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

The Glory of Brahmacharya

Swami SivanandaThe meaning of brahmacharya

Brahmacharya literally means Achara or conduct that leads to the realization of Brahman or one’s own Self. It means the control of semen, the study of the Vedas and contemplation on God. The technical meaning of Brahmacharya is self-restraint, particularly mastery of perfect control over the sexual organ or freedom from lust in thought, word and deed. It must further involve a permanent abstention from indulgence in erotic imagination and voluptuous reverie.

Brahmacharya is the vow of celibacy. The avenue to the abode of supreme peace begins from Brahmacharya or purity. Brahmacharya is absolute freedom from sexual desires and thoughts. Brahmacharya is meant for both men and women. Bhishma, Hanuman, Lakshman, Mira Bai, Sulabha and Gargi were all established in Brahmacharya.

Mere control of the animal passion will not constitute Brahmacharya. This is incomplete Brahmacharya. You must control all the organs—the ears that want to hear lustful stories, the lustful eye that wants to see objects that excite passion, the tongue that wants to taste exciting things and the skin that wants to touch exciting objects.

It is very necessary that you should be pure in mind if you wish to be a Brahmachari. Mental Brahmacharya is more important. You may succeed in physical Brahmacharya, but you must succeed in mental Brahmacharya also. That state of mind wherein no single sexual thought enters the mind is termed mental Brahmacharya. If thoughts are impure, the sex impulse will be very strong. Brahmacharya depends upon regulating the whole course of life.

When you cannot control the lustful thoughts, at least control the physical body. Physical Brahmacharya must be strictly practiced at first. Control the body when the sex impulse troubles you. Mental purity or mental Brahmacharya will gradually manifest.

You may be able to stop copulation for months and years, but there should not be any sexual craving or attraction for women. Evil thoughts also should not arise when you look at a woman, when you are in the company of women. If you succeed in this direction, then you are established in perfect Brahmacharya. You have crossed the danger zone. Thought is the real action. An evil desire is tantamount to adultery. The desire is more than the act.

The state of mental Brahmacharya must be kept up even amidst temptations and sickness. Then only you are safe. The senses begin to revolt during times of ailment and also when you come in contact with sense objects.

Keep the mind fully occupied. Intense musing on the objects of sense does more harm to the inner spiritual life than actual sense-gratification. If the mind is not rendered pure by Sadhana, mere mortification of the external senses will not produce the desired effect. Although the external senses are mortified, their internal counterparts, which are still energetic and vigorous, revenge upon the mind and produce intense mental disturbance and wild imagination.

It is the mind that really does all actions. A desire arises in your mind and then you think. Then you proceed to act. The determination of the mind is put into action. First there is Sankalpa or thought and then comes action. Therefore, do not allow the sexual thoughts to enter the mind.

No space is empty at any time. This is the law of nature. If one thing is removed from a place, immediately another comes in to take its place. The same law holds good in the case of the inner mental world also. Therefore, it is necessary to entertain sublime divine thoughts to replace evil thoughts. As you think, so you become. This is the immutable psychological law. The vicious mind is gradually divinised by entertaining divine thoughts.

The glory of brahmacharya

You cannot have health and spiritual life without Brahmacharya. Brahmacharya brings material progress and psychic advancement. It is the basis for morality. It is the basis for eternal life. It is the shield for waging war against the internal Asuras—lust, anger and greed. It serves as a gateway to the bliss beyond. It opens the door of Moksha. Brahmacharya is the only key to open the Sushumna and awaken Kundalini. Just as the oil comes up in a wick and burns with glowing light, so also, the Veerya or semen flows up by the practice of Yoga Sadhana and is converted into Tejas or Ojas. The Brahmachari shines with Brahmic aura in his face. Brahmacharya is the bright light that shines in the house of the human body. The scriptures declare emphatically:

“Ayustejo Balam Veeryam Prajna Sreescha Yashastatha
Punyamcha Sat-Priyatvamcha Vardhate Brahmacharyaya”

By the practice of Brahmacharya, longevity, glory, strength, vigour, knowledge, wealth, undying fame, virtues and devotion to the truth increase. Truth cannot dwell where passion lives.

Without Brahmacharya, all your exercises are nothing. It is the master-key for opening the realms of health and happiness. He who has even a little bit of Brahmacharya will tide over a crisis of any disease very easily.

After Dhanvantari had taught all the details about Ayurveda to his disciples, they enquired about the keynote of this medical science. The Master replied, “I tell you that Brahmacharya is truly a precious jewel. It is the one most effective medicine—nectar indeed—which destroys diseases, decay and death. For attaining peace, brightness, memory, knowledge, health and Self-realization, one should observe Brahmacharya, which is the highest Dharma. Brahmacharya is the highest knowledge; Brahmacharya is the greatest strength. Of the nature of Brahmacharya is verily this Atman and in Brahmacharya It resides. Saluting Brahmacharya first, the cases beyond cure, I cure. Aye, Brahmacharya can undo all the inauspicious signs.”

The power of celibacy

By the establishment of continence, vigour is obtained. The Yogi gets Siddhi or perfection by attaining perfect mental and physical Brahmacharya. Brahmacharya helps him in gaining divine knowledge and other Siddhis. When there is purity, the rays of the mind are not dissipated. Focusing of the mind becomes easy. Concentration and purity go together. Although a sage talks a few words only, a deep impression is produced in the minds of the hearers. This is due to his Ojas Sakti, which is conserved by the preservation of semen and its transmutation.
A true Brahmachari in thought, word and deed has wonderful thought-power. He can move the world. If you develop strict celibacy, Vichara Sakti and Dharana Sakti will develop. Vichara Sakti is the power of enquiry. Dharan’a Sakti is the power of grasping and holding the Truth. Continence increases infinitely the power of retentive memory. The strict celibate has keen and acute memory even in old age. A man who has the power of Brahmacharya can turn out immense mental, physical and intellectual work.

Jesus, Sankara, Jnana Deva and Samarth Ramdas were all Brahmacharins. Even among electrons, there are bachelor electrons and married electrons. Married electrons manifest in pairs. Bachelor electrons exist singly. It is these bachelor electrons only that create magnetic force. The power of Brahmacharya is seen in electrons also. Friend, will you learn some lessons from these electrons? Will you practice Brahmacharya and develop power and spiritual force? Nature is your best teacher and spiritual guide.

Brahmacharya for householders

It is beyond all doubt that a life of Brahmacharya is glorious and marvellous. At the same time, a life of moderation in the household life is equally good and helpful for spiritual growth. Both have their own advantages. You must have great strength to tread the path either way. The life of an ideal householder is as much difficult and rigid as that of an ideal Sannyasin. Pravritti Marga or the path of Karma Yoga is as much difficult and rigid as that of Nivritti Marga or the path of renunciation.

Even as a householder you can be a Brahmachari, by sticking to the principles of Grihastha Dharma, by moderation and regular worship of God. Brahmacharya in Grihasthashrama is absolute moderation in sexual intercourse. Marriage should not in any way lead you downwards in your spiritual path. You should keep the spiritual fire ever blazing. You should make your wife also understand the real glory of a spiritual life. If both of you observe Brahmacharya for sometime and then avoid excesses, she will give birth to robust children who will be the pride of the country. Conserved energy can be used for higher spiritual purposes. Prevention of frequent maternity will preserve your wife’s health too.

If you want to practice Brahmacharya, think and feel that your wife is your sister. Destroy the idea of husband and wife and develop the idea of brother and sister.

As soon as a son is born to you, your wife becomes your mother, because you yourself are born as the son. A son is nothing but the energy of the father. Change the mental attitude. Serve your wife as the World Mother. Start spiritual Sadhana. Destroy passion. Every morning, as soon as you get up from bed, touch your wife’s feet and prostrate before her taking her for Kali or the World Mother. Do not feel ashamed. This practice will remove the idea of ‘wife’ from your mind. If you cannot do the prostration physically, at least do it mentally.

As soon as a child is born, man must give up lust. He must observe celibacy. He must treat his wife as his own mother. This is a great Sadhana for the householder.

Says Manu: “The first-born child is born of Dharma and the rest of Kama or lust. The sexual act for mere pleasure is not justifiable”.

When the couples who live around you vie with one another in materialism, and in their individual capacity, to drag each other down, both of you should compete with each other in advancing rapidly in spiritual Sadhana. What a novel competition! What a blessing it is to have such a competitor as the lifepartner!

Duty of teachers and parents

If you compare the present system of education with our ancient Gurukul system, there is a wide gulf between the two. In the first place, the present system of education is very costly. The moral side of education is absolutely ignored at the present moment. Every student in the Gurukul was pure. Every student, had perfect moral training. This was the predominating feature of ancient culture. Every student had a knowledge of Pranayama, Mantra Yoga, Asanas, the code of morals, Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads. Every student possessed humility, self-restraint, obedience, a spirit of service and self-sacrifice, good demeanour, politeness, a courteous nature, and last but not the least, a desire to acquire Atma-Jnana.

A great and onerous duty rests with the teachers and professors of schools and colleges to train the students in the path of Sadachara or right conduct and to mould their character properly. Brahmacharya includes character-building or right moulding of character. They say that knowledge is power. But I assert boldly, with great assurance and practical experience, that character is power and that character is far superior to knowledge even.

Your whole life and your success in life depend entirely upon the formation of your character. All the great persons in this world have achieved their greatness through character and character alone. The brilliant luminaries of the world have won their laurels of fame, reputation and honour through character and character alone.

The teachers themselves should be strictly moral and pure. They should be endowed with ethical perfection.

When students reach the age of maturity, certain growths and changes take place in the physical body. The voice changes. New emotions and sentiments arise. Naturally, the youngsters become curious. They consult the street boys. They get ill advised. They ruin their health by vile habits. A clear knowledge of sexual health, hygiene and Brahmacharya, of how to attain longevity and how to control passion, should be imparted to them. Parents should teach their children the various stories from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana that relate to Brahmacharya and right conduct.

Parents should advise their children, often and often, on the subject of Brahmacharya. This is their imperative duty. Candid talks to the boys and girls are very necessary when they begin to show signs of puberty. It is no use beating about the bush. Matters that relate  to sex should not be kept hidden. It will be only false modesty if the parents feel shy to talk to their children on this important subject. Silence will only excite the curiosity of the adolescent children. Whereas, if they can understand these things clearly in time, surely they will not be misguided by evil companions and they will not develop bad habits.

Teachers and parents should give proper instructions to the boys and girls as to how they should lead a clean life of Brahmacharya. They should get rid of their false sense of modesty and shame.

O teachers and professors! Wake up now! Train the students in the path of Brahmacharya and righteousness and morality. Make them true Brahmacharins. Do not neglect this divine work. You are morally responsible for this onerous task. This is your Yoga.

Excerpts from “Practice of Brahmacharya” by Swami Sivananda

Glory of Lord Siva

Swami SivanandaOm. I bow with folded hands to Lord Siva, Who is the lord of the universe (Jagat-Pati), world’s teacher (Jagad-Guru), Who is the destroyer of Tripuras (3 cities – egoism, lust and anger), Who is the Lord of Uma (Uma Sankar), Gauri (Gauri Sankar), Ganga (Ganga Sankar), who is full of light (Jyotirmaya), knowledge and bliss (Chidananda Maya), Who is the Lord of Yogins (Yogeesvara), Who is the storehouse of knowledge and Who is known by the various names as Mahadeva, Sankara, Hara, Sambhu, Sadasiva, Rudra, Soolapani, Bhairava, Uma- Mahesvara, Neelakantha, Trilochana or Tryambaka (the three-eyed), Visvanatha, Chandrasekhara, Ardhanareesvara, Mahesvara, Neelalohita, Parama Siva, Digambara, Dakshinamurti, etc.
How merciful He is! How loving and kind He is! He even wears the skulls of His devotees as a garland around His neck. He is an embodiment of renunciation, mercy, love and wisdom. It is a mistake to say that He is the destroyer. Lord Siva in reality is the regenerator. Whenever one’s physical body becomes unfit for further evolution in this birth either by disease, old age or other causes, He at once removes this rotten physical sheath and gives a new, healthy, vigorous body for further quick evolution. He wants to take all His children to His Lotus Feet quickly. He desires to give them His glorious “Siva-Pada”. It is easier to please Siva than Hari. A little Prem and devotion, a little chanting of His Panchakshra is quite sufficient to infuse delight in Siva.

Hatha Yogins awaken the Kundalini Sakti that is lying dormant in the Muladhara Chakra by Asana, Pranayama, Kumbhaka, Mudra and Bandha, take it above through different Chakras (centres of spiritual energy) Svadhishthna, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha and Ajna and join it with Lord Siva at the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head. They drink the nectar of Immortality (Siva-Jnana-Amritam). This is termed Amrita-srava. When the Sakti is united with Siva, full illumination comes for the Yogi. Lord Siva represents the destructive aspect of Brahman. That portion of Brahman that is enveloped by Tamo-Guna-Pradhana-Maya is Lord Siva who is the all-pervading Isvara and who also dwells in Mount Kailas. He is the Bhandar or store-house for wisdom.
Siva minus Parvati or Kaali or Durga is pure Nirguna Brahman. With Maya (Parvati) He becomes the Saguna Brahman for the purpose of pious devotion of His devotees. Devotees of Rama must worship Lord Siva also. Rama Himself worshiped Lord Siva at the famous Ramesvaram. Lord Siva is the Lord of ascetics and Lord  of Yogins robed in space (Digambara).

Lord SivaHis Trisul (trident) that is held in His right hand represents the three Gunas-Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. That is the emblem of sovereignty. He wields the world through these three Gunas. The Damaru in His left hand represents the Sabda Brahman. It represents OM from which all languages are formed. It is He who formed the Sanskrit language out of the Damaru sound. The wearing of the crescent moon on His head indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly. The flow of the Ganga represents the nectar of immortality. Elephant represents symbolically the Vritti, pride. Wearing the skin of the elephant denotes that He has controlled pride. Tiger represents lust. His sitting on the tiger’s skin indicates that he has conquered lust. His holding a deer in one hand indicates that He has removed the Chanchalata (tossing) of the mind. Deer jumps from one place to another swiftly. The mind also jumps from one object to another. His wearing of serpents on the neck denotes wisdom and eternity. Serpents live for a large number of years. He is Trilochana, the three-eyed One, in the centre of whose forehead is the third eye, the eye of wisdom. Nandi, the bull that sits in front of Sivalingam represents Pranava (Omkara). The Lingam represents Advaita. It points out “I am one without a second. Ekam eva Advaiteeyam” just as a man raises his right hand above his head pointing out his right index finger only.

Jyotirlingas

The following are the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Siva:
1. Somanath in Gujarat.
2. Mallikarjuna in Srisaila Parvat in Andhra Pradesh.
3. Mahakala in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.
4. Oinkaresvar on the banks of Narmada in Amalesvarm.
5. Baijnath near Gaya (Paralya).
6. Naganath in Southern India.
7. Kedarnath in Himalayas, Uttar Pradesh.
8. Tryambak, near the source of the Godavari in the Nasik District, Maharashtra.
9. Ramesvaram, in Ramnad district, Tamil Nadu.
10. Bhima Sankar, near Poona’
11. Visvanath in Benares.
12. Grishnesvar (Gokarna) in Karwar district,
Karnataka.

Even if people remember these 12 places both morning and evening, the sins of seven births will be destroyed.

In Southern India, there are five famous Siva Lingas which represent the five elements.
1. In Shiyali, Tanjore district, there is Prithvi Lingam.
2. ln Tiruvana Koil, Trichinopoly district, there is Appu Lingam. The Lingam is always in water. Tiruvana Koil is otherwise known as  Jambukesvaram.
3. In Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh, there is a Vayu Lingam.
4. In Tiruvannamalai, via Villupuram Junction, North Arcot District, there is the Tejolingam (Arunachalesvar).
5. In Chidambaram, there is the Akasa Lingam.

Panchakshara Namavali

1. Sivaya Nama Om Sivaya Namah; Sivaya Nama Om Namah Sivaya.

2. Siva Sambho Sadasiva, Sambho Sadasiva, Sambho Sadasiva Bhum Bhum Bhum.

3. Hara Hara Siva Siva Sambho, Hara Hara Siva Siva, Hara Hara Sambho, Siva Siva Sambho.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda