Advancing Guidance in Yoga Sadhana
by Swami Ritavan Bharati
(This is a transcript of a talk given by Swami Ritavan on March 1, 2019 at the 2019 Sangha Gathering at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama.)
Are your foreheads relaxed? What did you say the topic is tonight? Advancing guidance. Advanced practices. Our beloved Swamiji simply said again and again keep your foreheads relaxed, and being the naughty student that I was for so many years, such students take a long, long, long time to learn very simple practices, like keep your forehead relaxed. Even now I am looking at the mirror, the grooves are getting deeper, I am thinking, too much thinking. Haven’t I learned anything from my teacher? Haven’t I practiced what he has taught me? Yes, serving, yes, a lifetime of serving and, yes, we do that with the attitude of svāhā, but along the way are we making progress? Is the mind more prasāda, more pleasant, more cheerful? There is an interesting word that Swamiji liked to use when he would teach what he called the six steps to liberation. We hear the word, oh yes, that is what I want, yet are we able to practice ‘titikṣā’? It is a unique word, titikṣā. Many times, because again as a naughty student I didn’t learn my Sanskrit, I call upon my brother Stoma, would you please say the word correctly. Titikṣā, say that again, titikṣā, yes (laughter). Even my mimicking needs some extra practice.
So it is a sentiment of forbearance. What does that word mean? It has many, many meanings. Luckily now we have Google to give us a few extra words. It means an inner strength. A patience, perseverance, maintaining that spiritual path step by step, and though at times we are all taking that step backwards, taking a break from our practice routine, even that small break, creates its own samskara. A step back. Again two steps forward, three steps forward, ah, I am on the journey again. A busy day, an angry moment, an interest in the newest Netflix, I will meditate later [than] when it [is] your time.
So this titikṣā, the way in which the path is maintained and there is an inner strength that actually builds not in the form of ego [with] which, generally, we measure our inner strength. Am I able to give commands and people obey? Am I able to express my opinion and know that it is right and impress that upon others? These strengths are weaknesses, or shall we say a weakening [of] the strength of humility, sincerity and truthfulness by which you are willing to admit your mistakes and not shed the blame on others, nor judge others for one’s own weaknesses that one feels.
So we build the titikṣā, the perseverance, the patience, the practice that matures day by day, and if you look back now, you have been here so many days, what five days, six days, whatever. Have you felt a momentum, have you felt a maturing of some titikṣā, some inner strength? That is your test, and the test is in the taste as they say. The taste for your sadhana, is it sweet? The taste for a spiritual journey, though it may be bitter, it is a medicine, so take it.
It seems like in the first few days we have, let’s say, today we have made a slight shift. Those of you that were here for Vijay’s talk today on mind, [a] beautiful rendition on Swami Rama’s teachings on the functions of mind, but here his comments were on the watching, were on the seeing, this drishta that sees drishti, and so we are observing, observing our actions, observing in a self aware way, a mindful way, but again you can take another step toward asking who is watching, who is seeing, thus who is the witness? For this drishti, the seer must have a sākshi, a witness.
So now in your meditations you are finding ways in which the mind must be more refined. That quality of the consciousness that is reflected in the mind must become more subtle. Are you relating now to that seer as the intelligence and thereby mind observing mind. That intelligence of that consciousness now as witness observes the mind. Before that we had some days to understand that quality associated with the ākāśa of hearing. Seeing is which tattva? Earth, water, fire, air, space. Seeing is the illuminating quality, the combustible quality, the agni, the fire, yes, association with light and thus seeing. What about hearing, what is associated, ākāśa. The waves that move through the space like presence. Here in the form of those vibrations that become the sound, that become the word, you listen.
So in the first days our emphasis was on this quality of your sādhanā in listening. You listen to some intention that brought you here. You arrive listening to some of the ways in which inspiration was being shared to get you in the mood that, yes, you are here at Guru’s ashram, and it is time to let go of those groves of the memories associated with where you have come from, and we establish that listening ear in your meditations and in your daily action, so we introduce the mantra, and in that way refining again this [one] who hears, one who sees, one who hears, you might say unites, what is the chakra associated with ākāśa. Viśuddhi, yes, and with fire? We will take manipūra tonight, you are already beyond, Shirin is Śri, so you are already beyond, let us get to you soon (humorously).
We have this place and space of the viśuddhi and manipūra. What do we have? Anāhata. This is associated with what tattva, vāyu, ok, and with what sense, touch, sparśa. So you have to unite these now with a feeling. The touch is very unique for your meditation. What is the feeling for your meditations? Yes, you have given them the prana and the fire of the energies. Yes, you have given your meditation the perspective of the observer and the witness, but what is the feel, a unique sense for your meditations? You can relate it to your lives, for in that way you see that the touch is related in a very special way. A greeting and a handshake, a touch of encouragement, a touch of a blessing, an embrace of love. So how in meditation are you touched, and how do you engage in that embrace?
So bring forward this in your meditation, that pure relationship, and again this is not so much identified only with the emotions of the embrace or the feeling of the friendship, but of a pure relationship, that has a touch that goes beyond emotion, a touch that carries a sentiment to its most pure state. No doubt you have all had the touch of peace, a meditation that is so sublime. Time is not recalled and no doubt you have had the touch of a satiety by which you let the breath go, and you had no concern that you would ever breathe again for you were fulfilled. Yet you inhaled and started the dualities once again. Merge those dualities again and again and again into unity. Use these little simple tools, become the observer and then the witness. Become the here and be pulled, pulled, pulled into silence and sit with an embrace of that divine, in whatever form or formless, with whatever name or nameless where you and the divine are one.
Initially as in all relationships you want a dialogue, so talk with your divine. Are you with your divine? Then again as in your relationships when you simply hug and need no words, no words to say I am sorry, no words to say I love you, for the you and I in that embrace, through that touch, through that sentiment, are one and then let that be the sweetness, let that be the flavour, and the taste that you desire each day. Let you partake in that banquet as spiritual practice of meditation, simply taste the sweetness. Yes, again you are going to do a lot of chewing because of those past habit patterns and those samskaras and those vrittis that will come back to you again and again.
Chew on them, chew them until they are swallowed. Remember when Shiva swallowed? He took the poison, and he disbursed it. He chewed it until it could be then assimilated into what? Into a refined essence of that inner strength that you have seen yourself go through a hardship, that you have matured it through the pains and sufferings, whether it would be on the physical or on the mental level. You have gone through that, and in that way, have realised that inner strength, that titikṣā. Then the other of the steps to liberation, uparati, maintaining that ‘upa’ that upward, whether it is step by step on the ladder, until you get to the next elevation, and you see beyond that which had been a horizon for so long, and you have so much wanted to get to the next to see what is beyond. Persevere so that you can elevate, elevate so that you can see the next horizon that inspires you and know that there is always that pull that is coming from that next and next and next elevation, drawing you, lifting you, desiring for that embrace if you will only lift your arms to be lifted and thus embraced.
Maintain the śam, śama, that inner peace; maintain the dam, the dama, the inner virtue. These need to be the baselines of your personality now; as meditators, that is your riverbed, this virtuous life, virtuous behaviour, virtuous attitudes, based in ahimsā. Please, please, embrace the attitudes always of not harming, not violating another, in any way, by thought, in lust, by a word in those angers, those blames and disappointments that are expressed. They harm, they hurt, they tear the fabric of your personality. With the peace, with the śama and the dama, and the uparati and titikṣā, then these practices, these abhyāsas, will mature with vairāgya, as vairāgya. The rāgas, the colourings of the personality, are more pure. The rāgas, the emotions, are more sublime because of the ahimsā and because of the way in which the peaceful attitudes are now practiced.
What is the true measure? Again, Shirin would say liberation, but we are not quite there yet, so let us stop at this point now with simply samadhi. Shirin is in her samadhi always. Joyful, her ānanda is flowing as joy, but do we keep that mind as that joyful mind? Again, our Gurudev, The Art of Joyful Living. What else is there? Yes, it is both an art and the embrace of that which is beyond the sentiment now for it is simply the maintaining of the energy field called mind, in harmony, in unity, in the bliss of that unity as ānanda. Let us at least aspire for moments, whether they be moments in your meditation or whether they be moments in your day where you are practising kindness until it becomes a habit. You feel the compassion, and thereby that oneness brings a gentle harmonising of minds for some time at least. So these are the ways in which these tools of the practices, called the practices, abhyāsa, and so many, you are reminded by Swamiji, again and again the essence of practice, in this form, in this way, through these means. Practice, practice, practice, but enjoy the sweetness, enjoy the bliss, be in the enjoyment as your samadhi state of mind and thus just live happily, joyfully.
Those situations of life will continue to unfold, but are you reacting or simply now responding to the need of the moment? And keeping the harmonious mind field, the peaceful mind field? In that way simply enacting the līlā, the play on the stage of life. All of us have our roles and multiple roles, which there too is a spiritual practice.
“Swami Veda used to…” many of you are remembering. He says at least in India the understanding is a person will go to the office and play the role and they will leave that role in the office and they will come home, not to be the boss, not to be reactive as you would say in your office to show maybe inspiration to move the workers faster for a deadline. But at home to say to your wife, hurry up with the supper, honey, my programme is coming on, I want to watch. Come on, you are mixing the personas, the masks.
So with your family be a family person, yet again multiple ways in which that role is skilfully played by the father with the teenage son; by the mother with the child, telling the husband to wait, the child will come first. So again ways in which life in all its flavours will be enjoyed for it is the Divine Mother’s joy to which we are simply her children and have been born into that joy.
Om saumyā saumyātarāśeṣā saumyebhyas tvati sundari
parāparāṇāṁ paramā tvameva parameshvarī
Tāre tu tāre ture swāhā
Now no longer in the vocal, spoken word, moving the tongue, the lips without the sound.
Now sealing the lips and not only sealing the tongue but relax the entire oral cavity. From the hinge of the jaw to the chin. Throughout the entire neck to the base of the skull to the shoulder region and internally the finer fibres of that musculature.
Now say the words in the mind.
Now from vaikharī to madhyama there are many stages of this mental state of the mantra. Especially with the longer mantras it will take some time to let us say bring them to a higher frequency. It is sometimes referred to a higher speed or let us say faster, but let us know that the spoken word that is expressed as a mental word now will have subtler and subtler expressions of that vibration and so it will flow and that presence will be felt. That sound will be heard with the inner ear and you will observe not word in the mind but an illuminating quality of that mantraas it flows, repeatedly flows, flows.
So now in whatever way, in whatever frequency or rhythm that is easy and natural three more recitations of the saumyā mantra.
Coming back to your breathing, letting the memory, the sentiment of the mantra remains.
Mother as form, you see her. Mother as sound, you hear her. Mother as touch, embracing and thereby being embraced, the subtle fragrance, her sweetness. For what a poet would write in thousands of pages you as a meditator merge into a micro-moment, for you and the divine are one, and she gives you the next breath and into her you again breathe. That very breath breathes through you, that very saumyā the sweetness. When she takes a step or two or many steps away from you, you take that step and through that inner strength take the remaining steps, a sense of inner push toward that love and sense that pull that she pulls you toward her continuously. Though she may veil her presence, though you may doubt and in that fleeting moment even faith is missing. With that sense of surrender again you will be pulled, again the strength will come forward to push you and boost you and upward to that next rung to see the horizon. May you view that rising of the full moon and with that illumination that fills and fulfils your saumyā transforms, that embrace fulfils, until your last breath, whether it be in meditation, whether it be let go.
As you say svāhā tomorrow with the offerings, that letting go is the sentiment of svāhā.
Simply a moment, a minute now of silence.
Maintain your śraddhā, maintain your titikśā, your inner strength and keep your foreheads relaxed.
Article courtesy of the AHYMSIN March 2019 newsletter.