~ Satsang by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati on August 20, 2021 at Ganga Darshan Ashram, India
Welcome to Sanyasa Peeth Paduka Darshan, the event of Chaturmasa and the program of Krishna Aradhana. And a big ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘Hari Om’ to all of you.
It is my Anushtana that I perform every year in (the) form of Chaturmasa. And there are two aspects of it, one is personal and private, and the other one is to share with the people the residents and the citizens of the town, the country, and the nation.
During Chaturmasa different activities are conducted and guided at Sanyasa Peeth Paduka Darshan. One of the activities is the yoga flow, and in this yogic flow we learn the practices and the principles of the yogic tradition, the yogic science, the yogic culture and the yogic lifestyle; along with the practices of asanas, pranayamas, relaxation, and meditation. And this is to acquire fitness and health which is physical; which is psychological; and which is spiritual. Along with this current of yoga, another current flows as well, and that is of jnana. Jnana means knowledge: Cultivate the correct understanding. And in this tradition, there are studies of Upanishads, Gitas, Vedas, Sutras, and Vedantas by the eminent personalities and sannyasins who are masters on these subjects. (The) third current, is that of Karma through Seva and through Dhan; through correct and positive interaction with people all around with the intention to uplift their life, the intention to bring health, peace, and beauty in their life. Different activities are undertaken. The next current is that of Bhakti. And, in the current of Bhakti there are the chanting of mantras, kirtans, bhajans, namasmarana, japa, different invocations, different aradhanas, and upasanas which bring one closer to inner purity and inner wholeness. There are cultural programs to introduce people to the different spiritual traditions and the folk traditions of the country. And in this manner, two months pass very fast. Due to the pandemic, the Chaturmasa Anushtana is a private affair this year. And in this Anushtana we are performing Krishna Aradhana and you are participating in this Krishna Aradhana. This is not a religious function, but an awareness to cultivate purity and wholeness in life, the determination to cultivate love in life. And Krishna represents love. The definition of bhakti is also love. And the definition of bhakti is also service. Bhaja sevayam indicates ‘express your love; express your devotion through service.'
Parama prema rupa means bhakti is the ultimate form of transcendental love. And these are two things that we need to understand in order to grasp the subject of bhakti. People define bhakti as devotion to God. That is one path. People define bhakti as ritual; karmakāṇḍa- Going to temples, worshipping that is another path. People chant kirtans, the name of God. That is another path. And all these different paths represent different traditions, and customs, and aspects of religions. But the yogic perspective is different. The yogic perspective says you have to discover that purity, you have discover that wholeness, you have to discover that love inside you, and the moment you do that you are united. You are one with the element of Krishna, and Krishna represents the effulgent love. He is the premavatar, the incarnation of love.
So, there are different paths of bhakti as well. And a yogic path has its own views and understanding, because there are two aspects of life; one is experience and the other is expression. And experience and expression go hand in hand. In the state of wholeness and purity you experience Ananda and you express Love. You experience bliss, and you give love, you receive ananda and you give prem. And they both are complimentary to each other, the bliss and the love. They both are complimentary to each other and they can not be separated.
But in order to perfect bhakti, just following a method; a ritual; a path is not enough or sufficient. In order to explore the dimension of purity and positivity and quality in one’s life, just following one path is not enough. But also an awareness has to cultivate as to how we can become stable in that experience of bhakti. And there are two aspects that have to be considered; if you can cultivate the aspects that I am going to enumerate now then you will be able to stabilize yourself in the path of bhakti, in the dimension of purity and love.
And what are these conditions? The first two conditions are saman and namratā, these are the two qualities that need to be cultivated first. Saman means respect and honour; namratā means humility. if you can cultivate the ability to respect and honour everyone around you; the downtrodden and the rich affluent both, the poor and the rich, the miserable and the happy, then you will be able to control a very big block in your life which hampers your identification and your expression of bhakti or love. And that barrier is ego and the various expressions of ego. When you are able to honour someone and respect someone, you are setting aside your ego for the time being. You are setting aside the arrogance for the time being, and you are honouring what the other person represents. When you go in front of a master a guru, you bow your head out of respect. Bowing of head symbolizes ‘I am setting aside my arrogance and my ego and I am coming to you as a friend, as a seeker. So the idea is, that in order to honour and respect people, set aside the ego for a little while and develop a positive and uplifting constructive relationship and communication/association with the person- without the intervention of the ego in different areas and actions and ideas. And when you are able to set aside the ego for a little while, humility will be the natural outcome. So honour, respect and humility… if we are able to cultivate these qualities, then we shall take one step in the path of bhakti.
Two more qualities that have to be developed are kartavya-parayanta and nishtha. kartavya-parayanta means performance of one’s duties in the correct and timely manner. And Nishtha means determination.
The first aspect of ‘respect, honour, and humility’ represent the dissolution of arrogance and egocentric behaviors and attitudes. Making one more simple and innocent. More connected, more harmonious, more balanced. And when ego is set aside, then the path to bliss and love opens before us. Then we come to the other aspect: kartavya-parayanta performance of one’s obligations and duties in correct manner and in timely fashion. And nishtha, conviction and determination. These also have to be developed because they aid the process of satkarma. The appropriate and the correct action done for the upliftment of the individual; and that is Seva.
These two also you have to develop. And then there is another group of two. You know you have two eyes. The left and the right, and these eyes represent rag and dwesh, attraction and repulsion. the left eye represents rag- attraction. The right eye represents dwesh- repulsion. And we look at the entire world with our two eyes and what the eyes see either I like it or I dislike it. Rag and dwesh is a natural expression of the eyes. If eyes see something nice they will like it if eyes see something not so nice they will dislike it. So the experience of rag and dwesh happens through the eyes. And this association of eyes happens with every object, individual, person, situation, place, time. We are always saying I like and don’t like, I like and I don’t like, I see this and I don’t like; I see this and I like. So just the vision of raga and dwesha which controls and guides our life all the time and raga is the ida function; it receives. Dwesha is the pingala function; it gives. And these two have to be balanced. Raga has to be balanced with vairagya and dwesha has to be balanced with viveka. Raga is what comes to you, what you like, what you desire, what you aspire for, what you are passionate about, what you crave, and dwesha is the opposite of that. So if you are able to observe and analyze in your meditation for five minutes: my attachments; my desires. And think, that are they appropriate for this time, this moment this period in my life or are they just my fantasy and imagination? And develop slowly, non-attachment. Become non-attached to those things which today attract and attach you. I am not saying reject them. I am saying do not reject them but be aware of their effect and influence on your thoughts, on your behavior, and on your performance and manage that. If you are able to manage these things, then you will begin to cultivate vairaghya in your life. I am not using the word detachment; I am using the word non-attachment. Things can be there, but you are not attached to it, you don’t have to reject anything you just accept it, but don’t identify with it. That is vairagya. And the second aspect, which helps to manage dwesh is vivek. Because dwesh is repulsion, non-acceptance; rejection. And with viveka the correct understanding with the right wisdom, with the right knowledge, we can control and modify this behavior which leads to rejection and strife which leads to separation and difficulties. Which leads to not wanting anything forcefully, but internally craving for it. So viveka is the right understanding and vairagya is non-attachment. And these are the six conditions, which if we can live in our bhakti Aradhana, then we shall definitely experience Ananda and express love. And the moment that we are able to do this we shall be one with Shri Krishna. Because Krishna means the element that attracts you towards it. “karsha te iti Krishna’ the element that attracts you towards it, and what attracts you, what holds your awareness, what holds your attention is always love. If you find love, you will always be attracted there, you will always gravitate there. So Krishna is another name for bhakti, bhakti is another name for prem, prem is another name for the unconditional love. And this can be attained by tweaking and modifying certain dimensions of our personality and nature in which we live on a day to day moment to moment basis. In order to experience purity; in order to experience internal peace and harmony; in order to experience an integrated personality – follow the path of bhakti, follow the path of love, follow the path of purity, follow the path of wholeness. And that has been the message of Shri Krishna which we see in his teachings, which we see in his life. And that is the aspiration of yoga as well. To connect with the dimension, to experience the dimension of Anandamaya kosha and premmaya kosha and to express the pure quality that we are able to live when we connect to that higher dimension. This is our Krishna Aradhana. And, you are all welcome to participate in this Aradhana by invoking the positive, the benevolent and the graceful satyam, shivam and sundaram in your life.
Hari Om Tat Sat.
In Yoga there is a fundamental belief that the Divine/Universe, is always bringing itself back into balance, union or Yog. It is the ultimate expression of the oscillation of our dualistic reality. Negative, Positive — Transcend. One extreme — another extreme: peace, happiness, contentment.
Limbo, or the “unknown,” has never been an easy place for humans to sit. We like certainty and control (albeit perceived), solidity, routine, things we can ‘count on’ to ‘make us’ feel calm. In times like right now, the whole world has been thrown into a space of uncertainty. The most accurate words that are coming out of anyone’s mouth at this moment are “we don’t know” and this is not a comfortable place for people to sit. Now bare with me - this is a necessary space to sit.
As Yogis, we go out of our way to actively create uncomfortableness where we stimulate and push our consciousness into opportunities for transformation. We call it Tapasya. This is a mix of austerity, sacrifice, discipline and uncertainty. Uncertainty is important, because when we engage in a Sadhana that is pushing us to our mental, emotional and physical limits we just don’t know if our efforts through the practices of Yoga (eg. Mantra, Havan, Asana, etc) are going to be successful. We just don’t know. We don’t know if all the uncomfortableness is going to bring us into the experience of more peace, more clarity, more Love. We don’t know and we learn to be ok with not knowing.
Being ok with not knowing is also called a state of Faith. Faith that every little effort we make, with the intention of stepping into health, balance and evolution in mind, will collectively, and eventually, create an outcome that is good for us. That doesn’t mean an outcome that is necessary pleasant, easy, or enjoyable but an outcome that will ultimately bring us into a more optimal state of balance, of Yog, than we were before.
Dare I say it, it will bring us closer to living our fullest potential.
The thing is, the more out-of-balance we are, the more these out-of-the-norm, out-of-our-control experiences hit us hard. If you are attached to having a screaming hot shower, then to have a cold one becomes is a big leap. But if you live a (Yogic) life where you are aspiring for nonattachement - balance at every turn, then a cold shower is a mild (mental) inconvenience only a step away from the tepid norm.
The key is to SLOW DOWN and WITNESS. Witness ourselves as the media ramps up its hysteria machine. Witness your mind in its balance between making sure that you are doing your due diligence for your own safety, but balancing that with making sure that others around you and in your community are also taken care of. It's easy to slide into the mass consciousness of fear and anxiety and that can quickly fester into self-preservation. But self-preservation has never been the point of life, for the simple fact is that we will all die. LOVE has, and will always be, the point of life.
It is not a coincidence that Covid-19 is centred around the purification of the lungs and heart centre. Anahata Chakra (heart space) holds Love, but it also holds attachment, and grief. It is these frequencies of mind and emotion that it is trying to recalibrate. And it is also no surprise that the greater ripple of this is creating economic instability for two reasons:
1) Anahata is the foundation of the 5th Dimension and that mirrors Mooladhara which is the foundation of the 3rd Dimension - which is the home of money and physical stability. These things are going to be rocked to their core — because they need to be.
2) Our whole collective-consumeristic-society is based on attachment. Mine and Yours. “I need more to feel good and feel safe and I’m attached to those things, because if I don’t have them anymore my emotional and mental well-being, ‘my world,’ will collapse.”
And this, my friends, is our opportunity - To see where we are out of balance in our attachment and to see where the past (grief) is still influencing our decisions for our present and our future.
I believe that virus’ such as Covid-19 are a reality to help us come into balance. And anything that helps us come into balance is ultimately helping us step into our fullest potential as humans. Now is the time to step up, to love, to help each other, to listen deeply to your soul, to let go of what you want, and focus on what you need. From 'Niwas, we are all sending blessings & mantras to you and to those who are suffering and experiencing loss.
May this time be a softening, of expansion and of deep connection with yourSelf and those around you.
Om and Prem.
December 2019 Satsang Notes compiled by Chaitanya Chase from Sannyasi Shivani's Satsang
Below are the annotated notes taken from the recorded Satsang in December 2019. They relay Sannyasi Shivani’s experiences from her trip to Rikhiapeeth and bought forth some of the themes and teachings that Swami Satsangi relayed in through Satsangs while she was there.
To watch the Satsang for yourself check out this link.
- By Sannyasi Shivani Howe
As we fully come into the depths of Winter I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on Self-care. Firstly defining what Self-care is: Self-care how we care for ourselves, not how we get others to care for us. This takes a high degree of self-awareness, kindness and a fierce commitment and responsibility to our own health; mental, emotional and physical.
Self-care means creating a life where we care about and prioritize (!) what is going on inside of us, and take responsibility for how we are contributing to the health and well-being of the world around us. So Self-care is really an aspect of LIVING Yoga.
Sometimes, even if we have been blessed enough to create a life where we love what we do, and are financially supported to do what we love, (as I hope most Yoga teachers out there feel) it’s still important to recognize that feeling burnt out and tapped are a very real experiences. These feelings are great signposts that we are no longer living in the flow of Divine will. The reality is that, if we are not strong, healthy and connected with our cup runneth over then, we don’t have a lot to offer the community.
The key is to learn to pick up on our subconscious cues early so we can make small adjustments to our day and routines to help us stay on track. As opposed to waiting until we are frayed at the seams and about to crack before we take a step back and recalibrate. It’s all about moment-to-moment awareness and adjustments. The little efforts add up considerably and when put together create a Sattvic lifestyle.
This means having a toolbox that we can refer to to help recalibrate, and reorientate our internal world to a state of harmony so that we can hold that space effectively in the community.
Here are a few gems in my toolbox that keep me inspired, present, my eye on the light and my cup overflowing.
MOUNA - By far this is one of the most profound and strongly recalibrating practices I have ever practised as a Yogini. Challenging if you have small children, but it's more about prioritizing it than making excuses. 2 hours. 4 hours. 6 hours. Block it off. Prioritize it, prioritize YOU. No books. No phones. No social media. No talking. (obviously Mouna is much more than no talking but let’s start small ) - IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE and literally changed my functional paradigm, especially if I can block off more than 6 hours. Not an easy practice, but nothing fills my cup faster.
UP BEFORE DAWN - Even if it is 10 mins before the sun rises, stepping into my day while it’s still dark outside is a real gift. To have the first light be a candle of remembrance and mantra rather than the blue rectangle of my phone is imperative to my mental health.
STARTING MY DAY WITH AJAPAJAPA or internal MANTRA - I’m not much of morning person. I love the mornings but I’m not always a big fan of other people in my mornings. So starting my day with my first words to be in gratitude to the Divine through mantra is really important for my orientation. My first words really need to be “Akhand-Mandalakaram” and not “Must have coffee”.
PUT THE PHONE AWAY - Seriously. It sounds do-able until I go to do it. Then I remember someone who is supposed to call, an email that I forgot to do three days ago… All of these things are Vata high (too much mental stimulation and anxiety - not enough grounding or presence) I try and keep my phone on silent or do not disturb outside of regular business hours. I love the practice of leaving my phone in the kitchen so that I can’t keep checking the time in the middle of the night or reading the online newspaper as I am known to do at 3am.
BALANCE THE WANT-TOS AND THE OUGHT-TO’S - Hopefully we are able to create a life where the ought to's and the want-to’s are one and the same. But even though I absolutely love what I do, sometimes even teaching feels like an ought to rather than a want-to. And this is my alarm bell that its time for some self-care.
Once we have established a baseline of Sattva (and I mean established - so that our wants are not just Swadhisthana self-sabotage desires holding us in Avidya) Our want-to’s will actually be showing us what we need to do to come back into balance and health so that we can serve.
And lastly, about four times a year I like to GET BORED. That’s right - I strip away any activity (sometimes I can combine this with a Mouna practice). No clocks, books, obligations, or plans. No cleaning. Just sit there. No chores. No hiking/forest walks. Nothing. I go outside, if I can, until I get utterly bored. So bored that cleaning or chopping wood or some other ought-to seems appealing. THAT’S when I know I have been reset, that my cup is full and I’m ready to serve.
I hope that some of these tools will also help you prioritize your self-care.
He used the analogy of holding a bird in your hands. You need to hold it firm enough that it cannot fly away, yet gentle enough that you do not harm the bird.
I love this analogy, it made the concept so clear in such a simple way. I was so inspired by this teaching that, while pregnant, I painted a yantra (a geometrical light formation that emanates from sound vibration) of the Cosmic Mother for the nursery, and included the image of the cupped bird at its centre. As my husband and I raise our children, this painting continues to remind me that our children are not ours, but that they are entrusted to us for a time. They are born with free will, yet we hold them for a time until they are ready, and it is safe, for them to fly.
The image of the cupped bird also reminds me to be balanced in my parenting because sometimes the power of separation anxiety and the desire to protect is so strong. I want to keep my children safe. Safe from physical danger, but also safe from emotional danger. It is easy for me to go overboard in trying to control my son's movements, activities and social interactions throughout the day in the name of "safety," or "protection," and I find that sometimes what is really at the centre of that might be my own insecurity. I do think that children need the freedom to explore, learn and discover for themselves; at the same time, I do need to be close by to step in when needed. That's the sticky bit for me right there. "When needed."
The cupped bird reminds me that, if I hold my children too close to me due to my own insecurities and fears, I may end up harming them by preventing them from developing the skills they need to thrive in this life, and the resiliency and confidence that one absolutely needs in order to bounce back from inevitable hurts and failures. I have found that it takes so much courage and strength on my part to allow my children the freedom that they need and are entitled to. To give them my love, versus my attachment.
On the flip side, what happens when we don't hold our children tight enough? My family is such a great example of this analogy. If left unchecked, I have the tendency to be controlling. My husband has the opposite tendency towards permissiveness. This is something I think we are seeing more these days in a very well-intentioned attempt at "democracy in the family." It's not bad in my eyes, as long as we strive to keep things in balance. I think we now know that, in order to feel safe and secure, children thrive with a certain amount of routine, boundaries and predictability. Otherwise, they may not feel held, but a bit lost instead as they move throughout their day and social interactions.
Lastly, the image of the cupped bird helps me reflect on my own self-care as a mother. Enter the tendency towards perfectionism as a mother, toward being the "perfect mother." Ahhh. When I had my first child, I allowed so little self-care for myself. We all know the mom-bun. I rocked that bun for weeks (maybe a month!) at a time without taking it down to comb, let alone wash it. When I would finally take my hair down, it ached from the root from being tied up for so long, and had actually dreaded in several places. I had thought that I was being a great mother, giving my all to my child and so little to myself, but in the end not being balanced in my self-care led to inevitable burn out, not allowing me to be my most healthy self for my son. This may seem obvious, but it was really difficult to distinguish when was a good time for me to engage in self-care. It always seemed equally important to be available to him, and then once he was asleep, I didn't have the energy to get up and do self-care.
The promise I made to myself before having our second son was to not hold myself so tight, to relax my ideas and to allow for a little more self-care, because I knew that I couldn't do it the same way twice. Now, I make sure to brush my hair (every few days), and my teeth (almost every day) and shower (well, more than before!).
AND I'm FINALLY writing this blog! It's not perfect... because I don't have time (or enough sleep) for that! Maybe, in some cases, good enough is perfect after all.
Om & Prem.
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