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
Do you ever buy something believing it to be of considerable lower quality than would appear? I apparently do.
Last night I added what is the 27th “Kraishnav” book to my home library. To be clear, while this 27th book is part of a finite collection, it’s not numbered “27” or anything – it’s just the 27th of my personal collection.
I’ll be adding the 28th tonight after mid-week meditation.
This line of books happens to be one of the many works attributed to Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is known as Swami Prabhupad or Shrila Prabhupad by his followers. He’s vaishnava swami who was popular a number of decades ago and is no longer in the human body we knew him as. I think a significant portion of “his” books are kinda crap. I mean that as sincerely as I am able to express and there have been times when I’ve thought to myself that a person might even be better off without religion or spirituality.
It’s got nothing to do with him being a vaishnav, although it has a little to do with him being a kraishnav. (Kraishnav = a Vaishnav who manages to see the avatar of a god as being actually “higher” in status than the god who existed before the avatar. In this case, we’re talking about Krishna being mightier than Vishnu.) I also think it’s nearly total crap some of his discussions on things like karma and ahimsa and vegetarian foods that are “offensive” to the Lord, and how a gay person is “even lower” than a dog. Yeah. Real nuggets of wisdom held in his brand of “bhakti.” Be sure of it.
Still, whenever I come across a book of his that isn’t in my collection – which I usually find at used book stores and rarely pay more than 5$ for – I gotta have it. I kind of just like the collecting aspect of adding to my collection. And more than a few people can vouch that the next time I come by someone who wants to learn about Prabhupad or is a devotee or something, but whose own personal library is “lacking,” I’ll be putting my own collection into the post to benefit that seeking soul.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Some time ago, I ranted on Facebook about how offensive I found the Mormon practice of “baptizing the dead.” I feel very strongly that this practice violates some kind of cosmic rule of live and let live. When I ranted, a number of my own family members who became Mormon after my grandfather’s passing, spoke up and said that I was wrong about that ritual and that I shouldn’t speak out about things like this because it makes me some kind of hypocrite. To be clear, it’s my understanding that this kind of baptism merely presents the dearly departed with a chance to accept the Mormon belief structure and gain the Mormon afterlife. Also, the hypocrisy referenced by my disgruntled relatives is apparently in regard to my critical attitude about someone else’s views or practice which my family members – knowing next to nothing about Hinduism – think goes against Hinduism. In this case, they would perhaps not be wrong within certain contexts, but in this context specifically they are still not necessarily right, either.
This weekend I’m spending more time at the computer than is usual because it’s my turn in my department’s on-call rotation. As I was logging on recently, I saw some kind of news headline mentioning that two popes were gaining sainthood “to bridge a divide” or something. It struck me… These two dudes were resting in peace, burning in hellflame, or maybe tossing crowns at Jesus’ feet or something (do only Protestant souls do this or Catholics, too?) and now their own afterlives are about to change entirely when they are sainted and begin interceding on behalf of Catholic believers who want something.
All this afterlife meddling. WTF?
Whatever happened to simply offering food and a little homage to our deceased relatives and letting past lives be past lives? I’ll admit, it’s a little tough for me to understand how devout people can be cool with trying to change the afterlives of their loved ones without their permission. But who am I?
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
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
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
It’s often heard in Christian circles that one should, “Let go and let God” meaning that we should place everything in God’s hands and trust the Divine to take care of us. I think the best equivalent I’ve encountered in anything Islamic is the saying, “If it is written” or “If God has written it” … something to that effect, implying that the Divine is in control and that we should trust in what is written above. I’ve even heard many a Hindu believer advise something along these lines.
It’s always made me scratch my head. I suppose to many it’s comforting to believe that our Big Daddy / Big Momma has our back, but there seems also to be something weakening about that idea, if it’s carried far enough. For me, strictly in the context of this saying, the value it holds can be found primarily in the idea that there is more going on than we are able to see or understand. I don’t believe God wants me to lay my worries down at his so-called feet. I don’t believe God punishes my enemies or rewards me for being a good boy. Most of those things, which are often covered under the “let go and let God” phrase are actually governed by the deep workings of karma.
Still, there’s value in being able to “let go.” Whether God enters the picture or not, we need to be able to let go. Shri Eckhart Tolle mentions in a number of his books that our mind likes to recycle stories because the ego feeds off the energy carried by those stories. First-hand experience has shown me how absolutely true this actually is. Often these stories are negative, but happy stories apply here as well.
Hinduism holds the notion of Samskaras. One meaning of this term is passage or rite. These are ceremonies that are milestones in one’s human life. Another definition of the word Samskara is “impression” or “under the impulse of previous impressions,” and The Dictionary of Common Sanskrit Spiritual Words says, “Whenever an action is performed with the desire for a specific result (whether for oneself or another), sanskara is created for that person. These accumulate and determine the situations with which we will be presented in the future and will influence the scope of future actions.”
As you can see, Samskaras play a huge role in our karmas – or lack thereof. Something happens, it makes an impression on us, and then additional things that happen are flavored by the existing impressions as are our responses to those additional happenings. We end up with really strong, deeply-engrained, cycles of energy that can be quite challenging to gain mastery over.
Hinduism offers just about as many ways for gaining this mastery as there are Hindu believers. Whether one is effective or “right” depends almost entirely on the individual and – big surprise – their Samskaras. For some of us, mantra yoga removes the impressions we carry. For others of us, karma yoga is the route. Many find liberation through experiential Jnana Yoga, while others seek freedom by performing decade-long headstands. In the Sahaj Marg, a Raja Yoga path, we have a practice known as Cleaning, which supplements our primary meditation practice.
Cleaning is something I struggled to accept when I first encountered this path, but it has since grown on me as a productive and beneficial part of my daily sadhana. Without going too deep into it, it’s something that an abhyasi does only after their “work” for the day is complete. Beyond that, it can be done any time one prefers or needs. (The guidelines that govern our primary meditation practice are considerably more stringent.) The photo included in this post, while not an actual Sahaj Marg image, is actually a great illustration of our practice of cleaning.
So what does this have to do with that jibber-jabber “let go and let God”? I suppose the point I hoped to make is that one’s path should be empowering. In Hinduism, the Law of Karma actually affords all the power and control to the individual. Your destiny is what YOU make it, not the result of God cradling you. Here’s another thing all Hindus must consider: God is you. You are literally a spark or sliver of the Divine. So when you “let go and let God” you must realize you’re essentially allowing yourself the power and strength to get rid of that which brings or perpetuates your misery.
My experience has definitely shown me that I am the cause of my own misery and, as a spark of the Divine, I am also imbued with the power and strength to be the end of that same misery. Whatever your chosen path is, I hope you’re increasingly capable of letting go and letting God within you be the One you look to for peace.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha