Jailed Jivan?

Image take from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

Recently a friend asked me about the difference I understood there to be between the term “enlightened” and “Self-Realized.” I answered him that I understand enlightenment to be something progressive and not automatically final, whereas I’ve never heard of someone being Self-Realized and still having more realization to attain. His understanding seemed to be similar.

A day or so ago, as I neared the completion of a book I’ve been reading, I came to a passage that seemed to fit into the aforementioned conversation, although … with a twist. The book is called “My Master – The Essence of Pure Love” and was written by the current and living (although that may change shortly) guru and Master of the Sahaj Marg, Shri Parathasarathi Rajagopalachari, affectionately known as Chariji. He wrote this book upon a “divine commandment” received by him from his own guru, Sri Ram Chandra – also known as Babuji within the Sahaj Marg. What follows is an excerpt from the chapter called “The Gift of Liberation.”

“The ultimate aim of sadhana under the Sahaj Marg system of raja yoga is rather loosely designated as being liberation or realization. These two terms are generally used interchangeably, as if they were synonymous, and represented the same condition of state of Being. Those closer to Master who have had more experience with Master’s use of the terminology of his system, appreciate that there is not merely a difference between the two words, but the difference is indeed a large and significant one. Sometimes a third term is used, this being ‘the perfect human condition’ or the ‘condition of the perfect human being.’ Thus the goal is generally described in these terms, the exact term used depending on the person’s degree of intimacy with Master, and his own growth and experience in the system.

“As far as I have been able to understand the subject, is appears to me that liberation is a lesser order of attainment when compared to realization. In Sahaj Marg terms, liberation is indeed a far higher level than the traditional religious emancipation labeled mukti or moksha, both of which generally refer to a state of salvation from which there is no return to the physical plane of existence. They, however, do not preclude rebirth in higher non-physical realms of existence, of which Master says there are many. So mukti and moksha are limited concepts, whereas the liberation of Sahaj Marg yoga offers a permanent release from the chain of births and deaths.

“There is a more significant difference. Traditional religion seems to provide, by and large, for release only after death. This is called videha mukti, that is mukti after one has vacated the body. The jivan mukta state, that is the state of release in this life itself, while one is yet alive, is stated to be a very high order of mukti, possible only to a very few. Under Sahaj Marg the emphasis is on the attainment of liberation in this life itself, here and now, while one is living a normal life as a householder.

“When I requested Master to give a short definition of liberation, Master said, ‘In one who has been liberated what is first broken down is time. Time is destroyed first.’ This is clear enough as far as it goes, implying that one who is liberated is no longer subject to the sway of time. For such a person all temporality ceases to exist and one steps into eternity. I have long tried to understand this concept of eternity. The only clear understanding I have arrived at is that eternity does not mean unlimited extension of time. It seems to be of a different order of existence.”

I found this section of the chapter intriguing. It provides many answers if one decides to accept them, and it also certainly can be said that this section and chapter opens many questions as well. I also wonder where a term like “samadhi” fits into the Sahaj Marg understanding of liberation and realization – I’ve yet to encounter much, if anything, relating directly to that term. For now, if nothing else, this serves as an example of another perspective that might not be very prominent, but is no less valid.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Shri

I’ve found myself engaging in artistic acts of devotion lately. I’ve always enjoyed sketching and I often doodle in meetings at work. Lately, I’ve been putting this to work drawing yantras. The first was the yantra associated with my ishtadevata, Shri Ganesha – the post for which was published two posts ago here on Sthapati.

Yesterday, while at work, I decided I’d start on the Mother of all yantras, the Shri Yantra – also known as Shri Chakra. Regardless of one’s background in Hinduism, this yantra reigns supreme among the yantras. Like Aum, there’s nothing that doesn’t come from or return to Shri Yantra, and because of the association between Ganapati & Aum I also easily relate Ganesha to this yantra. I’ve mostly heard of the Shri Yantra referencing the Holy Mother of everything, but surely if Brahman Itself could be put into visual form, Shri Yantra is it. I would encourage anyone with even slight interest to look into Shri Yantra and learn. I would also encourage anyone viewing / reading this to excuse the flaws in my attempt at drawing. This is, by far, the toughest thing to put on paper by hand that I’ve ever attempted. After this, I think all other yantras will be a piece of cake!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Shri 1

Shri 2

Shri 3

Shri 4

Shri 5

Shri 6

Shri 7

Shri 8

Shri 9

Shri 10

Shri 11

Shri 12

Sordid Sadhana

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

Much focus in the Sahaj Marg is directed toward unlayering the human soul. Each action we undertake and the subsequent reaction (and the consequent cycle we find ourselves in) leaves what the Hindu tradition names “samskaras.” These are impressions that stick with us. These impressions are part of the karmic cycle we create for ourselves, mostly unknowingly. After numerous lifetimes of adding sheath after sheath of these impressions on top of each other, it’s no wonder people often have trouble knowing who they are or what they should do with their life. Peeling these away, like layers of an onion, is a goal we’re aiming for without even knowing it. Other traditions and sects indicate the same even if they use different words.

The meditation practice employed in Sahaj Marg is special to me. I’ll spare you the boring details, but suffice to say it’s been a power-filled, effective / productive, and truly amazing experience so far. I remember when I first found Hinduism I kept thinking that the deeper I go the deeper I want to go. The result was (and continues to be) a growing feeling that I’m finding my Self and actually making my way home.

Still, for all that gushy joy I often find myself facing some ugliness from within. They say “no pain, no gain” and Hinduism has proven this to be ultimately true. More than once since coming to the Sahaj Marg, I’ve found myself mid-meditation noticing some surprising thoughts surfacing within my mind. When I say surprising I really mean sordid. Absolutely DIRTY. Lord, even sometimes raunchy. Nothing I’ve been super embarrassed about, per se, because I’m rather liberal when it comes to that kind of stuff (not much scares me), but just … surprising. And it’s made me wonder – if I’m progressing along my unique spiritual path, then it seems that I shouldn’t be having these thoughts and in the middle of meditation, no less. The answer came to me in a rather timely manner from a book called, “My Master – The Essence of Pure Love” that was first published in 1986 and was written by the Marg’s current Satguru about his own guru. I’ve shared the applicable selection (four paragraphs) of this book below. My apologies for any typing errors.

“This brings us to the second stage of Master’s work – cleaning and purifying the abhyasi to make quick progress possible and to consolidate that progress. What is it that is cleaned? Master’s general answer is that the whole system has to be thoroughly cleaned. This includes the heart and the higher points one after the other. The main work is on the heart and the heart region where much of the samskaric residue lies buried in the form of grossness. Master teaches that when we act in any way – the word ‘act’ being taken in its widest meaning to include all sensory activity and mental activity – the action leaves an ‘impression’ which is called a samskara when it is very deep.

“It is clear that the superficial impressions are easily cleaned off. It is easy to wipe a slate and clean it. But it is not so with a gramophone record, for instance, where the impressions have been made deep enough to form permanent grooves. When we become ‘involved’ in our actions the danger of deep impressions being formed is much greater. The accumulated impressions which are in us form the samskaric burden of the past. This has to be cleaned by the Master by the use of his own spiritual power. As this cleaning proceeds the abhyasi experiences actual ‘lightness’ during his meditation sittings.

“I had a personal problem in this connection which I once discussed with Master. When I first started meditation a great number of thoughts used to come up and intrude but, on following Master’s technique of not attending to thoughts, the inrush of thoughts became progressively reduced until I could experience intervals of thoughtlessness. But, and this was my problem, after a few years of sadhana I suddenly found thoughts of a most sordid and vile nature coming during meditation. Naturally I was considerably perturbed because I was apprehensive that this might indicate not progress but regress.

“Master quickly cleared the problem up for me. He said, “You see, the dust that settles every day on the table can be easily dusted off. It is superficial and easy to remove. Suppose ink has been poured on the table and allowed to soak, then the cleaning is more difficult. So the nature of the impression makes all the difference. Now I tell you one more thing. We sometimes have bad thoughts, I mean consciously. We feel ashamed and push them down. Now the very bad or worst thoughts are hidden away deep inside the mind. So in cleaning they may come up last of all. In your case this is what has happened. You should be happy that these vile thoughts have been removed at last. Progress will be quicker now. Do you understand this? It is like a pond. The leaves and dust float on its surface and can be easily removed. But heavy dirt sinks down, and effort is necessary. So in cleaning it comes up last. So there is nothing to worry about.”

The above (sorry for it being so lengthy) struck me instantly when I read it. Without speaking directly to our current Satguru, I’m not sure that my instances of this are really the same thing happening. After all, this is the Marg’s current guru talking about a conversation he had decades ago with his own guru. Surely something special applies to that conversation, as it took place between one advanced soul and another. At any rate, it brought me comfort and felt like home to me – even if the bottom of my own pond is covered with the most sultry dirt.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Yantra Yatra

Everyone who reads Sthapati knows already that I don’t consider myself much of a “bhakt,” although I readily acknowledge the value it brings to one’s spirituality and I can often recognize the influence of the bhakti marg in my life.

Sporadically, I’ll feel creative AND devotional and will attempt to marry the two modes until they are sufficed in my system. What you see below is a progression of this kind of expression. I located some images online of the yantra ( sacred geometry ) associated with my ishtadevata and then began sketching. I took photos with my phone along the way and of the final product.

I hope you enjoy!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Yantra1

Yantra2

Yantra3

Yantra4

Yantra5

Yantra6

Yantra7

Yantra9

Yantra8

Yantra10

Yantra11

Yantra12

Yantra13

στην καρδιά σας ( stin kardia sas )

meditation-thoughts

I recently received the current issue of Hinduism Today, and it wasn’t until this gem arrived in the mail that I realized that I hadn’t yet made my way through the last issue. Tragedy! In all fairness, though, the last 3 months have literally been too much. So there.

As I began progressing through the last issue, anxious to dig into the newest one, I came upon some things that instantly caught my attention. The first is in the quotes section and comes from a Sri Lankan mystic of the founding lineage of those responsible for Hinduism Today magazine, Satguru Siva Yogaswami. He apparently once said, “Karma is movement in the mind. When the mind remains motionless there is no karma.” Sat! This instantly brought to mind bits of Patanjali’s Yoga Stura that I have studied – one in particular that details the stilling of the mind’s waves bringing peace and leading to moksha. My experience with the religion of Yoga so far has confirmed this and I love it. Much of Sahaj Marg is built on the foundation of the Yoga Sutras and it was nice to see another, well-established, parampara / sampradaya iterate the same.

The second thing that jumped out at me occurs later in the magazine (around page 40) in a section containing 14 “Daily Enlightenment Lessons.” The fifth of these lessons was the first to really stand out to me. It’s titled, “Superconscious Mind of Light” and like each of the other lessons in this part of the magazine it wraps up with a challenge for the reader to engage in so as to incorporate that lesson into daily life. The challenge for lesson five is to sit quietly in meditation, with a relaxed body and regulated breathing. We’re instructed to “…seek the light within your head. This light which lights your thoughts is the light of superconssciousness. Aum.”

I’m certain 99.9% of the readers glossed over that and kept plowing through the lessons and the rest of the publication. This caught me, though, because it’s strikingly similar to the meditative practice employed by the Sahaj Marg, only we focus on the heart instead of the head. Although there’s that one big difference between the two paths, I still think either of these methods (head or heart) is super beneficial.

Most of us have trouble thinking of stuff that isn’t obvious. It requires more work than we have interest investing into our labors. I’ve written before about how much of a disservice it is to be lazy in this way. It invariably spills over into other areas of life, bringing undesirable results.

The two practices mentioned above – the one from Sahaj Marg which is to see-but-not-see the sublte light in your heart and the one advised by the saiva Satguru which is to see the Light that lights your thoughts – are great, but they require “effortless effort” on the part of the seeker, which is the trickiest kind of effort. Think about it: We are familiar with our thoughts. We generally know what they feel like and with a little more attention we can even discern patterns in them. But what enables us to observe something so closely interwoven to how we function? There’s a Light, as if from some kind of often-overlooked backdrop, and It allows us to see our own thoughts and emotions – it lights them for us.

When we engage ourselves with that “backdrop” and become increasingly familiar with it, we begin the realization that This is our true self. This, in the Hindu religion, is known as Self Realization. And whether you approach your Self from the heart or the head, you can’t help but reach truth, your Self, and become that subtlest Light.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Let Go & Let Who?

It’s often heard in Christian circles that one should, “Let go and let God” meaning that we should place everything in God’s hands and trust the Divine to take care of us. I think the best equivalent I’ve encountered in anything Islamic is the saying, “If it is written” or “If God has written it” … something to that effect, implying that the Divine is in control and that we should trust in what is written above. I’ve even heard many a Hindu believer advise something along these lines.

It’s always made me scratch my head. I suppose to many it’s comforting to believe that our Big Daddy / Big Momma has our back, but there seems also to be something weakening about that idea, if it’s carried far enough. For me, strictly in the context of this saying, the value it holds can be found primarily in the idea that there is more going on than we are able to see or understand. I don’t believe God wants me to lay my worries down at his so-called feet. I don’t believe God punishes my enemies or rewards me for being a good boy. Most of those things, which are often covered under the “let go and let God” phrase are actually governed by the deep workings of karma.

Still, there’s value in being able to “let go.” Whether God enters the picture or not, we need to be able to let go. Shri Eckhart Tolle mentions in a number of his books that our mind likes to recycle stories because the ego feeds off the energy carried by those stories. First-hand experience has shown me how absolutely true this actually is. Often these stories are negative, but happy stories apply here as well.

Hinduism holds the notion of Samskaras. One meaning of this term is passage or rite. These are ceremonies that are milestones in one’s human life. Another definition of the word Samskara is “impression” or “under the impulse of previous impressions,” and The Dictionary of Common Sanskrit Spiritual Words says, “Whenever an action is performed with the desire for a specific result (whether for oneself or another), sanskara is created for that person. These accumulate and determine the situations with which we will be presented in the future and will influence the scope of future actions.”

As you can see, Samskaras play a huge role in our karmas – or lack thereof. Something happens, it makes an impression on us, and then additional things that happen are flavored by the existing impressions as are our responses to those additional happenings. We end up with really strong, deeply-engrained, cycles of energy that can be quite challenging to gain mastery over.

Hinduism offers just about as many ways for gaining this mastery as there are Hindu believers. Whether one is effective or “right” depends almost entirely on the individual and – big surprise – their Samskaras. For some of us, mantra yoga removes the impressions we carry. For others of us, karma yoga is the route. Many find liberation through experiential Jnana Yoga, while others seek freedom by performing decade-long headstands. In the Sahaj Marg, a Raja Yoga path, we have a practice known as Cleaning, which supplements our primary meditation practice.

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

Cleaning is something I struggled to accept when I first encountered this path, but it has since grown on me as a productive and beneficial part of my daily sadhana. Without going too deep into it, it’s something that an abhyasi does only after their “work” for the day is complete. Beyond that, it can be done any time one prefers or needs. (The guidelines that govern our primary meditation practice are considerably more stringent.) The photo included in this post, while not an actual Sahaj Marg image, is actually a great illustration of our practice of cleaning.

So what does this have to do with that jibber-jabber “let go and let God”? I suppose the point I hoped to make is that one’s path should be empowering. In Hinduism, the Law of Karma actually affords all the power and control to the individual. Your destiny is what YOU make it, not the result of God cradling you. Here’s another thing all Hindus must consider: God is you. You are literally a spark or sliver of the Divine. So when you “let go and let God” you must realize you’re essentially allowing yourself the power and strength to get rid of that which brings or perpetuates your misery.

My experience has definitely shown me that I am the cause of my own misery and, as a spark of the Divine, I am also imbued with the power and strength to be the end of that same misery. Whatever your chosen path is, I hope you’re increasingly capable of letting go and letting God within you be the One you look to for peace.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

कोई मन नहीं

uhmom-alan-schwartz

I’ve written before about how important it is to me that any idea of God that I entertain be as far from human-like as it can get. It’s been part of the pull I have for Ganesha versus others who appear more human. And while I understand that the majority of our believing population needs something minds can wrap around, I remain of the opinion that anything a mind can wrap around is immensely too limited to be very much of God. For this and other reasons, I’ve always used the Vedic words, “Neti, neti…” as a guiding light.

As humans, with minds and egos, the minute we begin saying what God is we naturally and automatically begin trying to build a circumference of sorts around what we think we know God to be. This happens in every religion to some degree or another. It can be said that for some religions it’s the entire foundation of belief.

In the Sahaj Marg, I think in part to engage in the stilling of our mind’s waves, we essentially limit ourselves in how we “see” God. There’s mention of divine light and “the subtlest of the subtle,” but beyond that we’re discouraged from clinging too closely at all to forms of the divine that are terribly finite and I have actually experienced this to be surprisingly liberating – which is, of course, the aim of the practice.

In reading the words of our current and living maharaj I came across words that resonated with me. I’m not sure if I’ve shared this exact quote of his before, but like a few others, I’m sure there will be many who disagree. (Interestingly, in this day and age of Kali, I’m increasingly convinced that almost anything different from the bulk of humanity is a fine thing, indeed. We’re a fairly fucked-up group of organisms.) The words I just referenced are shared below.

“God – no mind, no heart – cannot love human beings, and cannot love anything else. He is love, but he cannot love. We, on the other end of the spectrum – we can love, but we are not love. Therefore comes this, you know, blindingly illuminating concept that we have not to love, but to become Love.”

I think for practical and linguistic purposes employed in basic human existence, we can say that God loves everyone. And certainly if we do say God loves everyone then it should be made clear that God loves everyone equally. However, I genuinely believe that God loves no one. I also genuinely believe that God has no mind and no heart, as the quote indicates. We humans have hearts and minds and we definitely think and love. But God IS love, right? If God is love, then God cannot love. Otherwise, we could say that a fire “fires,” which doesn’t make sense. Instead, we say that a fire burns or heats or warms. So either God loves but isn’t love, or God is love but doesn’t love. Most agree that humans are not love, yet are capable of loving intensely. I believe God is love and I believe humans become That by loving. It’s a simple and very deep sadhana.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti