Besides the physical body, we have a subtle body that we can keep healthy. It is made up of subtle energy channels (nadis), energy centers (chakras), energy fields (the aura) and energy structures that contain thoughts and emotions. Whenever one of these parts is cleared of thoughts and emotions, we can feel the flow of sattvic energy (goodness) running through our being. If we tune in to this energy flow, we can drift into meditation. So to create a nice meditation, simply clear a subtle energy part, and it sends us into a nice state of awareness. The key is to place our attention on that energy shift, and it will take us on a ride like surfing a wave on the ocean. One by one, we clear the energy channels, centers, fields and structures until our whole subtle energy system is flowing with pure light and goodness. This state is a form of Enlightenment.
Since most of us are not aware of all the complexities of the subtle body, it is helpful to find a guide who is aware of it and who has a completely pure subtle body. That guide can direct the healing of our subtle body. At the same time, we can sink into negativity, and the subtle body becomes clogged again. To keep the subtle body clean, we must maintain positive emotions, thoughts, speech and actions. When the subtle body is clean, it naturally heals the subtle bodies of those around us. And if our subtle body is dirty, it can pollute the subtle body of another, depending how strong that other person's subtle body is. The energy of the subtle body can create a positive or negative environment, and it can program the object we touch with positivity or negativity. Therefore, since our subtle body affects the world around us, we have a great responsibility to keep our subtle body clean.
There are many ways to keep the subtle body clean. One can perform yoga asana (yoga postures), chant mantra (divine words), and practice mudra (divine gestures). These spiritual practices keep the subtle body clean and transform thoughts and emotions from negative to positive. We can also keep a gratitude journal. This writing will keep the mind and emotions aligned with a higher vibration. We can also keep a clearing journey in which we clarify the thoughts and emotions that are disturbing our mind. By writing out the negativity, we shine light upon it and release it from our subtle system.
May we continue to walk the path of purity and transform ourselves into instruments for the higher good.
Mantra is an ancient practice in many cultures used to transform one's vibration. By attuning to certain vocal sounds, we awaken healing within our body, mind and soul. Long ago, the sages of Vedic culture created a science of mantra, writing down the Sanskrit language. Every single word in the Sanskrit language is meant to be an invocation of divinity (infinite presence). Why? Because these sages were attuned to divinity and therefore, the words that issued from them were connected to the divine. Sanskrit is still used today, particularly in temples during holy ceremonies.
As it is said in the Bible, "In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was God." This suggests that all of creation comes from a vibration known as the "Word." In Christianity, the universal sound is called "Amen." In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the word Ameen is also used. In Vedic culture (ancient India), the primordial sound is "Om," pronounced "A-U-M" or AWW-OO-MM. Where does the word come from? Saints and great Yogis go into meditation and hear the universal sound deep within themselves. Of course, the sound may be spelled differently in different traditions, but it is there. Under the guidance of the great saints, we chant the sound of "Om" which brings us closer to the God Principle.
According to Sanskrit definition, the word mantra can be broken down into "man-" meaning thought and "-tra" meaning instrument. Therefore, mantra is an instrument of thought. We use it to focus our mind on something positive (although the mind can certainly focus on a negative thought/mantra). Ideally, the spiritual aspirant receives a mantra from the sage (an enlightened being) and chants it in order to connect with the wisdom and understanding of that sage. This "passing of the torch" is also called an initiation. It is like a flame has been lit inside the aspirant that can now grow by feeding the flame with the specific mantra. One common mantra passed down over the generations is the sound, "So Hum," which means "I am That." "That" is the place from whence all creation comes from." In other words, one chants this mantra to awaken the realization of one's essential nature. Some yogis will chant this single mantra their whole life, meditating upon the energy that arises from it.
There are many more mantras with specific energies built within them. They can heal the senses, specific body parts, and specific aspects of the mind. Whatever you are trying to heal, there is likely a mantra for that issue. One can chant it aloud or silently moving the lips and tongue or in the mind. If one chants it aloud, the vibration changes the physical atmosphere and internal landscape. Internal chanting transforms one's subtle body (mind, emotions). Sometime, we gather together to sing the mantras aloud. This is called kirtan, a method of empowering everyone's mantra practice through group alignment. Indeed, kirtan can make chanting fun and lively - more like a celebration.
It is a worthwhile endeavor to try mantra as the effects are often healing, soothing, and meditative.
Om Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Karma is action created by physical movement, speech and thought. Each of these "actions" is aligned with a particular energy or vibration - negative or positive, dark or light. The more positive actions we manifest, the higher vibration we create in our lives, and the more our future will unfold in a positive way. On the other hand, the more negative actions we create, the more negativity will unfold in our future. Positive actions are any movements, words or thoughts that come from a place of love, joy, and peace. Negative actions are any movements, words or thoughts that stem from anger, sorrow, or guilt. In Eastern philosophy, karma is carried from lifetime to lifetime. So in previous lifetimes, if we created a lot of negativity, that negativity would manifest in this lifetime. And the same for positivity. So indeed, we can say that our being is a composite of ALL our karma from this lifetime and the eons before.
Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;
And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.
— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BCE
How can we improve our lives through this philosophy? Clearly we must consider how to transform all of our negative karma into positive karma, including our physical action, vocal action, and mental action. Then our entire life becomes an expression of goodness, also known in ancient Vedic tradition as "sattva." "Sattva" is the expression of pure love, peace, joy, and purity. Every deed, word, and thought stems from perfect goodness. In a "sattvic state," the human enters a realm of deep meditation in which the whole world is experienced to be perfect as it is; i.e. total acceptance.
Perhaps the most difficult karma to transform is thought or intention. What motivations do we act from? Even when we say good things or do good things, we often come from a place of selfish motivation. For instance, we might help someone out of guilt or we might represent a good cause out of anger. In other words, the action may be good, but the motivation is impure. Is it possible to act purely for the sake of goodness? Love for love's sake without any conditions? Spiritual practices such as mantra, mudra, and asana can be very helpful in purifying the mind's hidden agenda. When the mind is healed, we become more sattvic, and our negative karma becomes positive karma. Happiness dawns in the mind. We no longer feel the need to change the world because our inner world is radiant.
Vasistha's Yoga is a contemplation on the philosophy of non-duality to explain the nature of Reality Itself. Contemplation is a very helpful tool for transforming the mind because it questions our assumptions about life, the universe and God. As we let go of all our assumptions, our mind becomes free of duality, i.e. ideas of me and you, this and that. According to Vasistha's Yoga, this contemplation is one of the paths to freedom from suffering. It is also called the path of the jnani or the path of Knowledge.
Vedic philosophy suggests that the universe is made up of three gunas or modes of nature: tamas, rajas, and sattva guna. Tamas represents darkness and inertia. Rajas represents movement and activity. Sattva represents goodness and meditation. Everything is made up of a combination of the gunas. These gunas are constantly changing, so the entire universe is constantly changing. If something is always changing, then it is temporary and therefore, not the Ultimate Reality. Sage Vasistha states that ANY thought in the mind is not the Absolute Truth, so ALL thoughts must be let go or surrendered. Letting go means not taking the thoughts to be Real or, for that matter, important. When EVERY thought is let go, the Final Truth is realized: Aham Brahmasmi. I am Brahman. In other words, there is only Brahman, only God. No more objectification. No longer experiencing oneself to be the mind. Just pure consciousness. The world within the mind dissolves in the fire of this realization, and all suffering ceases. There is no individual to suffer anymore since the very idea of individuality (identification with ego) is dropped.
Vasistha's Yoga is a conversation between Vasishta and Ram. Ram asks the sage question after question about the nature of Reality, especially for the benefit of the thousands of people who are attending this great gathering called satsang. Vasishta advises Ram to consider the universe as a rope instead of a snake. The human mind worries because there are so many fears in duality. In a dark room, when one touches a rope, it is considered to be a snake and therefore, terrifying. When the light is turned on, one sees the rope and loses all fear. The same thing happens when one realizes that everything is Brahman, pure consciousness, Truth. One knows that "I am everything." Indeed, the name "Ram" means "I am everything." Ram is the incarnation of "everything," the embodiment of that realization, and even today, millions of people worship Ram as the "Supreme Being."
Vasishta's Yoga helps the mind to cancel itself out. The book presents a conundrum that the mind cannot solve. When the mind let's go of thought, the consciousness is free. As the wind brings the clouds to the sky, it also blows away the clouds. Similarly, the mind has created its prison, and it can also sweep away its prison simply through a contemplation about the nature of Reality. Using a powerful intellect, one can cut through any thought or emotion and diffuse it. Let us contemplate ourselves out of suffering and realize the self-luminous being beyond all conception.
Many religions and spiritual traditions suggest that God is Omnipresent. This idea is a wonderful philosophy that is worth considering more deeply. Perhaps if we contemplate the nature of Omnipresence, we may come closer to God! Indeed, if that contemplation helps us to realize God, it would be very good to contemplate it all the time. Omnipresence means existing everywhere - in matter, in energy, in thoughts, mind and emotion, in all universes and dimensions, in time, space, and distance. Everything that one could possibly conceive of - therein lies God. Indeed, everything must be God. Yet our mind seems to perceive the world as a bunch of separate objects that are good, bad or neutral, all based on feelings. Thus arises "problem consciousness." Somehow the filter of the mind has created an experience that is God or not God. Many seekers have walked the path of spirituality, striving to cleanse the filter of the mind which has created good and evil, me and you, this and that. There are two primary ways to purify the mind. One is iti iti; the other is neti neti.
Iti iti means, "This is it, this is it." You could call this idea the path of love. Look for ways to experience everything as God. Find the magic and beauty in everything, and everything becomes an aspect of God. Develop appreciation and gratitude for every aspect of creation, even the things that the mind has determined to be bad or evil. This appreciation becomes so powerful that the object begins to develop a "Presence." One feels the Presence in more and more things until the entire world becomes one vast Presence. That Presence is felt within the body and mind and outside the body. Thus, one's entire experience becomes God, and "problem consciousness" falls away.
Neti neti means "not this, not this." You could call this idea the path of peace. Consider that everything the mind presents is not the Absolute Truth and therefore, not important. Through this contemplation, the mind easily lets go of worries, fears, anger, greed, hatred, etc. because none of it is important! The mind is constructed of dualities which have been programmed according to family and society. This mind is founded upon a feeling of "I" versus the rest of the world. Empty the mind of all concepts and ideas of what self, life and God is. Consider your experience of existence right now, and then let go of it all, treating these feelings like clouds passing across the sky. The sky does not hold onto the clouds. When there are no more labels, concepts, and ideas, the filter of the mind has dissolved, and the Self becomes luminous. The Presence of God reveals Itself. There are no more words.
If God is Omnipresent, then where are you? And who are you? This question itself is the crux of the philosophy. You cannot exist as a separate entity within the context of Omnipresence. Let us enjoy the game of God together and solve this great Conundrum.
In April 2012, living a simple life, I dwelt in an apartment in Austin, Texas, enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. My activities were simple. I enjoyed meditation and chanting mantras. I gave hypnotherapy sessions to people. I jogged and hiked through the woods. I ran a small financial planning business that I had started back in 2001.
