Live Free Yoga

Shiva the Mahayogi taught the Universe freedom from attachments, habits, thoughts and social conditioning and it was called YOGA. I am learning this living in freedom from my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath .


3 Comments

From Religion to Human, the time to change is Now!

The decibel level and temperature of prime time TV was so high I thought my idiot box would explode. This cacophony was the result of one political leader in India declaring, “Hindus eat beef.”

To verify this as a fact, I guess we have to first establish who a Hindu is. It is interesting to note that the word Hindu is not found in any ancient texts or in Sanskrit language. While growing up I heard the theory that people who lived by the river Sindhu were termed Hindus by Greek and Persian invaders. With that logic since the Sindhu River flows through Pakistan, the people living there must qualify as Hindus practicing Islam and eating beef!

Still later I learnt that Hindu is a derogatory word in Persian and means a thief or slave. Well this could definitely apply to many of our political masters who today market themselves as the “Hindu’ mouthpiece for the majority.

Labeled Hindu at birth I was told by my grandmother that even if a Hindu child grew up to be an atheist he or she wouldn’t lose the tag of being a Hindu. You were one for life no matter what you did. I was never told I would cease being a Hindu say, if I cut my hair, started eating meat, smoked, wore pants, changed my gender or married someone from another religion. If I so chose I had a plethora of gods to worship, many sacred books to study, many external marks to sport and best of all I had the choice to junk it all. I grew up secure in this knowledge of permanence.

At home we were taught that everything has life and to revere animals, trees, plants, insects and even inanimate stones as having consciousness. Eating meat was never condemned; it was something we didn’t do at our home. I was not forbidden to befriend or play with others who ate meat or beef or belonged to other communities or caste. Eating habits were a matter of choice I was led to believe. In fact I am part of a family in which vegetarians and pure non vegetarians and some beefatarians (settled abroad, thank God!) all live together in harmony. I am sure there are many millions of such families in our country. So then who are these people who have suddenly become the spokespersons for us and are we going to sit by idly while they desecrate our peaceful nature and spread misinformation?

In today’s time how relevant is it for a democracy like India to make an issue of consuming beef, a subject that really seems a non-issue in the face of all other concerns that plague us as a nation. Let those who want to shelter cows do so, but tying religious sentiments to political will, will take us from a democratic to a theocratic State. The desire of some for a Hindu nation may well be the end of the diaspora that was unique to our people and a country known for its unity in diversity from times immemorial.

It’s time for a rethink. It’s ironical but by not speaking up against the radicals in our own religion we fan the fires of radicalism in others religion. This is true of all religions be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jew or Christian. It’s time to turn the lens on ourselves and question the diktats of our religious and other leaders. One must understand that everything is a chain of reactions and we are being played one against the other.

Perhaps its time to break out of organised religion and maybe our generation needs to show the way. All of us have much to reflect upon, discrimination based on caste, attitude against LSBT rights, khap panchayats, atrocities based on gender, imposition of dress code on girls, coercing subtly one partner to change her/his religion, conversions through charity, the tradition of having multiple wives and the practice of easy divorce by men by just saying so, female foeticide. It’s time to reflect about how important it is to label ourselves, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain or Christian and not just be Human.

The young who should be in the forefront of the resistance seem to be mindlessly doing so only when politically motivated, either by the far left or far right or middle, by the green, saffron blue or white. There is no freethinking across the board. Most shrug and don’t want to get involved in any controversies, wanting to be just left alone to get on with their education, job, looking for an out from this country. So that leaves it to us of the older order to take up cudgels and yes maybe get killed for it.

I for one, though a vegetarian plus a Hindu and Brahmin to boot is happy to make a stew of beef and partake of it if it ends violence in the name of religion. Everyone is invited to this buffet and can bring the forbidden in his or her religion. Nobody will be forced; it’s not a conversion but a statement of peace and change by those who want to live in a world where an individual is more important than a mass of faceless people and the symbols of their religion.

 


10 Comments

Kashi- Flowing us back to our source.

It’s amazing isn’t it when a certain truth is revealed to you at an unguarded moment and your awareness has an Aha moment and the brain lights up with a brilliance. Such revealed knowledge occurs as a result of the grace of our Satguru and our personal sadhana and has the potential to transform us but might have little significance for someone else. This happened to me on a recent visit to Kashi.

Yes took off for a long time, but thats the beauty of a blog, no deadlines and no compulsions ha ha. Anyways here I am back from Kashi with what I’m hoping is another small step towards divinity….or not huh.

It was a peaceful time to visit this city.

Being the monsoon season the Ganga flowed majestically full, pregnant with water; her movement evoked in me a nostalgia of many lifetimes spent in her arms on the ghats of Kashi. A familiarity with her ebb and flow which could not have come from this life. The city streets felt the same, intimate knowledge akin to the free pariah dog who has marked territory and knows every secret of the winding gallis. On each visit to Varanasi as this city is now known, I have experienced this homecoming. The last visit was with my beloved Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath and his wife Gurumata Shivangini.

The Urdhavaret Ganga.

IMG_0172

On the second day of my visit as I sat in a state of heightened happiness in my room overlooking the Ganga, I felt as if I too was in flow as she flowed towards the north, North? and the realisation fell like a lightning bolt that, this is the message of the Ganga from aeons of time- Go back to your source. She who had emanated from Shiva’s locks in the Himalayas was here showing the way back to him! This has been her hidden message to the millions who took a dip in her year after year for thousands of years. . Practice as I did Mahavatar Babaji’s urdhavaret breath of the Kundalini Kriya Yoga as taught by my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, this realisation spurred on a movement of uncontrollable delight in my spine. At the same moment there emanated a sense of awe at this special revelation.

In her journey from the Himalayas in the north towards the Bay of Bengal to the south and east, the Ganga in Kashi turns back and flows North. Of course there must be a geophysical ‘reason’ for this but that is not of the essence here. What happened was a sudden inflow of divine insight for me. I had not read or heard about this phenomenon in any scriptures or ancient text, I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning the river in this spiritual context.  Yes, it was as if Ma Ganga revealed to me a secret which was forever visible through the ages but not realised. I wonder if I am the first person to chronicle this understanding of the urdhavaret message of this ancient river.

After this realisation the daily morning dip took on a new meaning. “Do not depend on externals for your happiness,” says Yogiraj urging his disciples to tap into their inner well of joy independent of material possessions or external supports. The Ganga was reiterating this as she flowed accepting the garbage and the flowers of love, the ashes and the sweet offerings, the greedy and the sincere devotees.

Sitting in the river I could feel all my energy reversing, a fountain of love, aided by the flow of the loving Ganga. We are truly liberated when we are able to unhook ourselves from the externals, she was indicating to me. A profound sense of peace and contentment filled me and continues to fulfil me.

Visit to my Satguru and his Param Guru Sthan

There was a special reason for my trip at this time, a visit to Lahiri Mahasaya’s home which was open to public only on GuruPurnima day. On my earlier visits I have visited this house, almost difficult to find, and sat and stared at the door of an all too familiar house.

   IMG_0094 Circumstances had made it impossible to realise this heartfelt desire earlier but this year being free from many responsibilities I undertook this pilgrimage.

On Gurupurnima day, early in the morning accompanied by two others I set off on a journey which for me was a completion of a karma from the past.

But first we visited the Nandi Ghat or Gaai Ghat, hallowed as it was by its association to our Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath who spent his childhood days in this ghat owned by his family. Disciples rooted in the Guru/Shishya tradition always pay first respect to their living guru. There is a well known couplet by Kabir who says, ” गुरु गोबिन्द दोउ खडे काके लागूँ पाँय, बलिहारी गुरु आपने गोबिन्द दियो बताय,” meaning- when the Guru and God are both present whose feet should I touch first, beloved is the Guru who has shown me the way to God. But for me my Guru is Gobind and I look no further. 😀

Nandi Ghat/Gaai Ghat and Yogiraj’s family Temple.

Nandi Ghat/ Gaai Ghat, Yogiraj SiddhanathIMG_0118IMG_0110IMG_0111

After a special aarati and sadhana at this very personal shiva temple we headed towards Lahiri Mahasaya’s home near Purana Durgaji in Chowsatti Ghat. Since the boats were banned due to the fast flowing river we made our way through the narrow familiar streets of the old city. No photographs were allowed inside so I managed to take some from the narrow street outside.

Lahiri Mahasaya’s Home as seen from the street.

Lahiri Mahasaya home, Kashi IMG_0093  As I bowed in front of the seat of Lahiri Baba I had a meltdown moment as past life associations came flooding out. At the same time there was a sense of a completion and I knew I did not have to come back here again. We received the prasad from the family members and left.

Street Food, Bovine Majestica etc.

Daily breakfast was at the corner kachori shop which would open at 8:30 and shut at 10 am. The father and son duo seemingly happy with what they make in that time. The whole day was peppered with stops at The Blue Lassi shop with wifi for a mango lassi, the Kashi Chat Bhandar on Dasashwamedha Ghat for an amazing tamatar (tomato) chat or tikki and kulfi!! Of course our progress was often marred by majestic cows and bulls on the street who had to be cajoled out of the way. 😀

 

Street food and cows IMG_0100 IMG_0102 IMG_0125IMG_0164IMG_0165IMG_0162 IMG_0163

On the last evening we made it for the Ganga Aarati at Dasashwamedha Ghat.

IMG_0147Ganga AArati

It is right that I end this with the Manikarnika Ghat or the burning ghat. From the balcony of my room I could see the constant burning pyres, a testimony to the fleeting moment of human life. This too evoked a nostalgia and yearning for I know not what.

IMG_0129

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

The dilemma of morality, to do or not to do

MORALS, the word has a very Christian connotation for me, as does the word SIN. Educated in Christian Missionary schools in various little towns of India by stern Catholic nuns imported from Ireland and other European countries, I had to attend what was called a Moral Science class, which even had a Moral Science Book. I don’t remember any of the lessons I learnt here but do remember scoring over 90% marks in the subject throughout school. From what I remember of the dear sisters, brothers, fathers and the Mother Superiors was that though all of them were sincere and many of them had a sense of humour most of them seemed as if running away from some great tragedy, occurred back home and a zealousness to save us, they seemed just like Jesus carrying a personal cross. As students we would make up stories, a tragic love affair, a dead child or lover, which had driven them into the arms of Christ, very poignant it all was. Even what seemed mundane qualified as a SIN, wearing skirts above the knee, talking loudly in the corridors, giggling; swear words, bindi, earrings or bangles and any digression would be paid for in HELL and earned in bad points in class. CHARITY was another of these words that we learnt, encouraged as a virtue we were rewarded with good points for all such acts, donating old clothes, contributing to hours packing medicines for the leper colonies, crocheting little doilies and needle point embroidery on hankies, tea coasters, napkins etc all for sale at the annual fete, the proceeds of which would go towards charity.

Contrast with stories at home, those of a God who stole butter from the neighbours, had no qualms about hiding clothes of the girls bathing in the river, played pranks on the citizenry in general and was reluctantly punished by his loving exasperated mother. The same boy though, saved the village from various calamities and was the darling of everyone and went on to expound the Bhagavad Geeta! Stories from Panchatantra about owls and crows outwitting each other, animal stories that defined wisdom, bravery, compassion and yet at the same time condoned political connivance for self serving purposes…. More stories from the Mahabharat, Bhagavatam and Ramayan told tales of a brother who staked and lost, in a game of dice, his kingdom, brothers and wife , a mother who asked her sons to share a wife, a husband who asked his wife to pass a test through fire and then abandoned her whilst pregnant in the forest to fend for herself, gods who seduced and were seduced…but these very same characters fought for the downtrodden, upheld the truth and showed bravery and acts of kindness in extreme situations. Stories of Bhakta Prahlad, Markandeya, Ayyappa, Meera, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu filled one with awe and inspired emotions of sharing and caring, bravery, devotion and love for the Divine.

Coming to the tenets of Yam and Niyam or as it is popularly spelt Yama and Niyama (got to do this if I want the internet search engines to pick it up ha ha) I realized that as a child I was taught these as an example by my family, truthfulness, non violence, honesty in ones dealings, non hoarding, cleanliness, contentment and surrender to the Divine were practiced diligently by the elders in the family. Though how much of this was truly imbibed by me as a child and now realized as an adult in practice is a debatable point! More in detail about this as we take the tenets one by one over the next few blogs.

Of course when I met my Satguru, Yogiraj Siddhanath this entire perception of good and bad, right and wrong learnt in school and at home was demolished and the mind expanded into a new level of understanding. Yogiraj explained how all these qualities could be fully realized and practiced only in Reality and not in Relativity in which we lived and acted. Coloured by our upbringing, social conditioning, the external world we live in we can accomplish it only within that limitation.

 

In one of his poems, Yogiraj extols:

“Paap punya vivcharon ko bhasm karo

Aur satya ki khoj mein nikal pado.

Aham-hasti va maipan mitate chalo

Jag prem param-pad paate chalo.”

 When translated it means, burn to ashes all thoughts of sin and virtue and journey out in search of Truth, dissolve ego and i-ness and achieve world love and ultimate salvation. Sorry it loses in translation and the closest I could come to the opposite of sin was virtue, apparently the English language does not have an antonym for sin. In short, in a flash he burnt to ashes all my preconceived notions!

Since Yogiraj does not expound intellectual exploration, he teaches a practical method for this alchemical transformation, whereby his disciples can transform their negative passions to positive emotion, positive emotions to first human then spiritual love and compassion and finally the compassion and love to awareness of their own divine nature thus achieving ultimate salvation. This meditation is called the Siddhanath Samadhi Yoga, it transforms the practitioner from man the brute to man the man to man the God. To my feminist readers, man here also means woman, its just a figure of speech so lets not get our pants into a twist over this, please.

Well, before I start with my understanding of the first two tenets of yog sadhana of Patanjali, I want to clarify that this is not an attempt to interpret Patanjali. I am only trying to see what I understand from it and of course everyone is welcome to his or her interpretation or to disagree.

According to the Patanjali sutras there were 5 Yamas-

  1. Satya (truthfulness),
  2. Ahimsa (non-violence),
  3. Asteya (honesty),
  4. Brahmacharya (sexual control) and
  5. Aparigraha (non-hoarding)

The 5 Niyamas-

  1. Shaucha (cleanliness),
  2. Santosha (contentment),
  3. Tapa (austerities),
  4. Swadhyaya (self-study) and
  5. Ishwar Pranidhan (surrender to divine will).

 

Later yoga schools and Gurus added many more to these tenets sometimes taking the count up to 10 each but I will stick to the original Patanjali.

We will cover the 5 Yamas also called the restraints or social code in the next blog. Below is the article published in 2005, wonder why I thought fit only to mention aparigraha, tapa and swadhyaya……

Break free with yoga
The Tribune, May 13, 2006, Chandigarh, India

The first two tenets of yoga Yama, meaning restraints, and Niyama, meaning observances, are the most ignored by hatha yoga. Many beginners and even some adepts consider them as a pack of moral bullshit.

However, these two limbs of yoga take on more importance as the yogi progresses on the path towards higher realisation to raja yoga, and the sincere disciple, by virtue of the practice, feels an inner urge to follow them. Aparigraha, means non-hoarding or non-collecting. The practising sadhak is constantly offloading baggage, be it physical, emotional, or mental. As the chakras, are balanced and activated through the practice of asana, pranayama and other specific exercises taught by a master, the practitioner realises the limitations that come with an attitude of amassing material goodies for a rainy day! This restraint does not only extend to gathering frivolous material objects but transcends to include debilitating passions and emotions that diminish the sadhak. Carefully collected memories of being wronged or being happy, emotions that have been nurtured to depress, or contrarily elevate, mental callisthenics, that allow a person to conduct oneself always for personal profit, are all dropped with equanimity by the practising yogi. By doing this, the yogi makes life simple and spontaneous and connects to an inner fountain of unrestrained joy.

Tapa is an important observance for a yogi relentlessly on the path of yoga. Tapa means ‘to blaze’; the practice given by a realised master burns the impurities in the seekers psyche. As the intensity and duration of the practice increase the person sloughs off negative emotions and mindset, the physical body cures of all disease and the mind is filled with clarity.

Svadhyaya means self-study. Once again, due to the practice, the witness consciousness in the practising sadhak is awakened. Also known as, the sakshi bhav, this consciousness allows the practitioner to watch one’s action from the outside. A talent to observe oneself and ones life as it unfolds develops. The practitioner also learns to observe the thread that connects the past, the present, and the future in an unbroken chain of action and reaction.

This may extend to more than just this life to many past lives. This self-study helps one to know the exact circumstances that have brought one to this specific condition in life. The yogi faces one’s own drawbacks and talents with equipoise and having come to terms with them is ready to move on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2 Comments

Do we find the Path or does the Path find us??

Fortunately for me, the Satguru (Yogiraj Siddhanath) and the path (Kriya Yoga) both found me. Blissfully ignorant of Babaji and Kriya Yoga and the other Kriya masters in the lineage in spite of having read the Autobiography of a Yogi, I was happily cruising along in my ‘normal’ life when my Satguru appeared in a vision and guided me to him and the forest ashram in Pune, India. For me it was like waking up from a deep slumber of thirty-six years in this life. My constant association with Him and his wife Gurumata Shivangini and steady practice for over 16 years has brought back memories of past lives practicing this sacred evolutionary science and my many lives in his service. There are many who are guided in a similar manner to their past Masters, even if some of them are not aware that this has happened.

“Practice the necessary means to achieve the necessary end,” says my Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, a very practical and profound advice to the novice seeker. In todays era of excessive information we often come across people flitting from practice to practice and ‘gurus’ to ‘gurus’ looking for a quick fix to life’s problems. It has become very fashionable to say, all gurus preach the same things and all paths lead to the same goal. Really?? There is a market out there promising from the art of loving to living to dying, from material abundance to freedom from disease, from finding your ‘soul mate to ridding yourself of the present one, from sewa to satsang, old wine in new bottles and new wine in old, you can pay a fee and choose the path leading you to your hearts desire. So definitely all paths don’t lead to the same end and most definitely all gurus don’t preach the same thing. So the first step is to identify what one wants to achieve and choose. Whether you get what is promised in the promo is another ball game altogether 🙂

 

And even if the goal is not material but self-realization or spiritual evolution you have to find the right path and the right guide (satguru) for YOU!! Its like getting to the top of a mountain, some may want to take the tough trek up the most difficult path, others may want to meander by a more gentle slope, still others may want to try out many of the different tracks branching out, yet others may want to stop at every bower and meadow, read a book and talk to every flower and its all OK. Out there is a Path and a Satguru perfectly suited to You and you have to find it. No easy task left to our limited and normally confused mind. Of course just like the game we played as kids we keep looking till we find.

 

But there are certain yardsticks, first of course is, have you got what was promised? How much time have you devoted to practicing the given technique before you make this evaluation? On a spiritual path some of the indication are a freedom from earlier fears and insecurities, an awakening of spiritual compassion as compared to human charity, feeling of contentment in any life situation, calmness and equanimity in the face of turmoil, a constant joyous demeanor, a non judgmental (not indifferent) attitude to others etc. If you achieve even a modicum of one of these qualities after a couple of months then you are probably on the right path, for you. Of course like in the corporate world this evaluation can be done periodically to check progress. But watch out for the mind and the ego, it’s a devious thing and can lull you into many delusions…even the delusion of being fearless or joyous or compassionate. It is especially so if you are involved in an organization with a large number of followers where the ego is stoked and stroked and even in service to others there is pride, in compassion pity and a feeling of superiority in general to the rest of humanity that has not ‘found the way’ that we have been so fortunate to have been guided to.

 

Whatever path you may have chosen and whichever guru you may be following; there is a video by Yogiraj that I find very helpful to a seeker.

 

 

Now as promised below is the article from 2005 about various yoga systems available to us. Of course since then many new ones have emerged, the latest being Naked Yoga. Is it really the clothes we have to drop? I would think it should be our ego with all its accompanying paraphernalia, eh? Does Living Free entail wearing no clothes? Maybe they start with the clothes and will move inwards…in any case good luck to them in their endeavor.

Next post will touch upon the much ignored and misunderstood first two tenets of yog sadhana- yam and niyam more popularly, observances and restraints.

LIFE POSITIVE
Connecting to one’s sacred self with Yoga
The Tribune, Friday, October 14, 2005, Chandigarh, India

Image

Yoga trainer Jyoti Subramanian elaborates on the various branches of Yoga.

Good health is not just related to the physical body. Complete health has to permeate the physical, emotional and mental. This is where the practice of yoga plays such an important role. The practitioner not only cures the physical ailments but also moves in to cure the emotional or mental reasons for the disease and progresses to understanding his innate divine nature.

Often novitiates are perplexed by the variety or branches of yoga available and propagated-Patanjali yoga, Kundalini yoga, Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Raja yoga, Kriya yoga, Hamsa yoga, Iyengar yoga and now Bikram yoga- the list is endless.

Patanjali codified yoga in the treatise ‘Yoga Sutras’ in the year 200 BCE. Even then, he is not the originator, the knowledge of Yoga having come from the Mahayogi Shiva himself.

All yoga that is taught today, which includes the ones mentioned above has its origin in Patanjali who has systematically recorded all the practices of yoga. So we can visualise Patanjali as this big umbrella from where all forms of yoga come.

Ashtanga means ‘eight limbs’. Now according to Patanjali the Tree of Yoga has eight limbs, yama (restraints) and niyama (observances) are the first two and comprise the following qualities taught to children by their parents and teachers through example: non-violence, truthfulness, freedom from greed, control of sensual pleasures, non-stealing, compassion, moderate eating, austerity, contentment, belief in divinity, charity, company of men of wisdom.

Third comes asanas, for steadiness of posture, good physical health and lightness of body.

Fourth is pranayam, a technique to make the respiratory organs move intentionally as against automatic habitual breathing. One learns to harness the mind via the medium of breath.

Pratyahar being the fifth limb is a process of reversal of energy. Our sense organs, always attracted to the external, are drawn inwards seeking their own divinity.

Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi are final three stages; a single point attention with the mind unwavering and unruffled, a merging of the one meditating and meditated upon- the true state of meditation and finally the state where the yogi realises the individual self to be a part of the universal self. Therefore all yoga has to be part of ashtanga.

Hatha Yoga ignores the first two: yama and niyama and concerns itself with the practice of asanas, pranayam and pratyahar. Raja yoga concerns itself with dharana, dhyan and Samadhi.

Most yogis normally practice a combination of Hatha-Raja yoga. The former to maintain the physical body as a fit vehicle and the latter for spiritual evolution leading to union of the individual self with the divine self.

By tradition, Kriya yoga was never taught publicly, normally communicated verbally by master to disciple. Even today though many masters are authorising their disciples to teach this practice it is essential to be initiated by the master to enliven the process. Kriya yoga is the practice of Kundalini yoga and both are part of Raja yoga. Hamsa yoga, a special form of yoga practiced by the Himalayan yogis is also part of Raja yoga.

– Hamsacharya Jyoti Subramanian was introduced to yoga in 1972. She teaches the New Life Awakening techniques of Hamsa Yog and Babaji Kriya Yog.


Leave a comment

Why Blog??

Image

Why blog?

 

Needed to get this clear first. Yes really, do I have time for this blogging in my busy schedule of teaching the practices of the Siddhanath Yoga Parampara, travelling abroad for a couple of months every year, managing my centre in Chandigarh, India, helping out at our Siddhanath Forest Ashram, this apart from other family and farm obligations? What is prompting me to do this? Do I have anything so important to share that others will want to read? Do I even want anyone to read what I write or have to say? Do people really care? Do I care? Questions, questions, questions.

 

Then I realized that all these thoughts, ideas, words, realizations (mine) are knocking around inside my head and my god, once they are out how much better would be my sadhana (spiritual practice)! And hence the platform of the blog, more for my own benefit than others. See a lot of similarity to writing my book One Master one disciple too which was first written as a journal for myself then published. So enjoy….or not haha

 

I had written a series of articles for a local newspaper, actually two newspapers way back in 2005. In 9 years by 2014 the Satguru has helped connect many more synapses in the brain and regular practice and association with him has brought many more revelations. I am going to start by producing the articles here verbatim and adding the new stuff, thus tracing the evolutionary path….

 

Starting next week with the first one- Connecting to one’s sacred self with Yoga.