The Differently Same Reality

So … by request, the plan for this post is meant to kind of illustrate the parallels between being Hindu and being Sufi. I’ve not really done this before, and going into it I feel a bit intimidated because, unlike Hinduism, I haven’t spent the last 10+ years studying and living Sufism.

In a recent post I brought the idea that I’ve usually thought of Sufism as a type of Islamic Hinduism. Chewing on that a bit more since that post, I think I’ve changed my perspective on that. I believe Sikhism to be a better fit for the idea of Islamic Hinduism. There are other religions, too, like the Baha’i faith that could also perhaps fall into a broader category of “Islamic Hinduism” – with each path, of course, having it’s own so-called specialty.

However, as I’ve been looking around online trying to learn more about these parallels I’m finding that Sufism is indeed much like Hinduism – but it’s really only like the parts of Hinduism that are truly beyond the mundane. Like those in Hinduism who reach the upper elevations of transcendence, Sufis – despite their own “rituals” – don’t really hold much place for the things that tend to preoccupy the bulk of humanity’s religious concentration. In mainstream Islam and definitely what could be called the bulk of Hinduism ritual prevails, but from what I’ve gathered Sufis seem entirely aware that their unique practices are definitely meant to be transcended as soon as one’s development permits.

From the Hindu side of this we’re familiar with having murtis, bathing them, dressing them, feeding them, waking them in the morning and putting them to bed at night. We perform japa ritually. We begin or don’t begin certain endeavors based on the movement of the heavens. And the more orthodox parts of Hinduism even dictate on things like clothing, food, profession, and marriage. Still, for all of this there are the rare exceptions within Hinduism wherein the believer isn’t held to these things and the emphasis is often on a more direct and experiential connection to the Source, one’s true Self.

This is where the parallels between “Hinduism” and Sufism begin to show. To narrow things down a bit here, the roots of Sahaj Marg that can be traced back to Sufism indicate a Naqshabandi Sufi lineage – which is actually unique among the Sufi paths as it is the only denomination that goes back to the Prophet of Islam through the first caliph instead of the prophet’s cousin, as all the others do (I think). Additionally, depending on which source you choose to reference, there are possible Shaivite Hindu roots (well, influence) to Sufism. I don’t know much about these and can’t really attest to the verity of those claims, but it definitely seems to fit on a few levels.

In the case of Sahaj Marg practices we see a definite blending of the two that highlights the parallels. The Master or guru is important. There is the heart-to-heart transmission, or pranahuti. As with Sufism, the Sahaj Marg tends to avoid murti worship, prefering instead to worship the Divine on a more subtle level. As with some sects of Hinduism, the Yamas and Niyamas are taken to be guidelines of exemplary living that develops spirituality and improves the earth life. Mind you, the Sahaj Marg also has what are called the Ten Maxims which are totally separate.

Certainly, Sufism has it’s own set of unique practices, which could be as limiting as the bulk of Hinduism’s rituals. But once you drop all the baggage of man-made religious expression what you’re left with is where these two paths collide – indeed, I think every path combines at that level. On that note, I’m finding that it’s actually more efficient to detail the differences between these two paths than it is to highlight the parallels – a task I really have no interest in going into very deeply. I can say, though, that you can’t compare Hinduism to Sufism because Sufism is pretty much entirely mystical while Hinduism isn’t necessarily. You can compare Hinduism to Islam, but to make a fair comparison between Hinduism and Sufism you would need to isolate some path of Hinduism that is, life Sufism, pretty much entirely mystical.

I’ve attached a video I found online that might offer better insight than I am able to, although it’s quite lengthy.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti


सही धर्म / Sahi Dharma


Devotion is duty; perfect duty is devotion. Now, if I am devoted to my Master, it means perfection in the performance of the duty he has given to me, or which I have voluntarily accepted from him, as nearly perfect as possible, growing in perfection. Now people ask, “How can something grow in perfection?” Well, every agriculturist knows that you have a perfect seed. You prepare a place to plant it as perfectly as you can. You have a perfect sapling, you have a perfect plant, you have a perfect tree, you have the possibility of a perfect fruit. We start with the seed. At each stage it is perfect. It is a growing perfection. It is a changing perfection, yet it is perfection, which doesn’t change. The object into which that perfection is put or associated with may change, but the perfection itself doesn’t change. Therefore, you can have a perfect diamond, a perfect piece of coal, a perfect seaweed. Anything is perfect.

Philosophy says everything is perfect, because the Creator did not make anything imperfect. Now, we are dealing with what the Creator felt was a perfect creation. And when we blame creation and say, “This is stupid; that is futile, this is ugly,” we are criticizing the Creator. No mother likes to be criticized about her baby. She is worse than a tigress! So it is very true…We have a saying in Tamil, “That to the crow, its baby is a golden baby.” Every mother’s child is perfect.

So if every mother’s child is perfect, how can there be imperfect people? So when you think you are imperfect, you are already starting a criticism of your creator…My actions are imperfect, my thoughts are imperfect, my giving is imperfect, my taking is imperfect… He never created imperfect things.

Now perfection is neither good nor bad, it is neither big nor small, it is neither tasty nor untasty, because these are the opposites on two sides of that which is called via media, which is neither perfect nor imperfect, neither good nor bad, neither beautiful nor ugly, neither tasty nor untasty. Therefore, we call it ‘overcoming the dualities of life.’

Taken from “Love and Death” by Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari

The Original Stir


“If I seek courage, I must have courage inside me. It is a quality, it is not a thing. Courage is not in a spear or in a gun – it is a quality. Happiness is a condition; joy is a condition. God is a principle. Therefore, he in whom this principle is present is a divinized being. There is no such thing as God, other than this. If there is a God it is only the existence of this pure principle everywhere. It cannot be somewhere, at some time, at some place. If it is a principle it must be everywhere, at all times – everywhere. Therefore it must be here; therefore it must be now. And being a principle, it must pervade everything, too. Therefore we come to this definition of God as omnipotent, omnipresent, omni-pervasive.

“But we make the mistake of saying, “He is everywhere, He is in everything, He is in all times.” Then we have the feminists coming up in arms and saying, “Why He? Why not She?” So you see this ridiculous situation of personalizing a God, which is what we have been doing through the whole of human life. Whether in a fish or in a boar, or in a Samson and Delilah – God is in his hair, and when the hair came back he regained his strength. Or God is in the wishbone of a whale or a chicken. Or God is an idol or in a pillar or in a cross or just in an empty blank wall. So God cannot be located in space or seen in the context of temporal time.

“Therefore, anybody who claims to have seen God or touched God is either misguided or a liar. There is nothing to see. I cannot see what is in me, others must see what is in me. Therefore, we can see God in others, we should never be able to see God in ourselves. That being so, a divinized person cannot know he is divinized, much less can God know he is God.

“Something which Babuji Maharaj said: “God cannot know he is God, because when he is knowing that he is God, there is God and the other” – duality comes into existence at once. So if God cannot be conscious, God has no mind. Sahaj Marg’s teaching is very emphatic on this, very definite. God can have no mind, because if he is conscious there will be periods of unconsciousness – He can go into a coma, He can lapse into sleep. Therefore, we have these funny rituals of God being woken up in the morning, put to sleep at night. So we are fooling with God, imagining he is a bigger human being than we are… In a way it is right because it is a special presence. In a way it is wrong because He cannot be present when He is already there. It is not a new presence. But you can think of it as the air in this room which is still, not moving, therefore you don’t feel it. If it starts to move you feel it as a breeze. So air, when it is unmoving, you don’t feel, when it moves, you feel.

“Therefore, when the divine principle moves we feel it as a presence. What makes it move? It is the expression of the divine principle in you which makes it move. When you use the word in English: “It was a moving experience. The music was moving. His condition was moving. I was moved by his love for me,” – what is this ‘moved’? It is precisely the stirring of the divine principle in the heart, which for a moment comes into action, very much like the kshob (original stirring) of Babuji Maharaj. And when that kshob happens inside your heart, that divine principle is let loose and love flows.”

(The above is an excerpt taken from Love & Death.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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


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

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














στην καρδιά σας ( stin kardia sas )


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

कोई मन नहीं


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

Your Blue Throat

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

A major Hindu holiday was recent. Shivratri, or actually Mahashivratri. A lot of people might not be aware that each year brings many Shivratris – one about 13 days after each new moon. The one we just had, though, is known as Mahashivratri because it’s apparently Lord Shiva’s favorite of them all (in a year’s cycle). During this holiday there’s lots of fasting and flocking to temples and pujas and especially lingam abhisheks. While I partook in some of those usual festivities, I did so from home in a rather quiet manner. I bathed my home mandir’s lingam, chanted the Panchakshar and Mrtunjaya mantras, and then after spending some with my very affectionate cat, Darel, I disappeared into myself in meditation.

It was nice. It was peaceful. And it allowed me to follow my saiva leanings while also practicing my Sahaj Marg path. While giving my attention to my cat I began to contemplate Shiva and his form as All-Pervasive Consciousness. Without going too much into it, this Hindu belief is one that draws me to Hinduism and more specifically to all things Shiva-centric. I think a self-existent, all-pervasive Consciousness is That which all things come from and to where everything returns. Indeed, science is more and more in support of the notion that consciousness is what everything rests on and some experiments, which are too tricky for me to explain, have even started to prove that things behave differently than expected when consciousness is directed or diverted. Spending time with Darel always leaves me grateful for the myriad forms consciousness takes.

While engaged in this contemplation, and as I entered into meditation, a well-known story about Shiva came to mind. The digest version of the story is that a poison arose during the churning of the primordial sea and everything was in jeopardy – everything. Shiva came to the rescue by swallowing all of it. To keep from suffering from the poison, he employed his yogic might (Shiva is, after all, the God of yoga) and stopped the poison while it was yet in his throat. The poison’s effect as it came to rest there was to turn his throat blue. Because of this, Shiva is also known as Neela Kanta (Blue-Throated One).

Many people know this story and certainly there are many interpretations and implications of it. One that came to me recently, though, felt new to me. The idea that the actual power of yoga – what enables true union – is the ability to stop.

Think about it. What goes up, must come down. Right? Left is balanced by right. Light is countered by dark just like hot is by cold. Surely for every in there is an out and every forward has its backward. No two lines are truly parallel, even if it looks as though they’ll never touch. The phenomenal world is maintained by these opposites. If you disagree, dissect any pair of opposites and see what you get. I promise the only thing you’ll get is a huge imbalance.

This is where it all gets kind of funky. In order to have a phenomenal existence, you have to engage in this back-and-forth-ery. There’s really no way around it. Sadly, once engaged in all of this, we confuse everything and kind of get trapped. We drink the poison to save what needs saved, forgetting about what that will cost. Or in modern terms, we go after what we think / feel / desire and in the process engross ourselves (and our karmas) ever deeper in Maya – that is, until true yoga becomes our path, our forte.

In the story of the churning of the sea, Shiva was able to fully perform and engage in phenomenal acts and remain unaffected because of true yoga. He was literally able to halt the motion caused by the actions he had made. It’s like in the Gita when we’re advised not to be attached to the fruits of our actions – only this feels a bit more active. Shiva was, through his yogic ability, able to act and not be touched by the fruit of those actions. He was able to perfectly fulfill his swadharma and avoid (escape?) the karma that would have affected anyone else. He was able to simply stop it. Shiva Shankar ki jay!

Neela Kanta Shiva

Neela Kanta Shiva

Everything about the evening and the story about Neela Kanta, who is the Lord of Consciousness and the Lord of Yoga, popping into my mind before closing the night seemed to help me become super aware of That which pervades all and of how my religion of yoga gently and surely brings me closer to It. The heightened awareness of That which marries my head to my heart set the stage for the night’s meditation, Sahaj Marg style. And I entered meditation with gratitude for a path that brings me closer to union by peeling away my layers and for a God with a blue throat.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti