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.

breakingmuscle.com

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 puru.so 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!

The Qualities of My Satguru

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi

All ancient yogic texts speak of the importance of a good Guru.  In our modern times, experts in many different fields are called gurus.  Yet the ancient yogic texts speak of a spiritual Guru.  While there are many spiritual Gurus out there, a truly qualified, living spiritual master is a rare and precious find.  Allow me to share with you the qualities of my Guru.

She is a Satguru, the most masterful and rare kind of spiritual Guru.  She is a blessing beyond compare.  Ancient teachings from the Advaya Taraka Upanishad explain:

aacaarya-lak.saṇam aacaaryo veda-sa.mpanno vi.s.nu-bhakto vimatsarah

yogaj~no yog-ani.s.tha”sca sadaa yog-aatmaka.h “suci.h. (14)

guru-bhakti-samaayukta.h puru.sj~no vi”se.sata.h

eva.m lak.sa.na-sa.mpanno guru-rityabhidhiiyate. (15)

A qualified Guru is knowledgeable in the Vedas, a devotee of God, free from jealousy, an expert in yoga, does yoga practices, is always in a pure yogic state.  He is devoted to his own Guru and is a knower of the Self.  Only one with these qualifications may properly serve as Guru.

These ancient verses from the Advaya Taraka Upanishad are around 2,000 years old.  Yet they describe our own Gurudevi perfectly.  In the same way, they describe her own Guru and his own Guru.  These Upanishadic descriptions hold true for the spiritual masters in an unbroken lineage of thousands of years.

These verses describe a “qualified Guru” as one who is knowledgeable in the Vedas, the ancient texts.  Gurudevi always amazes me with her depth of ancient knowledge.  She has a deep experiential understanding of yoga’s ancient mystical teachings.  She lives them.  She brilliantly brings yoga’s teachings to life for us in a modern way.  Thus, we can live them as well. 

The verses also describe a qualified Guru as one who is “a devotee of God.”  When I met Gurudevi, I had an experience of my own Divinity and the Divinity of all.  It took me years to understand that my experience was propelled by Gurudevi’s own inner state.  She is truly a devotee of God.  Yet just being a devotee of God does not make one a Guru.  It was Gurudevi’s pure yogic state, being established in the knowing of her own Self.  Her own Divine Essence propelled me into the experience of my own Divine Essence. 

A qualified Guru must also be devoted to their own Guru.  Gurudevi models her devotion to her Guru, so beautifully.  She shows me every day how to live in the world in gratitude and in service.  She lives to serve her Guru, honoring and serving him with every breath.  Why?  Because he gave her the ultimate gift, the knowing of her own Self.  Every day, she gives us the same gift.

But the notable and sublime qualities of Gurudevi transcend the words of these ancient verses.  Yes, she is everything these verses describe.  True, she propelled me into the experience of my own Self.  However, I was not ready to live in that pure yogic state all the time.  I needed, and still need, her guidance.  To attain and maintain the pure yogic state of Self-realization, her continuing example is essential.  Being in relationship with her — a living Guru — is crucial.  She provides a constant, living example of yoga’s highest attainment.

She leaves no stone unturned in rooting out the things that block me from my Self.  With just a word, Gurudevi can dispel my feelings of jealousy, anger, sadness, anxiety, and smallness.  She burns up my feelings of “not good enough” with a simple loving glance.  In her presence, my mind gets peaceful and quiet.  I remember who I am.  In her presence, I remember my own Self.  Thank you Gurudevi, again and again.

You’ve Got Skills

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

You know how to drive, to manage household and personal needs, even to manage other people and their needs.  Your education and professional skills make you able to adapt to changing times, like now.  But your self-care skills might need some improvement.  The current pandemic conditions may prompt another round of pandemic panic.  It’s time to take inventory.  How do you handle this?

Masking – you know how.  I first saw people wearing masks over their nose and mouth in my travels in Asia over 30 years ago.  I thought it was brilliant!  I didn’t adopt it at home because of peer pressure, but now the pressure is going the other way.  You are completely capable of breathing, talking and smiling under that mask.  You may even have your preferred mask style along with a lanyard, bracket or nose strip.  Plus you’ve even got designer options.

Social Distancing – you know how.  As fall brings us indoors again, you’ll need to use this skill again.  It’s like riding a bike; once you know how, you can do it again.  It’s an easy thing to do.  In most conversations, we’re seated or standing about 6 feet apart anyway.

Self-Care — you know how.  You know you feel better when you do yoga every day.  Your quality of life improves if you’re hydrated, if you have regular mealtimes and if you get up before the sun.  Meditation is even more important and fits into all the others.  Meditating before the sunrise is the most blissful.  Yoga helps prepare you for a better meditation.  And when you’ve meditated today, you’re more likely to feed yourself properly and drink enough water.   Not to mention being kinder, even more intelligent.  How bad will you let yourself get before you do something about it?  The time is now.  Do more yoga.

My Discovery of Self

By Julia (Chintamani) Wallis
Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

The discovery of my Self began 15 years ago as a Svaroopa® yoga student.  My journey has been evolving ever since.  Six months after starting yoga classes, I was propelled into YTT (Yoga Teacher Training). The changes happening were powerful, on all levels of my being.  I knew I wanted more.  At that time, Gurudevi had not yet taken her vows, and urged us to “get a Guru.”  So I attended satsangs at a local meditation center, three times a week. There I discovered the power of chanting and meditation. Layers of “stuff” that wasn’t me started peeling off. I was getting the experience of that something “more” I longed for. 

Then life took a new turn. I got married, moved away and started having children. While focusing on my family, I turned away from yoga. This made me very miserable inside.  Yet Grace intervened. A friend drove me to a Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation satsang in Portland OR.  While attending, I realized how much I was missing my Self.  I came home inspired to make a space in my home for the Svaroopa® Sciences practices. I dove in.  Even just the poses shifted my state. I started more YTT and teaching classes. But I still wasn’t meditating daily. My family’s needs felt more important. Then I attended a Shaktipat retreat and everything changed.

Gurudevi Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

Going deeper, while sitting upright in meditation, had always been challenging. Yet in the second Shaktipat initiation, I became still and steady in my seat. I completely dropped in. My thoughts became the scenery inside my mind. I kept looking for my Self within. Then I heard Gurudevi’s voice, inside: “Who is looking?” Suddenly I realized:  That’s me! How could I have not known this before?  It’s a feeling of familiarity. I am being and feeling my Self, while being “That”.

I continued practicing and deepening into Self. Yet I began to question, “Where I am going from here?”  A swami suggested that I consider applying for Vratin vows. Yet I wasn’t sure. I did vichara sessions (guided self-inquiry). I wanted to rid my system of the limitations that were holding me back.  In sessions, I experienced profound “aha” moments.  I felt the fire in my spine burning my karmic seeds. During the pandemic, I even joined the online Vichara Club and  completed four rounds of ten sessions each.  They created a deep and irreversible shift for me. 

Taking the Vows Prep course, I kept deepening into Self and took the Vratin vow in July 2021. The Shaktipat retreat that followed confirmed that my goal in life is service.  Being vowed, I feel supported in my goal. It’s so clear. And if I get entangled in worldly activities, I read a Vowed Member Facebook post. I come back to the knowing of my Self. 

Each Shaktipat experience deepens this knowing of my Self and purpose. I see that Guru/Self/God and the mantra received from Gurudevi are the exact same thing. My worldly life is not a distraction from my yoga. Yes, meditation takes me to my Self. Yet whatever I do in life — yoga, farming, family — takes me to my Self as well!  I offer it all to Gurudevi Nirmalananda.

Selfless service is the direct route to Guru/God and Self. Swami Muktananda, the Guru of Gurudevi, said, “Seva is a sublime form of meditation, study and yoga. Understand its mystery!” I am ever indebted to my Gurudevi for showing me this path to Self-discovery.

Svaroopa Vidya Meditation

It all lies within, you’ve heard it said before.  But you must get beyond the theory in order to experience your own mystical essence.  That’s why you need training.  That’s why you need a teacher.  One who knows the way makes it easy for those who follow.

Know Your Own Self 

A deeper inner knowing of your deeper essence, this is the goal of meditation.  Your inward exploration is easy when you study with one who already knows the Self.  This is the mystical secret of Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, that the doorway inside is opened for you.

Sourced Within

Discover the source of love and the source of your creativity.  It all lies within you, so you have to look inward to find the source.  But you can get stuck at the superficial level of mind and emotions.  Learn how to look deeper with Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation. 

Easy Inner Immersion   

Like a scuba diver floating in the vastness of the undersea world, meditation is about diving deep.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation makes it easy to get there, deeper within your own being.  In that depth and inner vastness, you experience a whole new dimensionality, one you can learn to live in.

It’s Not the Same

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I’ve been delighted to lead group meditations online for the last year.  But it’s simply not the same as being together in person.  It’s clear that it supports others.  The energetic connection is tangible, providing a deeper meditation.  But it’s not the same.

I’ve been teaching via technology since 2010.  Back then, we were on phone conference calls, but we made it work.  I really amped it up last year, with students zooming in from multiple continents.  But it’s really not the same as when I can be in the room with them.

I’ve enjoyed staff lunches where we had food delivered to everyone.  While we were all eating the same food and chatting onscreen, it wasn’t the same as when we’re all together.  I’ve talked with people who have attended weddings and funerals online.  Understandably, online was the only option, and how great to be able to connect at such an important time.  Yet you already know what I’m going to say – it’s not the same.

What is it?  What is the difference when we get together in person?  Welcome hugs included, something else is happening.  It is important.  It touches your heart.  It makes all of us more real somehow.  Yoga calls it “embodied consciousness.”  This is what is unique about the human being:  that our being is both physical and mystical.

Yoga says Consciousness has manifested this universe, becoming everything that exists.  But only the human being has the capacity to know both their physical reality as well as the Consciousness of which they are made.  This is what mystical means, that there is a mystery hidden in the mundane reality.  The mystical quest is an inner quest.  This is yoga’s specialty.

However, something mystical happens when we get together.  It’s intangible yet incredibly beneficial.  Researchers proves that time spent together lowers anxiety and depression.  It can help with emotions, leading to higher self-esteem and empathy.  And a timely additional benefit is that it improves our immune systems.  

This is a precious time right now.  In Pennsylvania, we had a sweet time free from masks and social distancing.  We didn’t know how long it would last, and here we are, masking again.  Still, we can get together! Another variant or surge might put us back in isolation at any time. 

A friend told me this morning that she’s going to visit her sister for the first time in more than 18 months.  I was fortunate to spend the last 10 days with 28 other yogis in two back-to-back retreats.  It was glorious!  It’s time to get together.  Isn’t there a song about this?

Why I Meditate

By Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

If it were not for my mind, I would be enlightened!  I blurted out this statement in conversation with a yoga buddy one day.  I’d never allowed myself to own this elevated aspiration.  Yet I knew it to be true.

The ancient teachings on Self-Realization as offered by Gurudevi compel me.  At a deep level, I know their absolute Truth.  In that moment, in a flash of insight, I see my mind blocking me on the path.  I see my mind as a standalone entity, with its own agenda.  It’s dense and determined to hold on to certain attitudes.  Sometimes it’s a two-year-old, sometimes an adolescent.

I really got to know this mind during my two glorious years of Ashram residency.  The routine of morning chant and meditation, days devoted to seva, and evening satsangs took me deep.  I loved chanting our food mantra with Gurudevi, the Swamis and other residents before each meal.

During my Ashram stay, I went deeper than I’d imagined going when I applied for residency.  My main reason for residency was the desire for a consistency of practice.  In my first months, I could physically feel the untangling of old brain wiring while chanting Sri Guru Gita.  What a relief!

This opened up enough inner space for angry inner voices to have their say.  I recognized my “inner two-year-old” and more articulate “inner adolescent.”  They were lonely, scared, sad.  They/I had based my sense of self on “doing things right.”  Avoiding punishment, staying safe and surviving formed the goal.  Daily life, regardless of responsibilities and activities, is bound to frustrate those desires.  Anger erupts when I (with two-year-old and adolescent mind) don’t get what I want.  They emerged from the depths and took up residence near the forefront of my mind.  I got to know their insistent voices well.

Given Guru’s Grace, with her profound teachings, I knew to befriend these rascals.  I knew that, as contracted forms of Shiva, my own Is-ness, they were not to be banished.  I learned to sweettalk them with mantra, and give them luxurious rest in meditation.  Doing so, I can apply their energy to more mantra and more meditation.  I’m propelled deeper — even into ineffable peace and ultimate effulgence — sometimes.

More often, my meditation is a festival of emotional and mental kriyas.  I am so grateful for this process.  Afterward, that standalone entity of mind is calmed.  It’s willing to courteously step aside.  It no longer requires constant, hyperalert focus.  I can go past mind into the infinitely vast expanse within.  “Getting things done in the world” will always be a step into potential frustration.  Yet my awareness turns inward to my Own Self as the One Self Being All.  I see this clear path to enlightenment.