Tag Archives: Atman

The Kleshas (part 4 – Manomaya kosha)…

Mana means mind and Manamaya (or Manomaya) kosha is the sheath responsible for processing thoughts, feelings, mind and emotions. It is in direct control of the operation, through the prana, of the physical body and senses. Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati says of this kosha: “It is like a supervisor in a factory, in that it gives instructions, but is not supposed to be the manager of the factory of life. Because of this, it naturally has doubts, and created illusions. When it receives clear instructions from the deeper level, it functions quite well. However, when it is clouded over by its illusions, the deeper wisdom is clouded over.”

During meditation, we become aware of Manamaya kosha, we can then explore it, and then go inward, to and through the remaining two koshas. This is what we commonly call the “monkey mind” and it is through the lens of this dimension that we perceive the world and our likes and dislikes (raga and dvesha) through the agency of our five senses.

Patajajali tells us in the yoga sutras: “Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam”. (“Yoga is the mastery of the activities of the mind-field. Then the seer rests in its true nature.”)

The Kleshas (part 4 - Manamaya kosha)...

The Manamaya Kosha forms the mental body. The primary way to impact this kosha is through meditation. It is affected by the 5 kleshas as follows:

  • Avidya (Ignorance): When the Manamaya kosha or mental body has mistakenly identified the Atman with the thinking mind it is easy to get “stuck” in this sheath feeling like we’re abducted by our mind. In order to break this spell, practices like pranayama (breathing) and pratyahara (mental withdrawing of the senses), are quite efficient and effective.
  • Asmita (Ego): When the ego becomes aware of the Manamaya kosha and identifies with all the constant mental chatter, this becomes an obstacle to meditation, forbidding us to evolve to the point where we can work on the remaining two koshas.
  • Raga (Attachment): Thoughts animate the Manamaya kosha and pleasant thoughts inhibit deep meditation. To prevent this we need to go beyond the fluctuations of the mind and master its activities. This is the basis of the Yoga Sutras.
  • Dvesha (Aversion): Just the opposite of the Raga klesha, unpleasant thoughts are repulsive and being stuck in dealing with them also inhibits the deeper stages of meditation. Regular meditation practice settles these disturbing thoughts and lets us advance toward our goal of a mind at peace.
  • Abhinivesha (Clinging to Life): This klesha increases our identification with our mental body, and this causes us to fear that if our thought activity stops, so do we. Our thoughts are unable to accept or deal with our mortality or the immortal aspect of the Self. To overcome this, the life of the spirit must be recognized as transcending this bodily life.

As noted in my last posts as these kleshas are recognized and dissolved (or cleared) from the Manamaya kosha, we move on to the remaining koshas enabling them to be cleansed of these afflictions, then the Atman (or Self), which is indescribable, is gradually recognized and eventually realized by direct experience; this is the goal of Yoga, meditation, Advaita Vedanta, and certain Tantra practices.

Stay tuned, next: Further exploration of each Klesha and how it colors the Vijnanamaya kosha.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Kleshas (afflictions of the mind)

The Kleshas

These 5 Kleshas (afflictions) affect (or color) each of the Koshas (sheaths). Kosha a Sanskrit word usually translated as “sheath”, of which there are also five, each one representing a covering of the Atman (“Self”, according to Vedantic philosophy). They range from gross to subtle and are often visualized like the layers of an onion. These Koshas, lie one within the other as a set of five sheaths.

This series of articles will address how each Kosha is affected (or colored) by these Kleshas. But first, for those who are unfamiliar with these 5 Kleshas, here’s a recap.

From the perspective of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras it is important to understand that emotional pain and all its varied expressions, such as depression, stem from the desire, attachment, fear and certain unconscious universal constructs (Kleshas) that exist in all un-liberated human minds. These constructs (referred to as “colorings”) form a basis on which all other more individualized neuroses are woven and re-woven through a complex association of desires, attachments, fears and other human experiences. Thus these Kleshas are basic motivational forces which underpin our ability to act, think, and feel. It is these Kleshas which are responsible for the fluctuations (modifications or agitations) of consciousness and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are primarily concerned with the elimination or stilling of these fluctuations.

If and when the Kleshas are removed through yoga practices, all of the individual neuroses which they support will crumble and fall away. These Kleshas (afflictions or colorings) are comprised of five basic constructs or crystallized thought-forms and are described by Patanjali at the beginning of Book 2 of the Yoga Sutras (1, 2, 3 & 4).

Once the Kleshas are seen in a clear light and recognized for what they are, they will disappear. The intellectual mind is not enough to bring about this recognition. Patanjali, insists the “8 limbs of yoga” are necessary to lead the mind toward the required purification and these are:

  • Yama (Sanskrit for "moral discipline")
  • Niyama (Sanskrit for "moral observance")
  • Asana (Sanskrit for "body posture")
  • Pranayama (Sanskrit for "breath control")
  • Prathyara (Sanskrit for "withdrawal of the senses")
  • Dharana (Sanskrit for "concentration")
  • Dhyana (Sanskrit for "meditation")

We all have heard that every journey starts with the first step. So it stands to reason that recognizing the Kleshas is a good way to quench the desire of the intellect. Here is a list of the 5 Kleshas and a brief summary of their attributes:

  • Avidya (Ignorance): This is the primal ignorance which pervades all of creation. This ignorance is experiential, not conceptual, in nature. This affliction results in our lack of awareness and disconnection from Truth.
  • Asmita (Ego): As individuals, we also have what is called ahamkara or "I-maker" (ego). It is a single vritti, (thought form), the idea of individualized existence. This single thought of a limited self is enormously convincing because it pervades the entire body-mind complex. It is the nature of this individual "I-am" sense, or ego, to identify with something and become attached to it.
  • Raga (Attachment): This klesha is all about desire. All of us have experienced this and we are all attached to something. Whether it’s a partner, a friend, a practice, an object, a pet, a food, even an iPhone; it’s okay to need or want things, but you know your desire has become an affliction when it creates suffering.  Raga creates in us a pattern of acquisition: we began to pursue human relationships, knowledge, wealth, status, power-anything which might be capable of enlarging and protecting our fragile individualized existence.
  • Dvesha (Aversion): Patanjali defines aversion as: “Identification with what we don’t like.” Attachments (Raga) arise from our previous experiences of pleasure and happiness. Aversions emerge from previous experiences of pain and suffering. This is the fourth Klesha, "the hate, fear or extreme dislike which follows after experiencing pain."
  • Abhinivesha (Clinging to Life): Because of raga and dvesha, a tremendous, continual, and habitual outflowing of our energy and attention through our senses to the objects of external world has been created. This outflow of all our attention and energy can only increase our identification with our physical existence, resulting in a fear of death and making it even harder for us to perceive or identify with our spiritual nature.

Stay tuned, next: Further exploration of each Klesha and how it colors each Kosha (Sheath), beginning with Annamaya kosha.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Compassion in the Bhagavad Gita…

The energy of Divine love is a specific insight found throughout the Bhagavad Gita. The Divine Self (atma) vibrating throughout the universe is the Divine Master who loves us all equally. Every human person has the ability to hear from within the Divine depth of his/her being: "You are dear to me, I long for you, you are my beloved and my friend" (Gita 18:64, 65 – 4:3). This is not a God speaking from outside, but from within the very heart of reality. The relation with this “inside” God is not just at the mental level of I-thou structure, but within a mystical consciousness of mutual indwelling: "I am in you, you are in me" (9:29)…The true bhakta experiences the Lord as the inner subject (10:8), the true jnani perceives the Divine as one's deeper self (7:18).

With these perceptions then, human life may become a direct response to the Divine love permeating the entire universe and filling one's heart. Every bit of reality communicates the vibration of the contagious power of Divine kama (7:11). One finds themselves and all beings on this eternal journey of Divine love. One feels called to a life of compassion towards all beings, human and cosmic, animate and inanimate. "My true devotee does not feel hatred for any being, but is friendly and compassionate towards all, without the thoughts of I-and-mine" (12:13). Thus the basic trait of a liberated person is compassion.

Compassion takes inner freedom for granted: freedom from any possessive feelings of I-and-­mine. Inner freedom makes a person remain calm through all changes encountered in life: in success and failure, in gain and loss, in honor and disgrace, towards friend and enemy, saints and sinners, relatives and strangers (2:38 – 6:9 – 12:18 – 13:10). A person of inner peace is not easily thrown off-balance by conflicting emotions of fear and fascination, anger and attachment, joy and suffering (2:56 – 5:20).

A compassionate person is not a dispassionate being. Sharing one's life (and possessions) with those in need is the basis of compassion. "The one who cooks food only for oneself, eats poison." (3:13). A passionate concern (rati, 5:25) to bring about welfare to all beings characterizes the life of liberated person. Intense attraction (chikeershu, 3:25) to assisting in the integration of the world is the motivation of his/her commitment. Compassion is the total surrender of a person to the “cause of the other” within the environment of Divine creativity.

Compassion demands an effective appraisal of the dehumanizing behavioral patterns and the oppressive structures of society. The Gita raises an uncompromising protest against discriminative social traditions, exploitative economic systems, aggressive political structures and dehumanizing religious practices (5:18 – 16:13-19 – 2:42-44). A compassionate person is a courageous person because his being is firmly established in the consciousness of the Divine (2:56 – 6:14).

Compassion in the Bhagavad Gita…

Compassion enables a person realize their creativity. The one who acts from the motivation of the ego (ahamkara) has to compete with others in a compulsive way, because their actions are controlled by greed, anger, lust and hate (2:62-63 – 3:25). The one who acts, rooted in the Divine ground of being realizes that the Divine Master is the real subject of one's actions (13:3).  "Ascribing all works to the Divine, one acts with inner freedom." (5:10). With this spiritual realization one naturally becomes more creative, more courageous and more compassionate.

Compassion is not simply a virtue to practice, but a holistic attitude that binds every person to everything with the bond of Divine love. One sees “reflections of the Self everywhere” (6:32) because one realizes that one's Self is the Self of all (sarvabhutatma bhutatma, 5:7). All things are bound together on the Divine chord of life and love (7:7). No being can be alien and no one a stranger to a truly realized person. With all the “things” of nature, we humans all live in the one family of the Divine. There is no room for competition, but only the capacity for compassion. "Mutually nourishing one another we all attain real prosperity" (3:11). Such an integral world-view can be very healthy today, when humanity cuts itself apart through competitiveness, threatening to destroy the cosmic matrix of life.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Aids to Discovering Spiritual Truth

It is often said that the ultimate truth cannot be spoken or put into words, so “indicators” are used to get the seeker to look (and experience) that truth directly. Most of us have heard the analogy that a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. Things that point to the truth usually embody profound teachings that are commonly overlooked. Plus, the bare-naked truth is all too often sugar coated for easy digestibility, or in an effort to carry the truth home. Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) holds that there is an undivided, unified oneness which is the essence of all that is created, both animate and inanimate. Ironically, this non-dual oneness is also transcendental, being beyond the body/mind complex. So, since the truth cannot be related directly using words, how can words help one to see for oneself? Ancient sages and enlightened masters have found if they must speak, the truth is best represented through analogy, allegory and metaphor, which are meant to reveal the truth (in part) through comparison, giving the seeker a glimpse.

Examples of a few of these analogies commonly used to expound the Hindu spiritual teaching of the Advaita Vedanta follow. These analogies have become popular because they have helped many seekers to grasp the truth with a bit more ease…

The Vessel and the Space Within: Take a clay vase as an example, it represents the body, an aspect of creation. It has space within and without. Even when it is filled with stuff, it is done only in because of the empty space within. Therefore the space exists irrespective of the presence of the stuff (or its absence). Furthermore, the space within the vase is identical to the space outside of it. Through this we can realize that one’s essence is same as the essence of the world (or universe) at large. When one recognizes oneself through conscious awareness, shapes and forms no longer matter as everything is now seen as consciousness itself. There is no longer any plurality, but instead only oneness.

The Ocean and the Wave: This analogy again points to the truth of universal oneness beyond all apparent forms. Although there are an endless variety of waves in the ocean (big and small, rough and gentle, etc.), they are all made up of the same substance – water. Additionally, the waves cannot exist apart from water. We are no different, we cannot exist without sense of being. Even in deep sleep we exist, even though we are forgetful of our name and form. Once we understand our true nature is to be this “beingness,” (or spirit), we realize ourselves to be immortal.

Gold and Ornaments Made from Gold: Here’s another analogy that again emphasizes the same essence existing in different shapes and forms. While gold can be melted and formed into different ornaments (chains, earrings, bracelets, rings etc.), they are all still essentially gold. Vedanta points out that this is so with humans as well. Though we all exhibit differences in size, shape and color, we are all still made of the same essence as the Atman (Universal, Divine Self), the pure spirit without which, we cannot even exist. There are no ornaments made of gold that can exist apart from the gold itself.

The Snake and the Rope: You may be familiar with this one as it is one of the most common of the traditional analogies used to expound Hindu spiritual teachings. In the dark we mistake a rope for a snake and become afraid. Once we realize that our fear is unfounded due to the mistaken identity of a rope for a snake, all fear vanishes. So is it with human beings. Once the mistaken identification of ourselves to be a separate body is exposed to the light of conscious awareness, the ego-self complex is deconstructed and all fears evaporate. This realization provides us with the opportunity to awaken to the bliss of Self-realization and abide in that.

*Of related interest, click on: Is It Important To Be “Spiritual?”

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 17: Gaining Knowledge – Higher Truths)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Gaining Knowledge of Higher Truths; Sutras 1.47-1.48)

Yoga Sutra (1.47)nirvichara vaisharadye adhyatma prasadah. Nirvichara means beyond reflection or devoid of subtle thoughts (nir = without, vichara = subtle thoughts); Vaisharadye is experience, skill (with undisturbed flow); Adhyatma is the absolute, superior or spiritual  (regarding the Atman or true Self); Prasadah means clarity, purity or illumination.

Translated this means…As one gains proficiency in the undisturbed flow in nirvichara, a purity and luminosity of the inner instrument of mind is developed. More simply put: If you regularly experience the clearest of the four aforementioned states known as nirvichara samapatti, then you are about to experience a state of absolute clarity.

Commentary: Nirvichara samadhi is not the final goal. Instead it is a moment like taking a deep breath before jumping into an abyss. Traditional commentators say that just a glimpse of the true inner Self instantly shows us, that all the world we thought we knew was only a shadow realm constructed of our own hopes and fears. This experience of true Self-awareness, even if it is fleeting, gives us something more real than all that we previously believed was reality.

It is easy to get trapped into thinking that the goal of yoga practice is to seek out and hold onto this understanding of the deepest Self. But Patanjali and other sages say, “No.” This hard-won treasure, one that is so rare that few experience, must itself be relinquished to something even bigger, because even clinging to the most pure and “luminous” understanding of ourselves still maintains a separation from all others. The Bhagavad Gita says that this “inner shining” or sattva, as true and pure and deep as it seems, still binds us and separates us from the Divine Absolute.

Yoga Sutra (1.48)ritambhara tatra prajna. Ritambhara means filled with higher truth (ritam = truth, bhara = full, pregnant; Tatra is there or then; Prajna means true knowledge, wisdom or insight.

Translation…Then consciousness will be filled with only the truth. Along with the purity and luminosity mentioned in the last sutra (1.47), which came from proficiency in nirvichara, there also comes a wisdom that is filled with the higher truth.

This sutra implies that we are to understand that there are a variety of types of knowledge or wisdom. We must also realize that the wisdom of nirvichara samadhi the not the only valid form.  Vyasa says that insight is gained from three valid sources: scripture, logic, and meditation. Other sages go on to say that the “eager practice” of all three paths of knowledge is needed. But most commentators agree that all types are not of equal value, although the different ways of knowing each have their place.

Next we will continue with yoga sutra 1.49 where Patanjali will emphasize the differences between the insight of deep samadhi and the other ways of knowing or understanding. But he still will not invalidate all the other sources of knowledge. As we progress, moving from place to place, whether in our lives, our minds, or our hearts, the kind of wisdom that will helps us changes with each stage.

*Part 16 may be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 16: Types of Engrossments, cont.)

*For part 15, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 15: Types of Engrossments)

*For part 14, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 14: After the Mind is Stable)

*For part 13, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 13: Stabilizing/Clearing the Mind, cont.) Links to parts 7 through 12 may be found at the bottom of part 13. Links to parts 1 through 6 may be found at the bottom of Page 7

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Un-coloring Your Thoughts; Sutra 1.5)

Part 1 (*link below) in this series ended with the forth Yoga Sutra (1.4) – vritti sarupyam itaratra, which says: “At other times, when one is not in self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, thereby taking on the identity of those thought patterns.”

Those gross and subtle thought patterns (vrittis) referred to in (1.4) fall into five types, that block the realization of the true Self, of which some are colored (klishta) and
others are uncolored (aklishta). The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are:The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

  1. 1. Knowing correctly (pramana)
  2. 2. Incorrect knowing (viparyaya)
  3. 3. Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa)
  4. 4. The void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra)
  5. 5. Recollection or memory (smriti)

The Yogi learns to witness these five kinds of interfering thoughts with non-attachment, discriminating between these five, and to cultivating the first type of thought, which is knowing correctly, and there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge (pramana):

1. Perception
2. Inference
3. Testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.

Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) or fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) are both made up of thought patterns that may have verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no real object or basis in existence. Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has absence or non-existance as its object. Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification of a previous impression.

Now on to the sutras…

Yoga Sutra (1.5)vrittayah pancatayah klishta aklishta. Vrittayah means “the vrittis are;” pancatayah means fivefold (and designates two kinds), panch means five;  klishta comes from the root klish (to cause trouble colored, painful, afflicted, impure); aklishta, the root “a” means without or in the absence of, therefore is the opposite of klishta, being uncolored, not painful, not afflicted, pure or absent of the coloring called klishta.

So the sutra basically says; “Those gross and subtle thought patterns (vrittis) fall into five types or varieties, some of which are colored (klishta) and others that are uncolored (aklishta).” Those that are colored (klishta) have to do with ignorance, ego-self, attachments, aversions, and fears. The simple witnessing of whether thought patterns are colored or not colored is an extremely useful part of the process of purifying, balancing, stabilizing and calming the mind so that meditation can deepen.

, and we may come to experience our true “Self” (Atman). The joys of deeper meditation come through uncoloring these mental obstacles (hindrances) that veil the true Self. This uncoloring process is an extremely important concept, and is further dealt with in chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is such an important concept that it is virtually impossible to properly practice Yoga without understanding it.

Thoughts that are colored (klishta) move away from enlightenment and result in bondage, whereas uncolored thoughts (akleshta) move towards enlightenment, resulting in freedom.

Further commentary on this sutra (1.5):

To observe the coloring of our thought patterns is one of the most useful practices of Yoga, and can be done throughout the day. This meditation in action, or mindfulness, can be of tremendous value in clearing the clouded mind, so that during your seated meditation time, that practice can go much deeper.

Witnessing the coloring of thoughts means that whenever a thought and its accompanying emotion arises, you simply identify it as, “This is colored,” or “This is not colored.” Similarly, when confronted with whether some decision or action is useful or not also brings great control over your of minds habits. Again, it is witnessing, and distinguishing between, “This is useful,” or “This is not useful.”

Stay tuned, this series will continue with: Part 3 (Un-coloring Your Thoughts, cont.) beginning with Yoga Sutra (1.6)

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

Of related interest, click on: The Problem of Thoughts & Yoga’s Solution

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: Defining – What is Yoga? (Concentration/Samadhi Pada; Yoga Sutras 1.1 thru 1.4)

The first Yoga Sutra (1.1)Atha yoga anushasanam. Atha is a most auspicious word. It is generally translated from the Sanskrit as “now.” Its purpose is to call our attention to the fact that a teaching of great importance is about to be given, right now, in this present moment, not “once upon a time” or in the past, or even some time in the future. Yoga is from the root yuj, meaning union; literally to “yoke,” which means to join together or to integrate. Anu is used as a prefix and it denotes after, or following tradition; implying being subsequent to something else, in this case, the students prior preparation. Shasanam is from the root word shas, which means “to instruct.”

“Now begins the scientific discipline of yoga.” In just a few simple words, Patanjali, the father of yoga, is subtly telling you that it’s about being present. But it also implies that without your preparation and full commitment, you won’t succeed. So in essence this introductory sutra suggests that after our many actions in life, including whatever preparatory practices we might have performed, now, we are finally ready to pursue the depths of self-exploration and the discovery of the true “Self” (Atman); our eternal and true identity.

The ancient sage Vyasa (organizer of the Vedas) elaborates on this sutra, naming five states of mind, of which the one-pointed state of mind (ekagra) is the desired state of mind for the actual practice of Yoga and is a prerequisite to meditation; it is also the primary skill for samadhi. These five states of mind range from the severely troubled mind through “ekagra” and finally lead to the most desired state of the completely mastered mind.

These five states are:The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

1.      Kshipta/disturbed

2.      Mudha/dull

3.      Vikshipta/distracted

4.      Ekagra/one-pointed

5.      Nirodhah/mastered

The first two may be qualified by today’s mental health practitioners as mental illness. The third is common but undesirable, and the last two are the most desirable. The Nirodhah state of mind is the desired state of mind for the realization of the true Self. It is extremely useful to be mindful of the five states of mind, so as to better understand their relationship to this most desired state of mind.

The second Yoga Sutra (1.2)Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha. Chitta, is derived from the root Chit, “To be conscious” and is the consciousness of the mind-field (mind “stuff”). Vritti is the activities, fluctuations, modifications, or various forms assumed by the mind-field. Nirodhah is control, regulation, mastery, stilling, quieting, and/or setting aside of Chitta Vritti.

A good interpretation of this sutra is; “Yoga is the control of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.”

The third Yoga Sutra (1.3)tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam. Tada means “at that time.” Drashtuh is from the root drsh, which means “to see” (the soul or witness). Svarupe is from the roots sva “own” and rupa “form” and means in its own nature (or essence). Avasthanam is from the root the root stha which means “to stand” or “resting place.”

This sutra can be understood as; “Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.”

The forth Yoga Sutra (1.4)vritti sarupyam itaratra. Vritti is the activities, fluctuations, modifications, or various forms assumed by the mind-field. Sarupyam, the root sa means “with”, and rupa means “form” suggesting similarity, identification of form or nature, conformity. Itaratra means elsewhere, at other times or when (the seer is) not in that state of self-realization.

So this sutra means; “At other times, when one is not in self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, thereby taking on the identity of those thought patterns.”

Coming next, Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts (Yoga Sutras 1.5 thru 1.11)

Yoga Sutras 1.5-1.6: Witnessing 5 kinds of thoughts that are either colored or not-colored

Yoga Sutra 1.7: Three ways to obtain correct knowledge

Yoga Sutras 1.8-1.11: Incorrect knowledge, imagination, sleep, memory

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali &

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Advaita Vedanta

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Looking for a Guru?

Do you wonder where to start, where to look to find a guru? You’ll find there are all kinds and types of gurus; often “guru” indicates a title for a teacher or a guide in most any subject, such as music, dance, art and sculpture, but especially religion and spirituality. We may find gurus’ range from musicians and storytellers to those whose message is transmitted without ever speaking a word. But what they all have in common is the ability and appointed authority to unveil some truth. For all too many, that authority is self-appointed, but for others it is a result of a long lineage or it is divinely appointed, the latter two helping the ego/mind (self w/small “s”) merge with the divinity within. You may call this divinity within, the Soul, Self, Jiva, Atman or whatever, but nonetheless it is immortal. There was never a time that it didn’t exist. There will never be a time that it will not be. The ego/mind is not immortal and never will be. It ceases to be at the moment of death, and according to yoga philosophy there’s an essence of what this egoic self has learned and accumulated in regard to spiritual value that continues into the next life, even if that life doesn’t find embodiment for hundreds or even a thousand years.

Yet this ego/self can become immortal if it so chooses. Naturally, this choice involves a clear decision, commitment, discipline, and Divine Grace, which often manifests in the form of a guru. Once the decision is made, a succession of teachers generally begins to appear; helping, teaching and guiding the aspirant or student. The ongoing quality that matters most is sincerity. We can make mistakes, wander from the path, and make short-term and careless choices, but if this is all done within a consistent framework of sincerity, then we’ll continue to get the guidance we need. In the process of preparing the ego/self to merge with the Divine within, negative qualities are stripped away, but only at the rate the aspirant can tolerate. Our rescue, within the bounds of our karma, is commonly afforded to us as we struggle, and eventually, we will meet our true guru.

Once we start looking we’ll see all sorts of self-appointed individuals hanging out their “guru shingle”. Sadly, they are mostly “wanna-be’s,” who “think they are” or “wish they were” – would-be spiritual leaders who have made a decision that this is their calling, perhaps in spite of their immaturity. Some of them are sincere, but many more are not. A true guru is never self-appointed. They are selected and trained by those who are already established as true gurus and sadgurus or else they’re genuine celestial enlightened ones (Avatars) who appear here from time to time. In reality, there are very few true gurus.

A true guru is endowed with spiritual gifts to give, and they give them (sometimes lavishly), to students, disciples, spiritual aspirants and on occasion to complete strangers. A true guru genuinely knows the appropriateness of the gift and can “see” how it will be applied. Although only a sadguru has this ability to know all possible outcomes, true gurus may not. Even still, a clear direction is apparent to the true guru which points strongly to how the gift will be employed. This is how the appropriateness of the gift is determined. All the while, the gift increases the ability of the ego/self to eventually merge with the Soul or Self and that is the determining objective.

All spiritual teachers, even ones who have reached the state of an advanced adept, are not automatically gurus, unless and until some divinely oriented appointment for the function arrives. As is the case for many advanced adepts, this appointment to become a true guru may never arrive.

The Grace of The Supreme flows through each true guru in wonderful and different ways; they’ve been embraced by Love and realize with every facet of their being that Love is both the method and the destination. It is the means and the end. There is no way to achieve a state of Love other than by loving. For the Divine or Truth speaks directly to the heart; the mind cannot apprehend Truth or the Self in its entirety, as a matter of fact, it can’t come close. It would be like trying to put the ocean in a teacup. It is easy to see how you can pour the contents of a teacup into the ocean and it becomes one with the ocean. But it’s a bit harder to dissolve the mind in the heart.

It seems astounding that some of the Avatars of the East (Shankaracharya, Vyasa, Buddha) and others do not agree on the finer points of what establishes Truth, or Reality, or the nature of the Self, and so on. They all see the same light, but don’t have the capacity to see it all at once so they each expound on it somewhat differently. Dattatreya, when asked to comment on the differences between Dvaita (dualism) and Advaita (Non-dualism), between Saguna (Realization with form) or Nirguna (Realization without form), looked kindly at the questioner and said, “If you are still concerned with such things, you still have a ways to go.”

Both teachers and gurus will agree that Love will take you all the way to the utmost goal of human existence, but true gurus are blessed with a unique set of skills and tools to help the finite part of us merge with the infinite part of us; dissolving our identification with the ego/self, moving us as expeditiously as possible into that state of being where we realize unity because we have attained it.

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Yoga, Love and “Connection”

Yoga is “Connection”

There’s numerous ways to define yoga, but each of the definitions are ultimately all about connection. In Sanskrit, the word ‘yoga’ is literally translated as “to join” or “to unite” and is used to signify any form of connection. So yoga means “union,” and the purpose of yoga practice is to connect. We can connect in many ways. We can connect with others or with a higher power. We can also connect our minds with our hearts; with our thoughts reflecting our feelings and vice versa. In fact, we need to connect our minds with our hearts first, because before we can connect to another, whether a thing, person, sentient being or higher power, we need to connect our brains to our emotions.

In its highest philosophical sense, yoga means conscious connection of the individual self with the highest Self, where you feel “at one” with the rhythms and cycles of the cosmos, God or the Universal Divine.

Yoga is first and foremost a science, a system of consciously practiced techniques and processes that enable you to be fully present and to realize your highest Self (aka Atman) which is inherently connected to all that is. Hence there is no dogma or belief system attached to yoga. Yoga simply instructs you to do a certain practice, to feel the effects and then to discover your true Self through that practice. For example, if you practice pranayama and breathe slowly and in a relaxed manner you will notice your heart rate slows, your mind becomes calm and focused, and deep insights are the result.

Whenever you totally experience this connection you are in the state of yoga; a balanced, blissful and life affirming state of being united and no longer a separate ego-based entity.

Love can also be “Connection”

Ironically, romantic and personal love both have their agendas, but “connecting” has no agendas. In order for love to truly be “connection” it must be universal and unconditional, it cannot exclude or choose a specific object (or person) to love. Have you ever noticed that when you love something, you feel connected to it? You start to observe the things you have in common rather than the differences that would tend to separate you. This is a beginning, a starting point where practice can help that love to expand, to become more and more inclusive.

Here you may observe your ability to love goes through different stages where the feeling of connectivity happens on multiple levels. At first you may notice that you wish for your love to be reciprocated, and as that wish is gradually replaced by feelings of selfless love, a new sense of freedom (or expansion) is experienced. This is where yoga practice and the development of selfless love meet.

As you begin to consciously practice love in a broader, less selfish and more expansive way, you’ll feel unity, or connectivity is beginning to dissolve the drama of your separateness and your ego-centered activities are abandoned in favor of a more compassionate approach. So continue to practice yoga and selfless love until you feel that your heart is so big and the love so infinite that you can hold the whole universe in your heart.

Closing thoughts:

The Bhagavad Gita recognizes the synchronous nature of creation and the underlying Divine/cosmic unity. The Hindu term, Brahman, refers to the fundamental connection of all things in the universe. The appearance of this Universal Oneness in the soul is called Atman.

The ancient Hindu mystics said everything in the universe was inextricably interconnected, and they used Indra’s Net to illustrate the concept. Stephen Mitchell, in his book The Enlightened Mind, wrote: “The Net of Indra is a profound and subtle metaphor for the structure of reality. Imagine a vast net; at each crossing point there is a jewel; each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels in the net, the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an image ad infinitum. The jewel in this metaphor stands for an individual being, or an individual consciousness, or a cell or an atom. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one jewel means a change, however slight, in every other jewel.”

The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

Meditation (known as Dhyana in Sanskrit) was part of ancient yoga and remains one of the most essential features of yoga practice. Meditation is basically the most direct way to connect to supreme or essential “Self” (Atman) through developing deeper consciousness. And in addition to its spiritual significance, meditation and yoga are practiced together to establish and maintain optimal health and wellness.

In these modern times the practice of yoga training has become more estranged from meditation than in the past, with the primary focus often being on asana (poses), but nonetheless meditation still remains crucial to even the most fundamental understanding of the science of yoga. With the widespread attraction to yoga from today’s contemporary students, the question frequently arises as to whether meditation is really necessary to appreciate the full scope of what yoga practice has to offer.

This question will easily be answered once the student realizes that yoga and meditation are bound together as intimately as breathing and air. It is futile to attempt to practice one without the other. The very question of whether meditation is necessary to perform yoga properly indicates a general lack of understanding in regard to both subjects.

Yoga is meditation. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s fast or slow, hot or cold; all forms of yoga practice rely on the basic principles of meditation to occur. Yoga practice is a form of exercise as well, but it is exercise at its most highly evolved level, meaning yogic exercise is, in itself, a form of meditation.

Meditation brings consciousness to every action taken. In order to correctly perform yoga asana the mind needs to be active along with the body. This consciousness in action takes the form of counting breaths, holding poses, correcting alignment and smoothly sequencing from one position to the next. This activity takes place in accordance with a deliberate “mindfulness” that is the true essence of every yogic session.

Meditation recognizes that the mind is supervising this physical activity, but there is much more that the mind can be occupied with. The addition of Mantras, Mudras, introspective thoughts and even visualization will more fully occupy the mind so that the energies expended by the body are all working toward a single constructive purpose, to bring complete mindfulness and total awareness into every action.

Once these concepts are fully grasped it it becomes apparent that for people who chose to practice asana, meditation is absolutely required. Meditation cannot be some abstract idea that is separate from the whole of yogic science; meditation in fact, is the beginning and end of all yogic methods and techniques.

If you are among those who are confused (or even disturbed) by the concept of meditation, it may be helpful to think of it in a more straightforward manner. So consider this; meditation can be looked upon as a means of encouraging and hastening the attainment of the state of enlightenment through mental concentration, clarity of mind and self improvement.

Additionally, meditation is something that returns us to being in the present moment. It is a deep connection, through a heightened awareness of oneself, in relationship with the things and people all around. Meditation and yoga combined are known to be helpful in recovering from breathing problems, boosting the immune system, reducing cholesterol levels and increasing energy and stamina, resulting in an improvement of overall health and an enhanced sense of connection to the Divine Spirit within.