Winter Blues

It’s winter. I look out my office window. The orange flag on top of the meditation hall is blowing forcefully. There is a lot of activity outside considering the weather is unappealing. Dark rainy and cold, it is the worstIMG_1355 winter I have seen here. Of course, it seems mild compared to Canadian winters where I trod through the snow freezing and felt cold even in down jackets. My dad used to drag us to the mountains. I wished that I liked to ski but I could never get used to the cold.

If I didn’t know better I would think I was melancholy. Well, maybe I am a little. But that is fine. I would rather feel melancholy than angry, or scared. I am at home in this space. It is familiar. I know that melancholy arises when I am brooding about the past. I only indulge for a while and then move on.

I don’t struggle anymore to change my state unless it is unbearable. That has happened a few times this past year. I experienced states of unhappiness that I thought I would never feel again. Life is full of surprises. And these past four years are testimony to that.

I have watched material things being torn away from me. Truly, I felt little grief at their loss. More painful was the shock I felt from the anger and hatred directed at me, and the ashram by former friends and students. My love for them seems to have gone unnoticed.

As I look back at my life I find it interesting that I have been hurt more brutally by women than men. The men in my life have hurt me in the usual way, but the women tried to destroy my life. How to talk about that? I probably can’t.  Suffice to say only that.

Love universally, not specifically.

One who loves his own Self loves the whole world.
Baba Muktananda

At this time of year my thoughts turn toward Baba Muktananda as his solar and lunar birthday come around. Born May 16, 1908, he lived a yogi’s life; it was was full, rich, filled with Shakti and mystical. He served humanity until his last breath. I cherish my time with him and every encounter I had. Below is one of them. 

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Ann Arbor circa 1977

In July or August of 1979 Baba sent Swamiji to Los Angeles, California to run the ashram there in preparation for his visit in 1981. Until then he had been head of the Ann Arbor ashram with Girija, his wife. It was a thriving spiritual community. Swamiji was a guru to many devotees and the ashram reflected their devotion.

This was a sudden and unexpected decision by Baba. I was devastated, as were many others. It was unfathomable that Swamiji would not return to Ann Arbor.

After a few weeks and much thinking, I got up the courage to write Baba a letter in the hope that he would give me permission to join him. I told him that I loved Swamiji, that he was my guru, and that I missed him.

Baba’s response was a short and decisive teaching, ‘you should learn to love everyone; love universally, not specifically.’

Unfortunately, I knew Baba was right and that I was too attached to Swamiji. But, the pain of separation was an agony that I did not want to live with. I accepted Baba’s directive but there was an uncomfortable angst in my heart.

My seva at the time was coordinating the Siddha Path magazine with Swamiji. It chronicled Baba’s travels around the world and helped devotees at home keep in touch with Baba. I supervised the production and made sure it met deadlines. It was a big seva and becoming bigger, as every day we had more and more subscribers. One morning in meditation I realized that it was impossible to run the magazine with Swamij, if he was in LA and I was in Ann Arbor.

I again wrote Baba and asked, ‘Baba how can I do my seva on the magazine while Swamiji is in LA?’

One day, about a week later, the ashram receptionist ran up to me, ‘Baba’s on the phone, he wants to speak to you!’

I was so excited. His attendant Noni was on the other end of the line, but I could hear Baba shouting in the background, ‘Baba says you should go immediately to Los Angeles.’ Within two days Das, my husband at the time, who also helped with the magazine, and I were on our way. We arrived before Baba had a chance to inform the devotees in LA and he was surprised when he found out we were there.

We had been in LA for some months when Baba’s tour arrived in Oakland, Northern California. The hard-working ashramites had transformed an old brothel into a beautiful urban refuge. Back then Oakland was a poor, mainly black suburb. There were homeless people, addicts and alcoholics wandering the streets. Cars were burgled regularly. This did not stop devotees from buying the neighbouring dilapidated houses. The community was buzzing with renovations.

One afternoon I was walking away from lunch when Swami Samatananda approached me. He told me Baba wanted to see me. I was excited and scared. At that moment Das appeared.

He took us to a darshan room where Baba conducted business across a small courtyard at the back of the ashram.

When we walked into the room I noticed Amma, Baba’s secretary, and some other staff who worked on ashram publications were there. We pranamed, (bowed) to Baba and when I looked up at him I went into ecstasy.

