The Annual 40-Day Spiritual Festival 2019

 

Each summer during the 40 days that precede Guru Purnima, students in the Himalayan tradition are invited to participate in the 40-Day Spiritual Festival, to expand and refine their sadhanas.

This year the 40-Day Festival will begin on  June 7th and will end on July 16th, which is Guru Purnima.[1]

 

It is a time to contemplate (and talk with others about) the ways you can participate.

 

“We are all here for a purpose; it is an on-going spiritual process. We are all here for spiritual liberation and serving that mission. For that purpose we are purifying ourselves of our pride and ego. For these reasons we train ourselves in constant self-observation: to see oneself, to hear oneself to develop this internal dialogue. I have used one criterion for all my thoughts, my words, and my actions: ‘Is this conducive to spiritual liberation.’” – Swami Veda

 

The many presentations,[2] sacred ceremonies and scriptural contemplations[3] in recent years have pointed to the main focus of this year’s Spiritual Festival, which is the japa of the Saumya-Tara Mantra and the celebration of the Divine Mother in the universe and in ourselves.  The Saumya-Tara Mantra was given to us in past years by Swami Veda, and now again, in 2018, by Swami Ritavan to bring loving peace to the collective mind-field: “Saumya-Tara Mantra can be a means for expiation and purification and lead to pacification, a peace that is necessary now and at all times.”

 

At the 2019 Sangha Gathering (February 25 to March 5, 2019) at SRSG, Swami Ritavan guided the AHYMSIN Sangha into the Saumya-Tara Mantra practice for the next three years.  Please see Three Year Mantra Practice, 2019 to 2022 and follow the many links which are included.

 

The Saumya-Tara Mantra practice is especially propitious, as it reconnects us with Swami Veda’s love for this mantra and the immersion in the energies of the Divine Feminine, as when Swamiji first introduced Saumya Mantra to the Himalayan community in 1999, when he further expanded it in 2012 by joining it to it to the Tara Mantra,[4] and when he prescribed this mantra for the Spiritual Festival in 2014.

 

In February of 2002 Swami Veda spoke these words:

 

“The swift, yet soft current in the middle of the river is that of Soma – in the whole universe all that brings peacefulness. In the common spoken languages of India we often refer to a person who is very Saumya person. That gentleness shows on his or her face. That gentleness and softness is exuded from his body and from his voice. Such a one does not need to make an effort to ascend, to rise. Such a one simply floats like water filling all the holes and making everything even. Wherever there is disharmony such a one’s presence creates harmony. Where there is strife, such a one’s speech, glance, thought establishes symphony. We seek to be such for in these times there is enough of the exhibition of fire in the world. If each one of us – even one single one of us – becomes a Saumya person, his very presence on this planet can bring about a mildness in the flames of fire….

 

If you want to know what a Saumya feature is like, [remember] the face of your mother when she was suckling you on her breast and looking down at you. That was a Saumya face.  Pray that your face may be seen like that face by all living beings – not only by your family and friends and neighbors and your co-nationals, but all human beings and all living beings. [Let them seek you out]…as hungry children come and crowd around their mother….

 

So each time you utter the word “Saumya,” let that quality of personality be invoked in you so that slowly, slowly, gradually you may become the source of Saumya forces flowing swiftly, softly.  Gently like a breeze made fragrant by flowers . . . [may] others who pass by you smell that fragrance and may their minds become Saumya….

 

The great divine Mother’s presence has to be invoked and invited to dwell in your body, speech, mind, eyes, even more intensely manifesting…a clear presence at all times.  “Saumya, Saumyatara.”  Each time we recite these words let these qualities, let these attributes be invoked in you and may the mother who is ever Saumya – suckling all her children, the entire universe after universe – may she descend and dwell in you and look out to the world through your eyes.  Saumya, Saumyatara.  Hari Om.  Hari Om.  Hari OM.”

(from “Saumya, Yajna and Yajmin” by Swami Veda on February 10, 2002)

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In addition to the practice of Saumya-Tara Mantra, during these 40 days students can choose to intensify their yoga sadhanas and/or make beneficial changes in their lifestyles, in a variety of other ways. Please review what Swami Veda’s suggestions and teachings have been in previous years, including Sadhana in Applied Spirituality and the practice given by Swami Veda on 9th March 2013 for “your next five years and for the rest of your life.”

 

Prepare a study and practice plan for yourself. If there are instabilities in our lives, they exist, Swami Veda said, not because our circumstances are unstable, but because our minds are unstable. Stable minds, he said, are like soft, gentle ripples in the calm lake which can stabilize all external circumstances.

 

Some possible undertakings for the 40-day Spiritual Festival:

 

  1. Increasing one’s practice of meditation and japa.Expanding some other aspect of one’s daily yoga practice with subtle relaxations or pranayamas.
  2. Studying an inspiring book and applying a principle or practice in it.
  3. Implementing an element of yoga, such as a particular Yama or Niyama. “These Yamas and Niyamas are the sure means of advancing spiritually. When your mind is clarified, purified, by the constant application and implementation of these principles, you’ll find that your problems will become less and less overwhelming.” (Swami Veda Bharati)
  4. Cultivating positive aspects of mind through such practices as the Four Right Attitudes (brahma-viharas – friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked) or pleasant-mindedness (chitta-prasadana – clarity and purification of mind, making the mind pleasant and clear).
  5. Making lifestyle changes so to honor the natural environment – reducing clutter, consuming less, planting trees, simplifying one’s way of living.
  6. Making healthier choices in one’s daily schedule in terms of diet and nutrition, sleep and exercise habits and punctuality of meditations.
  7. Refining one’s personal relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

 

In reviewing the guidelines and making your own commitments, please keep in mind your own capacity. Success with a series of smaller goals will lead to greater purification and capacity for next year. Assess your own capacity and do not try to push to complete “on time.” Accommodate for your family responsibilities.

 

Some further suggestions from Swami Veda for stabilizing the spiritual mind-field include:

 

  1. Let your selfless service increase, whether by one percent or five percent or whatever.  Increase the time and energy you spend in SELFLESS service of others. That is the first concrete action you can begin with.

 

  1. Refine your personal practices including concentrating more on exhalations. This will help you achieve 2:1 ratio of breathing without physical effort.
  2. Review: Read Mind Field: The Playground of Gods at https://ahymsin.org/main/swami-veda-bharati/mind-field.html . And Marks of Spiritual Progress at https://ahymsin.org/main/swami-veda-bharati/marks-of-spiritual-progress.html

 

  1. Keep your regular meditation time. In addition to that, you may sit at other times in the day. Do not forget to take 2 minutes, 3 minutes breaks, for breath-awareness many, many times in the day.

 

A group of spiritually-oriented people, thus stabilized, can become part of a larger, stabilized mind-field called a sangha. We are all part of a global network of spirituality in the Tradition, and we can continue to harmonize the mind-field of our community, through our own self-transformation, so that its mission work will be successful.

 

“We all dream,” Swami Veda has said, “of the possibility of living in a peaceful world. This aspiration can be realized only if we first provide to our very soul, the self, atman, a peaceful home in the mind inside which it lives. That is the essence of our spiritual journey; that is yoga; that is meditation; that is peace in the family, which, then, extends to becoming world peace. We need to keep a diligent vigil, to keep this mind pure and peaceful and clean, to make it progress towards becoming the environment suitable for an enlightened soul. There needs to be sense of continuous progress in us so the world may progress towards peace.”

 

Lokas samastas sukhino bhavantu
“May the whole world attain peace and harmony.”

 

“May we weave the fabric of spirituality in our lives,

and within our spiritual family – AHYMSIN” (Swami Ritavan)

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Stabilizing the Spiritual Mindfield

Additional Spiritual Festival Guidelines

Prayash-chitta and Chitta Prasadana: through Self-Examination & Meditation

Self-Examination, Sadhana Practice, Meditation & Mantra Japa

  • Maintain mindfulness and an attitude of self-examination throughout the day. Observe thoughts and emotions asking oneself, “What transgressions did I commit?”
    • Where there was fearful or aggressive thoughts/words/actions ask, “What was it in me that evoked that response and reaction?”
    • “What right thing that should have done have I omitted?” – replacing such negativity with kindness and compassion. (Refer to Swami Veda’s Yoga Sutra commentary of I:33 on Chitta prasadana.)
    • Do Nadi Shodhana (channel purification) 3 times a day.
    • Do one to three malas of your personal mantra japa daily.
    • For any thought critical of anyone, do 11 recitations of Gayatri.
    • At juncture points in your day (or about every 2 hours), sit for 2 minutes, observing the flow of breath in the nostrils and repeating your personal mantra.
    • Recite the Gurur Brahma Prayer and the morning and evening prayers .
    • Surrender samskaras & random thoughts to the inner Guru.
    • Resolve to enter into non-self-centered meditation.
    Om Tat Sat Brahmarpanam Astu – dedicate prayers to the enlightenment and happiness of others.
    • Your last formal thought at night should be the Gurur Brahma prayer and entry into meditative mode as you fall asleep. Your sleep will become a meditation. Awaken with a Yoga Nidra practice or simply breath awareness in bed before rising.
    • Participate in Full Moon Meditations . “The full moon meditations are an opportunity for us to come together in connecting with the universal mind-field bringing unity, harmony, peace and love. Go into your silence; exhale-release, inhale-accept, forgive & fulfil, with purified heart and mind receive the blessings of the Lineage.” – Swami Ritavan Bharati

Hatha Yoga

  • A practice of hatha yoga to purify the body, breath and mind. Consider undertaking a practice of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) during these 40 days. Please refer to the section in Swami Veda’s Philosophy of Hatha Yoga in which he writes about asana as worship. Do Joints & Glands Exercises. Use whatever asana practice you undertake as a way to strengthen your link with the lineage through whom all blessings flow.

Meals

  • If possible do not eat alone. Take a small portion of food and give it to a companion or co-worker. If it is embarrassing and not socially acceptable, then surrender the first portion to the Great Prana of the Universe.
    • Recite Grace.
    • Eat 5 mouthfuls less than enough to fill the stomach at each meal.
    • Eat no solid food after 9:00 p.m. A glass of liquid may be taken at night. Special health and medical situations are exempt. Total fasting is not suggested.
    • Try to avoid eating meat or fish during the month although you may serve it to your family.

To further deepen your practice

  • Consider taking a vow of one month’s celibacy, but only with the happy consent of your spouse.
    • Keep a personal journal on subtle violence in personal life, e.g. an unjustified sharp tone of speech, or in using objects obtained by violence and disregard for the rights of other living beings.
    • Dedicate 10 percent of your month’s income plus one dollar to a charity of your choice, in addition to your usual commitments. Through this ancient Western and Eastern tradition of tithing, one learns the way of giving sacrifice joyfully.
    • Look for ways to reduce your possessions, acquisitions and energy consumption at least 10%.
    • Conquer anger, laziness and selfish thoughts.
    • Vow to give special love to your family and reach out to others, beyond your blocks and fears.
    • Experiment with a practice of silence (see Swami Veda’s booklet Silence for more about silence). This could be through observing your speech in daily life to see if you are using more words than necessary, speaking louder than necessary and if your tone and voice evokes a positive response in the listener. You could undertake to practice a half day of silence or a longer period. “Silence should not merely be an absence of speech. If it is merely an abstinence from speech it can even be emotionally and spiritually damaging. Unless one has filled oneself within there is no silence. Fill yourself with meditation. Fill yourself with contemplation. Fill yourself with your mantra…” – Swami Veda Bharati
    • Take a one or two-day, or longer, personal retreat.

Further Observances

On Guru Purnima day you may decide to undertake further observances of self-purification for next year.

Stabilizing the Spiritual Mindfield

Additional Spiritual Festival Guidelines

Prayash-chitta and Chitta Prasadana: through Self-Examination & Meditation

Self-Examination, Sadhana Practice, Meditation & Mantra Japa

  • Maintain mindfulness and an attitude of self-examination throughout the day. Observe thoughts and emotions asking oneself, “What transgressions did I commit?”
    • Where there was fearful or aggressive thoughts/words/actions ask, “What was it in me that evoked that response and reaction?”
    • “What right thing that should have done have I omitted?” – replacing such negativity with kindness and compassion. (Refer to Swami Veda’s Yoga Sutra commentary of I:33 on Chitta prasadana.)
    • Do Nadi Shodhana (channel purification) 3 times a day.
    • Do one to three malas of your personal mantra japa daily.
    • For any thought critical of anyone, do 11 recitations of Gayatri.
    • At juncture points in your day (or about every 2 hours), sit for 2 minutes, observing the flow of breath in the nostrils and repeating your personal mantra.
    • Recite the Gurur Brahma Prayer and the morning and evening prayers .
    • Surrender samskaras & random thoughts to the inner Guru.
    • Resolve to enter into non-self-centered meditation.
    Om Tat Sat Brahmarpanam Astu – dedicate prayers to the enlightenment and happiness of others.
    • Your last formal thought at night should be the Gurur Brahma prayer and entry into meditative mode as you fall asleep. Your sleep will become a meditation. Awaken with a Yoga Nidra practice or simply breath awareness in bed before rising.
    • Participate in Full Moon Meditations . “The full moon meditations are an opportunity for us to come together in connecting with the universal mind-field bringing unity, harmony, peace and love. Go into your silence; exhale-release, inhale-accept, forgive & fulfil, with purified heart and mind receive the blessings of the Lineage.” – Swami Ritavan Bharati

Hatha Yoga

  • A practice of hatha yoga to purify the body, breath and mind. Consider undertaking a practice of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) during these 40 days. Please refer to the section in Swami Veda’s Philosophy of Hatha Yoga in which he writes about asana as worship. Do Joints & Glands Exercises. Use whatever asana practice you undertake as a way to strengthen your link with the lineage through whom all blessings flow.

Meals

  • If possible do not eat alone. Take a small portion of food and give it to a companion or co-worker. If it is embarrassing and not socially acceptable, then surrender the first portion to the Great Prana of the Universe.
    • Recite Grace.
    • Eat 5 mouthfuls less than enough to fill the stomach at each meal.
    • Eat no solid food after 9:00 p.m. A glass of liquid may be taken at night. Special health and medical situations are exempt. Total fasting is not suggested.
    • Try to avoid eating meat or fish during the month although you may serve it to your family.

To further deepen your practice

  • Consider taking a vow of one month’s celibacy, but only with the happy consent of your spouse.
    • Keep a personal journal on subtle violence in personal life, e.g. an unjustified sharp tone of speech, or in using objects obtained by violence and disregard for the rights of other living beings.
    • Dedicate 10 percent of your month’s income plus one dollar to a charity of your choice, in addition to your usual commitments. Through this ancient Western and Eastern tradition of tithing, one learns the way of giving sacrifice joyfully.
    • Look for ways to reduce your possessions, acquisitions and energy consumption at least 10%.
    • Conquer anger, laziness and selfish thoughts.
    • Vow to give special love to your family and reach out to others, beyond your blocks and fears.
    • Experiment with a practice of silence (see Swami Veda’s booklet Silence for more about silence). This could be through observing your speech in daily life to see if you are using more words than necessary, speaking louder than necessary and if your tone and voice evokes a positive response in the listener. You could undertake to practice a half day of silence or a longer period. “Silence should not merely be an absence of speech. If it is merely an abstinence from speech it can even be emotionally and spiritually damaging. Unless one has filled oneself within there is no silence. Fill yourself with meditation. Fill yourself with contemplation. Fill yourself with your mantra…” – Swami Veda Bharati
    • Take a one or two-day, or longer, personal retreat.

Further Observances

On Guru Purnima day you may decide to undertake further observances of self-purification for next year.

 

Do please proceed, and may the Guru Spirit

thereby be pleased and confer its grace upon all of us.

 

Om Sham

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NOTES:

On Saumya

by

Swami Veda Bharati

 

Tantra is that when all the seven planets are aligned in straight line, the universe dissolves.  You can align them now. You can dissolve the universe and be a pure spirit being. It’s all in the union of ha and tha – the central stream, the union, the yoga part. The yoga part is in the central stream, the union where the two hemispheres of the brain meet, where the two hemispheres of the body meet, where the two aspects of the breath meet ­– and in this cosmology is the interior cosmology in the Tantra.

 

The moon is the highest of those seven. It’s a state of not really a state of brilliant light like that of the sun, it’s beyond that.  Beyond that is a state of absolutely cool moonlight, like the light of ten million moons.

 

I have spoken of a word, a very common word in the languages of India: saumya, as an aspiration to become a saumya personality. It’s a normal compliment in India and in all the languages of that country: someone has a very saumya character. It’s a character, a personality by looking at whom you get the same feeling that you get upon seeing the full moon in the clear blue sky. “May you become a saumya person.”  “May the world compliment you by saying, ‘What a saymya person he or she is!’” – that the world looks at you and gets the same sensing as you get when you see the full moon in the clear blue sky.

 

The highest in that is the seventh of those well-aligned planets – the same ones which are also referred to as the seven lotuses – the seventh one with the light of ten million moons. There is no calm beyond that calm. All the rest of calmness you ever experience in the universe is like a dew drop that might fall from that full moon onto a morning rose as it does onto all your roses, all your lotuses. In Christian terminology they are called roses; in India terminology they are called lotuses. And all the time, from that moon, dew drops of calm amrita are dripping down.  When you sometimes turn inwards and savor that drop, then you say, “I felt so calm!”  That is where your quietness comes from.  That’s from where your stillness comes – your aspiration to actually experience the true peace of mind.

 

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Contemplation on Meaning

Swami Veda Bharati

1999

 

Om, Om.  The spiritual traditions advise that from time to time seekers, sadhakas undertake special practices, periods of observances such as japa, mental recitation of a special mantra, to accomplish a certain purpose within ones own person or for one’s own family or someone else’s or even for an entire community, and similar other purposes.  About these special japa observances, there are details in a little booklet titled Special Mantras, which is strongly recommend.

 

Also that though we have declared a purpose for that observance, we do it without expectation simply as a surrender to the divinity.  It is with this intent of self-purification that we all collectively may undertake this observance.

 

These are some of the blessings with which Swamiji closed his letters:

 

May your innermost light that never dims radiate its brilliance to enlighten many.

 

Do please proceed, and may the Guru Spirit

thereby be pleased and confer its grace upon all of us.

 

Om Sham

Again, The purpose of this observance is in the minds of those participating is to establish and enhance peace and thereby to strengthen a bond of good-heartedness among the peoples of the world.

 

 

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“Sangha Practice for the Next 3 Years”

by Swami Ritavan

“This morning we have spoken how the Tradition is one of meditation; the Tradition is one of transformation of the mind — those qualities of the Prakriti and its first devolutes . . . the mind and that mind as senses, perception and cognition the very essence of the ahamkara, the I maker, and the buddhi, the intelligence.

So such a manner of understanding one’s personality is key and core to living life and a life worth living. The essence of Swami Veda’s teachings is citta-prasadanam, making the mind a pleasant place, and it is only through that constant maturing of that faculty of mind that mind is left behind. No longer needing this vehicle, you have taken the boat from one shore to the other, and you are free. Free to now leave mind behind, yet use it as accordingly as you wish, as you give the intention from that higher mind of buddhi.

This is the essence of yagna (sacrifice), knowing how to first understand the qualities of mind, regulate those qualities, control them, and in that way transform them to allow the buddhi to be the instrument reflecting the ātman – and so you become a being of light, yet you carry on with your day’s activities. You, receiving the light of the soul, carry that light into all your actions, and it illumines the words of your speech and sanctifies the thoughts of your mind – and thus we understand through this principle the art of worship, the method of sacrifice – and the two together become the constant yajna, the constant way in which reverence is paid by all your actions or your thoughts and words offered as svāhā – not me and not mine.”

 

[1] As Swami Ritavan has written, “Celebrating Guru Purnima is a joy beyond words, a deep stillness that echoes a wholeness and holiness. A wholeness that provides the answers to our pursuits, our yearnings and reveals a purpose for life. To live and to love with a heart unconditioned by conflict, and a mind, unified beyond division.”

[2] “Sangha Practice for the Next 3 Years” by Swami Ritavan
“Advancing Guidance in Yoga Sadhana” by Swami Ritavan
“Saumya Mantra Explanations” by Swami Veda

 

[3] SAUNDARYA LAHARI, VERSE 3 by Shankaracharya

 

avidyānāṁ antas-timira-mihirod dvīpana-karī

jaḍānāṁ chaitanya-stabaka-makaranda-śhruti sṛtiḥ

daridrāṇāṁ chintā-maṇi-guṇanikā janma-jaladhau

nimagnānāṁ daṁṣṭrā mura-ripu varāhasya bhavatī.

 

Thou art the sun that dispels the darkness of the ignorant;

to the unknowing Thou art a spiritual flower overflowing with honey;

to the needy Thou art the gem which bestows one’s heart’s desires;

and to those who are drowned in the ocean of births and deaths,

Thou art the Rescuer.

 

SAUNDARYA LAHARI, VERSE 27 by Shankaracharya

 

japo jalpaḥ śhilpam sakalam api mudrā virachanam

gatiḥ prādakśhiṇya-kramaṇam aśhan ādyāhuti-vidhiḥ 

praṇāmas-saṃveśhas-sukham akhilam ātmārpaṇa-daśhā

saparyā-paryāyas tava bhavatu yan me vilasitam

 

“Oh, Supreme Divine Mother,
Whatever action of mine, may it be intended for and dedicated to Your worship:
may my speech become recitation of Your name as prayer (japa),
may all my actions become gestures of Your worship (mudras),
may all my movements become a circumambulation around Your form (pradakshina),
may all my food and drink become offerings to You as oblations to divine fire (havan),
may all my resting and sleep become prostrations to You (pranam)
may all my worldly pleasures and enjoyments be transformed into acts of devotion to you (seva),
(May “I” become “Thine” and “Thou” become “mine”, O Mother.”)

 

[4] The installation of the Tara Shrine took place on March 31 & April 1, 2012. To appreciate the profundity of this event and its relationship to the Saumya-Tara Mantra, please read the article “The Birth of The Lady of Compassion at SRSG.” http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1204Apr/12.html