Every 6 months, my spiritual Teacher, Svami Purna, specially came to the US to hold retreats. In great excitement, I went to visit Him in Miami, Florida. During the retreat, I met Him in a personal darshan and asked for guidance. "Shall I visit India?" He said, "Not now." And I left the room, feeling the beautiful glow of His Energy. The next day, He asked me to come back to see Him in person. This was very unusual. As I walked into the room and knelt before Him, He said to me, "You are going to travel around the US in a vehicle and hold satsangs for people for 2 years." I accepted the proposal within a 3 minute conversation and then walked out of that second darshan, totally stunned. "Shall I tell anyone about this?" I thought to myself. "How can I make this journey easier? Perhaps I'll just stay in Austin and hold gatherings around there. How will I survive on donations? Will it be too cold to sleep in a van?" I was rather excited and agitated at the same time. What an honor to follow the guidance of the Sat Guru!
After the Miami retreat, I returned to my apartment in Austin, Texas and began to disperse my belongings. I gave away most of the nice clothes and even had a little garage sale inside that apartment. My friend, who was homeless at the time, came over, and I said to him, "Look around this place. Take anything. What do you want?" He said, "What will you do with that guitar?" It was a beautiful classical guitar from Spain. "It's yours!" I said nonchalantly. Then I sold my old car and bought a van that I called Persistence. I had a bed installed in the van as well as a battery and a solar panel to add a bit of luxury!
Driving around Austin, Persistence broke down around 10 times before she actually made it out of the city. I drove away with just a vanful of belongings and set off on a grand adventure across the continent. Thus began the journey of an American Sadhu.
What is the turning point in life? The dawning of intensity. When one desires something so much that it overwhelms the mind. One cannot live without it. The Sanskrit word "vairagya" means dispassion. When desires for the world fall away, one gains a powerful passion for God/Divine/Self. One falls in love with the Divine and seeks this Truth with every fiber of one's being. This is called worship - concentration upon one's Beloved.
This intensity has dawned upon the great saints of history. Sri Ramakrishna, a 19th century saint from India, was struck with this intensity upon falling in love with the goddess, Kali. He became the priest of the temple in Daksineswar and worshipped the Kali statue - talking to it, feeding it, giving it flowers. Soon he began to have a dialogue with the statue. It gave him advice, soothed him, and brought him much happiness. As the intensity of this relationship grew, Kali spoke from his own heart, and wisdom and guidance poured from Ramakrishna's mouth. Disciples from all over came to visit Ramakrishna to get his blessings and wisdom.
Once Ramakrishna's disciple, Narendra otherwise known as Swami Vivekananda, asked him if he had seen God, and Ramakrishna answered, "Yes, I have seen God. I see Him as I see you here, only more clearly. God can be seen. One can talk to him. But who cares for God? People shed torrents of tears for their wives, children, wealth, and property, but who weeps for the vision of God? If one cries sincerely for God, one can surely see Him."
Intensity struck me during 2006 - 2007 upon reading a series of books about spirituality. One of these books, The Gospel of Ramakrishna, explained how devotion for Kali arose inside Sri Ramakrishna. Smitten by Kali's vision, he desperately wanted her darshan (blessing) and could not bear to live without her. Tears streamed down my face as I read page after page of descriptions of his love for Her. How was it possible that someone had this kind of intensity for God? I knew that this passion was waiting to arise within me. Every day, fire continues to kindle inside, and it does not stop.
Intensity can strike anyone. It may be directed at material objects, and it may be redirected towards Divinity. It is amazing what can happen when this energy strikes the human being. He/She becomes obsessed, one-pointed, focused, and concentrated, and miracles occur. One can achieve anything! May you follow your heart at every moment. May your passion grow. May you be deeply fulfilled.
Inspiration is amazing, fun, and full of light. It is spontaneous and fascinating. Anything can flow out of inspiration - speech, actions, art, creativity - and it is so easy. It requires no planning, no thinking, no trying. It would be so nice to live without effort or overthinking. We would have more energy and excitement in our lives. There would be more surprises and sweetness in the world. We could solve problems easily and quickly. From inspiration arises the most beautiful poetry, the most amazing mathematical equations, and the most incredible inventions.
How do we live an inspired life? First, we can let go of unneeded worries and concerns about life, and trust that the universe has a much greater plan for us than we have created in our own mind. When the mind is empty of worry and anxiety, there is space for inspired guidance. We can hear that soft voice that gently guides us in a direction we could not have imagined.
How do we let go of worries and concerns about life? Simply relax and meditate. Cultivate a calm and peaceful mind. This may sound difficult since the mind typically jumps around like a monkey day and night. Well then, give the monkey mind something that soothes and heals it. For instance, sit in nature and tune in to her presence. A green forest or a blue ocean may be very calming to the mind. Furthermore, we may focus on relaxed deep breathing for a few minutes. Also, we may chant a beautiful mantra whose vibration heals the mind. With consistence, these practices may bring the mind into a peaceful state, and from this state of being, an inspired life springs forth.
Gratitude is the energy of appreciation. Usually it is created by contemplating all the blessings in one's life. For instance, consider what you are thankful for. Perhaps you feel deep gratitude for a friend, a loved one, or a pet. Why do you feel thankful for that being? How has that being influenced you in a positive way? Remember a time when you smiled or laughed around that being. What characteristics do you admire about that being? Take a few minutes to write about why you are so fortunate to have that being in your life. This kind of writing is an invocation of the energy of gratitude. It is uplifting, heart-warming, sweet, and delightful.
Even if you feel irritation toward someone, you can soften the charge around the person by remembering all the nice things about that being. Then the problems may seem small. One can always turn a negative into a positive. For instance, if the person pushes your button, you can think, "Oh, not again!" or "How wonderful that I can see my negativity more clearly now and heal it once and for all!" Indeed, if you were surrounded by people who fed your ego all the time, it would be very difficult to grow. Do we like to be at the mercy of people or circumstances that push our buttons?
We need people to draw out our darkness, so we can see where we are still reactive to the world. The world is not the problem, but rather our interpretation of it. By working out all our reactivities, we become more and more impervious to what happens outside of us. Therefore, we can feel gratitude for that person who triggers our deep-seated issues. Just think: "I can't wait for the next trigger to come along! It is my opportunity to purify the issue, to see through it, to clear it out of my system." Once all the triggers are cleared out, we feel at peace.
Meditation has many definitions, including "concentration on an object." If one is concentrated, one is meditating. The more focused on the object, the stronger the meditation (called dharana in sanskrit). Then it is only you and the object without any other distracting thoughts (called dhyana). And finally, you and the object are one, and you become meditation (samadhi). Yoga is a way of life that helps the mind go into samadhi - when the mind become quiescent and you are unified with the cosmos.
In 2006, I discovered yoga and began to attune my life to this transformative philosophy. The book, Power Versus Force, had a significant impact on my life. I discovered I could actually transform my mind permanently and bring it into a state of love, joy, and peace through focused effort. He called this process "raising in consciousness." At that time, my mind felt that I would feel "higher than" others if I could raise my state of consciousness, and that would give me more self-esteem and confidence. So my spiritual path began out of a prideful motive! This motive was very powerful. So powerful that it led me to read many more books on spirituality.
In 2007, I attended my my first spiritual retreat in Austin, Texas. It was the real turning point of my life. I went to go see a spiritual teacher named Brian who was known to help people "raise in consciousness." Exactly what I wanted to accomplish! In the middle of the retreat, he lead an hour long breath session. We were guided to do very deep breathing which helped us to push out a lot of heaviness in the mind and body. After about 45 minutes of serious breath, a "flame" lit up inside, and my mind went into a natural buoyant meditation. As I opened my eyes, I realized that the world had changed. The colors were more vibrant, and my vision was diffused. The fire of meditation has continued to grow ever since that moment.
This meditative energy has changed my life in many ways. I feel a deep peace in my bones and a profound love in my heart. My patience has increased. I am more available to serve the world. My need for material things has reduced, and my tendency toward addictions has decreased. I feel more content with my life no matter what direction it goes. No one can take away this feeling. It is my true wealth.