Ganeshpuri 2019

Ganeshpuri 2019

To perform arati to the Guru is to perform the noblest sacrifice, the highest worship and the deepest meditation. To perform arati to the Guru is to also perform honour and worship to your own Self.

No matter what language we sing in, the prayer says, ‘O Lord, kindle my flame from your shining flame. If my lamp is not kindled within me, I will remain plunged in inner darkness. Only when you have kindled my lamp will this darkness go. O Lord, kindle my lamp.’

Baba Muktananda


I was excited for weeks before this trip to Ganeshpuri. I had a sense this Retreat would be special. And, indeed it was. As we head off from the airport we fight our way through traffic.

Mumbai is expanding out towards this tiny village. Soon it seems, Ganeshpuri may become another suburb as this sprawling city swallows the surrounding countryside.

Hardly any plastic bags!!

The Prime Minister, Modi, has banned plastic bags from use in most shops. Hence, the smog and smoke is significantly less. I can breathe easier and am gratified by Modi’s intention to reduce pollution in India. It can’t be easy.

One of my first jobs as a young woman was to help establish one of the first Recycling Centres in Vancouver. But my life was soon taken over by the Guru and saving the planet took a back seat. Let’s hope it is not too late. Guruji always tells me, ‘have faith. Consciousness will find a solution for the ailing planet.’

As we entered the village there was a palpable magic in the air. The villagers: the temple priests, the shopkeepers, the Ammas, and the puppy dogs, all showered their devotion and love on Guruji and everyone with him. Whatever blocks might have appeared, did not.

The village has become Baba’s Ashram. The same Shakti that flowed into me on my first trip in 1978 now flows here. There is no outer world. There is only my inner world, brimming, overflowing with Guru’s grace. Baba Muktananda and Bhagavan Nityananda are present in every shop, on every street corner, in every Chai stall, in every breath and meditation.

The days were filled with activities: pujas, walks to the Ganesh Temple and various samadhi shrines, Satsang, darshan, Guru Gita, meditation, Shiva Process, and chilling out.

Near the end of the Retreat, Gulzar Naza and his Sufi Qawwali group rocked out with their beautiful chants and there were also special dosa cooks from Mumbai whose magic smells filled the air.

One afternoon Prasad, the temple priest, came for Guruji’s darshan. He asked Guruji, ‘Do you love Bhagavan?’ Guruji replied, ‘love is not quite the word. Do you love the air you breathe? Without it you can’t live. That is how I feel about Bhagavan.’

And, the Guru was the ‘air I breathe’.

I was in ecstasy the whole time and finding words to describe that joy is almost impossible. Without inner angst, finding something to say except, ‘I was happy,’ is perhaps less interesting than overcoming difficulty. But truthfully, there was no suffering. And, strangely enough, since September of last year, suffering has become a distant memory. I am the happiest that I have ever been. I have been fortunate to have had much bliss in my life. But this new happiness is steady, an undercurrent of joy that is constant. I attribute this to the tapasya of a lifetime. Of course, it is probable that difficulty will return at some point. But, for now I am basking in this boon from the Guru.

Doing the Guru’s work is a great joy and a path to stay connected to the Shakti. At some point in sadhana we may feel a pull to commit to share what we have learned with others. There can be a moment when we are called to give ourselves more fully to the teachings, the Guru and the Lineage. Guruji initiated three sanyasis—Atmaram and Kashi from Ann Arbor, who are now Swami Atmananda and Swami Lalitananda. Also, Ram Das became Swami Govindananda. 

He also gave ‘Lineage Initation’ to Kumari who is now Yogini Rabia; Saraswati who is now Yogini Saraswati and Oya (from Byron Bay) who is now Oya Chaitanya. And also, Jimmy Nataraj from Chicago USA, who is now Nataraj Chaitanya.

Swamis Premananda (waving the tray), Shivananda, Durgananda, Bhaktananda,
Yogini Rabia, Turiyananda, Atmananda, Guruji, Nataraj Chaitanya,
Gargiji, Yogini Saraswati, Oya Chaitanya, Swami Lalitananda, Devi Ma, Vani Ma, Govindananda, Yogi Shree, Paramananda, and Lilavati

‘The initiation is about moving from consumer to custodian,’ said Guruji. He meant that when we take this initiation into the lineage, our attention moves from self-concern to serving others. It means that we are always available to do the Guru’s work of sharing the teaching and serving others.

We had many first timers on this trip and watching them embrace the Shakti and feel Bhagavan’s grace was exhilarating. At the end of the trip we had a sharing session:

Oya Chaitanya: had many profound experiences, but emphasised that ‘he did not have to try to meditate, meditation was effortless.’

Ben (Bholenath): I never ever thought that inner peace was possible for me.

Karuna: It’s close to midnight in Maharashtra. I’m sitting on the floor in our little shared room, wrapped in my new Kashmiri blanket, with Guru Turtle sitting in my lap and Bhagawan Nityananda watching over me from the photo.. What a magical, magical night. I feel so alive and full of love, my heart simply cannot contain it. Krishna Das is singing Hara Mahadev, my hands are covered in intricate mehndi designs, and Oh my dear God, I really am in India.

Tonight is the last night, and it seems simply impossible to spend it sleeping, but abishek starts at 4:30 in the morning, so it’s time to curl up in bed. I will be dreaming about India, her magic, her Gurus, her Great Beings who, out of infinite compassion, created paths for us to reach our true inner Self, the radiant, boundless core of our being that is pure Love, pure light, and nothing but God.

It is there, I have seen it. I am taking away in my heart the beautiful people who have shared these two weeks with me, laughed with me, cried with me, inspired me, and reminded me what it means – and how it feels – to be truly and completely alive. I will be coming back to Mother India, because how could I not come back? This moment always existed, I was always coming to this place to find my path again and to remember who I am.

Thank you Bhagawan, thank you Guruji, thank you Devi Ma. Thank you all. Thank you, Leo!

Our next trip to Ganeshpuri will be in 2021. Guruji and many of his guru brothers and sisters will be celebrating their Golden Jubilee: 50 years with Baba Muktananda. That will be one magnificent trip.

Start saving your rupees and join us.

Books By Swamiji

Happy For No Good Reason

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A best selling guide to meditation, this book explores the practice and philosophy of meditation including traditional techniques of mantra (the repetition of the phrase) and witness-consciousness (watching the thoughts). You will see how to apply these teachings in every day situations, by developing a moment to moment awareness of the love, joy and peace that unfolds from the center of your being.

The book comes with a CD that, after you read the first two chapters, will have you meditating for the first time within 30 minutes.

 

Buy online at Ashram Bookstore

Consciousness Is Everything

Conciousness-200x300Consciousness is the most intimate experience of life, the essence of life itself. Among the many spiritual traditions born and developed in India, one ancient philosophy–Kashmir Shaivism–has explored it completely. Until now, Kashmir Shaivism was an esoteric filed accessible only to a few scholars and other specialists.

Here, for the first time, Swami Shankarananda, a Self-realised spiritual master, presents the wisdom of this powerful tradition in a form that will delight and inspire all spiritual seekers. He explores the teachings in rich detail, elucidating ideas and meditative practices while drawing upon a vast canvas of many great beings, wisdom traditions and personal experience. This is a book that will transform you.

Consciousness Is Everything is a book that will transform you. It is a resource and guide towards investigating and deepening your experience of your own Consciousness.

Buy online at Ashram Bookstore

Self-inquiry: Using your Awareness to unblock your life.

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In this groundbreaking book, meditation master Swami Shankarananda adapts the ancient path of Self-inquiry to contemporary life.

The Shiva Process method of Self-inquiry engages your awareness to effectively remove blocks and enliven the Shakti in the areas of career, relationship, health and spirituality. Building on the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism and Sri Ramana Maharshi, Swamiji provides the tools to reveal  your true nature.

The accompanying CD guides you step by step though a series of inquiries to help you connect with your inner wisdom. You will be transformed and empowered in every aspect of your life.

Buy online at Ashram Bookstore

I Can’t Hear You I Have A Carrot In My Ear

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Swamiji responds to questions from seekers about life, spiritual practice and philosophy. It is a guidebook to the inner experience, offering insights and techniques to dissolve ignorance and live with energy and awareness.

Topics include: the Self and Consciousness, meditation, Self-inquiry, mantra, the Guru, Kundalini, Shakti, the mind, relationships, work and career, money, communicating with truth and compassion.

 

Buy online at Ashram Bookstore.

