Eternal Questions

Satguru-Sivaya-Subramuniyaswami-26Many people think of the realization of timeless, formless, spaceless Parasiva, nirvikalpa samâdhi, as the most blissful of all blissful states, the opening of the heavens, the descent of the Gods, as a moment of supreme, sublime joyousness; whereas I have found it to be more like cut glass, diamond-dust darshan, a psychic surgery, not a blissful experience at all, but really a kind of near-death experience resulting in total transformation. The bliss that is often taught as a final attainment is actually another attainment, Sat chid ânanda, an aftermath of nirvikalpa samâdhi, and a “before-math.” This means that Sat chid ânanda, savikalpa samâdhi, may be attained early on by souls pure in heart.

In my experience, the anâhata chakra is the resting place of dynamic complacency, of thoughtful perception and quietude. Those of a lower nature arriving in the bloom of this chakra are released from turbulent emotions, conflicting thoughts and disturbances. This to many is the end of the path, attaining peace, or Sânti. Once one attains sânti as just described, in my experience, this marks the beginning of the path, or part two, the second level. It is from here that the practices of râja yoga take hold, once sânti is attained. In the anâhata chakra and visuddha chakra, Sat chid ânanda, the all-pervasive being of oneness, of the underlying being of the universe, is attained, experienced. But unless brahmacharya, chastity, is absolutely adhered to, the experience is not maintained. It is here that relations between men and women play an important part, as in their union temporary oneness occurs, followed by a more permanent two-ness and ever-accumulating distractions, sometimes along with insolvable difficulties. Those who practice sexual tantras, seeking Self Realization through this path, will agree with this wisdom.

Self Realization is in several stages. Realizing oneself as a soul —rather than a mind, an intellectual and emotional type, or a worthless person—gives satisfaction, security, and this is a starting point. Realization of the Self as Sat chid ânanda gives contentment, a release from all emotions and thoughts of the external world, and the nerve system responds to the energies flowing through the visuddha and anâhata chakras. Realizing the Self that transcends time, form and space, Parasiva, is a razor-edged experience, cutting all bonds, reversing individual awareness, such as looking out from the Self rather than looking into the Self. There are many boons after this transforming experience, if repeated many times. One or two occurrences does make a renunciate out of the person and does make the world renounce the renunciate, but then, without persistent effort, former patterns of emotion, intellect, lack of discipline, which would inhibit the repeated experience of Parasiva, would produce a disoriented nomad, so to speak. Therefore, repeated experiences of the ego-destructive Parasiva, from all states of consciousness, intellectual, instinctive, even in dreams, permeates the transformation through atoms and molecules even in the physical body.

Bliss quiets the senses. It is the natural state of the mind when unperturbed by previous desires unfulfilled, desires yet to be fulfilled and the desires known to not be fulfillable. As long as the anâhata and visuddha chakras spin at top velocity, the senses will be quieted, few thoughts will pass through the mind unbidden, and the understanding of the Vedas and all aspects of esoteric knowledge will be able to be explained by the preceptor.

Realizing Parasiva is merging with Siva, but it is not the end of merging. At that pinpoint of time, there are still the trappings of body, mind and emotions that claim awareness into their consciousness. Ultimately, when all bodies—physical, astral, mental, even the soul body—wear out their time, as all forms wear out in time, bound by time, existing in time, as relative realities, then visvagrâsa, the final merger with Siva, occurs, as the physical body drops away, the astral body drops away, the mental body drops away, and the soul—a shining, scintillating being of light quantums—merges into its source. As when a drop of water merges into the ocean, it can never be retrieved, only Siva remains. Aum Nama˙ Sivâya.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

Satguru-Sivaya-Subramuniyaswami-26There are no shortcuts to enlightenment, but there are detours. Impatience with the natural process is one of them. I am saying that impatient striving, the kind of striving that puts aside all common sense and says “I am going to get realization no matter what” is itself an obstacle to that realization which is not a something to get. We must work to perfect an inner serenity that can accept spending a lifetime or several lifetimes in search of Truth, that can accept that some of us are by our nature and unfoldment better suited to service and devotion, and others to yoga and the various sâdhanas. This is a far more enlightened perspective than the Western notion which subtly maintains that there is but a single life in which all the final goals must be reached. The eternal spiritual path, the way of God, is broad. It accepts all and rejects none. No matter where a seeker is in his inner development, the eternal path embraces and encourages him.

According to the Ågamic tradition, four categories of charyâ, kriyâ, yoga and jñâna are the natural sequence of the soul’s evolutionary process, much like the development of a butterfly from egg to larva, from larva to caterpillar, from caterpillar to pupa, and then the final metamorphosis from pupa to butterfly. Every butterfly, without exception, will follow this pattern of development, and every soul will mature through charyâ to kriyâ, through kriyâ to yoga and into jñâna. Charyâ, or karma yoga, may be simply defined as service. Kriyâ, or bhakti yoga, is devotion. Yoga, or râja yoga, is meditation, and jñâna is the state of wisdom reached toward the end of the path as the result of God Realization and the subsequent enlivened kundalinî and unfoldment of the chakras through the practices of yoga. The soul does not move quickly from one stage to another. It is a deliberate process, and within each stage there exist vast libraries of knowledge containing the sum of thousands of years of teachings unraveling that particular experiential vista.

The evolution of the soul through the stage of charyâ, or service, may itself take many, many lives. We see people every day who are working to be of service, to be more efficient, to be more useful to others. Charyâ is the state of overcoming basic instinctive patterns and learning to work for the sake of work rather than the fruits of our labor. It is the simple fulfillment of right action and the first step on the spiritual path. The instinctive mind at this stage of evolution is so strong that it must be governed firmly by external laws, external forces. Tendencies toward selfishness lose their hold on the devotee as he strives to become the perfect servant to God and mankind.

Worship during the charyâ stage is entirely external. As the devotee unfolds into the next stage, of kriyâ or bhakti yoga, he will want to worship and serve in the temple in more internalized ways. Singing the sacred hymns, chanting the names of the Lord and performing japa will become an important part of his devotion, which is partly internal and partly external. Kriyâ blossoms into its fullness when there arises in his heart a desire, a strong desire, to know and experience God.

It is through the devotees in the kriyâ, or bhakti yoga, stage of the unfoldment of the soul that we have all over the world today magnificent Hindu temples, built by people who have performed well, who have controlled their thoughts and actions, who have understood the laws of karma and the penalties of wrong action. They have avoided wrong action not out of fear, but because they have evolved into performing right action. As he matures in kriyâ, the devotee unfolds a more and more intense love of God, to the point that he may well shed joyful tears during intense moments of worship. When that love is constant from day to day, when it is strong enough that he is capable of surrendering his individual will to God’s Cosmic Will, then kriyâ or bhakti yoga has reached its zenith.

At this stage of kriyâ the devotee learns patience. He learns to wait for the proper timing of things in his life. He is in no hurry. He is willing to wait for another life, or for many more lives. There is no urgency. He trusts God and trusts the path he is on. He settles down, and his life comes into a balance.

In the stages of charyâ and kriyâ, the deep-seated impurities of the mind are cleansed as past karmas are resolved and a foundation laid for the third stage on the divine path, that of yoga. Yoga is a very advanced science. It cannot be sustained except by the soul that has unfolded into the fullness of charyâ and kriyâ and maintains the qualities of service and devotion as meditation is pursued. The devotee who has served God well now embarks upon finding union with God in his sanctum within.

In yoga, the devotee worships the transcendent aspect of God. He strengthens his body and nerve system. He disciplines the energies of mind and body. He learns to regulate his breath and to control the prânas that flow as life’s force through his nerve system. In this process, the kundalinî Sakti is lifted and the multi-petaled chakras unfold in all their splendor. Lord Siva now brings the earnest  devotee to meet his sat guru, who will guide him through the traditional disciplines of yoga on his inward journey. It is his spiritual preceptor, his guru, who takes care that he avoids the abysses and psychic pitfalls along the path. In this stage of yoga, the devotee looks upon God as a friend, a companion. Finally, one day, in his first samâdhi, he penetrates to the essence of being. In this ultimate experience, which remains forever beyond description, he has reached the union which is yoga.

Returning from this state of ineffable fulfillment, the devotee brings back into his life a new understanding, a new perspective. He is never the same after that experience. He can never again look at life in the same way. Each time he enters into that God Realization, that samâdhi, he returns to consciousness more and more the knower. His knowing matures through the years as his yoga sâdhana is regulated, and as it matures he enters ever so imperceptibly into the fourth and final stage of unfoldment, into jñâna.

One does not become a jñânî simply by reading philosophy. Understanding another person’s wisdom does not make us wise. Each has to experience the fullness of the path to enlightenment himself. The jñânî becomes one who postulates that what he has himself realized are the final conclusions for all mankind. His postulations are filled with assuredness, for he has experienced what the Vedas, the Ågamas and the Upanishads speak of. He has awakened the power and force of his own realization. He knows. He becomes the embodiment of that knowing, of the Truth he once sought as something other than himself. He finds within the scriptures confirmation of his realization echoed in the verses of rishis written at the dawn of human history. This matured soul sees reflected in their writings that same state of complete merging with the Divine that he himself has come to know as the timeless, formless, spaceless Absolute which he once worshiped symbolically as a stone image in previous life wanderings within the instinctive mind. He has removed the veils of ignorance, removed the obstacles to understanding. He has come into his true being, union with God, union with Siva, and in this serene state he sees God as his beloved, as that which is dearer to him than life itself, as he is consumed by that all-encompassing love. He has become the source of light and darshan which radiate out through the nâdîs and prânas of his being.

The final conclusions are that mankind is on a spiritual path as old as time itself, that this journey progresses from birth to birth as the soul evolves through the perfection of charyâ into the perfection of kriyâ, and from there into the perfection of yoga, emerging as a jñânî. This is the path followed by all souls. Whatever religion they espouse, whatsoever they may believe or deny, all of mankind is on the one path to Truth. It begins with the dvaita of charyâ and ends in the advaita of jñâna.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Four questions of Akbar

Akbar-IAkbar asked Birbal the following four questions:
(1) Where does God live?
(2) What is His duty?
(3) What does He eat?
(4) Why does He take human form although He can do everything by mere willing?

Birbal replied:
(1) God is all-pervading. He gives His Darshan to the holy devotees in their hearts. You can see Him in your heart.
(2) He pulls down those who are in a high level and elevates those who are fallen. His duty is to cause constant change.
(3) He eats the Ahamkar of the Jivas.
Birbal then asked Akbar to give him some time for thinking out and giving a suitable reply for his fourth question. In the meantime Birbal went to the nurse who was nursing the child of Akbar, and told her: “Look here, you will have to help me today in this matter. I will have to give a proper answer to Akbar on a certain philosophical question. When Akbar comes and sits by the side of the tank to play with the child, hide the child in a certain place and bring this toy-child. Take the toy-child near the tank. Pretend to tumble down and throw the child into the tank. Then you will see the fun. Do the whole thing dexterously. I know you can do it well.” He gave her ten rupees as present. She was highly delighted. She at once agreed to do so.
Akbar returned from his evening walk as usual and sat on a bench by the side of the tank. He then asked the nurse to bring the child. The nurse slowly went by the side of the tank, pretended to tumble down and threw the toy-child into the tank. Akbar at once hastened to jump down into the tank to rescue the child. Birbal intervened and said: ‘Here is your child. Do not be hasty.” Akbar was very much annoyed at the impertinent behavior of Birbal and ordered him to be punished. Birbal said: “I have now given a practical answer to your fourth question. Why are you angry towards me? Even though there are so many servants to rescue your child, out of affection for the child you yourself wanted to jump into the water. Even So, although God can accomplish everything by mere willing or Sankalpa, yet He comes out Himself out of love for His devotees to give them His Darshan. You see the point?” Akbar was very much pleased. He gave Birbal rich presents of shawl and a diamond ring.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda