Live free yoga

Liberated living through the sadhana of yog; enlivened realisations by the grace of the Guru.


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the inner essencetial Guru


A Recap

Over the years I notice that I have pondered much on the subject of the Guru/shishya, Master/disciple principle; though not premeditated I see in myself a fascination with this phenomenal bond in the spiritual arena. Of course this bond exists in normal teacher/student relationships too. Even those who are not actively on the path of spiritual discovery might see in themselves an influence by a teacher or professor, a mentor whose guidance has brought them to the present stage of life.

An example of my predisposition with this topic is the title of my book One Master one disciple which chronicles my journey in the Presence of my Guru, a journey that began with a mystical meeting in 1998 and continues; four years ago I wrote a blog on Gurus, shishyas and the Satguru and now here I am once again on a topic that is as intricate as it is mystical, fraught with strong opinions, understandings and misunderstandings bordering on the vacuous or intellectual. Yet, I am compelled to continue after my usual reiteration that the realisations here are mine alone and opposing views and realisations are equally valid- for those who have them, as these are for me. As noted earlier, my blogs are a way of light conversation, a time out from sadhana, in fact the topic is often the result of the sadhana- inner introspection.

The Principle Guru

I now realise that as my sadhana takes roots, my understanding of this Guru principle is deepening. As my inner discernment or rather as Yogiraj my Guru coins it- incernment, takes me towards a state of clarity unclouded by external factors or inner turmoil, I acknowledge this inner presence that reflects the outer Presence of the Satguru. This learning is for me, a great step towards true discipleship. Yogiraj in his book Babaji, the lightning Standing Still has included a chart with two headings, World Teacher and World King. In my humorous way I have always imagined a third column in this chart, that of ‘world disciples’ for those who would like to come in every lifetime to accompany these Teachers and Kings and are happy in that role and content to fill that column in every life! Ah a whimsical thought accompanied by a humble pranam 🙏🏽.

Very early on I had understood that one of the foremost accomplishment of the external Satguru is to turn the disciple inwards towards the inner guru, as Yogiraj Siddhanath did and continues to do, with me and his many disciples. In fact, by their very nature Satguru’s perform this act of revelation; stopping and reversing the flow of attention from the external to the inner Guru. Of course each disciple makes this journey at their own pace. This process of reversal and inner wisdom is a part of the yogic path, as layers of the koshas, from gross to subtle are purified through the given practice, the inner guide starts to shine forth. As the veil dissolves the disciple realises the externally present and their inner Guru to be of the same essence.

The Flux Motion

As the yogi practitioners apply themselves to the practice given by their Satguru, a process is put into motion similar to the process of the germination of a seed. As the disciple is saturated with the Satgurus grace the dormant and or latent seed of the Vivek Buddhi in the disciple awakens and begins to expresses itself. The practice and the presence of the living master works like the water and sun helping the disciple to realise their full potential. There are of course many permutations and combinations to this development, the fertility of the soil, the receptivity of the seed itself, the surrounding environment and climate of the society in which the disciple interacts. But I have realised that when the seed is ready to sprout the water and the sun- the Satguru will find them to start the process of awakening.

As the seed sprouts it not only germinates and moves up towards the sun but also puts down roots to harness nourishment from the soil. Ditto with the disciple encouraged and nourished by the grace and loving guidance of the master and the rooting into the practice of the given technique of inner understanding, the disciple expresses the spiritual radiance in all their actions, manifested and unmanifested. This is a great learning experience and many years and lifetimes may go in this process, as one lifetime may not be enough to accomplish the required level of inner wisdom to finally let go, the ego of it all.




The Veil of the Panchakoshas

Often I hear people referring to how they listen to their inner guide for all matters spiritual and that they don’t need an external Guru or a practice for guidance. But, according to me, it’s not an easy matter to be able to connect to this inner guide, or to be sure the guidance that is coming is not dictated by one’s own desires or wants.

The body is made up of 5 layers or koshas, the annamaya physical body of food, the pranamaya body of breath/pran, the manomaya the body of mind and emotion, the vignyanamaya body of intellect and the anandamaya body of intuition, each contributing to refraction of information received and executed, all influencing one another and the five senses that collect information. Beyond these is the soul, also covered with its samskars and past karmas. Within this multilayered shell is the hidden spark of the inner guru.

For the inner Guru to shine forth unhindered the external layers have to reach a state of clarity and stillness unhindered by turbulence. To accomplish this, many tools are used by those on this path- various pranayam techniques, mantra frequencies, chakra sadhana etc. For practicing yogis a natural adherence to the 8 limbs of yog sadhana. In some cases sitting in the Presence of a master aids in accomplishing this state, depending upon the stature of the Master and readiness of the disciple this can be speedy or slow. Only conscious effort brings the disciple to this stage of unperturbed equilibrium is my realisation.

The wonder is that as the outer Satguru’s grace and our own effort with the practice builds the bridge from out to in, the already present inner Guru expresses in to out completing the formation of the bridge. On a lighter note my mind conjures up the building of the Eurotunnel, where work began on both ends and the Chunnel then met perfectly in the middle. Of course no spiritual pun intended…about France and UK, about who is Master and who disciple, lets leave it to the football teams to decide that 😂

The Final Turnabout

In the end we return to the seed that has sprouted and grown roots and shoots akin to the disciple fully nurtured with all the inner wisdom, expressing it in all facets of their lives. The final service the Satguru does is to now reverse the process to a withdrawal where the seed pulls back into itself its outer manifestations and the disciple moving inwards rests in the inner Nothingness, knowing that it is of the same essence as the essence of the external Satguru and Master. The disciple during practice may have already become aware of this similarity of essence, of the clear stream of consciousness that connects the innermost core of the Satguru with their own innermost core, devoid of all external paraphernalia. Nay the disciple may have already learnt to ‘listen’ internally to this essence of the Satguru, the true gnosis. But in the final retracing and resting in this state is the purpose of the yog sadhana accomplished.

This seems to be the primary function of the Satguru, to assist in forming the bridge that transports the disciple to the inner guru and rest in THAT.

For this great service a disciple can never repay the SatGuru.

Note* This germinating seed is just one of my analogies, there are and can be many as this whole process of the Guru/disciple phenomena is very fascinating and has as many permutations combinations as there are Gurus and shishyas. My realisation of the Outer & Inner Guru, however remains constant.


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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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Am I a Hindu if I practice Yog(a)?

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, a sort of free for all to adopt and adapt.

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.

The system of Yog is a branch of an enlightened spiritual tradition. It is not an excuse for marketing Yoga as not a religion by giving examples of those adhering to and being faithful to other religions practicing it, to draw in students and incomes.

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 and its practitioner 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 Self within.


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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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Why Blog??

book cover kindle

Why blog?

Needed to get this clear first. Yes really, do I have time for this blogging in my busy schedule of teaching the practices of the Siddhanath Yoga Parampara, travelling abroad for a couple of months every year, managing my centre in Chandigarh, India, helping out at our Siddhanath Forest Ashram, this apart from other family and farm obligations? What is prompting me to do this? Do I have anything so important to share that others will want to read? Do I even want anyone to read what I write or have to say? Do people really care? Do I care? Questions, questions, questions.

Then I realized that all these thoughts, ideas, words, realizations (mine) are knocking around inside my head and my god, once they are out how much better would be my sadhana (spiritual practice)! And hence the platform of the blog, more for my own benefit than others. See a lot of similarity to writing my book One Master one disciple too which was first written as a journal for myself then published first in 2007 then again now in 2019 updated with fifteen more years of understanding. So enjoy….or not haha

I had written a series of articles for a local newspaper, actually two newspapers way back in 2005. In 9 years by 2014 the Satguru has helped connect many more synapses in the brain and regular practice and association with him has brought many more revelations. I am going to start by producing the articles here verbatim and adding the new stuff, thus tracing the evolutionary path….

Starting next week with the first one- Connecting to one’s sacred self with Yoga.