Bowing was a custom I had become used to during my time in India. While there, I had noticed that not only did the Indian devotees throw themselves at Baba’s feet with great ardour, often almost tripping him as he walked by, but also young adults bowed to their parents and grandparents as a sign of respect. There is a mysterious bliss in showing devotion by bowing.

Baba picked up a copy of the Siddha Path, which was sitting next to him and said, ‘Don’t put my picture on the cover anymore. People think we are a cult.’

We always put a picture of Baba on the cover of the magazine. Then he held up a copy of an Indian publication that Amma produced. It had a picture of the Ganeshpuri Ashram on the cover. ‘You can put a picture like this on it. No more of me’, he commanded.

‘Okay Baba’, I said. Amma giggled.

The Jim Jones murder-suicide in Guyana had just been reported. I thought that maybe he had been plagued by questions about this tragedy. He was often asked about cults, but in this climate no answer would satisfy a fearful parent. His reply to questions on cults was usually something like, ‘This is the religion of man. We worship the Self. I want you to learn to love and honour your own Self, not another person.’

‘Did you get a job? ’ Baba asked me.

‘No Baba’, I said. I was proud of my new suit that I thought seemed more ‘professional.’ I often met with people who worked on the magazine and thought my way of dressing was appropriate.

I sensed Baba’s disapproval but it wasn’t enough for him to bust me. My bliss increased.

‘I have had a lot of complaints about you’, said Baba. ‘People are writing me about you’, he added, holding up a sheaf of letters. Swamiji had told me that Baba hated hearing complaints about others, unless he wanted to know something. I was reassured by that thought.

‘You should welcome others with love’, said Baba.

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Welcome others with love.

I was uncertain how to reply. I understood that Baba was trying to teach me something. Even though his manner was gruff, I did not feel anger, only love. Baba was speaking directly to a chronic fear of strangers, my shyness, my inability to talk to people I did not know, and what I thought was a social ineptness.

‘Baba’, I said, ‘I don’t know how.’

He thought for a moment. And then he gave me a profound teaching.

‘You should be like me. Do what I do. Every night I greet people. I ask, “What is your name? Where do you come from? What do you do?” You should be just like me and do just what I do.’

I was overjoyed. ‘Okay Baba’, I said as I basked in his love and attention.

‘Here,’ he said, ‘they are just jealous, but you should welcome everyone’ and he threw the letters at me.

Ever since that moment I have used Baba’s welcome formula. Now I am comfortable in social situations when I meet new people. And, when we returned to LA I made an effort to welcome others, including the women who wrote the letters to Baba.

At the ashram I was a ‘busy ashramite’, and did not think of myself as part of the ‘welcome committee.’ It did not occur to me that others needed to be put at ease in Baba’s ashram. I always felt so comfortable, so natural in Baba’s ashrams, even though I shied away from people. His welcome formula was a spiritual and personal breakthrough. And, I also learned that a smile is the most welcoming greeting.

For the second time Baba encouraged me to ‘love everyone.’ This was becoming a theme in my spiritual growth. Baba’s adage, ‘See God in everyone’ epitomised the way he was. His gift of welcome was the capacity to greet each person he met as if they were the only one in a crowded hall of thousands.

Jay Nityanand!

Jay Nityanand!

Just as camphor is consumed by the flames of fire,
so also, the mind must be consumed by soul-fire.
Bhagavan Nityananda

It’s after 10:00pm before Anjali and I are on our way to Ganeshpuri. Moti, Yusuf and Vinayak, Rosy’s husband, (they own a B&B on the main street) met us at the airport after an easy flight and too much to eat.

Vinayak drives to Ganeshpuri at a speeding pace, with high beams blaring, a new night signal, ‘move over, I want to pass’. There is less horn and more blinking. Oncoming traffic also signals with high beams. We are blinded by the flashing as a river of cars, four lanes across, head into Mumbai.

We make great time and after an hour we turn onto the road to Ganeshpuri. Worst road in the valley, constantly needing repair. What was repaired a while ago has now been washed away in the monsoon. The road is in constant dispute between SYDA and the villagers, so the villagers say. Vinayak slows to a tortoise pace. (But good news! The road is now under a partial repair.)

I feel a sigh of relief as we near Bhagavan’s Samadhi shrine. Bright colourful lights are decorating every corner of Kailas and the temple. Green, orange, blue shimmer together in a kaleidoscope of vibrancy. Ganeshpuri is alive with Shakti.

We are staying at Kothavala. The atmosphere is beautiful, the food delicious and it is close to the temple. The natural hot spring baths are a luxury. Rarely does the clamour of village life reach here. It is meditative and restorative. The gardens are a haven for Satsang when the big group comes. But now, even though it is 12.30am, Anu, our host, greets us with a hug and a garland. This is our Ganeshpuri home.

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Anjali and I at the Ganesh temple on the hill above the village.

I woke up early on my first morning and went to the temple. The new blond curtains were still closed. Apparently Bhagavan needed some repair and is being lovingly restored. Some say that the fertilizer from the garlands has caused a little erosion and tiny holes on his body. Others say it was from the milk, honey and sugar used for the pujas. Nonetheless, restoration was necessary. The priests tell me that Bhagavan will be revealed in a few hours.

Later Anjali and I are walking down the main road when we see Maharaj, Swami Nityananda coming toward us. He greets us with a lot of love and humour. We briefly chat and go with him as he heads for the temple. We walk up the back steps. Maharaj walks through the silver gate into the Samadhi. We sit down just behind.

A yagna, a fire ceremony with many priests, a dancing saptah, and other festivities have been going on all week. The unveiling of Bhagavan includes a pranapratishta, an enlivening ceremony. The Brahmins chant mantras that breathe life into Bhagavan, just in case he has lost some during the restoration. To me the Shakti in the temple is as strong as it always has been.

We chant for a while and then Bhagavan is revealed. It is a surprise. His body is now dark brown, perhaps it is more like he was when he was in his body.  But under the orange lights he glows with a beautiful reddish hue. The gold has been relegated to the past. I imagine Bhagavan is happier without the metal covering him. I like this new image. More the avadhut, and less the sultan. He seems more intimate, warmer, friendlier and approachable.

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Bhagavan in all his new glory (with Prasadji in the background).

An exquisite happiness descends in me. It is not the happiness of a desire being fulfilled or a task accomplished or for some other mundane reason. In this moment I am fulfilled, joyful, content, peaceful and happy. I wish the whole world could share in the experience of Bhagavan’s Shakti. What a blessing to have found this yoga! What a blessing to have the Guru! What a blessing to be sitting here now in his presence communing with God’s grace!

I wish that his power to awaken spreads around the world. I wish everyone could do his divine work. I wish that his blessings find all who are grieving and uplift them. I wish that he turns everyone to God and all suffering ends.

The chanting continued for about an hour and ended with Sri Kanth (a temple priest) and Swami Nityananda, waving lights to the Nityananda Arati. Then we were ushered into the Samadhi and allowed to take darshan. We are not allowed to touch Bhagavan, but we can see his smiling radiance as we pass and do a standing pranam.

 

Anjali and I were not supposed to be here for the enlivening. We were meant to be in Varanasi for a few days before coming to Ganeshpuri. Oddly, the dates for our accommodation did not work out, so here we are. We found ourselves in the middle of this amazing ceremony with a front row view, while hundreds are outside waiting for a mere glimpse. I am grateful for the blessings moving within me.

Guruji is not with us on this trip. Next year we will be coming back sometime in January with a big group. The villagers ask about him, send him love and acknowledge the impact he has had on the village since we first began making these trips. They miss him and are eager to have his Darshan. Anjali and I make sure to give him daily telephone reports of village life, people’s greetings and events. These conversations add a lot of joy to our visit.

Guruji has an intuitive sensitivity to the pulse of the village and its people. He is a genius at making relationship with everyone and sustaining relationship. These relationships are genuine, spiritual and loving. Although some began in the act of commerce, over the years they have deepened. Ganeshpuri has become our second ashram and the villagers our spiritual family.

Gurudev Siddha Peeth, Baba’s ashram, is abuzz with activity. Not only is there a retreat going on, but I have heard that there is painting, cleaning and a general upgrade. When we get to Guru Gita on Sunday morning I see that Baba’s perch is now a beautiful polished white marble. The courtyard is peaceful and I remember that this was my favourite place to sit with Baba.

As I walk through the village bits of gossip reach my ears. A rumour is whispered that Gurumayi will visit in March (the gossip says this every year) and that she may open the doors of the ashram for longer periods. I notice that her devotees are in the shops, smiling and making contact. This is new. Usually they keep to themselves and are unlikely to say hello. But the next day I find three on my doorstep waiting to meet me.

After introductions, two are from Switzerland, and one from Germany, they ask how I met Baba. I tell my story. They tell how they met Gurumayi. Their devotion is contagious and I feel affection toward her. In Baba’s day, I felt close to her, admired her and loved her. Her devotion to Baba was inspirational. Some painful things happened and those feelings faded into the background as a subtle distrust overshadowed them. Love was not lost, just put on the back burner. Now it glimmers as a flickering flame of possibility.

One of my guests mentions that Gurumayi’s New Year’s message for 2018 was “Satsang”. They tell me that she has asked her devotees to be in Satsang wherever they find themselves. It seems that meeting me is part of their mission to fulfil her wish. I am pleased. We have loving Satsang as we speak about the Guru and at the end of our shares they leave. I am left with a feeling of hope that somehow reconciliation between all of the Siddha families could happen.

After they leave I go to the temple to meditate. As I become familiar with the new Bhagavan it feels as though this could be the beginning of a new era. Bhagavan is dressed simply with only a few flowers and decorative puja items. Gone is the pomp of his glory as emperor. Now he is more the simple sadhu. The great yogi who arrived in Ganeshpuri with nothing but a loin cloth has re-emerged.

The Shakti pours out of him as usual, and he smiles at me as I sit with him. Of course, if anyone can dissolve separation and restore oneness, Bhagavan can. Maybe this era will include a coming together of all of Baba’s devotees and disciples. For everyone to meet under the umbrella of Baba’s grace would be a miracle of love.

I am neither a beggar nor a king.

I am neither a beggar nor a king.

Every Saturday evening in Satsang Swamiji gives teachings from his favourite great beings.  These great beings have much in common even though their paths vary. Some focus on the wisdom aspect of yoga, some on devotion, some on meditation, some on service and some on intense practice. But, they all have one thing in common. They emphasise knowing the Self and loving and accepting ourselves.

During these programs the devotees come up to greet both of us. Traditionally this is called darshan. I think of it as saying hello and if blessings or shakti is transmitted it is by the miracle of Guru’s grace. I receive something too–lots of love and joy. No small thing in a world beset by desires that cannot be assuaged by love.

Often I meet people who haven’t come to Satsang in a while and I ask, ‘where have you been’. Very often they answer ‘I have been in a bad space. I have been hating myself. I have felt unworthy.’

Surprising answers and ones that give me pause and tear at my heart. I encourage them to come when they feel that way knowing that Satsang will put them in touch with the Shakti which will ease their suffering.

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Darshan is always uplifting.

Self-hatred is a poison, it is our worst enemy spiritually and personally. It is the most debilitating thinking the mind creates.

The other day an ashramite came to see me and said, ‘I hate myself, I never feel good enough.’ I immediately thought of Swamiji’s story about an answer to a question he asked Baba during his time in Ganeshpuri in the seventies. His ego was troubling him. He was having thoughts that depleted his shakti and hurt him. Baba said, ‘Do not think you are a king or a beggar. Think, “I am Shiva; I am the Self.”

Swamiji’s demand is that we hold to the space of the Self. As he says, ‘the clear space of good feeling.’ Or, as Bhagavan says, bhavano rakho, maintain the good feeling. Swamiji encourages us to forgive every slight, every hurt, every pain, in every moment. Inwardly we let go of the temptation to blame and attack others for what they didn’t say to us, or give us, didn’t treat us well enough or honour us enough. When we cannot let go of this thinking love turns to poison within. And, in this state the mind creates good reasons to escalate enmity.

To watch someone in the grip of hatred, whether of themselves or another is painful, hurtful and frustrating. When people turn away from the Guru, from the Self, from Satsang it is as painful for the ones who are left as it is for the one leaving.

The heartbreak is especially poignant when that person has been a loving and close companion for many years. How is it that a mind can turn negative so quickly and without warning? How is it that someone who said they love you suddenly becomes an enemy? How is it that love suddenly turns to judgment? This is a great mystery.

To maintain good feeling sounds simple, but after all these years of sadhana I see that it is always possible to fall prey to a sense of unworthiness. Just because we have been meditating and doing practices for years we can still be vulnerable to destructive behaviour and negative thinking.

Bhagavan Nityananda once said, ‘it’s all dust!’ In time the material world, including our bodies become dust. I think he is reminding us that nothing is worth fighting about. To focus on that which is peaceful and loving and not on dissatisfaction requires a commitment to our own loving heart. Instead of venting anger we hold to a higher value like compassion and wisdom. I have always held the Guru as a beacon of love that never fades, never withdraws, and never wavers.

We will confront events that seem unforgivable, or that do not bring peace. These events  destabilise our life and relationships. If we succumb to the pain and do not dissolve it into Consciousness then we get stuck in the moment the pain happened, forever frozen in a memory of suffering.

The great beings forgive the unforgivable. It is their power of unconditional love that attracts weary and broken hearted seekers. They hold to that which is eternal, loving and wise. Their interests are not of this world but the world of Consciousness. They are not concerned whether a person is high born or not, whether a person is rich or poor, whether a person is sick or well, whether a person is the ‘right type.’ They are only interested in the spiritual well-being of each individual that comes before them. To see, hear and watch how the great beings love, teaches us to love the same way.

Swami Muktananda writes poetically on love:

Just as the earth remains the same no matter who comes and goes on it, so true love remains unchanging and independent. Love penetrates your entire being. Love is Consciousness.

 

Overcoming Hostile Forces

Overcoming Hostile Forces

It is often hard for yogis to believe that a dark force truly exists in the world. However, over the last few years I have come to believe that such a force exists in Consciousness, that there is a power that works against the good, against God, against the light. Just as the divine Shakti is a real mystical power that can awaken and enlighten, so too is there a real dark power that brings destruction, mayhem and violence. 

Of course, from the highest perspective there is only Consciousness. However, in practical reality there is the clash of light and dark as symbolised in all of the scriptures. These forces have been called different names by different religions and paths i.e. the Devil, Kali, Saturn, Satan, Maya, and many others. 

Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry, the great yogi and Guru called this darkness ‘Hostile Forces’. He believed them to be the most challenging energy for a yogi. They disguise themselves as rational and sincere and are, therefore, extremely dangerous.

Below is a summary by a devotee of Aurobindo’s teaching on these forces from the third book of his letters. It expresses how to distinguish them from ordinary negative tendencies. 

Note: the numbers are page numbers from Aurobindo’s book.

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Sri Aurobindo as a young man.

INTRODUCTION

What are hostile forces?

The western mind might find it hard to believe in the operation of hostile forces, as it typically searches for external explanations for everything.(1742/2) However, as Aurobindo says: “It is a fact always known to all yogis and occultists since the beginning of time, in Europe and Africa as in India, that wherever yoga is done, there the hostile forces gather together to stop it.” (1731/1)

Attacks from hostile forces are not rare. All yogis will face attacks from hostile forces during the course of their sadhana. (1731/1) These attacks are distinct from our personal tendencies. Whereas our tendencies are part of human nature and are an expression of our ignorance, hostile forces are external entities that have the aim of stopping spiritual transformation.(1731/3) However, while they are distinct from our tendencies, hostile forces do often work against us by adding weight to our tendencies.(1731/1)

Why is it important to know about hostile forces?

Practically speaking, it’s important that we can distinguish between the presence of a tendency and the attack of a hostile force. The yogic antidote for attacks from hostile forces is different from the antidote for tendencies. (1732/2)

What consequences can an attack from a hostile force have?

An attack from a hostile force might affect us severely, or not at all. In the best case scenario, when a hostile force mounts an attack against somebody, that person is able to repel it by yogic means.(1732/1) If the person cannot repel the attack, they might be influenced by the hostile force, meaning that their thoughts, feelings and actions might reflect to some extent the will of that hostile force. Worse still, a person might become temporarily or permanently possessed by a hostile force, meaning that the hostile force has gained complete control over them. Being influenced or possessed by a hostile force is likely to have very serious consequences for the individual and for others around them.

DEALING WITH HOSTILE FORCES

How can one recognise an attack from hostile forces?

In Aurobindo’s words, “the action of the hostile forces is a special intervention creating violent inner conflicts, abnormal depressions, thoughts and impulses of a kind which can be easily recognised as suggestions e.g. leaving the Ashram, abandoning the yoga, revolt against the Divine, suggestions of calamity and catastrophe apparently irresistible, irrational impulses and so on” (1731/2) An attack might also encourage us to question, reason away, doubt or deny prior spiritual experiences. (1738/2)

As we deepen in our sadhana, we gain an increased capacity to distinguish between attacks from hostile forces and tendencies. (1737/3)

How should one deal with hostile forces, as opposed to tendencies?

Patient effort is the best remedy for tendencies.(1732/2) We should patiently and persistently do our practice, with the goal of making gradual progress.

A more forceful approach is required when hostile forces attack — hostile forces must be “shut out altogether”(1732/2) Aurobindo says that “An entire rejection and a complete turning to the Divine are the way to meet [the hostile forces].” (1740/3) We should not try to eradicate the hostile forces, but rather, we should focus upon becoming so established in the Self that the hostile forces cannot enter us nor harm us (1734/3). Aurobindo suggests that we “be like a cliff attacked by a stormy sea but never submerged by it” (1750/4)

Although we cannot prevent attacks from hostile forces, as we progress in our sadhana, we are able to throw off attacks from hostile forces with less difficulty.(1739/2) On the one hand, certain tendencies and dispositions can make us vulnerable to hostile forces, such as desires and fears, an attraction for drama, or a passive response to an attack. (1743/1) On the other hand certain noble traits will make us immune to hostile forces, including faith, the attitude of surrender, love, devotion, calmness and equanimity. (1739/3-4)

In terms of understanding, we should view these attacks as tests of our commitment to sadhana, and as opportunities to become stronger in the Self. (1738/4) We should not feel guilty about being under attack, as all yogis face attacks from hostile forces during their sadhana.(1738/2) Furthermore, an attack may come at any time, through no fault of our own, and it might even signify that our sadhana has reached a rapid pace, or that we are approaching a breakthrough (1741/1-5). Nonetheless, we must take these tests seriously – if we were to allow the hostile forces into ourselves to even an apparently small degree, it could have devastating consequences.(1735/6). We certainly should not invite “testing” since these attacks can be so dangerous. (1735/6)

In summary, we should deal with attacks from hostile forces by rejecting them completely, and turning with determination towards the Divine. In addition to this general approach, there are a number of principles that can guide us as we repel attacks from hostile forces, including the following:

  • Don’t identify with hostile forces

When under attack from a hostile force, we might think that, for the sake of authenticity and integration, we need to express the hostile force’s influence. However, this is not the right way to think about it. Aurobindo says: “This state which tries to come upon you and seize is not part of your true self, but a foreign influence”(1749/6) Thus, only by rejecting hostile forces will we find the sense of wholeness that we seek.(1749/6, 1750/1)

  • Don’t obsess about hostile forces or fear them

Some people might fall in the pitfall of obsessing about the hostile forces, and thereby give them power. While it’s important that we can recognise them and repel them, we should not think too much about them, or be expecting or looking out for them.(1764/3) If we give them too much of our attention it can create an unnecessary inner struggle, as we might try to destroy the hostile forces, rather than focusing our mind in a positive spiritual direction. In addition, we should never fear hostile forces, as this can make their attacks bold and aggressive.(1764/5) It’s much better to regard the hostile forces with indifference, and then focus the mind wholly on the Divine. (1748/2, 1764/3)

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    There is always light, even in darkness.

    Don’t listen to arguments put forward by hostile forces

We might also be vulnerable to hostile forces when they make apparently reasonable suggestions to us. However, as Aurobindo says, “I do not see what reasons can be so subtle as to justify or even appear to justify something that opposes and tries to destroy the sadhana. Whatever stands in the way of spiritual progress, must be a falsehood whatever reasons it gives in its own favour. The best thing is not to listen to its reasons” (1751/2)

  •  Don’t sympathise with people who are possessed by hostile forces

If we were to feel sympathy toward somebody possessed by hostile forces, it would make us vulnerable to attacks from these forces. Although we should behave appropriately towards people who are possessed, we should avoid feeling sympathy towards them. (1765/1)

  • Be patient when under attack

Sometimes we might feel impatient to be free from attacks from hostile forces, since these attacks might seem to slow down our spiritual progress. However, this impatience actually gives power to the hostile forces. Instead, we should remember that it is not necessarily bad that our sadhana might appear to be dull or slow moving, as progress might always be just around the corner.(1761/3) Instead we should continue our sadhana and remain quiet till the empty or dull period is over.(1764/4)

What can we do when the hostile forces attack an entire community?

In his Letters, Aurobindo talks of times when the hostile forces attacked his ashram as a whole. He explains that, just as individuals can repel the hostile forces by turning completely to the Divine, so too can the hostile forces be pushed away from the atmosphere of an ashram when there is a general turning to the Divine among the ashram community. (1745/2)

How should we deal with hostile forces in the world?

Many worldly people are constantly attacked, influenced or even possessed by hostile forces without being aware of it.(1736/4) However, through yoga we can become immune to hostile forces in our own inner worlds whilst moving in the outer world. Irrespective of our individual efforts, hostile forces will continue to exist in the outer world, because our collective level of consciousness is relatively low.(1735/4) They will continue to operate until a future stage of the evolution of consciousness. (1739/4)

CONCLUSION

To summarise, hostile forces are otherworldly entities that mount attacks against people with the purpose of quashing spiritual growth. A yogi can recognise that an attack might be taking place when they experience a desire to leave the ashram or their spiritual path, or when they notice doubts about previous experiences of higher consciousness. Yogis should deal with these attacks by rejecting them altogether, and turning their minds wholly towards the Divine. 

Great Excerpts

“It is a fact always known to all yogis and occultists since the beginning of time, in Europe and Africa as in India, that wherever yoga is done, there the hostile forces gather together to stop it.” (1731/1)

“Normal human defects are one thing – they are the working of the lower nature of the Ignorance. The action of the hostile forces is a special intervention creating violent inner conflicts, abnormal depressions, thoughts and impulses of a kind which can be easily recognised as suggestions e.g. leaving the Ashram, abandoning the yoga, revolt against the Divine, suggestions of calamity and catastrophe apparently irresistible, irrational impulses and so on. It is a different order from the usual human weaknesses.” (1731/2)

“This state which tries to come upon you and seize is not part of your true self, but a foreign influence. To yield to it and to express it would therefore be not sincerity, but the expression of something false to your true being, something that will grow more and more foreign to you as you progress. Always reject it, when it comes, even if you feel strongly its touch; open in your mind and soul to the Mother, keep your will and faith and you will find it receding. Even if it returns obstinately, be equally and more obstinate against it, firm in rejection – that will discourage and wear it out and finally it will grow weak, a shadow of itself and disappear. Be true to your true self always – that is the real sincerity. Persist and conquer.” (1749/6-1750/1-2)

“I do not see what reasons can be so subtle as to justify or even appear to justify something that opposes and tries to destroy the sadhana. Whatever stands in the way of spiritual progress, must be a falsehood whatever reasons it gives in its own favour. The best thing is not to listen to its reasons.” (1751/2)

“Attacks are always going about and it is a period when they have fallen on many. But with a strong faith founded in the Mother and a whole-hearted aspiration, no attack can leave any lasting result.” (1749/4)

Self-inquiry: the Personal and the Impersonal

Self-inquiry: the Personal and the Impersonal

What follows is an excerpt from Part I: Personal Inquiry in Swami Shankarananda’s book “Self-inquiry: Using your awareness to unblock your life. His method of Self-inquiry bridges the gap between the inner and outer worlds. Swamiji teaches that when our lives are blocked or confusing we can investigate, recognise and uplift the tension and stress that shows up in four chakras. If practiced with the intention to become free of negative emotion, there will be a return to peace and harmony. 

All paths end in inquiry. Why not pursue inquiry from the beginning?
Sri Ramana Maharshi

Real inquiry marries the head and heart. Thought, which has been wandering in its own bloodless world, feeding on itself, is connected to feeling. And like two wires touched together, a spark of energy occurs. Inquiry is also the conjunction of the personal and impersonal. The ancient yogic paths emphasised the impersonal. They insisted that this world does not exist and you are not a separate person.

IMG_1965
Swamiji speaking at a program.

In Indian culture, you are expected to fit into your particular role in life, your caste, your stage of life. You are to do your duty and any deviation is tantamount to insanity. The single social option to the non-conformist is the possibility of renouncing the world and heading off to the Himalayas to be a wandering monk.

In the West, on the contrary, we hear everywhere the cry, ‘What about me?’ We are obsessed with our individuality and our individual expression. The West is totally focused on the person. In India, the yoga is impersonal, connected to the highest truth, caring little for the person. One must maintain an appropriate silence about personal problems and simply do sadhana and one’s duty.

Yoga says that within each person, in the subtle body, are seven yogic centres, seven chakras, which have to do with different aspects of life. The three lower chakras govern the physical life; the heart chakra is the locus of emotional life; the fifth chakra, in the throat,has to do with communication; the third eye, the sixth chakra, is the place of intellect and higher wisdom. Here we have insights and visions but we are still within the personal realm. When you go beyond the sixth chakra to the seventh, at the crown of the head, you contact a different aspect of yourself. It is transpersonal; the dimension of the impersonal Self.

Western psychology was traditionally unaware of this dimension. In the past 30 years, however, a ‘transpersonal psychology’ has developed, acknowledging that divine, impersonal aspect. Jung knew of it but Freud did not. It exists within all of us, represented by the seventh chakra. What should we make of this knowledge of a higher reality? The first impulse is to try to override the person with the impersonal. A noble goal, but significantly difficult to attain. I tried to achieve it: I threw myself on the altar of impersonality again and again. Each time, the person returned. That the higher power does exist is beyond doubt, but the mystical play between the personal and impersonal has to be discovered.

My Guru seemed to me to be a man who was in cosmic awareness. He was always connected to the Self, and never unconnected. Yet, he was also very much a person. He wasn’t like some of the mind-borne ‘holy men’: ‘Hello my son, at last you have come . . .’ He wasn’t like that at all. He was completely vibrant and immediate and totally himself—to an alarming degree, in fact. He was a unique combination of the personal and the impersonal. He was a force of nature, all right. Like a stone rolling down a hill, and loving it.

Self-inquiry connects the personal with the impersonal. It respects the person. It doesn’t try to kill the person, but it also acknowledges the transpersonal. It seeks connectedness so that the person flowers within the impersonal and discovers the impersonal within. A life without the impersonal is dry and empty. You want the universe to flow towards your personal advantage, but, alas, the universe is indifferent. What chance does the poor little person have? The whole universe is arranged to frustrate or be indifferent to your desires. There is no joy in being merely a person.

You are so blinded by what is personal,
that you do not see the 
universal.
The blindness will not end by itself—
it must be 
undone skillfully and deliberately.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Sometimes we feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. It might be a political movement, or even a crowd cheering for a team at a football game. It is a rewarding and liberating feeling. Our individuality dissolves in the group, and, at the same time, participates actively. But when the event is over or we leave the group for some reason, we feel a kind of loss—we’ve returned to the merely personal. Such an experience is only temporary, but it is a taste of something real and intrinsic to our true Self. We are actually part of something greater, and when we live in harmony with it, our stress and fear fade away.

Through the process of inquiry, we recognise the dynamism running through us. We become liberated from doubt and concern when we no longer try to hold the universe at bay, but surrender to it, and welcome it. Our actions become effective and powerful, because they are aligned with this great impersonal process. And we have the delightful experience of playing our part in a larger drama.

Self-inquiry seeks to unblock all areas of life: health, career, relationship and spirituality.

Some more thoughts on Self-inquiry:

  • Blocks are tensions in our inner world.
  • Desire and fear create blocks.
  • There is one subject and many objects.
  • First force initiates, second force resists, third force enables.
  • Second force as blocked inner feeling is the main focus of inquiry.
  • Right method increases third force.
  • Self-inquiry harmonises our thinking, feeling and doing.
  • Wisdom power is where thought and feeling merge.
  • Everything undergoes five processes: creation, sustainment, dissolution, concealment and grace.
  • Concealment is the universal principle of separation.
  • Grace is the universal principle of oneness.
  • Our encounters in life are marked by emotion.
  • Our negative reactions are stored inside and may reappear later.
  • A yogi burns negative reactions to sameness with Consciousness.
  • Truth has a feeling of harmony and peace.
  • Self-inquiry is the main instrument in the wisdom path, yet it includes devotion.
  • Shiva Process Self-inquiry focuses on the higher Self.
  • Emotions are starting points for inquiry.