Saturday Aug 22, 2020 NYC
Report: “Positive Transformation” Online Program, August 14th, 2020
“See the infinite in the moment, for this moment we have been given now may never come again. That is why it is precious.” (excerpted from The Universal Gospel of Yoga—The Teachings of Sadguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahamsa)
Where is the world going?
In the current world condition, the level of uncertainty in our lives may be heightened and many of us may feel, perhaps more so now than in the past, that we are facing many unknowns. What will come next? Where are we going?
All around the world there are health concerns, economic concerns, social concerns, concerns of heightening political tensions, environmental disasters, and a range of other changes that are impacting the way we may be accustomed to living our day to day lives up until now.
With so many changes happening so rapidly, how can we take this time positively for our own internal growth and transformation, to deepen our own understanding of what Yoga is and what the teachings might mean if we try to learn about them through the experiences of each of our own day to day lives? With so many changes happening so rapidly, as if blatantly demonstrating to us the impermanence of the world and everything we create within it, how do we seize the opportunity of this moment, the preciousness of what is being given—even with its unexpected nature?
As restrictions in New York first began, this was the view that we, the Mahayogi Yoga Mission staff, were aiming to ingrain within ourselves. Thus naturally, when we decided to hold MYM’s first online program, this was the view that gave rise to the title—Positive Transformation in Times of Change: True Independence of the Mind. It was our hope to come together with participants for a journey into the learning and understanding process of two practitioners who are learning Yoga under the guidance of Shri Mahayogi.
We did not design this program as a lecture, but rather we attempted to create an atmosphere in which, through introducing how our practitioners (in this case, Aniruddha and Sadhya), have been trying to process what Shri Mahayogi has been teaching us, others may be able to feel how we can practice to bring our view towards the positive and use this time to bring transformation to our own minds.
One of the greatest parts of this online program is that, for the first time, anyone could be participating from any region of the world. This time attendees joined from Puerto Rico, France, Germany, Taiwan, and the USA (Oregon, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and New York) and for some, this was the first time they were ever able to attend an MYM program.
Now, when we think about the situation that we are facing, perhaps more than ever before, we are coming face to face with exactly what the teachings of Buddha are all about, and what Shri Mahayogi has mentioned and taught us again and again—Impermanency. When we hear or read that “everything changes, there is nothing that is permanent,” how many of us really go deep into it, to the extent that we accept the very raw and sometimes harsh reality of this fact. Isn’t it that our mind may often say, “yeah, yeah, I know, that is nothing special—we know that, we hear it, we see it.” But do we really know firsthand beyond what is just skin deep? This may very much be a universal issue and it must have been the same in the past, too. Perhaps, this is how the human mind is. And it may be why, even though we may think we “know,” we try to control our circumstances—because we think or perhaps, even further, we believe that we can control such things.
We all know and can recognize to a certain extent that change is inevitable, when we look back at the past and what has happened in our lives, and in the world, up until now, it is quite evident. However, even so, when we are actually going about living our day to day lives, are we really accepting and acting upon the belief and deep recognition that this world and everything in it is indeed impermanent? Or is our belief otherwise so strong that even though we may think we know, we may still be taken by our emotions when they arise, and not be able to see “objectively”? This is a question that we each may need to face within ourselves, and wake up to the reality of what is in our mind.
In the opening of the program, Sadhya spoke that she was beginning to recognize from the way she had taken many opportunities for granted before restrictions began, expecting things to continue more or less as they were, that in fact her mind may be holding precisely the mistaken belief that the world is not that impermanent after all. If she did not have this belief somewhere within her mind, wouldn’t her way of taking actions and taking each moment as a precious opportunity be different?
Aniruddha shared his own discovery that perhaps his mind was holding onto the belief that “I am in control of my own destiny.” A belief that was challenged by restrictions in New York, and the fear of the pandemic that made the clients of his self-owned and operated natural pest control business to hesitate to call. It was as if everything that he thought he had created and worked hard for, to make himself independent, everything he thought that he had under his control, was all of the sudden out of his control.
This is exactly what the teachings of Buddha are about—Impermanency. There is nothing that we can control.
Now, are these two beliefs shared by Aniruddha and Sadhya unique to them? Probably not—these are common to many of us. The beliefs that things will continue on as they are and that we have some control over our conditions and circumstances in the external world, are quite commonplace in fact, and when we are faced with the reality that these things are not true, that is when our mind often feels a bit bewildered by it, not really wanting to accept the fact of it, and a variety of emotions may come as a result: uncertainty, anxiety, fear, frustration, sadness…just to name a few of the most familiar ones.
But these are the beliefs that Buddha taught are mistaken beliefs, and they are caused by the condition of “not knowing the Truth,” which is what he called “ignorance”—and this emotional result that comes when we are confronted with reality, that produces great discomfort in many of us, is what is often referred to as “suffering.”
Buddha analyzed the sufferings of the human beings and taught them categorized into eight different types of sufferings that No One Can Avoid.
The first four sufferings, which relate to bodily sufferings are:
- Old Age
- and the cause of the previous three, Birth.
And another four sufferings, which relate to the mental state are:
- Separation from loved ones
- Being with despised ones
- Not being able to get what one wants
- Having an impure body and mind, which, in brief, refers to the five aggregates of clinging. These are the aggregates of:
- formations of mental volition
Aniruddha and Sadhya continued to share how they were trying to understand, through learning about these basic teachings of Buddha using their current experiences, how to cultivate a mind of fortitude, a mind that is less and less shakable by changing external conditions. And as they tried to take attendees through their process, they also broke down what they have come to understand so far about how these mistaken beliefs that Buddha teaches about bring us so much emotional discomfort.
Why is it that we suffer or have so much anxiety around facing these things, not wanting to really accept them when they come to us?
Here again the answer is in the teaching of Buddha, and Aniruddha and Sadhya verified it in their own experience: the suffering itself is caused by “desiring always for ‘me’, what I want, what will satisfy and please me.” And underneath that desire, as the foundation of it, lie these mistaken beliefs that Buddha pointed out:
- Believing that we can have control over things outside of ourselves
- Believing that we, ourselves (our own mind and body), and the things around us will continue on
- And, believing that this existence of “me” is separate from others
As Aniruddha and Sadhya gained a clearer understanding about what might be happening within their own minds, relating what they observe in themselves to these teachings of Buddha, they again brought participants back to the question of: so what now? What can we do to cultivate fortitude within our own minds?
That answer itself was captured in the highlight of the program—a story of the recent experience and powerful realization that Aniruddha went through. In this experience, he shared that he had been caught up in his own desire for himself. This was related to wanting to ensure his financial gain with some upcoming jobs. However, circumstances required that he give up these jobs in order to continue physically participating to support some efforts that he had been involved in. Having to give up his own plans and what he was counting on for financial gain, especially during this crucial time, perhaps led him to become caught up in frustration and anger over the situation. (Surely we have all experienced something similar in our lifetimes!)
But then it was pointed out to him that there was a person, whom Aniruddha might not have recognized before, that was counting on these efforts and would benefit greatly. Aniruddha had to go through a battle within his mind. What is important?! Even though he had been learning these teachings of Buddha, he could not recognize by himself what was happening right away because of his emotional state. But when it was pointed out to him, he started to look objectively at himself and recognize that he was putting his own desire, his own benefit, before that of others. Then further he came to the clear conclusion that the financial benefit for himself and the benefit that would be received by the other person from making these efforts, was incomparable—the other’s benefit was much more. When he understood it deeply and accepted the situation fully, then he recognized also that it was this desire itself that was causing him to suffer in anger over things not going according to how he wanted.
He said that upon seeing this, the cloud of anger and frustration immediately disappeared, and his mind was only wanting happily to do whatever he could for the benefit of the other person. The shift happened right then and there—from blaming an external circumstance, to looking within his own mind. Aniruddha’s example was a very clear and concrete depiction of POSITIVE TRANSFORMATION.
This positive transformation, did not come through changing the conditions of the world or controlling external circumstances, but rather through applying this teaching of Buddha to accept the reality of the circumstance, seeing what the mind was doing, and then SHIFTING it to work in a new direction. In a way, we can see that this small shift, from believing the cause to be due to others or external factors and focusing primarily on the benefit for “me”, to trying to find the cause within and focusing on the benefit for “others,” was itself what “ended the suffering” of this situation, and allowed Aniruddha to “become free.” The key to start cultivating our mind is to look within.
True Independence. Imagine if we all work to make these small shifts within our own minds, in our daily life situations? Perhaps this is what will bring us little by little towards what Buddha taught as “the end of suffering,” or Nirvana! Perhaps this is what will bring us to become less and less dependent and tossed about by the ever-changing conditions of the world and lead us towards the state of True Independence, which is something that Aniruddha and Sadhya are still both striving to understand more about. (Though Shri Mahayogi teaches about this state from his own experience of it in Pranavadipa Vol. 69.)
In making these small shifts and working towards a state of True Independence, it does not necessarily mean that each one only thinks about themselves and forgets about everyone else in the world, and towards the end of the program, Aniruddha and Sadhya spoke about how they are beginning to understand that. Buddha taught about Co-Existence, that all of existence is like one interwoven mesh, inseparable from the rest. If the case, as observed in themselves, is that normally we may not recognize this, caught up in the desire for ourselves, then it may be easy to overlook how our desires may require others to give up for us. So then, if we can make these small shifts in our beliefs and the way we take action, perhaps our view and want to give of ourselves for others will instead grow more and more, thus adding another degree of positive transformation, not only to ourselves, but to those around us too.
All in all, the program concluded with Aniruddha and Sadhya sharing their own views of how this particular time of great change may bring to our lives more opportunity and urgency to face the questions most relevant to our existence in this world, how we want to live our lives, and in what state of mind.
At the very end, Aniruddha spoke our gratitude for our great Master, Shri Mahayogi, expressing that without the guidance and grace of Shri Mahayogi, we would not have been able to approach the teaching of Buddha in such a way to experience and realize more concretely its practicality and applicability to all humanity, regardless of background or religion, or the time period in which one lives—the ancient past, the present, or the future—this teaching is truly universal to all human experience and provides real tools for actual transformation.
These basic teachings of Buddha might sound or look very simple, indeed. But the fact of it is what makes it worthy to be called Universal Truth—because it is the Truth beyond time and space. Though this Truth is very simple, our own mind may be having a hard time to see or accept it easily when we hear or see it. Our mind might not be able to grasp how immense the contribution that Buddha and the Yogi of ancient times made for all living beings. It is so awe-striking. Because of their discovery, because of their presence, we have the opportunity to see it ourselves. Not only that, but such a being exists in this current time, in which we are living now! Shri Mahayogi, after awakening at the age 8, went through a period in his teenage years of immersing himself in meditation at all times, and in so doing unraveled the mechanism by which the mind functions, along with the fundamental cause of suffering, that is to say, he independently discovered the law of karma and came to know that the cause of all suffering is, ultimately, that which is produced due to ignorance, or not knowing the Truth.
Again and again, we are so humbled by the fact that we have the opportunity to be with and learn from Shri Mahayogi, a Buddha of the modern age.
To our most beloved, our venerable Master,
Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa,
and to all of you.
We humbly, bow down.