Consciousness Is Everything:
The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism
ISBN 0 9750995
By focusing on the revelation of supreme Consciousness
He unveils the inner Self. Thus great Shiva unfolds
His prodigious game of bondage and liberation.
Abhinavagupta, Paramarthasara, Verse 33
‘Swami Shankarananda has succeeded in making Kashmir’s Shaiva Yoga come alive in these pages, and I consider this work the best introduction to that tradition thus far.’ Georg Feuerstein
Two main spiritual philosophies flow from Hinduism. One is grounded in the Vedas and the other in the Tantras. The Vedic school was and perhaps still is, patriarchal, elitist and available only to educated Brahmin boys and men, while Tantra is a path for householders, which includes women and people of all castes. The Vedas encourage renunciation and retreat from the world, while Tantra engages with the world and uses daily life as food for spiritual transformation.
The heart of the Tantras is expressed in Kashmir Shaivism, a philosophy brought to the West by two gurus, Swami Muktananda of Ganeshpuri, India, and Lakshman Joo of Kashmir.
Vedanta and Shaivism clash in their basic premise. Vedanta considers the world to be maya, delusion and only ‘Brahman [the Absolute] is real’ while Shaivism contends that, ´Everything is Consciousness’. These two radically opposing points of view resolve only when a seeker attains knowledge of the Self.
There are few Shaivite texts that, unless you are a scholar, offer Westerners a way into its esoteric and mysterious teachings. However, Swami Shankarananda has managed to write a lucid and approachable book that outlines the beauty and power of this dynamic teaching. He uses anecdotes from his own meditation, his profound wisdom and wealth of teaching experience to explain the enigmatic aphorisms. The contemplations Swamiji has outlined in this book guide the meditator to a practical understanding of Shaivism. He writes:
Kashmir Shaivism is a philosophy of salvation—not just an intellectual system. It provides methods, a system practice, designed to attain moksha, liberation from the material world and Self-realisation. And so, it discusses sadhana: meditation techniques and understandings that are useful today.
Kashmir Shaivism is full of the light and wonder of spirituality. It is compassionate, intelligent, wise and powerful. These teachings spontaneously uplift and transform the mind, guiding it toward one of the highest possible understandings of life and the inner Self.
Lady of the Lotus
William E. Barrett
ISBN: O 87477 506 X
‘Lady of the Lotus’ is a tender and compelling read. Based in historical research with a fictional twist by the author’s imagination, it tells a tale of love, tragedy, seeking, finding, and finally liberation.
William Barrett is the besting novelist and author of The Lilies of the Field and The Left Hand of God. In this historical romantic drama which is subtitled, The Untold Love Story of the Buddha and His Wife he brings to light, in intimate detail, the spiritual journey of Yasodhara, the wife of Siddhartha, who becomes the Buddha. Barrett’s narrative elegantly and tenderly moves through the unfolding of her engagement and marriage and her inner process as she loses her husband to his search for enlightenment.
There are hundreds and hundreds of books on and about the Buddha. There are even hundreds written about his son. This book is perhaps the only attempt at discovering who Yasodhara was and her relationship to the Buddha’s unfolding quest. Barrett’s imagination and research not only gives body to her life but also creates a very human Siddhartha, who we know became one of the greatest Gurus and holy men the world has known. In his introduction Barrett comments:
The story of Siddhartha, ultimately the Buddha, and Yasodhara, Princess of Koli, is one of the great romances of world history, a love story unlike any other. In doing the research, I have built a personal library of Buddhism-Hinduism-India-Nepal that total 430 volumes. I have talked to many Buddhist scholars, Buddhist monks, missionaries of other faiths in Buddhist countries. I have walked where Siddharta and Yasodhara walked, in Nepal and In India. I have followed the trails that led outward from the beginnings to Burma, Thailand, Japan, Malaya, Hong Kong. It is, in the telling, a story that I know well in lands that I know. I have had to build many intuitive bridges but I believe that the bridges are sound, that this is the story as it was.
This is a book of faith and transformation, not just for the Buddha, but for his whole family and for those who in the beginning loved him personally and along the way learned to love him for his spiritual genius as well.
‘One should perceive the inner Self through the gift of the Guru’s grace. By this path of the Guru, knowledge of one’s Self arises.’ (Guru Gita verse 110)
Love, love and more love are the words to describe Ganeshpuri. The villagers, the children, the temple priests and the animals exude love. ‘Jai Nityananda’ can be heard all day long from devotees celebrating their love of the Guru.
We are nine days into our retreat. In the mornings we have been meditating in Kailas Nivas, Bhagawan’s ashram. It is where he lived until shortly before he took mahasamadhi, his death. My meditations in Kailas have been fruitful, peaceful, grounded in the Self.
This morning the voice of the Self spoke to me in meditation, ‘there is no there’ it said. I felt a powerful unity consciousness. My two worlds, the places where my heart sings—the ashram in Mount Eliza and the ashram of the village of Ganeshpuri had become one. There was no difference. There was no tomorrow, no present and no yesterday; there was only the ‘sky of Consciousness’. Devotion for the Guru, the feeling of intimacy with that which I hold most dear was bubbling in my heart.
The Guru/disciple relationship is everywhere in Ganeshpuri. There are at least eight Samadhi temples where disciples still tend their Gurus’ homes even though many of them died decades ago. The relationship to the Guru is not a temporary one it is eternal. It is no ordinary relationship. Once made it cannot be broken for long.
Once in Ann Arbor in the early days of my relationship with Guruji I was upset with him. I was burning in my anger. I felt compelled to confront him. I do not remember what it was about but it had something to do with wanting something that he wasn’t giving me. I ran to his room and knocked boldly. He opened the door, took one look at me and slammed it in my face.
The rage boiled up in me. But then as I stood there staring at the closed door something shifted. I realized that I was behaving like I behaved in every personal relationship. I knew that I did not need another personal relationship. I was confused by them and tired of them. I needed a Guru. I laughed and walked away.
It hasn’t always been like this. In the past I have sometimes let my ego get in the way of devotion. If you let it, the Guru’s tests can burn the heart, dry up devotion, and erase the memory of bliss. These tests are a tapasya, a fire that can burn the ego to ashes. The Guru will, in the course of sadhana challenge expectations, imaginary wishes, dreams or hopes that arise from the ego. The Guru burns up weakness, tendencies that lead to delusion and suffering.
Over the years from time to time I have fallen into withdrawal and separation from the Guru and the Self out of jealousy, fear, anger and grief. The worst moments have been when my mind plummets into the darkness of these emotions. In those times wisdom and love vanish, and good will disappears. I am left with negative thoughts and a contraction in the heart. Devotion is gone.
In Satsang With Baba he speaks about what happens when the disciple temporarily loses touch with Guru’s grace:
You can achieve perfection in Siddha Yoga only through the grace of a siddha, a realized master. The yoga that you receive through the grace of the guru will also be consummated by his grace, and there is no doubt about it. Generally it is seen that once you receive the grace of the Guru you don’t lose it easily.
The Guru is not like an ordinary businessman who would refuse to serve you a cup of tea if you don’t pay the price. Even if the disciple would behave foolishly and turn away from the Guru, a siddha Guru would not become angry with him for quite some time. If a disciple has received the Guru’s grace, why should he be so stupid as to lose it? Why should he begin to live such an impure life that he would lose the grace in the course of time? Why should he be so ungrateful?
Baba’s words speak directly to the dilemma a disciple faces. I have learned that there is no event or circumstance worth giving up oneness with the Self, or the flow of Guru’s grace. I cannot stand the feeling of separation even for a second. To deprive myself of the relationship to the Guru, to the Shakti, to the Self, is a living hell.
I have learned that it is always possible to return to Guru’s grace. When I look honestly at myself, when I see how anger hurts me then there is an opening to see what I have lost. Taking responsibility is the key, not blaming others. It takes humility and an admission of wrong understanding. Wrong understanding leads to what Guruji calls ‘the lagoon of no Shakti.’ He also says, ‘there is no positive situation that a bad attitude cannot ruin. There is no negative situation that a good attitude cannot improve.’
Baba also wrote:
I accept the love of the entire world…I accept the love of everyone and I give my love to everyone without any distinction. I never ask anyone what he shall give me in return for my love.
Baba’s state of Consciousness is the goal of the guru/disciple relationship. And this is the state of Consciousness the Guru bestows on the disciple.