Maxim V

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

 

The fifth maxim advises, “Be truthful. Take miseries as Divine Blessings for your own good and be thankful.” The first thought that comes to mind is one from my days of dabbling in Buddhism. For a brief moment I tried on a form of Japanese Buddhism founded by the monk Nichiren. Nichiren Buddhism is a practice founded on chanting of a mantra which is actually the title of a book – a sutra. I won’t go into that here now, but something that is often talked about in the SGI (Sokka Gakkai International – Nichiren Buddhist organization) is turning poison into medicine. To turn poison into medicine requires an elevated state. An internal adjustment. It required being able to see past the sting of the poison. The substance (poison) is not different – doesn’t change. And one’s individual essence is also unchanging. In basic terms, the perspective can really make a difference. Be able to separate the temporal from that which will remain.

Being able to separate and recognize the difference in perception / perspective is where the truth stays put. This is being truthful. Yeah, it means being honest – but truthfulness isn’t that shallow. I’ll try to provide an example: Years ago, I was shopping in a Marshall’s store. It’s been long enough ago now that I forget all of the details, but I was called over to the counter – a non-register line. And as I arrived and placed my items on the counter, the employee helping me pretty well thrashed my things around. She was huffing and puffing, rolling her eyes, not smiling or even making normal small talk with me. She slammed clothing around as she removed the anti-theft tags, etc… She was actually being quite rude to me. But was she?

I was separate enough from the situation to realize, quite easily, that I’d literally done nothing to elicit this behavior from her and so I just watched. Anyone who knows me, knows I probably had an expression on my face that would have clearly communicated to this young lady that I wasn’t about to have any of that from her. At some point, she made eye contact with me, and her expression softened instantly. So did her other behaviors. She then sighed softly, paused for just a second, and then quietly said to me, “I’m sorry.” Without breaking eye contact, I gently replied to her, “You’re okay. I promise.” The rest of my time in the checkout was quick and peaceful. And that was that.

Someone else might have gotten pissed because she was roughly handling things they intended to buy and the situation would maybe have gone from bad to worse. I was briefly able to discern the truth of the situation – which had nothing to do with me – and then extend grace to her as a result. And much needed grace, so it seemed! This is what truthfulness means to me in this maxim – setting ego aside and turning a poisonous circumstance into something medicinal.

When we talk about taking miseries as Divine Blessings for your own good and then being thankful, we usually think of bad karma. I get a flat tire. Labs come back from my doctor’s visit all wonky. My child breaks her arm playing at school. I lose my job. I lose my spouse. All miseries, surely. But usually when we try to consider these occurrences we resign ourselves to an understanding that we simply don’t possess. We blindly assume that God has a higher purpose for our misery or perhaps that we’ve transgressed God’s holy will in some way and are being punished – which then forces us into trying to be glad god is spanking us. Again … kindergartner’s notepad. God doesn’t have an opinion and also doesn’t punish us. Those are human traits alone. Seeing miseries as divine blessings requires the truthfulness I mentioned earlier. It requires a higher awareness – even if only temporarily. It’s based on the heart full of love and devotion and also harmony with Nature from the earlier maxims.

The natural response in all of this is gratitude – which is what this maxim ends with. What are we thankful for at this point? That’s easy – realization. Of what? The Self, Nature, our Center and Source. These first five maxims really could be it. If these are followed one morning, then they can apply to the next morning and the one after that. The foundation for a productive and peaceful life has been set. And with practice and even the smallest amount of dedication these become so easy! Think about summarizing these five and you will see how effective the Sahaj Marg Heartfulness practice can be at stripping away the baggage that keeps us bogged down, un-integrated, perpetually on the wheel of death and rebirth. These five alone are fairly complete. Luckily we have five more. We’re half way through!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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Maxim IV

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

 

When I reread the fourth maxim as I began this post my first thought was, “Crap. This kinda doesn’t flow from the one before it.” But that’s not entirely true. Maxim IV reads, “Be plain and simple to be identical with Nature.” It’s actually a very practical next step. To be clear, these maxims don’t need to tie into the ones before. They can each stand on their own or relate to others, out of sequence. My mind just often looks for order and so my default is to notice if there’s an obvious connection, in order of appearance.

This is the shortest maxim so far. Nine words. What does it mean to you? Surely, reader, you have noticed that the last word is special. Nature, with a big N, is more than just rivers and trees and grasses in a field. Those things are all included – and no less so – but those things are just the starting point. In reality those are the grossest parts of Nature. Not unlike the kindergartner’s notepad mentioned before. If you think all there is to nature is what can be seen, what can be heard and touched, and what can make you sneeze, then you’re actually missing the biggest chunk of nature, which is Nature.

