Author Archives: Swami Nirmalananda

About Swami Nirmalananda

Serving as the Master Teacher, Swamiji is a teacher of the highest integrity for over 35 years. Formerly known as Rama Berch, she is the originator of Svaroopa® yoga as well as the Founder of Master Yoga and of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. In 2009 she was honored with initiation into the ancient order of Saraswati monks. Now wearing the traditional orange, she has openly dedicated her life to serving others. Usually called Swamiji, she makes the highest teachings easily accessible, guiding seekers to the knowledge and experience of their own Divine Essence.

Why a Meditation Club?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

It was so easy for me to meditate when I lived with my Baba.  He led the meditations every day.  I didn’t want to miss it!  And my experience was so much deeper than when I was meditating on my own.

This is why I created the Meditation Club, to support your daily meditations.  The single most important yogic practice is meditation.  It’s so important that all the other practices exist specifically to improve your meditation.  

* The poses make you able to sit. 

* Breathing practices quiet your mind, as does chanting, which combines breathing with mantras.  

* Sutra study helps you understand your meditation experience, even to navigate effectively in the inner expanse.

I was so fortunate to have years of living and studying with my Guru.  The best was sitting in silence with him.  It opened up my inner access to dimensions I could never have imagined.

Daily meditation was one of the reasons I opened Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  I have been meditating with the Ashram residents daily for over ten years.  I began planning it as an online Meditation Club in 2019.   Zoom and the pandemic empowered me to create that access for you.

It’s delightful and amazing to see this Divine energy flowing through the internet – amazing and not surprising at all.  For it is the gift my Guru gave me that makes it all work, the gift of the ancient sages of India.  

The single most important thing I do every day is meditate with you.  Every day. 

Perception & Action

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

Yoga says we have ten senses, not merely the five about which I learned in 7th grade science class.  Your senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste are called the j~nanendriyas in Sanskrit.  They are modes of perception.  Your senses reach out to explore the world.  Your mind follows them and you try to construct a sense of self out there. Unfortunately, you have lost your core being, what yoga calls your capital-S Self.

You have five more ways of getting lost, all of them mesmerizing capacities.  These are the five modes of action, called karmendriyas:  locomotion, handling, speaking, sexuality and excretion.  They take up a tremendous amount of mind-space, especially if you’re having trouble in any of these areas in life.  

Yoga says that you are the perceiver, not what you perceive.  Whatever you are seeing or hearing, as well as what you are doing, you are the one who is experiencing it.  You are the experiencer, not the experience.  You are the doer, not the action or its results.  Know who you are, even while you are perceiving and acting, and you are…

Why an Ashram?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

One of my greatest memories is standing in the boat at the base of Niagara Falls.  I was wonderfully overwhelmed by its power and beauty, along with its incredible roar.  Yet it felt very familiar to me.  It felt just like when I was living with my Guru in his Ashram.  

The power and beauty of what he made available to us every day was mind-blowing, yet in a most propitious way.  My mind and body were reformatted in that flow of energy emanating from him, for he was a powerhouse of Divine Grace.  He gave the whole place an incredible vibe.

I opened Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram to offer you the same.  You can melt into that flow or tap into it from a distance. It’s available.  That’s the point.  An Ashram exists to serve those who want to be served.  It’s like how I plug my mobile phone in at the charging station every day — the Ashram is a place where you can plug in.  And you can plug in from home.

My Teachings Article and podcasts have been online freebies for over ten years.  We began teaching in conference calls around 20 years ago.  Plus the pandemic thrust us into offering many more and different types of online programs.  I love being able to bring the teachings and practices right to your door.

But there’s something about being together in person.  You probably know this from your own family gatherings in recent months.  I see it happening when we chant together online.  Everyone is actually chanting alone, singing along with a sound stream coming out of a device with a tiny picture of the other singers.  It’s just not the same.  It’s like looking at a photo of Niagara Falls.  Amazing, but not overwhelming.

I want to overwhelm you with the power and beauty of your own Divinity.  I delight in propelling you past your resistances.  But I can do more for you when you come in.  You can’t mute me when we’re together in the same room.  You can tune me out, but I notice the glazed look in your eyes and do something to bring you back.  Plus there’s an energy field here.  We’ve created it, with hundreds of yogis doing practices here for more than a decade.  It’s quite a vibe.  It helps me help you.  Come on in and marinate in it.  It’s why I created an Ashram — for you. 

No More Negativity

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

One of the first words you spoke was “no.”  You probably used it more often than your other first words, “Mama” and “Dada.”  That’s why this growth phase is called “The Terrible Twos.” You became able to resist as well as able to express what you wanted.  Unfortunately, you’ve continued to say “no” ever since.  What if you said “yes” more often?

My earliest teacher in this was my first dog.  When our front door was open and someone was coming down the sidewalk, my dog would run out as fast as her short little legs could go.  She was not barking.  She ran up to the passers-by, threw herself down on the ground and showed her belly, all four paws up in the air.  100% of the walkers stopped, said, “Ahhh,” then rubbed her belly.  Watching her made me reconsider how I’d been approaching life.  The protective mode I’d perfected had me saying no to life far too often.

Yoga agrees that you need to recalibrate.  All the yogic methodologies work on dissolving your resistances, melting your negativities and freeing you from your fears.  Then you are able to experience inner peace and a sense of balance that supports you.  

Yet this is merely the launching pad.  Beyond peace and balance, yoga promises more.  Once you get past the ways you negate yourself, you discover there is more inside than you ever imagined.  Exploring that expansive inner reality is yoga’s specialty…

I always loved the children’s song, written by Harry Dixon Loes in the early 1900s:

This little light of mine

I’m going to let it shine…

I wanted to shine!  Somehow I felt that I had an inner light that could shine.  I didn’t know how to access it but I wanted it.  My Guru opened up my access to the inner light that was already there.  That light shines from deep inside.

Your mind blocks your own inner light in the same way you can use your thumb to block the sun.  The human mind excels at negating things, thus the sages described how to negate the negation.  My own name does this, with Nirmala meaning “not limited.”  The 9th century sage Shankaracharya wrote a poem describing your own essence.  He meticulously negates your limitations…

Gurudevi Teaches on Wednesdays

Join Gurudevi Nirmalananda for her FREE Wednesday evening chant and meditation program.  With live music and printed words, you easily join everyone else in traditional yoga chanting.  

After the chant, you’ll find meditating with a Master takes you deep effortlessly.  It’s the best way to explore the inner dimensions of your own being.  Whether you’re a newcomer or an experienced meditator, Gurudevi makes it easy as well as profound!

Gurudevi’s Wednesday satsangs are inspiring. My meditations are always deepened by her talk and her long chant. — Debbie M.

Online, this program is part of your Yoga Wednesday (bookends or full day).  Or simply join us in-person in Downingtown PA.

A Deeper Knowing Awakened

By Judy (Jagruti) Goodkin

Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain, Yogaratna

Hearing Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s teachings on Swami Sundays is like getting a booster shot of the Self.  Recently, Gurudevi said she’d received Shaktipat from her Baba over 200 times.  And if he were still in his body, she’d still be getting Shaktipat from him.  Hearing this filled me with an ongoing inspiration.  If Gurudevi would still get Shaktipat, why wouldn’t I?

It had been a year since my last Shaktipat Retreat in 2021.  My sadhana (personal practice) was neither moving forward nor moving me deeper within.  Yet I knew Shaktipat could get me through whatever was keeping me blocked.  Also, I felt a strong need to be in Gurudevi’s presence.  So I signed up right away for the On-Site program last May. 

Being surrounded by many deep yogis and swamis was so supportive.  After I received Shaktipat, the swamis’ talks helped me understand the experiences I was having.  For instance, in meditation, my thoughts can feel heavy.  They are just words.  But when I attach a story to them, they get me in the mud!  But they are just words.

I also have a new appreciation for how Kundalini (meditative energy) works on my emotions.  While in meditation, if an emotion comes up, I can sit with it and feel it.  It has a purpose: Kundalini is burning through it.  Since Shaktipat, I don’t have to pursue my emotions or thoughts in meditation.  They no longer draw me out.  Now experiencing them can draw me in deeper.

Swami Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

Receiving Shaktipat has had a profound effect on my everyday life.  I used to think enlightenment happened with a  “boom” all at once!  Now I see it is a process.  I’m becoming more aware of a gradually deepening inner knowing.  Gurudevi explains:

After Shaktipat, even when your mind returns to its familiar pattern, the deeper knowing is awakened and is always there.

Recently, I attended a street fair with my family.  For some reason, I was getting more and more frustrated, annoyed and judgmental.  I sat down on the curb and acknowledged my feelings.  I began repeating mantra to myself.  I could see what was happening as separate from my usual kneejerk reactions.  I was able to stop my small-s self emotions.  They couldn’t pull me where I didn’t want to go.  Mantra shifted my state immediately.  When I’m in capital-S Self, I can soften.  I notice my relationships softening as well. 

At the end of my Shaktipat Retreat, our assignment was to increase our meditation time.  This felt challenging, as asana is always easier for me.  Yet I am gradually working up to an hour.  Now I really like meditation.  I look forward to it every day.  But it is my journaling that has changed the most.  After meditation, Gurudevi always says, “Now is a good time to journal.”  I used to stare at the blank page not knowing what to say after meditations.  Now, the words just flow out of me!  As Gurudevi promises, and through her Grace, I am still experiencing profound changes.  They are ongoing, getting deeper and deeper, and better and better!


Freedom

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Having grown up in America, freedom was an ideal that inspired me.  As a kindergartener, I made pilgrim hats out of black construction paper, representing the Pilgrims who were seeking religious freedom.  I was heartened by the preamble to the Constitution which I learned in third grade.  It cites goals of union, justice, liberty and peace.  Thus I was ready when I found yoga and learned that the goal is freedom.  I felt an immediate resonance with it. 

I didn’t understand what freedom was.  As a teenager, I wanted a superficial freedom:  an escape from my parents (seemingly) unreasonable demands and expectations.  Once I started managing my own life, I wanted freedom to do what I wanted, as well as the freedom to do nothing at all if I chose.  None of these are the freedom that yoga promises. 

As important as freedom and social justice are, neither of these is yoga’s focus. Individual yogis may choose to focus there, as did Mahatma Gandhi in India 100 years ago.  He successfully used yogic ideals as a launching pad for political goals.  His work also inspired Rev. Martin Luther King in his world-changing mission.

Yogic freedom is an inner experience, not something you project into the world or ask of it.  It is also called liberation.  Consider this:  if the goal is liberation, it means you are currently in bondage.  

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Your bondage is internal.  It’s about who you think you are compared to who you really are.  These two fundamental principles of yoga are clearly summarized in the primary text of Kashmiri Shaivism.

Chaitanyam-aatmaa

Consciousness-Itself is your own Self.

J~naanam bandha.h

The not-knowing (of your Self) is bondage.

— Shiva Sutras 1.1-2

translation by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

These sutras define the mystical quest.  Sutra 1 divulges the secret of your inherent Divinity.  Sutra 2 explains that you don’t know your inherent Divinity.  It’s a conundrum.  It’s the cosmic game of hide and seek: you are hiding while you are also the one seeking your own Self.  Like a dog chasing its tail, you go round and round for lifetimes.

This text guides you through a process that begins with Shaktipat, the initiation that activates the arising of Consciousness within you.  After that, how long it takes for you to get enlightened is up to you.  Your own blossoming forth is assured, just like daffodils that will bloom in the spring, but you don’t know when spring will come.  The text gives you ways to push it along.

Meeting Your Guru

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

The movie script says that you walk into the room where the Guru is sitting. The Guru stops mid-sentence and looks directly at you and says, “I’ve been waiting for you.”  You sit at the master’s feet.  He leans over, whispers one word in your right ear and instantly you are absorbed deep within.  After a long time, you open your eyes.  The Guru is there, waiting and watching.  He sees your exalted state and nods.  You bow.

No, it didn’t happen that way for me either.  I didn’t know I was looking for a Guru.  Well, my heart knew but my mind didn’t have the word to conjure up, no way to name what I was looking for. I was in the bittersweet pain of the yearning, but I didn’t know what to call it (other than pain). 

In 1975 an image haunted me, coming up again and again from different sources.  I’d find it in a book, then someone would bring it to me.  It was a card from the Tarot deck – the Hermit.

The Hermit doesn’t hide from people… He beckons you to turn your view inward and allow yourself the time and space to think, feel, and meditate on what it is that you truly want in and from your life. By doing this you will be able to unlock your true desires and find complete happiness.  The Hermit looks to be standing on his own surrounded by nothing and holding only a lamp… His lantern is not to guide his own way, for he’s already where he wants to be. It is there to guide you to him or to his location.

The next year, I found Baba.  All by coincidence, of course.  It was later that I found out what coincidence really is — God being anonymous.  Yes, it was all Divine Intervention.  And I truly needed the help.

Once you meet the Guru, everything changes.  This is particularly true when you encounter a Shaktipat Guru, for the Shaktipat Guru’s job is to give you an inner opening to your own Self.  That experience changes you…

This is an excerpt from Gurudevi’s new Telecourse, debuting today — Enlightenment: Stages & Steps.

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Pay It Forward

kristineBy Dhairyavati (Kristine) Freeman

My first yoga teacher was Ronna Sanchez. I will be forever grateful for the years of training and personal practice she had done before I ever walked through her classroom door. She offered the Svaroopaâ Yoga Gentle class that my physical therapist recommended, and which I reluctantly agreed to try.

Despite the strangeness of all those blankets, the music (tamboura) and the words (Sanskrit), I was hooked. Lying in that final Shavasana, I thought, “I don’t know what this is, but my body really likes it.” “It” was the flow of Grace — I just didn’t know that yet. “It” was the upwelling of my Self. “It” would heal years of chronic pain and unwind the mental and emotional patterns beneath that pain. Such a gift!

Have you received such wisdom and blessings from your Svaroopaâ yoga practice? If so, you can credit not only your teacher, but your teacher’s teacher — Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. And you can also credit her teachers, the lineage of Gurus who came before her, including Baba Muktananda and Bhagavan Nityananda.

muktananda nityananda After returning from a recent Shaktipat, I added photos of Muktananda and Nityananda to my home puja. For years Swami Nirmalananda’s photo alone had been the focus of my devotion. It was as if I had compartmentalized her Grace. Then I realized that without her Guru, and her Guru’s Guru, she would not be here to serve us today. And with that I was able to expand my gratitude back through the lineage in a whole new way.

While the teachings are elevated and mystical, the Ashram, Swami, Svaroopaâ yoga teachers and Svaroopaâ Vidya meditation teachers are grounded in the real world. That means there are real world necessities to make the teachings available. And they require financial support.

When you provide financial support to the Ashram, you are supporting the people who support your yogic process: the teachers. Please pay it forward. Join me in making a donation to our Inspiring the Next Generation campaign.  Thank you.SV1714_Lineage Fundraiser logo_v1

Standing on the Shoulders -by Swami Nirmalananda

The end of the year, a time to review what has been so far…  We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.  Today I am melting in gratitude to the yogic hearts that built Master Yoga for over 20 years, so many yogis doing so many poses and giving so much of their love and support.  It’s uncountable!

stand on shoulders gratitudehabitat-comThe work of the current Board members is just the tip of the iceberg, the part that shows, but they stand on the shoulders of the Board members who worked hard on Svaroopis’ behalf for many years.  I count myself in that group, though they tackled big chunks of the work without me in recent years.  But even those Board members were standing on the shoulders of those who worked on the community’s behalf – that’s what a not-for-profit organization does:  provide benefit to others!

While the Board members stand in the spotlight, the staff members that do all the behind-scenes work are to be honored and thanked.  And the teachers – without whom we would have nothing; how can you begin to thank your own teacher.

Swami hands

Which brings me full circle to my teacher, of course.  For me, it’s all about Baba.  What i bring you is what He gave me.  It is my honor and my duty to share.  So i thank all who support the continuing process – the consolidated process, even as we look ahead.  The Desmond awaits, our new home for consolidated programs, with housing, meals and classes all wonderfully consolidated into one location.  We begin on Friday!  The first program of the new year.  Thus one year ends and a new one begins.  With love for all that has passed, and all who contributed to its process.  With love to all that will come and all who will make it be what it will be.

Thank you, Baba.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h