My Truth

Heart Chakra

Heart Chakra

A number of posts ago, I mentioned that things with me were “changing.” It’s true. They have and they definitely still are. It’s a progression I’m noticing and allowing – even welcoming, I do believe. Recently, at a satsangh I attended a passage was read from a work by the group’s current Satguru. It resonated so deeply within me that shortly thereafter I ordered the book the passage was read from and thought to share it with you here.

I’ve had the book – it came with seven others I ordered at the same time – and I’ve been working through this to find the exact passage to share here. This is actually what I had intended to be my first post of 2014 (ha!). A number of other posts were finished before this one and I planned to just sit on them until after this was published, but I later changed my mind so I published them anyway. And now we have this one. Something else I’ve changed my mind on is sharing the passage I mentioned earlier. Sorry.

A number of weeks ago I asked a friend about the implications of revisiting a path one had at one time decided wasn’t for himself. My general rule with things like this is easy to understand within the context of relationships: An ex is an ex for a reason. If things are messed enough that someone has to be dismissed in that way, it should be for good reason – otherwise they should not become an ex. I think this can translate into other areas of life, too. Give something a shot – an honest and good effort – and if it doesnt work out, it just doesn’t and be done. All relationship examples aside, my friend’s general perspective was that it’s fine to revisit a path that was at one time discarded. His view was pretty much that the first visit can be attributed to the wrong timing. Again, and I’m currently speaking strictly in the context of a life’s path, I think my rule is the best governance, but his view definitely holds water and feels very true for me these days.

Some time ago, like more than a year ago, I thought that I had decided against how well I fit with the Sahaj Marg or how well it fit with me. I could cite the post here on Sthapati that detailed that thought process, but I’m hoping instead that you read it back when it was originally published. The truth is that I came to the Sahaj Marg through part of my college education (a psychology class!), I gave it a full six months (which is prescribed) and then decided to discard it. A number of months ago, however, I bumped into it again and I’ve been almost amazed at the difference in my experience this time.

Since my journey with Hinduism began, over a decade ago, I’ve grown and changed in innumerable ways. Some changes have certainly come easily. Others came and won their course with me kicking and screaming the whole time. All of this is Shiva’s Tandava – the dance that enables existence, the dance that keeps things moving so that life in sustained, and the dance that leaves behind our evolutionary baggage as dust.

And the best part of any dance is the flow – the inherent order of each movement. This movement is where beauty is found and grace. This movement is the wellspring of compassion and understanding and maturity. And this movement is what determines what came before, what’s here now, and what comes next… and even which moves are repeated or recycled – all in an order so precise and encompassing that the cosmos is held together in ways that leave us baffled and filled with awe.

I’m still a horrible dancer, but I do love learning to be a better dance partner.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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My Own Release

Shiva Nataraj - Taken from Google Image search

Shiva Nataraj – Taken from Google Image search

I wrote a while ago about patterns in life. This year is still young, but already I think I’m seeing a pattern forming for 2014. Renunciation is a value built into all of Hinduism, although the emphasis of what should be renounced often varies.

I mentioned in another post a little about the stress I’ve been under. If I can be honest this has been a very telling test regarding where I am with renunciation, or at least the “letting go” part of it. Self-assessment is a huge part of progressing as a human and a soul. Most people don’t like that aspect of their journey. At times I don’t either, but looking back I’ve never been sorry to have first reflected on some trait I possess(ed) and then adjusted accordingly. I think this “letting go” might be another instance of this.

A few weeks ago I spent most of my Sunday at an abhyasi’s (abhyasi = godbrother / godsister) house in an all-day / extended satsangh. Usually when this occurs (about once a month, next Sunday being March’s long satsangh), we start with an hour-long meditation, followed by an hour of discussion/study, followed by an hour or so of eating and “relaxing,” followed by another hour of discussion/study, and then wrap up with another hour of meditation. During the extended day the topic of stress came up in relation to our discussion on attachment and renunciation. One person, a local prefect, shared something he’d heard from a friend who had visited a shrink of some sort. He shared that the definition of stress is “when reality and expectation don’t match.” (I think that could also be a definition of what a surprise is.) He then also shared three things that can help a person be less affected by stress when their expectation doesn’t meet reality. I don’t plan to include those here.

This simple definition couldn’t be truer for me, much of the time. I often have an idea of how things should or might go, and not always – not often really – when reality doesn’t mirror what I thought I’m like, “WTF?” With work this is particularly true. I expect to be trained on the responsibilities placed on my shoulders. When that training is really – very – muchly deficient, my expectation is no longer matching (or able to match) reality and my mind automatically begins whirling a bit, considering so many things. The natural result of that kind of nonsense is stress.

I say this is natural because it really is a natural part of life – not the crummy training, but stress in general. Life probably wouldn’t be possible without it. Still, the human mind can be a real bitch and one of it’s favorite egoic tricks is misery. Stress comes to us, in a bajillion different forms, so that we respond in a way that keeps things moving. This is where stress is good for life in general. But the human mind will grab onto something related to our challenges and recycle it. It won’t let go unless you’re entirely apathetic or have trained your mind well. I might be making excuses (I’m not), but I have to wonder if this has anything to do with me being drawn to Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga – both deal much with the mind and learning to master it and consequently everything it touches, which is nearly everything.

As this year ages, and I do also, I’m sure I’ll find ample opportunity to test and develop the renunciation and detachment (mental, emotional, …personal) needed to meet my own challenges and keep moving. Certainly, my wish is the same for you.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

The Heart of Man

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

I’ve been writing a lot more lately about things to do with Sahaj Marg and my experiences therein. This post will be no different.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how “heart-centered” this marg is and what a balanced role bhakti plays within this marg’s practice / sadhana. A big part of our meditative practice focuses on region of the heart chakra, also known as the Anahata Chakra. This is interesting because the Sahaj Marg springs from the Raja Yoga / Patanjali way of spirituality and brings with it an emphasis on the mind, its workings, and control over it. For the Sahaj Marg, however, the heart is where all the action happens. We work on knowing our Self, controlling the waves within the mind, living simple lives, etc… but progress really happens in the human heart.

I have a day book of sorts – not exactly a calendar but each page of the book corresponds to a day in the calendar year. It reminds me of Christian devotionals that I used to read through during the course of a year, only mine now is Hindu. I had gotten behind sometime around the middle of January and as I was catching up last night I came to an entry that touched me in light of everything this year has brought as well as from the context of my walk with the Sahaj Marg.

The wisdom of one of the days in January is a quote from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and is as follows,”What is the soul? The soul is consciousness. It shines as the light within the heart.”

Adhering to a practice that sees God and our Self as the most subtle light within the heart – so subtle in fact that we don’t picture this Light so much as “suppose” it – this short quote obviously speaks to me. Indeed, it makes me smile.

Whatever your path, I hope it helps you to develop sufficiently so as to experience the inner Light which so subtle it can’t be seen, but only known.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Anahata Chakra, from Google Image search

Anahata Chakra, from Google Image search

उत्तरदायित्व

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In just about any Hindu circle you can find yourself in you’re likely to hear of Dharma. It’s tossed around a lot, and while it’s super common I have found that most people – even when they know what it means – have a tough time verbalizing a good definition. I’m no different, but there’s a layer of meaning inherent to that term that I want to touch on. Responsibility.

Many know that it’s better to perform your own dharma poorly than to attempt and brilliantly succeed at someone else’s. As overused as that is, I love it and it’s one of the most endearing “doctrines” in all of Hinduism, so far as I’m concerned. A big part of this is responsibility.

The best and I have had numerous conversations about this. He’s made some pretty interesting life choices which have brought him some unfortunate karmic results. As we were discussing his ability to sift his way through these results, and what he might need to endure to get to brighter days, he once exclaimed, “I’m not going to be miserable for a decade!” Without going into details, this superficially sounds reasonable. But in reality he was demanding the easy road after he’d already screwed himself out of it. Another friend, from years ago, became very agitated with me when I questioned the role of his own responsibility in regard to a life-changing event he faced. And recently, I read on another blog maintained by a younger gay male who recently came out as HIV-positive. This young man seems to have a pretty good perspective on the matter of being HIV-positive, but a recent post on his blogspace (superficially) debated responsibilities falling on the shoulders of two people in a sexual relationship – one HIV-positive and one HIV-negative. His take was primarily that it’s as much the responsibility of the HIV-negative person’s to disclose their negative status as it might be for the HIV-positive person to disclose their own status. (I think he’s hitting on something important, but I’m not entirely convinced of his position.) America’s government is obsessed with responsibility. Almost everything touched by the government can be whittled down to dollars and who’s responsible for how they’re obtained and spent – and then we squabble over whether this is done responsibly or irresponsibly.

Responsibility is a weird thing these days. Maybe our concept of it is evolving as we are. I don’t know. But I do feel that we’re scared of it. We pay for overpriced insurance policies to avoid financial responsibility. We take people to court to hold them accountable for what we think should be their responsibility. And we project onto others our own guiding principles as we judge whether we think they’re doing what they ought to, or not.

It’s a funny thing, responsibility. It’s quite fluid and yet sure enough that it can be a determining factor in our life’s course. If you’re wondering how to decipher if something is within the reach of your personal responsibility, you can quiz yourself and maybe gain some clarity. You might consider the following if you’re debating the degree of responsibility that might apply to you:

1) Can anyone consider you at fault, to blame, or otherwise liable for actions considered?
2) Do you feel any sense of accountability to any who might be affected by actions considered?
3) Are you the direct cause of what happened, or can you otherwise be directly linked to it?
4) Are there expectations placed on you by others to do/not to do something?
5) Do you feel morally, legally, or mentally accountable for actions considered or performed?

I think, regardless of the context, if you answer “yes” to any of the above questions you should probably consider yourself responsible – even if only to a small degree. In fact, most of those questions are based on parts of the Merriam-Webster definition of responsible, so if you answered in the affirmative it’s safe to say you are to be held responsible.

Where dos this fit into the dharma we mentioned earlier? Right in the middle of it! No matter how you define responsibility one things is sure – it’s all you – and it’s expression will be unique to your path. This makes it a vital and integral task on the part of the individual to invest whatever might be needed to know who he is, as fully as possible. To be the best you possible – to have the best life possible – responsibility is a must.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Holy Rut

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

I belong to a closed Facebook group that posts a lot of really interesting things that I might otherwise not see. I’m grateful for this and for the group, and a lot of the posts I’ve seen in it, but I feel like it’s also shown me something I suspect is terribly prevalent throughout humanity and am disappointed by – in fact, more than once I’ve considered leaving the group because of this thing (among others). This thing is our addiction to externality.

We love our rituals and religions. For those inclined toward suchery, a huge chunk of one’s identity can be placed into religious practices. For many, indeed most, this is a natural part of one’s development. There’s no harm in this. One, however, can become trapped in this and what eventually happens is that religion and its rituals stick around long after they’ve gone dead. To share a quote I placed on my Facebook page recently by Chariji, “In fact, all spiritual traditions speak of religion as the kindergarten through which we have to pass.”

Sri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari, who comes from a Vaishnav family and is the third and current master of my Parampara / Sampradaya, has said a lot on this matter. He tells us that every religion in the world says the same thing, “Seek within,” but that we have mostly lost sight of this and that our rituals have instead become the aim. He also cautions us about becoming too religious saying, “Religion enforces an externalization of the mind in man’s search for God. Mysticism or spirituality internalizes the search and directs the mind to the heart of man where the search really should commence.” (These words and others are surprisingly “bhakt” considering the history of this lineage.) Beyond these words, he went on to say that he’s not suggesting religion is dead, but that it should instead evolve “like I evolve, you evolve, like my child evolves.”

