Every Saturday evening Swamiji gives a talk on a great being. This is a talk he gave a few years ago just after we completed a Shiva Process Training and the night before an Intensive.
Every Saturday evening Swamiji gives a talk on a great being. This is a talk he gave a few years ago just after we completed a Shiva Process Training and the night before an Intensive.
When the mind is agitated with worry, sorrow or frustration the best medicine is to meditate. Listening to chanting or the meditations like the ones below can relieve distress. If you listen to these with some concentration your mind will cease its obsessing and your heart will feel the happiness of your own Self.
Om tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanam
urvārukamiva bandhanān mṛtyor mukṣīya maamṛtāt
This is a powerful healing and calming mantra. Instead of worrying, meditate or listen to mantras. One meaning is ‘we revere the one, Lord Shiva, who gives his complete fullness ti all and can restore us to good health’.
Gopala Gopala Devakinandana Gopala
Recorded in Ann Arbor in 1975 or 76 this was one of the first recordings made of kirtan, chanting in Siddha Yoga.
Om guru Om guru Om gurudev
Jaya guru jaya guru jaya gurudev
Recorded in the ashram a few years ago this is one of the most beautiful chants.
There is peace, energy and love within you. Try to find it by listening to this meditation.
A lot of people think they cannot meditate. Everyone can meditate. The key is to be with whatever experience you are having and learn to accept it and sit with it. This is the first step to learning to know and love yourself.
I love to read spiritual books. Perhaps my favourites are biographies describing ‘sadhana’ or spiritual journeys. Who hasn’t wanted to manifest the ‘life plan’!
Yoga School Drop-out
Lucy Edge, Ebury Press ISBN 009189922 2
Lucy, a high flying British advertising executive is disenchanted with life. Realizing she needs a change she travels to India hoping to discover the secret to happiness and a gorgeous man.
“The Plan: find a guru and return a yoga goddess – a magnetic babe attracting strong and sweaty yet emotionally vulnerable men with my pretzel like body and compassionate grace.
Needless to say things didn’t work out quite as planned. Yoga School Dropout describes my journey from the ad agencies of London into the arms of the Hugging Mothers and Swoony Swamis of Kerala. I encountered the Gucci’d Guru of Pune, an enlightened waiter from Rishikesh and faked an orgasm for a Tantric washing machine repairman from Byron Bay.”
Lucy visits many trendy yoga schools and ashrams and writes honestly of her impressions. As she navigates the pitfalls of her self-worth in the yoga world she eventually learns to love and accept herself.
An old man lies rigid in the middle of the road. This country road only has one lane. Cars, trucks, motorcycles and bullock carts fight for space and swerve to avoid running over him. A group of bystanders watch from a distance. No one moves to help him. I wonder if he is drunk or sick or paralysed. We cannot stop the car and I pray someone helps him.
Welcome to India.
Here, every moment seems fraught with an unexpected happening. But the blessings of the Guru are already running like an electric current through my being.
Bhagawan’s Shakti is fierce and loving. He is unrelenting in his demand that we aspire to the highest state of Consciousness—to be detached, to be self-possessed, to be in the flow, to be free, to care more for God and less about our worldly desires and fears, to be loving and compassionate—this is the ultimate blessing of the Guru. If we get out of the way of his grace then the world is set right.
Gurudev Siddha Peeth is on the way to the village of Ganeshpuri. The walls stand like a fortress against alien entry. They remind me of a Tolkien book, Lord of the Rings. I reflect on my time there in the late 70s. ‘Leave your ego with your shoes!’ bellowed a sign over the shoe rack as I step through the lotus gates for the first time. The Shakti shuts down my mind and my heart fills with bliss. I was never the same.
In the mornings I scrub the outer courtyard to perfection. It is joyous to be on my knees polishing the marble. After three days I am moved into the publications department to type on an old Underwood. Not a particularly good typist I prefer the courtyard. I surrender to the Shakti’s will.
When I returned home to Ann Arbor after three months I felt as though I was being squeezed through a tiny tube. My personal karma weighed me down. I remember thinking, ‘this is what birth must feel like. Coming from pure Consciousness into the body, spirit to matter.’ The contraction was overwhelming. I could hardly breathe under its weight. It took a few months to return to normal.
Now, almost 40 years later, I feel grateful to have known and served Baba. I recall his great heart, his nectar love, his fiery nature, his overwhelming presence, power and magic. To be in Baba’s kingdom was to be transported to the Satya Yuga, a time of truth and peace and welcome. I do not long for the past and yet a part of me wishes the present was different.
I feel the Guru’s welcome as I pranam to Bhagawan. I go next door to the Shiva temple. As I walk down the stairs I am hit by a powerful force of Shakti and as I bow to the lingam I hear Baba’s voice, ‘I am here now.’
Gurubhakti, love of the guru, is palpable in Ganeshpuri. I take heart that the village is open to us even though we are in some way, interlopers. I can only glimpse the complexity of village life. There is a natural balance that is disturbed by our group’s presence. It is inevitable that when East meets West there is a clash. To be tentative here is to be wise. We bring prosperity, charity and caring and we receive love and Bhagawan’s grace. The villagers are not used to so much input from the West. Occasional Western visitors pass through but large groups of 90 to 100 like ours are rare. We are slowly becoming family.
To walk through the temple doors and glimpse Bhagawan as he presides over this domain is a joy. Even though his Shakti is powerful in Mt Eliza, here for me, he is more potent. To watch the devotees file in one by one gives me such pleasure. The newbies especially are looking at him in wonder. Their faces are radiant with light and awe. The mystical power emanating from Bhagawan can only be God’s grace. This place is magical.
Guruji has often said that his favorite service to Baba was to introduce new people to him. And now with humility and love he leads them to Bhagawan. I pray, ‘let these doors always be open.’
Guruji and I are ushered beyond the silver barriers into his samadhi. We are allowed to touch him, receive his blessings and bow. We perform the Arati and everyone chimes in. The priests are smiling and glad to see us. It is so good to be home.
Baba gave these aphorisms at an unexpected Satsang in South Fallsburg just before he left for India in 1981. At the end of his talk he asked us to repeat them aloud.
As destiny would have it they now seem like his last instructions on how to remember and stay in touch with the Shakti and the Guru.
siddham sharanam gacchaami
I take refuge in a Siddha.
sangham sharanam gacchaami
I take refuge in the community of Siddhas.
svaatmanam sharanam gacchaami
I take refuge in my own Self. I surrender myself to my own Self.
svaatmachintanam na jahaami
I will not give up the contemplation of my Self.
siddhamcharanam na tyajaami
I will not abandon the discipline of the Siddhas.
svamantram na vismaraami
I will not forget my own mantra.
bhaavam satatam bhajaami
I will always maintain the awareness of the unity
of Brahman and the Self.
sarvam shivamayam pashyaami
I will see everything as Shiva. I will never think that anybody or anything is different from Shiva.
In every situation, we either burn through karma or we transcend it.
When I feel overwhelmed by work I often imagine myself sitting by a river with nothing to do but meditate, alone. The river Tansa is nearby and I realize I have been given a cherished wish.
I wake up early and meditate outside on the veranda. The mornings are cool and I rug up in shawls. Sounds of creatures waking are abuzz: Arati bells ringing, crows cawing, roosters crowing, hens clucking, kites screeching and woodpeckers pecking. Sudarshan the new cook at Kothavala, who lost his parents when he was young, has adopted Guruji and I as his spiritual mother and father. He chants mantras as he brings chai and biscuits. I breathe in the atmosphere. This is where I want to be.
At 7:00AM I head for Kailas and meditate in one of Bhagawan’s many bedrooms, which is only open in the morning. I take darshan of his funky chair and head for the temple. Shop owners are quiet, not yet hawking their wares. The chai stalls are opening but each has their own takers. The same faces are there every morning. The rest of the day my routine includes chatting with people, Arati, lunch, rest, writing, dinner, hot baths, arati at the temple and sleep. Many villagers are surprised I am here alone and wonder if I am okay. I find myself getting to know some more intimately. I like this inner movement of friendship. I relax into the tempo and find the days pass quickly.
Bhagavan’s Samadhi shrine is my favorite place to meditate during the day even though there are more comfortable and quiet spots. There is no logic to my preference. Devotees are chattering, children are running freely, bells are clanging, flower girls are shrieking, devotees are praying and priests are chanting. The outer world is busy, chaotic even, but inwardly I am blissful. Activity here arises from the highest Consciousness, undisturbed by disturbance. I imagine this is what it would have been like to be in his physical presence.
My sister is having some health problems and I decide to do a Guru Paduka puja (ceremony for the Guru’s sandals) for her in the Temple. I am concerned that I might be faced with a non-English speaking priest and decide to invite Indu, a village elder who spent much time with Bhagawan to join me. She speaks enough English to get me through the awkwardness of not understanding Hindi and the uneasiness of doing something wrong.
Indu, the priest and I will bathe Bhagawan’s sandals in milk and water from the natural hot springs, and then mark them with sandalwood paste, kum kum, tulsi leaves, ash, perfumed oil and flowers while mantras are chanted.
Indu’s company is calming. I find it humorous that my confidence wavers in the presence of the Brahmin priest Devidas. Guruji has nicknamed him Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, because he is tall, slim, and charismatic. His devotional style, when waving the lights during Arati to Bhagavan, is flamboyantly artful and full of devotion. But here now, the language barrier inhibits my ability to connect with him. I cannot ask questions or chat.
Devidas begins by telling me that this day is a most auspicious day, more so than any other day I could have chosen. It is moksha ekadashi, the 11 day of the month of the waxing moon. To do a ceremony today means auspicious blessings, spiritual liberation, for my family and me. The puja is beautiful even though I inadvertently pour the hot water meant for Bhagavan’s sandals all over his lap. ‘Slow, slow’ he says.
As Devidas chants the mantras I embrace Bhagawan’s Shakti and give myself up to the power of this incredible Siddha’s grace. I tune in and the Temple sounds become a distant aum as I open to the moment. The murti in front of me is shimmering with Chiti. I am awed by the power of Shiva’s light.
The other side of Shiva, the dark, is never far away in India. That night I awaken to a puppy shrieking in pain. I vow to pack them up and smuggle them back to Australia. Or, I am going to start feeding them. Neither is possible. I tell myself that next time I am bringing a vet. Most dogs are uncared for and live on sugar treats thrown to them by pilgrims leaving the temples or scraps from the chai shops. Diabetes is not just for humans. Of course they procreate continually. Neuter a dog—it is unthinkable even for the educated.
At night there is the howling of animals being born and dying. How is it that the pleas for food and shelter can be ignored day after day? I could not live here without doing something about it. Guruji often jokes that it is good karma to be born a dog in the West and a cow in India, and bad karma to be born a dog in India and a cow in the West.
One Westerner, an American woman, has been living here for over 20 years. She feeds and tends numerous dogs and cats every day even though her finances are stretched. She is quite elderly, fragile and worries about who will take care of them when she is gone.
Everyone needs something. From a young man in a wheelchair, whose home is unsuitable, to another with five children under the age of eight whose house was washed away in the monsoon and now lives in a leaking tin roof hut—no plumbing of course. There is also a young man needing sinus surgery and a young girl who recently lost her mother and stays with her older sister. There are lots of children and most in need of some sort of medical attention. I cannot forget the line of beggars, who are fed by the Temple every day, but whose desire for human attention calls out to every passer by.
Then there is the problem of alcohol. Made locally it destroys the eyesight of devotees who worship at the palm shrine. Alcoholism is on the rise and there is no AA here. So too is drug addiction and HIV. Garbage and sewage sprawl across roads and pathways. The stench is a constant. One person I meet suggests that India’s biggest mistake was to get rid of the British. By now, he says, they would have an infrastructure; sewage and garbage would be handled. And, there would not be a Pakistan.
My mind spins: I could do this; I could do that. I can get this; I can get that. But I know I can do little or nothing. I accept it all as it is, yet feel the anguish. I look away but I am not indifferent. I give myself permission to feel the pain of existential angst without despair. I have learned I can only help when God allows.