The same Center and Source within each of us is no different than Nature. If, for the sake of argument, we go back to the idea that nature is only the deer and grass and whatnot, this maxim is no less potent. Blades of grass and the deer that eats them, trees and the ants that crawl on them, wild flowers and the bees that pollinate – all are actually quite plain and simple. Each plays its role as naturally as it is able – with no ego. Flowers flower, ants ant, and grasses simply grass. There’s no confusion in Nature. Nothing invests life energy in being something it simply isn’t all for the sake of what the others will think. Additionally, each quite literally goes with the flow of Nature. Beyond some self-preservation behaviors (like fight versus flight responses) nothing in nature tried to circumvent the natural progression of Nature. And even those self-preservation behaviors are really very simple, too.

This is how we should be. No? We’d all be so much better off if we learned to be simple and plain to be identical with Nature. It could be argued that if we were truly simple and plain as Nature is, then we wouldn’t have fantastic medicines to help fight things like cancer and thereby prolong and better our life state. But is that really what happens? Many of the cancers we fight today are directly related to lifestyle choices – or choices made for the sake of lifestyle. It’s not unlike cigarettes and their relationship to stress and stress management. The cigarette itself is the root of a great number of very stressful things like money issues and health issues and social issues – so we get stressed and then what? Smoke to basically trick ourselves into feeling “real” relief from stress. I’ve personally never seen a case where the root cause of a problem is also the actual solution to the same problem.

And that’s where we are today – smoking to feel better about problems caused by smoking. This lunacy is to be found virtually everywhere in every modern human culture. We’re insane – sweeping dirt from under one rug to under the next and the whole time ignoring the fact that the rugs are on the same floor and that floor is re-dirtied in the process – and largely because we’ve abandoned our natural plainness and simplicity.

We’ve set the foundation in the prior three maxims and now we’re moving out into our day – into life. We’re to set our sights on the Goal and not rest until it’s achieved…. but what’s the first step for that? Be plain and simple and identical to Nature – the same Nature that is our Center and our Source. Isn’t this just so meta?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim III

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

 

I feel really good that, so far, the maxims each lead rather directly from the one before it. Maxim III is no different. It reads, “Fix your Goal which should be complete oneness with God. Rest not till the ideal is achieved.” This maxim actually touches on so many other ideas and practices within Sahaj Marg / Heartfulness. The love and devotion mentioned in conjunction with an elevated state relates directly to fixing our Goal and oneness with God.

It should be noted right off that Sahaj Marg doesn’t very much support the idea of God that comes to the mind of most who think of what God is. You can be sure that God is not an entity in the sky or off in the universe noticing the rights and wrongs of humans. Neither is God, really, Ganesha or Vishnu or Durga. To be sure, any conception of God – even the most vague – is flawed. These ideas and perceptions of what the Divine is do serve a purpose – but that purpose is no different than that served by those really long notepads used by preschoolers and kindergartners when they learn how to write. You know the ones? They’re long and the solid lines in them are spaced extra far apart and have a dotted line in between… and this is all to allow those tiny, yet unskilled hands to have more space to hone their ability to write lower case Ks and upper case Ts. Any understanding of God that involves traits you can picture or imagine or easily talk about are not much better than those learning notepads. Definitely have a valuable purpose but like those learning notepads you’re meant to leave them behind ASAP.

The word Goal, in this maxim, is upper case – not unlike God. That’s no accident. God is our Source. The Source is our very own Center and reaching That is the Goal Itself. It’s a fantastic journey and this reminds me of a Hindu prayer known as the Brahmarpanam …

ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणाहुतम् ।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्म कर्म समाधिना ।।

A translation of this is: The act of offering is God, the oblation is God. By God it is offered into the Fire of God. God is That which is to be attained by him who performs actions pertaining to God.

The Brahmarpanam is often known as the Hindu meal blessing – and if you think about it for a second you can see why. But on a bigger scale, it means so much more and ties into this maxim. God is our Source and original Home. It’s where we’re journeying back to – despite the reality that It has never been separate from us! Crazy! The Goal is God and God is the traveler, the journey, and the destination. For anyone able to digest this, it’s an incredible and unshakable source of eternal hope and happiness. (For anyone not able to chew on this, give it time. Keep practicing on whatever learning notepad you’ve chosen and you will eventually get to the same place as anyone else – I promise.)

But there’s one last thing:  Don’t stop till you get there! The words in the maxim are, “Rest not till the ideal is achieved.” That probably doesn’t really need much explanation, but I’d like to point out something often overlooked. This “rest not…” bit means ALL THE TIME. In Sahaj Marg we have Constant Remembrance. We get out of bed – We shower and go to our meditation / puja place – Our heart swells with love and devotion making the Goal ever more clear – and then we set about reaching that Goal and rest not till it is achieved! What a valuable foundation this much can be for anyone!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim II

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

Maxim II in Sahaj Marg advises, “Begin your puja with a prayer for spiritual elevation with a heart full of love and devotion.”

This feels like a natural progression from Maxim I. The last maxim pretty much gets us up and going and helps lessen the chances that we’ll rush into the day without our head on straight. This maxim goes a baby step more and begins our focus and the direction of our day. Prayer isn’t a big deal within Sahaj Marg. We have one “official” prayer – which will likely be covered in later posts.

In my mind and heart, the prayer here is not the same kind of prayer that we usually think of here in the West. In the West, virtually all prayer is a form of blabbering to the Divine. It’s really a shame – like seeing Ganesha as a wish giver. The real justice of the matter is discounted and overlooked. Here in the West, when we pray, it’s so noisy. There may be times of verbally offering thanks and whatnot, but very few people (probably) actually pray for the sole purpose of expressing gratitude. We say things like, “God protect us while we travel” and “God help me get that job” and “God give Kim Davis chlamydia.” Our mode of prayer here in the West is almost entirely ME-ME-ME. Prayer here is usually such a selfish act. And certainly there is plenty of that egoic prayer in the East, as well. People are people. We want things. Or, we want to avoid things. And we want the Divine to provide or prevent them.

The prayer in this maxim, though, feels different. If one can manage a “heart full of love and devotion” then it’s a bit less likely that the “prayer for spiritual elevation” will express itself in the shape of, “Give me spiritual elevation.” When one’s heart is filled with loved and devotion, words aren’t needed. Not really. And sometimes thoughts aren’t needed, either.

By this point, we’ve showered and dressed and gone to our meditation / puja spot and are in our preferred asana (position). And now Maxim II kicks in – with a heart full of love and devotion. Our puja / meditation is about lots of dark-n-wondrous things that will be covered by later posts, too, and this prayerful moment shaped by love and devotion builds on Maxim I and additionally sets the stage for a productive and heartful day ahead. And ultimately, that love and devotion are part of our core essence – which we’re uncovering in our practice through the elevation achieved (as mentioned in the prayer).

We’re beginning our personal puja with the intent (sankalpa) to achieve an elevated state, one less bogged down than the one we’re currently experiencing, and that sankalpa (intent) is full-flavored according to the intensity of our love and devotion.

Ready for Maxim III?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim I

Image Taken from Google Image search

Image Taken from Google Image search

Just about every religious path or sect or denomination has its own set of rules. One of the first things I read when initially learning about Hinduism is that there are more religions WITHIN this religion than there are outside of it. Doesn’t that sound strange? How can a religion contain multiple others? Well, it’s true. In Islam you simply have the Quran. In Christianity, you have one very small religious text (the Bible). Even Mormons, who recognize the Old Testament, New Testament, and what I’ll call the Next Testament and have probably the most reading to do of all Christians, have only a tiny amount of scriptures to pull from compared to Hindus.

Hinduism has been around since… forever. It predates every other living religion today and at it’s essential core it remains incredibly and fantastically applicable to modern life and in harmony with science. Most other religions alive today have to backtrack a bit to realign what they say they believe so that they can harmonize with modern life and science, but the truth of Hinduism is that many recent scientific advancements support what Hindu texts have said for many thousands of years. (To be clear, going back 2,000 years or 4,000 years is cake to the Hindu. When most religions were just opening their eyes to the light of day, Hinduism long surpassed the crawling and walking phases and was running marathons.)

Regardless of the development of any specific religion, you’re bound to find a set of “rules.” Those within the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, among others) are very familiar with this, and it could even be said that they specialize in rule making. The problem with that approach is that rules suck. They aren’t usually as universally applicable or universally enforceable as we think. People, historically, break rules. Too often our rules are just not realistic.

But they still have value, right? If nothing else, they provide a basic foundation which can in turn either be built on or be jumped from. Whether those rules are built upon or jumped from depends entirely on the individual and it shouldn’t be forgotten that your personal choice to build or jump from a set of rules in no way naturally applies to whether someone else does the same action with the same set of rules.

In Sahaj Marg, we have what are termed The Ten Maxims. When you google the definition of what “maxim” means you get, “a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct.” For anyone not familiar with what “pithy” means, it means concise. That definition helps illustrate exactly what our Maxims mean to us (or to anyone). Our practice traces back on some level to Sage Patanjali who is known for his sutras – these Maxims are, in their own way, sutras. They are short, concise, general truths / rules of conduct, and tie together nicely like sutras would. Another layer of this was found by scrolling through additional google results – one of which mentions that a maxim is subjective. For anyone not familiar, subjective means, “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” So when you smoosh all that together you end up with a meaning that encompasses the idea of a general (universally applicable?) truth or rule of conduct that is concise (not bogged down) and able to pass through any individual’s subjective filter. This understanding is immensely valuable because structure is provided and so is freedom.

I start from where I am, I go to where I am able, and I grow the whole way. Equally important, and not to be forgotten, is the knowledge that none of that applies to you. Even if you follow the same Maxim (or surat, or sutra, or commandment, or whatever…), my experience and application is good only for myself and yours for you. It’s that simple and with that I’ll mention Sahaj Marg’s Maxim 1.

The first maxim reads, “Rise before dawn. Offer your prayer and puja at a fixed hour, preferably before sunrise, sitting in one and the same pose. Have a separate place and seat for worship. Purity of mind and body should be specially adhered to.” (Depending on where you are reading, the wording of the maxims might vary. For instance, I am going by a wallet card I ordered from our bookstore, but if you go to our site the words differe a bit. The essence is not changed, though.)

The first thing I noticed is that this maxim has no less than five parts to it: 1) Rise before dawn. 2) Offer prayer / puja at a fixed hour, preferably before sunrise. 3) Sit in one and the same pose. 4) Have a separate place and seat for worship. 5)Purity of mind and body should be adhered to.

This instantly seems to support the ability for anyone to adopt this maxim, from whatever point in their own evolution they might be. Maybe you can’t rise before dawn, but you can offer morning puja at the same time each morning. Maybe you live in a place that doesn’t allow for you to have a totally separate temple room or something but you can at least go to the same place in your home and use the same seating / posture. Purity of mind and body? Get up, shower, put on clean clothing – knowing that you’re headed into morning puja and meditation.

Personally, I rarely rise before dawn – except maybe in winter months. Regardless of whether I’m up before dawn, I do puja / meditation each morning after my shower and before leaving the house for the day. I sit in the same asana, not in a reclined posture, and I wrap myself in a comfortable but sturdy green blanket which is used for nothing else. That’s where I am currently with Maxim I. Others, more evolved than myself, perhaps are able to adhere to every part of this maxim. And there are many others, most people probably, who do well to complete one-fifth of this Maxim daily. Doesn’t matter – do what you can do now, and try to do more as you can as you grow.

This maxim, I’m guessing, is the easiest to gloss over. We want to know what other rules we have to follow. We want to see what else is written. We read it and then we’re like, “Okay – what else?” But this maxim is actually really important. If anyone is guilty of running a hundred miles an hour the minute their feet step out of bed, then it’s me. But I still recognize, and hope you do too, how important it is to set the tone for your day with stillness and peace and calm. Who knows what your day will bring? It’s smart to start your day with actions that are predictable and quietly productive.

A maxim that is so helpful as to set the stage for one’s day may well be as beneficial in setting the stage for the additional maxims.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Soon till 10

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

The Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga meditation (Heartfulness) is the basis of my spiritual practice. I’ve written about the various aspects of the practice here on Sthapati Samanvayam. I won’t bother with trying to give you the digest version of what my sampradaya (tradition, religious system) / parampara (guru-shishya lineage) entails. You can search for yourself by clicking HERE and HERE and HERE.

Every path that anyone can take offers a structure specific to that path. Some paths have a lot of scripture or many texts for adherents to pull from and others have far less. Some paths have definite lists of dos and don’ts while others just offer guidelines for followers to keep in mind as they travel through life. In the Sahaj Marg / Heartfulness tradition, our gurus contribute to an ever growing body of text from which abhyasis can derive structure, guidance, and clarity. Part of this body is a collection of ten maxims. A listing of those maxims can be found by clicking HERE.

I wanted to write about our Maxims because I think they’re important. To be clear, these are not truly our equivalent of the Abrahamic Ten Commandments. There’s a big difference between our Maxims and those Commandments – namely that there’s no petty, emotional, fickle, and judgmental Old Man Overlord in the sky meeting us on top of a mountain to dish out rules and punishments as the early Jews and Christians believed (and still mostly do). I was talking with a local prefect / preceptor, whom I really admire and am very fortunate to have locally, and I mentioned to her that I planned a short series on the maxims. Her response was, “Very cool. The Maxims are at the base of everything. Mysteriously, they begin to manifest within oneself the more fully one begins to drown in Love for all things with no distinction.”

My plan is to publish a post for each Maxim and share my thoughts and understandings related to that maxim. I encourage you, dear readers, to share your own thoughts and understandings of these maxims in comments on each post. As indicated in my Samyag Akhyate (click to view it) page, you’re more than welcome to disagree with me – you don’t have to be polite or sugar coat anything but you do have to be productive. For those of you who will be reading these posts as a result of them being shared to my other social media, such as my Facebook page, I would ask that if you want to share your comments / thoughts, please share them here and not in a comment on the Facebook post. In that way, others will be able to read your insights and may well benefit from them, too. Thank you for reading!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti