Honor, Bow, Worship

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi, SVA Board Member

Namah is a most beautiful Sanskrit word, which means “to honor, to bow, to worship.”  You can see namah at the root of “namaste,” which means “I honor the place in you, and in me, in which the entire universe dwells.”  Gurudevi Nirmalananda describes namah as she learned it from her Guru:

Baba constantly reminded us, “Honor your own Self; worship your own Self; bow to your own Self; God dwells within you as you.”  He kept turning us back toward the right direction, inward.

In so many ways, Gurudevi has taught me to honor and worship my own Self.  Yet there is one she didn’t have to teach me — to honor and support the source of the teachings.  My financial support of the Ashram enables Gurudevi and our amazing group of teaching swamis to support me in my quest inward to Self.  Please join me in this practice of dakshina.  Donate to our spring fundraiser.

Many times throughout every day I make the choice, Self or self.  When I choose Self, my inherent Divinity, I bow to all that I am.  I take my mind into my own Beingness instead of being pulled into mind-stuff and emotions.

Yoga’s ancient practices are designed to quiet your mind so that you can see all the way inward to your inherent Divinity.  The ancient teachings remind us that we find God — our Divine Essence, our Self — within.  Gurudevi and our swamis show us how to apply these ancient teachings in modern life.

Fueling your journey to Self-Realization, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram brings you an abundance of programs infused with Gurudevi’s teachings.  Ashram programs include Gurudevi’s Shaktipat Retreats as well as yoga classes, yoga therapy, healing retreats and Teacher Training.  You can even receive free teachings through Freebies on the Ashram website.  These programs and teachings show you how to honor your Self.  

When you support the source of the teachings, the return on your investment is great.  Allow yourself to experience the gratitude and devotion with which the Ashram honors you!

Donate on our website.  You can call us at (610) 644-7555.  Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335. Thank you.

Divine Story Time for Yogis

By Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain, Yogaratna

We’ve got a new Podbean channel! You can now listen to audios of our Yoga Mysticism blog series “Traditional Tales.” Access them on our on our new Podbean channel, “Traditional Tales”.

These ancient tales are unfamiliar and different for me. I hear references to them and want to understand them better.  I’m excited to learn more details! – Andrea (Abhati) Wade. 

On Podbean, we already had two Ashram channels:  

Now we have a third one:

  • Traditional Tales — Nirooshitha Sethuram has been writing these stories for us for almost 5 years. Now she and a team of yogis are making them into podcasts.

Swami Samvidaananda explains,

Our original two Podbean channels deliver over 300 recorded treasures.  Our new Podbean channel presents the Traditional Tales in both Tamil and English.  Nirooshitha Sethuram has shared these stories with us in our YogaMysticism.Today blogsite, and has recorded them in her mother tongue.  Several sevites are working together to provide the audios in English. These stories speak to both the mythical and mystical.

We take in this information differently when we hear it.  These tales were traditionally handed down orally.  When you listen, they come to life in a whole new way.  They seep in.  They soak into where we are most thirsty and hungry.

Gurudevi has interwoven these stories into her talks for decades.  Yet before she finished, many of us would drop in to deep meditation!  Now you can listen, again and again, at your leisure.  Relax back and let this be a divine story time just for you.  Avail yourself of the timeless lessons that these ancient tales provide for today.  As you pay even closer attention, you may find your own story reflected as well.

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.

FREE Intro Video

What I’ve Learned

Since I tend to tighten up when stressed, I have learned that remembering to breathe is important.  Now I am learning that remembering to honor is as important.  Supporting the Ashram with a monthly financial gift enables me to honor the gifts that I have received.  I also honor the giver of those gifts — Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  

Having the stability of monthly donations enables the Ashram to plan and to cover its continuing expenses.  My additional gift during this fundraiser is an investment in my own Self.  It’s an acknowledgment that the gift of the Self needs to be made available to others.

Our spring fundraising theme is Namah — to bow, to honor.  Namah is a beautiful Sanskrit word.  It is part of the Ashram’s mantra.  It is part of our tradition’s meditation mantra.  Namah means to honor, to bow to.  

Yoga says to honor the One that you are so that you become that One.  When you bow, you become one with that to which you are bowing.

Does that you mean that you become the other person?  No.  You are bowing to the One that is being the other person, while also being you.

I am grateful for all the ways that Gurudevi teaches for becoming present to Self.  I have found that simply bowing with my hands in anjali mudra (prayer position) quiets my mind.  This bowing steadies it, and allows me to rest in silence.  Mantra extends and deepens the peace that arises.  Supported from within, I return to my daily responsibilities refreshed.  Of course, my mind is such that I need to rinse and repeat frequently!

How do you honor your own Self?  Please join me in honoring your own Self by donating to the Ashram during our spring fundraiser. 

Your donation honors you and Gurudevi, the giver of the gift of your Self.  Direct your gift to:

  • Honor your teacher
  • Honor the Ashram
  • Honor the free teachings

Donate on our website or call us at (610) 644-7555.  Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335.  Thank You.

Enlightenment:  Stages & Steps

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

What is it about YOU that brings you to the doorstep of Self-Realization?  Here you are, knocking on the door, wanting in.  Something propels you forward, something powerful, maybe even uncomfortable sometimes, something undeniable, a question that must be answered or a quest that must be fulfilled.  Other people around you don’t seem to be moved by this unnameable force.  What is it? 

Yoga’s sages speak very highly of it, “mumuk.sutva” in Sanskrit – the longing for liberation, also described as the yearning for God.  In his text, Patanjali honors this yearning as the most important factor in the pace of your spiritual progress. 

Tiivra-sa.mvegaanaan aasanna.h. — Yoga Sutras 1.21

The inner depth is closest to those who desire it most strongly.

This yearning makes you unable to bear the inner emptiness, yet paradoxically it is that which fills you up.  For myself, this yearning was the theme of their my since before I could explain it.  I remember feeling it from before the age of 5.  Yet I know that it’s been there longer, it’s been a theme for lifetimes.  You are here because you yearn to know, just like I did.

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This yearning is a great blessing, one you have earned from doing deep spiritual practices in previous lifetimes.  You have meritorious spiritual karma.  Yet, even more than this, it is your life’s purpose to seek and to find.  This what makes you different, even when you don’t want to be.

This is the subject of my new Telecourse, Enlightenment:  Stages & Steps. Join me in this great inner exploration!

Gurudevi Shares:  Telecourse 

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda  

Like a pizza shop, we deliver.  Our new Telecourses are designed to meet you where you live, right at home.  When the pandemic began, I contemplated the best way to serve those seeking enlightenment.  The inner answer that arose was delightfully startling, “Use any means necessary.”   

How liberating!  I’d been using yoga’s traditional teaching methodology, which is a well-developed tradition spanning thousands of years.  Leaning into those ancient roots, I created trainings and residential programs.  I also offered my Year-Long Programme for over 10 years, a type of correspondence course.  Now the methodology has become — whatever works!  

Yet the teachings have not changed.  Human nature is still Divine, with the human condition limited and too often painful.  Yoga shines light on the inner pathway that frees you from limitation and pain.  Beyond the healing power of the poses, the teachings are illuminating.  The meditative processes open up an inner dimensionality that enlivens your whole being. 

Therefore, I redesigned last year’s Year-Long Programme, incorporating more video as well as online connectivity.  That is now one of our Telecourses, so it’s not time-limited.  It is available anytime, and you can move through it at your own pace. 

Now I’m bringing out one of the most important themes I’ve offered so far: 

Enlightenment: Stages & Steps 

This course helps you recognize the stages you’ve been through already, as well as the process you’re in now.  The pathway to enlightenment is well mapped, but it’s mostly hidden in secret teachings and arcane terminology.  Based in the texts, I describe the landmarks along the way as well as how to navigate the tricky parts.  Along with the sutras and oral tradition, the teachings are enlivened by the personal stories I include. 

All of it is designed to speed you along your way.  The reason the yogic sages shared these profound teachings is to make it easier for those who follow.  I benefitted from close study with a Master who gave it all.  I walk in his footsteps, like following an experienced trail guide up a mountain path.  I invite you to join me in this Divine Quest. 

Honoring the Source

By Kristine (Dhairyavati) Freeman, SVA Board Member

Namah.  It’s a beautiful Sanskrit word.  It is one of the words in our tradition’s meditation mantra.  Namah means to honor, to bow to.  Whom do I honor or bow to when I repeat our mantra?  The mantra contains the answer: my own Self, my own Divine Essence.  

Repeating mantra is the most effective way for me to access my Self within.  I repeat mantra out loud or silently.  Both ways of applying my mind to mantra take me inward to expansive stillness.  I immerse in that nurturing inner space of fullness just waiting for me to arrive.

In gratitude, I provide financial support to the Ashram, through which Gurudevi’s teachings flow.  I give back in gratitude for the Teacher and teachings.  They  have given me my Self.  This is the yogic practice of dakshina. Practicing dakshina is another way I honor my mystical inner dimension.  I contribute to our spring and fall fundraising campaigns as well as offer a monthly donation.  

Please reflect on what you have received through the Ashram.  Then join me in expressing your gratitude by making a donation today.

My spiritual path has been more marathon than sprint.  And Gurudevi and the Ashram have been there supporting me mile by mile.  I am filled with gratitude for the Ashram’s full spectrum of online and on-site programming.  It is an extraordinary gift.

Let the deep well of your innermost essence bubble up.  Recognize this One being you and being all.  Take your yoga into the world, and into your own being.  And in return, know the gratitude and devotion with which the Ashram honors You.  Choose to donate to the category that means the most to you:

  • Honoring your teacher(s)
  • Honoring the Ashram 
  • Honoring the free teachings

Donate now on our website or call us at (610) 644-7555.  Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335. Thank You!

Psychology & Spirituality 

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda  

What’s the difference between psychology and spirituality?  I wondered about this for years.  As a spiritual seeker and a student of psychology, I was getting something from both areas.  Yet neither alone satisfied me, not until I found yoga’s profound teachings.  Yoga clearly defines the difference, while warning of the traps in each approach. 

Psychology is the study of the mind, while spirituality is about getting beyond your mind.  Psychology analyzes mind and emotions.  By contrast, seekers are trying to get past their mind.  They seek a spiritual experience, an expansive and blissful moment, something that transports them afar.  Yoga says neither is enough.  What you really want, and what you really need, is to know your expansive inner essence, even while you use your mind.  The point is to live in your own multi-dimensionality all the time. 

The word “psychology” comes from “psyche.”  The ancient Greeks worshipped the goddess Psyche, a human girl who became immortal.  Always depicted with the wings of a butterfly, she embodied the divinity in every soul.  We also see the word psyche in the New Testament, used 95 times.  It is translated into English as “a living soul,” “the soul that can attain its highest end and secure eternal blessedness,” and as “an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death.” 

Since psyche means soul and -ology means “the science or the study of,” you might expect psychology to study the soul.  How did they come to focus on mind and emotions?  Again, we turn to the ancient Greeks.  Socrates taught that the soul is immortal.  His student Plato described soul as the essence of a person — non-physical, eternal and reincarnating. 

sidiropoulos.medium.com

However, Plato’s student Aristotle argued against the psyche or soul being separate from the physical body. He concluded in his treatise, On The Soul, that the human intellect is immortal. Thus the focus turned to the mind.  Unfortunately, the tool you use to study your mind is your own mind.  Pitfalls ensue. 

Yoga looks at the mind from a deeper vantage point, from the inner dimension of pure Beingness, your own Self. This is deeper than your mind, even deeper than soul level, for the soul reincarnates through many lifetimes.  The deeper dimension of your own existence is Existence-Itself, that which is being all that exists.  This is the One Self being all, including you. 

It’s very good news when you realize that you are not your mind.  Neither are you your body.  You are not even your mind and your body put together.  You are more, so much more.  That “more” is Self, your own immortal essence.  Your body and mind are made of the same primal substance of which everything is made. 

citireva cetana-padaad avaruu.dhaa cetya-sa.mkocinii cittam.

— Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam 5 

Supreme Consciousness becomes the individual mind, by descending from the plane of pure Consciousness, contracting in accordance with the object perceived. 

Though your mind is made of Consciousness, it is a contracted form of Consciousness.  Like a mirror, it reflects the objects it perceives.  It can even reflect them when the object is absent, which is memory or fantasy, even worry.  Your mind has the creative power of Consciousness, but uses it to create limited scenarios and lopsided narratives.  Then it obsesses on them. 

Psychology studies the scenarios and narratives, not the Consciousness that creates them.  Like in any science, they analyze similar patterns that are presented by different people.  Then they categorize and label them, hopefully leading to useful therapies.  In college, I was fascinated by this, which led me to take psychology classes and try out encounter groups.  Eventually I found yoga, and saw that I was trying to understand my own mind’s patterns, specifically so I could get beyond them.   

Being an Instrument of Grace

By Swami Prajñananda

Interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

I love the transformative power of fire.  Living with Gurudevi, there’s the constant inner fire burning away my limitations — it is called the Fire of Yoga.  This fire polishes the gem of my small s-self.  The unique way that I show up in the world does not go away.  Instead, it is refined and even concentrated.  This refinement allows my own Divine Essence, my Self, to shine through my body and mind even more fully.  

This is possible because of Gurudevi’s Grace.  This Grace is the energy that reveals your own Self to you. While this energy of revelation is always available, it is magnified at the Ashram. Living at the Ashram feels like I am swimming in a river of Grace.  It feels very natural, like I am a fish in water.  It is easy to forget you are in water because it is always there supporting and nourishing you.  

I feel blessed to be here, and I feel challenged. I love how Gurudevi shows me my blind spots so that I can clear them.  Even when it’s hard, there is an ease and a rightness to it.  The flow of Grace is my support.  When I move out of that current, even slightly, I feel it strongly.  That is my guide to get back in the flow.  

This environment supports me toward my goal, which is to be established in Self.  I’ve known for a long time that dedicating my life to the Self is my dharma.  It is my purpose in this world and why I moved into the Ashram.  Living with Gurudevi helps me to stay on track. 

When I took swami vows and Gurudevi gave me my name, my dharma was refined. Prajñananda means the bliss of illumined knowledge. My name is both a promise and a reality.  The teachings have always been natural and important to me. As soon as I heard them, I understood them.  I always had this feeling that it was up to me to be an ambassador of these ancient teachings in our modern world.  My name expands and focuses my capacity to be an instrument of the teachings and Gurudevi’s Grace. 

Whether I’m teaching meditation, philosophy, asana or yoga therapy, my purpose is to be a pathway for the Grace to flow.  My goal is to be a pure instrument to serve God’s will. I have the perfect role model for this in Gurudevi. She is always serving others.  She has so much to give because she is sourced from Self.

And she is a good sharer! Simply being in her presence shifts me inside.  While I love to study the teachings, it is Gurudevi’s presence and service that I study the most.  I feel blessed to have this time with her and to live in the presence of other great yogis, my fellow residents.  I know this time is precious, and I treasure every moment.

What I’ve Gotten from Gurudevi

By Pat (Sumati) Morrison

Interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast, Yogaratna

When I met Gurudevi, I was an avowed, proud agnostic.  Over the decades, I’ve often felt led by my nose, sometimes kicking and screaming!  Yet thanks to Gurudevi, I have been in the big-S Self so deeply that there wasn’t anything else.  Each experience has brought me closer to being in that state all the time.  I know the Self is here within no matter what.  It’s closer than my breath.  I am Self and Self is me as well as all.  From Gurudevi, I know that Self-Realization is possible in this lifetime.

Every program with Gurudevi has been wonderful.  Each was filled with profound, often blissful experiences, understandings, insights and expanded awareness.  Always, more unfolded as I returned home.

Once, arriving at my driveway after a retreat, I saw my house as an external thing.  It had no meaning for me.  I didn’t identify with it in any way.  Neither blissful nor ecstatic, this experience was a deep knowing, free of attributes.  I was present within my Self.  “Wow — this is big,” I thought.  As my mind kicked in, the house began to look familiar.

Given Gurudevi’s teachings, I understand my experiences.  In another program, Gurudevi asked a question of the group.  I answered, “I’m not sure this is germane to what you asked.  But years ago, during a training run for a marathon, I was stopped in my tracks by a feeling of intense love and caring for myself, within myself.  I wrapped my arms around myself and heard, ‘I love you. I have always loved you and have been waiting for you.’”  In that moment, I knew this love was all I ever needed or would need.

Gurudevi replied, “You pierced anava mala.”  I could not believe what she was saying.  But after she repeated it several times, I allowed myself to believe it.  I then felt something extraordinarily ecstatic.  

Recently, this memory opened me to a wisp of ecstasy.  It began expanding and filling me.  I somehow knew I’d have no room for judging and controlling if the ecstasy filled me completely.  I’d have no way to check for and insure that “I was doing what would get me what I wanted.” 

I knew I was both the small-s self and Self.  There was a sense of the glorious possibility of surrender even though there was also something akin to fear.  It seemed as though I was in a different space or dimension.  The description that best fits is Pure Is-ness: Self.

Swami Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

Over the years, I have learned in Gurudevi’s Shaktipat Retreats that anava mala is the veil that keeps us from knowing the Self.  Once her gift of Shaktipat shreds this veil, we can never not-know our own Self, the One Being All.

In one Shaktipat Retreat, I felt the mantra flowing blissfully over me and through me.  I remember filling with gratitude in another, so much so I could barely contain the feelings.  Physical kriyas have included my spine extending upward higher than I would have thought possible, arching into a backbend and my body expanding.  Once, my hands extended straight out flat.  I was aware I could not hold on, could not grab for anything. 

So I continue to attend Gurudevi’s retreats and do the practices she teaches.  Control doesn’t matter.  Control is a figment, a smoke screen.  The only thing that stands between me and this state of Self Knowingness is my mind.  I know and feel it.  There really is “beyond my mind.”