Echo From The Cave: 189

Monday May 23, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, May 15th 2022

Training the Mind Through Asana and Training the Mind Through Daily Life

Shri Mahayogi teaches us that one of the purposes of asana is to make the mind prepared for the state of meditation. We learn that many aspects of the practice of asana—for example, the details in the instruction coming from Shri Mahayogi, the way of focusing on the breath, the direction of the eye gaze, what we need to face in our minds as the body experiences a challenge, etc.—are used for the purpose of gathering and re-training the mind in a way that may be quite different from its natural habit of being pulled in many directions, reacting to various things, and thus, far from the state of mind that can enter meditation. Shri Mahayogi says that it is important for the mind to experience a state that is contrary to the state that occurs as a result of the mind’s natural habits, and that it can be experienced perhaps more easily and concretely through the practice of asana.

The practice of asana is like our time of training for the mind, which also can give us the strength to train the mind in daily life as well, where it can be much more difficult to gather and re-train, yet is just as important—and, personally, I am really feeling the truth of this. We are learning that these two, training the mind through asana and training the mind through daily life, go hand-in-hand, because in the end, for Yoga, as Shri Mahayogi always points out to us, nothing is separate…Yoga, whether the trainings and disciplines, or the state of mind we are working towards, must be placed at the center core of every moment.

~ Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 188

Saturday May 21, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, May 13th 2022

Believing to Believe

If we consider ourselves practitioners of Yoga, especially if we have met or learned from Shri Mahayogi, we probably have come to realize that Yoga requires a big change, from not knowing the Truth to knowing the Truth. And if you are like me, this is not something that happens overnight, but rather takes conscious effort in retraining the mind entirely. It seems to me that it is like reformatting the way the mind thinks altogether or replacing the belief system that has guided it for many years, most probably many lives.

What Yoga proposes is pretty much the flipped idea of what a regular mind like mine tends to do; there is the current state in which we find ourselves, and then the state that Yoga proposes. In the state I am in, and almost everyone finds themselves by default, the mind’s wants call the shots; whatever seems pleasing to it, it tries to go after, and, whatever seems displeasing to it, it avoids or tries to escape. And so, it is all about what the mind wants or does not want, which is based on what it believes will make it happy and satisfied at any given moment. From a very young age we instinctively begin to seek our own satisfaction as the solution to any situation. On the flip side, in Yoga, anything that the mind—“me”— wants, craves, or attaches itself to, is considered the very cause of its suffering, and an obstacle to living at ease.

In my everyday life, I recognize many areas in which my mind struggles to get what it wants. When it comes to food for example, I may feel very strongly that I want to have a mid-morning snack, and my mind is convinced that it will make my morning better, give me energy and cheer me up. Even if I am full and have no need for any food, this belief or craving dominates my actions. The same with that cappuccino that I am so addicted to having mid-afternoon. When the thought of it arises, it comes with the strong belief that I will be truly satisfied by the taste, the temperature or how it feels in my stomach. In that moment, I think that my day and workload will be more bearable if I drink it. The same with chores. Having to cook my next day’s lunch late at night, after having worked all day, appears to my mind as a tiring and uninteresting burden. My mind is convinced that I will dread it. When I think about meeting a friend that I really like, I am excited and believe that this will make me happy, perhaps for a long time, and take away sorrows or loneliness. Or if I have to see someone that is not pleasing to me, I feel that I would much prefer to avoid their company altogether.

Similarly, with myself I see the same pattern in asana practice, and this most likely happens to many practitioners, which is that when I am trying to exhale long and complete, my mind desperately wants to inhale immediately. To my mind, it is as if “inhaling” was a glass of water, and it was dying of thirst. My mind really, really wants to inhale. My mind believes that it cannot exhale anymore, and that instead inhaling right away is what will make it feel much better.

From the little things of daily life to the asana practice, I recognize this pattern: my mind’s fixed ideas about what will make it happy, satisfied, and comfortable, and what will not, and its insistence in trying to pursue those ideas.

Actually, none of these habits seem that terrible, or harmful as such, but I notice that my mind is constantly demanding to be obeyed, which means that I am not free. And not only that, even after it has been satisfied to some degree, it always ends up needing something else. In the end, it is never fully satisfied, which means that, though it wants to be happy, it is instead in a perpetual state of wanting, and suffering. This never-ending cycle that the mind thrives on is what the teachings of Yoga reveal to be the error of the mind, and as this error is revealed, what opens-up is the possibility for something else, something that is opposite to suffering, the end of suffering.

Having understood this at least intellectually, I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary to change the way my mind is programmed, and learn something new. What if what Yoga says is true? What if the true Happiness comes when the mind ceases to want, and simply is and does without the wanting and craving? What if this is the ultimate Happiness and enjoyment? I would like to know. But I can tell that finding out requires the perseverance and will that come from a real sense of trust.

In the Satsangha in Pranavadipa (Volume 90), there is a topic of faith that relates to all this, I believe. Because I am noticing the strong wants and the self-absorbing tendencies of my mind and because I wonder how to flip them around and direct my mind toward Yoga, my interest has been to try to learn about faith and about how to cultivate the faith that will sustain my focus and will, while in the process of reducing desires and controlling the mind. The question posed to Shri Mahayogi that caught my attention was about whether faith should be understood as necessary from the beginning or as something that is developed just like other on-going disciplines. Shri Mahayogi’s answer was that faith is in fact needed at the beginning, but it also develops as the various on-going disciplines grow. This exchange made me realize that if I want to bring under control that mind that constantly tries to impose its whims in so many aspects of my life and perpetuates suffering, a step to take is to throw myself into the action that is required for challenging the mind’s habitual patterns, and learn something new through doing so.

It is encouraging to know that even just the wanting to transform oneself means that one has some initial level of faith to begin with; because it indicates that one has already deduced that there is something better, something reliable, something real, and longs to know it, which ends up being like a seed of faith. But I also understand that in order to overcome the mind that habitually wants to follow the well-established error or un-Truth, such as mine, faith needs to continue to grow and be strengthened. And so, the work toward this seems to be to continue to apply whatever faith we have toward gaining and growing more faith, through taking one action at a time.

The testimonies of disciples are proof to the fact that a little faith can grow and deepen when even a little bit of the Truth is confirmed for the mind. Inspired by reading Satsangha and testimonies of the applied practices of disciples, I just began working on it and trying to test if it is possible to grow in faith by downplaying the opinions and preconceptions that may come up in my mind, simply and solely by focusing on what needs to be done or what is right in front of me, objectively, even if my mind continued persisting on following its unfounded beliefs. When I was able to hold on to the singular focus of what needed to be attended to, by focusing only on the moment—now, now, now—I noticed that the mind’s desires and opinions started to get out of the way so that the reaction of my mind became neutral and therefore lighter.

Once the mind experiences this, it becomes more willing to decrease its persistent and unnecessary demands. And not only that, but these little experiments that are always within reach, when made as a way of seeking the Truth, can lead the mind to taste a small sample of the sweetness of a bit less attachment, in other words, the sweetness of a bit more freedom from its own limitations and impositions—and that itself is how the mind begins to grow in faith and believe that change is possible and thus trust Yoga more.

One action at a time—through these trials I have begun to learn that what my mind believes to be true is clearly based on its habitual wants which are based on the ideas of my mind that cannot coexist with purity or with thoughts that are real and reliable. And so, I have begun the task of gradually retraining my mind to stop reacting based on partial ideas, and instead, work to bring my mind to open up to an unknown and unlimited possibility—the Truth.

It is incredibly fortunate to be able to learn that through the Yoga that we are being exposed to, any simple and mundane activity or situation can become the opportunity for retraining the mind to stop pursuing its whims, and to allow itself to remain unattached, free of limitations—to move in the direction of the Truth, single pointedly.

~Karuna

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Echo From The Cave: 187

Thursday May 19, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, May 8th 2022

Part 1: In Remembering the Purpose of Asana, a Rigid Body Can Bring Great Benefit
Part 2: A Hint for Reading ~ Pranavadipa Vol. 90

Part 1: In Remembering the Purpose of Asana, a Rigid Body Can Bring Great Benefit
It is inevitable that most of us will from time to time experience days when the body feels unusually rigid or stiff when we go to practice asana. The reasons can be many…the time of day, the day of the week, our previous activities, etc. The reason really isn’t important because, as Shri Mahayogi teaches us, the body is constantly changing (as is the mind!) so it is inevitable that some days the body feels more comfortable, stronger, more able…and some days…it’s exactly the opposite. Whatever the condition is and however it changes, we learn from Shri Mahayogi that it’s best not to pay much mind to it, as that is inevitable, and regardless, stick to the consistent and continuous practice of asana, with full concentration. And further, Shri Mahayogi has emphasized to us that practice of asana is not for aim of the physical body being able to do or achieve various positions or poses, but that it is to transform the mind and prepare the mind for meditation. Actually, Karuna also reminded us of this recently at the start of an Asana & Meditation class, that the purpose of asana is to bring about the state of mind needed for meditation, and that each asana we practice and each breath we take during the practice is an opportunity to prepare the mind for that aim.

Now the question is, what is the connection between practice of asana, bringing about the state of mind for meditation and the body that can become stiff or rigid, making the practice of asana more challenging and difficult? I’ve heard Anandamali speak about how actually it may be difficult for an extremely flexible person to receive the benefit of asana just from practicing the basic ones, which is one of the reasons as to why many advanced asana have developed, and that once she witnessed a person that happened to be flexible to the point of the body being as loose as spaghetti attempt to practice asana, but unfortunately that person seemed to not be able to receive the benefit of it since there seemed to be no stimulation at all in any of the positions; in this way, asana is not about being flexible, having a flexible body or not, but rather anyone can receive its great benefit if one practices correctly, and therefore we can welcome discomfort. We should remember that when we feel the body is stiff, there is a great opportunity in that, and actually, a very good possibility of receiving heightened benefit. In fact, Shri Mahayogi teaches that one of the purposes of practicing asana is to conquer duality, which becomes possible through correct practice, meaning practice with proper attention to the detail of Shri Mahayogi’s instruction, with proper focus on the breath, with effort towards the aim, and with passion.

Admittedly it is probably easy and common for us to mistake practice of asana as a physical practice even if we have heard otherwise, yet Shri Mahayogi teaches us that there is a significant part that has to do with the mind. When the mind is met with a condition of discomfort and complaint of a stiff body while trying to practice asana, the concentration of the mind must be heightened much more in order to persevere and to not give up and give in to the body’s complaints, which sometimes may also mean letting go of the concern of the body itself. One of the things so unique to the way Shri Mahayogi teaches us asana is the way of focusing on the breath. Perhaps some of the keys of focusing on the breath may be its ability to give our mind something concrete to concentrate on, while drawing our mind away from its habit of constantly obsessing over or identifying with the body, thus at the same time minimizing the mind activity and further still, training the mind to eventually come to experience overcoming both comfort and discomfort—or as it is taught by Shri Mahayogi and indicated in the Yoga Sutra, overcome the duality that keeps our mind constantly being pulled from one direction to another as we react to the inevitably changing conditions of everyday life, so that the mind can rather enter into meditation…be it while sitting or while going about daily activities.

If I reflect on my own experience of asana, I think what Shri Mahayogi points out to us is really true, and there is a great value for the mind when we have to face various challenges or discomforts of the body during practice of asana. And, as I mentioned earlier, it has also been pointed out to me that one of the reasons some practitioners are given “advanced asana” can simply be to bring that challenge when the time comes and it is needed in order to create the condition for the practitioner to continue to receive benefit from the asana.

To share one example, I remember once when Shri Mahayogi was giving the class in New York, I was instructed to fold forward in samakonasana, or wide-leg pose. Now generally speaking, in full samakonasana the buttocks should come down to rest on the floor in one straight line with both feet. I wasn’t to that point yet, but even so I was instructed to bring the buttocks down where I could and then bring the chest and chin down to the floor. Well, I must say that I certainly felt a great intensity in making this position and wasn’t sure if it was even possible. Yet somehow it became possible. Every ounce of concentration was and is needed for me in order to allow the body to go to this position…so much so that it quite literally seems to take my breath away. But through experiencing it and through continuing to practice it, I feel that there is a great gift in it. And that gift is a gift for the mind. Because when such a heightened concentration is needed to face such a challenge in the physical body, all other mind activity must be put on hold and stay on hold in order to continue. So, that in itself becomes a valuable and precious break in the mind that can be busy and constantly active, that can bring about a more rapid and heightened state of silence. And even if it is only for a relatively few moments while holding steady the pose, I feel that it can really have a strong impact on the mind as it may be quite opposite to the mind’s common state. As it is repeated over time in daily practice, it feels like the mind starts to learn about something new through that experience. And perhaps it is moments like these that bring about conditions that can greatly speed along the mind’s preparedness for the state of meditation.

All that being said, experiencing rigidity or stiffness in the physical body when practicing asana is not only not a problem at all, but I feel it is really a gift of great value that is given as our opportunity to train the mind in a much more intensified and impactful way. 

Part 2: A Hint for Reading ~ Pranavadipa Vol. 90
What does it mean to read? And, how do we learn from what we read and the way we read? These are questions that I have been considering for some time now after they were brought up for consideration during MYM’s Study in Practice group a year or two ago, and now again recently as several of the gurubai in New York are meeting for a book club and again these questions are coming up as a main theme as we read and learn together.

With these questions in mind, I was reflecting as we prepared the latest issue of Pranavadipa (Vol. 90), which was just published for May 2022. As many probably know, Pranavadipa consists in part of recorded Satsangha, where various questions and answers transpired between Shri Mahayogi and seekers, as well as Testimonies, which are writings from the experiences of different practitioners as they are learning Yoga under the guidance of Shri Mahayogi.When it comes to the process of editing a recording of Satsangha, which originally takes place in person and is all spoken, Anandamali speaks about how in order to prepare it for a written-only format there are various considerations that need to be taken into account. For example, when someone asks a question, sometimes due to the natural spoken nature, that question may not come in a neat, straight-to-the-point package. What does the editing team do…does the editing team cut the question down to its essence for ease of reading?…does the editing team leave exactly as is?…something else?…and what guides that decision?

Being involved in the editing team process, I have been learning that there are really two general things very important to be aware of. One has to do with the words themselves…what is being said or written. But the other, harder to grasp but absolutely vital, is everything that is behind the words, beyond the words and surrounding the words…everything around what is being said or written. Anandamali has naturally been teaching me about the various aspects of these as we work together on MYM’s publications and as time goes on I think my awareness and clarity is perhaps always growing little by little.

