As seen in the previous article on “Yogic Illness”, deliberately pushing oneself into deeper Kundalini-type experiences without a Guru can be perilous to one’s health. An authentic Guru, if you can find one, is not a suave orator or an object of worship but someone who links their consciousness with yours during initiation (Diksha) and gradually elevates you to their level by transforming you from within. Such a Guru can also detect and purge the energy blockages which develop in the subtle body (i.e. aura) during the transformation process. The disciples who came in physical contact with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were fortunate to obtain this intimate guidance. What happens to those who are called to Yoga but remain devoid of a Guru? The Mother once provided a sagacious description of the meandering manner in which the spiritual path unfolds for such seekers.
Anandamayi Ma(1896-1982) was a spiritual personality from Bengal, India. Her birth name was Nirmala Sundari. She attended the village school for two years. Although her teachers were pleased with her ability, her family thought she was dull-minded because of her indifference and constantly happy demeanor. When her mother once fell seriously ill, relatives remarked with puzzlement about the child remaining apparently unaffected.
In the centuries-old Indian city of Varanasi, there is a hotel with a weird check-out policy: if you don’t die within two weeks, the manager will politely ask you to leave. The hotel caters to a clientele of faithful Hindus who travel to Varanasi specifically to die (more on that hotel later). They are solemnly adhering to the norms laid down in the hoary scriptures that state that death in Varanasi (aka Kashi, Banaras) and some other holy cities can guarantee liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. Is this fast-track to liberation a parochial and outdated belief, or does it imply that anyone living anywhere in the world can attain liberation from rebirth by dying in an Indian holy city? In this article, we examine the continuing validity of such affirmations.
“How would the lives of Western women have been different if they had been raised to believe that God was a Mother, all loving and all powerful?” It is with this thought-provoking question that Lisa “Prajna” Hallstrom opens her book Mother of Bliss on the life of the Bengali woman saint, Anandmayi Ma(1896-1982). Hallstrom, through this book, sought to understand the phenomenon of female spiritual Gurus in India. (See her website)
In an era suffering from an overabundance of Gurus and Avatars, it has become difficult to distinguish the real from the fake, especially when these Gurus are surrounded by a retinue of adoring, immature minions who tend to conflate coincidences with miracles and fervent imagination with spiritual experiences. Whose story should we believe? Various ancient Hindu scriptures speak of the different methods by which a Guru may initiate a disciple, and these signs can provide a test for discernment. We briefly cover the modalities of this initiation process (called Diksha in Sanskrit) with a few examples from some modern-day seers. Continue reading