Monthly Archives: February 2013

Varanasi with Swamiji. Posted on February 27, 2013 by Swamiji

by Karobi Sachs

We arrived in Varanasi yesterday in what Swamiji said was the worst traffic she had ever seen here, as the millions on the Kumbha Mela pilgrimage continues here to the Ganges in Varanasi. Having been here just a month ago it is easy to see the effect of the holy days on this most holiest of areas. Everywhere is crowded with people coming for or giving blessings. There are tents of sadhus dressed in orange or not dressed but smeared with ash lined up along the ghat at the river bank.

There is so much to describe and my most recent visit to the Kedareshwar Shiva temple is still vibrating inside. Three of us walked in with offerings of flowers and we had to carefully pick our way through the marble halls slick with devotional water.

We moved into the inner sanctum carried along by the crowd of Indian devotees, where there is a natural stone lingam. The Brahmin priest told me to knee down to touch the sacred stone….kneel down in the water and whatever else was on the floor. The first surrender. Then he blessed me, placed sacred ash on my forehead and a dripping wet garland…surrender again. On the way around and out of the sacred room another priest smeared a whole lot of wet sacred ash across my forehead in Shiva stripes, then up and down and across again and another dripping wet holy blessed garland was placed around my neck.

Around the next corner more priests giving blessings from Vishnu and Lakshmi. We went to sit and meditate on the marble floor-but the constant ringing of the bells and the people stopping and taking pictures of us three North Americans was too distracting. We left after a few more introductions by priests to some more sacred murtis almost as besmeared with ash as the Aghoris (naked sadhus) outside. I left feeling like I had taken a full immersion in the Ganga with blessings still buzzing through me as I write this.

Something Happened… Posted on February 24, 2013 by Swamiji

by Sheynapurna Peace

I sit above the river Ganges. The setting sun reflects pink and orange on the water as pilgrims walk back from the Mela (carnival) alongside the river. Dozens of birds circle low over the water and around me are people meditating, journaling or simply being – watching the Ganga River.

Earlier today (Feb 15) our group went by large rowboat to the Sangham, the confluence of the Yamuna and Ganga rivers and perhaps also the mythical or deep underground Saraswati river. The river is so shallow in some spots that our boatman had to jump out at one point and walk to pull the boat over the shallows. After almost 2 hours on the cool of the river, seeing seemingly miles of tents and hearing over the loudspeakers various chanting from the hidden multitudes, we arrived at the confluence, the Sangham. There is a submerged platform there and many gather at this sacred spot to receive blessings from the Brahmin priest and immerse themselves. Three members of our group, Nandini, Ernesto and Barbara took blessings and entered the river. Another member of the group did a puja there for a family member. We all blessed ourselves by dropping water on our heads or dipping malas into the water.

The current runs toward our serene and lovely “home” – The Himalayan Institute. Really excellent accommodations, food, company. It took only about 30 minutes for our return trip and, over afternoon chai, Swamiji debriefed us asking “How do you feel?”. I came to realize I’d been so externally fixated that I wasn’t paying attention to the complete stillness inside. Something happened there and perhaps one day I will understand what that is.

After almost 2 weeks in India, I understand that significant changes, inner shifts, are taking place. Ganeshpuri altered me, hopefully forever. The priests explained that only people invited by Nityananda come to Ganeshpuri. I accepted His invitation. Nityananda showed Himself to me and blessed me and taught me how to pray. Brahmin priests blessed me and asked me to return. I meditated today on the bindi (small dot) on Nityananda’s forehead and delved into that tantalizing opening of sushumna nadi (the spinal energy channel). I sit, this moment, in Nityananda’s heart, my heart, overlooking the Ganga. I am in India.

Kumbha Mela & more about Ganeshpuri. Posted on February 23, 2013 by Swamiji

images (12)Kumbha Mela: waters below and above – by Swami Nirmalananda

We made our second boat trip to the magic spot, where the rivers meet at the Kumbha Mela. In a peaceful trip 2 miles upriver, 35 of us accommodated in four rowboats, we took about 90 minutes to get to the sangham (meeting point). Sitting there while a few did pujas (traditional ceremonies) to offer ashes of loved ones to Ganga (the Ganges River), and then witnessing as several of our party did the full immersion. Their reports later make it clear that this is no ordinary river!

Tonight the winds are blowing in, thunder rolls across the sky and the rain begins. Ganga has whitecaps and is rising – growing and expanding in Her desire to bless us, from the heavens and from the earth. They tell us our eco-cottages are waterproof, but we’ll see! Yes, this is camping, but as one Svaroopi said, it’s 5-star camping.

and here are more reports from our Ganeshpuri stay:

GOOD MORNING – by Ellan (Shanti) Cattachio

A little after 4:00 AM we walk to the temple.

Its dark and the village is quiet.

We wake the dogs.

The flower vendors are opening their stalls,

we buy garlands, deposit our shoes and enter the temple.

We bring our offering to the table then sit on the marble floor,

men to the left, women to the right. We are surrounded by our stuff.

The local people come in and sit.

We are all here to say good morning to Nityananda.

The curtain opens on another day in Ganeshpuri.

ASANA CLASS – by Shuchi (Sue) Cilley

I don’t know how many days we’ve been here now. Measuring time has no meaning. There is just one experience after another – always present if you are available. You don’t have to go looking – just be.

I’m finishing an asana class in the open sided dome at Fire Mountain Ashram. It was very sweet, simple poses to take care of our bodies, after supper, at the end of the day. It’s dusk and darkening. The dome is only dimly lit – we’re mostly dark outlines to Karobi who is tonight’s teacher. None of the familiar class music – the man who tends the mysteries of the sound system has gone home. Night sounds surround us – insect sounds as the day has finally cooled with gentle evening breezes.

But wait – softly and so present I hear the clanging bell and deep pulse of the drum wafting across the valley marking the evening events at the Nityananda Samadhi Temple. The Brahmin priests are beginning the ritual, the puja, that puts the big golden murti of Nityananda to bed for the night. My eyes are closed as I do Ujjayi in a chair and I see the temple filling with men, women and children for evening darshan after a long day’s work. The women are of all ages, dressed in saris of all colors and patterns, so beautiful. Everyone comes in quietly to sit on the thin carpet covering the marble floor. Men on one side; women to the other. Each bows before sitting, honoring the Divine presence. Bowing easily but with intention, offering gratitude and prayers, offering love and flowers. They come and go as though what happens here is “normal”.

From my Janu in the chair I hear the chant “OM Namo Bhagavate Nityanandaya” echoing across the valley to our Fire Mountain site. I see the priests tending to their duties, cherishing this connection with the Divine that pours powerfully through our Svaroopa yoga practice wherever it is done. I am grateful to them beyond words as they prepare the murti for the night, tucking him in with a blanket, a shawl, a hat. It’s been a long and celebratory day, a rare opportunity for all who come to actually touch the golden murti.

We’ve done Seated Side Stretch, and abs, a Lunge and Warrior, then a re-release. Karobi tends to us with gentle precision. I’m in JP as the chant ends and the drum begins again. It’s arati, honoring the Divine with flame circles. Enveloped in the beat of the bell and drum, the arati is mesmerizing to watch as the priests do four circuits, each with larger towers of flame. The drum crescendos and stops. In my head I hear the echo of the familiar chants as I finish the second side of JP. It’s over. I am bowing in Yoga Mudra. I am the Divine In human form, caring for my body. It’s “just” an asana class – changed forever.

The Play of Shakti. Posted on February 21, 2013 by Swamiji

Our last days in Ganeshpuri became a whirlwind of shakti and events, and now we’ve been at the Kumbha Mela for three days! I have the pleasant duty to catch you up with reports from so many yogis, covering our Ganeshpuri dosa party (food), more about the yaj~na (fire ceremony) and our Music School Performance. Yet I will also tell you we’ve been to the precise point where the rivers meet and merge and are returning tomorrow, with many meditations, mantras, meals and long walks through the amazingly easy crowds. With love, Swamiji

NO PLACE LIKE HOME – by Karuna (Carolyn) Beaver

Do you really need to come half way around the world to come home? Apparently, some of us do! When I say home, I don’t mean the physical location where I live. I mean being at home with my Self, in my Self, as my Self.

In our Ganeshpuri satsang a few days ago, Swamiji talked to us about the searching – the yearning – we all have for something more. She told us about her love for God and the human need to worship and adore. But, she said, Yoga is not about worship, and it’s not about religion. Yoga, she said, is about the relationship with a living master. “Yoga is about having a role model.”

While I am thoroughly enjoying visiting the holy sites and participating in the traditional ceremonies in Ganeshpuri, this little village with so much concentrated spiritual energy, what I am enjoying the most is being with my Guru in the place where she spent time with her Guru. I told Swamiji that I felt a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. All she had to do was click her heels and say ‘there’s no place like home’ to find her way.

All I have to do is to look into my Guru’s eyes to realize that I have the same ability. I do not worship my Guru (well, I DO adore her!!). I find myself in her eyes and in her presence, and my search is over.

DOSA PARTY

Michelle Gordon: Dosa is like being at the Copa!!! Colors, fast moving, lots of movement, famished yogis, and then: the chefs, delectable choices, magnificent presentation, professional, of course! Yes all this in Nimboli India. Come along, join our par-teeeeeeeeee!

Sheyna Purna Peace: A little bit of background. Today most of us were at the Nityananda Temple by 4:30 (that’s A.M.) where we sat while abhishek (ritual bath) was done on the beautiful Nityananda murti. A few of us then meditated in front of the bed where Nityananda slept. A gorgeous walk before sunrise back to Fire Mountain Ashram, breakfast and Guru Gita. Some of us have had personal pujas (ceremonies) with Prasad, the Brahman priest who, among other things, runs the Ganeshpuri Music School. I went to one for a friend and it was very powerful. After lunch we dressed in our finest and today, being the auspicious day of Ganesha’s birthday, we attended a Yaj~na (Sacred Fire ceremony). This was incredible and needs its own entire blog. We returned to the Ashram for satsang with Swamiji and then, and only then, DOSAS!

Priya Kenney: The Mumbai chefs who came to us with this feast are fluid form in motion. Dipping into the batter to plop a large dollop on the hot griddle, spreading it around in an expanding circle, creating a food painting by dipping into their palette of veggies from the local soils. Hands fly into silver bowls for a pinch of carrots, a handful of this and a sprinkle of that. Their easy movement is directed at filling our forms, but it reminds me of the priests at puja, fluidly pouring milk, honey and curd over Nityananda’s golden head, so that we may know our formlessness. These dosha artists and the priests moving effortlessly through the ceremonies each know the complexity of their rites. We are fed, and so full, inside and outside.

AFTER DOSAS — by Millie Chang

After the Dosa party last night where we were encouraged to “pig out” and despite my refusal of the ice cream treat offered, my digestive system was somewhat compromised. Waking a few hours prior to the 3:30 a.m. needed to get to Nityananda Temple for a very big day (lunar anniversary of Bhagawan’s Murti Installation), I found myself laying in bed, silently chanting Jai Jai Nityananda, occasionally rubbing my tummy, asking for Nityananda’s help to allow me to feel well enough to attend this morning’s abhishek. And soon enough, I was feeling better, ready to walk to the Temple along the mostly dark road, accompanied by my roommate and two of the house dogs who romped along the road ahead of us, greeting other dogs along the way.

The nearby temple where we’d attended the Opening Ceremony for the three-day Ganesha’s Birthday party celebration was brightly lit as though tempting us to return any time for Darshan with Ganeshaji on the stage covered in floral glory. At the large temple plaza, all the flower garland sellers were busy soliciting shoppers, and I went to pick out a lei made all of leaves and tender shoots.

Inside, the temple was filling up quickly, men on the left, women on the right, with a wide marble aisle in the middle with a direct view of the Golden Murti of Nityananda. Perhaps a dozen people were behind the railings, in order to participate in the actual bathing process. The chanting in process involved many voices, with special and specific chants for this day. Many of those gathered chanted along or responded to the Brahmins’ devotional recitations.

Fast forward a couple of hours, through the abhishek process, all the time chanting of many voices, I opened my eyes to see the Murti already dressed in his brocade cloth, embellished with many long strands of malas and one large leafy lei over his torso, and a small wristlet of flowers on his prominent left hand, accenting his long slender downward flowing fingers.

Next was a series of aaratis with several versions of flame holders, and everybody chanted Jai Jai Nityananda. Near where I was seated, several young children joined their mothers or came by themselves, as they have been doing each day. Then the entire audience rose up to form a line, gradually turning into a “single file” as one of the caretakers requested of the masses of people. The men were asked to wait along their wall, while women filed through to circumambulate the beautiful, pure Murti of Bhagawan Nityananda , today crowned with a bejeweled golden cap topped with a multi-headed cobra.

Having the opportunity to actually touch and see Bhagawan with our hands and hearts is truly the opportunity of a lifetime. On this Journey with Swamiji we have had such auspicious days to celebrate, first on Friday (solar anniversary of Bhagawan’s Murti Installation), then on Monday (MahaAbhishek with Swamiji), and again this morning. Amazing is too mild a word to describe the feelings that come up and settle into me each time we enter this purification process. It is quite difficult to identify whatever is so very subtly seeping into every cell of my body, but I am more than content to let things fall where they lay.

As Bindu, my teacher just asked me: How do we share or explain this with our friends and fellow Svaroopis back in Pennsylvania? They might just have to come for themselves.

The Fire. Posted on February 17, 2013 by Swamiji

The power of yoga becomes more and more tangible by the day. Instead of a muscular power, it’s the power of divinity wearing away your resistance, until there’s only one thing left — Self. Everything on the outside conspires to reveal your own Divinity. Yesterday it was a yaj~na (yaj-nya), the traditional fire ceremony documented in the Vedas and practiced the same way as in ancient times.

Friday night began with the Brahmins setting up in our meditation hall after dinner. We gathered in the garden dining tent for me to tell the story of the Goddess, the cosmic creative power that is honored as Divine Mother. I introduced Durga, the warrior Goddess that harnesses all the forces of nature to protect the world.

Yajna-Dean-Shuchi-150x150A little later our head priest, Samtosh, showed me the silver murti of Durga he brought for our ceremonies – how auspicious that I had just told her story!

From 9 am to 12:30, Dean and Shuchi (Sue) Cilley served as our hands and hearts in the succession of ceremonies invoking Ganesha, Varuna and Durga in a three-fold form (Tripura Sundari). Flowers, candle flames, water being poured and mantras resounding in the 40’ tall dome made it impossible for most people to keep their eyes open for long.

The fire took up all afternoon, with hours of ever changing chants and offerings being poured into the fire. Now no one could close their eyes! The flames are so different from any campfire or fireplace you’ve seen – truly the light of divinity and the spark of life.

We ended the night with another ancient myth, the story of Saraswati carrying the flames of the Vedic tradition on her watery waves, all the way to the sea…

Today, Sunday, we have the Ganeshpuri Music School performance and then we get ready for our early Monday a.m. departure – on to the Kumbha Mela!

Street Presence. Posted on February 15, 2013 by Ashram

by Sharada (JenMarie) Macdonald

It’s offical! The new signs for Downingtown Yoga Meditation Center are up! While we have held several satsangs, Shri Guru Gitas, yoga classes and a Shaktipat retreat since moving to the space in January, we now have “street presence.”

Kashi-SignsThe studio is well-positioned; the main stoplight in the middle of town is very close, so cars stop right in front of our main window while the light’s red. In fact, yesterday, I caught one stopped driver hanging out her window reading our new sign and mouthing the name of the studio. She paused on “meditation” and eagerly nodded her head to herself. She then glanced in the main window and saw me smiling at her. She instantly broke into a huge grin and peals of laughter. We both did! Still beaming, she raised her arms wide as if to offer her enthusiasm, brought them together into anjali mudra and bowed. I returned the gesture. The light turned green, and she drove away waving her arm, joyful and ecstatic.

I’m looking forward to meeting her at satsang!

And if you haven’t had a chance to make it to Downingtown Yoga Meditation Center, or Kashi, as we affectionately call it, you can virtually tour it below:

Kashi-Signs-150x150 Kashi5-150x150 Kashi3-e1360958219601-150x150 Kashi_puja-150x150 Kashi-e1360958254483-150x150 Kashi2-e1360958306316-150x150 Nityananda-150x150 Kashi4-e1360958187155-150x150 Muktananda_Kashi-150x150

Valentine’s Day in Ganeshpuri. Posted on February 14, 2013 by Swamiji

by Swami Nirmalananda

A special day, today is not only Valentine’s Day, but also Ganesha’s birthday, Saraswati’s day and (Most Important) the anniversary of Nityananda’s enlivened murti installation over 50 years ago. It is the birthday of the murti!

The extra-special abhishek this morning included many more Brahmins with Vedic chanting continuing much longer than usual, an extra-long bathing routine and a sweet invitation to a swami (me) to come forward and help. Returning to Fire Mountain Ashram for breakfast, several yogis told me they were meditating during the abhishek and something prompted them to open their eyes — only to see me standing on the stool behind Bhagavan’s head, pouring water on his golden form. A great surprise for all of us!

We have begun a period of silence this evening, 24 hours of “functional silence” where people can say please and thank you, ask for help and (especially) repeat OM Nama.h “Sivaaya aloud! It’s time to cool everyone’s overheated brains. Dinner in the garden, with colored lights strung from the trees, with everyone sitting in a companionable silence.

Tomorrow I’ve asked them all to meditate more. You can too…

Keeping the Home Candles Burning. Posted on February 13, 2013 by Ashram

by Connie Mohn

Ahhhhh…What a gloriously sunny and warm winter day in Downingtown. A perfect day to be out and about. Destination? Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. Even with so many yogis in India, the seva continues and for that I am grateful.

Sevite Lisa Spangler (Yoga Teacher at DYMC) was meeting me at the Ashram for a special – oh, so very special – project. It was time for Ganesha’s annual full body scrub and massage……or better said, the annual polish and shine.

Before we could get down to business though, two furry four-legged ashramites, bellies full, insisted we join them in the sunroom to lounge in the warmth of the sun and do absolutely nothing……. with friends. There is so much love in this thing called seva….from all directions.

Here are some pictures of some of those purrrrfect moments:

Sundari Mantage

Eventually we left our little sun-lovers to tend to our Ganesha, the Beloved. What a treat to be able to spend such quality time with Ganesha! Bathed in shakti, with the Guru Gita playing in the background, periods of japa, pleasant conversation and connection, we scrubbed and polished and scrubbed and polished. Were we polishing Ganesha, or our own Heart? When it was all over not only was Ganesha shining bright, so were we…..and so was the whole world.

Who is serving whom?
There is only the serving.
There is only Love.
What a difference a couple hours of seva makes!

Ganeshafront

This is Yoga. Posted on February 11, 2013 by Swamiji

NIK9300-150x150We began at 3:30 am, dressing the ladies in their new sarees, in preparation for our Maha-Abhishek, the great (maha) morning ceremony (abhishek) which features the milk-bath of Bhagavan Nityananda’s enlivened statue. A classical devotional practice, this is a taste of yoga’s ancient roots and living practice, honoring the divine in the human.

This photo is from the last time I got to take part in the morning abhishek. I am pouring honey on Nityananda’s head. You can see how alive this “statue” is, especially when the milk residue hides his golden sheen.

This morning, Board members from both Master Yoga and Svaroopa Vidya Ashram joined me in the ceremony. Dean and Shuchi (Sue) Cilley were the married couple officiating, under the Brahmins’ practiced direction. Prasad Joshi, the head of Ganeshpuri Music School (one of the Ashram’s charities) helped with translation and directions in this complex and rich ceremony.

Along with Dean, Shuchi and me, Saguna (Kelly) Goss and Amala (Lynn) Cattafi Heinlein helped pour the milk, curd, honey, sugar, rose petals and water over Bhagavan’s form, followed by drying him with soft towels and smoothing frangrant oil all over his golden body.

The process continued with layers of shawls, leaf garlands and flower garlands, and candle flame ceremonies with the drum and bells thrumming through the whole temple. An ecstatic crescendo after 2 hours led to a parade of devotees coming to greet Nityananda in the new day, with Dean handing out prasad (blessed food) to each one.

Then we gathered again, with everyone on retreat, for a final arati (candle flame ceremony) and chant. It felt like it lasted lifetimes, yet was over in an eyeblink. The process and the result are indescribable, yet we spent almost 2 hours discussing it later in the morning. To have the experience and to understand your experience – this is yoga.

India Reports from Svaroopis. Posted on February 11, 2013 by Swamiji

Take 2 per day… By Michele Gordon

After two days of two back to back Guru Gita chants, one in Siddha Peeth Temple, and another in the dome at Fire Mountain, it is Sunday morning; my mind is completely spatial, vast, clutter is nonexistent. Having this kind of freedom is ecstasy. You would not know this until you experience it yourself, for your Self.

Shakti Fever By Amala Lynn Cattafi

That is what Swamiji calls it…I arrived in Ganeshpuri 2 days ago and I woke up today feeling like I had been hit by a Mack truck…but in India the Mack trucks are beautifully painted with pictures of Shiva, Ganesha, and the symbol for Om…how appropriate! I have never been so grateful to feel like crap!

Why? Because I know that this is not illness, it is annihilation. It is the beginning of another layer of purification, it is Shakti moving, it is Grace. Here in Ganeshpuri, we are doing deep work. This is the birthplace of the Svaroopa lineage, and you feel it EVERYHERE. In just the last 2 days, I have attended the deeply moving Abhishek at the Nityananda temple where he is interred, chanted the Guru Gita at Gurudev Siddha Peeth ashram, visited and meditated in Nityananda’s home , all in addition to our daily program with Swamiji…talk about putting yourself close to the fire!

And it’s all there, the irritability, the fatigue, the flu-like symptoms, the emotional roller coaster, the temperature irregularity (an understatement, I assure you), and of course, for me, the tears. But it will pass, and in every moment, the amazing and the awful, there is the knowledge that there is a purpose to it; I have immense joy in that. India is an all-out assault on the senses, on the mind, and on the heart….that is why I have come back for my third trip. That is the point. To quote one of Swamiji’s daily quotes: “Yoga will annihilate you…and that is the greatest blessing of all.”