Live free yoga

Liberated living through the sadhana of yog; enlivened by the grace of my satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.


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not a deer but a seer- BE

There was a dilemma in my mind as I wrote this blog post that it should not come out as a rant but as a study of the subject of this philosophy in present day context. As always I have followed a stream of thought in my mind and anyone is welcome to disagree with the prognosis I have attempted to arrive at.

This thought process started when I heard this beautiful rendition of an ancient chant performed by The London Symphony and various artists. The process of the thought though went from feeling mellow at the auditory experience of this divine chant to the intellectual interpretation in today’s context to a realisation far beyond in the spiritual field, in course of a few days from the first moment of thought contact.


(You can listen to the performance by clicking on the mantra below)

अयं बन्धुरयं नेतिगणना लघुचेतसाम्।
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ॥
-(महोपनिषद्,अध्याय४,श्‍लोक७१)


Meaning of the mantra.
“(Saying) This one is a friend; this other does not count, is for the small-minded. For those of a magnanimous character, the entire earth is one family.”
– Mahōpaniṣad, VI.71.-circa 3500-300 BCE

My mind marvelled at the antiquity and the depth of the Sanatan philosophy in which is rooted the modern day ism of the hindus. At a time when the world is talking of “lives” matter, of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, of environmental degradation; this wisdom of the earth as family was prevalent on a land thousands of years ago, expressed simply and succinctly in a language as ancient as the thought. But what is more of a marvel is that both the language and the philosophy is still a living phenomenon as a prayer and an adage even today. Also to be noted the shlok says vasudha meaning earth and not just manav humans. Called one of the loftiest Vedantic thought, this shlok is etched on the entrance of the Indian Parliament.

Many of the ancient Vedic chants show this inclusiveness in their realisations. More on this in another blog or not.

Modern Usage
The term “vasudhaiva kutumbhakam,” the world as a family, is a popular saying oft repeated by present day Gurus and Saints and even politicians in India as they try to showcase the all-encompassing nature of the hindu religion to the world, the politicians to emphasise the secular nature of the country. In their eagerness either due to real innocence or carelessness or craftiness, they forget to warn their followers of the pitfalls of such a philosophy applied without filters in today’s sectarian world.

However this sentiment of caution had been expressed in a story from the Hitopadesha I had heard as a child and which came to mind when I heard this music and was mulling over the philosophy behind it.

The Hitopadesha is a compilation of stories for children, drawn from the more ancient Panchatantr written by Vishnu Sharma dated 1200 BCE to 300 CE. The Panchatantra were written as lessons to teach the art of ruling- (raj) niti- to three princes, who were sent by their father the King to a brahmin in the forest. In order to make it interesting to the young princes the stories involve animal figures and weave together to educate the children in the intricacies of politics and ruling a kingdom. It talks of friends and foes, of making allies and causing dissent amongst enemies for benefit, of war and peace, of loss and profit from alliances and results of hasty actions. As an adult I went back to read the original unabridged version and was quite literally blown away at the elaborate detail with which the lessons were taught. A treatise on politics, it is worth inclusion as text in school and college curriculum, which will of course get labelled a move towards Hindutva, seeing the state of the country today.

The later Aesops fables, the Arabian Nights, Grimms fairy tales and many western ballads draw from the Panchatantra for their inspiration. The first known translation is into Persian and Arabic around 750 CE, while one version reached Europe in the 11th century. Versions are also found in Indonesia, Laos and Thailand. The french teller of fables, fabulist La Fontaine acknowledged his indebtedness to this work.
“Sanskrit literature is very rich in fables and stories; no other literature can vie with it in that respect; nay, it is extremely likely that fables, in particular animal fables, had their principal source in India.”- Max Muller, On the Migration of Fables (source wikipedia for the above info).


Max Muller is credited with systematically trying to demolish the Hindu education system replacing it with the Christian Missionary schools, one of whose product is me. Obviously his intent to subvert the Bharatiya mind has sort of backfired with many like me now able to express better our rooted sentiments about Indic philosophy in english language!

Lesson of the Panchatantr/Hitopadesh

However coming back to the present chant of vasudhaiva kutumbhakam, in the story the wily jackal quotes this very shloka to befriend the naive deer. To calm the trepidation of the deer and gain confidence the jackal keeps repeating that we can be friends for after all we are all one family, that people who think otherwise are mean spirited. The motive being to lead the deer to the pack to be killed and devoured. The crow a former friend of the deer keeps warning the deer who foolishly follows the jackal in a euphoric state of bonhomie. In the childhood recital of the story the deer escapes through the intervention of the crow. The lesson of this story was to beware the princes of foes befriending them by quoting and professing a philosophy of inclusiveness with an ulterior motive of defeating them.


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India and Earth family

Leading from there I thought of India in present day scenario, struggling to upkeep her image of a secular country and society. Battered by narratives of pseudo liberals and a far left determined in its hatred of Hindu thought and philosophy, by majority and minority appeasement politics, struggling still to free herself from the emotional burden of 700 years of Islamic rule and then over 400 years of the French and Portuguese in certain parts and the British in the rest of the country. A country that gave refuge to the persecuted Parsis, the family of Prophet Mohammed and the Tibetans to name a few, is today being called to prove her inclusiveness! I was moved to tears at this thought.

In this context the story of the jackal and deer needs to be more understood, I felt. When in the name of vasudhaiva kutumbhakam (secularism) forces with an agenda (the jackal) lead the good at heart and easily misled folks who are majority of people (deer) and the wise seers (crows), who keep warning and are either ignored and called names or are in fact labelled anti peace forces and conspiracy theorists, it is time to take note. I feel one reason for India’s being conquered time and again has been an adherence to this deep rooted mindset of vasudhaiva kutumbhakam and the dilemma it creates in the mind of its people.

This was the first extent of my process of thought how when the philosophy of a country and its majority people is inclusiveness, has to deal with narratives that are fashioned to prove otherwise by forces whom they have to be warned of and somehow exclude from this earth as all embracing family philosophy. A very difficult task indeed and which could cause a mental psychotic breakdown in the sensitive or make them put their head in the sand and refuse to engage or keep on embracing the fox as they are torn apart.

As I practice and teach yog sadhana and heart centre expansion and unconditional love is a by product of the yog sadhana as the human transforms into the divine, it’s a moot point to understand how to amalgamate the qualities of a warrior with a lover without losing either.

But I am emboldened when I think of our texts like the Bhagavad Gita which extol to fight to protect the weak, to uphold dharma, of personages like Adi Shankaracharya who came at a time when the Buddhist outlook, it was felt was robbing the Bharatiya mindset of its warrior like qualities. May he have seen the future to come, I wonder. The invasions and the long stint of being ruled by foreigners subjected to genocide and systemic conversions and economic loot, to famines, taxes and subjugation of our culture? Our Sikh Gurus started preparing well in time for the great fight, gurus like Swami Samarth Ram Das took heed and started training soldiers and warriors for the war. There was no dichotomy in being a spiritual practitioner, warrior and saviour.

As a result of which India is one of the only country to have survived with its indigenous culture and ancient customs still alive and thriving, visible from the shlok, the subject of this blog. The rest of the world crumbled under Islam and Christian conquests.

Deer and Jackal in the Marketplace.

Then cruising along this thought stream my mind came to the field of the market of ideologies, spirituality and religion. The simple seekers (deer) who are led on a merry dance by charlatan saints, priests, gurus, granthis and maulvis, by mentors and influencers (jackal), do include any others I may have forgotten here! Promising the followers everything from a state of eternal bliss, to virgins in heaven, to a promised land, an egalitarian society. In their greed for name and fame they quote vasudhaiva kutumbhakam or its equivalent! The seer who warns the seekers of the ulterior motives of such charlatans is often shamed and brought down. (That does not mean everyone who is brought down is a seer!)

As a deer today, the danger may not be about being killed but being recruited, inducted, radicalised or indoctrinated into the ideology or religious belief system of the jackal, whoever it might be, left or right. Without being aware becoming a means for attracting more deer to be slaughtered or recruited.

The corporate world is not free from this phenomenon either; the world seemed to me to be divided today, into deers and jackals with very few seers, people with the ability to see with clarity.

In our personal inner spheres too the senses and the mind (deer) led outwards by sensual and material attractions (jackal) and the our vivek buddhi- the discerning intellect seer (crow) can keep warning us in vain.

At a time like this how can one be sure one is the seer and not the deer or the jackal?

When the deer sees without doubt, the jackal for what IT is, the deer becomes the seer.

For me, this clarity of perception only comes as our biases and conditioning is cleared. This can be achieved in many ways, the path of yog sadhana being one of them. It is the heightening of our intuitive perception that cuts through the obvious and the apparent and can get to the core motive of the other, and yes of oneself. Constantly introspecting to see if one is a deer being influenced by a jackal or a jackal recruiting other deers. A seer is a person who is neither but has the wisdom to be aware of both.

The seer, in my realisation, is always rooted firmly in the soil of vasudhaiva kutumbhakam, seeing the earth as one family and embracing all. And though the seer warns about the fox, can see clearly the motive and agenda and can take any action to deter the jackal from devouring the deer; emotionally, physically and mentally there is no hate for nor fear of the jackal in the action.

Until this final realisation comes, one swings like a pendulum or seesaw between deer and the seer unless one is the jackal, in which case being part of a larger pack one may require an immense effort to self extricate and get away or pay heed to a seer to help do that.

In conclusion, for me, applied introspection in every situation is the way to identify our roles as deer, jackal or seer.


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āyukahat- life says

Progressing along in my yog sadhana, my mind started to awaken to truths that though they may have been around, were special to me as they unfolded to me, personally. Short one liners would appear in the minds lake along with their realisation. The whole process is like the blooming of a thought bud into a full flower realisation. A process that I enjoy thoroughly as it still continues.

Finding it pompous to post them as “jyoti” kahats – jyoti says or quotes by me 🙄 – I found an ingenious way to deflect them to my studio nomenclature, a nom de plume if you may. They have been posted on social media as they emerge but here I bring them together in a bouquet for those who may want to feel the fragrance, as I do when i reflect upon them. They are to be enjoyed at leisure and I keep coming back to them as new understandings unfold and may add more or refresh the existing from time to time. The reader may find their own understandings from them as they are pretty self-explanatory too.

I begin not in sequence but with my signature theme of Kurma- the turtle. Since childhood I had a passion for collecting suns and turtle figurines and they both figure in my studio logo, mostly online! The symbolism for both are many and I am not going into that here.

Copyright for the images used in the following notes is dedicated to the world wide web from where I sourced them unabashedly taking care, as much as I could, that there were no issues but I guessed if they are not marked in some way, it was okay, if not we will find out I’m sure. The content is all mine and as always readers are cautioned to use their own discretions to agree or not.

मंथन स्वाध्याय और गुरूकृपा द्वारा आत्मिक स्पर्श

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With inner churning, introspection and grace of the guru, the light touch of the divine is experienced on the soul.
As we step on to and progress on our chosen spiritual path a time comes when emotions and the mind are churned by positive and negative passions; at that moment by self study and grace of the Guru, one gets a glimpse of the Inner Knowingness. During the churning as the inner toxins emerge the steady disciple by self study and the grace of the guru flips the negatives into positives and reclaims the innocence of sahaj and feels the touch of divine love.
The sadhak may then exclaim in wonder, as I did with an outpouring of love for the guru. “You are not this body of flesh and bones that sleeps decays and dies, you are immortal Consciousness!!” तुम देह नहीं नश्वर नासी, तुम अल्लख निरंजन अविनासी”, says Yogiraj Siddhanath, “I am spirit, I am truth, I am love divine, this body mind, a dream of mine.” The yogi practitioner through the churning sees the bridge that connects the human to the divine.

Provoke Thought

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Positive agitation births, makes conducive the environment to birth pearls of wisdom. galaxies of infinite realisations. “A consolidated mind is a beautiful mind,” says my guru Yogiraj Siddhanath, a name you will hear repeated many times in all my writings. In spiritual practice a positive stimulation, initiated by the vivek buddhi, leads to rediscovering many truths for the sadhak. Often the popular belief is that meditation profferes a thoughtless state of calm. From personal experience I can say that the mind in a calm manner studies its experiences and as clarity improves nuggets of realisations rise to the fore to be further savoured. It is the very stillness of the mind that allows this steadfast speculation.
True Gurus encourage this quality in their disciples, two of my favorites from the past are Adi Shankaracharya and Kabir who had mastered this to an art. Yogiraj Siddhanath, my satguru often agitates the disciple in order that they don’t fall into a stupor of mindless devotion. “Feel with the mind,” he says, “and think with the heart.”

Clarity begins at Home

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Home here of course refers to the self enmeshed in the body of flesh, emotions, mind and intellect. Clarity comes with an intense practice and the self awareness arising from it. Swadhyaya a sub tenet of yog sadhana helps immensely in this. Unless we can see clearly our own motives and agendas without bias through the layers of our mind and emotion, through our intellectually collected information, seeing the external circumstantial occurrences with clarity is near impossible, I have realised. This was the first one in the series and therefore please do excuse the similarity to the very common christian adage about charity!

A Little light can Overcome a Lot of Dark

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While watching My Little Pony with my children way back in the 1980’s there was an episode in which the ‘evil’ person, a centaur, half horse half man, had a huge bag pulsating with evil energy which he let loose on the hapless ponies. Let me stop for a moment and say I have never been an advocate of symbolising all good things as white and all evil as black realising how it reflects on a society discriminating based on colour. So here the dark is an opposite of light as in a flame of a candle in a dark room. In fact in spiritual experiences whenever I have experienced light, it has been colourless brilliance. To continue, every time the evil centaur opened the bag of darkness he cried in a thunderous voice, “Behold the power of Darkness”, and the power accompanied with some loud drumbeats would overcome everything, the trees, the river, the lands. Then the ponies managed to get a power of their own. So next time whilst the power of darkness was doing its dance of doom, the little pony opened her small bag and out popped a little rainbow, very minuscule in size, in a small faint voice the pony said, “and behold the power of light.” My girls would gasp at this and feel oh what could this little spark do against the mighty darkness, but lo behold if the rainbow didn’t quickly within a flash drive the centaur, his bag of destruction and the darkness away. I also felt the lesson learnt by my girls then has stood the test of time for them. So this visual was exactly apt for the realisation.
The rainbow of light is encapsulated within our body in the form of our Chakras. The moment we unleash this through yogic practice the dark dis ease of the body (physical, emotional, mental, intellectual) is enlightened. Alternately, a small flame can drive away the pitch darkness in a room. The only act required is to light that spark.
*a note to clarify that in this instance light is used to denote awareness and dark for ignorance, that peace and love can have no colour and or can be all colours. (this was in the original post and I am leaving it here).


I Have No Interest in what Krishna, Buddha, Jesus or Nanak Said, I only know my Satguru has shot me like an arrow and there’s no turning back.

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(Sat) Gurus and Divine Guides come from time to time to give direction to an evolving humanity. They come with messages current to that time and age fashioned to awaken and enlighten the contemporary seeker.

Discerning disciples connect with these enlightened beings in every lifetime. Rather than the tradition or schools from the past, these souls find the Spirit in a living Satguru and flow the fast track current. One pointed concentration with vivek and sat buddhi they are magnetically drawn towards the source that is here and now. Some sleeping ones are awakened by the Enlightened One with a swift kick. Thus these realisations become real and immediate for the disciple connected with the living master from life to life.

Yog is a Way of Enlivingness

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Yog popularly addressed as yoga is a way of enlightened, enlivened living. It facilitates being present in the moment, the here and now, allowing at the same instance to view the past, present and future.
Daily life becomes a celebration, joyous and liberated. Dissolved completely, flowering into love one cannot but radiate that perfume. Undisturbed and unfettered by the turmoil without. The photograph is the soil of our forest ashram in Pune, where I was introduced to true yog and enlivened living by a Satguru.

kriyayog;antidote

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Kriya Yoga is an antidote to the vagrancies of a truant mind, by practice of this a force surfaces that overrides archaic patterns of thoughts. The result is an unadulterated vision and immersion.
There is a whole blog I have written on this topic you can find it here.

Perceive the Possibility of Infinity

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That moment in yogic practice when awareness opens up to the possibility of infinity. The individual on the threshold of the experience, the distilled mind already knowing of its reality… an exquisite vast moment in time indeed. On the threshold of knowing the merging but not yet merged…
An awesome awareness of the individual knowing the consciousness can extend beyond the borders of their physical body, extend beyond even the earth and the solar system, into this universe and many universe.

Do Not Leave Your Mind/Ego with Your Shoes



The mind, the ego is your sense of self which is transformed to the realisation of your Self. The calming of the fluctuations and turbulence of the mind is the basis of yog sadhana. if you have already achieved it you need not enter at all, if you haven’t, leaving it behind you become part of a herd.
I have once again written a detailed blog on this, you can read it here.

If the Mind is Strong it Leads the Pran, If the Pran is Strong it Leads the Mind

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Yogiraj Siddhanath, my Satguru instructed as training for practice, “जहाँ चित्त वहां प्राण” meaning where the mind goes there the pran follows. Following his instructions I realised through practice that depending on whether the pran was stronger or the mind, the stronger leads.
I realised that the Pran has an intelligence that by nature leads inwards. the mind by nature leads outwards. The Pran by nature is non-violent, by training the pran through pranayam, the mind is easily led towards Dharana- concentration. Realisations are still coming in about this in practice daily. Updates will follow. The play of the pran and mind, those who taste know. You may like to read more about how to practice dharana here.

In The Ocean be the Drop; In the Drop be the Ocean

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In the ultimate stage of yog sadhana, self and god realisation is accomplished when the individual consciousness merges into the universal consciousness; often referred to as the merging of the drop into the ocean; whether the drop absorbs the ocean into itself or the ocean effacing the final layer of separation absorbs the drop into itself, is the in the purview of personal experience. In this concept success is in the effacement of the ego drop and a becoming of the larger vaster consciousness.
For the yogi in action though- the karma yogi- active in the ocean of samsara the feat could be different. Here in fact the same yogi needs an awareness to not dissolve in the ocean or get carried away by the tsunami of action losing identity of individual awareness and becoming one of the crowd.
Maintaining vivek buddhi, the yogi is to navigate the ocean of samsara, the cyclic wheel of birth and rebirth. The karma yogi through informed intuitive action clears the karmic ledger accrued by past actions without creating new karma.
This thought came as I watched the streets swelling with protesters of BLM, having myself protested in agitations for farmer rights in India, I have a personal understanding of how the effect can take over the cause and how narratives can pull the actor into the role until losing sight of that steady inner spark of the spirit one starts to falter towards the ever changing outer glitter.
Adherence to yam and niyam, the first two tenets of yog affirms the yogi to interact with social injustices and discrepancies. In fact it is an inherent part of yog sadhana. To do that while maintaining an awareness on the inner climate of radiating love to all, even the ones perceived to be on the “other” and “opposite” side is the challenge that many can fail.


Learning from Dead Gurus vs Living Ones

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This early morning thought was a culmination of years of practice with a living Satguru, of numerous initiations by my satguru into evermore subtle, powerful and distilled practices to expand individual consciousness, a result also of many such lifetimes learning directly in the presence of living gurus and finding the path to the living guru in every lifetime.

It is a practice that i have been doing of sitting on a funeral pyre to burn my impurities which I later found was a technique give in the Vignyana Bhairav Tantra, the living satguru having unlocked this from the latent memory bank during an initiation at the ashram. The living satguru make seamless our lives one from the other so it’s like we wake up from one life into another and carry on from where we left off. Often Gurus and disciples move from lifetime to lifetime or disciples are guided to other living masters by the previous ‘dead’ ones. That has been my experience and realisation.

It is a great comfort to many to read scriptures, join organisations and take for themselves masters who have passed and left behind a legacy. The safety net of the qualities attributed to these gurus are not volatile and cannot change from pupil to pupil and that becomes a relief to many as they can manoeuvre placidly in these waters. While a living satguru tests the disciples constantly, keeping them in a high state of alertness so they don’t fall into familiar intellectual pitfalls.

Though many masters are able to communicate from beyond the veil, I personally feel a living Satguru can and is able to take direct action in the pupils evolution towards the spirit. While texts have to be interpreted and hidden nuances nurture an intellectual pursuit instead of a direct experience, however enjoyable that may be. The process can be very slow and take a long time to bring extraordinary effect.

A living satguru, however in an instant can burn the veil of acquired mindsets, flights of fancy and disproportionate ego of understanding, leaving the student disciple with a clarity beyond clear understanding.

Living Master Dead Letter, a conversation with my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath


That’s all in this segment. I will be revisiting and updating as new realisations come. You are welcome to share and subscribe if you want to read more. You will receive no unwanted mail or newsletters or nudges from moi. Too occupied in my own pathways for any of that. Cheers. Namaste.


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The Game of Acing -why we play

This is a quick blog conceptualised and written at speed on a question that comes up time and again. It came up for discussion during one of my class and then took on a life of its own, as most things do with me. So here are my thoughts on it, anyone can as usual, form their own opinion about it.

The question started with why one should meditate and what makes them continue. I add these others as subsidiary concerns, what is the best technique, which teacher or Guru we should go to, how expensive are the courses and how long should we practice to become good at it, how flexible should I be for practicing etc etc etc.

Now I am going to replace some words in the above para and see what we get. Why should I play a sport, what is the best sport, which coach should I go to, how much investment is required for the equipment, how arduous is the practice, what level of physical fitness am I looking at etc etc etc.

Alternately, let us apply this to any other activity we want to indulge in, singing, dancing, cooking, playing an instrument…. Yes, that’s right you get the gist.

In all these activities is needed the same ingredients, training, commitment and a desire to learn, and this applies to meditation as well. Being meditation does not make it different, at least that’s my understanding from the experience of sharing a practice since over 21 years with various levels of practitioners, complete novice to adepts.

Modern usage has made meditation a mystical and esoteric field, almost as if one has to be esoteric and mystical to practice or teach it! Far from it, according to me.

“Practice the necessary means to achieve the necessary end,” I have heard my satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath repeat many a times. This practical approach is what endeared me to his teachings.

Having set that as a perimeter let us begin, feel free to replace the word meditation with any activity of your choice and vice versa.

The Choosing of the Game

The following modes are some of the ways in which, according to me, we are led to a practice, be it spiritual, a form of sport, an art or leisure activity.

Let us begin with a hereditary inclination, the sport is already in the DNA, you are a child prodigy. All you have to do is get a bit of training and the genes take over. Even you don’t know why you are so good at this activity. You sit and you melt into meditation, no effort, you are five years old; you play an instrument or sing like you have trained for years but you are only 10. You drive a ball, in tennis or golf or cricket and the body moves in tune, you are a pro and you have just started. People around you who have been training for years look at you with awe. In yogic terms we would call such souls past life practitioners, taking off from where they left off.

Then there is the family you are born into, your elders are musicians, you are trained from birth. Just by being around grown ups who ride, play polo or chess or tennis, billiards, carrom. The Bhagavad Geeta, sanskrit mantra chanting and their meaning, the Vedas and the Upanishads are part of a daily discussion; you learn all the various traditional rituals, what flowers to use for which deity, which of the Gods are angered by what, the chants for protection, for bringing luck in exams. Your education into meditation starts at birth, you may or may not take to it but the opportunity is there. You may love it or hate it, may move to another field or flow into the already prepared field.

Often parents want to live their life through their children or want them to do what they couldn’t do as kids, did not have the opportunity, nobody cared to teach them, whatever. Or they are pursuing a hobby and take you along. So here is a yoga teacher next door, a music academy, a paatu maami (music teachers, female) who comes home to teach. Sometimes you chafe at this but slowly you develop an interest and love for the teaching, the instrument or sport. Reluctance gives way to a fondness for it, you like sitting in silence, to watch your breath. While the same sport or practice may just leave others unaffected or unimpressed by the activity.


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Influenced by friends we take up an activity as means for being with like minded people, we join a club, learn to play cards or alternately go for a yoga class. Same reason we try a meditation session because a friend recommended it.

Sometimes it’s a passing fad, a fashion statement of the day, like everyone is playing golf or doing yoga so maybe it is the ‘in’ thing to do. Trying a fad you sometimes get hooked to a practice.

It could also be a recommendation from a doctor or psychologist for mental and physical health reasons, start meditating to relieve tension, start walking or some milder physical activity.

In all the above scenarios, whatever motivated you, the fundamental requirement to carry on with the chosen sport or activity, you have to have an inner curiosity and interest. Only then are you able to sustain the practice. That is the basic common denominator, to want to explore the possibilities of the practice after choosing it.

In a short simple statement, as I understand, one can meditate only by choosing to, whatever the path that has led one here, one has to make the choice. Just like in any other sport, you choose to play

Investing in Equipment.

One of the primary concerns of people looking at starting a practice is how much it is going to cost. You can buy simple and start, most meditation centres, yoga studios, sports clubs have standard essentials to start practice with.

Remember there is cheaper equipment and very expensive, it’s for you to choose. And you don’t have to buy everything all at one time! Not having an expensive yoga mat or bolster, a state of the art racquet, surfboard or ski, is not going to take away from the pleasure of the activity.

In meditation all you need is a mat, which can be a shawl, a cushion or a used blanket from home.

Continuity in Training.

To start all you may require is intention and a keen desire, but it is continued commitment that starts to improve proficiency. A desire to come back again and again for training.

When we say we meditate it’s a popular term but what we are actually doing is practicing the art of concentration that leads us into meditation. In the yogic practice Dharana comes before Dhyan.

Dharana is exactly like the training put in for learning or excelling at any sport or hobby. If you want to ride that bike, surfboard or ski, if you want to hit that ball, you have to keep training. If you want to sing or play the sitar or violin, you have to go through the stages of training. Ditto with meditation, Dharana is the training of the mind, bringing it again and again to a point of concentration to enable it to flow into Dhyan, since that is what you signed up for.

“To ease disease of random mind, a remedy suitable we must find,” says Yogiraj in his poem. “A rythmic breathing tension free.” To achieve that state tools are given that may involve a vision, a sound, a repetitive chant, a pattern of breathing. To move into meditation the training in Dharana has to be put in. Some days practice will go well and some days not so well, but if you are keen to learn you will not give up. If you try to get on a bicycle twice and fall and give up you will never learn to ride it. The effort to put into meditate is as simple as this.

Once the basic skill is learnt then you start to enjoy the process. You have got on that bike, you are standing on the surfboard and now you can enjoy the breeze on your hair, you can see the view around you, you are no more concentrating on the angle of your body or placement of your hand. It becomes second nature to you, you are not constantly struggling. The training starts to become pleasurable and at every opportunity, at every moment of leisure from your chores you want to get back to it, you dream about it. You have learnt to swim, you are no more thinking of the stroke to stay afloat, you put your mind only to perfect it.

In meditation too, as the technique of Dharana that you have chosen takes root, the mind from a turbulent and unruly state will deepen into a still pool. You will start to experience moments of peace and stillness while you continue to perfect your concentration.

As in all other training some people will be better at this before others, depending on the fitness of the body or the mind that you already had to begin the training with.

And the most wonderful factor is you can start enjoying it before perfecting it!

Choosing A Coach.

In the marketplace of today, choices abound with instructors and gurus promoting their expertise. No more trolling the vast Himalayan ranges looking for a guru, which of course you can do if thats what you want to. Though believe me many of them can be found on the internet today, having students from all over the globe to help put them on the world map. Once you have decided what you want to invest your interest, time and money in, take a tour. Look at the options available, most schools give some free classes, you can start with those. If you have already been inducted into a practice, treat it like any training be at it with the help and guidance of your instructor or guru.

It is important to form a rapport with the teacher to have confidence and a feeling of trust. Some teachers are harsh, some are kind, see which nature suits you. Some students do well under what to others may seem an unduly hard trainer, so be wise and choose the one who will help you excel. The teacher should be able to inculcate a love for the practice and see to your progress. In any case if you feel in any way consistently threatened you should look for alternate options. A disgruntled and dissatisfied mind is not a tool easy to use for training. Remember you as student are in charge of your continued attendance in that class.

If the coach is bad for you, change the coach not the sport!! It would be foolish to give up something that is giving you peace and happiness for a spat with a teacher or a disagreement on views.

I have tried to write this as a practical ready reckoner for seekers beginning a yog sadhana, without too many nuances. My more extensive blog on the Satguru, Gurus and Disciples you can read here.

Wishing you a wonderful journey of adventure on a path that has given me immense stillness and liberty.
Do feel free to write in any questions that may arise from it. I will be happy to answer them in my own style while hoping it helps in some way.


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Leave the mind/ego outside with the shoes?

-an antithetical viewpoint

Offering my respect to that irritating grain of sand that initiates the forming of the pearl I will dive right into a topic that has been bubbling on the surface of my mind for a while. Do remember my blogs are written as a bit of fun and light heartedly.

Establishing having an Ego

Being my nature to ponder on the spiritual and the so called spiritual, the intellectual and the so called intellectual, and finding it exciting to engage in this pursuit in my time away from my sadhana, it has become a rather enjoyable pastime of mine. In reality, some of these realisations are a result of the said sadhana when the lens turns and shines a light upon, among other subjects, popular sayings that belie a belief system. In fact you can call this my rubik’s cube, sudoku or crossword puzzle, so to speak. An engaging of the intellect to keep it sharp and not dulled or rather lulled into complacence. An Adi Shankaracharya inspired dialogue/debate occurring within myself; it is not uncommon for me, to find myself in conversation with my Self!

This habit, I realise now, had started very young when often I would find myself deeply (deeply yet humorously, for sure) pondering the vedantic philosophies discussed at home and the meaning of brahminical mantras constantly chanted by my elders. Stories from the Bhagavatam, the Mahabharat and Ramayan, the panchatantra would all be examined while being enjoyed. Adi Shankaracharya was a great favorite of my father and his quotes were applied to many and sundry situations internally and externally. This inculcated an atmosphere of debates and discussions, sometimes heated but always ending in a handshake, on which my father insisted.

“Where the mind is without fear,” wrote Tagore, “and the head is held high, where knowledge is free.” A poem that had impacted me deeply as a child. Even then I had known that though the poem was directed towards the country as a whole, it applied to each individual; for what else is a country made up of, if not its citizens. “Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it’s way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit,” continues Tagore. Into that heaven of freedom I would wish to be awakened as a young adolescent. Needless to say that did not bode well for any adult in my vicinity, be it teacher or parent who would ask me to follow obediently what was asked of me and what they deemed was the best for my development. Everything would have to pass this self study. That’s not to say I have not indulged in many spontaneous actions and learnt insightful lessons from all of them some pleasurable some not-so, all contributing to the formation of my ego as it were.

It would be correct to say, hence, that I had expended a sizable amount of my years in the attempt of developing intellectual skills which it would in later life not be wrong to call a well developed sense of the self, popularly labelled ego by philosophers and pundits. Said acquired skills also used to demolish without prejudice, perceptions that did not resonate with my own realisations. As usual, the views expressed here are mine alone, arrived at after much pondering in my free time and anyone who disagrees with them I accord a more than cordial shake of the hand.

A Not so Gentle Coaxing

New age yoga studios quickly follow a catchy phrase without due diligence.

First expressed in eastern philosophies, it is a common statement today used by priests, clergymen, gurus and pundits to ask the congregation to leave the ego outside with the shoes. This apparently to keep their flock humble and not fall a prey to pride. The idea mooted is that the ego is an obstacle on the path towards the Lord God.

This statement has always irked me and if asked to leave my mind or ego outside with my shoes while attending watering holes of any hue, it immediately makes me more attentive and a bit suspicious. It is meant to be a cute statement meaning don’t be argumentative but I find it an assault on a discerning mind.

The ego of the person inside trying to override the ego of the person entering! Not so Om Shanti after all!!

Ego, A Brief Summarisation

Simply stated, ego in Latin stands for I. Any person using this I word excessively is perceived as an egoist. For me, though this was too simplistic a definition of the ego. I craved for a more detailed understanding of ego as identity, as an understanding of the self and a tool for gathering knowledge and wisdom.

A throwback to college where being a student of philosophy, I had studied Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his theory of a priori and a posteriori. Putting it simply and keeping it light, they are the two methodology of gathering knowledge by an individual mind and goes to form the substance of the ego. A priori the first based on deduction and reason is independent of experience and the second a posteriori is empirical and based on subjective experience. Most western philosophers give precedence to information and knowledge gathered through the former a priori as it’s, according to them, a more scientific approach, an objective study which determines that a particular formula when applied would in every instant bring the same result. The latter path of a posteriori is empirical and based on information gathered from subjective experience, a method which for obvious reasons, is very difficult to compute. The latter is usually debunked by those referred to popularly as ‘intellectuals’. But I have found both work in different ways to help the individual mind gather information.

In the Sanatan philosophy the sanskrit term used is Ahankar. Ahankar which does not just mean the ‘I’ but the ‘I maker’. The first sign of ego is developed by the infant at the moment of birth. My Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, explains how when the baby emerges from the womb of the mother the heresy of separateness occurs and the soul forgetting it is divine starts identifying with the body. The first I of identifying with the external form grows roots.

According to my understanding the identity of Aham or self strengthens as the baby grows by identifying with traits of its gender, family status and name. This sense of the self deepens further as the manas- the mind, and intellect- buddhi becomes more consolidated with social conditioning and upbringing and the very personal experiences in that souls journey. The I then refers to itself as the sum total of all 5 koshas, the panchakosha – the body of flesh, the body of breath, the body of mind and emotion, the body of intellect and the body of intuition. How this I collects information, knowledge and wisdom depends on how the I perceives the world through the 5 senses, panchendriyas. Further the substance of the I is textured by the play of the three gunas, the clarity or otherwise of the vivek buddhi.

भूमिरापोऽनलो वायु: खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च ।अहङ्कार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा ॥ ४ ॥

Interestingly Krishna in the Bhagavad Geeta has pointed out how the earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, buddhi (intellect) and ahankar form the eight grosser manifestations of the energies of the descending Purusha– pure consciousness. All serious practitioners of yog sadhana know that the body consists of all these elements and together they form the grosser I. For clarification Purusha, in my understanding, has no ‘masculine’ connotation here. More on this in my next blog.

This is a vast topic by itself and my reason for touching upon it here is only to lightly stroke on the nuances of what is meant by an ego.

Case in favour of not leaving the ego out

Let me begin by saying that according to me, those who have an Ahankar, an ego will not be successful in leaving it behind. And those who can leave it behind need not enter at all, for after all they without Ahankar become -Nirankar- निरङ्कार्, without form, formless.

  1. योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः

Patanjali in his treatise of YogSutras says yog (union) is calming the vagaries of the fluctuating mind. The mind, the ego is the sense of lower self, which is transformed to the realisation of the Universal Self. The calming of the fluctuations and turbulence of the mind is the basis of yog sadhana. If you have already achieved it you need not enter at all, if you haven’t, leaving it behind what will you transform? It is after all the ego that has to pass through the crucible of fire to purify itself into Atman, then Paramatman.

2. स्वाध्याय

One of the tenets of niyam is swadhyay, self study; turning the lens inward in order to observe and experience the transformation of the chitta and the manas all a part of what forms the ego. Having left the mind and ego self outside, what is there to study.

3. शरीरे संहारः कलानाम्

“The destroyer is within the body,” read the Shiva Sutra discovered by Vasugupta on a boulder in the territory of Rishi Kashyap around the 9th century CE. The movement of discovery is inwards and outwards. As the seeker takes the first step into the room the spirit within recognising that effort inwards is filled with joy and moves to embrace and reward this endeavour by a soul in returning to its parent source and the ego dropping all its beauty and ugliness regains its natural form of splendour.

4. Transformation

“Yog is an inner ascent, through ever-more refined and ever-more expanded spheres of consciousness to get to the Godessence which lies at the core of one’s own being,” says Himalayan Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.

As a practitioner of yog sadhana for this and many lives, I am palpably aware of the movement of my consciousness from grosser to more subtler aspects of my being. It’s a transformation from the grosser emotions and passion to the subtler love and light which is the purpose of the practice for many. The journey of the transformation itself is what gives joy. It is to learn this transformation that we enter any room and if asked to leave the ego outside it will defeat the purpose of the sadhana, we may as well just be mindlessly anywhere.

Finally, complete leaving of the Ego is when you realise you were never the Ego nor any of its manifestations. Adi Shankaracharya in his NirvanShatakam explains.

निर्वाणषटकम्

मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कार चित्तानि नाहं, न च श्रोत्रजिह्वे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योम भूमिर्न तेजो न वायुः, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥

I am not the mind, intelligence, ego or conscience
Neither am I the sense of hearing, taste, smell or sight
I am not the sky, earth, fire or air
Eternal Bliss attribute of Shiva I am, Shiva I am

Earlier Krishna explained the descent of purusha– pure consciousness into ego and here Shankaracharya explains the ascent of ego into purusha– pure consciousness. Still a vestige of I aham evident in the last line and a degree of separation as the attribute rupa of eternal bliss, in my understanding if the last coat of ego had dissolved in Shankaracharya, there would have been no NirvanShatakam.

Note: Most of my writing comes from casual conversations around a cuppa or a random sentence left floating or observing a rather repetitive spiritual anecdote. There are many blogs that are already arising from this one. If you enjoyed reading and would like me to ramble on like this more. Leave a comment with your own bubbles of thought and we will thus have a conversation. And yes sure bring in your ego, Egos welcome!!


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Is Kriya Yog the best path for a seeker?


As a sadhak living the way of the kriya breath and sharing this with others for over 20 years in this life, I am often asked this question in my teaching tours – Is kriya yoga the best and only path? My answer to this question is always the same…Yes it is, for me! Every sadhak has to determine for themselves the path most suited for them.

To clarify, when I speak of Kriya Yoga it is specifically referring to the Kriya Yoga of the lineage of Mahavatar Babaji, with a very unique, codified and specific technique for speedy spiritual evolution and self realisation of the human soul.

Masters come from time to time to enliven and initiate sincere seekers into this evolutionary practice. Yogiraj Siddhanath is one such master who initiated me into this practice in 1998 and authorised me as a teacher to share it with others in 1999. Some other masters of this lineage who preceded him are Lahiri Mahasaya, the foremost to share this technique with householder practitioners, Sri Yukteswar Giri and Paramahamsa Yogananda who made this practice a household name in the east and west with his book Autobiography of a Yogi. All of the above have had their personal experiences and darshan of the Mahavatar, as has my Satguru, who writes about this in his book Babaji, the Lightning Standing Still. In this book he has revealed Babaji to be none other than Gorakhnath a spark of the Divine Cosmic phenomenon of Shiva.

The 3 Margs and the 4 Yogas

The Spiritual path is broadly divided into the Karma, the Bhakti, and the Gnyana marg as the three paths for seekers to walk on as per their predominant individual nature. For me the path of Kriya Yoga includes all three, the path of devotion, the path of right action and the path of realised knowingness. This makes it a universal practice for anyone to explore for final salvation.

The four paths of yog or union to realise moksh– enlightenment are the Bhakti, Karma, Gnyana and the Raja Yoga. Once again for me, Kriya Yoga is inclusive of all four yoga. Kriya Yoga is a kingly offering of the eight fold path of the Patanjali yoga sutra, the Raja Yoga. In the practice of Kriya Yoga is included the means to inculcate the qualities of love and devotion -Bhakti, of executing the right action -Karma and unblemished gnosis- Gnyana. In Kriya Yog all four flower majestically leading the individual spirit of the practitioner to merge into the divine spirit effortlessly.

Kriya Yoga the spiritual expressway

Humorously, to me spirituality and pop yoga today often feels like the Indian traffic, there’s a lot of noise and honking, blowing the trumpet of their own schools of thought; jostling for space by ‘gurus’ of all hues; unexpected roadblocks on the path set up by fear of sharing authentic information; bullying by bigger vehicles read mightier well heeled organisations; and the fear of meandering into narrower and narrower bylanes of spiritually arid and bigoted mindsets with no possibilities of u-turns; add to this a complete disregard for traffic lights signalling no discipline and you get the picture of the chaos. Of course some would love to immerse in this scenario and may even benefit from it to glean some nugget of spiritual spark. My hats off to them and the best of wishes.

But for others bent on a more direct path discovering the practice of authentic yog sadhana comes as a relief and a means to rise above this melee onto a highway for a smoother less hindered flow. The practice is relatively individual and requires less props.

Now taking this to another level imagine being suddenly released from all restraints of traffic and moving into a fast lane bullet expressway with extremely few regulations, what a relief that would be for some! For me the practice of Kriya Yoga is that super expressway, the autobahn of spiritual path, where ensconced alone in my body temple I am free to move unhindered, propelled by the technique and grace of my satguru towards the goal of self-realisation. Never a fan of intellectual dissemination minus spiritual experience I am happy to stay well above the traffic snarl of the textually intelligent.

Why I practice Kriya Yoga

(The following is an excerpt from my book One Master one disciple- peeling of an onion, Chapter 10, Kriya Yoga The Antidote)

The essential appeal

There are some core fundamentals of Kriya Yoga that attract me personally and which as a teacher helps me to guide students into a practice that is so universal.

One, the simplicity of the initiation took my breath away at my first introduction to this practice by Gurunath. Coming from a brahminical background where much ado is made of secretly giving the gayatri at the overlong upanayanam ceremony, mind you only to the boys, I found the simple introduction by the master into such a powerful path refreshing. Kriya yoga does not discriminate; it’s given freely to all who want to invest their time in pursuing this yogic path. This simplicity in fact flows into all the other aspects that follow.

Two, I see Kriya Yoga as an inner discipline where the yogi practitioner contained in the physical body temple realises themselves to be the immaculate spark of divinity. External forms of worship are redundant and Kriya Yoga does not demand any external ritual to be effective. Practicing the technique is most supreme and keeps the disciple truly attuned with the master.

Three, Kriya Yoga stands alone needing no other supportive practice to take the disciple to the highest states of enlightenment.

Four, the energy of Kriya Yoga is love, its practice supports ones becoming love and radiating love. Gurunath leads us into this state by connecting us with our inner fountainhead of love. The advanced seeker knows the quality of this love is not conditional, regional or limited and transcends human frailties.

Five, by dedicated sadhana, the disciples increase their gravity and move gracefully through life. As the disciple becomes more constant life under any circumstances becomes more full of ease for them. Ishwar pranidhan the surrender to the guru comes naturally to them. Mind you this surrender is not the mindless abject surrender of the piteous rather a surrender in full realisation.

Six, by steadfastness in practice and utter connection with the master the disciple becomes self-reliant and connects with the core of their inner knowingness as Gurunath calls it. The external physical master introduces the disciple to their inner essential master. This is an advanced stage that I know comes to all disciples eventually. As disciples we just need to keep the connection with the satguru as this process can go on for a while as layers upon layers of ignorance are peeled away, hence the peeling of an onion.”

End of quote.


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Is yoga Hindu ?

This blog was inspired by an online post on social media by a western yoga teacher who was postulating how yoga was not religious and could be practiced by anyone from any other faith whilst adhering to their own religion without fear of conversion.

Does practicing yoga make one a Hindu? As a yog teacher who teaches westerners I come across this oft asked query to which I have a counter question. Do they think of Hinduism as a religion and Hindus as a class of people practicing a set discipline? My reply is based upon their response to this question.

If Hindusim is a religion, yog cannot be divested from it just because people from ‘other’ religions want to practice and reap the benefits of this time tested ancient technique without getting out of the comfort zone of their belief sysytem. They have to understand that yog is part of a great spiritual philosophy now known as Hinduism. It is a culmination of rigourous self-study, self-imposed austerities, deep reflection on the nature of the self and is based on a solid foundation of sustained practice of thousands of years.

Many who are called Hindus today believe the ‘ism’ and the term Hindu was imposed upon them by the Greeks, Mughal and Colonial marauders to put them in a box they could comprehend, as comprehending the diversity of this land they overcame with brute force was impossible for their small limited minds. The present day hindus themselves believe their roots are deep in the Sanatana Dharma philosophy, an eternal way of life that evolved/is evolving, is alive and is the result of extensive study, introspection and realisation into the nature of humankind and their relation to the divine, with many paths and movements branching out from this study, of which Yoga is one. There was never a need to give this a limiting lable of an ism. This system accepts even atheism as a philosophy and they are free to adopt, refute and challenge belief systems of scholars.

This is proof of an enlightened spiritual tradition not an excuse for marketing Yoga as not a religion and giving examples of atheists practicing yoga to draw in students.

Therefore to understand that yog is not a religion you have to yourself be realised to that extent. To frivolously mouth yoga is not a religion and that one can continue being a christian or muslim or jew while practicing yog is insulting the universality of yoga and in extension the religion now called hinduism of which its a part.

So yes if you think Hinduism is a religion then Yoga is hindu. But if you have broken the shackles of religion in all its limitations then not only yoga but all the paths that have come out of this deep reflective philosophy is not religion but an invitation to explore and realise.

“The pilgrim, the path and the goal become one- LOVE,” says Yogiraj Siddhanath a realised Kriya Master, a foremost example of how versatile and evolving Sanatana Dharma is.


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From Yog to Yoga

From yog on rustic cotton mats laid out on an earthen floor under a hay roof to Yoga in swanky über temperature controlled yoga studios with branded accessories, this practice has leapt to a different level altogether. The multi billion-dollar yoga industry today is a far cry from the simple akahada gurus who would sweep the floor and lay out the mats to make the space ready for the students and accept calmly what now seems a paltry remuneration for the teaching. A routine and disciplined study, it involved much more learning than developing a beach ready body or a flawless facade.

Yoga today has taken on many hues and those who develop a particular style of Yoga hugely define its practice today. A 200-hour teachers training gets a certificate and a traditional Hindu name for a practice that took yogis lifetimes to even make progress. Patanjali and his yoga sutras, each of which can be pondered upon for months is taught in five easy lessons.

Though elated at the status this practice has achieved in the world today one has to wonder whether somewhere along the way a very scientific and well documented practice to realise the Self has been diminished to a glamour quotient for movie stars and studios.

For many born in India in the 50’s and 60’s and earlier, yog sadhana was a way of life, learnt often from watching our parents. Formal training sometimes started in school and study of the first two tenets of yama and niyama by example from adults around us.

The five Yamas are, Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (honesty), Brahmacharya (popularly sexual restraint) and Aparigraha (non hoarding).

The five Niyamas are, Shaucha (personal hygiene), Santosha (contentment), Tapa (austerity) Swadhyaya (self study) and Ishwar Pranidhan (surrender to divine will).

Yoga instructions today often either ignore or gloss over the yamas and niyamas as do’s and don’ts. Rather they may even be subverted in the race to achieve ‘success’ in this field. To build a brand, to lease out franchises, to woo students, to manufacture products, to become popular, to weed out competition, yoga practitioners and teachers may and often do trample upon many of these tenets with impunity.

These two tenets however become a natural way of being for the sincere practitioner of yog sadhana, herein lies the beauty of yoga to transform the sincere practitioner despite poor instructions from unqualified yoga teachers.

Yoga today popularly refers to the practice of asanas and to some extent pranayama. Little surprise as most often the step towards yoga is taken either for reasons relating to physical health and or mental stress both of which are taken care of by the practice of asanas and pranayama. Here ends the journey of many who venture into yoga as a practice today.

It’s a disservice to yog though to divest it of its purpose that of uniting the individual spirit with the universal spirit. In their passion to keep out the mystical or the unexplainable yog has been stripped of its real purpose. It’s like giving few ingredients of an exotic dish and keeping away the others. The dish will neither be cooked nor eaten. This may also be because the teachers are restricted by their own progress on this path, which stopped at perfecting the asanas.  

The fifth stage of yog sadhana pratyahar is the withdrawal of sense organs from sense objects. But for many modern practitioners of yoga there is a feeling of discomfort when the word detachment is mentioned. The attitude is of not being ready to give up sensory pleasures yet; they don’t want to venture that far. Systematic practice of yoga stills and reduces the clinginess of the mind to external stimuli, freeing the soul to experience its own divine nature. So once again regular practice of pranayama will get the practitioner to this very exhilarating state sooner or later.

Many practices of Dharana, the art of concentration the sixth stage of yoga is taught by experts, especially to sportspersons and high achievers. These practices taken from yoga texts are separated from the other steps that lead to it. The concentration then becomes a wish to succeed in one’s field rather than a one pointed attention to realise ones innermost core of bliss.

Dhyan and Samadhi being in the purview of a true master, a satguru often is not realised easily by many on this path.

There’s a reason for this very elaborate and codified practice of yoga laid down by Patanjali. The steps followed systematically lead you without fail to the state of self-realisation, no matter what your race, colour, gender or caste is, whether you are an atheist or a believer. Yoga does not discriminate; the sincere is rewarded with results.

Yoga is self-regulatory and an inward path. It involves a bond between the teacher and the taught that is based on an ethical behaviour where they alone judge and witness their motives. The redeeming fact is that since every one who practices any of the eight steps of yoga is evolving along this path, eventually the chitta and the vrittis -fluctuations of the mind will be overcome and Patanjali’s Sutras will bear fruit for that yogi.

This article was first published in the The Pioneer in December 2018.

http://www.pioneeredge.in/the-journey-from-yog-to-yoga/


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You are what You Eat?

This post, spearheaded by current discussions on social media by friends, is nevertheless a result inspired by my personal experiences. It is not an argument for or against any particular food habits and does not endorse a lifestyle choice on food, which I believe is very personal and depends upon one’s own understanding of ones body and its needs. Finally, a ‘disclaimer’ – all opinions expressed here are mine alone and anyone is free to disagree. With these views  I may disappoint some people, inspire some or pass by others without a ripple and thats fine.

Early learning.

From childhood I have heard there are three types of people, tamasic, rajasic and sattvic. The day I was lazy, didn’t have a bath, comb my hair or was generally lolling about my grandma would say, “what a tamasic child she is today!” Stale food was a no no at home, even refrigerated food was considered tamasic. Meat?! even garlic and onions were used sparingly, for medicinal purposes only lest they evoke rajasic qualities. Forget the fact that being apparently tamasic i was actually immersed in books reading stories from the Bhagavatam, the Panchatantra or stories of Krishn, Prahlad or Ayyapa, a clearly sattvic activity even if done in ones pyjamas.

Then, at age five I got hurt and the Bengali doctor in his wisdom prescribed two half boiled eggs for me as daily diet. The eggs were boiled outside the house and kitchen in a little stove in a rusty tin can which was washed and dried outside.  But what about me? A brahmin child, fed on ‘sattvic’ food from birth? I waited daily for the eggs like a devotee waits for prasad hands in supplication; I loved it, the flavour, the texture, the fragrance of the runny egg, a new experience for all my senses. And that was a guilty secret I finally confessed to my Amma and Appa who, thankfully for my psychological well being, had a hearty laugh at their child’s predilection. 😀

As i grew up i went through phases of rajasic and tamasic and sattvic habits in food and way of life. Going through the university of life and picking up information and knowledge and gaining wisdom from personal experiences. In 1998 I met my Satguru, Yogiraj Siddhanath and wisdom started to flower into realizations.

Sustained and disciplined yogic practice added its inputs and one major realization that came was motive trumps everything else when it comes to the effect of an action. The energy behind the act decides the resultant fruit of that action.

Today I eat very little, mostly organic vegetarian food cooked at home but without obsessing, eat what’s available…or not.

Outer Sattvicity

Today’s topic is about food, yet I’d like to begin this section with an anecdote I heard as a kid. Kabir the great mystic saint from Kashi was a weaver. While he weaved the cloth he would be immersed in divine love, people of Kashi came in hordes to buy cloth woven at his loom. Apparently when one wore the cloth woven by Kabir one would spontaneously go into a blissful samadhi like state.

Though this anecdote is self explanatory, it reiterates my point that everything we use becomes sattvic or tamasic by the energy and motive that touches it at every stage. The food we eat is effected by the soil that its grown on, the water thats used for irrigation, the mental state of the farmer who is harvesting it, the emotions of the person processing or cooking it. A happy citizenry produces happy benign products, meat, fruits or vegetables, it matters not.

Hence the importance of caring for our environment, our craftsmen and farmers, people who serve and are served, to live with awareness of our surroundings, not to leave large toxic footprints. Without arguments this is the ideal yogic external life too. A true practicing yogi, according to me, is incapable of polluting the environment, is not a glutton, is judicious in consumption, follows a minimalistic approach towards resources.

In India traditionally, there are mantras specifically formulated and chanted, while planting the seeds, before harvest, while cooking, after cooking, and then before taking the first morsel, these mantras by their vibrations are believed to neutralise all toxins, physical and vibrational contained in the food.

Inner Sattvicity

Now about the yogi who has internalised….Yes this blog is for those already part of the way up this path, those who are engaged in purifying the inner.

For moi, internalising the external, the practicing yogi becomes aware of the physical body as a temple that houses the soul and the spirit of the divine, and treats it as such. Every moment understanding the sacredness and sanctity of this body temple theres a reluctance to pollute it intentionally with gross food or thoughts and emotions.

But often the yogi is not supported in this endeavour by the produce that is available. What happens when such a yogi engaged in the purifying of the inner being eats toxic/tamasic, non sattvic food? I know, by experience, that the body of the practicing yogi processes the food, ingesting the nourishing and expelling the toxic naturally and making it sattvic. There’s no voluntary thought process happening here. It’s happened to me there’s a blip in the body, a pause and then course correction, the toxins are eliminated and the body recovers quickly. This happens with emotional and mental toxic vibrations too external and internal….quick jettisoning of all baggage.

The yogi here is not expending any energy on conscious control of the external circumstance, “oh i got a bunch of toxic bacterias in the last bite, um salmonella, oops i think the vegetable/fish/piece of meat i just ate was very sad, was that an aphid that i just swallowed with my raw organically grown salad leaf? I need to go through a detox programme now.” Nope, the body is fine tuned to take care of this while the yogic mind flows in a constant stream towards the divine. It’s all because of the practice, the pranayama, the bandhas, the kumbhaks, the mudras, the intelligence of the pran…the specialised techniques given by the Guru, by the grace of the Satguru.

Fact is we all have all three qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in varying degrees in all of us and in all the food available. As Yogiraj Siddhanath points out these three represent the three humours of  Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which in a practicing yogi transforms to prana, tejas and ojas and then further to hamsa, kundalini and nectar and finally livingness, light and love. So wherein is one superior to the other? When by internal alchemy all three flow towards the divine ultimately.

I shall probably be back to add more inputs as the realizations come. In the meantime, if you like to please leave a comment in the box below. Points and counterpoints welcome, but toxic comments will be automatically purged 😀


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Of Gurus, shishyas and the Satguru

Let’s begin with this beautiful track of a Kabir song about the Satya guru sung soulfully by one of my favourite singers Channulal Mishra from Kashi. The song expresses much of what I learnt from my own Satguru, who among other qualities awakened in me an awareness of divinity in the daily activities of ordinary life and ignited a joy within not dependent on external circumstances. The song begins with a couplet awaring us of a false guru and goes on to explain the role of the Satguru. You can let the song play as you read the rest of this post 🙂

That guru is called True (music track)

When I first started this article it was going to be only about the Satguru and the Guru but I then realised that without the shishya who gazes upon them this would be an incomplete effort. So here I am eschewing upon a most difficult topic and wondering why I am even attempting this since I will probably open myself to more flak than appreciation. But when has that ever stopped me from saying what I feel. And as usual I write from my own experiences and inference and anyone is welcome to disagree.

For the purpose of this article I am going to use the word Satguru for true spiritual guru and guru for a teacher or acharya and shishya for student or disciple and seeker. I am purposely not using the word follower here as for me this implies a ‘blind’ faith in the person or path being tread, a pack mentality- sheeple as they are addressed now, lacking what is called, the vivek buddhi or power of discernment.

SATGURU

The coming of the Satguru in a disciple’s life is akin to the meteorite falling on earth that ended the age of the dinosaurs giving the Earth an evolutionary boost. The arrival brings to an end the dinosaurian mindset in the disciple ushering a new beginning. Dinosaurian here refers not only to a conditioned and atrophied mindset but also to the intellectual knowledge collected over years of study. Shams crashed into Rumi’s life reducing all his bookish knowledge to naught. The vibration of the Satguru is such that it transforms the disciple, sometimes at first meeting. There are many such examples, Yukteswar Giri and Yogananada, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda*.

English language has no appropriate word for Satguru. Popularly the word Master is used in its stead, but the word ‘master’ in all its nuances does not come close to explaining Satguru as understood in the spiritual context. Though I have used the word master, for want of a better word in English, for the title of my book One Master one disciple, it does not inspire me. For me the word master immediately brings to mind an autocratic figure wielding control over his slave disciples, which a true spiritual guru definitely does not do.

In earlier times it was common to address spiritual satgurus with the simpler guru. It indicated a person exhibiting the attributes of a Satguru even though not addressed as one, for example Guru Gorakhnath who is at the level of a deity! And Sikh guru’s, Nanak to Gobind, though referred to as Guru many of them exhibited the characteristics of the Satguru, i.e. the ability to transform by their mere presence the disciple, one of the principal quality of the Satguru who does not ‘do’ anything but by merely ‘being’ sparks in the seeker an inner light of divinity. Some of the great gurus did not even use a prefix or a suffix such as Kabir, Lalla, Lahiri, yet they were recognised by the then present as shining in the light of the divine.

One key quality to note in a Satguru is that their goal is the expansion of the awareness of the disciple, to disengage them from the external and move them inwards. A true spiritual guru is not an advisor for daily living…getting a job, having a good relationship, making money, doing well in class etc.

The paradoxes on the spiritual path become suddenly clear to the disciple after contact with the Satguru, arousing a knowingness of the universe by connecting with its blueprint within. The paradox that going with the flow gives control of one’s life, the disciple who drowns in the ocean of divinity is the one who actually gets to the other side rather than the one swimming on the surface. Jo ubhra so doob gaya jo dooba so paar!!

The Satguru awakens the disciple to the inner wellspring of joy enabling the disciple to become love and radiate love. All this the Satguru can do by mere presence. A technique or practice may be given to relax the grip of  the disciples mind and the transformation is initiated.

The external physical Satguru introduces the disciple to the inner essential Satguru. A true spiritual Guru does not become the disciples crutch rather the Satguru guides the disciple to become self reliant. Physical proximity, after a while can reduce as the Satguru can, at will, contact the disciple who is receptive thousands of miles away. I have had this experience, as I am sure, have others.

*(Interestingly, most popular examples i could find or give from the past are of male gurus and their male disciples. Is it patriarchy that effaced the names of the women saints or were they themselves not interested in leaving behind a hierarchy. Not saying there were none, there are many examples of women Rishis but Meera, Lalla, many female ascetics from South India established no organised sect or religions, seemingly satisfied with their own connection to divinity and radiating it.  There are scant mention of their key disciples. Similarly most pictures I found were also rendition of male gurus with male disciples. This trend has changed in recent times since the likes of Anandamoyee Ma. Hmn, this would be a topic of another more in-depth study…or not. )

GURU

Today the word Guru is often used more loosely to mean an expert in any particular field. So  we have the management gurus, IT and tech gurus and even the love guru. They are well read and have “mastered” their subjects. The word guru in the present context for me means a teacher who throws light on the subject under study. In India anyone who teaches us anything, be it music, dance or sports is accorded the status of a guru, starting from our parents who are considered the first guru.

While the satguru is associated only with the spiritual field the guru or teacher can be from any field. But here we are turning the lens on gurus of the spiritual path so will focus on them.

The Satguru, by nature, lets the pure light of the Divine flow through without corruption and transforms the disciple; the Guru, on the other hand, teaches, fine tunes and perfects the technique given for practice by the Satguru to the disciple. The more clarity the Guru has in passing on the teachings sincerely, the more the benefit to the student. Depending on the lineage, the Guru guides the student in mantra or tantra, in yog or its specialised branches. The teacher inspires the student by living and naturally exhibiting the qualities that are the result of the practice, love courage, joy and peace, siddhis if that’s what’s being taught. In short by example and walking the path the teacher shows the way to the student.

Since the Guru is also evolving he/she is vulnerable to the pitfalls of human passions and emotions and can be easily influenced by Ego and Ahamkar. Most gurus fall prey to the adulations of their students, some of whom can and do praise sincerely or sycophantically. Greed for money and fame being another of the hazard the teacher watches out for. Therefore the Guru needs to be constantly in connect with the light of the Satguru. In the path of yoga, be in sync with the yama and niyamas. The swadhyaya -self study, turning the lens inwards, being a very important tenet for teachers on the spiritual path of guiding seekers, keeps the teacher realistic and away from delusions of being a satguru or profess taking on the role of the satguru.

SHISHYA

Now wherein in all this does the shishya or pupil fit in?

In the clear gaze of the shishya the image of the Satguru and the Guru is reflected back giving them an unadulterated view of themselves. The Satguru shines in the sky like the sun radiating life, neither needing nor wanting, but the moment the shishya’s gaze turns upwards an enriching connection is formed, a connection of Love, in that exchange of love, the disciple flowers and the Satguru accomplishes the evolution of another soul.

In the case of the teacher, whats a teacher without the taught. Though the guru may be releasing a fragrance of knowledge and information like a flowering tree but its the sincere student who is drawn to partake of it, completing and complementing the role of that teacher to distribute knowledge.

The shishya, according to me, has the most difficult of roles in this trio – to recognise a satguru from a guru, a charlatan guru from a sincere one. Especially as both the Satguru and the Guru can physically appear the same. In fact the Guru often being still in the ego looks and behaves more pious than the Satguru who is more natural and whose aim is to shake and wake up the disciple. Contrarily a Guru might take on a role like a Satguru might, a zen master, being rude and harsh. Now the shishya has to sift this through the lens of his/her own discretion and recognise the sincere teacher and distinguish him or her from a Satguru!

 A very difficult task indeed sometimes learnt after trial and error by the seeker, over many lives! One cannot base this identification on the number of disciples an existing Satguru has or the popularity of an organisation, here the seeker might just end up being a “follower”, similarly discovering an ascetic hidden in a cave in the Himalayas also does not guarantee a genuine satguru. The seeker to ‘see’ the Satguru needs an unbiased clear sight uncorrupted by conditioning.

Well I wish good luck to all such seekers.

Doodled some early morning musings that i found interesting and you might too.

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Explaining the doodle, at the bottom we have the pool of creation that includes everything that is created- the whole universe. Here we focus on the pool of humanity from which come the seekers of many hues. Those that seek actively for a spiritual true living Guru or just a teacher of philosophies, yoga, spiritual techniques. Seekers who are entrenched in religions of their choice, following customs, traditions, religious functions. Seekers not seeking anything, happy or not in the trammels of daily life and seekers seeking material and external happiness. From this pool come the disciples and students.

Some find a teacher who leads them to a Satguru, others find the Satguru directly or vice versa the Satguru finds them. Some Satguru’s connect with a deity- Shiva and his rays Gorakh, Hanuman; Vishnu and his avatars, Ram, Krishna, Buddha; Shakti, the Mahavidyas, Kaali, Durga. These beings, for me being extra terrestrial and cosmic beings  are in human form only because they are appearing on earth, on another galaxy they will appear like the locals! Some Seekers and Satguru’s might directly connect with the Infinite Ocean of consciousness, but usually even the most advanced and avataric beings have a physical guru/satguru and or diety, the reason for this I still have to figure out.

The infinite Ocean of consciousness is called by my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath as the Isness of the zero, not-zero who’s centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere. His poetry says it all:

वहां ध्यान न स्थान न नाद न बिंद, आकाश नहीं वहां काल कहाँ
सब शून्य अशून्य का हैपन है, ईश्वर भी निरंकार वहां – योगिराज सिद्धनाथ

Between these two pools all drama is being played. And the wonder of this infinite consciousness being within us and discoverable is exquisite. The Satguru leads us back here effortlessly supporting us.


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Kashi- Flowing us back to our source.

It’s amazing isn’t it when a certain truth is revealed to you at an unguarded moment and your awareness has an Aha moment and the brain lights up with a brilliance. Such revealed knowledge occurs as a result of the grace of our Satguru and our personal sadhana and has the potential to transform us but might have little significance for someone else. This happened to me on a recent visit to Kashi.

Yes took off for a long time, but thats the beauty of a blog, no deadlines and no compulsions ha ha. Anyways here I am back from Kashi with what I’m hoping is another small step towards divinity….or not huh.

It was a peaceful time to visit this city.

Being the monsoon season the Ganga flowed majestically full, pregnant with water; her movement evoked in me a nostalgia of many lifetimes spent in her arms on the ghats of Kashi. A familiarity with her ebb and flow which could not have come from this life. The city streets felt the same, intimate knowledge akin to the free pariah dog who has marked territory and knows every secret of the winding gallis. On each visit to Varanasi as this city is now known, I have experienced this homecoming. The last visit was with my beloved Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath and his wife Gurumata Shivangini.

The Urdhavaret Ganga.

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On the second day of my visit as I sat in a state of heightened happiness in my room overlooking the Ganga, I felt as if I too was in flow as she flowed towards the north, North? and the realisation fell like a lightning bolt that, this is the message of the Ganga from aeons of time- Go back to your source. She who had emanated from Shiva’s locks in the Himalayas was here showing the way back to him! This has been her hidden message to the millions who took a dip in her year after year for thousands of years. . Practice as I did Mahavatar Babaji’s urdhavaret breath of the Kundalini Kriya Yoga as taught by my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, this realisation spurred on a movement of uncontrollable delight in my spine. At the same moment there emanated a sense of awe at this special revelation.

In her journey from the Himalayas in the north towards the Bay of Bengal to the south and east, the Ganga in Kashi turns back and flows North. Of course there must be a geophysical ‘reason’ for this but that is not of the essence here. What happened was a sudden inflow of divine insight for me. I had not read or heard about this phenomenon in any scriptures or ancient text, I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning the river in this spiritual context.  Yes, it was as if Ma Ganga revealed to me a secret which was forever visible through the ages but not realised. I wonder if I am the first person to chronicle this understanding of the urdhavaret message of this ancient river.

After this realisation the daily morning dip took on a new meaning. “Do not depend on externals for your happiness,” says Yogiraj urging his disciples to tap into their inner well of joy independent of material possessions or external supports. The Ganga was reiterating this as she flowed accepting the garbage and the flowers of love, the ashes and the sweet offerings, the greedy and the sincere devotees.

Sitting in the river I could feel all my energy reversing, a fountain of love, aided by the flow of the loving Ganga. We are truly liberated when we are able to unhook ourselves from the externals, she was indicating to me. A profound sense of peace and contentment filled me and continues to fulfil me.

Visit to my Satguru and his Param Guru Sthan

There was a special reason for my trip at this time, a visit to Lahiri Mahasaya’s home which was open to public only on GuruPurnima day. On my earlier visits I have visited this house, almost difficult to find, and sat and stared at the door of an all too familiar house.

   IMG_0094 Circumstances had made it impossible to realise this heartfelt desire earlier but this year being free from many responsibilities I undertook this pilgrimage.

On Gurupurnima day, early in the morning accompanied by two others I set off on a journey which for me was a completion of a karma from the past.

But first we visited the Nandi Ghat or Gaai Ghat, hallowed as it was by its association to our Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath who spent his childhood days in this ghat owned by his family. Disciples rooted in the Guru/Shishya tradition always pay first respect to their living guru. There is a well known couplet by Kabir who says, ” गुरु गोबिन्द दोउ खडे काके लागूँ पाँय, बलिहारी गुरु आपने गोबिन्द दियो बताय,” meaning- when the Guru and God are both present whose feet should I touch first, beloved is the Guru who has shown me the way to God. But for me my Guru is Gobind and I look no further. 😀

Nandi Ghat/Gaai Ghat and Yogiraj’s family Temple.

Nandi Ghat/ Gaai Ghat, Yogiraj SiddhanathIMG_0118IMG_0110IMG_0111

After a special aarati and sadhana at this very personal shiva temple we headed towards Lahiri Mahasaya’s home near Purana Durgaji in Chowsatti Ghat. Since the boats were banned due to the fast flowing river we made our way through the narrow familiar streets of the old city. No photographs were allowed inside so I managed to take some from the narrow street outside.

Lahiri Mahasaya’s Home as seen from the street.

Lahiri Mahasaya home, Kashi IMG_0093  As I bowed in front of the seat of Lahiri Baba I had a meltdown moment as past life associations came flooding out. At the same time there was a sense of a completion and I knew I did not have to come back here again. We received the prasad from the family members and left.

Street Food, Bovine Majestica etc.

Daily breakfast was at the corner kachori shop which would open at 8:30 and shut at 10 am. The father and son duo seemingly happy with what they make in that time. The whole day was peppered with stops at The Blue Lassi shop with wifi for a mango lassi, the Kashi Chat Bhandar on Dasashwamedha Ghat for an amazing tamatar (tomato) chat or tikki and kulfi!! Of course our progress was often marred by majestic cows and bulls on the street who had to be cajoled out of the way. 😀

 

Street food and cows IMG_0100 IMG_0102 IMG_0125IMG_0164IMG_0165IMG_0162 IMG_0163

On the last evening we made it for the Ganga Aarati at Dasashwamedha Ghat.

IMG_0147Ganga AArati

It is right that I end this with the Manikarnika Ghat or the burning ghat. From the balcony of my room I could see the constant burning pyres, a testimony to the fleeting moment of human life. This too evoked a nostalgia and yearning for I know not what.

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