In this post, I wrote about how Sahaj Marg has aided my personal evolution to the point of somewhat regular experiences of The More. Part of that development and those experiences (maybe a huge part of it), I think, relates to what I know to be called “praan” or “prana.” ( प्राण, prāṇa ) Depending on the source you reference, this term translates variously as: Life force, vitality principle, universal principle of energy or force, cosmic energy, and shakti. The Wikipedia entry (which I don’t usually count as a valid reference for anything) on the term tells us that it comes to the earth from the sun, connects all the elements, is responsible for the body’s life / heat / maintenance, and is the sum total of all the manifest energy everywhere. (I find this to be just one, very simple example of Hinduism’s ability to completely marry science / sorcery, mundane / magical, sacred / secular.) Obviously, with a definition as broad as the one above, there are a billion ways in which praana manifests and can be experienced. Another great aspect of Hinduism is that it not only allows for but also insists on the recognition of everyone’s ability to experience this, first-hand, in their own way. For me, this most often happens (or, at least, happens in a way that I have come to recognize with the most ease … ) while gardening. I’ll now annoy you with photos of some of my recent gardening efforts. It’s tough to describe. In fact, when describing It, all words will invariably fail. But I can try to describe my sensory experience. For anyone inexperienced in the dark art of gardening, allow me to say a bit: I don’t wear gloves. Ever. Give me lilies or a cactus, I’m touching it with my skin. This means getting my hands in the dirt and getting the dirt in me – at a minimum dirt will get under my nails, but it’s not uncommon that I’ve also accidentally cut or poked myself and broken some skin. When repotting a plant or placing it into the ground, there’s a lot of physical contact: I usually inspect the plant (above the roots) first to make sure it’s healthy. Then there’s minor prep work before and during the removal from its planter. After that, focus falls to the root ball – to loosen the roots a bit and break up some of the dirt being held onto. Occasionally, trimming or pruning is also beneficial or necessary before planting or repotting. Beyond that scenario, whether indoors or outside, gardening offers lots of opportunity to care for these living things: Watering, rotating, pruning, separating new sprouts or “pups,” … the list can go on, assuming the plant survives. All of this contact and attention and focus and care can, for the right person, contribute to the development of a rather meditative state. It’s not unlike a state I’ve experienced while doing dishes or mowing the yard – and others have experienced this, too, during mundane activities.The difference between gardening and washing dishes, though, is the contact with actually living things. And that’s where praana comes into this picture and is also where it becomes challenging to describe. There’s a sound that electricity carries. It sometimes can be sensed (heard?) after a lightening flash and right before a thunderclap. It’s not that “zap” sound. It can be heard again in silence – like immediately after the thunder or in between heart beats. (We reproduce this, somewhat, when during pranayam-ic exercises we pause between inhaling and exhaling.) From where I currently sit, I’m not sure if this “silence” is really a kind of noise or not. And truly, it must be felt to be experienced. I don’t think it can actually be heard with human ears. But there’s that electrically-charged silence-but-not-silence “sound.” This is what growth sounds like. A kind of electric, non-auditory, thunder. And because I can’t actually hear it, I feel it. There’s no ego in a plant. Consciousness (different from awareness), but no ego. And as already mentioned, the act of gardening can induce a deep meditative state. So, when I engage in this activity and enter that state my ego is brushed aside (quite involuntarily!) and magic happens. This is when people say they’re doing something from the heart or “in the zone” (it’s the heart zone!). Whether it’s basketball, gardening, archery, or whatever – you can enter that space within and operate from there. A huge, massive, invaluable benefit I’ve gained from Sahaj Marg – being able to tap into my core. So before I know it, I’m in my heart experiencing this magic kind of non-effort and that’s when I come into conscious and aware contact with praana. Please believe me when I tell you that I experience (feel) that universal sound – the very life residing in the plant (and in you, and me, and everything else, everywhere). I feel the sound of the movement of Life. I don’t feel the movement itself. I don’t hear anything. It keeps reminding me of the kind of sensitivity that guy in the movie “Powder” exhibited, but without all the melancholy. But I feel the “sound” made by that indwelling… And then I go to a greenhouse and buy more plants, pots, and dirt! When you find a way for you to tap into It so easily, it can be maddening. It becomes all you really want to do. Bliss. It’s probably a good thing I’m not yet able to experience this consistently in other areas of my life – I’d give away everything and run to the jungles or a mountain cave and would live my days in seclusion. I’m curious how many others have this experience, or their equivalent of it. What activities can induce this in your human being? Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti
I feel like it’s been forever since I last published anything. Lots of happenings and goings on. In Sahaj Marg, our new Master is getting into the swing of things. It was late last year that our last guru-ji left shed his body and the successor is Kamlesh, who’d been with the Marg for a very long time and was very close to Chari-ji while he was in physical form and leading us.
I think in a post of two on here, and definitely in the last extended satsangh I attended, I mentioned that I was curious about the mission Kamlesh-ji would carry out for the Marg.
Our “first” Master (who wasn’t really the first), Lala-ji, kept things small and quiet. A lot of very subtle work was done and there was a time a couple years ago when I was focusing much on Lala-ji when I sensed some of that subtle work. It’s hard to explain. It was like seeing spiritual light or something… but wasn’t really like. It reminds me of some of the articles that pop up online periodically talking about our ability to detect and measure some of the left over energy from the Big Bang.
Our “second” Master (like the first, he wasn’t really just the second), Babu-ji, came at a time in human history when the East and the West were really starting to blend in ways not related just to business. It was under his guidance and spiritual authority that the Marg began to “take off” within India and slowly also outside of Bharat.
His successor was Chari-ji, our most recent Master. Under him, the borders of the Marg expanded significantly as did our library of texts. For decades, Chari-ji was responsible for guiding our path into the modern age – and through some very tumultuous world times no less! So many books were written by him, and my only complaint is that not all are available as I think they should be.
And now we have Shri Kamlesh. As mentioned, I’ve wondered about his touch on the Marg and what imprint he would be responsible for. It seems, as I kind of expected, that he’ll be our Guide that makes the Marg more easily accessible to a greater audience. Quite regularly there are bulletins and emails sent to abhyasis telling us of developments, changes, and new initiatives within our community. It’s quite nice. Some of these changes, a number in fact, have pertained directly to our preceptors.
According to the Hierarchy of Masters of Sahaj Marg, there are some new responsibilities placed with our preceptors. There are new permissions, which aren’t to replace any existing ones – but rather to supplement them. They include: New seekers being allowed to join group meditations without the “initiation” sittings that were required in the past; Groups of seekers can be welcomed on consecutive days if individual sessions are not an option; Individual sittings are now permitted by preceptors while in a group setting; Sittings are now allowed to be given remotely to individuals and to groups – although this should not be the norm and should not be done unless circumstances truly warrant.
A video of a recent address to abhyasis by Shri Kamlesh-ji can be viewed here. It’s actually from February of this year, which is 2 months old as of this posting. You can view it if you like.
Something I find to be particularly fantastic is Kamlesh-ji’s emphasis on the evolution of our community and blessings as changes being handed down from the Hierarchy.
Surely good things are to come to ahyasis and to the world.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti
Last night I took myself outside after two failed attempts to nap. (I’ve been battling a head cold for about three days already. It’s been quite the roller coaster and I’ve been craving rest.) It was around dusk and I decided to untangle some of my Morning Glory vines and encourage them in new, specific directions. After that was done, with my laptop at our sun table I decided to do anything online except school work. This made me feel lonely, so I texted The Best and reminded him that he hadn’t left his room since coming home and that his nicotine levels were surely running low. (“Don’t you have to come outside for a breath of fresh air soon?”) Sure enough, he had joined me outside within 5 minutes. A short while later I found myself out at our sidewalk, sitting and staring at the dark sky. I watched the stars while suspended in Navasana (boat pose). This led to sprawling out on the sidewalk – which actually is a much better way to watch the stars.
While I was still really young my father taught me how to see the stars move. It’s one of my all-time favorite things to have learned in this life so far and having been given that wisdom from him makes it even more precious to me. After he’s gone I’ll continue watching stars move with him. The best and I also saw UFOs, no joke.
Resting later in Shavasana (still on the sidewalk), I experienced something cool. I suddenly felt like I was on a ceiling and was looking at a celestial floor. Of course, humans aren’t meant to relax on ceilings, so the celestial floor felt like the better, more natural place to be. I sensed within me a very subtle yearning leave the ceiling for the floor. I found myself practically craving a launch from the pavement I relaxed on and expand into the speckled indigo Everything I saw before me. Usually closing my eyes helps encourage these kinds of expansive experiences, but this time it proved only to limit it – so I kept them open, without blinking, for as long as I was able. In his own way, I think The Best (who joined me on the sidewalk after his nicotine dose) was probably also having a similar experience because he started a conversation about gravity and being thrown out into space.
I’ve said before that when this life is finished and I’m done with this body, I will refuse additional bodily cycles and instead adopt the myriad forms of this planet’s weather system(s). I now suspect that this will not suffice. Even being a part of Earth’s weather is likely to feel too much like still being stuck to the ceiling. Rejoining the aforementioned floor will be far better and I will do it.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
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
One of the books I purchased not too long ago and which arrived by mail recently is part of a trilogy of quotes by three successive gurus of a lineage I’m studying. They’re “specialty” is Raja Yoga and, I think because of my background with Jnana Yoga, a lot of it is making sense. So far, it seems like Raja and Jnana yogas are more conspicuously related than some of the others appear to be – although, we know that all interweave at various points and if practiced long enough and “correctly” will integrate eventually.
The book I mentioned is the first in the trilogy and holds quotes only from the first guru of the lineage’s “official” organization. (For the record, I’m speaking strictly in terms of the relatively modern face of this lineage, which actually traces its roots far, far back & includes Patanjali and others before him.) The quotes are divided into chapters according to their context or content. One chapter is titled, “GURU,” and leads into the quotes with a single sentence, “The definition of a Sat-Guru is that:” after which there are listed five apparent traits a satguru is to possess. The chapter closes with a few paragraphs of discussion. I’m still chewing on some of this, but you can see below the five traits that “define” a Sat-guru.
1) He should attach himself to Reality, i.e., he should dwell in the fourth state and in the jivanmukta condition.
(For the record, while I’ve known the term “jivanmukta” for a solid decade, I’ve really only encountered its use with one other teacher.”
2) He should have practiced yoga (shabda-abhyasi) and by means of this practice should have control over the inner regions of the human brain.
3) He should have glittering eyes and a broad forehead.
4) He should have knowledge of devotion, knowledge, and work, and should be able to answer questions but should not bind the tongue of the questioner.
5) He should concern himself with spiritual things, i.e., he should pay attention towards them.
“These are all ordinary characteristics. But the real inner qualification is that he should be able to satisfy his disciples by imparting the Divine grace, transmitting grace, through the awakened inner vision.
“If you sit by a fire, you feel warm; if you sit by ice, you feel cold. Why then will you not get transformed if you sit with a person who is perfect in discipline and etiquette? Worship of the worthy Master should be done. Association with Reality is called satsangh. Guru-bhakti means only worship. Spend some time in the company of the Master and get your doubts cleared.
“A master should treat all equally. His love should flow evenly on all without any difference. He should not think himself superior to the abhyasis in any way. Love alone does everything.”
So far, I think the biggest standouts for me would be things that amount to, as a dear pal would say, semantics. The main purpose of this post is to share the five traits and the paragraphs that follow them in the book, so I won’t go into those semantic differences right now.
Umm… I also think I know that the guru who gave these sayings lived in a part of India that was (is?) influenced a bit by Middle Eastern culture. I’ll have to check again but I think he spoke Hindi & Urdu and some sources say that he rubbed elbows with Sufism – a mixture I find particularly interesting, if true.
As I said, I’ll definitely be chewing on this / these for a minute or two more, but now you can see the five traits that “define” a Sat-guru, according to him.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha