Category Archives: India

Take What You Like And Leave The Rest by Sheynapurna (Sandy) Peace

foundations_mediumMade familiar from Alcoholic Anonymous, “take what you like and leave the rest” can apply in many situations, particularly Svaroopa® Vidya Yoga & Meditation. Although we are never, in this program, forced to ascribe to a certain philosophy, those yogis who are uncomfortable with alignment of Swami Nirmalandanda as their guru (or a guru, or any guru), can take this message to heart. The yoga you know and love is not changing.

The yoga philosophy offered has always been Kashmiri Shaivism – the same teachings I received during my YTT in 2003/4. Swami Nirmalananda can deepen the teachings, offer Shaktipat and take us further in the Self, but this is not, will not be, and has never been required of Svaroopa® yoga teachers. Take what you like – leave the rest.

Part of the 2013 India trip was held on the beautiful campus of the Himalayan Institute, and most of our fellow travelers came through that organization. The Himalayan Institute has a spiritual leader, but most of our travel mates were not very familiar with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait.

HI offers Meditation, yoga asana, ayurveda, philosophy. Some develop interest in areas they didn’t expect to like at first – and others joined the group simply to experience Kumbha Mela and India. The program appealed to them. Their students take what they like and leave the rest.

To my fellow yogis having no interest in a guru or those who have their own different guru; to my fellow yogis who are happily absorbed in their own religion or spiritual path – you can take a breath and turn to the aspect of Svaroopa® yoga that opens your body and opens your heart. Take what you like, leave the rest.

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A Missed Opportunity

by Swami Nirmalananda

chanting in turbanI once skipped bowing to my Guru on Guru Purnima.  It is the biggest holiday (holy-day) in the yoga tradition, not only because it is the full moon dedicated to honoring the Guru but also because Grace flows most fully on Guru Purnima.  I was living and serving in the Ashram, and several thousand people came to see Baba, understandably!  I worked in food service, helping to feed them, so I and my fellow sevites were very busy.  I bowed to Baba in my heart, skipped taking a break, and went on serving.

I went forward in the darshan (reception) line to greet Him the next night.  He tapped me with the peacock feathers.  I lowered my head below my heart in the classical pranam (bow).  I looked up at Him as I came up and He looked at me in His usual way.  It was all perfect and it was all incomplete.  I knew that I had blown it.  I had missed my chance.  His Grace was there, certainly — but the night before would have been something else.  If only I had prioritized my relationship with Him instead of the work I did for Him.  Tricky!

I thought of the New Testament story of Mary and Margaret.  I began to understand what it was like to be the one bathing His feet instead of the one bustling around getting things done.  I’d always been the “bustler.”  I have bustle karma, that’s for sure.  It’s true that things must be done.  There’s a lot to do in order to support those who come to the Guru, in person or through the teachings, in books, online, etc.   But what does the Guru need?  Nothing. That’s the point.  The Guru is the only not-needy person you’ll probably ever meet.  That’s the reason to be in this relationship.

This relationship, like any relationship, needs some TLC.  When you do your part, you get more out of what was always available.  It’s like being in relationship with the sun:  when you go out to soak up some rays, you get the vitamin D.  When you don’t, you don’t.  But the sun is always there.  It’s always shining.  It’s always giving.

In India, Guru Purnima is the day when people pilgrimage to see their Guru.  This is no small feat!  The full moon in July is the middle of the monsoon, which makes travel precarious at best.  They bring gifts and donations, usually providing enough financial support to cover the Guru’s and His or Her Ashram’s needs until the next Guru Purnima.  Thus the Guru doesn’t have to go out with a begging bowl every day, nor charge for the teachings.  The tradition of providing the teachings for free comes from a land where they know that they must support the one who gives the teachings.

Buddha gave His first teachings on Guru Purnima.  Veda Vyasa was born on Guru Purnima.  Thus Buddhists, Hindus and yogis all celebrate this holy day every year.  Personally, I used to take this time to go to India to be with my Guru, visiting His samadhi shrine, a meditation room in which His body is interred under a marble slab.  Since I’ve been appointed to serve in this way, I stay in America for the celebration, so that I can be available to everyone who wants to come.

In India, it’s hard to see the full moon on that July night due to the monsoon clouds.  My experience has been that, somewhere in the night, just when I’m looking up, the clouds will part just a little so I can see the moon.  It is the biggest full moon of the whole year, which is why the sages dedicated it to the Guru.  It is the biggest because it is the point at which the moon is closest to the earth.

So if you cannot join me for Guru Purnima, go out and soak up some moon rays.  And chant “Guru Om.”  At least for the evening.  And meditate.  What’s the Guru for anyway?  To help you turn inward.  To help you know your own Self.  That’s the point.

Special Shishya Seva

Imageby Sarvataa Christie

The tippy top of the seva sheet read “*Special Seva Project Downstairs”…what?!  Oh, I hurried down there, so very excited, and then my eyes gazed upon those magnificent marble boxes…the sacred ash!  From our yajña! My heart leapt and my mind melted.

At breakfast the next morning, as Kristine Freeman and I were chatting about our “Special Seva Project,” we shared joyful bliss mingled with excitement. Swamiji explained how Making a Difference monthly donors would truly appreciate the sacred ash being packed by Shishya hands (and I can say the Shishya hands loved it!). She then instructed us to do it in the meditation room, while playing chants, and then meditate. Yum!

We began in right after mealtime, as the task seemed daunting! Blissful and an honor, but all those boxes!  Kristine assembled the first packing box, then when she got to the second one she was like “How did I do that first one!?” She then decided to “stop thinking” and just do it; the next time I looked her way, there were seven boxes all neatly lined up and assembled. She had figured out, what she coined, “box asana”!

As I opened the bag of ash, which had been hidden until now, I was amazed by its richness and the depth of its grayness. My mind immediately began to worry and cause me trouble about the how to’s and the what if’s.  We adorned ourselves with the ash upon our third eyes and I did have a taste or two.

As we continued our work, we began to slip into meditation.  Those what if’s/ how to’s dissolved and the task at hand became so simply full of bliss! We worked together as a great team and were so surprised when we were all of a sudden done! Karobiji termed it “Working efficiently from the Self; functioning from that deep state of meditation.” What a wonder! To be able to function in that state of bliss is such a sublime and easy experience.  Kristine said, “I thought this would be something we would start and the next group would finish!” We had seamlessly completed our seva with plenty of time for meditation before lunch.  At this point, we were giggled, “Oooh! Next is meditation.” We both agreed we were already there.

Now…Meditation.   A blissful hour passed in the blink of an eye. It was so sweet to be so deep; “unconscious in consciousness” as Swamiji says. Kristine’s meditation was “So still.”

So, of course, I have been applying the sacred ash daily between my eyebrows and the tip of my tongue. It is so lush and full of power. It is a bit gritty, but so soft; a little rubbing between your ring finger and thumb will make a nice fine powder.  Enjoy your sacred ash, thanks for your continued support and generosity and for this opportunity to serve! I’ll treasure this experience always.

Reentry after India. Posted on April 2, 2013 by Swamiji

I am in India and it is in me. I am back’ but not fully; changed forever. – Sarvataa

I am waking early in the morning, sometimes to chants in my head. A nice call to meditation. At one point I looked around my house and thought ‘I’m home’. Then I could hear Swamiji ask ‘who is home’ ? I sat with that thought and decided I never left. I feel as though a thick layer of ‘identity’ or armor has been peeled away and my Self is closer. I am quieter, more self contained. I am also grateful for familiar food, clean air and water and readily available toilet paper. – Shanti Ellan

DSC_0571-1024x731I returned home quite sick and jet lagged, so it’s taken me a while to settle in. I have noticed that I’m more centered and peaceful and embodied! This was really evident when I taught my first yoga class the other night. There is definitely a shift from where I was to where I am now. – Padmakshi Andrea

Re-entry has been surprisingly smooth. A few days after returning from Ganeshpuri, I had a work meeting with someone who is a meditator in a different tradition. I walked in, sat down and our eyes met, and without a second’s hesitation, she said “You’re changed!” Yes, I am. It’s incredibly wonderful. I’m so grateful for the trip, for Swamiji, for her for taking us, for those who came before her and for the delicious connection with all you yoga sisters and brothers. My heart is very full. – Priya

Yes, the experiences are amazing. And yet they solidify what Swamiji has been saying for years. Or maybe it is the experience rather than hearing the words. For example, I had all sorts of valid reasons why I couldn’t meditate for long time periods: I work 8 hours, teach, family, already get up very early. Since returning home my morning meditation has increased to 90 minutes. A new timer, one that goes into hours rather than maxing out at 99 minutes, is on my shopping list. And Swamiji really IS right! Meditate more, sleep less. Nothing is more important to me than the Self and no one with whom I need to spend more time. None of this is new but my understanding certainly is. And I remain so quiet inside. – Sheynapurna

It took about a week to realize that the trip to India on the outside may be over, but the journey that it initiated on the inside continues to draw me deeper and deeper. I am taking myself less personally, which is difficult to explain but pleasant to witness. Life is simpler, and it’s not just because it is so obvious that 2 or 3 squares of toilet paper suffice. LOL! To have been immersed in that constant, simple, sincere divinity supports me in living more of the same, more of the time. That Nityananda invited us all is an astounding mystery. — Bindu

India taught me so much. Yesterday I quit my job, moved out of my house & moved to Byron Bay, looking for a house farm with my princess. India helped me grow some cojones and it growed me! Oh yes, I am still 0ne & very Conscious of my Actions. Thank you all! Any time you are welcome in my casa. – Tito

I just made a pot of rice and dal this afternoon…delicious! I am seriously missing someone cooking 3 meals a day for me. And there is Joy in the shoveling of two feet of snow today. Om Namah Shivaya. — Kamala Gross

So, for my own re-entry into “life in these United States”, the car service driver that came to pick me up said to me: I’ve only seen you once before, when I dropped you off at the airport, but now you look different: “You look as though you have seen God.” It was a good thing I was already sitting down in his car, but I nearly burst into tears. – Nancy

From Swami Nirmalananda – I hope these many blogs have helped all of you enjoy the pilgrimage with us! While India is a place on the outside, it is also a place on the inside – a holy place, the space from where your Self shines. If our trip has helped you find your vast inner spaciousness and Beingness, then we have served you well. And had a great time doing it!

If you’re thinking you’d like to come along next time, I’m planning to do a trip every 2 years – look for early 2015!

Sacred Ash. Posted on March 29, 2013 by Swamiji

By Swami Nirmalananda

The power of the mantras and the offerings burned in the fire are concentrated into the ash, which is why I brought it home from our yaj~na in Ganeshpuri. This is why the Ashram is sending it as a gift to new Monthly Donors as well as those who increase their monthly gift. It’s about outside and inside.

On the outside, the Vedic fire ceremony or yajña (pronounced yaj-nya or yag-ya) produces the ash. But the fire is more than a simple fire; it does something on the inside. My Baba introduced me to yajña in Ganeshpuri. I sat, completely riveted, for hours every day. The priests chanted the ancient mantras while feeding the flames, which leapt high in the air. I attended many more in my years of study, some of the yajñas lasting several days.

At night, when the Vedic chanting was done, I walked around the fire for hours, repeating mantra silently. The fire burned outside and inside, burning away everything that kept me from God. That is its purpose. That is yoga’s purpose.
The ash is called bhasma (bas-ma) or vibhuti (vib-hoo-ti). Yogis have been using it for millennia. You may have already indulged in the three traditional “Siva stripes across your forehead, as I’ve been sharing this practice on retreats for over ten years.

Simpler, a small dot between your eyebrows supercharges the energy center located inside there. It is often marked with a red dot to honor  the Guru, whose inner seat is there. Using the ash leaves a grey dot, almost like injecting the mantras from the fire into this profound inner center. One of the names for this location is Prayag, where your three spinal currents merge into one that goes all the way up; it is like the three rivers merging at the site of the Kumbha Mela.

Outside and inside…

marble-box1We have only a few days remaining in our fundraising campaign, Making a Difference. Please consider making a difference by pledging your monthly contribution – and allow us to make a difference by sending you a gift of ash, in one of the marble boxes I brought back from the Taj Mahal. Thank you for your support – and for your practices.

Click here to offer your donation, in any amount, as a single donation or monthly gift. If it would be easier, email enroll@svaroopavidya.org or phone 610.644.7555. Thank you!

Monthly Donors – please accept our loving thank you for your continuing support. Click here to add to your monthly dakshina or to make any other change. Thank you.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo nama.h

Before India – After India. Posted on March 25, 2013 by Swamiji

BLESSINGS FOR ELMIRA
By Antaraj~na (Deborah) Mandel

“Next time you see Swamiji would you please ask her how I can die and leave my body? I am ready to go and I can’t,” asked Elmira, who at 102 was still fully functioning mentally, but deteriorating in her physical body. She was done with her body. A spiritual being of the highest degree, she was ready to go and be with God. She was done with her earthly existence. I had been sharing my experiences with her about Svaroopa yoga and Swamiji, and she loved hearing about it. I agreed to ask the question of Swamiji, so I emailed her, and within twenty minutes I received back the most beautiful letter for me to give to Elmira. While I can’t remember the details of the letter, Elmira memorized it.

In general, Swamiji told her that she was already God and to be with herself in this knowing while she remained alive. She shared words that Muktananda had taught her. It changed Elmira’s life. She stopped wishing to die, and to accept each moment for the gift that it was. She shared the letter with everyone. She wrote Swami, and at some point Swami said that she kept the letter out on her desk, it was so special. She sent me home with a mala bead for Elmira and a mantra. Elmira insisted on putting it right on, much to the dismay of her nurse who had to undo all her breathing apparatus.

Ntyananda-Murti-in-the-Samadi-Mandir-Temple-1-300x289Elmira was looking forward to hearing all about India, but she died on the day I came to India with Swami. During the morning ceremony in Nityananda’s temple, she told me she had died. How incredible that I was able to say goodbye to her in Nityananda’s Temple. What a gift for me to say goodbye to her there.

Then we came to the Kumbha Mela and went by boat to the Sangham, the holy site where the three rivers converge. I had a puja done to bless Elmira. The puja took place on a boat with a Brahmin priest, who had us repeat mantras and gave us coconuts and flowers. After the mantras were finished, we released the coconuts and flowers into Ganga with our own prayers. Mine were blessings for Elmira. I feel her presence here every day. Good bye and hello. It is not an end. Only a change.

When Swamiji had sent me the letter for Elmira, at the end she wrote a note to me, “She’s ready to hear this, are you?” Those words stayed with me. After these three weeks I can finally feel that I am ready. The changes inside are profound. I am one with the Guru, I am the Guru. I receive grace from my Guru. I receive all I need from my Guru. I just have to stay open to hear it. It is all inside. It does not come from the outside. I don’t need my asana to have it; I don’t need my OM necklace to hear it; I just need to be in me. That will be my challenge when I leave India. Staying open. I hope I am up for the challenge and trust that I will do my best, just like Elmira, who, at 102 was ready to hear and live by what Swamiji had to say to her.

AFTER INDIA
By Sheynapurna Peace

It’s been over 2 weeks since our return from India. It’s become apparent that some of the changes, those internal changes, have become part of who I am now – parts of my personality seem altered. It’s also clear that the freedom of our journey, during which time we were so completely cared for, was wonderful but was defined by time. There was a part of me that never wanted to return and I keep that part in India; I have many memories to access along with over 1700 photos for when memories become foggy.

I have given a lot of thought to our India experience. There is India herself: colorful, joyous, dirty, dusty, and sometimes sparkling clean. The sights, smells and sounds still resonate. Ganeshpuri, so full of Nityananda and Muktananda that grace seeps through the dust and is found in every breath.

The Himalayan Institute campus on the Sangham, with energies so ethereal and powerful they draw even the uninitiated into meditation.

DSCN0050-150x150And Varanasi. Varanasi almost defies description; it is such an area of contrasts. The steep steps of the ghats, each section with slightly different rise and fall, the cows and water buffalo, sadhus, foreigners taking photos, including a large boatload of tourists wearing medical face masks, each camera boasting a 6- to 10-inch lens.

The goats, monkeys and piles of dung on the walkways, laundry stretched out on the ghats drying in the sun. Hundreds of boats and boatmen, priests, temples and people and traffic everywhere. The silk shops and veggie sellers, souvenirs, statues, incredible smells of food from street corner stands, the paneer shop, tailors in their dark shops creating clothing or weavers creating beautiful silks. And over all is the Ganges, and the thousands of bathers coming to cleanse themselves in her sacred yet alarmingly polluted waters. All of this is spectacular, phenomenal, enticing and exciting. More important, however, is that special aspect of our journey, the glue holding all together.

Making it so much more than a mere trip to India was Swami Nirmalananda and the teachings with which we were daily graced. Each experience was looked at and questioned. Swamiji taught us to look beyond the external into the internal. What was really happening in Ganeshpuri, at Kumbha Mela? What is the meaning of all of our experiences? What did we see and what was there that we weren’t seeing? What could we feel? What did we know that we did not recognize we knew? This expansion was not what we expected and yet it profoundly affected each one of us and we were each aware of our changes.

India herself cannot make me more patient, forgiving, understanding, compassionate. India could not propel me into my now daily chanting of the entire Guru Gita or to my each morning rise to meditate at 4 AM. India did not open my eyes to what is happening inside myself, she did not cause the river of Grace flowing within me, within each of us. But a month in India or a month anywhere with Swami Nirmalananda – now that is a life changing experience.

Two of Three… Posted on March 20, 2013 by Swamiji

You have already funded two of our three goals in our 2013 campaign, Making a Difference:

● Swami Support: Goal $15,000 to provide for Swami Nirmalananda’s personal and professional support.

● Ashram Essentials: Goal $10,000 to support our ongoing programs and the facilities that are available to you.

The Ashram Board is gratified at your support, not only for your generosity but also for your heartfelt message that Swamiji’s work is important to you.

Our Capital Fund still needs your support, with $6,800 giving us a start toward our goal of $35,000. These monies are dedicated to replacing our Ashram furnaces and building the Outdoor Temple that Swamiji has designed.

GAS FURNACES: The Ashram building is heated by natural gas but the furnaces are almost 30 years old. While they are a good ecological option, they are inefficient and they heat the building very unevenly. Thus we need to use electric heaters to ward off the chill in several corners, including our Meditation Hall. We’ve made it through another winter with these furnaces, but hope to replace them in the off-season, a lower priced alternative to waiting for a crisis to occur.

OUTDOOR TEMPLE: Swami Nirmalananda would like to get outside for the sunrise! The backyard temple is designed for the morning chant and meditation, and can be used for almost three seasons. She’s designed a sacred center with eight points, corresponding with her Guru’s mystical teachings on the heart chakra, and plans to install a sacred statue from India there (in 2014?). The outer portion will be four-sided, the square of muladhara chakra, grounding the tailbone in physical reality. Our landscaping plan includes a fern garden and a water feature. A multi-year project, we hope to build the gazebo this year.

The Board works to create the Ashram infrastructure and oversee it, understanding that every penny that is spent is your money. Our team of Board members and sevites reviews every expenditure closely and assists Swamiji with ongoing management. Our many sevites team with our administrative staff to keep personnel costs low so that your donations are put to careful use, along with the tuitions from Swami Nirmalananda’s courses and retreats. In addition, the Ganeshpuri Music School continues to be supported by the Ashram.

You are Making a Difference in so many ways:

Your practices change your life, which touches so many other’s lives and helps to change the world
Your interest in the teachings and practices draws Swami Nirmalananda into teaching
Your financial support makes her able to dedicate her time to writing and teaching, as well as invite your participation from your home or when you are in Downingtown.
Click here to offer your donation, in any amount, as a single donation or monthly gift. Thank you!

Monthly Donors – please accept our loving thank you for your continuing support. Click here to add to your monthly dakshina or to make any other change. As announced in Tadaa! (page 4) new Monthly Donors and those who increase their monthly gift will receive Swamiji’s gift of a marble box from the Taj Mahal filled with sacred ash from our Ganeshpuri yaj~na (Vedic fire ceremony).