Sometime late last year, December-ish, I found myself in a psychology class.
Before continuing, I’d like to assert that only “psychos” go into psychology. I know this is likely an unfair statement, and certainly an over-generalization. I should also admit that there are moments, sometimes daily, when I think my own sanity must be mere minutes from leaving me for good. Many very educated people I know claim that virtually every psych professional they’ve know is in some way or another… off. The suspicion is that people with psych problems tend to enter that industry as part of some deep-rooted desire to figure their own selves (problems) out, and of course, help others in the process. Projection, which is illegal, happens all too often.
Back to the psychology class. The faculty teaching this class is an incredible person. She has life experience I’m glad I don’t have. The result is that her perspective is… interesting. She clearly adores psychology and all it entails. She certainly enjoyed teaching the class. I could truly write a book about her, but that’s not the point of this post. She is, however, relevant to this post because she’s the reason I encountered the Natural Path-formally and officially known as Sahaj Marg. We were actually doing a few ice breakers at the start of the class, one of which was to discuss one of the meditative techniques we had researched and tried prior to the class’s start. To be level with us, she shared similarly about herself. The meditative practice she mentioned was Sahaj Marg. I went home that night and looked into it. After only a day or two of poking around online and taking notes on everything I read, I made an online request to be contacted by a local representative.
When someone shows interest, the contact to them is initiated by someone called a Preceptor.
The preceptor who contacted me was an intelligent and charming woman named Jan. However, Jan was then about to head out of town and so she put me in touch with her husband, a tall and handsome man, and also a Preceptor. He and I met at a Starbucks shortly thereafter. During that chat we discussed the Sahaj Marg in general, and also he did well answering most of my questions at that point. Below is the digest version of what I learned during my preliminary study and in meeting with that Preceptor.
- Practitioners of Sahaj Marg are known as Abhyasis. Abhyas means concentration, and is actually an applicable title for followers of this path.
- The practice itself is a branch of Raja Yoga and essentially encompasses/simplifies Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and the goals of the Yamas and Niyamas through a specialized and summarized meditation practice which is centered in the area of the heart chakra.
- In addition to the practice of abhyas/meditation, the path employs the unique practice of “cleaning.” This is essentially a visualization practice during which the abhyasi perceives the day’s impression (samskaras) as leaving the body through the upper back/shoulder area in the form of smoke or vapor.
- Each person interested in becoming an abhyasi must undergo a minimum of three consecutive initiatory “sittings” with a Preceptor, during which the Cleaning Process is initiated as well as the beginning of Pranahuti, also known as Transmission, in which a bond with the current Master is established. Pranahuti is kind of like shaktipat, but entirely more subtle.
All of this sounded interesting enough, and while I’m not racist in the least, I should admit that it was kind of nice to be introduced to something like this by a non-Indian. In all my other spiritual pursuits, like 96% of all of them, I’m the only non-Indian. It truly doesn’t bother me, but it does perpetually feel rather lonely. At the end of the Starbucks meeting, I told this Preceptor that I’d be in touch about scheduling my initiatory sittings. I did just that.
As it turns out, this husband-wife Preceptor pair hosts much of the group’s local activities in their home, which isn’t new, but is nice. Their main living area actually makes for a very nice “sanctuary” with its enormous windowed space and near-panoramic view of their backyard.
After the initiatory sittings, there’s a prescribed manner of practice each abhyasi is encouraged to maintain including morning meditation, “cleaning” when the day’s work is done, and evening prayer. Additionally, there are a number of writings by the Marg’s lineage of Masters available for the abhyasi to study. Probably the most known of these are the Ten Maxims…which are not like the Ten Commandments.
Once their foot is in the door, so to speak, abhyasis are encouraged to do sittings with a Preceptor something like twice monthly. This is in addition to the individual cleaning one should be doing on his own. The benefit of this is that, if the abhyasi is diligent with his own cleaning it makes for increased progress in cleaning when he sits for such with his Preceptor.
The heart-based meditation is actually quite sweet, although it can be challenging to get a good hold on. It’s like picturing something without actually picturing it. The verbiage I feel is often used in this context is supposition. One “supposes” the existence of this Light, without actually picturing it. Apparently, picturing it too concretely will lead to kind of idolizing an image of this Light and this will, in its own way, deter the potential progress of the abhyasi. It’s for this reason that, although this practice comes from a Hindu background, no murtis are employed or encouraged.
Another aspect of Sahaj Marg is their use of journaling. All abhyasis are encouraged to do some post-meditative journaling as a means of logging their meditation experiences or realizations.
So far, in its relatively short lifespan, the Sahaj Marg has experienced three Masters (known respectively as Lalaji, Babuji, and Chariji), and the fourth was recently designated. I feel like a Google search has turned up some interesting tidbits about the Sahaj Marg, including that it’s a cult, that Preceptors at times force abhyasis to share their journals, a sex scandal or two, and disagreements in regard to the succession of some of the past Masters, among others. I’ll speak more about these things in my next post, when I detail my actual experience with the path.
My apologies for this post being so long. I intended to lay out a foundational understanding of as much of Sahaj Marg practice as possible, so that in my next post I can speak as much as possible about my specific experience with the path and not have as much explaining to so.