While speaking to a friend about this, it was mentioned that there’s a time and place where religion and ritual are needed. I fully agree. Certainly, for each of us, there’s a time and place where we’re the most benefited from this. But I would assert that we still have to be on guard. People are often fools, after all. People are often asleep behind the wheel – as any study of the ego will reveal. And this is the Kali Yuga, a period of time when we’re most likely to become misguided. I personally have known and currently known a number of people who could be (and eventually will be) even “more” than they are because they refuse to budge in their growth. I think this is why I’ve ranted more than once about folks being lazy. We tend to find a rule book we like, and then get comfortable.

Sri Chariji Maharaj (Sri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari) says where religion ends, spirituality begins, and where spirituality ends Reality begins. He goes on to say, “…and where Reality ends, then commences that stage of the ultimate existence which for the lack of better word he calls Bliss. Now it is clear from this that religion has to have a definite end in the pursuit of our goal.”

I don’t plan to cease adoration of my beloved Ganapati. In fact, here soon, I’ll be observing the monthly Sankashti which follows every full moon. Although I no longer am as steadfast as I once was, I’ll continue my japa sadhana. I’ll continue abstaining from meat and will still go to temple. These things, of course, are all religious observances for me (well, except for the vegetarianism) and although I don’t “need” most of them (hell, sometimes I don’t even want some of them), I’ll still enjoy them. My lesson here is that we can too easily end up identifying with and clinging to things that are meant eventually to be left behind. I fully believe that most humans linger behind in certain areas long after they should – long after they’re actually able to transcend. It’s like staying in kindergarten long after you have mastered your ABCs and 123s.

Aum Sri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

God-ly Thoughts

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A while ago I purchased a number of books from the Sri Ram Chandra Mission. Part of the purchase included a trilogy of books, each filled with quotes of the lineage’s three masters. I’ve read through each book in order of the masters and am now reading through the book of quotes pertaining to the most recent, and current master, Sri Parathasari Rajagopalachari, who is affectionately known as Chariji.

Below I’ll be sharing a number of Chariji’s quotes from the chapter of the book simply titled, “God.” I find these striking and absolutely true from where I sit, as they depict a conception of God that feels complete and far less susceptible to the “human condition” that is apparent in other notions of God. I know these won’t be agreeable to all and I know that this “impersonal” approach to thinking of God doesn’t appeal to all.

“God cannot be a person, God cannot be a place, God cannot be a thing. God is said to be, in all religions, without exception, omnipotent, omnipervasive, smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest… If God is everywhere it is a denial of that truth to have to go to a temple to find Him there. If He is in everything, surely He is in me as much as in that temple. Why not seek Him within me, within my self… A temple is not where God is; where God is, wherever God is, that is a temple!”

“The human race, when it evolves has an evolving picture of God, too… So God, I think, in His ultimate wisdom said, ‘Let me have no name, because they will fight over my name. Let me have no form, because they will fight over my form’ … If we are to know or appreciate what God is, we have to experience the Presence of God, not to learn about Him, not to speak about Him, not to be sermonized about Him… What we call God or the Centre is nothing but the subtlest thing that exists.”

“I consider it the most merciless conception of God, that he can give me one life, expect me to perform and then judge me for it… We sin; God did not create sin; therefore it is our idea of sin that is responsible for this… It is the truth of God Himself that no God has ever punished or rewarded anybody. He has given us the opportunity to do it ourselves.”

These words of the Master have taught me that we have to be careful. So many of us are so certain about what we think we know about God and virtually nothing can convince us otherwise – this includes myself at times.

Naturally, anything the mind conjures up will necessarily have limitations. That kind of nonsense is needed for existence in a physical body, and there’s nothing inherently wrong there. The wisest, regardless of what notion they’re most fond of, realize that God is subtle – immensely subtle.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

1 – 2 – 3

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Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is fantastically magical. I think today’s emphasis on bhakti yoga leaves the Yoga Sutra mostly overlooked and not well studied. In truth, this text should be studied by any and every serious yoga seeker. Although the text seems to be valued primarily by practitioners of raja yoga and jnana yoga, there’s not a single aphorism (that’s 100% not the right word, but I’m leaving it) in the entire text that won’t benefit and help develop the genuine seeker, regardless of their chosen path.

I’ve been very open about the path I feel most inclined toward, which is that of jnana yoga. However, the group or sect (or whatever you wish to call it) that I actually actively participate in adheres to the “raja” way of business. I’ve found, and been surprised to find, that raja yoga is the one yoga almost no one knows anything about and in my experienced, it’s actually quite balanced. It literally and successfully incorporates various aspects of yoga that bring out the best of the jnana approach, enable one to pursue bhakti intelligently and in a controlled / structured manner, and also mitigate the ebb and flow of one’s various karmas. That raja yoga is king, indeed!

Recently on Facebook, I saw something in my news feed posted by Yoga International, the link to which can be found by clicking here. This well-written article is, umm…. written well. The author knows her wordery and how to employ it. She has selected three of the Niyamas to focus on for the piece and what she shares is cool and helpful. To be clear, the Yamas and Niyamas can be seen by some to essentially be a bunch of “do this” “don’t do that” kind of rules. They’re not that. Simply put, they’re structured steps to help guide one on his / her way through the yogic process.

Something I’ve found interesting on more than one occasion is that these Yamas & Niyamas are not infrequently rearranged or modified to suit various temperaments, goals, and levels of development. That should stand as testament to the fact that these aren’t anything close to the Hindu “Ten Commandments” or even anything along those lines. In that spirit, the author of this article has selected three of the Niyamas: Tapas, Swadhyaya, and Ishwara Pranidhana.

Starting with tapas, she explains the importance of dedication and sticking to your guns on something you want to accomplish. There’s mention of “heat,” which is both a physical experience and an internal, driving force kind of thing. It’s like a burning fire that causes one to act and continue acting. There’s an inherent urgency in tapas – “I’m headed to this destination and I want to get there. Now.” This is the Niyama of discipline and will-power.

To guide that action, however, and keep it from getting out of control, one employs swadhyaya. This term is often translated as “self study,” but it should be made clear how encompassing that’s meant to be. The author says it’s, “…the yogic method of paying attention to what you are doing, how you are doing it, and why you are doing it.” This kind of study is meant to include not only the learning that the self does from books and from others, but also learning about the Self – a reflective and experiential responsibility of great importance. This involves looking within and putting the pieces together. How has what you observe fit with what you experience? According to the author, this is where the physicality of Hatha Yoga comes alive. With this Niyama we’re forced to call a spade what it is and keep moving forward – something possible only with the courage taken from tapas.

When these two are successfully married, we’re brought to the third Niyama discussed in the article: Ishwara Pranidhana. I’ll admit when I very first learned of this Niyama, I didn’t go very deep with it. A simple translation would be, “surrendering to the Divine.” I gagged when I first read that. When I see phrases like that I cringe because way too many people think this flatly means to be open to God’s will for their life, a notion I find questionable as it is. Those thoughts, without carrying them further, really do a disservice to the Yoga Sutra and the aspiring yogi. This is Niyama is vitally necessary because, as the author points out, the previous two alone run the risk of us becoming self-absorbed.

Ishwara pranidhana is what allows us to accept the fruits of our karmas without attachment. In the other Niyamas we’ve done the work necessary for any fruition, whatever that may be. And that’s the key with this particular Niyama – being cool with those fruits, whatever they may be. Having that kind of acceptance is crazy tough. The fruits in question here are, of course, really just the effects of any cause you create. It’s one thing to be like, “Whatever” in regard to anything that might happen. Even stoners are capable of that. But it’s a whole other thing to have developed awareness enough to not only think you have total acceptance of what may come, but also to be an active and conscious player when the causes to whatever happens are created to begin with.

It’s going with the flow – but on steroids.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti