Author Archives: Prem Anjali

Questions & Answers with Swami Satchidananda: Creative Visualization

Questions & Answers with Swami Satchidananda: Creative Visualization

Q: We hear so much these days about creative visualization and  manifesting with the mind. Isn’t this the opposite of being present and in the moment?

A: I don’t think they oppose each other. If you like, you can be in the present moment without creating any thoughts in the mind or any visions in the mind. But, you can also have visualization. It depends on what you want to achieve. Visualization is mainly given to bring an image into the mind, mostly in a curative way. We recommend that to patients.

For example, heart patients can imagine that the heart is getting better. The doctors can even take a picture of the heart, with all the blockages and put it in front of a patient. That becomes the object of meditation and they can imagine that the blockages are slowly getting cleared. A patient, who was a plumber, once imagined that a roto router was clearing the arteries!

Visualization has its own purpose. If you don’t need that you can just leave the mind in a sort of quiet state, but there is even difficulty with that. You can never make the mind completely quiet because the thought will still be there, “I am making my mind quiet.” If you say “I’m not going to think of anything,” then what are you thinking? You’re thinking of not thinking of anything. Unfortunately, that is the way the mind functions. The mind cannot survive without a thought. A thoughtless mind is no mind at all.

Mind means bundle of thoughts. It’s very difficult to create a void. We have to start with something, some image or thought. When you start with a single thought, you are slowly freeing the mind from all other thoughts. One thought becomes more important to you. It’s something like a catalytic agent. It has a purpose. Then it frees you of all other thoughts. Slowly this single thought will disappear and then you go into a  state called nirvikalpa samadhi or seedless equanimity. Both methods are equally good. You can use either one according to your need and capacity.

Many people say they don’t believe in forms; they worship the formless. It’s really impossible for you to worship the formless. The mind cannot conceive of anything without a form. It has no capacity for that. For example, the moment you hear the word “sweet,” you understand sweetness with the help of some substance—as sweet as honey, or as sweet as chocolate. The same is true of beauty. How can you conceive of that with the mind? And how can you communicate that with others. You have to bring in a form: as beautiful as a rose. I wasn’t talking about a rose, I was just talking about beauty.

That’s why in the Upanishads, when they talk about the Cosmic Consciousness that you call God, they say it is formless and nameless. It means you cannot think it, communicate it, or grasp it because it has no form, no name. The mind finds this difficult so it has to conceive of the idea with the help of a form. You have to pick a form to understand the formless.

Q & A with Swami Satchidananda: How to Overcome Powerlessness

Q & A with Swami Satchidananda: How to Overcome Powerlessness

Question: How can I overcome a feeling of powerlessness and change my life?

Answer: Put in some power! The reason you feel powerless is because there‘s not enough vital energy in you. Pranayama practice will fill you with more vital energy. And, you can add one more thing; faith in God. God is the highest energy, an infinite energy. Even though God is given different names and forms, in essence, God has no name and no form. God’s energy is a trillion volts. That electricity is everywhere. There’s no place without that energy current.

In Sanskrit we call it shakti. Everything moves by the same electricity, but to use it, you have to first gather it; that’s why we have electrical stations. After it’s gathered, it travels into our home through wires. If it were to come in by itself, you would get burned and that’s why you need a step down transformer. The current is stepped down and then comes into you house as less voltage so that it can be used safely. You cannot use the main energy itself because if you do, all the gadgets will get burnt.

The infinite God is the cosmic energy or shakti power current. The gathering places are the various churches, synagogues, and temples. You go there, make a little connection and you get some current. If you say, “I’m not satisfied with a little current, I want the whole current,” you’ll become ash. That’s why even God could not do anything without his son Christ. He sent himself as the Christ who is a step down transformer.

So, communicate with the original power. When that power is gathered, it makes a huge sound, “Ommmm.” If you go near a transformer you’ll hear a humming sound. Om is the word that you say but the real sound is “hummmm.” That is God’s sound. How do you connect yourself to God’s sound? You do it with the help of another sound. That’s why you repeat a mantra. You keep repeating it and you develop sound energy in your body and that sound energy is able to communicate with the higher sound, God. It’s all connected with shakti.

The entire universe is nothing but a power source and that power source expresses itself as hum and that hum forms itself into atoms and atoms form into bodies. Our bodies are nothing but a combination of atoms. If tomorrow, all our bodies were to be put into a machine and crumbled up, they would all break down into atoms. In that way we are all one and the same even though we look different. We are all products of atoms; the Bible calls it Adams! So with a sound, you can connect with the higher sound. It’s a sound practice, is it not? There’s no need to feel powerless. You can get all the power you need by connecting yourself to the higher force that we call God. Learn to connect yourself to the source and receive tremendous power.

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     Hear Swami Satchidananda chant Shakti mantras and find this CD here.

Questions & Answers with Swami Satchidananda: Overcoming Disappointments

Questions & Answers with Swami Satchidananda: Overcoming Disappointments

 

Q: How can I rid myself of expectations of others and the resulting disappointments? Am I really just disappointed with myself for allowing the attachment or is it lack of self-respect which merely manifests itself in the form of impatience. I’m slow to learn and find it even harder to remove my hostility.

A: You don’t need to put yourself down like that. We all make mistakes, no doubt. It’s only by mistakes that we learn. Only by making appointments and having disappointments do we raise above them. If you expect your happiness to come from anything or anyone, you will always be disappointed. Happiness is like your shadow. When your back is to the sun, no matter how long and how far you walk, your shadow is always in front of you but you can never catch it. It is always beyond your reach. If you turn around and face the sun, then your shadow is always behind you and as you walk it chases you. Happiness is already within you as your own true nature. When you truly understand this, you will stop having expectations and the resulting disappointments.

Gradually, you will learn to make the right appointments—the ones that will never bring disappointments. So never lose heart and don’t worry about past things. And if you are really interested in not having any disappointments, make your appointments without any selfishness behind them. It’s always a selfish appointment that brings disappointments. I like to say that selfishness is a fishy business because with selfishness, you are always trying to catch something on the fishing line. You think that what you catch will bring you that happiness but again, happiness cannot be caught because it is already within you. Selflessness has no fishing line. We simply act for the joy of doing and of being useful. If your entire life is dedicated for the benefit of others and free from selfishness you will never be disappointed. Accept any opportunity that comes your way to be of service. You don’t need to force it, simply be ready. That’s what we should learn in our life.

It seems you are feeling that you are not fit for anything and that you are never going to find peace. As a baby, you didn’t walk right away when you came out of the womb. How many hundreds of times did you fall down before you even stood up? Have courage, perseverance, and never lose hope. Don’t even allow negative thoughts to come into your mind like, Oh, I’m a sinner I’m not fit for anything. That is the worst kind of thinking. After all what is a sin? When you don’t know something, it’s a mistake, that’s all. Sin is just a mistake. If you know it’s going to harm you or someone else, you won’t do it. But, even if you happen to make the mistake, it doesn’t matter because you will have to face the result. And that’s how you learn. You realize “Oh, I did that, and now I’m facing this, so I should not do it in future.” Maybe that light of understanding remains for only a few days and then you make the same mistake again. It doesn’t matter. You may need to learn the same lesson again and again. It may take 10 times or 100 times. That’s what the world is for—to give you as many experiences as you need to finally learn the lessons.

 

 

 

Bringing Yoga to Life

Bringing Yoga to Life

By Swami Ramananda

While the practice of Yoga has spread all over the world, it is generally understood to be movements done on a mat, which greatly limits how it is practiced. A more complete understanding of Yoga is to see it as a way of life rather than just a set of movements. Wanting to emphasize this in our lives, we decided to practice bringing Yoga into our daily actions for the teaching of the month.

The intention behind all the teachings and practices of Yoga is to fully realize our essential nature—the spiritual Self that is the unchanging presence behind the ever-changing body/mind. This presence is experienced as a source of innate contentment and intimate connection with all of life, that gives rise to a natural compassion towards other beings.

The idea of enlightenment or God-realization may seem a vague and distant goal, but we can all cultivate the above-mentioned qualities and have our own mini experiences of enlightened living. We can practice being content in the present moment, remembering with gratitude all the ways we are blessed. We can contemplate how interconnected we are with nature, how every breath is an exchange with the world around us, and think about how each action and every focused thought is a contribution to the collective consciousness.

If I seriously consider this, I become much more conscious of the repercussions of my actions and the intentions behind them. We can ask ourselves, “Am I thinking about the well-being of everyone, or just acting on my own desires?”

Another way of bringing Yoga to life is to do whatever we do with our whole being—an easeful body, an open heart and a calm, focused mind. A daily Hatha Yoga and meditation practice will support this effort to perform tasks in a meditative way, mindful of the effects on others and on ourselves.

I like to practice a “compassion walk” during which I try to visualize that everyone I see is doing the best they can, learning in their own time, and thus equally deserving of my respect and care. Cultivating this intention in our interactions with others is another potent step towards enlightened living.

We have many opportunities every day to make a choice to be loving, to listen and understand others, to offer feedback with genuine care, to give without expecting something in return. If we open our hearts more often to those we encounter, we begin to live as a presence of peace, we begin to allow a much greater intelligence to guide us, and we may also sense how we are functioning in harmony with a much greater plan.

 

Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals. 

Questions & Answers with Swami Satchidananda: How to Deal with Difficult People

Questions & Answers with Swami Satchidananda: How to Deal with Difficult People

Q: You have said that until we forget, we have not completely forgiven. How can I forgive and also forget something bad that someone does to me if they continue doing it and I’m constantly reminded of it?

A: If you really want to forget something why do you put yourself in the situation where you are reminded of it again and again? If a person does something wrong to you and continues to do it, then that means you are in the wrong company. There is a proverb that says, “Why should a person who wants to weave have a monkey as a pet?” They don’t go together. If you keep a monkey, it will tear the yarn. If you really want to forget something, instead of blaming the person for what they are doing, don’t put yourself in that situation over and over again.

It’s easy to blame somebody. That’s human nature. If you are walking in the road, looking everywhere except where your feet are stepping, you might trip on a stone and fall. If your leg begins to bleed you will say, “The stone hit me.” It’s the other way around. You tripped and hit the stone. We often say, “The needle pricked me.” It’s just human nature to react that way but it’s better not to blame anybody for what they do to you. Just stay away from it.

The saintly poet, Avvaiyar, gives beautiful advice about this. She said, “Keep at least 5 feet away from animals who have horns so that you can’t get hit by them. If you come across a horse, keep 10 feet away because in the front it will bite and in the back it will kick. If you see an uncontrolled elephant, keep 1,000 feet away.” But there is another category. “If you come across a person who keeps on doing wrong, don’t even look in their eyes.” That means that you should keep yourself away from them by not allowing them to see you. That’s a good way to keep yourself peaceful. It’s not advisable to complain saying, “Oh, he keeps on doing it so how am I to forget?”

Once a sadhu (an Indian holy person) was walking in a village and a sort of rough fellow who likes to hurt everybody, a bully, comes along.

The bully says, “Hey sadhu, where are you going?” Then, he pulled the sadhu’s beard and asked, “Why do you have this beard?”

The sadhu replied, “I’m sorry I don’t have enough money to buy a razor. I have only a rupee, but you can have it!

What, I’m hurting you and you give me a rupee!

Well yes, don’t you know that it’s human nature to give? If you do something like this to someone who is a rich man, he will give you more. I have only this one rupee to give you.

The bully then told the sadhu: “Aha, all right then, you can go.”

The bully then waited for a rich looking man to come along. Finally, a rich man walked by and the bully did the same thing he’d done to the sadhu, but this time he got a thrashing from the man.

So, you don’t always have to be the one to give the lesson. You can forgive and forget, and then don’t place yourself in that situation again.

Sohini Mehta: Swami Satchidananda’s First Disciple Passes Away at 93

Sohini Mehta: Swami Satchidananda’s First Disciple Passes Away at 93


Tribute by Rev. Shanti Norris

Rest in peace, beloved friend and mentor Sohini Mehta. Sohini passed away peacefully February 1, 2018, at the age of 93 in Pennsylvania.

(photo L-R: Suresh Mehta (Sohini’s husband), Swami Satchidananda, Sohini’s eldest son Pradeep, Sri Swami Sivananda, younger son Tushar, Sohini, early 1950s)

Our spiritual teacher, Swami Satchidananda often referred to Sohini as his “oldest disciple.” This was not because of her age, (although she was older than many of us) but because of her longevity as an ardent student.

Sohini was already a longtime devotee when I met her in 1970 on my first trip to India. She welcomed Swamiji, and 3 of us traveling with him as her guest in her traditional Indian home in Bombay. She was a tiny woman who moved at the speed of light. She embodied the spiritual admonition to welcome your guest as god, and lovingly fed and cared for all of us. I will never forget her profound introduction to India and her example of a devoted spiritual practitioner. She took me under her wing and I am the better for it.

She chanted continually as she did her work and served everyone. She was a Karma Yogi par excellence. She often visited the Connecticut and Virginia ashrams where she taught hundreds of us how to make chapatis. Over the years she must have made thousands of chapatis for Swamiji and his students. She was tireless in her service and left us younger students in her wake. She was the epitome of a “spiritual devotee” to those of us from the west who were new to Yoga and to the experience of being with a profound spiritual teacher.

To say that she inspired us is to minimize the profound affect she had. Her faith and devotion emanated from her and she was always upbeat and joyful. She was an example of possibility.

Several trips later, we arrived at the Bombay airport and there was no Sohini to meet Swamiji. He knew something wasn’t right and went immediately to her home where we learned that Sohini’s beloved husband Suresh had passed away the previous day. Swamiji joined the procession to the cremation ceremony with their sons and helped Sohini accept this unexpected loss. It was an extraordinary “coincidence” that this devoted woman had her teacher with her during this challenging time.

(photo L-R: Sohini’s son Pradeep, grandaughter Rita, great-grandaughters Norah & Charlotte)

Sohini was an amazing mother and grandmother. She loved her family and lived with them until sometime this past year when her health demanded her to be in a nursing home. Last fall her son Pradeep took her to the hospital where she met her granddaughter Rita’s twin daughters Norah and Charlotte, which meant the world to her. Included here is a picture of 4 generations.

(photo: A visit to Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and posing with Mataji, Swami Gurucharanananda.)

There are hundreds of people across America, and further, who fell under Sohini’s spell. She was a spiritual mother and sister to so many of us and an embodiment of Love. I am profoundly grateful to have known her and been influenced by her.

May she dwell with the saints.