Are You Ready?

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During my time as a Christian if I one thing was drilled into my noggin’, then it was that Jesus is about to return and you had better be ready to go when he gets here!

Nowadays, I think it’s juvenile and relatively primitive to hold a literal belief in one’s god physically returning, from the sky no less, to “harvest” His favorites among humanity and suck them out of harm’s way before Hell breaks out on everyone else. I can tell you first-hand, that these kinds of beliefs, especially before the turn of a millennium, will literally put that so-called fear of God into a young man. (Unrelated to that fear, but related to the rapture, I used to quite literally believe I would never see a physical earthly death because I couldn’t picture it in my mind and because I just KNEW my lord and savior was going to appear in the clouds and bring me home that way, instead.)

Still, if nothing else then it’s quite the mental picture. I think if we took the broader Christian picture and zoomed out about a million times we might start to touch on the truth of what I think all that hullabaloo is about.

You never know when this life will either end or change, whether fantastically or catastrophically. As the evil uncle in The Lion King sang, “Be preeepaaaaared!” Right? (Random, I know.)

When I ran in Christian circles, it was terribly commonplace to ask someone you suspected not to be saved if they were “ready.” I’m certain, if I asked that question 5,000 times, then I never once really knew what that even means. At the time it meant, quite simply, if a person had a so-called personal relationship with Jesus. But what does it really mean? I suspect something a bit deeper and longer-lasting than a human relationship.

I think in most contexts it mostly means to live as goodly and kindly as you are able and to cultivate a depth with the One. I think this is generally lost on many within the Abrahamic Faiths because of trying to follow the letter of the Word too minutely, too literally. (An unfortunate leftover from the Reformation, I believe.) To be clear, it can easily be lost on the devout of other Faiths, too.

In my experience, Hinduism is the most efficient when it comes to prepping one for whatever might come next, whether your career or your afterlife. In fact, this is the purpose of Yoga… preparation. It’s even been said that it is specifically preparation for death.

The Bible itself, in many places, indicates one must “die to live.” This is a yogic truth! Aspiring yogis, whether they realize or not, are aspiring to die while living. At least, the sincere ones are. And anyone who more than scratches the surface of what Yoga even means, can’t go too far before learning that the goal of Yoga is also dying while alive. It sounds a little macabre, but this form of “death preparation” is simultaneously the more effective way to live the happiest life possible.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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सच्ची भक्ति

I came across a passage in my leisure reading lately on multiplicity and unity and Truth being One. Chariji indicated that he thinks the Hindu religion is the most sublime of all man’s religions, but he also thinks that sometimes seeing Truth so diversely can be a trap of sorts.

The human mind is closely connected to the ego and likes to enshrine its own values and ideas and then, after preserving them, become mummified. By itself, that isn’t a crime, but the historic tendency has been to enshrine at the risk of not only “setting something in stone,” but also inherent to that process is to exclude all else – including the potential for additional growth.

To a degree, a very superficial degree, this is required for bhakti. But true bhakti is to see the One in everything. I think most people don’t realize how “shackle-less” this actually is. This is also made more challenging when one is considerably dedicated to stone images. This kind of dedication serves not only to separate and isolate us from each other, but also slows our spiritual and personal progress considerably. Obviously, with all of that on one’s plate, it becomes more challenging than it already is to grow beyond the “baby bhakti” so many wallow in.

Human birth is an incredible boon and opportunity, but it’s not without its sugar-coated pitfalls.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Tease?

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I’ve said before that as humans, we’re in a unique position among the Earth’s inhabitants of being able to govern our own life experiences, above the instinctual lasso that binds other life forms. A big part of this is the absolutely immense capacity we have for being able to watch and learn, or read and learn, or hear and learn… It this point in human history, with nothing new under the sun, we’re very able to know without learning the hard way.

In that spirit, I find myself most often quite ready, willing, and (mostly) able to share wisdom and experiences collected in my current life. The purpose is two-fold: For my own reference later in my journey, and for whatever benefit any reader might take. And quite often, lately anyway, I’ve been learning and allowing myself to be guided through the teachings of the Sahaj Marg Masters/Gurus. I’ve yet to be let down – quite the opposite! At this point I’m certain that if I’d tackled the writings of the Masters, then I’d not have stepped away from the Marg the first time.

In addition to the fabulous readings, in recent weeks my meditations and the transmission received have been particularly potent and effective. Unlike the reading, however, my experiences with meditation and transmission are far more challenging to express here. In fact, they are often difficult to express during my own Sahaj journaling. And, naturally, the things I am able to express while journaling are meant for the journal only.

I really wish so many others who are not currently abhyasis could have the same. I know others’ own experiences are valid for the place and time in which they are gained, and I respect and value that difference, but this doesn’t make me wish less that these experiences could be communicated and shared.

Until things change again, all the grace that is mine to give I gladly forward on to you.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Greenery

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The picture above is of something near-n-dear to me. It’s my “asana.” To be clear, the only definition most people know to apply to that word is along the lines of “body posture.” Everyone almost invariably thinks of Hatha Yoga and yoga mats and teachers at the front of the class twisting their bodies into poses the students could only hope to achieve. According to Patanjali, asana is a firm but comfortable posture. Wikipedia mentions some Purana (I think) wherein Shiva, the Supreme Yogi and guru of all yogis, provides 8,400,000 asanas. Of that number, 84 make up the “heart” of yoga poses, and of those 84 apparently only 32 are necessary here on Earth. However, another definition that I’ve encountered (although I forget where) is that an asana is the “mat” on which one sits during meditation (think of the animal skin Shiva is usually shown as sitting on during his meditation). And so, my asana. I came to me from Ikea and probably cost not more than $20, American. Methinks it’s made of cotton and is very durable but not terribly heavy.

I love my asana because of its weight and because of what it’s made of and its color. I usually wrap myself or my legs in it during meditation, but when it’s folded up it makes a great cushion on which to sit for the same purpose. I obviously keep it clean and I’ve been known to use things like Febreeze or other fabric sprays because the pleasantness of the smells seems to help facilitate meditation.

The Sahaj Marg employs a heart-centered meditation / transmission technique. The heart chakra (Anahata Chakra, अनाहत चक्र) is kind of like the “action center” for this sadhana and the color associated with that center of the body is green. Long before I came to Sahaj Marg, green was my favorite color. It’s the color of life and growth. It’s the color of some foundational plants in the vegetarian way of eating. And despite the common misunderstanding that red is the color of love, anyone familiar with any of the esoteric arts will advise you that green is actually the color of love which in my mind, in certain contexts, also makes it the color of God. I suppose this makes my association with Sahaj Marg somewhat serendipitous on a superficial level. I’m fine admitting that it might be entirely in my head, but wrapping myself comfortably in the “aura” of the chakra in question seems to help me dissolve into meditation more readily. Additionally, it’s important to keep items like this reserved for that one use only. This blanket will never be used to cover something up, or to wrap up in against the cold (unless I happen to be meditating in a cold place), my dogs / cat will never have access to snuggling up with this blanket.

I have lots of possessions but there aren’t many items in my life that hold a ton of meaning for me, from a spiritual standpoint. I have mandirs and murtis, ghantas and diyas, etc… many of which are quite special to me. But there’s only this lone asana. With all the symbolism I’ve attached to the object and all the “vibes” it’s been infused with (both from myself and my Guru), it’s no wonder this is a special thing to me and I kind of felt like a show-n-tell post might be warranted. I’ll close with a recent and short story that involved my asana.

I was at the home of a prefect recently for a sitting (in the Sahaj Marg sense of the term) and it was just the two of us (although another sitting was taking place in another part of the home). Their home is absolutely beautiful. The “ashram” part of their home has lots of natural lighting thanks to wonderfully placed and large windows. For my sitting I sat with my back to one of these windows – actually in my favorite place to sit when I’m there. The chair in which I sat is a retro-modern style: boxy and firm, but comfortable and possessing soft angles. Just outside the window are a couple larger bushes / smaller trees. While there, a short but intense summer thunderstorm rolled through with lots of thunder and heavy rain. After the sitting, my prefect painted a mental picture for me of a sight seen by herself: I was there in the chair, slightly wrapped in my green asana and sitting before the window – eyes closed in sadhana / meditation. The trees and sky were the backdrop and the storm passed through, with the sun still ahead of it. This allowed for a layering effect, I imagine: The chair, me, the asana, the window, the trees, the heavy rain, and the sunlight penetrating all of the scene. I jokingly and rather vaguely posted that night on Facebook that I was “nearly a vision” and “nearly glorious.” The greater Truth, though, is that “I” was actually a very small portion of the “vision” experienced by my prefect. In my interpretation, she saw the layering of Nature and the blessing of living in harmony with it – all things working together. This relates to some of the Maxims of Sahaj Marg and brings about a condition of joy and equanimity with myself. I’m exactly where I should be and I am headed, precisely on my own journey, to our common Goal.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Re-pocalypse

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Today was super productive for me. I awoke earlier than usual for once and made it to morning satsangh. (I usually forego Sunday morning satsanghs during the summer season and instead attend on Wednesdays. The time of satsangh will shift in the fall by a good 90 minutes and I’ll then do my best to attend both, weekly.) After satsangh I went grocery shopping in what had to have been the emptiest grocery store in Indiana. It was heavenly. After that I grabbed a “breakfast” at Starbucks and took my car through the car wash before coming home to unpack said groceries, take the dogs out, and start laundry. Soon after those things, I spent a full 90 minutes scrubbing and vacuuming my car – removing everything from wheelchair scuffs to pop-tart crumbs. (Btw, it turns out that my next oil change will fall right around the time my car hits 100,000 miles!) After the car stuff, I managed a very short nap before running into town to get my hairs cut shorter – something I badly needed. The Best managed this for me, and since we were together I snatched him with me as company while I brought my lunch groceries into the office (saving me from lugging them in tomorrow with everything else I usually bring on Mondays) which was followed by us grabbing a Greek lunch. By the end of today I will also have finished reading the most recent issue of Yoga Journal to arrive in my mailbox, as well as the latest Hinduism Today. And only a short while ago, I finished the latest Sahaj Marg book I’ve been reading, “Reality at Dawn.” None of these things are particularly incredible, but for me this makes for an unusually productive day off. That last one, though, is the reason for this post.

Near the end of Reality at Dawn there is a chapter by the name of “My Vision.” I really had no idea what to expect from a chapter with that title, but I was surprised. The book itself was written by the Marg’s current grand-guru whom we call Babuji. Since coming to the Sahaj Marg, I have nearly always felt a bit more drawn to Babuji and I was glad to read one of his books. The start of the chapter is something that already escapes my memory, but I recall that the bulk of the chapter is rather prophetic and paints quite the picture of how the end of the world may well look, and also what may be some of the main contributing factors. Babuji also details slightly some of what the “after” will be like for survivors and the first generation following.

It shocked me a little – mostly because it’s been a minute since I last read something of that nature. I have to say, much of what Babuji detailed is totally applicable even today.

Despite the surprise of reading a chapter wherein the end of the world is spelled out, it wasn’t terribly alarming. Maybe that’s because of my familiarity with Shaivism and the rudimentary understanding so many have in regard to him being the Destroyer and his Nrtya causing everything to “melt.” I think I’m also at peace with ideas of the end of the world because I know it’s not really the end. Everything, even God, is cyclical in Hinduism. In Hinduism, “every new beginning” really “is some other beginning’s end,” to quote Semisonic’s “Closing Time” song.

As a Hindu I can know peace because of this. Life/Love is all that truly exists, albeit in differing energetic forms. In “A Course in Miracles” one of the first verses I learned and which has stuck with me is, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” Peace, indeed! You can hold hands with the Destroyer and know true, lasting, and deep peace because nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists. This is hope and this is what would surely carry me through any possible end-of-times scenario I might experience, for as much of it as I’m able to live through. Everything, on the most minuscule of scales, is coming to an end all the time. Literally. And then, after that ending, there’s more. The same will happen on any scale, even if that scale is cosmic. There’s no need to fear, regardless of how tragic those endings might eventually be, and as a Hindu/Abhyasi I take refuge in knowing my karmas and samskaras are being worked on. Each satsangh, each sitting, each book I read – every effort of each day – is for my progression and betterment of my surroundings and the beings therein.

I think no one in their right mind would welcome an apocalypse, per se. But from where I currently stand, it’s possible to see it coming and watch the progressive arrival with the serene smile of a raja yogi.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Me, Myself, and … Nope. Just me.

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

I went on a bike ride last night. Alone. This makes the (at least) third time recently that I’ve asked the Best to join me and have been refused. The most recent reason was that eating microwaved bratwursts in front of the television beats summer night bike rides with me. Earlier last night, before the Best arrived home, I had a chat with the Beloved. He used to awaken WAY early just to work out. We would drive to work together and then go to the gym after work. It made accountability for going to the gym way easy – in fact, mostly there wasn’t a choice in it.

However, for the last eight months things have been considerably different. Around the end of last year I took a new (far more demanding) position at the office and also the Best moved in with us in an effort to mitigate some of the karmic reflux he was receiving. These two changes alone were fairly devastating to the pattern of life my Beloved and I had worked diligently for many months prior to establish. Prior to last December, life was literally easy.

During these last eight months my daily life isn’t all to have changed. My waist size has, too. And my thighs. And my ‘nother chin. And my energy level. Blah blah blah. In fact, although I recognize a significant element of “happy” in my life (and I really AM quite happy), I definitely feel comfortable describing myself as rather “blah.”

So in my conversation yesterday with the beloved I reminded him of our “used to be” life and how I missed it. We also discussed that I would far rather come home and nap after work than I would go to the gym – despite the fact that I keep a packed gym bag in my car and am always recharging my FitBit Flex and iPod Touch. You see, most days for the duration of the day I delight in the idea of going to the gym and improving myself. And then just before leaving the office, something happens within and quite suddenly I feel my bed calling to me in a very real way.

The truth is, if the Beloved and I still drove to work together this wouldn’t be an issue – mostly because it wouldn’t be allowed to be an issue. But we don’t. He refuses to get up early as he once did (and as I currently do). I’ve begged him to arise earlier JUST enough to ride together to work (not even that he would have to work out so early, as he used to) which would eliminate the possibility of me skipping the gym, but he refuses. (He has different plans for his own fitness and is very fond of working out before our massive television to the voices coming from DVDs in the T25, P90X, and Insanity collections.)

I tried telling him that my ballooning dimensions are essentially his fault since he refuses to do this one little thing to help me, his own Beloved, in this tiny little way. He wasn’t buying it. And he shouldn’t. Years ago, I paid >$400/month for him to have personal training at this gym. We did this for many months (aka $$$$$$$$), before I finally had to tell him I wasn’t able to continue affording that luxury on his behalf. At the time, upon hearing that news, he threw a tantrum of sorts and mentioned how he needed those sessions for “accountability.” I felt guilty as hell, but it didn’t change the fact that the money simply wasn’t there. Interestingly, now that I feel I require the accountability assistance, what I’m told (by him) is that I need to suck it up and just go – that I need to just find and maintain my own willpower and motivation and just …. go to the gym.

It’s a little hurtful not to get what I’ve given, but I suppose the bigger truth is that he’s right. My ego and pain body would LOVE to recycle these thoughts and feelings and reverberate the overall “poor me – why no one helps me the way I help them?” kinda internal drama. Only ego expects to get when it’s given and the pain body lives on the whole “poor me” scenarios.

I’ve mentioned ego and the pain body, which I first learned of through Eckhart Tolle. He’s not exactly a Hindu sage, however this stuff still applies to my path as a Hindu. I’ve always known that effort on the part of the aspirant is mandatory. We might receive little nudges or boosts from our guru or from pleasant patches in our karmas, but the onus is no less on the individual to make the journey back to the Origin.

Adopting Hinduism as my path, with a Ganapatya/Shaiva focus, has really driven home this truth. From the wisdom of the Gita we’re encouraged by Krishna to not only do what we must but also not to despair because no effort is ever wasted – this is an important component in the truth that is Karma which might be for another post but definitely points to another component which is that effort is mandatory.

From the perspective of the abhyasi practice of the Sahaj Marg this couldn’t be truer. As an abhyasi, I maintain as close a relationship as is possible with the current guru of the lineage – the development of my spirituality directly relates to this. Additionally, there are other components of the Sahaj Marg path that also directly relate to my personal progression and spiritual development – much of which rests squarely on my own shoulders.

Whether we’re talking the temple or the gym, the matter at hand changes very little. I can be seeking siddhis or enlightenment or spiritual subtlety. Or I can pursue the flattest abdominals and pectoralis muscles people could dangle from. The difference is negligible and the point remains the same. I have to own my development and progression, and so do you. No one can do this for us and everything else is a lame excuse. My prayer is that we’re able to recognize when we’re fooling ourselves and that we’ll awaken into a subtle light that shows to us not only the value of seeing how meaningful our actions are, but also the clearest path for those actions.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Adi

Periodically I’ll surf around the Internet searching for stuff on Sahaj Marg. As anyone could guess, the results vary widely and one is likely to find everything from the official sites of the practice to old “news” about scandals and blogs that report things like brainwashing and manipulation. I’ll say, though, that it isn’t terribly often that “new” results turn up in my searches. One thing that did turn up a number of months ago, which I hadn’t seen previously, was a video of our current guru, Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari. He’s affectionately known as Chari-ji and the aforementioned video really warmed me – I think partly because of his tone and word choice To me, he really sounds like the intonation of Wisdom), but also because of the actual message which I believe to be one that is unique to Sahaj Marg.

As it turns out (and I didnt know this until about 72 hours before this posting), the video is a snip-it of a three-part interview series Chari-ji granted in Northern India in May and June of 2011. I’m now reading a book called, “Sahaj Marg Meanderings” and you can imagine how pleased I was when even before page 15 I found myself reading words I had practically memorized from the video. This felt quite serendipitous!

I’ll add the video to this post so that you may enjoy it, too. In case accents are challenging for any listener / watcher of the video, there are subtitles. In “Sahaj Marg Meanderings,” there was a question about how the yogic transmission in Sahaj Marg works and why it’s effective. The sections of the interview (in the book) that brought about this explanation discussed briefly murti worship and the benefit of our yoga in using prefects to transmit to abhyasis, which is where the video comes into play.

My favorite part of the video is when Chari-ji briefly explains to his interviewers something that is really special. You see, throughout Hinduism one will find certain emphasis on one taking charge of his own destiny. Cultivating self-awareness and owning one’s karmas are immensely instrumental in that process – in fact, these things are vital. However, also throughout Hinduism one will find a tendency to lean on the gurus for that progression. We go to them and, placing our supposed “faith” in them, calling out the equivalent of “Save me – Save me.”

In Sahaj Marg things are somewhat different. In much the same way that home mandirs are viewed to be extentions of one’s local temple, in Sahaj Marg so are the abhyasis and specifically the prefects within Sahaj Marg. We are the temples of the One and our practice, in creating the conditions for unloading samskaras, allows us to essentially build and beauty our temple – which is really just a returning to a condition which has been concealed and covered up. Additionally, I find that the explanation in the video is quite practical and reasonable and I hpe it makes sense to you, dear reader.

There are other components of our practice, of course. And these elements have been veritable life savers for me in the last 6 weeks or so. But the real “where it’s at” in our practice, the element which is what enables our progression toward liberation (and even beyond that), is the transmission spoken of in the video.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti