Sri Kumaré is an enlightened guru from the East who has come to America to spread his teachings. Kumaré sets off to Phoenix, Arizona to build a following. He takes with him two disciples — Kristen to teach yoga and Purva to book events — who will become Kumaré’s first followers and greatest public messengers.
In the course of her talks with Ashram inmates, the Mother Mirra Alfassa would from time to time casually reminiscence incidents which had occurred in France. One particular anecdote she discussed was that of a woman who had experienced a spontaneous psychic joy after an act of generosity. Even though the woman is unnamed, given the personal details revealed, it is quite possible that this woman was the Mother herself. Alternately, it could be her friend Alexandra David-Neel. Irrespective of who the woman was, the incident is uplifting to read.
Many novices to Yoga discover that once you have pacified the restless body and harmonized the breathing process before meditation, you might experience a few minutes of mental silence, but this illusory peace is quickly shattered by the sudden uprush of disturbing images and negative thoughts. These unpleasant ideas come partly from within and partly from outside. Within us, there are repressed parts of the personality which rebel against any imposition of harmony while on the external front, we are constantly bathing in the vibrations of the world and a desultory attempt to cut our mind off from these pervasive vibrations is bound to fail. In an age of rapid technological change where we are being continuously bombarded by powerful and seductive audio-visual content on a wide variety of electronic devices, the frequency of this problem has probably increased rather than decreased. These are some remarks by the Mother on this perennial botheration.
Goraknath was a yogi-philosopher belonging the Nath Path (Brotherhood of the Supreme) who lived around the 9th-10th century. His Guru Matysendranath was the progenitor of this influential brotherhood of ascetics. Gorakhnath authored several works on Yoga including the Goraksha Samhita, the Goraksha Gita, the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga Martanada, the Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga-Bija, and the Yoga Chintamani. You can read more about him on wikipedia. This article briefly outlines the meditation methods that Gorakhnath first enumerated in his work Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati. The material is condensed from A.K. Banerjea’s Philosophy of Gorakhnath.
The spiritual path often seems like a walk through the arid desert. Intermittently, one may encounter an oasis of water in the form of a replenishing soul moment, but the rest of the time one has to trudge through the scorching heat of the hardships of daily life. It is in this context that the Vedic Rishis spoke of the spiritual seeker being like a Divine child who is suckled by two Mothers – Dawn and Night. In such situations, one may wonder why spiritual experiences never seem to repeat; why can’t one recapture that stirring rapture one had experienced before? The Mother Mirra Alfassa provided some striking and sagacious answers to such often perplexing questions.
“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)
It is known that the restless mind cannot immediately enter into a state of thoughtlessness. That is why meditation is practised in stages. A 2005 paper “Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness” by Antoine Lutz and his colleagues contains a very succinct description of this graded process accompanied by a concise table, which we highlight in this post. Continue reading
The subjective perception of Time is a well-known phenomenon studied by neuroscientists and psychologists. They have discovered that as people get older, the years seem to be fly by much quickly . Time slows down amidst a crisis or accident when we become painfully aware of every thought and feeling . It slows down when we are exasperated and eagerly waiting for something to happen (“Are we there yet...?”) but, in sharp constrast, it zips by when we are engrossed in study. Scientists have also discovered the Kappa effect by which a faster journey over more distance appears more time-consuming than a slower journey over less distance. Psychedelic drugs like LSD are said to drastically impair the linear conception of time, making time go backwards and even out of sequence. Centuries earlier, St Augustine of Hippo commented that when we measure time, we are actually measuring the mental memory of the past event or interval of time .
As the consciousness becomes purified through regular practice of Yoga, one finds that sleep becomes more active and more real. Dreams no longer seem to be phantasmagoric illusions but resemble what they actually are – excursions into the occult worlds. We possess one unbroken stream of consciousness, which during the day dwells in the physical world and at night interacts with the occult worlds and consequently, the experiences we have in dreams are inextricably tied to the events in the physical world. In this article, we explore a few ways to become more conscious in sleep.
Most people in the initial stages of the spiritual path attain what may be called a “passive calm”. The glow on their face lasts only as long as they are surrounded by kind and gentle people like themselves. Faced with a protracted conflict, they either shrink from it in revulsion or unexpectedly lose their composure in exasperation. One must strive to attain an “active calm” which doesn’t dissipate even in the midst of conflict. The ability to handle vicissitudes in the hustle and bustle of daily life has to be developed. It is in the darkest hour, when circumstances are the opposite of one’s spiritual ideals, that one must be able to survive solely by the power of the inner lamp.
We know we are doing something wrong and yet, when the time comes, we are unable to stop ourselves. This can happen for very small things and also for things which have a crucial impact on our lives. When we are quiet, by ourselves, we feel that we will not indulge in wrong movements or repeat our mistakes. But as soon as the occasion arises, not only do we forget our resolutions, but even begin to find justifications and excuses for our indulgence. And the whole cycle repeats itself over and over again. We sometimes wonder why this is so. This article explores the way out of this psychological predicament.
We desire security in life and the manner in which we satisfy this desire alters considerably as we evolve in consciousness. At the lowest level stands the social individual, who prudently nurtures an extensive network of family and friends to whom he/she can turn to in times of desperation. In the middle stands the neophyte on the spiritual path, who seeks shelter in a place of meditation – a room where the vibrations have been made serene through devotional music and incense – where he or she can withdraw to contemplate and gain strength during trials and tribulations.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa frequently spoke of ascents and descents which occur during meditation. Ramana Maharshi, when informed of these statements, firmly denied any such occurrences. Such puzzling contradictions can occur due to different vocabularies used by various sages as well as the varied transformations by which they attain Self-realization. In this article, I will endeavour to outline the resolution to this contradiction and hopefully clear the confusion.
As with every undertaking in life, so also in the practice of Yoga, some aptitude or competency is required. Some people take to meditation like fish to water, while others labor all their life to unveil the light which lies latent within. Aptitude can be developed through right living and right thinking and is carried over into future incarnations, guiding us into contact with saints and Yogis who can lead us to enlightenment. The Guru adapts his teaching based on the aptitude of the disciple since all are not capable of assimilating and realizing the Truth in identical manner. This is also the reason why different kinds of meditation techniques have developed over time. These are some selections on the subject of aptitude from various sages.
During meditation, one may lapse into brief periods of mental silence and wake up refreshed with no memory of what happened during that interval. Various sages have pointed out that this condition verges more towards unconsciousness instead of greater consciousness, and does not imply that the goal has been reached or is nearer. One has to go further by making the meditation more conscious, active and dynamic. For that to occur, the Higher Self must always remain awake during meditation even though the mental consciousness has become immobile. These are some passages collected from various sources on this topic.
Cultural values tend to vary across countries, civilizations and time. This frequently creates confusion as to which actions are spiritual in nature. Those who are raised in traditional societies prefer to conform to some ancient norms while those who are raised in secular societies tend to propound a freewheeling lifestyle. Furthermore, in the frenetic pace of life, it is difficult to distinguish the activities which please the surface personality from the activities which bring deeper joy to the soul. Which movies to watch? Which music to listen to? Which books to read? Which friends are better? The discernment required to choose correctly is often lacking because that discernment itself may not develop until one has advanced in Yoga. Often, it takes an epiphany to awaken and correct oneself after having gone down some wrong path.
The ordinary life undulates between inspired action, drudgery, boredom and leisure. Our response to the events of the day is shaped by our memory of the past. Abuse, poverty, illness and betrayal leave their mark on our consciousness making us polarized, disheartened, bitter or hard-charging. To uplift the abased life, the first goal of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is the practice and perfection of equanimity (Samata in the words of the Gita) in every aspect of life. Instead of renouncing everything and retiring to some cave/ashram/monastery to meditate, the secret is to live in society and absorb the impacts without inducing stress. To be equal in all circumstances is the first step in perfection because it disengages the Spirit (Purusha) from the material consciousness (Prakriti). It is from the poise of equanimity that we rise into true freedom. The rest of this article covers various aspects of equanimity.
The Divine Will is an elusive thing for sure. The religious preacher confuses his strong beliefs with the Divine Will, the despot attributes his success to it’s action, and spiritual aspirant is supposed to surrender to it. Does any such thing as the Divine Will really exist? How can one recognize it ? The Divine Will does exist because there is a teleological purpose in evolution. Every soul is being led to the Truth through a certain line of evolution, seemingly haphazardly, and it is this Divine Will which subtly goads him to progress forward. Ordinarily, the Divine Will remains concealed due to our ignorance of our true nature but it begins to unveil itself as we gradually erase the ego through Yoga and allied occult-spiritual practices.
The human consciousness in its attempt to know something divides itself into two parts : the first is the movement of identity whereby one gets to know something by becoming that thing and the second is the movement of differentiation where one stands apart as the subject and analyzes the entity as an object. Building on this observation, Sri Aurobindo outlined four epistemic modes of consciousness which differ from each other in the relative intensity of these movements of identity and differentiation .
The first problem we often face in meditation is restlessness in the body. There is always some irritating sensation which distracts us from sitting still for long periods of time. This inability to concentrate can be usually attributed to past indulgences like coffee, cigarettes and alcohol that have contaminated the body. By sustained effort as well as forswearing of any further excesses, the physical body has to be molded so it can become a willing receptacle (Adhar) which can bear the power and light which pours in during Yoga. A strong nervous system is a sine qua non for any spiritual transformation.