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A new sign has been put up on Abhyasa Ashram thanks to the loving efforts of
Shanti Sheena Cannon, who both designed the logo and acquired the sign. Photo is
on the home page of the ashram site:
Is yoga a religion? No. Is yoga merely a fitness program for the
material/physical body? No. Patanjali (codifier of yoga) describes yoga as
regulation of mind so that you can experience your underlying true nature. Do
any of you feel the cultural/social squeeze of yoga being in a third, middle
ground, that is at neither the pole of absolute theism or absolute materialism?
505 Hooper Drive NW
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
This is very important information for yoga practitioners and teachers.
Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
Yoga is so prevalent in the modern world--practiced by pop stars, taught in
schools, and offered in yoga centers, health clubs, and even shopping
malls--that we take its presence, and its meaning, for granted. But how did the
current yoga boom happen? And is it really rooted in ancient Indian practices,
as many of its adherents claim?
In this groundbreaking book, Mark Singleton calls into question many commonly
held beliefs about the nature and origins of postural yoga (?sana) and suggests
a radically new way of understanding the meaning of yoga as it is practiced by
millions of people across the world today. Singleton shows that, contrary to
popular belief, there is no evidence in the Indian tradition for the kind of
health and fitness-oriented ?sana practice that dominates the global yoga scene
of the twenty-first century. Singleton's surprising--and surely
controversial--thesis is that yoga as it is popularly practiced today owes a
greater debt to modern Indian nationalism and, even more surprisingly, to the
spiritual aspirations of European bodybuilding and early 20th-century women's
gymnastic movements of Europe and America, than it does to any ancient Indian
yoga tradition. This discovery enables Singleton to explain, as no one has done
before, how the most prevalent forms of postural yoga, like Ashtanga, Bikram and
"Hatha" yoga, came to be the hugely popular phenomena they are today.
Drawing on a wealth of rare documents from archives in India, the UK and the
USA, as well as interviews with the few remaining, now very elderly figures in
the 1930s Mysore ?sana revival, Yoga Body turns the conventional wisdom about
yoga on its head.
"Singleton's radical, meticulously documented, sensitive analysis makes
perfectly clear that what has come to be regarded as a veritable icon of Indic
Civilization -- postural yoga -- is, in fact, unambiguously the hybrid product
of colonial and post-colonial globalization." --Prof. Joseph S. Alter,
University of Pittsburgh. Author of Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between
Science and Philosophy
"Mark Singleton has written a sweeping and nuanced account of the origins and
development of modern postural yoga in early twentieth-century India and the
West, arguing convincingly that yoga as we know it today does not flow directly
from the Yoga Sutras or India's medieval ha?ha yoga traditions, but rather
emerged out of a confluence of practices, movements and ideologies, ranging from
contortionist acts in carnival sideshows, British Army calisthenics and women's
stretching exercises to social Darwinism, eugenics, and the Indian nationalist
movement. The richly illustrated story he tells is an especially welcome
contribution to the history of yoga, demonstrating the ways in which an ancient
tradition was reinvented against the backdrop of India's colonial experience."
--Prof. David Gordon White, University of California, Santa Barbara. Author of
The Alchemical Body, Siddha Traditions in Medieval India
"Yoga Body by Mark Singleton is a scholarly exploration of how modern yoga, as
currently practiced in countless studios, gyms, and schools across the country,
evolved [...] In essence, this very popular form of yoga was greatly influenced
by modern physical practices, not just traditional spiritual or mystical ones.
Singleton makes a cogent argument backed up by references from many studies and
sources [...] a work of merit that sheds a great deal of light on the
development of modern yoga [...] an important contribution to our understanding
of yoga." --San Francisco Book Review
"Mark Singleton [...] asks a big question: Where did modern yoga come from? His
reply will no doubt disturb a lot of folks [...] as Singleton clearly and
convincingly demonstrates, the physical practice of today is less than 100 years
old, and it has very little to do with either Patanjali's or Krishna's teaching.
Instead, it's the product of such disparate elements as British colonialist
policies in India, 19th century physical health movements in Europe and India,
the invention of the camera, and the reformist programs of Indian yoga teachers
like Shri Yogendra and T. Krishnamacharya. This book, an invaluable source on
modern yoga, should be on the reading list of every serious student and teacher
training program." --Richard Rosen in Yoga Journal."
Practice Means to Awaken the Conscience
You will have to practice for a long time. "Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tan nirodhah."
Practice means repetition of the same thing again and again and again to form a
strong habit. Habits are motivation in life. If you do not have determination to
attain that which should be attained, if you are not constantly aware of the
Reality, how can you practice? You will feel lazy and you will not be able to
sit in meditation.
There is one alarm in your system, something coming from within that guides all
the time. There is one teacher within that you call your conscience. Whenever
you want to do something that should not be done, immediately from inside
something says, "Don't do that." It silently says "no." It is not a part of
mind. Rather it is your conscience that is telling your mind, whispering to your
mind. You have been avoiding that. Habit patterns are so strong that the voice
of silence, the voice of the conscience, is not heard. You do not need anyone
from outside to tell you what not to do. You know that you should not lie; yet
you lie. Once mind listens to these secret whispers, then you are introduced to
the real teacher within, your own conscience. All teachings are meant for that
day when you start listening to your conscience. It does not mean that you
should not listen to the external teacher who is teaching you. Your teacher is
trying to make you aware that there is something within you, a teacher within,
who is a great friend. No matter who you are, your conscience is always there.
If you learn to listen to the voice of the conscience, you can transform your
whole personality. That conscience knows everything. No book can teach you; no
teacher can teach you. Conscience knows and knows that it knows. Even when you
go to a teacher to ask something, you draw your own conclusions and follow your
But you do not always listen to the teachings of your conscience. In fact, you
are constantly killing your conscience. According to the great books of wisdom,
the greatest sin of all is to kill your conscience. After some time your
conscience stops talking to you because you do not listen to it. You have
ignored your conscience so much that it has become silent. It continues to
witness your actions but does not say anything. Learn to listen to your
conscience. Most of the time you are confused by your mind. Sometimes your mind
plays tricks on you and pretends to be your conscience. Mind says, "I can steal
some of his money. Nobody is watching me. Why does he need to have millions of
dollars? If I steal only one hundred thousand dollars, so what?"
Mind is different from conscience. Your conscience always wants to help you to
improve yourself and unfold your inner being. Mind always tries to persuade you
not to practice. You know that it is not good for you to avoid your practice,
and yet the mind says, "Come on. Postpone it until tomorrow." Postponement is
the nature of the mind. Some students do their practice for some time and then
they leave it. After some time, they start doing it again. Then they say, "Okay.
Let us vacation for some time, honey. Let us not do any practice." Again they
start practicing. I call those who postpone enlightenment indefinitely
Mind always leads you toward your habits, your senses, and sense objects.
Perhaps you like to eat fish, but the doctor has said not to take it. The
doctor's advice has been heard by your conscience. Your mind does not want to
hear it and does not care for doctors. "There are many doctors. Why should I
listen to them? Let me have some fish today. Nothing is going to happen to me."
Your conscience speaks to you all the time. Conscience is like a mirror that
shows you your face exactly as it is. When you look at yourself in the mirror,
the mirror does not create anything for you. It is like a thermometer that
registers heat and cold. It tells you who you are, what you are, and what you
should be. Whenever you want to do something, your conscience says, "Do not do
this. It is not good. But your mind says, No. Let me do it."
Conscience cannot be false. It never misguides from the very beginning. Even a
bad man who is considered to be the worst person in society is not misguided by
his conscience. But you fail to listen to your conscience, and ignore your
conscience because of bad habits. When your conscience becomes dim, your reason
does not function properly and it misguides you. When reason misguides, the mind
cannot function and becomes crazy. All your actions and speech are disoriented
and you cannot function properly. Perhaps you are doing something and suddenly a
distressing thought intrudes. You are temporarily distracted and then you come
back. Then, another thought comes and you go another way. You misuse the time
and opportunity you have of being a human being. You have all the potentials and
all the means but you misuse them. I always ask my students to listen to their
conscience when they feel weak in the beginning. The first few days they start
to condemn themselves. I say, "This is not the way. There is a wonderful part of
you; there is something beautiful in you; there is something very special in
you. Why do you not try to see that thing?" Practice means to awaken the
conscience, to allow the conscience to speak to you. When your conscience
awakens it says, "Look, do not repeat that again and again and again." By
repetition you have formed a strong habit. Your conscience and that habit fight
constantly. Your habit wins and conscience loses. After some time, conscience
stops talking to you. Conscience tells you things all the time and conscience
knows, but you do not know your conscience. The voice of your mind is very loud.
The voice of the conscience comes from silence. The first step of enlightenment
is to follow the conscience and not the mind. At the highest level of
consciousness, conscience becomes brilliant.
Anybody who has started listening to the conscience is very close to the
Reality. Your conscience is within you. It is not an external friend. All your
external friends amuse you. A friend within is real company. You say, "Two's
company and three's a crowd." When you and your conscience are there, there are
two and they are real company. When the mind, the third, comes, then it becomes
When you start practicing you will stumble many times. I have stumbled many
times, even despite having a great force behind me—my master, several other
sages, and the grace of God. I had a fire within so that no matter how many
times I stumbled I would get up again. I did not give up. You give up too soon.
You close your eyes and if you do not see anything in meditation, you say, "My
method is not good. My mantra is not good." You go on collecting mantras. You do
not do meditation but you have a long collection of mantras. You have wasted so
much money, and you have not done any real meditation. In abhyasa and
meditation, on this path of enlightenment, you have to be very patient and
strong and persistent. When a child stumbles, she gets up again because she
wants to walk. It is her right to walk. It is your right to walk on the path and
finally reach the goal. Do not postpone it for the next lifetime. Do it here and
now, in this lifetime. You do not attain anything overnight; you will stumble
many times like a child stumbles when she starts learning to walk. When you
practice you will experience, and when you experience you will find that
conscience is strengthened and guides you again and again.
Out of curiosity you always want to learn something new. When you learn
something that you did not know you say, "This is a wonderful thing that I have
learned." You do not want to practice what you already know. The truth is you
will not acquire any knowledge in your life that you have not already acquired
in your childhood. You already have the basic principles, the guidelines, and
the foundation of your knowledge, but you do not practice. To practice it is not
necessary to create a rigid discipline. You should just observe and understand
how to use the knowledge that you have.
Gradually you can practice. Technique alone does not help. The basic principles
needed are sincerity, faithfulness, truthfulness, and punctuality. Even if you
know the technique of throwing something at the target, if you do not practice,
it will hit somewhere else. Practice is necessary and practice makes perfect.
Slowly increase your limit. Do not force yourself to sit for two hours one day,
and then do no practice at all for a week. That should not be the way. It is
said that a first-class student can attain this state of mind in three months'
time, while conducting all his duties, a second-class student in six months, and
a third-class student in three years. A fourth-class student can never attain.
If you regularly practice and watch your practice and the condition of your
mind, you can do it. The question is how much importance you give to your
practice. How much anxiety do you have for your practice or for other things?
What is important in your life? Do you really want to transform your personality
and improve yourself, or do you only want to improve your conditions? If you do
not improve yourself, your conditions and your environment will never be
improved. It is better to improve yourself so that your conditions and
environment do not become malignant to you. To improve your conditions, first
learn to understand your essential nature by understanding the various levels of
your being and by developing control over mind and its modifications.
There are various paths to the same mountaintop, but there is only one
realization. There are various ways and methods to attain that. The path of
action or the path of the world is as perfect as the path of renunciation. In
the path of action you learn not to be attached and perform your duties. In the
path of renunciation you learn to renounce all that you think is yours and to
devote all your time and energy toward Self-realization with a one-pointed mind.
It is a very difficult path. It is rare to be a renunciate. Only a fortunate few
can truly walk on the razor's edge of the path of renunciation. It is a very
sharp and very narrow path. It is easier and more common to be in the world, to
live in the world, and yet remain above. There is no difference at all. Do not
condemn yourself because you are in the world, or think that you cannot do
anything. Learn to discipline yourself; learn to organize yourself; learn to
understand your resources; learn to know your inner potentials; and learn to
make a schedule for life. "This is my aim and I have to attain this. All my
resources should be applied for attaining the aim of life."
The way of adjustment leads you to contentment. The way of adjustment is the way
of the world—the way of action, the way of karma. You learn how to function in
the external world. You understand that you are a citizen of two worlds—the
world within yourself and the world outside, and you learn to create a bridge
between these two worlds. You have not to be lost in the world, yet you have to
unfold yourself to that extent where you can realize your real Self. You no
longer identify with the objects of the world or with your mind. You learn to
understand life as it is with all its currents and cross currents. You
understand how to live in the external world and how to compose yourself so that
you remain with your center all the time.
Most people follow the path of action. They live in the world, which is full of
charms, temptations, and attractions, and they are constantly blasted by the
opinions of others. Someone says you are good and someone else says you are bad.
There are two extremes. To constantly be tossed by the suggestions of the world
so that you spend all your time executing the opinions of others is dangerous.
Likewise, you can isolate yourself and say, "Now I don't want to listen to the
world because my whole life I have listened to the world. I am not going to
listen anymore." This might lead toward egocentricity or cripple your process of
growth. You have to evaluate the opinions of all if you live in the world. Are
you being selfish when you are not listening to others? Is the other person
selfish? If he is not selfish, listen to him. If someone is selfless and loves
you and says, "These days you seem to be isolating yourself," listen to that
person. If you say you don't want to listen to anybody, it is not possible. How
can you live in this world? You can do it not through the help of samnyasa, but
with the help of vairagya.
For many people, a meditation tradition is like a restaurant; they have a
"favorite" for a while, but from time to time drop this restaurant and replace
it with a new favorite restaurant. Actually, a meditation tradition is more like
a fine wine; it improves with age.
To the serious student, there is only one real book to study and learn from--the
greatest of all books--and that is the very manuscript that you, yourself, are.
This manuscript has been written by you; you are the author of your life. If you
want to learn, this is the book from which you must study!
The only real sin in life is to kill your own conscience. If you do not kill
your conscience then you'll never commit mistakes, because your conscience will
guide you wisely. But the more mistakes you commit, and the more you blame and
condemn yourself, the more you hurt your conscience. The conscience is the clear
mirror within you; it is not your mind, urges or your emotions. Don't allow your
conscience to be enveloped by the dust of ignorance, and don't shatter or damage
your conscience, but keep it clear by listening to it. The conscience is very
helpful in dealing with your mind and its problems.
The pinnacle of the wisdom and practices of the ancient sages of Yoga is
contained in the terse twelve verses of the Mandukya Upanishad, which outlines
the philosophy and practices of the OM mantra.
It has been said that the juice of the Vedas is in the Upanishads, and the juice
of the Upanishads is in the Mandukya Upanishad. OM Mantra is also suggested as a
direct route to samadhi in the Yoga Sutras. The teachings of the Mandukya
Upanishad are well worth deep study, discussion, reflection and contemplation.
By faithfully and intently engaging these twelve verses, all of the other
written and oral teachings can be explored as expansions of the foundation
principles and practices encapsulated in this succinct summary. It is not only a
most insightful writing, but also a complete outline for sadhana, enlightenment
practices. The OM Mantra is a roadmap of the entire process of sadhana and a
most practical tool for Self-Realization.
Verses of Mandukya Upanishad:
Verses 1-2 describe the Self and the Absolute.
Verses 3-7 explain the four levels of consciousness.
Verses 8-12 outline the four aspects of AUM.
The Self and the Absolute (1-2):
1) Hari Om. Om-ity-etad-aksharam-idam sarvam, tasyopavyakhyanam bhutam bhavad
bhavishyaditi sarvam-omkara eva. Yaccanyat trikalatitam tadapy omkara eva.
All is OM: Hari Om. The whole universe is the syllable Om. Following is the
exposition of Om. Everything that was, is, or will be is, in truth Om. All else
which transcends time, space, and causation is also Om.
2) Sarvam hyetad brahmayam-atma brahma soyamatma catushpat.
Atman has Four Aspects: All of this, everywhere, is in truth Brahman, the
Absolute Reality. This very Self itself, Atman, is also Brahman, the Absolute
Reality. This Atman or Self has four aspects through which it operates.
Four Levels of Consciousness (3-7):
3) Jagarita-sthano bahish-prajnahsaptanga ekonavimsatimukhah sthula-bhug
vaisvanarah prathamah padah.
First is Waking / Gross: The first aspect of Atman is the Self in the Waking
state, Vaishvanara. In this first state, consciousness is turned outward to the
external world. Through its seven instruments* and nineteen channels* it
experiences the gross objects of the phenomenal world.
4) Svapna-sthano'ntah-prajnah saptanga ekonavimsatimukhah praviviktabhuk taijaso
Second is Dreaming / Subtle: The second aspect of Atman is the Self in the
Dreaming state, Taijasa. In this second state, consciousness is turned towards
the inner world. It also operates through seven instruments and nineteen
channels, which engage the subtle objects of the mental realm.
5) Yatra supto na kancana kamam kamayate na kancana svapnam pasyati tat
sushuptam. Sushupta-asthāna ekibhutah prajnanaghana evanandamayo
hyanandabhuk chetomukhah prajnastrityah padah.
Third is Deep Sleep / Causal: The third aspect of Atman is the Self operating in
the Deep Sleep state, Prajna. In this third state, there is neither the desire
for any gross or subtle object, nor any dream sequences. In deep sleep, all such
experiences have receded or merged into the ground of undifferentiated
consciousness. Here, one is filled with the experience of bliss, and can also
find the way to clearer knowledge of the two preceding states.
6) Esha sarvesvara esha sarvajna esho'ntaryamy-esha yonih sarvasya
prabhavapyayau hi bhutanam.
Find the Experiencer: The one who experiences all of these states of
consciousness is the omniscient, indwelling source and director of all. This one
is the womb out of which all of the other emerges. All things originate from and
dissolve back into this source.
7) Nantah-prajnam na bahih-prajnam, nobhayatah-prajnam na prajnana-ghanam na
prajnam naprajnam. Adrishtam-avyavaharayam-agrahyam-
alakshanam-acintyam-avyapadesyam-ekatma-pratyayasaram, prapancopasarnam santam
sivam-advaitam caturtham manyante sa tm sa vijneyah.
The Fourth Aspect is Turiya: The fourth aspect of Atman or Self is Turiya,
literally the fourth. In this fourth state, consciousness is neither turned
outward nor inward. Nor is it both outward and inward; it is beyond both
cognition and the absence of cognition. This fourth state of Turiya cannot be
experienced through the senses or known by comparison, deductive reasoning or
inference; it is indescribable, incomprehensible, and unthinkable with the mind.
This is Pure Consciousness itself. This is the real Self. It is within the
cessation of all phenomena. It is serene, tranquil, filled with bliss, and is
one without second. This is the real or true Self that is to be realized.
Four Aspects of AUM (8-12):
8) So'yam-atma adhyaksharam-omkaro dhimatram pada matra matrasca pada akara
ukaro makara iti.
Those Four are the Same with "A-U-M" and Silence: That Om, though described as
having four states, is indivisible; it is pure Consciousness itself. That
Consciousness is Om. The three sounds A-U-M (ah, ou, mm) and the three letters
A, U, M are identical with the three states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping,
and these three states are identical with the three sounds and letters. The
fourth state, Turiya is to be realized only in the silence behind or beyond the
9) Jagarita-sthano vaisvanaro'karah prathama matra. apteradimatvad-vapnoti ha
vai sarvan kamanadisca bhavati ya evam veda.
The Sound "A" is Waking / Gross: Vaishvanara is the consciousness experienced
during the waking state, and is A, the first letter of Om. That simple sound of
A is first and permeates all other sounds. One who is aware of this first level
of reality has fulfillment of all longings and is successful.
10) Svapna-stahnas taijasa ukaro dvitiya matrotkarshadu-ubhayatvad- votkarsati
ha vai jnana-santatim samanasca bhavati nasyabrahmavit kule bhavati ya evam
The Sound "U" is Dreaming / Subtle: Taijasa is the consciousness experienced
during the dreaming state, and is U, the second letter of Om. This intermediate
state operates between the waking and sleeping states, reflecting some qualities
of the other two. One who knows this subtler state is superior to others. For
one who knows this, knowers of Brahman, the Absolute Reality, will be born into
11) Sushupta-sthnah prajno makras tritiya mtr miterapiter va minoti ha va idam
sarvam-apitisca bhavati ya evam veda.
The Sound "M" is Deep Sleep / Causal: Prajna is the consciousness experienced
during the state of dreamless, deep sleep, and is M, the third letter of Om. It
contains the other two, and is that from which the other two emerge, and into
they recede or merge. A knower of this more subtle state can understand all
12) Amatras-caturtho'vyavaharyah prapancopasamah sivo'dvaita evamomkara atmaiva
samvisaty-atman-atmanam ya evam veda.
Silence after "A-U-M" is the True Self: The fourth aspect is the soundless
aspect of Om. It is not utterable and is not comprehended through the senses or
by the mind. With the cessation of all phenomena, even of bliss, this soundless
aspect becomes known. It is a state of nondual (advaita) reality—one without a
second. This fourth state, Turiya, is the real Self or true Self. One with
direct experience of this expands to Universal Consciousness.
I like to recirculate this around the time of a coming new year as a reminder
about the nature of transitions.
Transitions: New Years and New Moments
in Life and Meditation
The transition from one year to the next year happens in an infinitely short
moment that is actually non-existent in time. So too, there are transitions in
the moments of life and the moments of meditation. Mindfulness of transitions in
daily life and during meditation time is extremely useful on the spiritual
journey to enlightenment. The recording ends with a 15-minute guided
contemplative meditation on Transitions, which begins at 54:42. (Length 1:09:25)
Have a wonderful 2012.
In loving service,
This series of videos is a commentary by Swami Jnaneshvara on the eight steps of
Yoga Meditation as described by Swami Rama in his book Path of Fire and Light,
Volume 2 (ISBN 0893891126). It was recorded at Swami Rama Center on the campus
of the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences near Rishikesh (the location of
Sadhana Mandir, Swami Rama's ashram) and Dehradun, India.
"In spite of the immense popularity of postural yoga worldwide, there is little
or no evidence that asana (excepting certain seated postures of meditation) has
ever been the primary aspect of any Indian yoga practice tradition… The primacy
of asana performance in transnational yoga today is a new phenomenon that has no
parallel in premodern times."
Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Postural Practice
2010, Oxford University Press, Inc.
The New York Times published an article on January 5, 2012 entitled "How Yoga
Can Wreck Your Body". This article has since spread like wildfire throughout
internet. I am writing comments in the attached article to strongly refute much,
if not most of what William J. Broad (the author) has said.
~Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
The breath is the source of life. One can live weeks without food, days without
water, but only minutes without breathing. Proper breathing is the key to good
Silence, silence, oh beautiful inner silence. Let the world remain noisy while
the inner silence sings her song of stillness, beauty and bliss.
The first word of yoga sutras is "atha" which means "now", though a particular
"now" which implies that one has done the preparation to begin the path and
process of yoga. Most people claiming to practice yoga are still in the
preparation phase. There is nothing wrong with the preparation phase; it is
needed. However, the preparation phase to begin yoga is not, itself, yoga. The
preparation phase has become known as "yoga". In our modern times, there is no
longer a need for this preparation phase. Now we just say that we are practicing
yoga and that's it; whatever we say is yoga is suddenly called yoga.
This short video excerpt from a movie with Dustin Hoffman has a rare clarity
about the principle of advaita, nondualism.
"We cannot expect that millions are practicing real yoga just because millions
of people claim to be doing yoga all over the globe. What has spread all over
the world is not yoga. It is not even non-yoga; it is un-yoga." The undue
emphasis, particularly in the West, on asana as the crux of Yoga dilutes the
essence of the spiritual practice and its ultimate goal of moksha.
~Prashant Iyengar, son of B.K.S. Iyengar
Most people cannot fathom the idea of meditation on the Absolute, which is
formless and attributeless. Only a fortunate few are able to attain that highest
state of realization. The path of bhakti (devotion) is considered superior for
those who are unable to realize the pure Self…
Those who contemplate on the non-manifest Self beyond all forms think that
saguna worship (the worship of form) is inferior to nirvana contemplation.
Nirguna contemplation is focused on the absolute truth, which has no form, no
name, and therefore no attributes. Although one cannot worship the formless, it
can be a subject of contemplation. Those who find delight in the contemplation
on the formless, nameless, and attributeless Brahman think that the worship of
God with form and name, with attributes, is inferior. The path of nirguna is
difficult, and there are chances for the aspirant to slip.
Ordinarily the mind needs a concrete object upon which to focus and rest, for
the mind is in the habit of depending on concrete objects. It requires great
preparation for the finest faculty of mind, buddhi, to be able to understand the
difference between the Self and the non-self, the real and the unreal. But when
buddhi is sharpened, one has the capacity to go beyond the realm of forms.
In this video lecture Swami Rama speaks extensively on meditation on the
Learning ScreenFlow and Bamboo Create to take SwamiJ.com to a higher level of
sharing learning principles of yoga meditation
Any of you know or have experience with these and this kind of presentation such
as is on khan adademy?
THE PURPOSE OF YOGA
"The original context of yoga was spiritual development practices to train the
body and mind to self observe and become aware of their own nature. The purposes
of yoga were to cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and higher
consciousness in the individual. As the split occurring between those seeking
physical development versus those seeking spiritual development has widened, the
lack of awareness and attention to inner experience has disconnected the
practitioner from his body.
"Yoga is meant to be a system of increasing awareness and decreasing disease. It
was able to enter into the American mainstream by presenting itself as a tool
with many benefits, including reduced stress, increased relaxation and greater
flexibility. It has continued to grow through American gyms as something that
cultivates aerobic capacity and builds strength. But many gyms that offer yoga
emphasize the physical exercise without teaching the essential self-awareness
that differentiates yoga from any exercise.
"The 'narcissism', which is not uncommon in many sports, is the result of an
emphasis on exercise that misinterprets what the real intention of yoga practice
is. Yes, one can increase muscle mass and decrease waist size, but that's not
the real goal. Much of the yoga practiced today has actually become the
antithesis of yoga as it is meant to be."
This link is to a survey request relating to Abhyasa Ashram. Would you please
take a minute or two to answer these 10 simple questions. Thank you for helping
us to better serve people pursuing the benefits of traditional yoga, which is
the orientation of our ashram.
In loving service,
Today, July 3, 2012 is guru purnima day this year. Guru Purnima is an annual
celebration of the guiding force of guru on full moon day of July (gu means
darkness and ru means light; guru is the light of consciousness that dispels the
darkness of ignorance). The actual full moon is 1:53pm CDT (US) on Jul 3.
On this day, I always turn to the wisdom of Swami Rama as a reminder of this
special day, and the nature of the grace of guru; the words below are from Swami
May this guru purnima be a special time for all. May your meditations today
bring you peace, happiness, and bliss.
In loving service,
The word guru is a compound of two words, gu and ru. Gu means darkness and ru
means light. That which dispels the darkness of ignorance is called guru. The
energy and action of removing darkness are guru. Guru is not a person, it is a
force driven by grace.
To put this another way, there is an intelligent momentum that pervades the
universe that is moving all human beings toward the perfection we call God. Guru
is that intelligence. Everyone's receptivity to that intelligence varies. It
depends on preparation, which includes the development of vairagya or
nonattachment, and abhyasa or practice. In other words, guru is always there,
but the student may not be ready to receive what the guru has to offer. When the
student is prepared, the guru always arrives to help the student do what is
necessary to progress in removing the veil of ignorance. It is said that when
the wick and oil are properly prepared, the master lights the lamp.
Guru is not a person, but guru can be represented in a person. One who has
developed his or her own spiritual awareness to a very high level can guide
others, and is considered to be guru. Only one who is finely attuned to the
inner guide can inspire the awakening of the inner guide in another. Guru is not
a physical being. If a guru begins thinking this power is her or his own, then
they are no longer a guide. The guru is a tradition, a stream of knowledge.
In India guru is a sacred word that is used with reverence and is always
associated with the highest wisdom. The guru is unique in a person's life. The
relationship between disciple and guru is like no other relationship. It is said
that guru is not mother, father, son, or daughter. The guru is not a friend in
any conventional sense. It also is sometimes said that the guru is father,
mother, son, daughter, and friend all in one; the guru is sun and moon, sky and
earth to the disciple.
The truth is that the relationship of guru to disciple is indescribable. The
relationship extends to the realm beyond the world, transcends death, and
stretches far beyond the limited karmic bonds associated with family and
friends. A mother and father help sustain the body of their child, and nurture
and guide the child through the formative years of life to adulthood. Guru
sustains, nurtures, and guides a soul through lifetimes to ultimate liberation.
The relationship with the guru is based on the purest form of unconditional
love. There is complete openness with the guru. The disciple should hold nothing
back from the guru. This is why in the tradition, a student goes to the guru and
offers a bundle of sticks to burn. The bundle symbolizes that everything the
disciple has is offered unconditionally to the guru. Everything is offered to
the guru so the guru can do the work of shaping the student spiritually. The
disciple comes with full faith and entrusts his whole life to the guru. The guru
takes that life and chops it and burns what is not necessary, and then carefully
carves what remains into something sacred.
In this chopping and burning, the guru is merciless. The guru's job is not to
hold hands with the disciple and wipe away tears, but to cut into pieces the
disciple's ego and all that stands between the disciple and freedom. The guru
does not allow dependence. If the disciple becomes too dependent on the guru,
the guru pushes the disciple away, insisting on independence. It is a remarkable
expression of the deepest love.
To be on a spiritual path with a guru is not an easy thing. It is not pleasant.
The guru tests the disciples, puts them in the most difficult situations, and
creates obstacles for them. All the tests, difficulties, and obstacles are meant
to train and expand the consciousness of the disciple.
That is the sole work of the guru. The guru wants nothing from the disciple.
Guru is that force moving a soul toward enlightenment. The guru's actions are
from pure compassion. As the sun shines and lives far above, the guru gives
spiritual love and remains unattached.
Guru is a channel for spiritual knowledge. Jesus repeatedly reminded his
disciples of this. "I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me."
The Father is that stream of pure knowledge. Jesus, as an enlightened being, was
attuned to that knowledge.
No human being can ever become a guru. Guru is not a human experience, or,
better said, guru is not a sensory experience. It is a divine experience to be a
guru. A human being allows herself or himself to be used as a channel for
receiving and transmitting by the power of powers. Then it happens. Then guru
manifests. To do that, a human being must learn to be selfless, must learn to
love. Real love expects nothing. That is how genuine gurus live. Selfless love
is the basis of their enlightenment, and the basis of their roles as channels of
Guru is not the goal. Anyone who establishes himself as a guru to be worshipped,
is not a guru. Christ, Buddha, and other great persons did not set up any such
example. Guru is like a boat for crossing the river. It is important to have a
good boat and it is very dangerous to have a boat that is leaking. The boat
brings you across the river. When the river is crossed the boat is no longer
necessary. You don't hang onto the boat after completing the journey, and you
certainly don't worship the boat.
Many times students come to the guru with a preconceived idea of what the guru
should be like. They come with expectations of what the guru is there to do for
them. Perhaps the students think the guru should give them much attention, or
make decisions for them, or take on troubles they have created for themselves.
Sometimes the students think the guru should behave in a certain way. When these
expectations and preconceived images are not met, the student becomes upset and
may even leave the guru.
This is not the proper way to approach a teacher. A student should not be filled
with expectations and preconceived images, but with a burning desire to learn,
and with firm determination. Then there will be no difficulty. The guru and the
disciple can then do their work accordingly.
The spiritual seeker should not worry about who the guru is, or what the guru
will do. The seeker's first concern is getting prepared, organizing her or his
life and thoughts in a spiritually healthy way, and then working toward a way of
life that simplifies and purifies. At the right time the master will be there.
Once the guru has arrived, the methods and behavior of the guru should not be
the disciple's concern. The disciple's work is to act on the instructions and
teachings of the master, and at the same time, work toward more and more
selflessness, and surrender of the ego. It is the ego that is the principle
barrier to enlightenment.
A spiritual master's ways of teaching are many and sometimes mysterious. To one
student the guru may show much attention, spending much time with a student,
even doting on a particular student. Another student may be utterly ignored by
the master. It doesn't matter. Each student is getting a teaching, and because
of the insight of the master, just the right teaching at the right time. The
guru is not in a student's life to give the student what the student thinks she
wants, but rather to give what is needed to progress spiritually.
The guru does not operate from what seems fair, or outwardly appropriate. He is
not constrained to such cultural amenities. He can seem harsh, even brutal. He
will put students in situations that make no sense, or are very uncomfortable.
He will say things that won't make any sense for months. He will ask things of
students that students think are impossible. Everything the guru is doing is for
the growth of the student. The student need only have faith in that fact.
The guru also teaches without words or actions. As the disciple learns to
surrender and move the ego out of the way, and grows more selfless, the ability
to learn intuitively from the guru grows. The student learns in the cave of
silence. It is like tuning into the guru's frequency or plugging into that
stream of knowledge. The guru is always working from there. The disciple's role
is to gradually learn to also work from that place. The disciple learns this by
doing all duties with love, by being nonattached, and by surrendering. The
disciple should always be striving to purify and prepare for more and greater
knowledge. Then God will say, "I want to enter this living temple that you are."
Remove the impurities and you will find that the one who wants to know reality
is the source of reality.
There is also the activity of grace. Grace is the impulse or the impetus of the
energy to dispel darkness. There is the grace of the scriptures, from the wisdom
that has passed down from others. There is the grace of the teacher, who imparts
that wisdom and helps bring it to life in the student. There is the grace of
God, or pure consciousness, that is alive and ever present in everyone's life.
Integral to these three graces is the grace of oneself, having the will to
undertake a purposeful journey in life, to do the spiritual work of life, and to
How do we get this grace? It comes of its own when a seeker has made maximum
effort. When all efforts have been made, and all efforts have been exhausted,
then grace comes.
A Sanskrit word for grace is shaktipata. Shakti means energy, and pata means
bestowing. Shaktipata means "bestowing the energy" or lighting the lamp.
Sometimes shaktipata is translated as "descent of power." A power comes from
above, of its own, to a vessel that is cleaned, purified, and is prepared to
receive it. When the instructions from the guru have been completed, the seeker
has become strong in selflessness and surrender, and the samskaras have been
burned, grace comes.
Grace is only possible with a disciple who has gone through a long period of
discipline, austerity, and spiritual practices. When a student has done these
practices and followed the teacher's instructions with all faithfulness,
truthfulness, and sincerity, then the subtlest obstacle is removed by the
master. The experience of enlightenment comes from the sincere effort of both
master and disciple. When you have done your duties skillfully and
wholeheartedly, you reap the fruits gracefully. Grace dawns when action ends.
Shaktipata is the grace of God transmitted through the master.
Guru is the disciple's guide through life, through the mysterious terrain of the
spiritual heart, and into and beyond the realm of death.
Just address an email to Yoga-Meditation@yahoogroups.com
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