Each month Anandamali chooses very carefully the content of Pranavadipa, always considering what may be particularly beneficial for readers and for the particular moment the publication will be released. In this particular issue of Pranavadipa (Vol. 90), Anandamali shared with me that actually many of the questions and answers in this Satsangha may have quite a different type of content than what we may be used to reading or than what typically may be given first priority in being published among the various content of teachings—but that through this content we will have the opportunity to meet  Shri Mahayogi, and get to know his extraordinary capacities, and depth of sagacity and penetration into the Truth, by being able to read the types of questions and answers that most readers probably have not experienced in the Satsangha in New York or Taiwan. And, that we may not only learn about Yoga from different angles we may not have heard, read or considered before, but also by seeing the questions themselves, there is much we can learn about how different practitioners may go about approaching Yoga in daily life, as well as ways of trying to learn and understand the teachings through the way one lives or the things one may be facing. And in addition, she carefully restored some parts that were previously edited away to leave only the essential points, so if we as readers are paying close attention, we may be able to learn from the atmosphere surrounding the question and answer that may be revealed through the dynamic of the question and answer itself.

Keeping all of these various things in mind, along with some of my own experiences, as I worked on the preparations for Pranavadipa Vol. 90 as one of the editing staff, I was sensing strongly that “yes, it’s true…there is so much beyond what we see most evidently written on the page…and what we can learn from that is just as important as what we can learn from what is written.”

In a way it feels like whatever we see written and published, whether the questions and answers that transpired or the written experiences of the practitioners, the words we see are all a result. What we read and what we see is always the result of something. And because it is a result, that means that there is much that has come beforehand—thought, study, practice, action, experiences, time, discipline, etc.—all things that we too can engage ourselves in. None of that is explained or spelled out for us—it would be impossible to include every detail or explain every little thing. It is up to each one of us, as the readers, to reach beyond the resulting words, and catch that seemingly invisible part. However, if we read the words and take only the surface, the words themselves, then the richness of everything that has led up to those words coming to the point of being spoken is taken for granted and missed.

I’m becoming more and more interested in the process behind what we see take form, whether that’s in someone’s words, questions, actions, way of being etc…because I’m seeing that nothing comes about in isolation. I think this is an important learning for me, because I see that in the past I have tended to look over that part, particularly when it comes to expectations I have for myself. I may expect myself to “have it already.” And in looking over or not putting my attention towards the process that comes before the result, it makes it more difficult for me to recognize the practical ways of developing Yoga more thoroughly and comprehensively within myself. So, I must say that I am grateful that this learning is opening up within myself and hope that if there are others who may see something similar within themselves, that perhaps trying out this looking beyond the surface, the words, the form, the result…in order to discover and learn from the process, may be a helpful clue.

Certainly, in Pranavadipa Vol. 90 there is a lot of excellent and rich material for us to practice reading the surroundings, not only in the Satsangha, but in the Testimonies that are all messages shared on the occasion of Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela (Celebration of the Divine Manifestations of Eternal Truth), back in April 2022.

~Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 186

Tuesday May 17, 2022 NYC

corncockle – the little flower that St. Thèrése of Lisieux loved in her childhood. She said that it showed her that in the smallest of things, as in the greatest, God gives the hundredfold in this life to those souls who leave everything for love of Him.

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, May 6th 2022

“I am Sorry”

Even though I feel that the practice of asana, meditation, and discrimination in daily life have resulted in me being much calmer and at ease, I continue to experience some feelings that I am not so comfortable with. Especially when a person, usually a specific person, behaves in ways that disturb me, I become frustrated, resentful, or bothered. And on top of that, these feelings bring thoughts that are not so comfortable for me to feel, so I have been wanting to work on getting rid of them.

Lately, experiencing these feelings reminded me of sentiments I have harbored toward my family, specifically toward my parents. For a very long time, I felt that my parents did not appreciate me, did not care for me, did not understand me, or did not even love me, and such feelings and ideas lived in me for so long because I continued to justify them. Sometime ago, in a discussion during “Study in Practice” (a program in New York, in which some disciples meet to support and encourage each other in the practice of Yoga in daily life), Anandamali mentioned that I should apologize to my parents. When I heard this, I honestly could not understand why I would need to apologize to them. Even if I tried, I could not think of a logical reason for such a thing.

In March, I visited my parents, after not seeing them for about three or four years. They are now older, sicker, and not so able to care for themselves. When I saw them this way, I felt for the first time that I wanted to say to them, “I am sorry.” The reason I wanted to say, “I am sorry,” was because I realized that there was something I had not ever recognized in them—and that was their humanity. I recognized that they want to be happy, just like me; they want to do the best for others, just like me; they try not to make mistakes, just like me; and they are also very vulnerable, just like me. After realizing this, then I wanted to say to my parents, “I am sorry.”

I remember one time, and it was quite a long time ago, that Anandamali said to me, “You never apologize, Karuna.” We were working on MYM projects together and sometimes I would do something, knowingly or not, that made it more difficult for others, or it even could have been a simple thing. When Anandamali mentioned to me about the need to apologize, I asked her, “Why do I need to apologize?” She answered, “to smooth things out,” which she later clarified to mean, “to bring harmony.” This reminded me of St. Thèrése of Lisieux who was so eager to apologize to anyone as soon as she realized that she had done something offensive or selfish, something that affected someone else. She saw it as the chance for reconciliation. It made her very happy to be able to clear things up, and then everyone would become joyful again! For her, apologizing was a way of loving God, of expressing His Love, through any opportunity, no matter how small or insignificant the situation may have seemed, she would not rest at ease until she apologized and took responsibility for her action.

Mother Teresa spoke about apologizing as a way of cultivating humbleness, and of humbleness as a way of coming closer to God by making oneself docile (disarming one’s ego). For the Mother, one way to become humble, was by remaining silent whether praised or blamed—not defending oneself or thinking oneself important—simply accepting willingly whatever God offers, without hiding. She said that to remain silent when praised or blamed, one must truly trust and have faith in God. And all this, she would always add, must be accepted with a smile, which for me, I take as a symbol of gladness or gratitude, the gladness that can only come from knowing that we may be able to come closer to God.

Since I am trying to understand more about the importance of apologizing, I also wanted to think about the teachings of Yoga which may help me understand this from another angle. My mind went quickly to the first yama (abstinences in thoughts, words and actions towards others) of raja yoga: ahimsa (non-harmfulness). I think Shri Mahayogi teaches that this yama is the most important one. But what is ahimsa? I think it means to not harm anybody physically, mentally, or spiritually. So, I began to think that if we realize that we have done something that harmed someone in any of these ways, apologizing, taking responsibility or holding ourselves accountable, and beginning from fresh, clears the way for ahimsa. In turn, I even feel that ahimsa could be a path toward selflessness, which means a path for true Love!

When I reflect on the negative and divisive feelings towards others that I can harbor and hold on to, I can tell that they lead in the very opposite direction of purity, which is the absence of egoistic thoughts, words, and actions, in other words, they lead in the very opposite direction of Yoga. I am also beginning to understand that apologizing is a very necessary action that cleans up our hearts and makes us able to love selflessly. In my life, it has been very hard for me to apologize to others, which indicates that I have strong pride or ego, but now I am ready and eager to chisel away at this pride. I am aware that I have already missed a lot of opportunities to apologize, but I hope that I will be able to recognize the new ones that will come. For these new opportunities, I am thankful to Anandamali.

~Karuna

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Echo From The Cave: 185

Monday May 16, 2022 NYC

Sky above Clouds IV, 1965 by Georgia O’Keeffe

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, May 1st 2022

The Practice of Making Persistent Effort to Restrain the Mind
Can Continue Any Time, Any Place, No Matter What’s Happening

“…Simply put, when the mind becomes still,
it will be revealed to you that You are God.”
Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
from “The Aim of Life” in The Universal Gospel of Yoga

Teachers sometimes go on overnight trips with their students. This past week I attended a two-day trip with 4th and 5th graders (ages 9 -11) to a nature center in Upstate, New York, where they can engage in outdoor activities, such as hiking, wildlife exploration, blacksmithing and archery. In total, there were about sixty students. As the trip approached, I tried to mentally prepare myself. Normally, I have a pretty steady routine of asana and meditation, reading scriptures, conversations with sangha, and I have been trying to practice discrimination during daily life. For this trip, I was aware that my entire time for these two days would be dedicated to the students from early in the morning till late at night, so a few days before leaving I began to wonder how I would continue practicing Yoga, but I did not make a specific plan.

Since during the trip I was going to spend uninterrupted time with the students in a more relaxed manner, I took a little time to think about some teachings that might be good to share with them, or to at least try. For example, I thought about sharing with them the teaching of equality and how every single living and non-living thing is precious and valuable, or perhaps, I could speak with them about contentment (santosha), how to be content with the minimum amount of things and the joy that can come of that, or maybe simply how true happiness can come from giving selflessly to others. I was not sure how or when, but those were some of the general thoughts that I had in my mind.

Then reality came. As soon as the children felt the expansiveness and open space of 345 green acres (139.62 hectares) of land, well, as might happen with us adults too, they became very excited and wanted to run around freely! This sense of freedom came with many emotions: some were over-excited, and at times created some dangers to themselves and others, some were scared and nervous about running up against a wild animal or experiencing the natural elements, and some quickly focused on the social opportunities of being in a new environment around so many friends at one time. The energy was high every single moment. On the surface they all looked busy, engaged, and entertained. But, along with all the activity, conflicts arose. Feelings were hurt as they began to feel threatened by being excluded, not appreciated, being ridiculed, or by the threat of losing the attention of a close friend. During some activities, competition became fierce and hurtful, causing other shifts in the dynamics among them. I was observing the drama of life in its full gamma, spinning around from one state to another, and it reminded me of the three qualities described by Shri Mahayogi and in the Yoga Sutra, called the guna: rajas (quality of discomfort, agitation and restlessness), tamas (quality of inertia, characterized by heaviness), and perhaps even some moments that approximated sattva (quality of comfort, lightness and brilliance) here and there. And, it was not only students, I noticed that we adults, too, would fluctuate between these qualities, just like the children and along with them.

All my idealistic notions about sharing the teachings of Yoga disappeared very quickly and instead I found myself remembering something that Shri Mahayogi once told a small group of sangha when we spoke to him about our interest to create opportunities to lead young people to experience Yoga, and Shri Mahayogi mentioned that the most important thing is the inner state of the person leading. So, given the situation, I decided that the most important work for me was to focus on my inner state. When I did this, I was wondering what I should be looking for inside myself. I needed a direction, so I decided that it may be helpful to look for the stillness that is within, which Shri Mahayogi describes as unaffected by any conditions. I thought this would help me keep myself from being pulled in by the rampant emotions of the children (and my own too!). I thought of this stillness as a place inside of me where all reactions fizzle away—a place where the mind is unresponsive to any triggers. In other words, a peaceful place. I figured that if I could keep myself close to that stillness or at least focus on pointing toward it by restraining my mind, then I could probably feel steadier myself and possibly help the students be more at ease somehow.

Over and over, I tried to get closer to that space of stillness inside me, consciously taking a step back every time I noticed a reaction or emotion wanting to pull me away from it. After doing this for the first day, I started to notice that it was also possible to sense that, beyond the many emotions and constant activity, there also was stillness in everyone else. I cannot explain exactly how I sensed that, but I remember that the busyness began to appear as if it was only on the surface, or as if it was being projected on a movie screen, and not real, and the stillness existed behind, constantly there. Sensing that the busyness was only superficial offered me more mental and emotional distance, the space for being at ease and for making quick decisions while participating in situations around me. Maybe it was because there was so much to do constantly that I felt the need to detach from the emotions—I do not know for sure—but the fact is that I had no time to think about whether this way of practicing was working or not, or about what specific effects it had. I had to be on my feet, doing this and that, taking care of so many matters with children, and adults too, that I could not really afford to take away my attention from the situations in front of me, one after another, or from the effort to search for stillness within myself anytime my mind was running the risk of being dragged by emotions and situations. These two simultaneous focuses, managing situations on the outside and searching for stillness inside, took up all my concentration.

At some point, toward the end of our trip, however, I realized that what was unique about this trip was that I began to feel the students, most of whom I have known for the whole school year, much closer to me—as if we were relating to each other from the inside rather than from the outside. More than that, each one, even the ones that I did not have a chance to speak directly with that much, began to feel so precious and loving to me during this trip. Surprisingly, this new way of relating to them brought deep gratefulness for everyone and everything around me, and strangely for me, it felt unconditional, toward the students who were troublesome, the ones who were overexcited and loud, the ones who were frightened or shy, the teachers who complained and the ones who did not, and I even felt this way toward the elements and situations around me, the cold wind chapping my lips and the textures, smells and sounds of nature and of the children too—all of it. It all felt rather like a gift, a great fortune, and an opportunity.

I have the impression now that the more I try to bring my mind toward stillness, the less it will feel threatened or bothered by the turmoil or activity outside. I realize now that by trying to persist in the effort to restrain the mind, that practice can continue any time, any place, no matter what is happening. I was concerned about not having time or mental space to practice asana and meditation, to read scriptures, or to continue with discrimination, but in the end, ironically, this experience turned out to be an opportunity for practicing Yoga, because it created the need to aim with stronger intention toward seeking the stillness within each moment. I believe that this is what Shri Mahayogi has always been reminding us about what Yoga is: stilling the mind completely so we can fully experience what is beyond—the Truth, or God; like the Psalm expresses, “Be still and know that I am God.” I hope that this new discovery of how to practice Yoga within, regardless of the conditions, will continue to expand and establish itself, and lead me toward the Truth that Shri Mahayogi assures us is there waiting to be known.

~Karuna

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Echo From The Cave: 184

Sunday May 15, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, April 29th 2022

The Threads of Experience that Weave the Tapestry of Yoga

Learning Yoga, learning about life through Yoga, and learning Yoga through life—the weaving of a tapestry seems to be the image that is best capturing my experience of this at the moment.

In the creation of a tapestry, countless single threads must be woven in and together, every single one of them playing their part in creating the final image that we can see only when stepping back and looking at a distance.

At the start, as we watch the weaver begin to weave the tapestry, it’s unknown what will come of all those threads. As more threads are added in the tapestry, perhaps at first we may start to notice some patterns, but any pictures or images are still undiscernible and we can merely guess at what story the weaver will weave into the tapestry just by looking at those few threads.

As the weaver continues, more and more threads are needed. And as they get added in, the weaver diligently continuing to weave in each and every thread, suddenly we may catch a glimpse of an image and recognize what it is—Ah, that’s a flower, I see it now! How beautiful!

Of course, a tapestry is huge and many things can be depicted there…that little flower is just one small part…but in recognizing it we may be given hope, seeing that all those seemingly messy threads actually can create something beautiful and clearly recognizable. And then, we may also feel inspired to keep the weaver supplied with many threads to continue and to keep patiently watching as the weaver weaves to see what will unfold next, now confident that every thread is important and has its part and that none of the weavers work or the time it takes is in vain.

The learning of Yoga feels just like this, but experiences are the threads and the patterns and images that start to reveal clearly represent the understandings through Yoga that gradually become undeniably clear to us as a result of the build-up of experience.

Shri Mahayogi often speaks about the importance of experience. And Buddha too spoke about the importance of coming to know his teachings through experiencing them. I think this “experience” has been starting to take on more meaning for me than how I perhaps originally perceived it, and it’s becoming more and more clear that every bit of experience in life, small or large, has its own role to play in a much bigger picture.

When some understanding about Yoga becomes more clear, it may seem to come all of the sudden, but I see that actually it is the result of taking in and receiving teachings over what is sometimes a long period of time. When I say taking in and receiving teachings, what I mean could include teachings of Yoga that I hear or read, words from scriptures, observations and things I hear while with senior gurubai, inspirational stories shared with me about other practitioners or about humanity, things I am observing within myself, in situations, in people, various contemplations over time, daily life experiences, choices I make trying to base on Yoga…actually, there can be a lot of content in “taking in and receiving teachings,” at least as long as the mind is aiming towards Yoga. But the point is that all of these become something like the necessary threads of a tapestry. After time, when viewing all interwoven together, something may suddenly become apparent, even it may only be part of the whole picture. As such, I am starting to newly and more clearly see the incredible value that experience holds. Even with something as simple as the practice of a single asana, it feels like the experience of each and every time holds immense value. And even though in practice of asana, we may do the same pose day after day and it may almost become like a habit or routine just done for the sake of doing it and completing the task…but actually each time is valuable, each time is important, and in acknowledging that, even though the reason why or to what end may not be 100% clear yet, I think that it might even change the way the mind approaches the asana each time, and thus the spirit or intention poured into it. The same is probably true for any action, really.

That being said, I think there might be a catch that is important to mention. It has to do with the state of mind. I suppose recently, after the need for examining it was brought to my attention, I have been learning a little more about listening, learning, and the ways (both subtle and not-so-subtle) that I might block myself from doing those things, as well as some keys to help overcome those self-imposed obstacles. And if I summarize some general and important points, what I’m being led to see is that:

  1. Observation through all the senses, at all times is an important component of learning. Relatively little that is available for us to learn comes through books or direct instruction, but through example, through experience, through action…some of which could at times be completely experimental, and through trying to dive into the space around what is most easily observed to sense where what we observe may come from to begin with.

And…

  1. It is incredibly difficult to take in any of those observations for consideration in the moment or for later when the mind is consumed in its own world, in its own thoughts, view, and especially in its own self-concern. These are the things that I am seeing from my own experience, that no matter how much we think we are hearing, seeing and taking in, real listening and learning is happening in an extremely limited capacity, if at all, and its very likely that we miss a lot—blind to it, while at the same time blind to the fact that there is anything we’re missing in the first place. At the same time, when the mind is consumed in its own world, in its own thoughts, view, and especially in its own self-concern, it is further difficult to get into action and bring ourselves to “experience” and “gain experience”—there are just too many fears, judgements and emotions that get involved.

Therefore, what I’m sensing is that in order to not only be able to gain more “threads of experience” to be woven into the tapestry, but at the same time, to be able to stand back and look at the tapestry being woven, to allow some images, or understanding, to become crystallized and recognizable, it is ideal to constantly be addressing and pushing the mind out of its little world of limited view and self-concern. Because I think in doing so, then we may actually be able to “take in and receive” much more, even from the most mundane and simple of everyday experiences, and thus have more material of experience at the ready, waiting for the moment when all the little unexpected pieces will suddenly be tied together and reveal some new understanding or clarity about Yoga, about the Truth, about Life.

The “mind of complaint,” and the importance of working to overcome it, is something that Karuna brought to our attention at the end of one of MYM’s Asana & Meditation classes (Echo From the Cave: 178). When it comes to how we experience everyday life, our daily conditions and circumstances, we have a whole slew of categories that we place these experiences in. Some we categorize as good, some as bad, some as important, some as worthless…and so on and so forth. But as I consider this analogy of the tapestry and the incredible value of experience that gives the materials for the tapestry to be woven—for the understanding of Yoga to come as a result—I wonder if we truly start to see value in experience, in going through a process…more so than what we may achieve as a result…if the mind of complaint might all but disappear. In seeing its value within the greater scheme of moving towards the aim of Yoga, towards the aim of living the Truth, the way we perceive outcomes may really transform and there may come to be no space for any such “mind of complaint.”

~Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 183

Saturday May 14, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, April 24th 2022

Soul to Soul: The Dynamic Impact of Uninhibited Spirit

For those who have had the opportunity to see Shri Mahayogi’s asana, there is a word that I have often heard used to describe it. And that is, dynamic.

It may seem unusual—how can something so still be so dynamic? What is it anyway that can be dynamic when everything else, body and mind, is brought to stillness?

Not that long ago I finished taking an educational course related to a new field of work. (Read a related writing in Echo From the Cave: 181) As the course finished I wanted to express my gratitude to the instructor—in the process and along with other life circumstances I have been receiving many lessons and learnings, which are truly blessings, and certainly the instructor, as part of it, has had some role to play—so, I wanted to express my “thank you.”

I wanted to be clear though within myself about what exactly I am saying thank you for, because I felt, it’s easy to say thank you just for the sake of saying thank you or to list off the obvious things I can say thank you for, but I felt that if I did that then it would result in a rather casual or generic expression and not capture the real feeling. In other words, I can easily write a fluffy thank you that may possibly sound nice, but is otherwise empty…only covered in fluff. So, as I was reflecting trying to pinpoint what exactly it is I am feeling grateful for, in relation to this particular person and context, I realized that first and foremost, it is the spirit of the person.

Every class and every interaction was filled with the spirit that the instructor was quite naturally bringing, which just happens to feel as if it is packed full of strength and momentum. And I received that spirit coming behind the words, behind the instruction, like a much-needed impetus to throw myself into action and get motivated and moving towards something that seemed so unknown and challenging. And apart from that, the content of the class—the knowledge, skills, guidance etc.—was all naturally laid out on the backdrop of the instructors lived experiences…repeated experiences, learnings gained through experiences, all kinds of varieties of experiences…nothing perfect, but real, honest, and uninhibited. And that helped bring life and depth into the content of the course, even if it wasn’t anything spoken explicitly.

These are the things that I truly feel grateful for, in part because I feel that through the exchange of these more invisible elements, there was more room for the learning experience to expand, but also because in recognizing and experiencing it, it’s helping me to see more clearly something about the importance of what takes place in an interaction or exchange that is beyond what the surface of it can tell. It is like a few more threads are being woven into the fabric of a much bigger picture of what I am learning.

As I continue to reflect, I feel that noticing the importance of the spirit within an interaction is due to having had the chance to meet with Shri Mahayogi and feel this concretely, perhaps in the most heightened way possible. In the presence of Shri Mahayogi, I am sure I am not the only one who tangibly feels that something is happening, something is changing, something is being communicated or given, even when no words are spoken or no action seems to be taken—yet it is just undeniable. The purity of this “Spirit” in Shri Mahayogi feels incomparable. Because of experiencing that through Shri Mahayogi, I am sure that there must be something invisible that happens when we are near and exchange with others, the spirit of our mere presence may impact much beyond our words and actions.

In fact, this is actually something that Shri Mahayogi has spoken about before, that the internal state of a person is much more impactful and important than the words spoken or actions taken. And this is something that I have thought about often since I first heard it. Even so, and even though a number of years have passed since I first heard it, those threads being woven in from my most recent experiences seem to be helping me to catch a few new insights.

To receive the impact of the spirit of someone else feels like a beautiful and precious thing, almost as if it is an expression of that same sacred essence that we learn through Shri Mahayogi and the teachings of Yoga is within all of us, is coming out and coming together, even in one moment’s exchange. And through that I feel that perhaps various things hidden from our view can be suddenly highlighted…thus becoming important ground for learning. Just like I have experienced others giving freely of themselves, in other words putting their real spirit, I want to be able to give more freely of myself too, bringing real spirit into my way of being, more and more. Or perhaps another way to put it is, no matter who the person is, I want to be able to meet in that exchange, full of spirit, without inhibition.

As of now, however, I see that there are various things that cause me to hold this back, making that spirit part become dampened. Some of those things I have already mentioned in previous blog writings (Echo From the Cave: 171, 179, 181), but more often than not I see there are small fears that keep me holding back and holding on, these small fears that cause me to hesitate, to not express clearly, or to confuse my words and actions. All of these stand as obstacles to that spirit uninhibitedly and strongly coming forth. And these are the things I really want to root out…because truly they are all so unnecessary…and, to say it again with more emphasis, I really would like to be able to be, to speak, to act in a way that is freely and uninhibitedly filled with spirit—to share and come together with others with that spirit and not with my mind’s unnecessary obsessions. I am so grateful to have not only the brilliant example of Shri Mahayogi to aim towards, but I am also grateful to experience that from gurubai and from many of the people around me in daily life. It comes in all forms and degrees—and I’m also finding that even to receive it, the mind needs to be getting rid of those very same obstacles and obsessions, as if the spirit put from each one needs be able to catch what’s put from the other. If it misses we may lose the opportunity of the moment, and the learning that can be born of that exchange falls flat.

Recently Karuna has been sharing with us through her example about what she notices are the contents of an active mind, as well as how she has started using some tools of the practice of discrimination to address the active mind, coming from a recent inspiration from another gurubai (Echo From the Cave: 180). I think what Karuna is observing in the active mind helps us to see some other forms of the many activities of the mind that end up resulting in obstacles and obsessions—and these are probably things we can all relate to and identify in ourselves to various degrees. And actually, in Pranavadipa Volume 87 and Vol. 89 there are excellent Testimonies written about the very topic of how to deal with resolving the mind’s many obstacles and obsessions, so there is much inspiration there as well as practical tools for us to reference and use in dealing with the mind’s activities that cause obstructions.

And I’ll say that in my case, at the moment, what seems to be the strongest driving force is the motivation coming from more clearly recognizing the direction I want to head and the importance, value and need that I feel in it, as well as the unnecessary things that seem so obviously necessary to get rid of in order to get there.

I think that, most likely, the impact we may receive from someone’s internal spirit may come from whatever part is not caught up in self-concern, self-consciousness, or in other words, the mind’s obsessions…because that part is more free of the mind’s little self-imposed prison…and I think the more free it is, the more dynamic it can be, can act and can positively impact others, regardless of anything we say or do.

Now, returning to the dynamic quality that people express in seeing Shri Mahayogi perform asana, I think now, perhaps that dynamic part is the Spirit or the Life that is in full force within Shri Mahayogi, nothing at all to cover it up, Pure as Pure can be. Plainly visible in the expression of form, contrasting with the apparent silence and stillness, laid out upon the back drop of the ultimate experience, the experience of Eternal Truth. Perhaps with that dynamic quality, Shri Mahayogi is vibrantly giving us an example of the internal state being 100% aligned with Truth, no obstruction whatsoever—that it can even be felt and can even give impact in the silence and stillness of asana. Perhaps it is an example to help us recollect that within ourselves and to inspire us to purify ourselves so that that dynamic internal spirit—the Spirit of Truth—can be heightened more and more.

For us, in practicing asana, what is the spirit we bring as we practice? How can we heighten it? How can we each work towards getting rid of the unnecessary fears, activities, complaints, holding on, holding back, etc? What would it be like for us as we come together to learn and practice asana, to each bring ourselves full of uninhibited spirit? What learning might open up in that heightened exchange? I don’t have the answers, but I would like for us to find out!

~Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 182

 Thursday May 12, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, April 22nd  2022

Yes, Having a Clear Aim is a Necessity for Practice

Whenever things seem to not be going against me, directing my mind toward God, the Truth, or Holy Beings is more attractive and easier to sustain. But as soon as things don’t go my mind’s way, regardless of how much I try to control it, my mind can react emotionally and turn in the opposite direction of the Truth. How do I tame this wild mind?

This week, at the school where I work, my supervisor changed my teacher-team’s schedule, adding more work, work that I considered to be unimportant in comparison to other work, to a week that was already overloaded. I did not expect that my mind would react the way it did since I had been working on keeping it calm day after day. But to my surprise, it became quite upset and then immediately very busy, looking for someone to blame for the unexpected additional workload. The more it dwelled on the circumstances, the more it sought justifications for being displeased and the more it hung on tightly to the feelings that came along with these kinds of thoughts. Next thing I knew, it was fully saturated and tensed up.

This continued for a good number of hours. Even when I was not paying attention to it or realizing it—it was propelling itself, all on its own. What caused me to slow down and recognize the locked state of my own mind-functioning and the fact that I had completely gone in the opposite direction of the Truth, was the intensity with which my mind clung to the feeling of having been wronged. The energy that was going toward this thought pounded in my head and started to become bothersome. At some point, while experiencing these feelings of discomfort, I was able to also recognize that this state was being sustained by some sense of satisfaction that came from blaming somebody or something and growing the self-aggrandizing idea of being “right” while that somebody or something else was “wrong.” Thankfully, while giving myself some time to just look at what was taking place in my mind and while in a state of awe about how much my mind was willing to continue to move in this direction, these words appeared in my thoughts, “Discrimination! Try it! Right now!”

In Echo From the Cave: 180, I shared how, when looking for a way to appease my active mind, I resorted to the Testimony in Pranavadipa Volume 87, which contains Gopala’s description of his practice of discrimination. I began to try to use “Is it permanent?”, “Is it pure?”, “Is it joyful or blissful?” and “Is it the true Self?”, the questions that Gopala chose as his weapons of discrimination following the teachings and guidance of Shri Mahayogi, to see what change may take place in my mind. As a very beginner with little experience in discrimination, I faced the new challenge of trying to pose the questions (which contain the undiluted Truth) to an agitated mind in the thick of a crisis-state while being fully shielded, unwilling to open any space for a question or suggestion of any kind. I quickly had to adapt the questioning to the state and to the shifting around that was taking place in my mind and pry my way in.

“Is it the true Self?” was the question that made most sense to use for the specific conditions because of the inflated sense of “I” that had taken over. I had to treat it like a critical patient, carefully.

—“Why are you upset?”—I asked.
—“I have been mistreated, somebody was trying to take advantage of me, not being considerate toward me”—my mind was willing to answer with a complaint.
—“Who is upset about this? Is it the true Self?”—I was able to ask, but my mind resisted, so I decided to go on.
—“The true Self, according to Shri Mahayogi, only knows and sees. It does not move or react”—I pointed this out to my mind, trying to use what I have heard from Shri Mahayogi about the true Self. “The mind and the body are not the true Self,” I added, “so neither you nor the other person’s mind is the true Self. Does it make sense to react to the mind and the body which are shifty, and ultimately will change again unpredictably? Is it worthwhile to react to something that has no stability to begin with?”
—“If I am not the body and mind, then who am I? Who is the other? Who or what should I focus on if not the body or the mind?”

I realized at this point that my mind was more willing to listen and to be pointed in a new direction.

—“You are the true Self, the unchanging and unmoving. And so is your supervisor.”

This is as far as I went with the questions because my mind had to cope with the answers and ponder further on its own.

I allowed my mind to look for this true Self within. It began looking for something independent of the thoughts in the mind and beyond the distinctions of the physical bodies, which meant something complete and whole without a second, indivisible. I allowed it to seek within, as if scanning for something, while I stood to the side observing or witnessing quietly as not to disturb. I let it seek everywhere, even outside, in the circumstances of my school, the ideas that hold the school together, or even further to the way the world works. The expanding question, “Is it the true Self, the unchangeable and unmoving?” kept guiding it and cancelling out thoughts that did not qualify as the true Self. As this process continued, before I knew it, the big and messy ball of emotions began to quiet down—not completely—but significantly, enough to allow me to focus on the tasks in front of me again, in the present moment. The tension in my mind began to ease up, and the thoughts began to become less domineering. I was able to smile a little, and breath better too.

The battle is by no means over. Such a reaction comes from a very strong sense of “I,” one that I have to chip away at little by little. I have no doubt that I must repeat this kind of process over and over, in various circumstances, whether it feels like an emergency or not, because the mind of ignorance that is convinced that my mind and body are the Self, is there 24/7. “I have to have a strong will and the determination to keep going until my mind gives up, and the ignorance in the mind truly crumbles.” (Echo From the Cave: 180)

From this new experience, however, I realize that the issue that I have had for a long time, lack of consistency, could make any progress a challenge. I have no doubt that I must repeat this kind of process over and over, but how can I become more consistent in this practice?

My mind is so persistent when it goes after what it desires. Shri Mahayogi has described in the content of one of the Satsangha in Pranavadipa that desires are “anything the mind wishes,” and taught that “there is a difference depending on whether that desire is coming from pain-bearing-obstacles or not, in other words, whether that desire is coming from ignorance or selfishness, or whether it is altruistic or not.” Perhaps I can nurture an equally strong desire or aim to pull my mind away in another direction.

Anandamali always emphasizes the need for a clear aim. When I began to think about learning to practice discrimination, originally, my aim was to calm my active mind, but I see that Shri Mahayogi says that the purpose of cultivating a calm mind is to enable one to meditate. I know that I very much want to be able to meditate. I asked myself what is the purpose of meditation? The answer for me was, “I want to know and love God.”

When I make the connection between my aim and the practices toward that aim, then each practice takes on a new meaning because it is not being done in a vacuum, but directly connected to the most important purpose in my life. The aim then, should be the why behind any of the practices in Yoga, such as asana, meditation, reading scriptures, chanting to a holy being…and in fact, any action, if taken as a step toward the Truth, anything done wholeheartedly “to know and love God” may also be called Yoga. If this aim becomes the strongest purpose in my life, real and firm, stronger than any other desire, I believe that my mind will become more tamable and willing to give up, and consistency in practice may not be an issue anymore.

~Karuna

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Echo From The Cave: 181

Wednesday MAY11, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, April 17th 2022

Learning the “Beginner’s Mind”

“Each one of us is given unique material in our daily lives as the ground for Yoga, for learning and living the Truth.”   —Reflection found in Echo From the Cave: 174

Several months ago I found myself in a situation of needing to change my job. Though my case wasn’t the kind where I had some plan in advance or some idea of what I would change my job to, just simply I was in the situation of needing to find something new. It just so happens that the door that opened, the field where I entered, is a field that I didn’t expect (or even really know about). It has to do with looking at different homes and inspecting them for the functionality, safety and condition of all the operating systems, which could include the heating system, the structure, the plumbing, etc.

The point is that everything about this field is absolutely and completely new to me. I’m a total beginner. And what I’ve been experiencing going through it all, I feel, is giving me an important lesson into something that Shri Mahayogi, and senior disciples, say is very important, and that is, the “beginner’s mind.”

As part of preparing for entry into this field of work, I have been taking a class and learning alongside a small group of peers who are also preparing themselves. Many of my peers have backgrounds in related fields, so it seemed to me that they knew a fair amount already, which also seemed to be in stark contrast to my own feeling of “I know nothing!” Because of feeling that “I know nothing” kind of feeling, while at the same time feeling the urgency to maximize this time of learning, since it is only for a short few months, and there is a true need for me to prepare myself well so that I can get into work, I didn’t hesitate much to express when I didn’t understand or to ask questions to try to understand better, even if I thought “this must already be something that is so obvious to everyone else.”

Then, one day when we were out at a practice jobsite, I started to notice something. I started to notice that when I am asking questions—things that I assume are probably related to basic things that everyone else must know already—all my peers would quietly stop what they were doing, lean in or come closer and listen attentively to whatever the instructor or his assistant were explaining or showing. And I also saw that their faces would show the same expression of “Ohhh…Now I see!” that I was more outwardly expressing. That caught my attention, because that’s when I started to recognize that my classmates perhaps didn’t know everything already, like I had supposed from their demeanor. And perhaps somewhere within, they could be feeling the same thing as me, but somehow not expressing it and not really asking questions. Why is that? I wondered.

Reflecting on it, brought me to reflect on myself, and then I saw something that I have probably experienced in myself on many occasions. It is a subtle layer of thought that the mind wears, the thought of “I should know that already.” Such a small and simple thought can carry a lot along with it. To begin with, it is based on a certain expectation…that could be an expectation we think society has for us, or one that we ourselves have created. This is pure speculation, but if I put myself in the shoes of one of my classmates, I think that, just in the simple fact that this field relates to something I would have previous knowledge or experience in, even if it is not exactly the same thing, I might feel that I should in some sense know already, be able to do already, understand already, be already…which is nothing different from something that I can perceive happening within myself, albeit in different situations and contexts.

In fact, when I am in a similar situation, whether conscious of it or not, I may incidentally be trying to give that impression to others or represent myself that way. The unfortunate part is that because of that little sheer layer of that thought resting over the mind, even if it is only the slightest wish for that “already” part, growth and learning can become stunted, and passion and urgency can be dampened…which in turn makes it more difficult to open myself up—without inhibitions—to really take in and receive something new. Taking a step back and seeing it, well it seems silly for me to get in my own way like that, over such an unrealistic expectation that is nothing more than an invisible notion…but that little thought or view can slip over the mind in such a smooth way that it can be hard to catch. And at the same time, it stands firmly as an obstacle to the “beginner’s mind.”

So in this unique situation of entering a new field and naturally having no choice but to have a “beginner’s mind” without being necessarily conscious of it, I really feel like I am being given the circumstances that are helping me start to recognize something important and start to learn more about what the “beginner’s mind” may be, and at least something that it is not. And it seems that through the overarching experience of it all, including the diminished notions of what I should or shouldn’t know already, or should or shouldn’t be already, something much more fascinating and beautiful seems to be unfolding, some learning that is much beyond just the content of the preparation course. And I am seeing that that itself has an immense value.

If I share just one example, I feel that one of the things I am being shown is that, even in these rather mundane and inanimate seeming things—like the examining and testing of building systems, which I probably first perceived as more or less mechanical, technical and straightforward—there is an expression of the same beautiful and dynamic Truth that we hear about from Shri Mahayogi and through Yoga. Almost as if hiding right there, disguised in the ordinary things that I have probably taken for granted throughout most of my life!!

Just like in Shri Mahayogi’s teaching, “Atman: All is for It” in The Universal Gospel of Yoga, in looking at the various systems within a home, everything has its part to play, everything has its role, and everything is coexisting all together, always for the sake of providing something for “another.” In a home, each piece or part, no matter how inanimate or mechanical it may seem, has its role, its influence and at the same time is in its own cycle that all things of nature and the world are subject to, all having a beginning, all constantly changing, all benefitting from care, attention, and appreciation, and at some point all becoming non-functional and in need of being replaced…in other words, time for its form to change and re-enter this cycle…and all coming together to form this dynamic whole. There must be endless reflections and reiterations, from the most micro to the most macro, of the same thing, the same patterns, the same nature, and ultimately, as Shri Mahayogi teaches us, the same Essence that is the backdrop of it all, within endless varieties of circumstances and situations. Certainly all of the ordinary things, the happenings and circumstances within each of our daily lives, must also be telling a dynamic story of Truth, maybe just waiting for us to stop and listen. And I feel that because that dynamic Truth can be right there in those ordinary things, then it’s like those ordinary things themselves become the material that can help us to further learn and come to understand Yoga, or the Truth, in a way that is completely different from just reading about it in a book and logically seeing the fact of it.

“You just have to rid yourself of attachment. Only then will you be able to truly cherish and love the limited material body, the world and everything else, even if all of them are destined to disintegrate.” These words of Shri Mahayogi, in the teaching mentioned above, feel as if they are resonating in the experience I am relating here.

Coming back again to the “beginner’s mind,” I would really like to work towards carefully and thoroughly removing attachment towards any notion of “I should … already.” (It’s perhaps an attachment with a different flavor than how I might typically think of “attachment,” but nonetheless, I think it is attachment of some sort.) The natural conditions of my recent circumstances seem to have allowed a moment to see its limitation, to experience being more free from it, and to taste the joy of discovery and learning that can more spontaneously come out of it. This is all gratefully bringing me to see more clearly now the importance and value of cultivating the “beginner’s mind” in all varieties of situations, even when it may seem more difficult to catch the mind’s thin little layers of attachment, that quietly sneak in as mere shadows of notions. And, though I think I have a few more tools now than before, I’m not 100% sure of the exact way or what will come along in the process…but I think I’m looking forward to simply being able to work towards it.

~Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 180

Thursday April 21, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, April 15th 2022

The Power of the Words of Truth

I have a very active mind, full of things: projects, opinions, plans, amusements, imagination … all sorts of things float around in my mind. It was not until recently that I was able to understand that all this activity comes from the many ideas that I have about who I want to be in the world, which I work so hard on projecting day in and day out. Realizing the need to face this situation in my mind and seeing the trap of its binding effects for myself and others, I have begun to feel that all this mind-stuff is like a time-bomb of karma; sooner or later, it will explode as an emotion, an action or as words that will lead to more mind-stuff and commotion. “I do not want it!” I also noticed recently, that even when there is nothing that I need to do or think about, my mind continues to spin with thoughts and ideas. The situation is so dire, that I have started to want to use the teachings of Yoga more seriously and effectively than ever before.

In search of where to begin working more methodically with my mind, I went into Pranavadipa Volume 87 because from the first time I read it, it had captured my attention strongly as it contains many tips for the practice of discrimination, which I imagined may work for this very purpose. 

I must confess that, actually, it is embarrassing to realize that I am still such a beginner. When I read the Testimony, titled “Deepening Meditation,” by Gopala, a disciple of Shri Mahayogi in Japan, the words Permanence, Purity, Joy and Self stood out first—because I had been thinking about discrimination as a big task, a very difficult thing, when I first saw these four words being referred to as the weapon, my initial thought was, “how can these four little words do so much work?” I did not know how they would help, how we could use these four words, and I did not understand why we need four ideas, not just one, so I found it intriguing. It is clear I had not thought about the meaning of the words much at all.

Gopala goes on to explain how he applied the practice of discrimination by contrasting the mind’s ideas with the Truth over an extended period of time to control his mind’s attachment to objects of desires using the questions—“Is it permanent?”, “Is it pure?”, “Is it joyful or blissful?” and “Is it the true Self?”—as weapons in the battle between the Truth and the pain-bearing-obstacles in his mind: 1) egoism, 2) attachment to what we enjoy and like, 3) attachment to avoiding what we dislike and what perturbs us, 4) clinging to life, and 5) ignorance of the Truth altogether. As I read Gopala’s explanation about how the pain-bearing-obstacles open the way to and feed numerous desires (likes and dislikes, or attraction and repulsion), it leads me to realize that desires have everything to do with the constant activity roaming in my mind, and they are exactly what I need to get rid of!

As I started to think more deeply about these four words—Permanence, Purity, Joy and Self: permanent = something eternal, that is never born or dies; pure = something that has no ego or self-interest; joy or bliss = the freedom from all thoughts and desires, unconditional well-being; and the Self = the Truth itself, the only reality or Existence, the unchangeable—I began to recognize that they are not just words, but that each one represents the Truth itself, wholly and without an ounce of error. The more I ponder on these words, the more I perceive that they contain immeasurable power. Even though I might only be able to perceive just a little bit of the power contained in these words, when I think about their meaning, my mind is automatically intimidated by the possible outcome of a face-off against its own beliefs. This makes me remember that Shri Mahayogi says something like, in front of the Truth, everything else crumbles.

The words of Truth have immeasurable power, nonetheless, seeing how quickly my mind wanted to escape the weapons of discrimination, even from just thinking about the meaning of these words that stand for the Truth, I understood that the battle against the ignorance in my mind must continue. If I allow my mind to seek comfort again, as it has done for so long, my mind will remain unchanged, and the real battle cannot begin. I have begun to come to terms with the fact that, in order to fight against the ignorance in my mind, the process of discrimination has to create enough ripples to shake the foundation that sustains that ignorance! Therefore, following Gopala’s example of how he was practicing discrimination, I decided to go forward using the same questions against one of the strongest tendencies that I see in myself, which is to want to prove that “I know, so you must like and admire me” or the opposite, “I do not know, so come to my rescue or leave me alone.”

I have only tried this a few times in sitting meditation and during the day so far, when I have been able to notice my mind’s tendency acting up. But when I have, my mind felt under attack and vulnerable; for example, when I asked, “Are you seeking something permanent now?”, the honest answer was “No, my mind is seeking to gain temporary results, admiration, support, or sometimes to deflect its ignorance temporarily”; to the question, “Is this action coming from Purity or seeking Purity?”, the answer was, “Purity is egoless, does not want for itself, while my mind is seeking for itself, regardless of what may benefit others”; like so, I asked, “Will this bring true Bliss or Joy?”, and the answer was, “How can my mind bring true Joy if it is seeking joy in the unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unsustainable conditions of the world? …True Joy is beyond conditions”; and when I asked, “Does this thought come from the true Self or seek to know the true Self?”, the answer was, “The true Self only knows and sees and stands completely unaffected by the fluctuations of the mind, it is perfect Stillness.” Indeed, my mind definitely began to feel great discomfort and tried to run away, concerned about encountering this weapon again!

Quite honestly, I didn’t realize the link between these four words, Permanence, Purity, Joy and Self, and the four causes of ignorance, until when recently, after I had already started to practice using them, I heard a fellow gurubai point it out. Of course, Shri Mahayogi reminds us over and over of the four main causes of ignorance:

1) seeing the impermanent as permanent
2) seeing the impure as pure
3) seeing pain as pleasure
4) seeing the non-self (ego-mind) as the Self (the Truth or God)

After hearing it and realizing the connection, I finally began to understand why these words function as a powerful “weapon” in the battle against the ignorance that has taken over our minds. It is because they are the very opposite of ignorance, the Truth itself, like an antidote.

Yet, I also have begun to see that no matter how much I think I understand, in order for me to move forward with this battle, I have to have a strong will and the determination to keep going until my mind gives up, and the ignorance in the mind truly crumbles. Like Gopala, I need to always remember that “I want to live in the Truth!” and that it is possible! For me to continue using the weapon of discrimination, I must be determined not to give up, whether it goes well or not, whether my mind likes it or not. I want to boldly move away from karma and toward Yoga, every time I realize that I am again standing at the fork in the road.

~Karuna

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