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Inside this issue: *Mount Kailas Yatra *Optimum Health with Ayurveda *Pilgrimage in Europe *Vedic Astrology


Swami Sivananda speaks on ‘being in companionship with those who have attuned their consciousness to the absolute Ultimate Reality’, the underlying essence of all religion

A selection of writings underlying the principle of ‘unity in diversity’. Taken from the sacred texts of many religions and excerpted from Quaker Jim Pym’s latest book


Swami Vishnu-devananda’s New Year’s Message delivered in 1982 imparting the great wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita


Srinivasan, Acharya for the Eastern United States, offers an insight into the joys of leading a ‘yoga life’

President and founder of the Nataraja Yoga Ashram in San Diego, Dr Erhard Vogel presents extracts from his book ‘Experts in Our Lives, – Journey into Your Center’

Dr Mark Halpern, founding member of the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine takes us through the journey toward harmony, peace of mind and perfect health

SIxty inspiring precepts for the spiritual aspirant from Swami Sivananda

Swami Durgananda gives inspirational advice on the powerful benefits and effects of teaching yoga

A glimpse of the epic journey of fifteen devotees into the depths of Tibet to the magnificent abode of Lord Siva

By Maneka Gandhi. A beautiful tale, narrated with joy and wisdom by one of India’s leading environmentalists and taken from her recent book ‘The Rainbow and Other Stories’

The experiences of the continuing Millennium Peace Pilgrimage as it wends its way through Europe


Swami Padmapadananda keeps us abreast of the developments in the prison project

Dr Stephen Quong, renowned in India, and one of the West’s most prominent Vedic astrologers, gives a lucid introduction to the principles of jyotisha and its relationship to yoga practice

A student’s perspective of the Sivananda Teacher Training Course

‘And so I come to you, to heal, to teach, to guide’ Swami Sivananda

Swami Vishnu-devananda

The inspiration of Swami Vishnu-devananda’s presence and teachings, recalled by one of his long-term devotees

A glimpse into the essence behind all Indian art by the Maharaja of Travancore

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre 51 Felsham Road, London SW15 1AZ tel: 020 8780-0160 fax: 020 8780-0128 e-mail: siva@dial.pipex.com web: www.sivanandayoga.org


YO G A Life Winter 2001

Swami Sivananda
(1887 – 1963)
The spiritual strength behind the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, Swami Sivananda’s teachings are a synthesis of all the formal doctrines of yoga. Author of more than 250 books on yoga and health, Swami Sivananda was a medical doctor before renouncing worldly life for the spiritual path. His main message: Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise. In 1957, he sent one of his foremost disciples, Swami Vishnu-devananda to the West to spread the ideals of yoga. Swami Sivananda entered mahasamadhi on July 14, 1963.

Swami Vishnu-devananda
(1927 – 1993)
Born in South India in 1927, Swami Vishnu-devananda entered the ashram of Swami Sivananda at the age of 18. A world-famous authority on hatha and raja yoga, Swami Vishnu-devananda founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and authored The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, Meditation and Mantras, a commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and Karma and Diseases. Swami Vishnu-devananda entered mahasamadhi on November 9, 1993.

The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, founded by Swami Vishnu-devananda is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to propagate the teachings of yoga and vedanta as a means of achieving physical, mental and spiritual well-being and Self-realization. Executive Board Members of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
Swami Durgananda Acharya of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers in Europe. For many years she has held spiritual retreats all over Europe and has recently opened the Sivananda Yoga Retreat House in Tyrol, Austria. Swami Kailasananda Newly nominated Acharya of
the Sivananda Yoga Centers in Paris and London, she has taught asanas and pranayama in many Teachers’ Training Courses.

Swami Mahadevananda Director of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwanthari Ashram, Kerala. Acharya of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers in South India, Swami Mahadevananda travels extensively, teaching yoga with great love and enthusiasm. Swami Sivadasananda Acharya in Europe and South America, he has taught asana and pranayama in many Teachers’ Training Courses worldwide and shares the experience of yoga with great enthusiasm. Swami Swaroopananda Acharya of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers on the West Coast of the U.S. and Israel; director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, Nassau, Bahamas. Swami Swaroopananda has taught numerous Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses around the world. Srinivasan Acharya of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers in New York and Chicago, he is currently based, with his family, at the beautiful Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

Published by The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre 51 Felsham Road, London, SW15 1AZ England. Tel: 020 8780 0160 email: YogaLife@sivananda.org

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp Eighth Avenue, Val Morin, Quebec, Canada, JOT 2RO. Tel: 819-322-3226 email: hq@sivananda.org
With centres and ashrams located around the world (see page 50/51 for addresses)

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Chellamma was born in 1914 in Kerala. She was an outstanding student, studied medicine, and got a degree in Opthamology. She served as assistant surgeon and civil surgeon in Madras before starting a private practice. One day Chellamma bought a book by Swami Sivananda. When she saw Master’s photo she knew she had known him before. That night, in her meditation, she had a vision of Gurudev and the thought of Master began to possess her. In 1955, whilst visiting the ashram for Gurudev’s darshan, Master asked her to do some service at the ashram hospital. Mataji agreed, and she never left. On Guru Purnima in 1956, Gurudev gave her Sannyas Diksha and the name Swami Sivananda-Hridayananda. Swami Hridayanandaji set up an eye hospital, became Gurudev’s personal physician and assistant, wrote books about Master, and guided ashram visitors. In later years, Mataji Swami accepted invitations to visit South Africa, the U.S. and Europe. She settled in Europe where she established spiritual centres and guided seekers in their ongoing quest for God realisation. Revered and dear ‘Dr. Mataji’ Sri Swami Sivananda-Hridayananda Mataji attained the feet of Gurudev as it was her most cherished wish till the last moment, all the time looking at Gurudev’s picture with the conviction that beloved Gurudev would come and take her. She was very very peaceful and everyone felt these peaceful vibrations in the atmosphere. The Hague branch of the Divine Life Society, disciples and friends, would kindly like to inform you that on Sunday 6th August 2000 at midnight, in Shiva Kripa, H.H. Swami Sivananda-Hridayananda Mataji peacefully passed into another plane of consciousness, mahasamadhi. Mataji’s life was dedicated to giving and giving and giving as she wrote herself, in one of her letters to Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. From ‘Sivananda My God’: ‘Dearest Lord, allow me to pour my flaming devotion at thy lotus feet. I cannot think of anything now. I am not concerned of what you think of anything now. I am not concerned of what you think of me even, it doesn’t worry me whether I am worthy or not and it is immaterial whether I get anything in return from thee. Just allow me to give and give and give. I cannot curb this desire to pour out this inexhaustible devotion for thee without any reservation. Allow me to enjoy the ecstasy of giving. Oh, this is the most wonderful state of devotion. I have never known this before. Here is my heart at thy feet. I offer it to thee with all its devotion, faith, reverence and hope. Do whatever you like with it.’ The last few years of her life in this plane of consciousness she dedicated to preparing herself for her ‘journey back to the source’. She had on many occasions said to her intimate disciples that her Gurudev would wait for her on the other side. He had himself promised her this. Mataji was a great saint and example to those who knew her. Her loving simplicity opened up everyone’s hearts. She will always be with us and guide us on the spiritual journey. On Thursday 10th August a funeral ceremony was held in The Hague. May Gurudev’s grace and blessings of Mataji be ever upon us all!

Om Namo Narayanaya
DR. DEVAKI KUTTY MATAJI Born in 1923 in Kerala, Dr. Kutty had a medical education in Madras and Lucknow, and became a renowned gynecologist and obstetrician. Whilst on pilgrimage to Badrinath, during an annual leave, she stopped at the Sivananda ashram for Gurudev’s darshan. She felt conquered by the magnetism of Master’s divine personality, cancelled the planned trip to Badrinath, and began to serve at the ashram hospital. Gurudev inspired in Dr. Kutty a spiritual impulse, and she became a dedicated sadhaka. From 1953 to 1963, the year of Gurudev’s mahasamadhi, Dr. Kutty spent every annual leave at the ashram. When Dr. Swami Hridayanandaji went abroad, Dr. Kutty took full charge of the ashram hospital and guided and instructed the medical staff. It had been her inner sankalpa (intention) to spend the last years of her life at the Sivananda Ashram and this intention was fulfilled. Along with her hospital work, as a brilliant organiser Dr. Kutty was appointed chief executive planner of Sri Gurudev’s birth centenary celebrations. She assumed the same function for Pujya Swami Krishnanandaji’s seventy-fifth birthday anniversary. Both events were a great success. Pujya Swami Chidanandaji called her ‘a gem of purest ray serene’. She endured a brief illness, suffering a cardiac arrest on August 3rd, from which she was revived, and taken to the ICCU in the Himalayan Institute at Dehradun. Here she was supported with a respirator machine – but her condition took a bad turn and she went into irreversible septicemia followed by multi-organ failure. Our beloved and revered Dr. Devaki Kutty Mataji attained samadhi at 7.30 on the evening of Tuesday (above) Dr Kutty at Swami Vishnu 8th August. Devanandaji’s funeral and We pray to God that her soul may rest in peace. treating patients right

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atsanga is the company of spiritually minded people; it can be the company of a saint or holy person, or the company of other devotees. Yatris (pilgrims) may meet holy persons and have the benefit of their satsanga. Such satsanga is momentary in character. But, when the seeker approaches a teacher, establishes a permanent relationship and regards that person as his or her spiritual guide, then satsanga assumes a special aspect. It becomes permanent. The devotee has a special reverence for the guru. There is a mysterious relationship between the seeker and the perfected saint through whom he or she is trying to attain salvation. Only the receptive can benefit from satsanga. If you approach a saint and wish to attain benefit, you have to put yourself in the

position of a receiver. This is true even in worldly life. Let us suppose you wish to know something from a highly learned person. Supposing you go to them saying ‘I know everything’, then naturally you will have no ears for what that person may have to say. If you do this, even if you go to the highest scholar, you will come back with the same ideas that you had before. You would not have gained even a grain of knowledge, because you never felt ‘there is some void in me; let me go and learn’. Until and unless this feeling is there, the devotee cannot receive knowledge; that person comes back empty-handed, because they have not fulfilled the conditions of a receiver. It is so when you approach any person, and it is all the more so when you approach a saint and try to take him as your teacher.



‘Satsanga’ means ‘being in companionship with Truth’, or ‘being in companionship with those who have attuned their consciousness to the absolute Ultimate Reality, who have made themselves of the form of the Supreme Truth’.

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The Basis of the Guru-disciple Relationship
The basis of the guru-disciple relationship, which is held in such great importance in the Hindu spiritual world, may be summed up in three words. If you keep them in mind, you get a glimpse of the psychology behind this important feature of spiritual life. The first word is ‘Upanishad’; the second word is ‘upasana’; and the third is ‘satsanga’. ‘Upanishad’ means sitting near a person who is illumined, so that we may receive knowledge. It means sitting near a perfect master, a seer of wisdom, and trying to humbly draw on his knowledge. This knowledge is revealed through sages at whose feet seekers sat with devotion, receptivity and humility. Whereas the word ‘upanishad’ gives us the clue to the technique of attaining wisdom, devotion to the Lord is described by the term ‘upasana’. ‘Upasana’ means worship or adoration of the Lord; in Sanskrit it means, ‘having your seat close by’. This shows the necessity of establishing a close contact with the teacher from whom you wish to derive enlightenment. ‘Satsanga’ means ‘being in companionship with Truth’, or ‘being in companionship with those who have attuned their consciousness to the absolute ultimate reality, who have made themselves of the form of the supreme Truth’. A person who realises the ultimate Truth becomes an embodiment of Truth, the visible expression of Truth. So when you have satsanga you sit in close companionship with Truth or with a supreme embodiment of Truth, which the saint is. These three things – upanishads, upasana and satsanga – have always been the very sheet-anchor of our spiritual life. At the highest pinnacle, at the very fountainsource of our spiritual culture, we have the Upanishads. In the realm of devotion, we have upasana. As for satsanga, it is said, ‘The greatest thing in the kali yuga and the only effective method of crossing this ocean of samsara, this sea of delusion, is satsanga’. It is the boat that takes the soul across the sea of this phenomenal existence; therefore great importance has been given to satsanga in this kali yuga (iron age). The hope of the seeker, the mainstay of the aspirant’s spiritual life, hangs upon the twin factors of nama (repetition of mantra) and satsanga. So, starting with the Upanishad, and later on coming to upasana, this supreme technique exists in the field of samsaric life in the form of satsanga. It is of utmost importance to the aspirants in their journey towards the ultimate reality.

The Right Approach
Satsanga is the supreme factor in the unfolding of one’s spiritual consciousness, yet every aspirant that comes to a teacher does not receive the same illumination, the same fruition of his or her sadhana (spiritual practice). Krishna was the visible manifestation of the supreme Lord. Among the people who had His company, who spoke to Him and had dealings with Him, there were some who had intimate knowledge of His divine nature and became blessed. And there were some that remained unchanged. The approach of the jiva (individual) is the factor that decides whether the satsanga of a seeker is fulfilled or fruitless. For example, when the Kauravas approached Krishna, their approach was one of doshadrishti (materialistic vision). They were blind to all the good that was in the Lord and their entire vision was focussed upon the seeming, apparent defects. The Lord moves with His yoga-maya, the mysterious indefinable prakriti. If our attention is focused upon prakriti, then the light of the atman is lost upon us. Similarly there was a handful that realised the greatness of Jesus; they have become immortal. Lost in oblivion are the countless people who saw in him a political agitator, or a man who practiced black magic. For them the satsanga of Christ was non-existent. It is the mode of approach that decides the benefit that one derives from satsanga. We have a classical example in one story in the Mahabharata. In it, the great Vyasa reveals the anatomy of Duryodhana’s personality and that of Yudhishthira.



The Classic Example of Yudhishthira and Duryodhana
The story is that Krishna sent Yudhishthira and Duryodhana out on missions. He asked Yudhishthira to, ‘Go and get a person who is totally bad, completely devoid of any virtue, completely full of vices.’ Then He called Duryodhana and said, ‘You try to get a person who is full of virtues, devoid of any defects.’ After some time, they came back. To each, Krishna enquired, ‘Have you brought the person? Where is the person you went out after?’ Duryodhana said, ‘I have tried my best to find a person full of virtues and devoid of defects. I have gone everywhere; but I could not find anyone who is without defect. Everyone is full of defects. If he has one virtue, he has a dozen evils. And after making a thorough search I find that the person without the least defect, is no other than myself. Therefore I have come to you; do what you want with me.’ Krishna just smiles. Then Yudhishthira came and Krishna asked, ‘Where is your person?’ Yudhishthira answered, and his answer has become immortal as it shows his greatness, ‘0 Lord, even in the worst felon, I find qualities which are worthy of being emulated, I find traits which are good. Therefore, I could not find any person who is full of defects. However, I analysed myself and I find that I am so full of defects, imperfections and vices that I cannot find a more suitable person to present to you. I am the only person who can fulfil the description you have given me. So I present myself before you.’ by

Swami Vishnu-devananda

Use and Misuse of the Fault-finding Faculty
These are the two methods of approach. Yudhishthira’s approach was the approach of the aspirant in whom the faultfinding nature is directed not outside, but within oneself. Faultfinding is the worst canker that dwells in human nature. It is universal. True spiritual seekers form a special group who have begun to see the importance of correcting oneself and not correcting the world, who have begun to see the importance of analyzing oneself and trying to improve, and not analyzing the world. For a viveki (a person of discrimination), the world is full of imperfection. Perfection is not to be found in the work of prakriti (nature). If Brahman is supreme perfection, prakriti is imperfection. Thousands of lives are not enough if we get caught in faultfinding. This faculty has to be directed towards oneself. It is only then that one’s life is transformed. But, if the faculty is turned outside, the entire world becomes a teacher of evil. That upon which you constantly fix your mind becomes the sustenance of your personality. Your personality feeds upon, grows and develops into those mental pictures which the mind holds. This is a psychological fact. If you always contemplate on perfection, if you contemplate on beauty, if you contemplate on peace, you grow into the likeness of perfection, beauty and peace. If you hold before yourself thoughts of imperfection, ugliness and gloom, you will find everything so. If you always think of the biting cold of the Himalayas, the beauty of the snows will be lost for you. You may see the beauty of the full moon, but if at the same time you are thinking of the other side of the moon, that circle of intense blackness, blackness will be in your mind and heart, and not the radiance of the full moon. A faultfinding nature is the greatest obstacle because it forever ties the seeker to his lower nature, to the defective prakriti. He takes with him, to the feet of the guru, into the sacred sanctuary of yoga, into the pure spiritual path, that mind which ever ties him down to the lower sensual life of defects. Instead of becoming the receiver of light, he becomes a hugger of darkness, for he will not allow himself to let go of it. The light of yoga is completely barred from his heart, because an impregnable wall is within him. To ward off that danger, the ancients gave the Upadesh:
Yasya deve parabhaktih yatha deve tatha gurau, Tasyaite kathita hyarthah prakasante mahatmanah.

Meditation and Mantras The most complete source on mantras, meditation and other techniques of self-inquiry readily available. It contains all the techniques for understanding and controlling the mind. The book contains the key to the most priceless treasure a man can own – intuitive wisdom. Hatha Yoga Pradipika with commentary by Swami Vishnu-devananda The classic work, essential for those who wish to learn the advanced practices of hatha yoga from a qualified teacher.

To that great soul in whom there is extreme devotion to the Highest Divinity, God, and equal devotion to the guru, all the truths of the scriptures become revealed. The student approaches a spiritual preceptor in order to avoid the grave error of doshadrishti (vision of darkness). You may immerse a stone in the sea, yet the stone is the same. The millions of tons of water that flow over it will not change it; it is completely impervious to the influence of water. It is this nature of the aspirant, who is satisfied with his own little knowledge and little personality, with its self-assertive nature, with its rajasic tendency of clinging to its own pre-conceived notions, to its own pet preconceptions, that is the greatest bar to the fruition of satsanga. As long as the aspirant clings firmly to his old nature and refuses to admit the need of a change in himself, satsanga is absolutely barren of result. The aspirant must effect a change of attitude. That attitude is the greatest requisite for the fruition of satsanga. ■

Sivananda Upanishad A collection of letters, prefaces and open letters written by Swami Sivananda. Reprinted here in the sage’s own handwriting and with his photograph on every page, each letter provides guidance, solace and peace of mind. The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga This famous book provides a complete training programme for tapping yoga’s power to relax and rejuvenate the mind; to improve concentration, to prevent illness and retard old age and to increase physical strength and flexibility. A full listing of mail order and boutique items is available from any Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre or Ashram

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(The Song of God)


he Bhagavad Gita contains the essence of the Upanishads and Vedas. Each chapter contains specific instructions regarding various aspects of life. We’d have to go through thousands of volumes of the Vedas and Upanishads to find the answers that the Gita contains in one small book. This scripture took place in the midst of a battle, with two armies standing facing and ready to destroy each other. It was a World War which occurred about 5,000 BC. We know only of World Wars I and II, yet there have been thousands of World Wars before these. In the Mahabharata War, various types of missiles were used – agni astra, pasmas astra, brahma astra (astra means missile) – all equivalent to multimegaton hydrogen bombs. Those missiles were more powerful than any we know of today. We have only just redeveloped the ability to split the atom and to fuse atoms to release their energy. Fusion and fission – these are the only things that we know of at present. We are also in the process of developing death rays and cosmic rays, chemical weapons, and poisonous

weapons. These types of weapons were known in ancient days, as well as more powerful ones. Not merely fission and fusion were used, but also energy was obtained through sound energy. Not spoken as sound – you hear my voice – that is just air vibrating, but sound in the form of thought-energy. Spoken sound is only the gross manifestation of thought. A thought originates in the mind, then it slowly, slowly becomes codified and condensed through the brain and then finally the vocal chords. All the muscles of the body try to interpret that energy which is taking place in the mind. In ancient days the science of transforming thoughtenergy into sound wavelengths had been perfected. A simple example of this sound frequency is a singing voice or violin, which can shatter the molecules of a glass. A mere voice becomes an energy – a kind of motion. The ancients had mastered more than merely the energy released from this physical vibration, but they could tap the source – the thought itself – corresponding to the particular wavelength of the particular object. Everything in this universe is in motion.

Everything oscillates; nothing is stationary. Even a glass tumbler oscillates, the water inside oscillates, and the whole universe and cosmos is in oscillation. When your thought-energy is tuned to the particular wavelength of a particular object, then just as the tumbler can be broken, so also any object, even a city, a country, or the planet itself, can be blown into pieces by using this energy. The brahma astras and marayana astras, most dreaded and powerful weapons, have no counter-weapons. However other missiles, like agni astra (a fire missile), do have one. When a fire missile was sent to burn a city, the counter-weapon could be used to collect molecules of water (water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen), to create the particular wavelength to disarm the missile. Very powerful poisonous weapons have also been described in ancient Indian scriptures, such as the one which Indrajit used on Laksmana, Rama’s brother. The entire monkey army and Laksmana were completely poisoned by this one weapon. Hanuman, the monkey warrior, had to get


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an antidote from high in the Himalayas, which neutralized the energy of these poisons. They also had mohan astra, which was a psychological weapon. When this weapon was applied the enemy’s mind was completely changed. Modern nations are now investigating weapons that can change the human mind. Once the mohan astra was applied, the victims’ minds would change in such a way that they would see their friends as enemies and would start killing each other. As the enemy’s army was out of sight, the victims, seeing only their own army, would kill their own people until the entire army had been destroyed. During the Mahabharata war many of these missiles were employed, killing billions of people. At that time the earth was overpopulated, as it is now. One of the main purposes for the coming of Lord Krishna was to reduce the overpopulation of the planet, which was filled with not only good human beings but also many bad, negative, demonical types like Kamsa, who were reincarnated on this planet earth. Many demons from the past were born as kings and rulers of various countries, having huge armies under their control. These negative forces became very difficult for anyone to conquer. So the Lord Himself came as Krishna, to reduce the weight on the planet of these demonical people. Both physically and emotionally they destroyed everything. So the Gita takes place just before this war, with two armies ready to destroy billions of people. Arjuna, the great warrior, was in a state of shock. Seeing the many millions and millions of people he was to wipe out, he demanded of his friend and chariot driver, Krishna, ‘What is this? What am I going to gain by shedding this blood?’. And Krishna replied, ‘Arjuna, you cannot see the past, nor can you see the future. You see only these armies standing against you and your army standing against them. But these warriors, these kings, these chariot drivers, this is not the first time they are standing against each other. They were doing this in the past – they were kings, they were soldiers, they were charioteers, they were war heroes. In past wars they also died, and now they are reincarnated as present kings and rulers. You cannot see that. So also you were born before; I can see all of your past lives. So also I took incarnations in many, many ages. In different times I came to establish law and order. I see your own future, your past, and others’ pasts also. And if this war takes

Excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita ch. XI v.65
place now and these people die, this is not the end of their lives – they will come back again in the future.’ And so we had people like Mussolini and Hitler, who must be incarnations of Kamsa, Ravana and others. These negative-types reincarnate again and again; and so also the positive or sattvic force will come again to counteract it. Thus the positive force, in the form of the Supreme Being Lord Krishna, came as prophets such as Jesus and Moses came. But incarnations come only when law and order are completely broken, and the relative forces rage out of control everywhere. When darkness falls everywhere, when negativity reaches an extreme climax, then the Supreme power will come, the full sattva (purity). Only sattva can overpower the negative rajasic (agitating) and tamasic (ignorant) forces. That is why spiritual life is very hard for spiritual aspirants now. You can tell the truth, you can show the truth, but no one will believe you anymore because of negative forces. The true meaning of spirituality has been forgotten in this iron age. As a spiritual aspirant it will be very difficult for you to stick to the spiritual path because the negative forces are everywhere, and your little sattva is immersed in that negativity. For this reason satsang is essential. Through satsang you will be able to counteract, or at least hold yourself from falling, until the Supreme Being comes again in His next incarnation. Satsang can slowly, slowly fuel the flame of spiritual life in our own heart, as well as in others who are ready to absorb the spiritual energy. So the teachings of the Gita took place in the midst of a battle with the dark forces, with Krishna instructing Arjuna to free him from darkness. Arjuna thought that he was a great warrior and that he was going to kill all of these people. Then in the eleventh chapter of the Gita Lord Krishna reveals His Cosmic Form. Suddenly Arjuna didn’t see the flute or the beautiful Krishna anymore, but saw the entire universe at once – the Cosmic Form containing billions and billions of galaxies exploding simultaneously. And in the huge Cosmic Form of Krishna, Arjuna saw a small tiny speck called Earth, and in the corner of the Earth was Kurukshetra. He saw a few million germs, called human beings, standing with arms against each other. And he also saw himself seated in one corner of that tiny field, merely one germ, along with his charioteer Krishna. As he saw these things, worlds and galaxies were exploding, millions of earths were being destroyed at that very moment, and all of their civilizations were being consumed by Kala, or Time. So Arjuna asked, ‘Oh Lord, Who are you?’ And He replied, ‘I am not only the beautiful Krishna, I am also Kala, Time, come to destroy, so that I can re-establish sattva once again.’ So let us look at this eleventh chapter to give us a glimpse of what Arjuna saw and

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how Krishna explained it. I’ll take a few verses to help you prepare for the coming times. They are very, very, powerful and very difficult to face, as the lack of personal discipline is increasing. Even spiritual aspirants with years of practice leave the spiritual path and go back to their old ways. Only a few can survive the negative forces. With the aid of God’s grace or guru’s grace, they thin the ego enough to be able to surrender. Only then, they are able to overcome the negative forces and hold on. The eleventh chapter is ‘The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form’. In the previous chapter Lord Krishna had given a description of all His glories: ‘I am the Himalayas, I am the Ganges. Wherever there is greatness, it is me. I am also Arjuna and I am the Pandavas’. He explains that wherever there is greatness, there is His energy. Nothing else exists in this universe. Then Arjuna opens the eleventh chapter with: 1. By this word (explanation) of the highest secret concerning the Self which Thou hast spoken, for the sake of blessing me, my delusion is gone. Arjuna is saying, Oh Lord, I want to see that form of yours. You gave me so many stories about how You are the Himalayas, You are the Ganges, You are the sun, You are the moon, You are galaxies, You are heaven, You are hell and so on. I want to see that Cosmic Form. Is it possible? If you please, let me have an experience of that Cosmic Form.’ 2. The origin and the destruction of being verily have been heard by me in detail from Thee, O lotus-eyed Lord, and also Thy inexhaustible greatness. 3. (Now) O Supreme Lord, as Thou hast declared Thyself, O Supreme Person, I wish to see Thy divine form. 4. If Thou, O Lord, thinkest it possible for me to see it, do Thou, then, O Lord of the Yogis, show me Thy imperishable Self. The Blessed Lord said: 5. Behold, O Arjuna, forms of Mine, by the hundreds and thousands, of different sorts, of divine sorts, and of various colors and shapes. 6. Behold the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the two Aswins, and also the Maruts; behold many wonders never seen before, O Arjuna. Krishna is saying that as you look, you can see all of these, but with your ordinary eyes you cannot see the Cosmic Form. Our eyes cannot even see the full spectrum of light – we can only see seven colors – violet,

blue, indigo, green, yellow, orange and red. Beyond these, our eyes cannot perceive. Our ears can only hear certain vibrations – only certain sounds. You can’t hear a dog whistle because it is too high. But a dog can hear it. If the physical sense perceptions are so limited, how could you see the infinite Cosmic Form all at once? It is not possible with the five senses, but I will give you the Cosmic Eye with which you can see all at once – past, present and future – everything will be at once. You will be able to behold me as whole. With these present eyes and ears you can only see me with the flute in hand, or holding your horses as your charioteer.’ 8. But thou are not able to behold Me with these thine own (physical) eyes, I give thee the divine eye; behold My Lordly Yoga. 9. Having thus spoken, O King, the great Lord of Yoga, Hari (Krishna) showed to Arjuna His Supreme Form as the Lord. 10. With numerous mouths and eyes, with numerous wonderful sights, with numerous divine ornaments, with numerous divine weapons uplifted, such a form He showed. 11. Wearing divine garlands and apparel, anointed with divine unguents, the all-wonderful resplendent (Being) endless with faces on all sides. 12. If the splendor of a thousand suns were to blaze out at once in the sky, that would be the splendor of that mighty Being (great soul). Arjuna saw the form and then said, ‘I see, not only the physical universe, I see also an infinite number of astral universes, astral heavens, an infinite number of angels and Brahmas and creators – all in that form. All at once I can see these things.’ 16. I see Thee of boundless form on every side with many arms, stomachs, mouths, and eyes; neither the end nor the middle nor the beginning do I see, O Lord of the universe, O Cosmic Form. So after experiencing this Cosmic Form and giving a description of what he saw, Arjuna was frightened, because it was not just something beautiful. The Cosmic Form contains death, galaxies being born and also galaxies being destroyed. Universes come and go. Arjuna saw that Earth was not the only place where war was taking place. Earth is not the only place where human beings fight. This type of birth and death takes place in countless universes. There are countless

Arjunas, and countless galaxies and heavens, where fighting takes place. He saw endless fire and destruction, volcanoes erupting, and all sorts of death and destruction. Arjuna also saw all the armies and people of the planet Earth rushing into the blazing fire, just like moths. Have you ever seen a moth going into a bonfire? The moth runs toward the fire and then is consumed by the fire. So these billions and billions of soldiers are now running towards the fire called death – they are all slowly being consumed by Time. Then Arjuna said, ‘What I see is unbearable, I can’t continue to look at this; tell me Who Art Thou?’ Up until this time he had thought that Krishna was merely his friend and charioteer – he used to play and work with him. But now, after seeing His Cosmic Form, he asks:

31. Tell me, Who Thou Art, so fierce of form? Salutations to Thee, O God Supreme, have mercy. I desire to know Thee, the original Being. I know not indeed Thy working. Why have you come to this planet Earth? Why do you act as my charioteer, and why suddenly do I see the whole Cosmic Form in you? I can’t understand your workings. Why is all this happening? Why have millions and millions of people been swallowed by Time, by the cosmic fire? Lord Krishna explains in verse 32: I am the mighty world-destroying Time, now engaged in destroying the worlds. He is saying, ‘I create angels and beings. I also destroy because the negative forces now predominate. I am these negative forces now.’ So you think that God is only always merciful? Destruction is also his way of telling human beings that they must maintain sattva, or when rajas and tamas come to the fore, then


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I will come to destroy that rajas and tamas. That’s called destruction; that’s called war. ‘Even without thee, Arjuna, none of the warriors in the hostile armies shall live. Even if you don’t try and fight, even if you just leave and go away, that doesn’t mean these people will not be killed. This is a foolish idea. I have already destroyed them. I am consuming them in a world fire. I am pulling everyone into My mouth of Time. Even without you this is going to happen. But only as an instrument, will you be there to show that you are the destroyer – that you are going to kill these people with various weapons. It is only an illusion; really the Time is consuming. ‘I Am’ is doing this. I am seated as Arjuna and I am seated as your charioteer. I am seated as all these armies – both enemies and allies. I am both. I am everything. Now I must consume this negative energy. Without thee I can still do all the actions and all the destruction because I am the allconsuming fire. Even without thee, even if Arjuna would not fight, these warriors are doomed to die. I have already slain them. You are only going to be an instrument; already I have slain them.’ Arjuna is not very important. Arjuna thinks he is a great warrior and is going to kill everyone, but really he is not needed – it is done already. This idea is very important for us. We think we are going to run this organization, and that we are going to keep these things and are going to ‘do’. But we are just instruments – He is behind it. I saw a light when I came here to the Laurentian Mountains the first time, and immediately I thought that this must be the place where I will make a Yoga Camp, and that God had brought me here. I am only an instrument. So did you all come here through my power? Did I bring you all from Germany, from all those places? Is it through my power that you all are here? It is God’s wish that you are here at this particular time. When the world is under the influence of negative forces, you are to keep the light burning. And if you surrender, then that energy will come from God. If not, then you will be consumed by the negative fire and negative forces. This particular talk is not meant to frighten you, but to tell you the truth. If a World War takes place, it is not because of you and me, Hitler or Mussolini, Reagan or Kennedy – it is God’s wish, because there are negative forces everywhere. When there is no dharma, no righteousness, in these conditions, the Lord has to come, and then another World War will come. At that time the world will not be completely destroyed, but major negative forces will be destroyed and then sattvic

forces will again envelop and control. This is the truth about life. You are not doing anything – you are only an instrument. So Lord Krishna emphasizes this point to Arjuna by saying, ‘I have already slain them. You have seen them dying, therefore thy instrumentality is not of much importance. Such being the case therefore, stand up and obtain fame. If you fight and you win, who gets the fame and name? You get it! You get the fame, and I do all the work!’ Swami Vishnu thought, ‘I created all these asanas, I get the fame!’ But who did it? The Supreme Being, He did it; but Swami Vishnu gets the glory! The Lord said, ‘Get up and do your duty.’ 33. Therefore, stand up and obtain fame. Conquer the enemies and enjoy the unrivalled kingdom. Verily have they been already slain by Me; be thou a mere instrument, O Arjuna. ‘Be merely an apparent or nominal cause; I have already killed them. I destroyed them long ago. People will think that Bhishma, Drona and the other great warriors, whom even the gods cannot kill, have been defeated by you. You will be famous; such fame is the result of good karma only.’ So here the great warriors are standing and they think that no one can kill them – just as Hitler thought that he was the unconquerable. But somehow a bullet killed him! And who fired that bullet? He Himself fired it! God said, ‘Alright, the time has come. You said that no one could kill you, but I’ll show you. I can make your own hand put the bullet in your own head!’ If you look into it, you will see that God controls everyone’s actions. So let us be instruments. Don’t worry about dharma and righteousness and unrighteousness. No one has got power over this maya (illusion). Just come to His feet and surrender. He will take care of everything. So, Arjuna, don’t worry about whether you are going to kill, or not going to kill, or whether you are going to sin. Don’t worry. Surrender to Me. I will take care of everything and you will get all the fame that you want. 35. Having heard that speech of Lord Krishna, the crowned one (Arjuna), with joined palms, trembling, prostrating himself, again addressed Krishna, in a choked voice, bowing down, overwhelmed with fear. Arjuna said: 36. It is meet, O Krishna, that the world delights and rejoices in Thy praise, demons fly in fear to all quarters and the hosts of the

perfected ones bow to Thee. The sattvic people bow when they see this form. They praise You, while the demons and negative beings run away. Sattva is so strong that no one can stand against You. 37. And why should they not, O Great Soul bow to Thee, who art greater (than all else), the primal cause even of the Creator. Then Arjuna glorified the Lord. After glorifying, he says, ‘I cannot look at this Cosmic Form any longer, please stop. I only want to see your four hands with discus, conch, lotus, and mace in them. I want to see the beautiful crown and smiling face, the beautiful blue form – let me see that form instead. This is Arjuna’s last request to the Lord. Lord Krishna replied: 52. Very hard indeed it is to see this form of Mine, which thou hast seen. Even the gods are ever longing to behold it. 53. Neither by the Vedas nor by austerity, nor by gift, nor by sacrifice can I be seen in this form as thou hast seen Me (so easily). 54. But by single-minded devotion can I, of this form, be known and seen in reality and also entered into, O Arjuna. So if you have true devotion to Him you’ll enter into Him and see His form, as Arjuna did. No one can see God without true devotion. Then Lord Krishna assumed the old form – the flute in hand, holding the chariot. Arjuna now becomes a true disciple of Krishna because he has seen the Cosmic Form of the Lord. At the end of the eleventh chapter of the Gita, the Lord said, ‘He who does all actions for Me…’ It doesn’t matter what you do – you can wash dishes, clean the office, or type. It doesn’t matter even if they are good or bad actions. ‘He who does all actions for Me, who looks upon Me as the Supreme’ – the only Supreme that nothing in this universe can exist without – ‘Who is devoted to me, who is free from attachment’ – attachment to all objects and all beings, and whose only attachment is to God – ‘Who bears enmity towards no creature’ – it doesn’t matter who they are – ‘That person comes to Me, O Arjuna’. This last verse (55) of chapter eleven contains the essence of the whole teaching of the Gita. One who practices this teaching will attain supreme bliss and immortality. This very verse contains the summary of the entire philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita. ‘He who performs actions (duties) for the sake of the Lord, who consecrates

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Krishna as Arjuna’s charioteer
all his actions to Him, who serves the Lord with all his heart and soul, who regards the Lord as his supreme goal’ – remember those words, ‘he who regards the Lord as the supreme goal’ – ‘Who lives for Him alone, who works for Him alone, who sees the Lord in everything, who sees the whole world as the Cosmic Form of the Lord and therefore cherishes no feelings of hatred or enmity towards any creature even when a great injury has been done by others to him, who has no attachment to wealth, children, wife, friends, and relatives, and who seeks nothing else but the Lord, realizes Him and enters into His being. He becomes one with Him.’ Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, ends the eleventh discourse entitled ‘The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form.’ Om Tat Sat. So in the coming times you must understand that if there is a nuclear holocaust, or war, or calamity, it is all God’s wish. Negative forces come upon you and you cannot stop them. We do what we can, by prayer and positive actions., to create as much of a sattvic force whenever we can and wherever we go. Please see that you surrender your life and do whatever you can to bring God’s energy to this universe so that there will be some peace here. Even if the negative forces come, some positive force will be there, which you can maintain through surrender and devotion to the Lord. Then God will take care of everything. If the organization is to survive, it will survive. If it has to go, He has already planned it. He planned this Yoga Camp before I was even born. I never even knew of the Laurentian Mountains but He had planned all this – that I was to be a religious instrument. I got the glory – ‘Swami Vishnu-devananda founded this organization’ – but it is all His wish. Suppose He has decided to take this camp from us, then that is also His wish, for everything is planned by Him. If this thought is always in the back of your mind, you’ll have no fear of anyone. People may criticize you, people may praise you, people may say ‘he is doing it for this’, ‘she’s looking for that’, but God knows your heart. I can’t pretend to be what I’m not; God knows what I am inside and why I am doing these things. So you don’t have to make anyone believe in you, if you have full conviction and surrender everything to God. He who is travelling within you can see your actions. Then you can go ahead and He will take care of everything. Offer all to Him; every action you perform, everything you do, do it for His sake. In that way there will be no sin incurred; neither negative actions nor positive actions can affect you. You will be ever free from all duality and attain eternal peace and harmony. OM ■


by Erhard Vogel, Ph.D.
o fulfil yourself, you must know yourself. To know what you really are, look not at what you are now and then, but what you are permanently, intrinsically and essentially. Many things about you have changed since your infancy. Your body has grown, your mind matured. As an adult you feel, think and act differently than you did in childhood. Yet in essence you are still the being that came into this world on the day of your birth. That essence is the permanent aspect about you. The permanent endures infinitely, independent of time and circumstance; it is transcendent. There is a tendency to be so absorbed in the momentary emotions or events, that you feel as if they were your very being; you identify yourself with them. However, they are merely momentary emotions or events. If you invest them with your identity, you lose touch with your real being. The emotions, sensations, feelings and events that may have seemed so critically important, pass on and are soon forgotten. Your identity remains; it is what you always are. That which is permanent about you, your identity, is also intrinsic to you — being of your innermost nature and inseparable from it. The essence is that which upholds everything about you. It is your unchanging identity. The word ‘essence’ is derived from the Latin root ‘esse’, to be, from which our word ‘is’ is derived. You are what you are in essence. Your essence is the power by which you are, the power of being; your essence is that you are. However, this essence, this most important and fundamental beingness of you, is often neglected or even regarded as unreal merely because it cannot be perceived by the senses. Most of us are accustomed to regard what we can see or touch as real, and anything we cannot see or touch as unreal. Actually, it is the other way around. It is generally agreed that the senses can only perceive phenomena and events, the passing. The passing phenomena and events are only momentary appearances, like the images on a movie screen, which you certainly would not consider substantial or real. Remember, physics



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Swami Vishnu-devananda with Erhard Vogel leading the procession during the Indian Music and Dance Festival, Val Morin, 1970

describes objects as momentary phenomena caused by the coming and going of atoms. Thus, what our senses alone perceive is not real. Only we as knowing beings are capable of perceiving the full reality. There cannot be only ephemeral events; there has to be something underlying — some substance out of which these events arise. The word ‘substance’, derived from Latin, denotes that which stands under, the underlying. It is your foundation and structure, what you fundamentally are. In the human being, substance is not something of weight and shape; that is only temporary appearance again, not real. The reality of you, your substance, that which permanently and intrinsically stands under all aspects of you, is your essence, your beingness. Essence is also referred to as ‘spirit’. In chemistry, spirit is the essence of something, the distillate, the refined, the pure substance you have left after extracting all dross. I am usually loathe to employ this word, ‘spirit’, for in our society it tends to conjure up fantasy images like syrup dripping from silverlined clouds. I indulge myself carefully and sparingly in the use of this much-abused, but so

important term. When we speak of the spirit of something, we speak of its true intent, its very meaning, as in the spirit of the law. Thus your spirit is the meaning, the true intent of your existence. We relate spirit to loyalty and devotion, as when we speak of team spirit. Clearly, spirit is what is fundamentally most important to us and about us. To live in loyalty and devotion to our spirit is called a spiritual life. It only makes sense to live according to our fundamental priority. Thus, to live realistically means to have our mind and feelings, indeed all our instruments of awareness relate loyally to us in terms of our real identity, the spirit that we are. Your spirit is your essential identity, that which you really are. That is what you need to know in order to know yourself, to fulfil yourself. ■

About the author
Erhard Vogel Ph.D. is president and founder of the Nataraja Yoga Ashram in San Diego, California. This is from his upcoming book “Experts in our Lives – Journey into your Center”

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Guide to Sadhaks
1. Reduce your wants to the utmost minimum. 2. Adapt yourself to circumstances. 3. Never be attached to anything or anybody. 4. Share what you have with others. 5. Be ever ready to serve. Lose no opportunity. Serve with atma bhav. 6. Entertain akarta and sakshi bhav. 7. Speak measured and sweet words. 8. Have a burning thirst for God-realization. 9. Renounce all your belongings and surrender yourself unto God. 10. Spiritual path is a sharp-edged razor path. A Guru is absolutely necessary. 1 Have great patience and perseverance. 1. 12. Never leave the abhyas even for a day. 13. The Guru will only guide you. You should yourself tread the path. 14. Life is short. Time of death is uncertain. Apply yourself seriously to yogic sadhana. 15. Maintain daily spiritual diary and record correctly your progress and failures. Stick to resolves. 16. Do not complain that there is no time for sadhana. Reduce sleep and small talk. Stick to brahmamuhurta. 17. Let the thought of God (Reality) keep away the thought of the world. 18. Forget the feeling that you are so and so – a male or a female – by vigorous brahma chintan. 19. Never postpone a thing for tomorrow if it is possible for you to do it today. 20. Do not boast or make a show of your abilities. Be simple and humble. 21. Be cheerful always. Give up worries. 22. Be indifferent to things that do not concern you. 23. Fly away from company and discussion. 24. Be alone for a few hours daily. 25. Give up greediness, jealousy and hoarding. 26. Control your emotions by discrimination and vairagya. 27. Maintain equilibrium of mind always 28. Think twice before you speak and thrice before you act 29. Give up back-biting, criticizing and fault-finding. Beware of reactions. 30. Find out your own faults and weaknesses. See only good of others. Praise the virtues of others. 31. Forgive and forget the harm done by others. Do good to those who hate you. 32. Shun lust, anger, egoism, moha and lobha like a venomous cobra. 33. Be prepared for any amount of pain. 34. Have a set of maxims always with you to induce vairagya 35. Treat sensual enjoyment as poison, vomited food, vishta or urine. They cannot give you satisfaction. 36. Preserve your veerya carefully. Sleep always separately. Revere ladies as Mother Divine. Root out the sex idea. Prostrate before all See God in every face, in everything. Take to sankirtan, satsanga, prayer when the mind is overpowered by other instincts Face obstacles coolly and boldly. Care not for criticism when you are in the right path. Yield not to flattery. Respect rogues and scoundrels. Serve them. Admit your faults plainly. Take care of your health. Do not neglect daily asanas and exercises. Be active and nimble always. Develop your heart by giving. Be extraordinarily charitable. Give more than one's expectations. Desires multiply misery. Develop contentment. Control the senses one by one. Develop brahmakara vritti by repeated thinking. Have a check over all your thoughts. Keep them pure and sublime. Do not lose temper when anybody insults, taunts or rebukes you. It is a mere play of words and a variety of sounds. Rest your mind in God and live in truth. Be up and doing in the path of perfection. Have a definite aim in your life and proceed cautiously. Benefits of mouna are incalculable. Never give up this practice. Four important means for passion to enter the mind are sound, touch, sight and thought. Be vigilant! Have intimate connection with none but God. Mix little with others. Be moderate in everything. Extremes are always dangerous. Every day have self-analysis and introspection. Know the amount of your growth. Give up curiosities in spiritual path. Conserve your energy and concentrate. Think little of food, body and relatives. You must realize in this very birth itself! Swami Sivananda

37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.


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Advice to
by Swami Durgananda

These extracts come from a meeting for yoga teachers held at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center Madrid in 1997
s a yoga teacher, your primary activity is to teach asanas and pranayama, but what you are really giving to students is wisdom and spirituality. At first, they come to you to learn the postures and the breathing, but subconsciously they are coming for wisdom. Finally, when they are ready for it, you will be able to teach them the mantras and their meanings. Then you will realize that you know yoga from back to front. However, the foremost occupation is to teach asanas and pranayama. We must give students something to do – they cannot just look at statues all the time or sit like a holy person. Swamiji taught us in this way so that new people can begin to experience a very deep knowledge. That knowledge is the wisdom or universal understanding about how we are related to the Truth. It isn’t even necessary to speak about this when we teach asanas. The students ask you how to practice this or that exercise and all you need to do is simply to teach them the way you learned it. We have taught you the way we learned from Swamiji, which is a very correct way, and you should stick to it. At the same time, you must keep the wisdom alive within yourself through your own spiritual practices. With time and experience, you will find that students will come. Swamiji made yoga teachers out of you so that you would practice. I am still here because I was given the responsibility to teach, and that same responsibility lies with you too. If you teach in a very detached way, without identifying yourself with the knowledge, you will become a pure instrument. That purity is carrying you and often you are not even aware of it. The idea in yoga is to go


through life in the purest way possible; this is the main support when you come across obstacles on your path. We cannot say one thing and then do something else; people see through this. They will say, ‘Oh, the Swami is going to the disco every night, and then she is going to the butcher shop where all those hams are hanging from the ceiling.’ If I went there and ate all those things, you would not be sitting here. You would not feel the purity, the support behind what I say. If I tell you, ‘Don’t eat meat!’ or ‘Don’t listen to loud music!’, but then in the evening I go and do exactly those things, you would not be touched by what I say to you. That is why Swamiji made yoga teachers out of you. You must always remember this – it will give you a lot of strength. The idea to train you as yoga teachers came out of a vision. It didn’t come from the intellect deciding to create a new profession in order to make money. It came out of a vision for peace. This is the reason why it is such a blessed activity. So many people have come to our courses from around the world; more than 10,000 people have graduated in the Yoga Teachers’ Training Course since 1969. This is not because we are better than others. It is because we have the blessing of the divine vision of our Master, Swami Sivananda. None of us do it to make money, this is not our goal. Otherwise, we would do it differently. We would go to a nice hotel complete with modern comforts. There are yoga teachers who teach in hotels because they want to make money, and because otherwise, nobody would come to them. They have a weekend in one place, and then another weekend somewhere else, and all the time they are counting the money. During the

week they watch television, eat snacks and go dancing. We all have a tendency to be a little naive in our efforts to teach yoga, and we forget that the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Course came out of a vision which Swamiji had in Nassau, Bahamas. In his vision the whole world was on fire, everybody was running. Today, everybody IS running. Have you noticed? We are all running. We hear of an earthquake in Italy, a flood in Acapulco, bombs in Colombia. In Israel a big bomb exploded just five hundred meters from our centre. We have all heard the news. Sometimes it is better to avoid the news. I learned not to avoid it, but to look at it. I am not looking at the news because I am bored. I am looking at it in order to NOT avoid the reality of the world. We are still alright at the moment, for somehow we are protected. But when you look at the map, you see that it is purely for karmic reasons that we are untouched by this fire. Maya or illusion says, ‘Oh, we are OK, so the rest of the world cannot be on fire.’ But this is not true. After his vision Swamiji was wondering what he could do. What can one person do? We say, ‘Oh no, I can’t do much. I am not in politics and even so, what difference could I make?’ Swamiji asked, ‘What can I do?’ He then remembered what Swami Sivananda was doing. He remembered his guru. What did Swami Sivananda do? He was only one man; a one-man show. He did not have many disciples. He simply went to the Ganges, sat down and started meditating, practicing asanas, pranayama and the yogic purification techniques. He was always smiling. When people asked, ‘How do you do this?’ He would reply, ‘Well, just come and live with me!’ Swami Vishnu-devananda wanted to know

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Yoga Teachers
who this man was, this man who had said, ‘An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory.’ One day he had found these words on a piece of paper in the waste basket and he wanted to know who this man was. So he went to the Sivananda Ashram at Rishikesh in the Himalayas. He then saw that Master Sivananda was only teaching what he was practicing. He was teaching a teachers’ training course, which he called the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy. After going through this training you learnt everything about yoga, just as during our four-week yoga teachers’ training course. Swamiji remembered what his Master did, and then decided to do the same. This was the beginning of the Teachers’ Training Course. So you see what a pure motive he had. It was simply to bring peace to each individual; because if you are peaceful, your partner is peaceful, the children are peaceful. When the family is peaceful, you can do business correctly, there is no greed, no anger, no jealousy. There will be a peaceful environment, and that peace will spread from person to person., like cells splitting and multiplying. In this way one person can touch thousands of people – this was the idea. It is one of the biggest missions for peace that anyone has done for this world. If you think of these things when you teach, you will carry this spirituality within you. Spirituality means that you are not just thinking about yourself, but that you are thinking of others. If you do this you will be an excellent yoga teacher. Of course, you will have to see whether what you teach is really pure or not. Question yourself, ‘Am I teaching yoga the way I learned it?’ If the answer is ‘Yes’, then you will feel the grace of the masters and you will be a very effective teacher. You deserve the Nobel Peace Prize if you teach in this way, because you want to spread peace in the world in the midst of the fire. However, don’t expect recognition, because nobody will know what you are really doing. This is why Swamiji said that the highest yoga is to ‘Bear insult, bear injury’. Everybody will think that you are just a yoga teacher. But you are more than that. There is so much commercial yoga everywhere, but what you have learned is something much deeper. You learned to serve others and not to be attached to the fruits of your actions. This is why Swamiji asked you to study the Bhagavad Gita. He did not do this to make a Hindu out of you, nor so that you would become an expert on eastern something in return, you are not so happy about it. If a neighbor gives you a bouquet of flowers and you know that when they are on vacation you will have to water their flowers, it is alright, but if somebody gives you something and asks nothing in return, you feel loved. That is what we are supposed to do when we give. We are supposed to give everything to students, and then they feel the love. Once they feel love, they can give love. There are many people who don’t feel that love and that is why they come to yoga. But if they come to a teacher who is thinking about making money, they will not feel that love. There is no love there. Remember that. This is your test now. So don’t do that with your precious yoga. Taking money is not bad, but it is what you do with that money that counts. You can rent a hall with the money, you can buy some pictures and frame them. This is what we do. It is not good karma if you put it aside for your own purposes. If you do, you won’t be happy, you won’t be blessed and you won’t feel love because your senses will always want more. Swamiji’s vision was to pass on the love which you are receiving from the practice of yoga. You touch people’s hearts so that they can then go home and love their families in a pure way. If you keep this in mind, you will be wonderful yoga teachers. ■

philosophy. He did it so that you would understand what karma is. If you are attached to the fruits of your actions you won’t find peace, because you will be accumulating agami karma, which means that you will have to start all over again. Who wants to do this? The spirit of the peace movement is to give and to give. If somebody gives you something and you know they want

About the author
Swami Durgananda is Acharya (spiritual head) of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers in Europe. For many years she has held spiritual retreats all over Europe and has recently opened the Sivananda Yoga Retreat House in Tyrol, Austria.


YO G A Life Winter 2001

Mount Kailas
In June a group of fifteen led by two Swamis embarked on an epic one-month-long yatra (pilgrimage) to Mount Kailas, the most sacred mountain in the world and the legendary abode of Lord Siva, deep in the heart of Tibet. To pilgrims, Mount Kailas is the bestower of divine grace and destroyer of many sins; to walk once around the base of the mountain (parikrama) holds great powers of purification. What follows are extracts from the diary of Gita, one of the yatris.
driving to Mount Kailas


s we drive further away from Lhasa the countryside starts to change. Initially it seems to be almost the same each day, yet the change is subtle. The change in energies is equally subtle. My focus is taken up by trying to cope with the dynamics within the group. At first I don’t quite understand what it is that makes it impossible for us to find a comfortable way of communicating with each other. Somehow I am challenged on a very deep level. The energies are exaggerated, my perception is over sensitive. It seems like the volume is turned up and I feel as though I have been put into a small space with too many people, yet this is the most deserted place I have ever been to. I try to shake my senses to pull myself together. This is how it must feel like to go mad. Maybe it is the altitude. I find it almost impossible to control my mind. Reality and imagination seem to melt into each other. I can feel the fever rising and soon I am taken over by the pain in my head. I take refuge in sleeping in the back of the car, yet even in sleep I can hear all conversation, and yet I feel as though I am not really present. Within these fever dreams I have short spans of perception, which are crystal clear. I understand that the Siva energy is preparing us. The obstacles are deep inside and there is no easy or gentle way to get to them. Like in a film I see the issues within myself that need urgent attention. It is a nerve wracking and painful process. I am drifting in and out of sleep, each time becoming aware of the fever which seems to put me in the strangest frame of mind. Sometimes I am aware that we are stopping. I choose not to leave the car, I don’t feel in control of my body. I am aware that someone is talking to me and I can hear myself answering, yet I don’t know what is said. In this state of mind I perceive the group and each member. Siva’s energy cuts to the very root of all of us. This manifests on all levels. It creates the tension between the group members. All are irritable, at times short-tempered or just simply particularly difficult. My reaction to the change is obvious. Physically my body breaks down. It reacts with fever and even though this is very uncomfortable and I have a blinding headache (probably from the altitude) I feel suddenly relieved. I know this reaction of my body. I have experienced this reaction many times after being subjected to a great vibrational change. I know that it will be over within twelve hours. I know I will come out of it adjusted to the vibration and I also know that during this time my vision is particularly sensitive and often very sharp. The next morning I wake up feeling one hundred percent transformed. The vision of the previous day is burned into my consciousness. Words or actions seem unnecessary. All is right as it is. Sometimes I do not understand what a vision is good for. It leaves me with a feeling of isolation. During the next couple of days I see the vision being played in front of me. All is manifesting. The obstacles are presenting themselves in many ways. The smallest things seem to have the most profound impact... ...we are getting up ready for our last day in the car, the day we are supposed to arrive at Mount Kailas. It is freezing and getting up seems to become more difficult each morning. There is an expectancy and nervousness in the air. We are all desperate to get there. The days in the car have challenged us profoundly. We just want to get going. Little did we know that the most difficult was yet to come.

Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailas
At the end of the day we arrive at Lake Manasarovar and after a short drive we come to the spot where we see Mount Kailas for the first time. Our driver takes us in a circle around the prayer flags, before stopping the car. We stand in awe, some of us prostrate. I allow the picture to settle, the impression to develop. We pray. Once the energy starts to settle deep inside, I feel myself being moved to tears. It feels like the tension of lifetimes is releasing. I am not able to control my emotions until the next day. We went for our holy bath in the lake before returning to our cars, which will take us to the foot of Mount Kailas. Here we join the camps of other pilgrims. It feels incomprehensible that we are here, that I should be given the opportunity and the blessing to be at this place. Now that we have arrived it feels almost impossible that it could be true. The enormous impact of our trip seems to become clear. I remember words

21 YO G A Life Winter 2001

s Yatra
in satsang just before we left. We are told that the Yatra to Mount Kailas is the most difficult one to do. Only now I understand the meaning of these words. Arati. We are standing at the base of the Holy Mountain; tears of release and letting go are welling up again. I have now developed stomach cramps and my body seems to use any possible means to manifest release. I am overwhelmed, it seems too much and yet it feels good. now my head is pounding. Everybody is exhausted already. Yet the worst is still to come. Only we are not aware of it. I spend the evening waiting for the clouds to lift off the summit of Mount Kailas. Eventually, illumined by the full moon, Mount Kailas shows itself. Too dark to take a picture. It feels like a present to the few of us who are still awake.

the most difficult day the parikrama
We spend one day preparing for the parikrama around Mount Kailas. We have a beautiful homa. Even though the energies are clear and strong I find them difficult to perceive in a specific form. I can feel the changes within my body and emotions yet I cannot perceive a form. It takes some time until I come to realize that there is no form... We set off the next day. My backpack seems to weigh a ton and we haven’t even started climbing. All concentration is directed to the breathing. Just getting enough air seems to be impossible. The path is uneven, small and needs full concentration. I can hardly take in anything of my surroundings, I am too busy trying to cope with breath and steps. Just before lunch, one of our party falls ill. It is all too much. The altitude, the physical strains. The tension rises, yet we all have someone to focus on now. For a split second we are a group until the egos struggle again for their rightful place. Siva’s energy has no mercy, we are shaken to the very roots and the reactions are equally violent. After lunch we find a yak for our patient and we all carry on walking. Slowly we are starting to climb a little. Walking and breathing become more difficult. We have been instructed to keep silent and to repeat our mantra. Surprising to see that my mind finds it impossible to focus on the nature around us. Every now and then I stop to take in the surroundings. Yet most of the time I have mental arguments with members of the group... We arrive at our camping spot and with amazement I realize that we are staying one night at the famous north side view of Mount Kailas. By Climbing towards the pass is very difficult. We walk slowly and stop many times. It seems as if we are stopping mainly to allow a slower yatri to rest, yet I am very grateful for the many stops and the slow pace. Eventually we have to wait for a yak to come and carry another of our party to the pass. The pace becomes a little faster as we are moving further towards the top. Mount Kailas is now out of our view but the energy of Lord Siva is everywhere. We repeat our mantra in silence, but the concentration is now fixed firmly on trying to get enough air into our lungs. Mentally I am ready to give up. I can feel the anger rising within me. I am shouting at myself for having been stupid enough to come on such a trip in the first place. It all pushes me close to tears. I have no time to contemplate what the others must be feeling like. Step by step, breath by breath we climb over rocks to get to the top. The question ‘why?’ screams in my mind, dominating any rational thinking. Anger, frustration, fear, all arise and seem to push me to the edge of madness, maybe I am mad already? Somehow we reach the top! Hundreds of prayer flags make it a colorful point in a mountain desert. Lunch is ready, waiting for us. Yet no appetite. I force myself to eat, knowing that my body needs the food. We hang our prayer flags up, but are soon hurried along by our guides who fear the weather will change. The descent to our camping spot is like a nightmare for most of us. It takes forever. We have to climb down over stones and even when we seem to

recognize the tents it takes hours. It seems like a giant hand is moving them further away each time we are just about to reach them. All of us are exhausted, everybody is irritated. It is a day from hell. I collapse in my tent too tired to go to sleep. In my mind the day is floating pass. I am stunned by the intensity of the mountains surrounding us as far as the eye can see. My mind is racing. Instead of being still, I am faced by the impurities of my mind. I had to come all the way to Tibet to be faced with the painful truth and the content of my mind. Yet the exhaustion is too big. I cannot start to reflect or comprehend. I start to understand how deep the Siva energy works. I start to understand that the energy here has no form and does not allow us to give it a form. It is too strong to describe. We are walking around Mount Kailas in an energy field so strong that one loses the feeling of being an individual. The heartbeat, the breathing, the thoughts all seem to dissolve and merge with the energy around. No form can be given to that energy. We are looking into the face of God, only to see our own reflection. For a moment it all becomes clear. No question, the truth is everywhere. If it is true that all sins are forgiven by the act of circumambulation of the Holy Kailas, then the grace of the Lord is limitless and within the painful realization lies the unconditional love of God. Both so close together that they could be one. ■


YO G A Life Winter 2001

The European Millennium Peace Pilgrimage
he European Millennium Peace Pilgrimage started the week before Easter, at our retreat house in Reith, with a series of daily pujas and homas. Sri Radhakrishna Nambudri led the ceremonies and they were attended by Swami Durgananda, Swami Sivadasananda, Swami Kailasananda and the staff and guests. Sri Radhakrishna Nambudri had carefully chosen seven different rituals and he and Swami Durgananda explained their spiritual meaning and significance. Swami Durgananda also gave lectures on the topic throughout the


week. We installed a new murti of VanaDurga, which was a gift from our ashram in Neyyar Dam. Swami Sivadasananda’s classes reinvigorated the students and day by day the atmosphere became more peaceful. The yatris then traveled by bus from Reith to Vienna, where Swami Ramapriyananda and Omkari joined the retreat. The center was blessed to receive Sri Sant Venugopal Goswami and his four musicians – their presence and the beautiful program they gave were a great inspiration. The newly decorated center in Berlin was the next stop and here we received a very warm welcome. Many visitors came for the opening program, a world peace concert, including a member of the Indian embassy. It was a tremendous evening. Among the guests was a group of Lithuanian students who had traveled for more than nineteen hours to join us. We all benefited from being in such a peaceful and natural environment and once again we were blessed with pujas and divine music. The retreat finished on Sunday with a powerful Rudra homa. The bus then continued on its journey joined now by Swami Atmaramananda and the yatri Sundari from Berlin. We spent some

time at the Munich center, then traveled through Austria and Switzerland, a stunning journey across the Alps and past Lake Constance, to Geneva. Here Ananta and Narayan Chaitanya joined us, as well as Vidya Birla, a special guest from Bombay. The center was completely taken over by yatris! After arriving we managed to prepare everything just in time for a program that same evening. Many visitors, again including many from the Indian community, joined us for the peace concert and the programs held the following day. We were very happy to welcome Dr. Vyaas and his wife Nina, longtime devotees of Swamiji, who stayed with us throughout the rest of the tour. We took to the road once again – destination Spain – but after sixteen hours, the first mishap struck when the bus broke down. It was 11pm and we were still 300 kilometers from Madrid. It took the drivers three hours to find and repair the problem; we didn’t reach the Madrid center until 4am the following


morning! But our spirits rose as we were welcomed by the staff and a brave group of karma yogis, who helped us unload and found us places to sleep, so we were able to have some much needed rest before the beginning of the program – an asana class at midday. Once again we had a peace concert in the evening and during the week many students came for the lectures given by Swami Durgananda on yantra, puja and mantra as a means to meditation and bhakti. Dr. Vyaas gave a fascinating lecture on surgery in ancient India, also sharing with us many of his experiences with Swami Vishnu-devanandaji. Early one morning we departed for Paris. It was a very long ride, with the drivers cautiously steering the now repaired but tilting bus. However, this time another mishap struck. After a short pit stop we suddenly realized that our new yatri from Madrid, Swami Krishnananda, was missing! He had left the bus unnoticed to go and brush his teeth, and when he returned we were gone. As soon as we realized what had happened we pulled over on the motorway. Far away in the distance we saw an orange-clad figure standing on the roadside frantically waving.

After a long distance run he managed to catch up with the bus, welcomed by a large round of applause! We were in high spirits when we reached Paris that night having treated ourselves to pizza and ice cream on the way, and after quickly unloading we soon settled into a happy sleep. The programs the next day were inspiring, and Sri Sant Venugopal Goswami was presented with a new microphone. The Paris center had organized a retreat in Blois, to which we all headed at the weekend. It was an enjoyable two days in the countryside and included a candlelit concert, pujas, mantra initiation, and a lecture from Dr. Vyaas on ‘Stress-relief through Yoga’. He and his wife Neena had celebrated their wedding anniversary during the yatra. In a very touching ceremony they honored and worshipped Swami Vishnu-devanandaji and Swami Durganandaji as their guru. The retreat finally culminated on May 21st with an inspiring Chandrika homa for world peace, after which everybody parted and left for different parts of the world to spread the love, peace and energy of this journey which had been unforgettable. ■

Pujas, yantras and homas on the European Yatra 2000
Reith: Devi puja Durga puja Kali puja Chakrabja (Vishnu) puja Sudarshana homa Vana Durga puja Tripura Sundari puja Nava Graha puja Dhanwanthari homa Navayoni Chakra Bala Yantra Mahalaxmi puja Ganesha puja Sudarshana puja Ganesha puja Siva puja Rudra homa Shakti Dandabadrakam Krishna puja Hanuman puja Vishnu puja Laxmi puja Ashta Laxmi puja Saraswati puja Peace Mandala / Vishnu puja Bhuvanashwari puja Rajeshwari puja Brahma Vishnu Shiva Puja Nava Graha puja Ashtha Linga puja Chandrika homa


Berlin: Meissen:


Geneva: Madrid:




YO G A Life Winter 2001

Vedic Astrology,
by Stephen Quong


atsang is the starting point on the journey of spiritual evolution, and this is one of the most important teachings of all the great teachings of India. In vedic mythology the heavenly father is called Brahma. He had five mind-born sons, and these sons did not want to be involved in material creation; they just wanted to sit in samadhi and enjoy Brahmananda, the spiritual bliss of the Heavenly Father. Brahma became worried that the creation would not go on, because his own sons would not cooperate and do their work in the world. So he sent them for satsang with the teacher Dakshinamurti. Dakshinamurti did not say anything; he just sat in silence, raised his hand in chin mudra – and that was the satsang. Chin mudra means that when the ego is united with God, then the three gunas – the three qualities of existence – are under control and seen as an integral part of the cosmic reality. So there is no real separation between the spiritual and the material, between the absolute and the relative, between Brahman and maya. The great maharishis of India were masters of knowledge concerning the divine Self and the nature of cosmic reality, which is called ‘sat’. They were also masters of the natural sciences, music, dance, agriculture, and many other relatively mundane subjects. The masters studied both spiritual sciences as well as material sciences. In India astrology is considered a spiritual science. The Sanskrit name for astrology, jyotisha, is made up of two components: ‘jyoti’ meaning light, and ‘ishta’, knowledge or science. So jyotisha is the science or knowledge of light; and light refers not only to the physical light of the stars, but also to the effects of this light or energy on the consciousness of all living beings. The study of jyotisha is an integral part of vedic knowledge. The brahmins, the priestly caste, studied the Vedas. After they learned one or more of the principle Vedas, they also studied the six secondary branches of vedic knowledge, which are called shad vedanga.

The sixth and most important of these branches of vedic knowledge is jyotisha. Jyotisha is considered the eye of the vedas, and the other five branches correspond to other body parts: karana – face; chandas – legs; siksha – nose; nirukta – ears; and kalpa – hands. Through jyotisha we can have an idea of the future, and the nature of cosmic and planetary influences upon a certain time and place. Jyotisha has been an important part of vedic culture and religion since the beginning of time. Modern research indicates that the Vedas are at least eight thousand years old. But vedic tradition states that the Vedas are perhaps many millions of years old and that they have a pre-historic origin. The most ancient of the Vedas is the Rig Veda, which mentions the sun and the moon and their movement across the twenty-eight constellations. There are other ancient scriptures dedicated to the study of astronomy and astrology such as Vedanga Jyotisha and Surya Siddhanta. In ancient times astronomy and astrology were considered two branches of the same science; the same people studied both sciences. It was the rishis, or the brahmins, who were the students and the protectors of this knowledge. The vedic tradition states that this knowledge of astrology came directly from Brahma, who gave it to his disciple Narada, and Narada gave it to the seven great sages or sapta rishi. In the succeeding time cycles these seven rishis passed this knowledge on to their disciples. So there is an unbroken lineage of this knowledge directly from God to the present time through a succession of rishis and gurus. The study of astrology was passed on in a similar way as the study of yoga and vedanta – oral teachings from teacher to disciple, passed on from generation to generation. This succession of teachers is called guru parampara in Sanskrit. We not only receive knowledge from our personal teacher, but also receive the blessings of the teacher’s teacher, and the entire lineage of teachers, all the way back to God. There is always some kind of spiritual initiation involved with the study of astrology. Certain mantras are given to enhance intuition,

25 YO G A Life Winter 2001

Yoga, Spirituality
and the astrologer is encouraged or required to live the life of a yogi, to observe yama and niyama, to practice pranayama and meditation, and also to know about mantras and pujas, and have some knowledge of ayurveda and the healing arts. All this is in addition to the study of astrology and astronomy. I am sure all of you have heard of Sri Rama. He is considered to be the ideal king in the history of India. His teacher, the Maharishi Vashishta, was considered to be an enlightened being, a great teacher. His grandson Parashura, also a rishi, compiled all the ancient texts on vedic astrology, and became known as the grandfather of modern vedic astrology. This happened many thousands of years ago. The son of Rishi Parashura was Vedavyas, who is very famous. He is recognized as the great scholar who compiled the Vedas, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, the Brahma Sutras and many other important scriptures. Great honor is given to Vedavyas on Guru Poornima, which is the full moon of July. On that day all of one’s gurus and teachers are worshipped and honored. In fact, all the holidays and festivals in India are based upon astrology. Even the celebration of Easter in the western world is an astrological holiday. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the new moon in Aries. So the Christian tradition adapted the astrological teaching of that period in history, and converted so-called pagan holidays into Christian holidays. All time keeping is based upon the movement of planets. Our entire life is governed by time: the day is defined by one revolution of the earth; a month is the time from one new moon to the next new moon; and the year is defined by the revolution of the earth around the sun at one time. So wherever the planets might be at any time, they have some influence over our consciousness. The ancient rishis made a profound study of the science of astrology. It was an important part of their religion and culture, and a very valuable tool to assist people in attaining the four goals of human existence. According to the vedic tradition these four goals are dharma, which is spiritual life purpose; artha, wealth and prosperity; kama, pleasure or love; and moksha, spiritual liberation. Each of the nine planets and twelve zodiac signs can be associated with one of these four goals. By studying the planetary patterns in one’s own birth chart, we can know in a very specific way what our life lessons are. Every astrological pattern in the birth chart represents a specific life lesson. The ancient textbooks on astrology say that the birth chart is the map of our karmas from past lifetimes. Sanchita karma can be neutralized or transformed just by understanding, as a human or between lives, whilst prarabdha karma must be experienced physically and can therefore only be balanced by being in a human body. Even enlightened beings and great spiritual teachers have prarabdha karmas to experience. The astrological patterns shown in their birth charts will be indicative of the external conditions of their lives. So even if a person is a jivanmukta – completely free even whilst in a human body and not identified with a sense of ego – the karmas which gave that person a physical body will still correspond with astrological influences indicating the external circumstances of their life. When we study the horoscopes of spiritual teachers, their astrology chart will indicate what types of illnesses they might experience, what types of disciples they might have, whether they have a big ashram in the city or a small ashram in the country, whether they will be famous or not, and even the kind of spiritual teaching they will specialize in. If even great spiritual teachers are influenced by prarabdha karma, ordinary people are even more so. By studying astrology we can understand what our karmic experiences will be in this life – not just the general lessons for this life, but also the specific timetable for the unfoldment of these experiences. Sometimes we can note the exact day or week when a major event will happen. So if this forecast is of a difficult circumstance we can engage in spiritual practice to minimize the danger. In addition to the understanding of the life pattern, it was the traditional role of the astrologer to recommend remedies or cures for any potential problems indicated in the birth chart. In India the tradition was that people would go to a sadguru for spiritual knowledge – knowledge of the Self and ways to realize the Self – and to an astrologer for understanding their karmas and the most direct path for transcending these karmas. There is a division of responsibility between the sadguru and the astrologer, but many great spiritual teachers knew astrology too, and most astrologers were knowledgeable in spiritual philosophy. Vedic astrology is not just for Hindus or for people who are following the vedic tradition. The planets affect everyone, regardless of which country they are living in. With a little adaptation for differences in language and culture, vedic astrology can be a very helpful tool in understanding our spiritual path and the karmas which are the obstacles to our Self-realization. Even after we learn about the goal of life and the spiritual practices which can help us to realize this goal, we still have to walk the path, live our lives and go through all the ups and downs of daily existence. Often we do not have much idea of what is going on and life can sometimes appear very confusing – especially its more mundane factors. Having the things we need: enough money to go on a yoga retreat, satisfying work and a good career, harmonious human relationships which will enhance and support our spiritual practices, and when to have children, where the best place to live is, what type of spiritual practice is best what type of spiritual practice is best – all these questions can be addressed specifically through Vedic astrology. Each planet represents a certain component of our being. For example, the Sun represents the expression of the Soul,


YO G A Life Winter 2001

the Divine Self, or the Atman. It also represents the sense of ego, which is called "ahamkara" in Sanskrit. Ahamkara means "I am the doer", "I am a special person". Therefore the Sun's location in the birth chart will symbolize both the spiritual path for Self-realization which will be most attractive for that person, as well as the distortion of that path through the ego sense. The Moon represents the nature of the mind and the emotions. The Moon is called soma in Sanskrit, which means "the divine nectar of immortality". Soma is mentioned in many of the Vedas as being the goal of spiritual practice. In modern times some scientists have equated soma with psychedelic drugs. But basically soma is a state of consciousness which is realized through spiritual practices. When the mind becomes peaceful and calm, it is able to reflect the light of the Divine Self, just like the full moon reflects the light of the sun. The planet Mercury represents intelligence and discrimination. Venus represents our creative capacity, as well as our karmas for love and marriage. Mars represents physical strength and courage, and--very important-Jupiter represents spirituality and religion. Jupiter is called "Guru" in Sanskrit, which means teacher or spiritual preceptor. So wherever Jupiter is in the person’s birth chart, this will be an indicator of the kind of guru they have an attraction for, and also the kind of religion they will have an interest in. Jupiter will also symbolize the person’s capacity to become a guru. And in certain zodiac signs Jupiter represents the capacity to become a healer or physician. Saturn represents our capacity for renunciation, selfless service and humility. There are certain sections of the horoscope called Houses, and the fifth house from the Ascendent represents the karma for the Ishta Devata. Ishta Devata means "the personal form of God you have the greatest attraction for". So if you believe you have had past lives in India, you will probably feel an attraction towrds one of these different forms of God, like Ganesha, or Krishna, or Rama, or Devi. Because the worship of a personal form of God is so powerful, it leaves a very deep impression in our mind, and this memory will be with us in our next lifetime. And if we continue to worship the same deity lifetime after lifetime, it will make our spiritual path much easier. So the choosing of the Ishta Devata is considered to be very important – and each of the nine planets represents a certain deity. In fact each of the major deities in the Vedic tradition controls one of the planets or zodiac signs, and they also control the 27 important constellations. So whatever the life lesson is (which is

symbolized by a star or a planet in a certain zodiac sign) then the worship of a specific Vedic deity can help us to overcome the negative aspects of that karma. For example, in the birthchart of Swami Sivananda, the birth star was Bharani, and the star Bharani is ruled by Yama, the God of Death. This does not means that he should have worshiped Yama, but as a doctor he saw death everywhere in his practice. During his austerities on the banks of the Ganges he developed tremendous detachment from the world, because of his awareness of the immanence of death. If we think that death might come at any time, then we can have real renunciation. So even though Swami Sivananda did not worship Yama, the influence of Yama, the God of Death, was a powerful factor in his life. It was one of the main factors to cause him to renounce the world and become a swami. For other people the presiding deity of their birth star might be Vishnu, so experiencing the beauty of God’s presence everywhere might be the motivation for spiritual life. In the case of Indra, being impressed by the profundity of spiritual teachings might be the reason for becoming more involved in spiritual life. So through the study of vedic astrology we can discover those very deep and profound underlying factors which motivate our spiritual practice. Vedic astrology has a close association with ayurveda. There are three body types in ayurveda: vata, pitta and kapha, representing air, fire and earth. Kapha represents both earth and water. Each of the twelve zodiac signs corresponds to one of these doshas, and each of the nine planets also corresponds to one of these doshas. By a quick glance at the horoscope, we can determine the person’s prakriti, or body type. The planets can also be associated with the five elements of nature, or pancha tattva, which is another fundamental principle of ayurveda. The combined study of astrology and ayurveda, or some other system of medicine, is commonly called medical astrology. Each part of the body has an association with the nine planets or the twelve zodiac signs. If we study the horoscope we can know which types of illnesses are most probable, and also at what age this danger might manifest. We can also know through which level of the body it will express itself – whether it will be a physical, emotional or a psychological problem, and whether it will be short-term, chronic, or incurable. Through astrology you can choose the best time to take medicine, to make the medicine most effective. It is commonly known that poisonous herbs create more poison during the full moon, so certain herbs are harvested in certain periods of the month to enhance their effect. Medicines are even mixed at certain times of

the month and made more potent with mantras to the deities of that moon sign. In Indian classical music we have ragas, or classical scales. Each of these ragas has an association with one of the constellations. There are some classical musicians who will choose which raga to play based on where the moon is that day, and by doing so the music will have an enhanced effect. The scope of astrology encompasses many different areas of life. It definitely affects our spiritual path, our health, our career, our relationship karmas, our finances, the climate and region we will have the greatest success in – in fact, every area of life is pervaded by astrological influence. Every ancient civilization or culture had its own form of astrology. Chinese astrology is a very ancient science, and most of the countries in the Middle East area have their own astrological traditions – the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hebrews, Arabs, Greeks and Romans are just a few; and in modern times European astrology has been highly developed. But it is in India that the study of astrology has been taken to the highest heights. Of all the systems of astrology which are currently available for study, vedic astrology has perhaps the greatest distinction. It has been practiced continuously for eight thousand years and is still being practiced today by some very spiritual people – with the intention of helping people to attain spiritual liberation. So even though it can address the material side of life, the analysis of the material and mundane is always seen in the context of the bigger picture, which in the vedic tradition is: only Brahman is real, the world is unreal, Brahman and the world are one. Ultimately, there is no separation between the material and spiritual world. This perception of separation instead of unity, is caused by the veiling power of maya, which we are all trying to overcome through the practice of yoga and the study of vedanta. May the knowledge of jyotisha assist you on the path to unity through yoga and Self-realization. Om Namah Sivaya. ■

About Quongauthor the (Umananda) Stephen
has studied and practiced astrology in Asia and America since 1970. He has traveled extensively in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, studying with many of the most accomplished contemporary masters of vedic astrology and palmistry.


YO G A Life Winter 2001

Teachers’ Training Course
in Val Morin/July 2000
ki Morris by Ki s


he Yoga Teachers’ Training Course in Val Morin, Quebec, Canada in July 2000 was an extraordinary experience. There were countless moments of despair and struggle during the intensive, month-long training. Yet, for all the hardships encountered, it has now become a landmark in my life as well as a boundless source of inspiration and strength. During the first few days I found myself resisting almost every aspect of the course – the 5.30am wake-up call, the strict discipline, During the first few days I the rigorous program, the lack of found myself resisting personal space and time, the constant almost every aspect of the bombardment of theory and new course – the 5.30am wakeideas. It was only the up call, the strict discipline, hatha yoga lessons (asanas and the rigorous program, the pranayama), taken on the lakeside deck, lack of personal space and which seemed to make any sense. time... However, my yoga teacher in London (who took TTC in 1981), had told me to keep my mind open and attend every class without previous expectation or judgement. Although I failed on this account many times, the more I trusted in my teacher’s advice the more fruitful and interesting the results were. The teachings on the course were those of the ancient yogis. I found myself in a privileged position

31 YO G A Life Winter 2001

– exposed to a profound understanding of essential human that which I liked – with joy, nature and the methods through which we can attain concentration and detachment. peace of mind. The lessons were given by a group of benign Due to the intensive and respectful teachers who encouraged direct experience nature of TTC you make close rather than blind faith. The schedule was always tough and friends extremely quickly. This challenging, yet each day I learned to drop my judgements human contact was a very a little more in order to apply myself and reap the precious part of the course. We enormous benefits. supported each other through the We are all constantly seeking happiness. In the West we hard times and celebrated the look to the outside world to fulfil this desire, hoping that a good times with impromptu new car, relationship, house or friend will satisfy our longings. jamming sessions on drums Yet every time our expectations are dashed. TTC directed me and guitar, in the swimming elsewhere in the pursuit of joy – it took me on an unexpected pool and sauna, and with journey into myself. The asanas and pranayama proved to be walks through the forest or a means to an end, as yogis control the body in order to to the nearby village for an conquer the mind and see beyond it to the true Self. As I illicit cup of coffee (decaf focused on my mind during morning and evening meditation, of course). Everyone had I became aware of its incessant activity and of how much their personal way of energy I expended in useless getting away worrying. TTC encourages you from the course in to act rather than to sit around Chanting ‘I am not my order to return to it thinking and worrying. In body, I am not my mind’ with renewed energy Swami Sivananda’s words ‘an and enthusiasm. ounce of practice is worth a felt very alien to begin It is said that much of ton of theory’. It became clear the teaching on TTC is that things are only a problem with, but the more I the planting of seeds, if they are a problem in your that hundreds of ideas mind. Through persistently contemplated this idea, the come into the conscious tuning and relaxing my body, more I experienced a deep mind and understanding and stilling my mind, I began only when the time is to glimpse a state of inner and blissful sense of unity ready, when sufficient peace. From this new purity, strength and perspective I found myself able with all things clarity of mind have to let things go when there been achieved. Already I was nothing I could do about have noticed many shifts them. This freed up vast reservoirs of energy which I could in my behavior and attitude since then use in more positive ways. finishing the course. My levels of A central part of TTC is the study of Vedanta philosophy. energy, confidence and stamina This advocates that we are all pure consciousness, that have shot up. My mind is calm, anything with a name or form is an illusion and that the body focused and content. I have a and mind are merely instruments with which to realise the Self. greater sense of freedom than At first this was a hard concept to grasp. The culture that we ever before, in that I have are brought up in teaches us to identify with our bodies and increased my capacity to take life minds, to prize and cultivate individuality. Chanting ‘I am not as it comes. my body, I am not my mind’ felt very alien to begin with, but This morning I taught my first the more I contemplated this idea, the more I experienced a yoga lesson at the Sivananda Centre deep and blissful sense of unity with all things. in London. It felt as if someone else Karma yoga, selfless service to humanity, was an integral was teaching the class, as if I was a part of our daily schedule. Everyone was assigned a job to help vessel through which an energy with the upkeep of the ashram, from working in the boutique passed from a long lineage of to cleaning the toilets. My task was to sweep and mop the teachers to my students. This is kitchen floor after lunch. At first I turned my nose up at it, but the beginning of something gradually I learnt to do what I disliked with the same spirit as good. ■

33 YO G A Life A S T R O L O 2001 V E D I C Winter G Y YO G A Life Winter 2001

I Am Pain, Thy Teacher
h man, you curse me, blame me, You hate me and frown at me You think I am cruel and heartless. You try to slay me with anaesthetics, With choloroform and bromides, You attack me with sedatives and opiates. You phone the doctors, you run to the hospitals; You fly to Vienna and hill stations. You wire to your friends and relatives; You approach the saints of the Himalayas for remedies and herbs. You do Maha Mritunjaya Japa and Havan. You burn incense and pray – To kill the teacher Who warns you, Who comes to help and bless you. I am not your enemy, I am your friend, I am a messenger from God, I am an angel from heaven, to teach you wisdom, To instill in your heart mercy and dispassion. To turn your mind towards God. To destroy your intense clinging To things earthly and mundane, That are perishable and illusory. I am your guide and silent teacher; I AM PAIN – the best thing in this world; I am an eye-opener, soul-awakener I am an inspirer and thriller, I come to remind you of God, To point to you the divine path, To make you desist from evil ways, To make you practise good habits; You have really misunderstood me, I am only the absence of pleasure, I co-exist with pleasure; I am the starting point of philosophy, I am the cause of man’s exertion, I am the cause of man’s aspirations, I set the minds of philosophers to think, I make the Yogis start spiritual practices, I make the sages practise meditation,


I make a worldly man a superman. You failed to observe the laws of health, The rules of hygiene and right living, You took Rajasic and Tamasic foods, You took meat, fish and eggs; You were not regular in doing exercise, You did not do Pranayama and Asanas, You did not pray and meditate, You were immoderate in taking food, You did not bask in the sun, You slept in ill-ventilated rooms, You took too much of sweetmeats, You drank impure water, You hated and injured your neighbours, You were lustful, malicious and greedy, And so suffered strokes and heart attacks, You married a third time, You were a heavy smoker in the club, You drank liquor and took drugs, You took bribes and cheated, You twisted the truth in courts And thereby sent innocent men to prison, You charged your patients heavily – And so I come to you, To heal, to teach, to guide. Understand now at least My secret and good nature, My interest in your well-being; Practise simple living and high thinking, Observe the laws of health and hygiene, Adopt a well-balanced, vegetarian diet, Practise non-injury, truth and celibacy, Read holy books and scriptures, Love all and be kind to all, Forgive and forget quickly, Serve all with affection, See the Lord in all, Repeat the Divine Name at all times – It will protect and guide you, Then I will depart and leave you. I will not trouble you any longer.

– Swami Sivananda


YO G A Life Winter 2001

Lessons with Swamiji
by Sankara (Peter Beecham), Ottawa, Canada


any years ago, when I had just become acquainted with Sivananda Yoga, I came to a point where I wanted to make changes in my life. I had only been to the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp at Val Morin once or twice but felt that I should go there for a weekend to see if I could come to some decisions on some life issues. To keep my focus I wrote down four or five issues that I intended to ponder during my time at the ashram and didn’t tell anyone the purpose of my visit. Swami Vishnu-devanandaji was at the yoga camp but I had never met him and, as far as I was aware, nobody knew me and I was just an anonymous face in the crowd. Perfect for my purposes. I cheerfully participated in the ashram’s daily routine of morning and evening yoga classes and satsangs and went about my business of trying to resolve my issues. It was at one of these evening satsangs that an event occurred that changed the course of my life. That satsang was held in the main building where the boutique is now located. There were several dozen other people there. Swami Vishnu-devananda was there in his wheelchair and began to give his nightly talk to the group. As I listened to Swamiji’s talk, it suddenly dawned on me that Swami Vishnu-devananda, within the context of this general talk, was also answering the questions that I had come up to the Yoga Camp to resolve. Not only that, but he was answering them in the order that I had written them down! At first, I was stunned by this discovery. Then I was awed by his ability to know my mind so intimately. I was also impressed by his ability to weave his responses to my questions seamlessly into the talk that he was giving. Next, I was overwhelmed by the compassion and solicitude that he demonstrated for my struggle and the succor that his answers provided. Finally, I recognised his willingness to offer himself to me as guru and to accept me as a disciple. When satsang ended, I waited until he had accepted greetings and obeisance from the other people there. As Swami Vishnudevananda came out of the room, I knelt down, thanked him for his help and touched his feet. I had met and recognised my guru. And what happened to those issues I was struggling

with? They dissolved; simply vanished. Not because of the particular answers that he gave me but rather because he cared enough to answer at all, because he recognized my concerns and distress and made a compassionate response to them. And, more importantly, because he did so firstly in a way that I could understand and secondly, in a way that gave me a different, higher perspective that clearly demonstrated that those issues were actually non-issues. The issues that had been so significant to me simply dissolved in the light of that Self-realisation to which Swami Vishnu-devananda had so briefly elevated me. There are several elements to this story, each of which could be the subject of an extended talk, a chapter in a book on guru-shishya relations or a book on the philosophy and techniques of yoga. The nonjudgement, humility and compassion that permeated Swamiji’s talk are subjects of endless books and are at the root of his being able to reach out to me that evening. His being an instrument of God’s grace is another point. Being an instrument of God’s grace is a topic that will always occupy the attention of many people: how to tap into that grace, how to use it, and why one can serve and give tirelessly when open to that divine grace. Another important element is the limitation and futility of ego, the limitation of rational thought, and their transcendental alternatives. I could write about the worldly and transcendental benefits of total openness: the illusion of vulnerability and the protective prison of ideas and emotions that people who feel vulnerable erect against the world; the strength, limitless perspective and fearlessness to be had from practicing total openness; and how others are also elevated in the face of one’s openness. Another important topic arising from that event could be the intimacy of a gurushishya relationship: what is expected of a guru and of a shishya or the dynamics of such a relationship. Swamiji’s ability to ‘read my mind’ was a demonstration of siddhis, paranormal abilities that defy conventional explanation but are a natural consequence of

spiritual evolution, as the system of nadis and chakras becomes purified and the consciousness becomes attuned to them. These siddhis are lures that continue to draw thousands of aspirants and about which many books have been written. I want to mention here the two elements that stood out for me during that encounter with Swami Vishnu-devananda. It was Swamiji’s ability to know in precise detail the contents of my mind that initially captured my attention. How was it possible, especially in such precise detail? The siddhi lies outside of our normal expectations for humans. To experience its application is stunning. It turns one’s world upside down and inside out. All prior references to the human condition and human potential are immediately seen as self-limiting obstacles designed to give us the illusion of control and competence. Swamiji’s brief demon stration opened my awareness and expanded my horizons infinitely. This was not to be last time that Swamiji was to do this for me, but those are stories for another time. His demonstration of siddhis was something about which I felt that I had to find out more. It was only later that I came to understand that to chase siddhis instead of seeking God was counterproductive

35 YO G A Life Winter 2001

and could result in less spiritual awareness that had the rather limiting preoccupations To be one of these is to be all of them. To rather than more. I had mistaken some of only money and power, the second major practice one is to develop the others. I also incidental consequences of the spiritual lesson from this initial encounter with came to understand that these attributes journey for enlightenment itself. But at Swami Vishnu-devananda was the lesson in were indicative of the natural state of each least I had recognised the path. humility and compassion. Here was a person person. They were not characteristics that This demonstration of a new, all- who was an internationally recognised had to be created but rather characteristics encompassing way of perception was certainly expert on yoga-vedanta, the head of an that were part of one’s authentic being, the intriguing. It was also very intimidating. Here was international yoga organization that Self that had been obscured and which a person who was capable of knowing the required his constant attention and who would reappear as one removed the smallest detail of my thoughts. In this case, he was also in the midst of giving a talk to a obstacles to Self-awareness. These had focused on my aspirations. He could, large group of people. The potential for ego obstacles to Self are the limiting and however, just as easily have been aware (and aggrandizement was enormous. A tendency negative ideas that we carry around with probably was) of all the day-to-day negativity to be dismissive and aloof would have been us, which permeate our responses to the that was passing through my mind. We all have unsurprising. To be preoccupied would have events of our days and which, indeed, even negative thoughts that we would not like others been natural. But Swamiji had none of determine how we perceive those events. to know about. How would you like someone else these characteristics. Instead, he remained To practice the positive opposites of these to know every thought that you had? They might limiting ideas is to allow our true Self to be threatened by those thoughts or even judge come gradually to the surface and present you as weird or unfit to associate with. Swami Itself to the world. Vishnu-devananda, despite his awareness It is not just from our own efforts that of all of my thoughts, good and bad, we live as our authentic Self. It is I was awed by had decided to help me, not to judge through God’s grace and, in my case, me. The guru is always aware of through the grace of the guru that his ability to know my mind so where you are on the spiritual our consciousness can remain path and why, and he or she still elevated and the authentic Self be intimately and was overwhelmed elects to guide you. It is this lack presented to the world. To of pretence and judgement, this remember God is to keep our by the compassion and solicitude that total openness and absolute trust authentic Self at the forefront. As that is a hallmark of a guruSwami Sivananda said, ‘Remember. he demonstrated for my struggle disciple relationship. Forget.’ Remember God. Forget the Learning that you can function rest. Forget anything that is not God. and the succor that his in the world with such attitudes is Ignore it. Keep bringing your mind to another lesson that is learned gradually. the positive and to God. answers provided What you take with you when you leave the Since that initial encounter, I have guru and attempt to make your way in the world become a full-time teacher of yoga, is a new openness and an absence of fear. You meditation, and stress management. I try to have a new perspective on the world and its present Swamiji’s teachings to those people. How people respond to you and the above the details of his personal attending my classes and seminars and to conventions of church, state and business are circumstances and stayed true to his source relate those teachings to people’s own less defining and thus less confining. You have a of inspiration. He singled me out as a circumstances. Swamiji’s five points, i.e. love and compassion that was not there before. person in need and responded to that need proper exercise, proper breathing, proper The guru’s recognition of the content of your mind unobtrusively. Who knows how many other relaxation, proper diet and positive thinking and heart and his or her decision to help you is a people in that audience on that evening and meditation, remain the cornerstone of demonstration of love and compassion – a model received Swamiji’s intense and com - my teachings and my sadhana. I continue to that you can take with you into your daily life passionate attention? He had no ego, no grow personally and spiritually because of and apply when you encounter circumstances fear, no sense of separation. He was love that initial meeting with Swami Vishnuthat pose a threat to your self-image and a and compassion, humility and supreme devananda. And I remain eternally grateful. challenge to your equanimity and goodwill. By awareness. This was a new model of being ■ remembering your guru’s compassion for you, to me. you learn to act from love and not from fear, It was only later that I came to revenge or self-interest. To paraphrase the understand that having no ego, no fear and golden rule: do unto others as your guru has no sense of separation and to be totally done unto you. aware, compassionate and loving were not Sankara teaches yoga in Ottowa in Canada. He is a For me, coming at that time from the only connected but mutually dependent. long-time devotee of Swami Vishnu-devananda investment industry, a corporate culture There could not be one without the others. Sankara can be contacted at omprem@magma.ca

About the author


YO G A Life Winter 2001

Indian Art
by Sri Padmanabha Dasa, H.H. Marthanda Varma


hajuraho, two hundred miles from Delhi, is home to eighty-eight temples which are renowned for their erotic carvings. Many foreigners visit Khajuraho and wonder how erotic art can be associated with a holy place. However, such sculpture is by no means confined to Indian temples, and can be found for example in St. Paul’s cathedral in London and the church of St. Stephen in Vienna, Austria. On careful scrutiny all aspects of life have a scientific and aesthetic foundation. It is a modern misnomer that the ancients had no science. Science makes precise all arts, and art beautifies and enriches all science. Both aspects are essential for a true way of life and in India our forebears never lost sight of this in any walk of life. In India there is a desire to attain to perfection, and art is also often brought in to transform a subject into something beautiful and aesthetic. In Indian art the symbols cannot be properly understood without reference to Indian philosophy and the consequent religious attitude. Then they can be seen as signals along the spiritual path of India’s changeless wisdom. The belief is that human life is essentially a spiritual progression, with its central purpose being self-realisation. This is achieved by breaking all the bonds of ignorance. The prayer

of India from time immemorial has been ‘Asato ma sat gamaya, tamaso ma jyothir gamaya’ – Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from darkness to light. Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote in his ‘Essays in National Idealism’, ‘The arts are all thus sacred and designed for spiritual awakening.’ This means that the arts are not just mere diversions or an escape from the drudgery of life. The arts are meant to give wings to the aspirations of the human soul; thus they have a universal message. If we look at art in India divorced from this philosophical background, it loses its real meaning. This religious approach to art does not assume that art should be solely other-worldly or puritanical. Religion is India is about liberation, moksha, which is achieved through removal of ignorance, avidya. To help achieve this, art covers all phases and activities of an individual’s life, seeking to create in the devotee an attitude conducive to the attainment of the spiritual goal. In this way a religious attitude is infused into all the normal activities of life, therefore eliminating the opposition between the secular and the sacred. In Indian religious tradition it is said that life has four major, well-defined purposes. These are: dharma, the practice of virtue; artha, the acquisition of wealth; kama, the enjoyment

37 YO G A Life Winter 2001

of the pleasures of life; and finally moksha, liberation. This scheme makes it clear that there is no attempt to reject the world. The warning is not against the enjoyment of worldly pleasures but against the temptation to lose sight of the goal by letting these pleasures become a goal in themselves. It is said that a human should be like the lotus flower, thriving in water but never allowing water to stick to it or submerge it. Life should be a synthesis between the world of spirit and the world of matter. In India these two worlds are seen as complementary and art must be viewed as a reflection of this view. In Indian art, (whether painting, music, dance, or sculpture) we can see the whole drama of life, with its pulsating passions and varying moods and activities, richly represented. So there is no contradiction between the rich sensuousness expressed and its spiritual intention. K. Bharatha Iyer writes ‘the gods and goddesses and even the ascetic Buddha are conceived in the most captivatingly sensuous forms and as ever youthful and radiant.’ And Henrich Zimmer, a careful student of Indian art, writes that ‘what may appear to the casual observer to be nude figures, are in reality tastefully robed and bejewelled. Garments and ornaments are assimilated to the forms which they adorn.

They are angelic figures of subtle, unearthly voluptuousness; shining forth from them is their delight in the glorious impalpability of their bodies.’ Art in India is fundamentally called upon to symbolise subtle and profound intellectual and philosophical conceptions and transcendental states of experience. ■

About the author
Major General Sri Padmanabha Dasa Vanchi Pala Sri Bala Rama Varma Kulasekhara Kiritapati Manney Sultan Maharaja Raja Rama Raja Bahadur Shamsher Jang, GCSI, GCIE is the Maharaja of Travancore.


YO G A Life Winter 2001

The Pure Principle
Excerpted from the recently released book by Jim Pym

There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages has had different names; it is however pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity.

These words of John Woolman point the way for Quakers today to embrace religious language, beliefs and practices from other faith traditions while remaining true to their own. In this new century, it is vital that the world’s religions learn to understand and cooperate with each other. These words from sacred texts and from people of different faiths, help us to begin to see that unity which we are searching for.

from the sacred texts...

For, when I came int o people, I felt a secre the silent assemblies of God’s t power among them touched my heart; , which and as I gave way unto it I found the evil weakening in - Robert Barclay, Qu me and the good raised up… aker

Unborn, an Unmade, an There is, O monks, an e. If it were not so, there Unmanifest and an Unbecom born, the made, the the would be no escape from the become. manifest and - The Buddha

There is a light that shines beyond all thing s on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart. All this universe is in truth Brahman. He is the beginning and end of life and all. As such in silence, give him adoration. There is a spirit that is mind and life, light and truth and vast spaces. He contains all works and desires and all perfumes and all tastes. He enfolds the whole universe, and in silen ce is loving to all. This is the spirit that is in my heart, smaller than a grain of canary-seed, or the kernel of a grain of canary-seed. This is the spirit that is in my heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven itself, greater than the worlds. He contains all works and desir es and all perfumes and tastes. He enfolds the whole universe and in silence is loving to all. This is the spirit that is in my heart, this is Brahman . - Chandogya Upanishad, Hindu

revelation’. If Lao Tzu says that ‘Silence is the great interior silence we will find a deep we can penetrate this impressions from centre within from which we can receive reflects the moonbeam in the another plane. Like a calm pool outer impressions will find stillness of the night, equally, disturbing ything is understood, in a way a resting place, for in the silence ever lead yourself to be analytical not comprehensible by the mind. Do not tion where we can transcend here for this is a divine process of transmuta a whole heart. A heart in the Beloved with the experience and offer it to well of silence, like the ego needs the state of becoming needs this inner drown in safety and be still. the Higher Self, for only then can it - Margaret Sampson, Sufi

May the time be not distant, O God, whe n all your children will understand that they are brothers and sisters so that, one in spirit and one in fellowship, they may be forever united before You. Then shall Your Kingdom be established on earth, and the word of Your prophet shall be fulfilled: ‘The Lord will reign for ever and ever’. - Prayer Book, Jewish

39 YO G A Life Winter 2001
Hatred is shed by hatred. d is never dimini eternal law. Hatre is is the diminished by love. Th - The Dhammapada, Buddhist
Be still and know that I Am God - Psalm 46, Jewish


Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you. - Rabbi Hillel, Jewish

If your mind is open it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few. - Shunryu Suzuki; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Now is the tim e high the bann for the lover of God to rais er of unity, to e intone, in the assemblages of the world, the verses of and love and friendship to of God is one. demonstrate to all that th e grace Thus will the tabe be upraised on the summits of rnacles of holiness gathering all the earth, pe shadow of th oples into the protective e World of One dawn over th e world at the ness. This great bounty will time when th shall arise to e carry out His teachings, an lovers of God and wide the d to scatter fa fresh, sweet sc r ent of universa - Baha’U’llah, l love. Baha’I

O God! May I treat others As I would be treated What I like not for myself May I dispense not to others. - Abdullah Ansari, Sufi

I forgive all living beings, Let all living beings forgive me; All in this world are my friend, I have no enemies. - Prayer of Forgiveness, Jain

not like for another what you do Do not approve for yourself. a, Zoroastrian - Gospel of Zarathustr
, so all human beings mankind is a single nation e O God, it is Thy word that they are endowed with lov nity and rights, the spirit of born free and equal in dig in are act towards one another and conscience and should brotherhood. - The Qur’an, Islam

into of Existence, reconcile us all O Thou who art the Kernel the e, for all lamps are lit from love of each other and of The same Light. - Rumi, Sufi

In the company of saints, man learns how to turn enemies into friends, As he becomes completely free of evil and bears malice to none, In the company of the good, there is no swerving from the path, No looking down upon anybody as evil. Man sees all round him the Lord of Supr eme Joy, And freeing himself from the feverish sens e of self, Abandons all pride, such is the efficacy of fellowship with a holy man, Whose greatness is known only to the Lord . The servant of the Ideal is akin to the Mas ter. - Sukhmanu, Sikh

Will ye tell others to be righteous and not practise righteousness yourself? - The Qur’an 2, 44

The faiths of others all deserve to be honored… by knowing them, one exalts one’s own faith. - Asoka, Buddhist

About the author
Jim Pym was born and brought up a Roman Catholic. Following a crises of faith, he discovered Buddhism in his early 20s. Two years later he attended his first Quaker meeting. He has worked at Friends House for over eighteen years. Along with Margot Tennyson, he is the founder of the Friends Interfaith Group. With a particular interest in prayer and meditation, he is a member of the Friends Fellowship of Healing, the National Federation of Spiritual Healers, the World Congress of Faiths, the Alister Hardy Society (for the study of spiritual experience) and a Buddhist/Christian group which has met for more than ten years. The book The Pure Principle tackles questions that have arisen in more than twenty-five years of work and facilitating interfaith conferences and retreats for Friends and others, and shares some of the authors discoveries. The Pure Principle is available from Sessions of York, The Ebor Press, York YO31 9HS, England.

He alone will obtain an excellent end – Who does good to others, and knows not how to reproach them, Who is merciful to all creatures, and cherishes cattle; And in the desert gives water to the thirsty: Who is calm and never blames any. - Tukaram, Hindu

Even in error deem not the God of the Hind us to be other than the God of the Muslims, worship the one God, recognise the Enlightener. All men have the same human form. In all men blazes the same divine light. Love all God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love each separate thing. If you love each thing then you will perceive the mystery of God in all, then you will thenceforth grow every day to a fuller understanding. – Feodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazo v



YO G A Life Winter 2001

The Gift of the Guru
~ The Sivananda Yoga Life
By Srinivasan
By the grace of the all-compassionate guru, the light of the world, the remover of the endless suffering from the tyranny of the ego bound in ignorance, I give thanks for the precious opportunity to lead the yoga life.

wami Vishnu-devananda has brought us the guru in the physical form of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. Enlightened by his devotion to the guru, Swami Vishnuji built an infrastructure of yoga life upon his own example of tireless selfless service, and a pure vision of ‘Unity in diversity’. Through Swami Vishnuji’s all encompassing faith in the spiritual presence of the guru, in the saintly perfection of Swami Sivananda, he gave this vision to the world. He gave us the yoga sadhana, a passion for his master’s liberating writings, and a mission of selfless service of humanity that now make up the central ingredients of the Sivananda yoga life. Swamiji had the gift of translating the traditional spiritual yoga practices to be accessible to all, no matter what national, religious or cultural barriers may have stood in the way. From the asanas and pranayama, to the sacred Indian scriptures, the Sanskrit mantras and devotional chanting, Swamiji made yoga so much more accessible to the modern world. Thus Sivananda yoga life is action harmonized in the vedantic knowledge of the unity of life, skillfully cultivated through the systematic practice of yoga sadhana. The guru’s grace takes form through this transforming sadhana, guided by compassionate vision, unconditional love, and the living example of the yoga masters. Like many people, I spent much of my youth in search of Truth. I studied books and ‘experimented with Truth’ in politics, religion and relationships. Yet, habitual attachments and prejudices, arrogance, and an unmanageable ego stifled all my isolated attempts. Upon completion of studies at the University of California at Berkeley, I set off on a more interior study of introspection, prayer and meditation, searching for divine guidance in the sacred natural wonders of the American wilderness. Yet without the anchor of a spiritual tradition to hold a steady course of sadhana and a teacher to help remove the impurities from my vision, instead of establishing myself in truth and compassion, I


slipped deeper into an isolated emotional world. After a series of hard knocks of karma, I finally surrendered my ego enough to pray for a teacher. Almost instantly, in what I have since come to believe as a continuous stream of miracles, my prayers were answered and I was led to the Sivananda Ashram headquarters in Val Morin, Quebec and the disciplined yoga life of Swami Vishnu-devananda. For twenty-three years I have walked this liberating path of selfless service, self-discipline, self-study and meditation – mostly under the direct guidance of Swami Vishnuji. I do not claim to have attained liberation or God-realization, or even to have conquered this impulsive ego. Yet each day that I move ahead step by step with sadhana and service, I gain a little more control over the mind, and by so doing my life is filled with more peace, joy, compassion, and beauty. The yoga life has become life’s great adventure, a journey of love and courage amidst failures and setbacks, a path of conscious spiritual transformation. Next to the masters who have trodden this path before me, I feel like a clumsy child, struggling to develop the courage, humility, will-power, concentration and discrimination to live the ‘divine life’ of yoga. Yet finding the guiding hand and limitless compassion of the guru at every difficult step to lead me on, I have developed a profound patience and faith. I have experienced the divine life as ‘skill in action’ witnessing the heroic life and liberation of Swami Vishnu-devananda. I have known perfection through Swamiji’s eyes of loving devotion to his beloved master, Swami Sivananda. I have seen a thousand miracles in the spiritual transformations of countless gurubais, staff and students who have been inspired by Swamiji and his disciples to practice this path of yoga. The exemplary lives of these masters of yoga clearly point to the simple nature of Truth. The guru embodies Truth by guilelessly living the ‘divine life’ as a natural expression of self. Truth does not belong to anyone – not to

Swami Vishnu-devananda or Swami Sivananda, or to India, or to any particular religion, or even to the vast science of yoga. Yoga is the art of living the Love and Truth at the source of all religions, realized as God or Self by all saints and spiritual masters. But realizing Truth is inseparable from living it. For this we need a clearly marked path of yoga life. Then, both action and experience are perfected with absolute faith in the guru and the sadhana, the integrated discipline of heart, hand and intellect that he gives us. Through the Vedantic vision of ‘unity in diversity’ the masters call us to spiritualize the details of our daily lives in a continual service of the divine mission of living and teaching yoga. As Master Sivananda was so fond of reminding us, ‘Thou art divine! Live up to it!’ Or, as Jesus put it so simply and clearly, ‘Love thy neighbor as thy self.’ The yoga life calls us to cultivate the experience of Unity and put it into action through service, self-study, devotion and meditation. The yoga life develops strength, faith and wisdom to awaken unity of vision by practicing ceaseless selfless service as the natural expression of our true self. Patanjali refers to the ancient tradition of yoga life as kriya yoga in his yoga sutras. Tapas, (conquest of mind through self-discipline), swadhyaya, (conquest of the mind through knowledge of the self), and ishwara pranidhana, (conquest of the mind through surrender of our ego before the divine or God), are the disciplines needed to prepare the mind for concentration, meditation and transcendental experience or samadhi. In this living daily sadhana, ‘an ounce of practice’ is truly ‘worth tons of theory’. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers have been masterfully organized to immerse the staff and students in the yoga life, fulfilling the dharma or mission of the great yoga masters. According to Patanjali’s definition, tapas includes all sadhana, which destroy impurities and develop the powers of body and mind. Swami Vishnuji’s famous ‘Five

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Points for Health and Happiness’ form a complete routine of sattvic or pure tapas. ‘proper exercise, (asana); proper breathing, (pranayama); proper relaxation, (savasan); proper diet, (vegetarian); positive thinking (vedanta) and meditation, (dhyana); together comprise a universally accessible, yet comprehensive set of practices to destroy impurities and develop power of body and mind. Swadhyaya, that study which leads to knowledge of the self and union with one’s spiritual ideal or Ishta devata, forms the core of our daily Sivananda satsang. The japa meditation, the chanting, the vedantic reading or talk, and the universal prayers and mantras chanted for unity and world peace, all have been designed to help us know the self and to free ourselves from the ignorance of egoism. The rest of the day is devoted to selfless service, the key to freedom from the selfish lower nature and the pure expression of our essential nature as the immortal self. In this Sivananda yoga life, vedanta philosophy is brought to life with devotion. The practice of philosophy and devotion, which appear opposite to the untrained eye, are blended perfectly in the lives and practical teachings of our masters. Both Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnuji served with unconditional love driven by the absolute courage founded in the vedanta philosophy of the immortal, transcendental nature of the self. To quote Swami Sivananda, ‘divine wisdom, Godward devotion, universal compassion, spiritual service and inner purity – these are the five rays that emanate from a jnani, a self-realized sage’. Ishwara pranidhana is defined as the complete surrender of the ego and its wrong understandings, to the divine universal spirit of Truth and Love. It is also the basis of samadhi and all mystical experience. The guru naturally expresses this devotion with every act, every word, and every gesture. Through the eyes of the guru, God is the only reality. The objects of our attachment, as well as our fears of losing them, are based on infatuation, superimposed products of our ignorance. This idealistic philosophy is experienced as practical yoga life through the guru’s unfailing example. Finally, through divine grace under the protection of the guru, success in both karma yoga and sadhana is realized on a daily basis. The gurus, Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda, have opened this classic path of yoga life to countless hungry, waiting souls both East and West. They have inspired courage and faith through their faith in the inherent divinity of all who aspire for the Truth. From these awakened aspirants, they

have built an army of yoga teachers to spread the essential truths of spiritual life throughout the world. They taught that by the very act of living yoga sadhana, we shine as amsas, or rays of divine light, carrying the ancient yoga message of peace, love and unity. The guru, more than a mere man or woman, shines as divine light bringing this message to our direct experience, along with the sadhana needed to establish ourselves in the divine life. Through their pure vision and example we too become children of light in as much as we succeed in living the yoga life, mastering our bodies, senses, prana, emotions and intellect to become fit instruments of the divine. My best understanding of the universal role of the guru and the yoga life came from Swami Vishnuji’s last words to me as he departed to India for the last time from

Montreal’s Mirabel airport. Physically Swamiji was reduced to but a shell of a man. Yet from this frail shell shone the most divine light of someone who had completely surrendered his suffering to God. I believe the only thing that kept him in his body at that time was the will to offer his body up at the feet of the divine Mother at the Sri Mookambika Temple in Kollur. In the face of death, knowing that his physical body no longer served any purpose, Swamiji was all joy and compassion. As he was waiting to board his plane, he was still serving the group of devotees who accompanied him to the airport. He called me to his side, and though he was practically physically blind himself, gazed into my eyes with amazing love

and said, ‘ Be a good father.’ He paused, and then the divine twinkle burst forth in all radiance and he added, ‘Be not only a good father to Sivakami, [my daughter], and Laksmi, [my wife], but to the whole world! The whole world is your family.’ I could have taken these words as a call to come forward as a knight in shining armor, or as a prince called to take on some position of privilege and power, as the role of guru is so often misunderstood here in the West. But I knew Swamiji too well. To be a good father or mother is the most natural, universal duty of all who would take on the responsibility to maintain dharma in the world. Every child must eventually take on the responsibilities of an adult, and become a parent and thus a guardian of Truth and order. We learn to sacrifice personal interest for the interest of our children. For the yogi, this universal responsibility of caring for the family is expanded to the work and mission of the guru. The dharma given to each disciple becomes a direct personal application of the divine life. As the student grows in his or her ability to carry out this mission, the ‘family’ grows until it includes all of humanity. This growth is the real measure of success in yoga life. My deepest prayer is that this liberating dharma of Sivananda yoga life be open to all seekers of Truth and that we can all rise to our duties, blessed with the necessary discrimination, love, skill and vision to assume our birthright, and become instruments of the divine. To know the guru is to see God. To see God as Truth and love, and to live accordingly, is the divine life. To realize God and carry out His work is to be the guru. Swami Vishnu-devananda saw God first and foremost, unequivocally in his guru, Swami Sivananda, and in so doing became the guru himself. Thus the universal light of guru has inspired the Sivananda yoga life, our great masters’ mission, and their faith, teachings, and sadhana still guide us through their legacy of Sivananda Yoga Vedanta centers and ashrams. ■

About theacharya of the Sivananda Yoga author Srinivasan is
Vedanta Centers in New York and Chicago and currently based with his family at the beautiful Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch in New York’s Catskill Mountains.


YO G A Life Winter 2001

Health, Harmony and Peace of Mind Through Ayurveda
Dr. Mark Halpern

The journey toward perfect health and the journey toward enlightenment are in many ways parallel paths. As we grow and evolve as spirits, we learn to live in ever-greater harmony with our environment. Harmony brings peace of mind and, according to ayurveda, perfect health.


he term for perfect health in ayurveda is svastha. Literally translated svastha means ‘to be fully established in the Self’. Hence, when we are fully established in knowing our true nature as God, we express our full potential. This represents optimal health for that person. Ayurveda is a journey to perfect health, peace of mind and, ultimately, to enlightenment. By the very laws of Sankhya philosophy, human incarnation is disharmonious. Once incarnated, humanity forgets its true nature as spirit and lives as a physical being guided by the senses. This journey is one of the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain and suffering. This simplistic and, as some writers have stated, animalistic existence brings about both physical and emotional pain and suffering. The process of healing is the process of remembering. When a person remembers their true nature as spirit, they become empowered to master the senses and make choices that bring harmony, not pleasure. The fruit of this action is peace of

mind and well-being. When we live out of harmony we suffer. In the physical body suffering takes the form of pain and symptoms of disease. Ayurveda understands that these symptoms are simply the body’s voice communicating that we are living out of harmony. When we change our life and recreate a life of greater harmony, our bodies reflect this change. There is less suffering. The greater the change toward harmony, the more radiant the body becomes. The mind is no different. It is subtler, but the same laws apply. Symptoms of a diseased mind include unhappiness, depression, sadness, anxiety, anger and any other emotion other than peace of mind. These symptoms are also communicating that we are living out of harmony, that some aspect of our life is disharmonious. Healing is the process of returning to harmony. Once back in harmony the body and the mind have no reason to communicate symptoms. The body becomes

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at ease; the mind becomes at peace. In this state, awareness reawakens to its true nature as spirit. Self-realization has occurred and the individual soul continues its advance toward enlightenment. When Self-realization occurs twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, the door opens to becoming a jivan mukta; a liberated soul, and enlightenment ensues. Ayurveda teaches us that we are all unique individuals. We were conceived with a unique constitution or fundamental balance of energies that define who we are on the physical level. It defines what we are naturally attracted to and what causes us to move out of balance and experience disease. Depending on our constitution, we thrive in a particular environment. We take our environment in through the senses, which are the portals to our body and consciousness. The energies we take in either blend with us or disrupt our harmony. Proper diet (taste), aromas (smell), sounds (hearing), colors (vision), and touch are essential to maintaining internal equilibrium. When harmonious impressions are taken in, the body is healthy and the mind peaceful. When disharmonious impressions are taken in, the body and mind suffer. Hence, ayurveda focuses on helping individuals understand themselves as unique beings. With that understanding, a person can become empowered to make choices that are in harmony with who they are. Ayurveda teaches us that nothing is right for everyone but everything is right for someone. Ayurveda is the path of understanding what is right for you. Ayurveda also teaches us that it is not only the intake of sensory impressions that determines our well-being it is our lifestyle as a whole. Proper daily regimens are essential: a regular schedule that includes meditation, yoga practices, abhyanga (morning application of body oil), proper eating habits and proper hygiene brings about good health and peace of mind. When combined with proper intake of sensory impressions, the depth of the peace and well-being we experience is infinite. Creating a lifestyle in harmony with our constitution is not easy but it is the most important thing in life. The difficulty associated with the task causes many seekers of good health and peace of mind to give up. But why? Do we expect peace of mind, perfect health and enlightenment to be easy? If it were easy we would all have it and then why would we be here? Sankhya philosophy teaches us that we are only here to experience

The Three Constitutional Types and Their Path Toward Health, Harmony and Peace of Mind
Vata Individuals
The constitution of vata individuals contains a great deal of air and ether, which means they tend toward the qualities of coldness, lightness, dryness and instability. These qualities may be experienced as feeling cold easily, having a thin body structure, dry skin, a tendency to move quickly, difficulty staying focused and frequent changes of interests. These individuals have a lot of interests and often drift from teacher to teacher, job to job, and relationship to relationship. It is important for people with this constitution to follow a lifestyle that emphasizes opposite qualities. Warm or cooked heavy foods provide nurturing and grounding. Oil in the food and applied to the body alleviates dryness. Regular routines and disciplines create stability and improve focus. nature. Pitta individuals tend to complete what they begin before moving on to the next goal. They enjoy the satisfaction of completion but experience emotional and physical turmoil when failing or losing. People of pitta nature are balanced by a lifestyle that emphasizes cool and dry impressions through the senses as well as greater spontaneity and playfulness. For example, raw salads and foods that are not too spicy are best. These individuals find it easy to adopt routines, but more playfulness and less seriousness is needed to bring balance.

Kapha Individuals
The constitution of kapha individuals contains great amounts of earth and water. These people tend toward the qualities of heaviness, coldness, oiliness and stability. They tend to move slowly, act slowly and stick with the routines they develop. Their challenge can be in adopting new routines, as change is difficult. These individuals also have a tendency toward becoming overweight and lethargic. People of kapha nature require the qualities of lightness, dryness and warmth to bring them balance. Light, spicy cooked foods are best. Oils are to be avoided. A routine emphasizing spontaneity and movement is essential.

Pitta Individuals
The constitution of pitta individuals contains a great deal of fire and a small amount of water. These people tend to feel hot, have oily skin and a moderate body build. They tend to be focused, goal oriented individuals with a competitive and intense creation and re-learn about ourselves as spirit. The journey of our learning is the journey of the soul finding its way back to God. If we knew everything, what would there be to experience and learn? Each of us must simply do our best and realize that growing toward perfect health and enlightenment takes time. With this attitude, wherever we are on the journey is perfect. We can love ourselves in spite of our perceived imperfections. With self-love comes patience. Patience is a peaceful tool to carry on the journey toward both perfect health and enlightenment. Hari Om Tat Sat ■

About the author
Dr Mark Halpern is the founder and director of the College of Ayurveda. He is also a founding member of the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine.

44 YO G A Life Winter 2001

The Beginning
by Maneka Gandhi from the book The Rainbow and other Stories

of the



o see the world. When you are done with the sea and the mountains and the shopping malls, trek barefoot through a corner of the world’s weariest, dreariest desert. Should you stub your foot against something, look down and you might be surprised by what you find. It begins as a glimmer, a shimmer, then a fiery red flash and suddenly you realise you’re looking at a ruby! The largest and loveliest ever beheld. Dig furiously. You will find millions more. They lie just beneath the surface – sky fulls, harems full, more than your greed and imagination can even encompass. Everywhere you look there are gems. Emeralds, sapphires, topaz, amethysts, carnelians, opals, diamonds, turquoise, garnets, moonstones, peridots, jaspers, agates… No, it’s not a mirage, they’re all really there – winking and blinking in the blinding sun after centuries of being blown about and buried by the sand. And beneath this fabulous, forgotten treasure lies buried a tale. It is a sad story just as all stories that have autocrats and power and greed and little intelligence are inevitably tragedies, no matter how long they take to unfold. It begins right where you stand. Here, in this place of scorched desolation, once stood the most fertile and flourishing kingdom on earth – Khumarat. The weather was equable, the soil was rich, forests grew abundantly, lakes and rivers flowed generously and a cool breeze blew gently through the land. Nature gave freely of her gifts and the people used them wisely and well. Animals and trees, flowers and birds, people and water, each creation sustained and respected the other. And then came a new king. He wasn’t actually from Khumarat. But the Princess Royale whose insatiable curiosity had taken her around the world in a caravan, had met him on her travels, and fallen instantly and hugely in love. That’s because everything about him was huge. He was a great big man with a huge laugh, a huge stomach, a huge shock of hair, huge grasping hands, and a huge appetite. The princess who was a thin, bloodless little thing had

been attracted immediately to his bigness, his booming anger and blaring laugh. When he swung her around she felt giddy, when he held her she felt safe, enclosed in his enormous embrace. And so Azrakhsh became king. Once he was crowned, the princess became increasingly irrelevant. Her bleached little voice became thinner and thinner and her presence became more and more shadowy till she disappeared altogether and so insignificant had been her persona that no one thought to ask for her at all. And no one noticed that one by one all the wise old courtiers who had all these years kept this little kingdom so happy and healthy, began to disappear too. They were replaced by clever young men who moved and shook in tight little clusters all over the palace and chattered incessantly, looking slyly over their shoulders all the while. Ideas to ‘progress’ and ‘develop’ pingponged from room to room. Whizkids and bizkids were brought in from all over the world and to them was entrusted the tremendous task of coming up with new and improved solutions for all of the country’s ‘problems’. What these ‘problems’ were, nobody was quite certain – but of course every nation must have some. Otherwise why would they need a king and government at all? These little masterminds went to work, whirring and churning furiously. They locked themselves up into little rooms and pounded and smashed and blasted their way through hundreds of inventions. All day long runners ran all over the palace and there was lots of rustling and bustling as they poured in from all over the kingdom with most urgent packages and papers. Then there was lots of banging and clanging as they hammered away feverishly, making all manner of widgets and gadgets and gizmos and oddrods that went clinkety clankety boom. At last all of these were pounded and fitted into each other so that the final contraption that emerged resembled a bizarre gargantuan metallic creature, a sort of mix



between a kettle and a kangaroo with a bit of octopus thrown in. At one end it had a large funnel which spiralled and curled and dipped and dived until it ended in a row of spouts opening onto a feeder tray. The principle on which it worked seemed simple enough. Something was fed into the machine which reacted with the ore inside it. An assortment of gases were then swooshed in along with a can of instant solution and the substance crystallized and hardened until cut and dried pieces dropped through the spouts. The special ore for the machine had been extracted from the bottom of the country’s main lake. The lake had been dug and tunnelled and burrowed and furrowed till in exasperation it had given up trying to hold its water and creatures together and had just curled up and dried. And what about the material that was to be fed into the machine? It came not from any far off mountain or fathoms deep riverbed nor from any rare plant or planet. In fact the beauty of the machine lay in the easy availability of its raw feedstock. What did this raw material cost? Absolutely nothing – it was, literally, going cheep cheep or, quite literally for a song. For the machine, quite simply, ate birdcalls. The notes were poured into the funnel from where they slid smoothly into the belly of the beast which rumbled and shook as the various elements tumbled and jostled together. The sound was distilled into form, and what finally emerged was a glittering assortment of shiny jewels with different tunes and tones producing different gems. Brilliant. Truly truly brilliant. King Azrakhsh was overjoyed. The genius inventors preened and swelled at their creation. They were lauded and feted and anointed chief advisors to His Majesty. They provided him with a simple chart that showed which song converted into which stone. For example, the noisy twittering of parrots turned into lime-green peridots, the melodious chip-chalp outpourings of warblers metamorphosed into olivines, the deep koonk koonk echoing call of the crane came out as amethyst, the kuk-kuk chattering whistles of the woodpecker became

garnets, the sweet fluting of the sunbird transformed into golden amber, the creaky screeches of vultures turned into zircons, the deep rhythmic crooning of doves became pearls, the musical trill of the babbler converted into translucent tourmaline, the plaintive tu-hoo of the night owl turned into milky moonstones, the swallow’s cheerful low chit-chit became iridescent opalines, the harsh cry of the peacock came out as glorious green-blue emeralds… The list ran into thousands of species of birds because the climate was so salubrious, the vegetation so abundant and the terrain so varied that all sorts of birds had made it their home. Besides the crows and woodpeckers, the sparrows and swallows, there were kingfishers and cuckoos and flamingos and chickadees, tits and godwits, darters, swifts, noddys and whistlers, whiteyes and whitethroats, rubycheeks and rubythroats, frogmouths and pintails, pies and peewits, knots and curlews, pigeons and wigeons, ruffs and shags, thickheads and thickness, chats and chiffchaffs, coots and boobies, nuthatches and loons, hornbills and spoonbills, flycatchers, bee eaters, oystercatchers, cowbirds and goatsuckers, quails and rails, stately swans and cheeky robins, koels and nightingales. And because there was such an extraordinary mix and match of birds and songs, some of the jewels that poured out were completely new. A committee was therefore set up to name them and after great deliberation they were christened with names like ambrosine, quisqualis, flammande, rubrica, casperite and verdenia. Men were sent abroad to advertise their beauty and quickly create markets for them. But that is jumping ahead. What happened to the birds? Weasly little men, their eyes bright with hunger and desire, poured into the kingdom and fanned out with their nets and ladders, armed with special badges signed by the king that gave them right of way over the people of the land. They entered fields and forests, they hid in the tall meadow grasses and skulked in the shallows of riverbeds, they climbed trees and scaled rooftops. You saw one of these dark

46 YO G A Life Winter 2001

shadowy creatures about and then you heard the single wailing cry of a warbler followed by a thump as it hit the ground. Or the despairing quaver of a nestling as its mother was snatched away struggling and pecking at the mesh that entrapped her. And what did the good people of Khumarat do? Nothing. They held small village meetings and talked and talked and wrote letters to the small village newspapers and some of them decided to go to the king with a petition but then they all got so busy with the harvest and new babies being born and school and work and all life’s daily rituals that they never actually made the journey. In any case, they reassured themselves, the king and his advisors knew best. That was, after all, their job. And so the plunder continued. Little by little, as the machine gobbled up more and more birdsong, the kingdom fell silent. There were no more dawn choruses as the first beams of light gentled the black of night into grey, no monotonous droning to lull through the hot haze of the day, no evocative roosting calls from the treetops at dusk. No silly laughter, no raucous chatter, no scattered snatches, no fragile feeble notes from far off that keep the traveller company, no strident high-pitched calls to scare off the forest poacher, no eerie wailing or mournful ghostly hoots to break the night’s restless sleep, no jagged torrents of sound to welcome the rain. No gobbles and squawks, chirrups and cronks and anxious enquiries that run from didhedoit? to youallthere? And what happened to these mute birds of Khumarat? Shorn of their songs, they gradually perished. Unlike humans, birds cannot survive without their voices. They have a poor sense of smell, and sound is their major means of communication. Birds have huge vocabularies and use different calls to convey different messages – there are feeding whistles and mating cavatinas and territorial tromboning.

Crows and gulls, for example, live in groups and when one finds food, its raucous calls summon all the others to the feast. Birds like terns and kittiwakes live in crowded breeding colonies on cliffsides. Parent birds returning with food hover above until they can identify their young by their individual calls from the nest. The babies’ cries act as homing beacons for the adult bird who then swoops down to drop food into their gaping bills. In fact, just like in humans, among all bird species it is the young one’s cry that alerts parents to its hunger. Parent birds actually only feed their babies when they cry out and open their bills wide for food. But now, no bird babies could cry so no food was given. And that was the end of the baby birds. They all starved to death, their mouths agape in silent screams of hunger. Apart from feeding, birds use their voices to recognise and locate mates, parents, offspring, friends and enemies. Without sound, a bird cannot intimate another of its intentions, feelings, direction or even sex. Contact calls are recognisable by all other members of the species. Without them the group will fall apart. For instance, when a flock of birds descends on a field to eat, after feeding as the flock readies to leave, the bird in front starts to call and each bird in turn replies signalling its readiness to fly. When the last bird responds, the flock streams away. Should a laggard be left behind, it flies up and continues to call till it is able to make contact with the flock which will then come back even in midflight to pick up its straying member. This ensures that birds that belong together stay together. But now, minus any sound, flocks broke up in confusion and lost, lonely birds whirled round and round in tight, anxious circles till they dropped dead of exhaustion. Nor could birds locate their nests again. Because, when one partner leaves in search of food, upon return it gives a landing call which is picked up only by its mate who then guides it back using a persistent, resonating call until it is safely back in the nest. Similarly, when birds like motmots and barbets go out in pairs to find food, they keep in touch through the dense undergrowth with a distinctive duet. Parties of songbirds do the same as they work their way through the foliage of a wood. But now, suddenly struck dumb, they lost each other and their nests and died homeless and abandoned. Similarly, raptor fledglings just learning to fly could not return to the safety of their nests after testing their wings. This is because parents guard their homes jealously and young ones must identify themselves through a certain call. In the absence of this call, any approaching bird is treated as an intruder, attacked and either killed or driven away. So all the eagle and kite babies were killed and the entire species wiped out.

Little by little, as the machine gobbled up more and more birdsong, the kingdom fell silent.
Birds also use sound to establish boundaries. This saves the time and energy which would otherwise be wasted in fighting over territory. Each bird demarcates its area with a call. Male birds call to attract females and warn off other males. But with their voices squeezed out of them bird rivals stumbled upon each other all the time and were forced to fight endlessly. Grimly and silently, adversaries weaved through the air, making short and fierce sorties



towards each other till both fell to the ground and lay there gasping in the heat, too tired to find food or water or anything. None of them knew any more where their homes lay nor which area belonged to whom. But the fighting and killing continued all the same. Apart from protecting birds from each other, sound also serves as a warning system for birds against other creatures. All small birds use abrupt alarm calls to alert the attention of other birds to a predator’s stealthy approach and ruin its chances of a surprise attack. Shorn of this vital protection, birds fell easy prey to wild animals, and snakes and cats had a field day. Sound is also a component of a bird’s mating ritual and among the most attractive bird sounds are the wooing cooing calls with which males must win their mates. These range from silky seductive yodels to brassy brazen trumpeting, florid flouncy falsettos, rough gruff cronks, sharp insistent honks, brusque bristly plunks, faltering fluttering burbles and swollen mellifluous sobbing. Each male bird courts the female with his melody until she picks the song she likes best and its singer. But if no one serenades the female, she remains single. So now in the absence of any song, birds no longer courted or mated or nested or had babies or families. Even birds that were already paired, forgot how to make or lay eggs. Songs are an integral part of the breeding cycle. They first get the female into the mood. Then they spur egg laying. Female doves, for instance, need the cooing of their mates to stimulate the development of their eggs while female canaries will build better nests and lay more eggs if more cadenzas are sung by their mates who invent quite wonderful and complicated tunes to ‘egg’ them on. But now in speechless protest birds gave up breeding altogether. Hungry and confused, they lost their homes and children and memory and died fighting imaginary battles in a land they could not recognise as their own any more. And slowly and silently the birds disappeared altogether. Not that anyone noticed or cared because they were so bedazzled by what was taking place all around them. Everywhere you looked there were mountains of jewels. Livid purple-black amandines, honey-yellow amber, iridescent aventurines, flaming cornelians, translucent citrines, celestial opals, greasy jaspers, albino moonstones, smoky topazes and spinels, diamonds, zircons, rubies, sapphires, pearls… they spilled out of the palace and its grounds in glorious profusion. All day labourers lugged them out by the sackful and threw them onto unwieldy heaps that grew and grew till they spread across every village in the land. Miles and miles of piles and piles. Of course no one was allowed to touch any because they all belonged to the king. Big burly men stood guard over each precious mound. Petty pilferers were locked up for life. But even then nobody minded. For what did it matter? Soon these jewels would be sold and they would make everybody rich beyond belief. And sold they were, all the time, with all the money going into the king’s pet projects – big buildings, big bridges, big dams, big power plants. As the money multiplied, so did the king’s appetite. Villagers breathed and choked on cement dust as skyscrapers were built and rebuilt to make them even larger and grander. The woodlands around the villages were cut down for smoking, belching factories that produced essentials like printed plastic umbrellas, canned confectionery, hair-dyes and pimple creams, all of which disappeared to foreign markets to earn yet more money. And did the people of Khumarat get any richer? Not a whit. But they continued to live in hope, and when the gluttonous king and his garrulous group of imported advisors came by on their tours, they were still hailed and cheered lustily. Even the prisoners who had been locked up in stockades outside each village for attempting to

steal a stone or two, applauded. No one remembered the birds or mourned their passing. At least not in the human world. Not yet. But everywhere else they were deeply missed. Buffaloes missed their daily grooming, having their lice and fleas tweaked off carefully; snakes missed their breakfast eggs; squirrels missed the prefab shelters that birds’ nests offered. With the birds gone there was no one to carry seeds and distribute pollen, there was no crazy fluttering and flapping to cool the flowers, no pretty beaks dipping into swollen cups of nectar. The flowers grew lonely and began to wilt and die too. And along with the flowers went all the myriad and magical insects that live on them and unseen by us enrich the soil, ploughing and turning it

With the birds gone there was no one to carry seeds and distribute pollen, there was no crazy fluttering and flapping to cool the flowers, no pretty beaks dipping into swollen cups of nectar.
to make it fertile. With no pollen or insects to feed on, soon there were no more bees and butterflies so even fewer plants pollinated and regenerated. The once dense green woods began to shrink and shrivel. And as the tree cover diminished, the rainfall reduced too. The earth could no longer sprout food so generously. Fruit trees became bare, wild grasses and berries grew scarce. The animals began to disappear as well. Frogs could no longer find insects to eat, snakes could no longer find frogs and so on. An irreversible chain of destruction had been set into motion. And as plant and animal species dwindled and died away, their place was taken by tough survivors like weeds, rodents, mosquitoes and locusts that multiplied to fill up the emptiness. And these gobbled up all the available land and food so that famine spread. As they lost their habitat, animals were forced to wander afield in search of food. Monkeys with hungry babies clinging to their bellies risked their lives foraying into human territory to snatch a piece of bread here, a bit of biscuit there. Timid deer steeled themselves to venture into fields, hoping for a little grass. Elephants and rhinos were forced to flee as jungles turned into barren swamps. Often this trespassing cost the animals their lives as they were electrocuted by wires, stoned and shooed off. Worst of all, the animals offended the sensibilities of the king and his court. ‘Animals have no place in a civilised modern country. We must destroy this menace,’ they shrieked. So the animals were declared ‘vermin’ and the same ghastly ghouls who had finished off the birds now rubbed their hands and set about their new task with even greater relish. And so these desperate animals were hunted down and killed one by one. After the deer and monkeys were gone, it was the turn of the big cats. With no food left in the jungle and very little jungle left either, lions and tigers, cheetahs and panthers, leopards and wolves and foxes had no choice but to puck on one another or maybe a passing human. They were promptly declared ‘man-eaters’ and ordered to be exterminated as well. Soon the forest was empty of all its animals. The woods began to wither and waste away. And thus it

48 YO G A Life Winter 2001

came about that the dying of the birds brought in a brooding wasteland where nothing grew and nothing could survive. But did the foolish greedy king care? No, not yet. The weather began to turn. With no trees or even scrub to slow them down or soften their lashing, marauding winds whipped through the land. These winds blew and blew. They wailed like funeral mourners, chasing people indoors, and then buffeting and banging against the doors. They swept up the sands and scattered them all across the country. The sparkling clear waters of the lakes and rivers which till now had been brimming with life started to dry up. They were being choked by the savage winds that tore over the ravaged land, swirling sand into the lakes and brooks, streams and tributaries, and silting them all up. So while the kingdom was awash in gems and jewels, there was now neither water nor vegetation. But cocooned in his castle, neither the king nor his courtiers heard the wind howling or felt its sting. All day long hungry children cried piteously, adding their howls to that of the savage winds. Finally the wailing reached such an unbearable pitch that it even reached the palace. ‘What do these ungrateful people want?’ pouted the king. ‘Isn’t Khumarat the richest nation in the world? Haven’t we brought in more wealth than they could ever dream about? Are we not the envy of the whole world whose ambassadors constantly beg us to create similar machines for them?’ And he went back to making money. But the princess understood. Seated at her lonely lookout she had watched with dismay as her beloved green country turned into a sullen brown scar. She had trembled with fear as the desolate barren landscape first seen on the distant horizon came creeping right up to the palace wall, swallowing everything in its wake. Instead of becoming happier and healthier, her people were shrivelled and sallow with hollow cheeks and hollow coughs. ‘What have I done, what have I done,’ despaired the princess. More important, what should she do now, for something just had to be done and there was no one else to do it. The king and his courtiers were too busy churning out and counting up sparkling jewels to be bothered. So mustering up all her courage, the princess managed to squeeze out a strangle muffled whispery wheeze addressed to her husband. ‘Please, dear,’ she choked, ‘my people are dying. They need food, not diamonds. They need grain and water. Please give them back their rivers and forests.’ ‘Nonsense, girl, can’t you see how wealthy we’ve become? Your people are just a bunch of miserable complainers.’ And he tried unsuccessfully to pull her onto his lap for he had become so monstrously swollen and engorged with gluttony that he could no longer move at all or even balance properly. His small close-set eyes had disappeared into folds of flab, his brain had been swaddled by suet and his tiny heart had been buried and compressed by mammoth mounds of flesh. The princess shuddered. This was the man she had inflicted on her people. ‘Please sir,’ she persisted, her voice growing a shade stronger, ‘I’d like my country back the way it was.’ ‘That’s not possible,’ said Azrakhsh tetchily. ‘I cannot bring back the rivers and forests. And that’s the end of that.’ But the princess would not go away. Her accusing eyes followed him everywhere, her voice grew shriller every day. ‘All right woman, I’m tired of your nagging. Let’s just buy what we need from the other kingdoms.’

And so for a time an uneasy peace prevailed as jewels were bartered for food and essentials. But pretty soon the jewels began to run out too. The vast stores of birdsong had been gradually exhausted and now there were no more birds to replenish it. The outsize overworked machine creaked to a halt and then gratefully collapsed in a heap of nuts, bolts and scrap metal. The king was livid, his courtiers scurried for cover. But the princess pursued him relentlessly – her eyes now flintlike, jagged steel. ‘Well, we still have our factories, don’t we? We’ll just stop exporting and use the stuff here’ blustered the king, avoiding her gaze. But there was only so much plastic and pimple cream that Khumarat needed. Besides, without raw materials like wood and coal and water, even these factories couldn’t operate very much longer and soon they too shuddered to a standstill. The princess’s eyes blazed fire and her voice dripped venom. ‘I’ll tell you what,’ faltered the fat king, ‘we’ll just ask the other kingdoms for some trees and lakes.’ But there was none for the asking. All the rulers of all the other lands refused to part with a single stick or stream. Or even birds to feed the machine if it was repaired. ‘We sold you food and water as long as your rubies and diamonds lasted,’ they said, ‘but we will not give you our water and woods. You will just have to create your own.’ So he snapped his fat fingers and ordered his clever courtiers to invent rivers and jungles. ‘No more jewels,’ he screamed. ‘Start making water and woods.’ ‘With what?’ they cried back. ‘We need rain to have trees. We need trees to bring rain. How to begin when there is neither?’ ‘All right then just grow food and grass,’ the king insisted. But not all their cunning could do that. ‘We need fertile soil to grow crops. We need manure to fertilise the soil. We need animals to produce manure. We need plants to feed animals. We need seeds to grow plants. We need birds to bring seeds. And we have no birds left which is why we got into this mess in the first place.’ Too late these quickfix-its realised the connectedness of all life, how each bug, beetle, butterfly and bird is part of an intricate design, and that in its survival lies our own. One night Azrakhsh and his men simply disappeared into the darkness. No one ever heard from them again. A few rumors wafted in of the king having built himself a huge palace several kingdoms away but everyone was too exhausted to care. A few villagers straggled across the borders but most were too hungry and tired to make the journey. The princess locked herself into her room and was never seen again. Her palace and the rest of the kingdom slowly sank below sand and Khumarat vanished forever.

Maneka Gandhi is one of India’s leading environmentalists and a well-known animal activist. She is the chairperson of People For Animals as well as Rugmark, an NGO which rescues bonded children. A crusader for vegetarianism and the author of books on subjects as diverse as mythology, etymology and animals, Maneka Gandhi is also a columnist, and a television and radio personality. Maneka Gandhi has been a minister in three Indian governments. The Rainbow & Other Stories is available from all good bookstores in India.


YO G A Life Winter 2001

Prison Project Update...
he project is going extremely well. Donations continue to pour in steadily, letters are abundant and those prisoners fortunate enough to have classes in their correctional facilities are advancing beautifully. Occasionally I receive news from Sivananda trained teachers of classes they are giving in both male and female prisons. If you are doing this or know of someone else who is, please let me know so that we can keep a record, and get a sense of how widespread our teachings are. We were invited to give talks on Hinduism and yoga at a local prison, to a very lively theological group there. They loved the talk and the asana demonstration and could hardly wait to ask a great number of questions. One of the participants is now in communication with me and is interested in delving into sadhana seriously. In May I visited Emilio, a prisoner in Virginia, for the second time. This time I was greeted at the gate by his
Swami Padmapadananda


counsellor, who gave me a VIP tour of the prison, including the inmates’ dormitories and a personal introduction to the prison head and several officers. I was always addressed as ‘Swamiji’, which is quite a change for them from the usual ‘Father’ or ‘Brother’ terminology. I was happy, even a little incredulous, to feel my different tradition so respectfully accepted, considering the area is part of ‘bible belt’ country. Emilio and I sat alone in a private office and had a wonderful conversation. We sang bhajans and talked of Master and Swamiji amongst other things. Before my departure Emilio received mantra initiation and the name Hanuman. One officer touched my heart indelibly when he told me that he burns a candle at his home twenty-four hours a day in the hope of Emilio’s parole. Hanuman mentioned he could hardly wait to come to the Yoga Ranch and share in the fullness of ashram life. On July 12th after many years of incarceration, as if in a dream, Emilio was transferred to a work centre. Here there are no iron bars. It is the last stop before going home. ■

Letters from Prisoners

Beloved Brother Swami Padmapadananda, Thank you again for your kind and caring words of inspiration and spiritual comfort… Bless you! I’ve been maintaining my peace and harmony on a daily basis. Though there is always a flux of mixed energies here, including much darkness and foolishness, I am continuing to allow my true divine Self to remain in control; to daily anchor ‘mega-tons’ of spiritual light, love and compassion. The dorm experience can be quite challenging and I crave quiet solitude. But I do have little moments to meditate, pray and chant. I am practising self-mastery of my thoughts, emotions and words. Thus, instead of ‘entering into, then exiting from’, a blissful, loving state, I’m practising actually being an embodiment of Buddha, or a bodhisatva. After my release, I hope to know the Grass Valley Ashram on a more personal basis. (I think I already mentioned my release date of mid 2001.) Perhaps one day I will come to your ashram in Woodbourne and meet with you and others there. My dear brother, I appreciate your spiritual love. Thank you for your correspondence. I am truly grateful for your heart of love. May Spirit continue to bless you and all the people at the International Sivananda Yoga Centres. Peace unto you! Your brother serving Spirit in Corcoran D.B., California.

a Dear Swami Padmapadanand the booklet ‘Ask eive your letter, as well as I was very pleased to rec ered some questions I let immensely, which answ Swamiji!’ I enjoyed the book ng spiritual guidance. I very interested in receivi had been curious about. I am of me still does not result of my karma, yet part know that my situation is the physical level, but still g something on a mental or accept this. It’s like knowin A man is trapped inside dge on the spiritual plane. not appreciating this knowle cannot escape and yet he possible exit; he knows he of a concrete box with no mind there is still a because deep inside of his beats and kicks the walls, karma. I must learn and the concrete box is my spark of hope. I am that man I can purify myself. us on the present in which to accept my karma and foc from you again. I look forward to hearing Sincerely, J.M., Texas

A Passing Note by John Randall Pope, Florida State Prison
Today at breakfast, there was no spoon with my food tray. The grits were rapidly getting cold and my desire for cereal and peanut butter (I’m a vegan) was at an all-time high as I had done japa and meditation for two and a half hours beforehand. The mind jumped up saying, ‘I ought to shout to the correctional officer!’ Or, ‘I ought to wait until they pick up trays!’ But the watcher watched and listened. Then the seer decided to use an old cup, tearing a piece off and using it as a spoon. How else would the body have hot grits for breakfast, instead of letting the mind argue about it? Once a friend asked me, ‘John, do you know where the mind comes from?’ I don’t know where the mind comes from, but I know from my experience of life, that it has caused me to get into more trouble than I care to mention. Yes! The mind is always trying to squeeze itself into the picture – I would rather it find a corner and be quiet. Just be quiet. Peace, peace and peace.