a very cloudy phase before reaching its boiling point. Moods fly out of us - a common one is a feeling of complete unworthiness, of failure. Or anger can arise like a swarm of flies - anger at forcing ourselves to do the chant, anger at life, anger at anything. 

This is why introductory mantras are important especially reciting the Devi Kavacham, because we gain a certain armour, a distance from the emotional storms that may arise. Everyone who chants the Chandi Path for a regular period will experience this. Life heats up to be white hot, as we are led to the final death - and even then there is a twist with the eruption of a "head from the body"in Chapter 10, a potent image of the final recognition of papa purusha, the body of sin which is our shadow, comprised of every harmful samskara created in lifetime after lifetime, fed by our own impulses.

What is the victory?

So if the Chandi Path is about battle, what is the victory? The victory, never in doubt, is the victory of the seeker over everything that holds back their true vision of the universe and the presence of the Devi. This is the purpose of the Chandi Path - to reveal the ultimate. Now this does not happen after one recitation. Or 200, or 1,000. it happens purely and solely as the grace of Divine Mother. 

But reciting the Chandi Path bears a final message: Bow before Her, and lose the arrogance. Of course we are human, only a miniscule few are born without trickery or conceit in their hearts. But hearts can be cleaned. The Devi Mahatyam is a formidable cleaning agent to be handled with care. Using it requires great courage, determination and common sense. But don't be fooled into thinking that you the mighty great one will recite a few verses and then hey presto a million dollars lands on your door mat. The riches that flow are riches of perception, cleanliness, of virtue triumphant, of Truth revealed. That, that alone is completely priceless. A matchless gift to the humble seeker.

Is it legitimate to chant in order to get worldly benefit?

Now of course the seeker, if they are deepening their relation to the Mother can legitimately plead for an improvement in life circumstances. The Mother is the Mother, after all. Sometimes life circumstances can be so grim - joblessness, homelessness, illnesses, that we do need to naturally cry out and say "help me!" Nothing wrong with that at all. But the mistake here is to think that a simple but heartfelt prayer to the Mother is less effective than the Chandi Path!

People generally have absolutely no faith in the power of their own prayers. They prefer top seek out "powerful mantra", "most powerful chant" and all this sort of dubious rubbish. When every letter of the alphabet is sacred, what is more sacred than any other?  As for "powerful mantra for..." kind of thinking, do you think that God is more stupid than you are, and your servant to command by "powerful mantra?"

So for 90pc of the people thinking about reciting the Chandi Path, I advise you think again and simply pray, in your own words, but genuinely and honestly. Just do it! Trust the process. Ask for relief.

For the other 10pc, well, these are the mountaineers who come prepared to scale the cliff with ropes and equipment - meaning life experience, wisdom, and a clear-eyed determination. No mountaineer worth their salt is going to climb something they have not thoroughly researched and studied. Same with the Chandi Path.

The preparation I  did all those years ago was painstakingly go through each verse, noting where pronunciation would be particularly testing, made sure I understood the meaning (the Sri Ramakrishna version has the best English translation, the Swami Satyananda version/Devi Mandir has the text to chant, which is fantastic,but an idiosyncratic translation which becomes hard to follow at times), and understood what chants were needed before and what were not.

This year I have also moved finally to a comfortable chair rather than sit in half lotus on the floor, given arthritis etc, and this helps me concentrate on the text.

Anyway: preparation, but realistic expectations. Only chant it if you want to love God. Do not chant it as a thief wanting to steal great fortunes.



Friday, 9 October 2015

50 SANKALPAS FOR SADHANA SUCCESS



A Sankalpa is a statement of resolve, intent, of will and determination, short like a pithy Sutra, a statement we can use as a personal motto in pursuing Sadhana, spiritual practice.  Why is this useful? Because we need a point of focus to advance in sadhana, we need at times to be our own personal motivational coach, guru and cheerleader. 

In the world of business, companies try to embrace both a mission and a vision statement. Most are in fact false window dressing - most companies simply want to make as much money as they can for their dominant shareholders. But nevertheless, this process of defining how we will progress, how we will advance, what our core mission is can be a very useful way of marshalling our own inner resources if we use it in spiritual life. 

A better fit is to consider how famous sportsmen and women achieve victory. They, too, build up an awesome focus and determination. They make iron-heard their determination with inner statements of intent, often repeated. 

The choice of a Sankalpa, repeated as often as you like, no rules or regulations about it, reveals a lot about the seeker. Naive, narcissistic and immature seekers usually over-reach and tend to make grandiose statements which after a day or so they forget all about. But the point of a Sankalpa is to repeat it to yourself. When you do, its also useful to anchor this determination with a physical gesture - such as quietly clenching the fist of the right hand. this is an anchoring device that adds strength to what you resolve,

The best Sankalpas are those you create for yourself. But not everyone is born with the gift of language, and generally most seekers when they decide on Sadhana are timid, lazy and uncreative. All this changes in time. But if you want to progress in sadhana... make your resolution firm! There is a great quote from the Indian Yogi Bapuji Kripalu that "God lives in the palace of determination", and how true this is!  

This brings us on to the concept of "contraction and convergence". This idea was created by a South African polymath called Aubrey Meyer, who pioneered the idea in terms of global emissions restraints... the idea being that each country should set emissions targets that would all gradually meet at one globally agreed target, tightening year by year. Lack of political will among the major emitters, particularly China and the US, put paid to the idea. But it is a good concept to apply in sadhana. You therefore converge on a target... lets say Self-Realisation, and you get there over the time by contraction - dropping bit by bit all unnecessary habits, vices and impediments which stand in the way. A Sankalpa is therefore an overarching statement of intent to contract and converge. 

Anyway, here are some 50 sankalpas to consider and use if you would like. Be creative, don't slavishly follow the herd. Design your own sankalpa and then use it as your mission badge, your personal motto. God will sit up and take notice of the brave and focused soul...

  1. I will practice my spiritual disciplines each and every day
  2. I will increase my love for the Lord constantly
  3. Every day I refine my spiritual discipline
  4. I will sing They name, no matter what!
  5. I serve Thee and love Thee
  6. Come into my home, Lord, today. Come into my heart!
  7. I am determined to reach Thee
  8. I will sweep my inner temple every day
  9. I invite you to visit. Please come without delay
  10. I will apply continual loving self-effort in sadhana
  11. I will do what is necessary to achieve the ultimate, without harm to others
  12. I praise thee: all my life is Thy song of praise
  13. I will pick myself up, brush myself off, and keep going no matter what
  14. I will fly Thy flag!
  15. I have the strength to overcome each and every weakness
  16. I will follow my Guru's mission to the end of my days
  17. I will fill Thy world with love
  18. I resolve to meditate, do japa, chant as an offering to Thee
  19. I am a Truth seeker and nothing will stop me
  20. I will reach my true home, no matter how hard the journey
  21. I love Thee, now come to me!
  22. My life is a garland for the Beloved
  23. All I  am, I offer to Thee, every day
  24. Troubles are clouds. You are the sunshine. I will not forget this
  25. Oh Benevolent One, you will heal me!
  26. Mother of All, I will nestle in your arms
  27. I flourish under Thy protecting care
  28. I know that They mercy will heal me
  29. I offer all my life to Thee
  30. I offer all that is broken in me to Thee. Please come.
  31. I walk the path of enlightenment with grace and poise
  32. I love the world more and more because it is Thy gift to me
  33. My wings are broken but you are the Master healer
  34. Warm my cold cold heart
  35. I will see the good in everything I see
  36. I resolve to curb my bad habits
  37. I can conquer all my vices with Thy Grace and mercy
  38. I will love Thee, more and more, in every way, no matter what
  39. Nothing can stand in the way between me and God
  40. I live through Thy blessing
  41. I am Thy vessel and instrument for peace
  42. I will make my light shine as brightly as possible
  43. I can. I will. I do.
  44. I will manifest Thy miracle of healing
  45. The stone that was rejected becomes the cornerstone of thy temple
  46. Oh Beloved One! I reach out to Thee
  47. I am strong, determined and resolute in sadhana
  48. My past is over. I need never go through that again.
  49. I have a new life now! Stay with me!
  50. God, my God, my all in all.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

SADHANA FOR BEGINNERS (plus advice from the Dasbodh)



The level of simple ignorance about how to practice spiritual discipline seems to have reached almost epidemic proportions. The blogger is overwhelmed by many emails flooding in from desperate people who need mostly material help, and preferably some magic genie of a Guru to appear in a puff of smoke and make their lives easy and full of luck once more. This is not sadhana, this is just swimming in desperation to a life raft in the hope you can escape misery. A Guru or teacher is not a donkey on which you can offload all your problems! But beneath all this noise, there are still very sincere souls who genuinely want to turn their life more to spirituality, but have no idea what to do or how to go about it. 

So here are some tips which I hope will be of help. But please do not bombard the blogger with "Guruji plz help" kind of emails as a result! 

  1. Sadhana is not about you getting help for difficult material circumstances. It is not the equivalent of calling a helicopter in a mountain rescue, where you are lifted up and out of your life by another agency.
  2. Sadhana is about a wonderful mix of self-effort and grace. Self-effort attracts Divine grace. In turn, Divine grace attracts more self-effort. But sadhana is not simply giving all your nasty problems to someone else to carry for a while.
  3. Sadhana involves disciplined and regular practice.
  4. Practice of what? The simplest stepping stone is always japa - recitation of a name of God, usually done on a japa mala - a set of 108 beads. This can be done silently, or aloud, your choice. Don't agonise about initiation into a mantra or you will never start, and get diverted into a search for someone who will initiate you (and in this day and age charge money for it most probably). Start with a name, and that name itself will lead you to a teacher who will then help you. But... start! 10 minutes japa every day, then extend the time slowly. Develop a passion for japa, in a quiet space, just you. Japa is a formalised way to call out to God, to fall in love. In India particularly there is this fear that God will be angry at you for calling out this way. The rest of the world has a more sensible approach.
  5. Practice of meditation is what really kick-starts japa. In the beginning, the simple but profound process of sitting quietly and focussing on your in breath and out breath really sorts out who will stick in sadhana and who will not. Meditation is a process of stilling the mind. At first, all you experience will be the endless chain of thoughts passing through. But, persist. Those who set up a regular meditation practice are guaranteed ultimate success.
  6. For men and young men in particular, a lot of your problems are due to the excessive wasting of seminal fluid. This robs you of vitality, energy, gentleness, and adds anger and impulsive judgement to your life. At some point, if you get serious about a search for God, you will have to restrain your sexual indulgence.
  7. Worldly problems are not solved by sadhana in the way you think. But your attitude is what changes. But all too often, people only want to make a brief gesture of sadhana, then sink back into bad habits and self-pity. Many narcissistic personalities enter sadhana in the entirely mistaken assumption that they are wonderful loving individuals, all the while criticising others and blaming everyone but themselves for their woes. So have a bit of humility.
  8. Approaching teachers, too, has to be in the right spirit. Don't cavil or argue with a teacher who has experienced reality and who gives you good advice. A whole generation has lost respect for wisdom and experience.
  9. There are many simple and obvious preparatory steps to clean up your life that need nothing but your own efforts, such as:
  • Go to bed early
  • Don't spend excessive time on computers and phones. God is not a phone contact or on Facebook
  • Drink water all the time, not soft drinks or stimulants
  • Do physical exercise
  • Eat sattvic pure food
10. Sadhana involves a wonderful creation of your own routine at your own time, utilising your own pace but done with wisdom and always slightly tightening your routine month after month, year after year. Just like climbing a mountain, you go one step at a time, not one giant leap. A lack of common sense and inability to judge your own strength will have you drop away from sadhana within a few short weeks.
11. Your life will be characterised by complete restlessness, and in sadhana this will manifest too as you restlessly go from teacher to teacher, book to book, sensation after sensation. Sadhana properly done involves steadiness, involves slowly curbing this restlessness once and for all. The analogy often used by the wise is to compare the mind to a bee, flitting from flower to flower etc etc. Now at some point the bee has to stop and sip the nectar it seeks! So, when you find a path that gives you nectar, stick to it. And this does not mean maxing out on worldly thrills - that is the path called "Bhoga" not "Yoga". If you are not convinced that sadhana is worthwhile, then stick to being a  Bhogi like 99.9pc of the population. 
12. There is more than enough material on the internet to teach you everything you know. There are some great resources, especially free e books from Swami Sivananda, who was a great communicator and teacher of wisdom last century. Search out fearlessly and see what comes up.
13. Stuck for really learning? By far the best thing is to get a good version of the Sri Bhagavad Gita (avoid the Hare Krishna version which has some pretty harsh dogmatic commentaries). Read the Bhagavad Gita every day.
14. Sadhana also involves prayer for others. If you do not know how to pray, you do not know how to breathe. Pray for others. Turning your ingrained selfishness to help someone else is worth a whole heap of diamonds in sadhana.
15. You will need a Guru at particular points in sadhana, and a Guru will always manifest for you. But in the beginning, this is not necessary. Nor is a Guru going to be someone to whom you can chat on a daily basis, nor can you try drag a true Guru into your own network, a sort of servant of your every whim and ailment. Most people do not want a real Guru, but a parent. this blogger gets besieged by people who ask for his phone number so they can chat about their problems, as if teachers are a Helpline service and just waiting to pander to troubled egos. A Guru is there pointing the way. Only a very few souls have the grace to live intimately with great ones, and that kind of life can be very fiery!  
16. A lack of love for yourself and others is mostly down to bitterness and anger. These traits take time to remove, bit by bit, but you have to do the heavy lifting. Few even try.
17. Is Sadhana worth it? 100,000 times yes! Sadhana gives you contentment, constant inner joy, dignity, and unveils successive miracles and strange wonderful hapennings. Sadhana is what lights the flame to which the Lord is drawn.
18. There is a famous saying from the Shiva Sutras: Yoga Bhumikah, the path of Yoga is full of wonders. This is absolutely true. Sadhana faithfully and regularly pursued with intensity produces miraculous events so astonishing that they can raise the hair on the back of your head. It's not just visions and lights - no, real miraculous twists and turns in your life. God is ready to draw near the devotee who makes the real effort to draw near to the Divine. Oh, what inexpressible joy is sadhana! This blogger in his life has seen and tasted just about every pleasure the world can produce. But all really is dust compared with the bliss of the dance with the Divine. 
19. A life of vice will never mean success in sadhana.
20. A life of  virtue is the golden ticket to sadhana.
21. Finally: most people feel unloved, victimised, unhappy, stressed, bitter and angry. So what? Only a few brave souls have the ability to persist in sadhana, and yet this persistence brings rewards out of all proportion to the effort made. The key is to begin, off your own volition, not to wait for some authority figure to say "begin". You want to be totally changed by Divine Love? Start the process!

And here's the tip of all tips:

NEVER BE DISCOURAGED! 

KEEP GOING, STEP BY STEP!

THE ROYAL ROAD TO LIBERATION

IS YOUR DESTINY

SO START THE PROCESS TODAY!



And now over to the great words of the Maharastran saint Shri Samartha Ramdas (contained in the Dasbodh)


  1. Worldly life is like a great flood with unlimited water animals and poisonous serpents biting
  2. Hopes and the sense of "mine" are like shackles for the human body.  They are like alligators tearing one to pieces. They drag one towards sorrow and put one into difficulties.
  3. The ego is like a crocodile which throws one into the lower world and drowns one there. it is difficult for living beings to escape or be freed from there.
  4. Desires hold tightly like an alligator that does not loosen its grip. When one develops hatred and it does not go away, and when pride and jealousy are never reduced, this is being cvaught in illusion.
  5. The majority of beings are caught in a whirlpool and are swept away, but some call to God for help, with a deep feeling of devotion.
  6. God himself jumps into the flood and takes them to the other shore, while those who are without devotion get swept away.
  7. God is hungry for devotion.
  8. He is enticed by seeing devotion, and helps the devotee in danger and protects him.
  9. The sorrows of worldly life disappear for one who loves God and calls upon him.
  10. Those who give their allegiance to God enjoy the celebration of their own happiness. Such devotional people are blessed with good fortune.
  11. Whatever type of faith one has in God, God is like that for them. He is the innermost knower of thoughts of all beings.
  12. If one is deceitful, God becomes a great deceiver. It's a wonder to see His reciprocation.
  13. Whatever way in which one praises God, in the same way, God gives contentment. If one's faith becomes a bit less, God moves away.
  14. Those who give praise with deep feeling are purified and become one with God. By the power of their devotion they liberate their ancestors as well.
  15. Those who have love for God rejoice in the bliss of the self. Their wealth is different from that of other people. It is never ending.
  16. The devotee of God may be inferior with regard to riches, but he is superior to Brahma and the other Gods as he is always content and without any desires.
  17. The devotees who have given up attachment to worldly life and who hold to the support of God are protected by Jagadisha, the Lord of the Universe from all sides.
The Dasbodh on the first stage of Sadhana, the state of a seeker (mumuksha) :
  1. Because of intoxication with worldly life one acquires many lowly and undesirable qualities. Even by looking at such a person one feels affected by his worldliness.
  2. One who is bound and who behaves in an uncontrolled manner in worldly life becomes miserable in time.
  3. He remembers all the misdeeds that he has previously committed and the memories of them stand strongly in his mind.
  4. The fear of death stands strongly in his mind because he has done so many wrongful deeds in his life.
  5. He thinks: it is as if I  drowned devotion, which is like a mother, and fooloishly disturbed the peace and spoiled good intellect and virtuous desire.
  6. What is to be done to remedy my situation? How can one go beyond the worldly life? What qualities will enable me to realise God?
  7. If one recognises and turns away from worldliness, one can change and become a seeker such as described in sacred texts.
  8. When one says, "I know nothing, I have so many faults," that is called being a seeker.
  9. When one says, "I am a heap of bad qualities. I have wasted my life in vain. I am a burden to the earth," This is called being a seeker.
  10. When one begins leaving behind ones egotism, and holds to the expectation of liberation, this is called being a seeker.
  11. One who begins to feels ashamed of his lust for power, fame and glory, who then begins making efforts for a spiritual life, and who begins serving virtuous people is a seeker of liberation.