Monthly Archives: October 2021

The Gift We Can Give to Gurudevi

By Pat (Sumati) Morrison, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney`

I went up for Gurudevi’s darshan.  My mouth was flapping around but nothing came out.  Gurudevi came close and said, “Use your words.”  I said, “I don’t know what to say, what to give you.”  Gurudevi said, “For you to know the Self, that is the gift you could give me.”

Besides the Ashram buildings, we have the virtual Ashram with freebies and online programs.  Then there’s the essence of the Ashram, which is Grace.  It permeates everything. 

During the pandemic, I couldn’t visit the Ashram.  But I didn’t feel the need to be physically there.  I did lots of Zoom programs and felt very supported by the virtual Ashram.  I enjoyed the wonderful sense of community with other yogis.  It felt like the Ashram was here whether or not I was doing programs.  I felt it while doing mundane things.  Even so, it’s important to have a physical place for Gurudevi to be.  She has planted the Shakti there. 

I know that Grace is always present, not just in certain places.  It’s not only in Gurudevi’s presence.  That knowing comes from beyond my mind.  Though I’ve never felt Shakti the way others speak of it, I’m more aware of the effect.  Thus I know that the Shakti is really strong at the Ashram.  But whether I’m physically at the Ashram or at home, the most important thing is Gurudevi.  Being in her presence and seeing her in the flesh — whether on-site or online — that is the most important. 

I’ve known Gurudevi for a long time.  When she was Rama Berch, she was an awesome asana teacher.  As she deepened, she brought me and everybody else along with her.  I know her energy and everything she has created for us.  There is her love for us, her caring and her interest in us. That’s what she exists for, to bring us all along.

Yet there’s something beyond all that.  It’s what she is.  It’s like Self meeting Self with her.  It’s like seeing your Self reflected back to you.  And it’s the best version of yourself that is possible.  She models that for us.  Her conviction that this is possible for us is incredibly powerful.

I was doing every Yoga Wednesday on Zoom.  I really yearned for that connection to the Ashram.  It was important to be with Gurudevi and the swamis online, mornings and evenings.  Then I went to the Ashram for a retreat last August.  It was so wonderful that when I went home, I was full.  Though I still feel I don’t need anything, I realize that I can’t consistently sustain the depths.  I know I need more practice.  I’m staying with it.  I’m staying in the flow of Grace. 

Bliss Quotient

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Every person has a baseline requirement for bliss, which is your Bliss Quotient (BQ).  When you’re not meeting your BQ, you go looking for something to create bliss.  Unfortunately, the places you look have side effects.  If the side effects damage your health, your mind, or your life, it is called “addiction”.  Drugs and alcohol have been fairly easy to identify as addictions. Now food, work and exercise are also identifiable addictions. 

Yet all of these things can be catalysts to the experience of bliss and are being used to meet your basic BQ.  A famous writer once described how he decided to live in bliss by staying high on LSD all the time.  He discovered after several days that it was impossible, because he couldn’t handle basic life needs (like eating), and because the side effects were damaging his body.  So he decided to go to the bliss experts, the yogis in India. 

The teachings of the ancient sages describe that your desire for bliss is a desire to know your own nature, but you’re currently cut off from yourself.  Yoga or “union” is the resolving of this inner split so that you experience the natural bliss of your own Being.  This internal split shows up in the endless conversations you have with yourself inside your head.  It shows in your posture and habitual facial expression, in your relationships (which often have a disturbingly repetitive quality), in your Freudian slips and more.  It is easier to point out others’ internal splits than to see your own.  Yet the split is there, or you would be living in constant bliss, and you wouldn’t need anything external to trigger it.

Bliss that is triggered by externals is temporary bliss.  If your bliss comes from skiing, you’ll only be in bliss while you’re skiing, or while you’re talking about skiing, or planning to go skiing, or buying skiing supplies and magazines, etc.  Your focus on skiing will be complete, because skiing is your catalyst to bliss.  All your friends will take up skiing, or you’ll make new friends with the people you meet on skis.

Yoga says there’s nothing wrong with skiing.  The problem is that your bliss is temporary; it only happens when you’re skiing. You have a low BQ.  Where’s your bliss when you’re eating or sleeping?  What about your work and relationships, or when you’re stuck in a traffic jam? You’re stuck with “dependent bliss”, meaning your bliss depends on something outside of you and is only temporary.  Also, your skiing bliss is only partial.  You’re not a “perfect” skier.  You may fall down, or your form is imperfect.  Or perhaps you’re really good at it but your mind is running the litany of all your problems.  Where’s your bliss? 

Yoga is the science of bliss.  Every technique of Svaroopa® yoga is for the purpose of increasing your bliss. The first stage of bliss is relaxation, which progresses to a tingling aliveness throughout your whole body.  Then it becomes a contagious joy that arises from inside, without any external cause. This bliss is more than merely physical and is accessed by a variety of yoga practices including yoga poses, breathing, chanting, meditation, contemplation and study of the ancient texts, etc.

How does Svaroopa® yoga work?  Each of the practices is for the purpose of stilling the relentless activity of your mind.  That mental activity distracts you from the bliss already there.  Yoga’s practices quiet your mind so you can discover the bliss that is inside you and has always been there.  Bliss is what you experience when you’re not worrying, ruminating or analyzing your life, and arises naturally when you quit looking for something outside of you to create your bliss.  Yoga shows you how.

You have to actively do something to get out of the normal rut that you live in, and you can’t do it with the tools you already have at hand.  All the tools you’ve been taught, or been given by example, produce what you now experience.  Would you describe yourself as truly healthy and completely happy?  The emphasis on rational-logical mind and the techniques of the West are excellent for business and competition, but not very useful for bliss.  The question is, “Can an old dog (you) learn new tricks?”  That’s what our classes and meditation programs are for.

Happiness or Bliss?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I went for a walk alongside a lake, enjoying the beauty of nature.  The trees and the sky were reflected in the lake’s surface, a scene that inspires tranquility and happiness — that’s why so many people go for walks in nature.

I came to a creek that fed into the lake and watched a green heron standing where the water fed into the lake.  Motionless for long periods of time, he stared intently into the water.  He wanted the water to make him happy by giving him fish to eat.  It reminded me of the heron metaphor that my Guru often used to teach meditation.  He said the heron was meditating, but meditating on something outside of himself.   Yogic meditation is about meditating on something inside.  That something is your own Self.

Yet the act of meditating is the same.  It’s only the object of your meditation that changes.  Yet this change is so important!  It means the difference between happiness and bliss.  You can choose either.  Happiness is triggered by outer things.  Bliss arises within when you find the source within.  Meditation is the direct route.

To meditate successfully, yoga directs you to steer your mind where you want it to go.  Instead of waiting for it to quiet down, which can take a long time, you steer your mind into the depths of your being.  Like a heron looking deep into the water, you fix your inner gaze on the goal, the experiential knowing of your own Divine Essence.  

While a heron will get distracted by the fish flitting by, you can learn to look deeper, like when you look beyond the treetops to the full moon in the sky.  Only you are turning your attention to look inward.  There’s a trick to it, which my Guru taught me.  He made meditation both deep and easy.

Happiness is triggered by outer things, but it is only temporary.  Bliss is permanent.  It is your spiritual destiny.  This is yoga’s specialty:  getting you past your mind, past the perpetual movement into which it propels you, getting you into the depths of your own being.

Why I Need a Guru

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Though my professional career was in banking, I’ve trained to teach yoga as a Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher.  Born in Sri Lanka, I was brought up in a yogic culture.  I have always been interested in spirituality.  While growing up, I studied the Hindu scriptures in school.  On my own, I read many books on these ancient yogic teachings.  I learned that they advise us repeatedly on the importance of the Guru on the spiritual path:

aachaaryavaan veda.h. — Chhaandogya Upani.sad 6.14.2 [v30]

Only through a Guru can you understand the Vedas.  [translated by Swami Mukundananda in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita 4.34]

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna states the importance of the Guru:

tad viddhi praṇipaatena paripra”snena sevayaa
upadek.syanti te j~naanaṁ j~naaninas tattva-dar”sina.h. — Bhagavadgita 4.34

Learn the Truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him with reverence and render service unto him. Such an enlightened Saint can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the Truth.  [translated by Swami Mukundananda, Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God]

Yet even though the scriptures talk about finding a Guru, I wasn’t interested in finding one.  Then everything changed the first time I met Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  I knew that I was in the presence of someone who had an extraordinary understanding of the teachings of yoga.  Her skill at explaining these deep and profound teachings was exceptional.  I realized I had been engaged in a “do it to yourself” spiritual process.  Just reading about the great yogic teachings couldn’t give me experiential knowing.

After meeting Swami Nirmalananda, whom we affectionately call Gurudevi, I didn’t just want to teach yoga.  I wanted to live yoga.  I am forever grateful.  It was truly transforming.  That’s when I realized that having a Guru is more than important.  This relationship is essential.

If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest and make it to the top, would you do it on your own?  No, you would need a guide.  You would need to be with someone who knows the way and would guide you.  Gurudevi is my guide for the spiritual journey inside.  Every step of the way, she is supporting me in scaling the heights.  Yes, that is why I became a disciple of my Guru.  God’s greatest gift has been bringing me to the feet of my Gurudeviji.

Having a Guru is essential because the human soul is clouded by ignorance from countless lifetimes.  We don’t know the truth of who we are.  We don’t know our Divine Essence.  We need to receive this experiential knowing from a Self-Realized being who embodies the Absolute Truth.  One cannot overcome their ignorance simply by their own effort.  A person’s self-effort is essential.  But without Guru’s Grace, individual effort is like a bird with one wing.

I was captivated by Gurudeviji’s unique capacity for teaching.  She enables us laymen to understand the high philosophies of the ancient teachings.  Her delivery of these great teachings suits the century that we live in. As I grew up, I felt one attained Self-Realization — liberation — only after living righteously for many more lifetimes.  It seemed unattainable in my current life.

When I heard Gurudevi say that you can realize the Self in this lifetime, she certainly got my attention.  Not only does she say it, she also leads us by being a living example.  I am grateful to Gurudeviji for being the light dispelling the darkness,  For that, I bow again and again!