This is India. It can drive a weak mind mad. Heartless on the one hand with death barking at your heels every moment and yet full of the wonder of worship of God. My thoughts turn to home and contemplate how to hold onto this particular experience of the Shakti.
In the early morning I sit on the porch and watch the sun rise. The village is still in the early hours. Soft noises of awakening do not disturb my meditation. I wait for chai and biscuits in awe of the blessings that flow from Bhagawan Nityananda. I am in the mind of Shiva, dark and light emanating from his mystical heart. Mother India clasped me to her breast and fed me her soul. I don’t believe there is another place on the planet quite like this. This is home.
Excerpt from Chapter 2, Happy For No Good Reason by Swami Shankarananda
magnaha svachittena pravishet
Meditation is achieved by diving into the
deeper levels of the mind. (Shiva Sutras III.21)
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF modern technology you can immediately begin to meditate. The value you receive from these teachings will depend, most of all, upon your commitment to a daily practice of meditation. I suggest you sit down and listen to the Chakra Meditation, the first two tracks, after reading this short chapter.
The first track is just under eight minutes long. I use this technique in all my meditation courses. It helps you become aware of inner tension. In this meditation you investigate the thoughts and feelings in four of the seven chakras: the navel, the heart, the throat and the brow. I ask questions like: “Is the feeling pleasant or unpleasant, tense or relaxed?” This gives you an awareness of the tensions and blocks you may be carrying and also puts you in touch with expanded and uplifting feelings.The second part is the Healing Meditation . Here relaxation and wellbeing are emphasized. You return to the four chakras with a view towards acceptance,love and peace. Follow my narration using its statements and images to release the tension. Experiment with each idea and image. At the end you can find the best feeling and focus on it for the rest of the meditation.
The traditional time for meditation is early morning. Your mind is calm,the phone is not ringing and the children are asleep. Another good time to meditate is at night before you go to bed or early evening just after you have come home from work. Experiment and see what works for you.A proper meditation posture helps the energy of meditation flow throughout the body. Zen meditation quite rightly describes two ways not to meditate. The first is called Kontin, the posture is too “mushy,” too loose—the chin falls, the back bends. The second, sanran , is the opposite. The meditator manifests too much rigidity and tension in the body. One is too easy-going and surrendered,the other too tight and self-willed.You can sit in a comfortable easy chair or on a cushion on the floor. Your posture should be relaxed and comfortable but also alert. It is best to sit with your back straight and hold your head erect but without tension. It is all right if your head falls forward or backward after you have been meditating for a while.Wear comfortable clothes. You may want to keep a blanket or a favourite sweater handy in case your temperature drops. You may feel cool one moment and warm the next.
Hatha Yoga has become very popular in the West and is practised to prepare the body to sit for meditation. The postures increase flexibility,strengthen the spine and release tension. Hatha Yoga works on every aspect of the body, including the organs. It is physical culture for the 21st Century. Good health and suppleness are by-products. I suggest you find a good teacher in your area and learn the postures. It will help you meditate effectively.
Where possible set aside a room or a niche for meditation. When you meditate in the same place every day, the meditation energy builds. You can create an energy-filled space by placing pictures of great beings or symbols of higher Consciousness around the area—whatever objects or music you find conducive for entering meditation. You might want to burn some essential oils or incense. This creates a positive atmosphere.
I knew a woman whose husband was violently opposed to meditation. If her meditation paraphernalia was visible it caused turmoil in the house. She cleaned out her closet and created a meditation “cave”. She put her meditation pillow in there and had a tape of the mantra playing constantly. She would tell her family: “I am going to my cave to meditate.” She was, in every sense of the word, a closet meditator.
Meditation is the single most important discovery I have ever made.Without doubt it has transformed my experience of life. It gives me great joy to welcome you to the practice.
Now is a good time to sit down and become familiar with the Chakra Meditation. Close your eyes, turn within and follow the instructions on the CD or do the written meditation in the appendix. Meditate to the first two tracks.
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