Live free yoga

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


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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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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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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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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.

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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. 😀

 

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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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