The Supreme Yoga: Yoga Vasishtha

 

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Translated by Swami Venkatesananda

Publisher: The Chiltern Yoga Trust (Australia) ISBN 0 9590690 0 3

The Yoga Vasishtha is one of the most noble spiritual works ever written. Translating such an epic work is not easy, but Swami Venkatesananda, a disciple of the late great Swami Shivananda, has done these teachings justice. He is lucid and devotional in his rendition.

The Gurus of this book use the stories of seekers’ lives as a teaching device. Stories cleverly avoid confronting disciples directly. They soften the teachings and the students’ responsibility is to intuit the message the guru is trying to convey. Each story unfolds as a drama of anger, fear, sorrow, vengeance and suffering but also the means to overcome them.

We begin with a question from one sage to another, ‘O Sage, kindly enlighten me on this problem of liberation—which one of the two is conducive to liberation, work or knowledge?’

The sage Agastya replies, ‘Verily birds are able to fly with their two wings: even so both work and knowledge together lead to the supreme goal of liberation.’

Agastya reminds the questioner of an incident where a King refused an invitation to enter heaven. Perplexed by his refusal Indra, the Lord of heaven, sent him to Valmiki, the narrator of most of this wonderful book, for advice.

Thus the story within a story continues when Valmiki, a great renunciant and guru, tells how the sage Vasishtha helped Lord Ram overcome the despair and sorrow inherent in life, to attain liberation.

These are some of the most beautiful yogic teachings available. They communicate the intelligence, energy and love of the Self and inspire meditation.

 

Seeking and Finding

I was not looking to worship another;

I was seeking an end to self-hatred.

I was not seeking a marriage;

I was seeking a higher purpose.

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On the Ganges in Kankhal 2007.

I was not seeking pleasure;

I was yearning for lasting happiness.

I did not want to be wilful;

I was looking for the one who could hold my heart.

I was not afraid of life;

I was seeking refuge.

I did not want to leave the world;

I was searching for my place in it.

I was not seeking a religion;

I was yearning for God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfold The Inner Shakti

ZenGarden
Zen Garden in the front of the Ashram.

This morning in the shower I picked up a little wood bug that was struggling on its back to roll over. Many small creatures find their way into my bathroom and I try to save them. I don’t like to see them or anything suffer. When given a choice to kill defenceless creatures or save them, I will try to save them even if some are resistant.

I fed the dogs, sat down and looked out over my courtyard. As I glanced around I realised there are many thriving plants I had saved from death’s door. ‘What is this’, I asked myself. Do I have some kind of saviour complex? If I do it is not like Mother Teresa. I would never go to Calcutta and pick up lepers off the street. I might imagine doing it. That is not my purpose or way of serving but I am grateful to those who do it.

I love to watch people, animals, flowers grow and flourish. To grow inwardly and outwardly is to expand the Shakti. I hate to see things wither and dry up. The garden in the Ashram was a wasteland when we bought it. I have taken great pleasure, along with a whole team of people, turning it into a place of beauty and peace.

This morning a plumber came to quote on a job. ‘What is this place?’ he asked Bhaktananda. ‘It is so beautiful.’

Much more than destroying things, I love to build things and watch them being built. There was a time when the opposite was true. I was filled with self-hatred, doubt and fear, but the Guru changed my vision of myself and the world. Free of self-concern by Guru’s grace, it is possible to make a contribution that feeds my soul.

Over the years many young people have come through the Ashram doors, confused, agitated, broken-hearted, drug or alcohol addicted, lost and without purpose. After some years most have transformed and found their purpose, their life partner, and their career. To provide an atmosphere where seekers can awaken to Guru’s grace and unfold their destiny is the most sublime work.

When students move out of the Ashram to begin their householder lives, Guruji calls it ‘Graduation’ and gives diplomas based on the number of years they have spent in the ‘Ashram Residential Course’. When once the world reflected their negative mind states, now it reflects their growth and essence.

In the beginning of Guruji’s book ‘Consciousness Is Everything’ he quotes from the sage Keshemaraja on how to dispel suffering:

He is a bound soul who has poverty of Shakti. With the unfoldment of his Shakti, however, he becomes Shiva himself.

To unfold the inner Shakti and become Shiva means freedom from pain.

Shaivism says that Shakti unfolds with the grace of a Shaktipat Guru. And so many ashramites have moved from darkness to light, from ignorance to understanding during their sadhana with Guruji. Confusion has become clarity, addiction a passion for God, heartache love of Self, and aimless wandering a sense of purpose.

With the Shakti we will never feel impoverished, never feel a lack, never feel alone, never feel lost, never feel confused and never feel separate.

The other night in study group Guruji said, ‘It is rare to meet a Sadguru. Once you have met the Guru you can find a million reasons to leave him. But, there is only one reason to stay…and that is to know the Self.’

The connection with the Guru’s Shakti nourishes our whole being and unites us with his state of Consciousness. It is a direct line to Shiva, who breathes life into us and sustains grace.

When that connection wobbles we suffer from ‘poverty of Shakti’. The highest priority, whether you are an ashramite or a householder, is to maintain the flow of energy. When we hold to that we discover a love that weathers all storms.

Take Refuge In A Siddha

Ganeshpuri February 2017

Our Ganeshpuri Retreat is in full swing. This tiny village is a source, a wellspring of Shakti, a doorway to higher Consciousness.

A few days ago we had a Guru puja, the beginning of a process of initiation into the siddha lineage for seven worthy seekers who are devoted to the teachings, sadhana and the Guru’s work. All of the initiates have said they feel a calling to serve the Guru.

Ganapati Levine and Renuka, took sannyas; Vani and Janaka Stanford took a Shiva/Shakti initiation. Gargi and Ramana took a Lineage initiation. LeRoi Zavier, from California (in absentia) was also included. As part of the ceremony they received new names. Ganapati is Swami Ganeshananda, Renuka is Swami Paramananda, Vani is Yogini Sri Vani Ma, Janaka is now Yogi Sri Janaka, Gargi is Sri Gargi Saraswati and Ramana is Sri Ramana Saraswati. LaRoi is now Swami Sahajananda.

Guruji said that the greatest initiation is Shaktipat from a siddha guru. ‘No one should feel jealous of the initiates. Their initiation belongs to all of us. We share in their process. We are fortunate to be a part of this great path, the great power of the Kundalini Shakti and to be connected to Bhagawan Nityananda and Baba Muktananda. If you are jealous maybe it means you need to take a step like this.’

In the morning Santosh, the Brahmin priest from Vajreshwari led us through the puja with his usual skill saying that it is a great honor to be connected to the lineage and serve the Guru. To do Baba’s work is a calling from the siddhas. Guruji later said that God looks for hearts that are open so they can do His work.

That afternoon Guruji spoke about sadhana and pledging ourselves to the path. He said that when he took sannyas he was overwhelmed by love and gratitude that he was taken into something greater than his individuality, that he was absorbed in the great ocean of divinity.

Quoting from a talk Baba gave in 1981 before returning to India Guruji said that Baba encouraged everyone to ‘remember the Self, remember the mantra, take refuge in the Guru and the Satsang’:

As long as you don’t have the knowledge of the Self this appears as a mere world. But once you have knowledge of the Self, this is no longer a mere world; it is the play of Consciousness. This is the path of equality. Understand that whenever you oppose somebody you are actually opposing yourself. Everyone is the child of the Lord.

When everything is Consciousness, how can you say, “this is high, and that is low? How can you say, this is good and that is bad? What person can you reject saying he is bad? What person can you accept saying he is good? When everything is one, everything is your own Self.

This world originated from siddhas. Whoever follows the siddha path can become a siddha. If you have the awareness of oneness, seeing God in each other, you won’t have emotions like hatred, anger, enmity, jealousy or envy. Hold the awareness siddha sharanam gachchhaami—I take refuge in a siddha. Only when you take complete refuge in your Guru can you draw the Shakti, the power of the lineage of siddhas.’

In the early morning Guruji completed the sannyas and initiation ceremony. The swamis went symbolically to the river and renounced the three worlds, the attachments that bind them to the material plane. They then walked north towards the Himalayas. Guruji called them back and asked them to serve humanity. They agreed.

All the initiates gathered on the verandah and we watched as Guruji covered his head and theirs with a silk shawl Baba had used in a sannyas ceremony in Gurudev Siddha Peeth which he later gave to Guruji. Guruji whispered a mantra and a new name to each initiate.

There was a feeling of stillness in the atmosphere, a sudden quiet as though Ganeshpuri itself was honoring this moment.