Echo From The Cave: 179

Tuesday April 12, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, April 10th 2022

At the End of Explaining is the Beginning of Listening

Disarming the Mind for Freedom—last year we had several online programs around this topic, and just recently in Pranavadipa Vol. 89 a Testimony written by Karuna was published under the same theme. And in in a recent Asana & Meditation class, Karuna was also sharing with us about “the mind of complaint” that is one of the concrete things we can go against in order to work towards “disarming the mind” (Echo From the Cave: 178).  Actually, there is another mind habit that we learn is important to work against, and one that I’ve been trying to understand better and shift in myself, and that is “making excuses and explanations,” which very much goes hand in hand with the “mind of complaint.” Or perhaps to be more accurate, I have often heard through senior disciples that “explanations” are more or less a form of “making an excuse.” And how difficult it is to learn or receive anything new when we’re busy making excuses!

After being pointed to the importance of improving in ability and depth of listening, and the importance of being humble, I started to bring my mind more towards looking at what’s getting in the way. It’s a small thing, but one thing I see is that the mind holds a fear of others’ negative opinions or impressions of me. So, as a result I may find myself explaining…explaining in hopes of not being misunderstood, explaining in hopes of not being taken as thoughtless, explaining in hopes of … well it doesn’t even really matter in hopes of what … it’s all different shades of the same hope of “giving a good impression.” Ultimately, this is all based on ignorance of the Self. And as Shri Mahayogi teaches us, how vain and unnecessary it is to allow oneself to be dependent on the changeable and uncontrollable thoughts and opinions of others. Truly I would like to come to trust in and depend fully on the Truth, which is what Shri Mahayogi points us towards again and again, not just through thinking that I am, but through the content of my actions. Right now, this is something that I am working towards and trying to find the ways to really make it come to be more concretely so.

Though this may not be a very well developed way of going about it, one thing I decided to do is to just stop with the explaining. If something is being pointed out to me, whether or not I have thought of it, whether or not I have done it, whether or not I think I have been misunderstood, I can just give it all up and I don’t need to say anything about it. Because I see that as soon as I do, the conversation goes to “let me tell you…” and it becomes about me justifying, defending, or showing something about myself—and once it reaches words, the impetus has already proceeded forth from the thought and the mind has already painted its lens in a way that “listening and considering” is greatly lessened, even if it may appear to happen at a certain level.

I don’t have much to conclude or share about it yet. It’s not something I’ve been doing actively for a long period of time, maybe only for about one month, and I can’t even say that I’m doing it very well. But I see it as a starting point, a way to work backwards, towards weakening the grip of the small self, and putting the validity of its dependence to the test. In a way, I also see it as a test that can be done in the scenes of daily life towards one of the great objects of meditation that Shri Mahaygoi teaches us: “Who am I?”

We always hear from Shri Mahayogi the importance of practicing empirically—and if Yoga is science of the mind (See Echo from the Cave: 177), certainly it must be true that philosophizing, imagining, or intellectualizing just won’t do. The mind needs evidence to learn, and the only way to find evidence is through consistent experimenting and testing. Satya’s Testimony that was recently published in Pranavadipa Vol. 89 is an excellent example of that, and one that we can gather a lot of hints from.

In that same article, Satya shared Shri Mahayogi’s words: “It sure is easy if you’re free from obsession!” I think, most likely, a lot of the explaining of ourselves, the making of excuses, and the complaining—all of these are “peas-in-a-pod”—and they’re all coming from the mind’s obsession to defend some idea or concept of this small self, “myself”, the ego…which is completely unrelated to the real Self and the Truth. And that obsession seems to constantly be standing in the way of deepening our ability to listen to the Truth and receive It.

How nice it must be to become utterly defenseless! And as Shri Mahayogi reminds us often in various ways, by throwing out and resolving this mind-stuff, practically and empirically in daily life, more and more space opens up for the Truth to emerge.

~Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 178

Sunday April 10, 2022 NYC

Rama and Lakshmana fighting Ravana

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, April 8th 2022

Reflecting Asana in Practice of Daily Life:
Battling the Mind of Complaint in Asana and Daily Life

In Satsangha, Shri Mahayogi has often spoken about how, “one should not complain,” and also, Anandamali has often explained to us that what Shri Mahayogi means by “complain” is much more than “what we might think complaining could be,” or that there are a variety of subtle forms that complaints can take, many of which we may not usually consider as complaints, or which may easily go unnoticed by us. One of my immediate reactions whenever I have heard about this “mind of complaint,” has been to hope that this is not my case. Other times, I may convince myself confidently, “this is not my problem,” and feel relieved. And at times, I simply push forward with what I think is “my practice” and ignore the topic altogether.

But recently, I have begun to think about this “mind of complaint,” and realized that, just like what Anandamali has been explaining, there are actually many ways in which I have been complaining. When I hear or see someone or something, I may silently react with, “What a bother!” “I am not doing that!” “Why do things have to be this way?” “I am not interested at all.” “I would do things very differently.” Or even, “That is great, but not for me.” These are not actual words that appear in my mind, but they represent attitudes that can arise from feelings of disdain, a sense of superiority, a lack of empathy, or an unwillingness to understand others or to learn and contribute positively to a situation.

If I think about it, there are many ways in which my mind can complain, because complaints will manifest in many ways when my mind is set on justifying itself, feeling that it is right, or seeing others as being wrong—same thing. By pointing to these things in myself, it may seem as if I am putting myself down, or being unnecessarily negative toward myself, but in fact, if Shri Mahayogi or a senior disciple talk about the need to work against the “mind of complaint” this must be related to the aim of Yoga, and if this is so, then it is important to know that there is something to work on. Besides, regardless of the person, it is not at all uncommon to have this kind of mind tendency because the ego-mind (the mind that is interested in preserving “me” and “mine” above all else) is always looking for ways to succeed and have its way, and will resort to all kinds of methods to achieve that. So, these complaints, though ultimately not effective, are our mind’s way of believing that it is in control and getting its way.

Nowadays, more than before, I have begun to work on my mind that gets troubled by various things, by facing it. So, recently when I read, “because our minds are clouded by desire and attachments, and therefore unable to perceive Sanatana Dharma [the Truth, or the Divine Essence behind everything],” in the recent blog (Echo from the Cave: 176) about the 5th Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela held on April 3rd, I began to think that it may be the complaints in my mind that cause and sustain my state of cloudiness and attachment, because they keep me from perceiving the Truth—and this, I suspect, may very well be the purpose for the complaints of an ego-driven mind to begin with.

Then, I came to realize clearly that for me, if I truly want to experience Yoga, it is important to get rid of the cloudiness and the attachments as swiftly as I can, so that my mind can take down its defenses and allow me to perceive the Divine Essence behind all, the Guru, the Truth itself. That is why I figure that I need to take the short and precise suggestion of getting rid of the “mind of complaint” as something very serious, as a priority.

What can help build the will to fight a complaining mind? Through constant training, just as how Shri Mahayogi always says, we can fight against the tendency of our mind (a question and answer was recently published on this topic in Pranavadipa Vol. 89), and just as how Sadhya spoke recently at the end of the Asana and Meditation class, about how the mind tries to get out of holding steady in a tight pose and exhaling longer; in asana, through the long and complete exhalation, we can train the mind to go past the fears and concerns that arise when it is pushed to go past its perceived limits (Echo from the Cave: 177). I believe, and we can each test this for ourselves, that by repeating this training in asana day after day, the mind that is attached to fear and comfort gradually begins to loosen its grip. Likewise, in our daily lives, when the “mind of complaint” kicks in, we also need a strategy!

In asana, the prolonged exhalation is not necessarily about putting effort, but more about a gradual surrendering, not of the breath, but of the mind’s thoughts themselves, any thoughts, even the thought of “I am exhaling” or “I am breathing.” So, after learning and recognizing this not long ago, I feel that this repeated surrendering is offering me a clue for what I could do in daily life. During the day, when “the mind of complaint” wants to take over and trick me into becoming tangled up in its complaints, knowing that those complaints are the soldiers of the ego-driven mind and the very obstacles to the Truth, I can refuse to pay them any attention and instead pierce through and dissolve them as I move nearer to the Essence of God, Shri Mahayogi, or any form of the Truth, while seeking the stillness deep within. Just like in asana, in daily life too, I can extend my focus inwards, past the ideas that are on the surface of the mind that creates cloudiness and that holds on to the attachments preventing us from deepening Yoga.

Even from the initial efforts that I have made, I sense that the result of working little by little and continuously against the “mind of complaint” in asana and in daily life, is less reactiveness and less agitation, because as with the army of any enemy, (just like Gopala also talks about in a recent Testimony, Pranavadipa Vol. 87) the ego-mind will start to retreat once it realizes that the uselessness of its plot has been exposed. And, just like in asana, for a new habit to take root, it must be repeated, sustained, tested, and used as a training over and over, every day. That is what I hope to do in order to work against the “mind of complaint.” I must say that, though I never thought about it until really recently, it seems to be that the training of controlling the “mind of complaint” in asana is very necessary and practicable, and the same thing can be said about this training in daily life!

~Karuna

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Echo From The Cave: 177

Thursday April 7, 2022 NYC

This is not a pipe.  1929  —René Magritte

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, April 3rd 2022

Yoga is “Science of the Mind”—Asana, an Instrument
&
Pranavadipa Vol. 89, April 8th, 2022

When referring to Yoga, oftentimes and perhaps especially in modern times, what comes to mind is the practice of various postures—like the asana that we practice during the Asana & Meditation class. But, what we learn from Shri Mahayogi is that originally, and now still, Yoga is actually a science of the mind. And asana is just one part, one practice contained within it. In the class, we practice asana as the preparation for the meditation time at the end.

Perhaps, very often, one of the things many of us may hope for is that, in one way or another, through meditation we may find some peace and calm, or freedom, from the many, many stresses coming from our daily lives. Shri Mahayogi has pointed out to us that everyone seeks for some kind of everlasting happiness, some perfectly peaceful state, or to be free (which could mean from just about anything), which is something we can probably all observe—but as long as we find ourselves still seeking it in various things, it also means we haven’t yet really been able to find it.

From Shri Mahayogi we learn that, since ancient times, the yogi looked into this matter. They found that there is something that seems to get in the way and become an obstacle…and that is the mind. The yogi found that the mind is always getting disturbed by one thing or another—which is what becomes the disturbance we call “stress,” that we are then constantly trying to deal with and resolve. But, the yogi also observed that, if the mind gets disturbed, if it is experiencing stress, there is always a reason for it, a cause. That cause is found within ourselves. And there are various causes that are common to everyone.

To give an example, in the Yoga Sutra, one of the principal texts of Yoga, it is pointed out that attachment towards the things we like and aversion towards the things we dislike are a huge cause of stress. If we like something, we want more of it, want to keep it, don’t want to lose it. If we don’t like something, we want to get rid of it, avoid it, escape from it. All of our efforts to ensure that we can obtain and maintain the things we want, while at the same time, get rid of and stay free from the things we don’t want, keep us busy going to great lengths to try to control situations and circumstances around us that are simply out of our control—stress—and then when things inevitably don’t go according to plan or how we wish for—more stress!!

The yogi found that, if we can observe the cause of that stress within ourselves, then, once we know what it is, we can work to remove that cause. By doing that, little by little, we can experience that this stress can come to be resolved for good, rather than just be temporarily soothed.

One of the big challenges though, is that most of the time we are just in the midst of experiencing all kinds of stresses, worries and anxieties, and immediately look for the cause of it all outside of ourselves—it’s because of the situation I’m in, it’s because of the environment I have to work in, it’s because of all these things that happened to me, it’s because of all the things I have to do, it’s because of that person, etc. And then, more often than not, we try to force changes in those things outside of ourselves. But when it comes to things outside of ourselves, there is always a complex myriad of factors at play, that are impossible to predict as we try to shape and change things according to our wishes and preferences, so inevitably when the next situation pops up unexpectedly, without having made any change within ourselves, the stress that we experience will not have changed either.

It is such a strong habit the mind has, to look outside of ourselves, that it seems to be rather difficult to actually reflect on ourselves, to look for a cause within ourselves, and then change something about ourselves! Indeed, that may be one of the mind’s strongest tendencies to go against. But, through Yoga, through the science of the mind, as Shri Mahayogi assures us again and again, we learn that this is exactly what must be done if we would like to truly resolve and become free from all of our disturbances, or stresses, which Shri Mahayogi and the great Yogi of the past have found is indeed possible and is actually our natural, inherent state.

Here’s where I think the practice of asana is a great help and why Shri Mahayogi teaches it to us as a foundational preparation. Through practice of asana, and the training through focusing on the breath, the way we learn in the class that comes from Shri Mahayogi’s own experience and mastering of asana, gradually the mind can come to settle down, enough to gain a little more clarity. And as that happens, our ability to face, and objectively and scientifically observe our own mind, gradually expands.

There is a question and answer that illustrates the important link between the asana and the focus on the breath in the way Shri Mahayogi teaches us. The following is an excerpt from the exchange of question and answer that arose at the end of the very last class that Shri Mahayogi directly instructed in Kyoto, Japan, back in March 2019. (You can read it and more in this month’s issue of Pranavadipa Vol. 89, published April 8th.)

Question: Shri Mahayogi always reminds us to still the physical body and focus on the exhalation during asana. Please tell us the reason why, once again.

MASTER: In order to realize the Truth, one must control the mind. However, it is very difficult to control the mind. In the scripture, Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, the disciple of God Krishna, asks God Krishna: “Controlling the mind is precisely as difficult as trying to harness the wind; what should I do?” Then Krishna responds, “You can accomplish it through constant discipline and dispassion.” Constant discipline means to train again and again. Study and learning is included in that. “Constant discipline” applies to the whole of practice. And another one is dispassion—it means non-attachment; it indicates that you should make the mind empty as if it were transparent, or create a mind that doesn’t have any obsessions or attachments, like it is empty. Yet it is very difficult to try to restrain the mind. It is there then that the practitioners of Yoga [in ancient times], who had pragmatically mastered it through experiencing the close connection between breath and mind, realized that by controlling the breath, the mind can be controlled. They discovered that rather than trying to control the mind directly, they can first control the breath, and consequently the mind follows; since the breath too is a part of the autonomic system, for example, when emotions are disturbed—excited, angry, or crying—the breath also gets out of order according to the various fluctuations of the mind; it is difficult to always sustain a calm breath, so then, they attempted to control the physical body in order to control the breath—that is how they discovered that through this distinctive method called asana, they can change the rhythm of the breath. Therefore, asana does not merely have the purpose of maintaining health, but its purpose of transforming the breath is hidden within. In fact, if one devotes oneself to practice asana daily for many years, thoroughly and to the hilt, the breath transforms and simultaneously, the mind transforms; the mind becomes such that it does not get disturbed nor is it affected [by anything]; even if some stimuli come, the mind retains its calm, and it always remains the same. This is because the breath does not become disorderly, and simultaneously, the mind too is unaffected. This is the wisdom that has been cultivated through the actual, empirical practice of Yoga. Therefore, the purpose of asana lies in creating this foundation.

If I reflect on what I am being taught through the asana that I am learning through Shri Mahayogi, I have to say that I believe that through continued and correct practice of asana in its original form that Shri Mahayogi teaches, even if there are internal things that disturb our minds, like strong memories that may be invisibly playing into our thoughts and emotions, these too can be affected and transformed through this focus on the breath. There is really probably not much difference between the situations in our daily lives that push and pull us, and the memories that we hold onto that push and pull us.

I am learning through Shri Mahayogi and the teaching of Yoga, for example, that what we consider to be the factual knowledge within our mind, is actually all shaped by our perceptions of various experiences and how we categorize them in various levels of pleasing or displeasing. You and I may encounter the exact same situation. I may experience it positively, and then my mind will categorize it as “desirable.” You may experience it negatively, and then your mind will categorize it as “undesirable.” The situation itself is not necessarily either of those things, but based on each of our experiences, our minds will start to create respective beliefs about the same thing. And we will both believe our belief to be the true one! And of course, every time we encounter a similar situation, we won’t see it objectively at all, but through the lens of the belief we’ve already created. So much content of what is in our mind is created from seeing through these various lenses and establishing beliefs upon more beliefs that come to paint the background of our minds. Memory is the same way, it is just a shadow of a past experience. All of this seems to prevent us from being able to see and understand things as they are.

From what I am being taught through asana, I feel that we really do have the chance to start to challenge and test the validity of what we believe to be true, what we think we understand. We can test out pushing and going beyond the limits that our minds put in place for us, in simple ways. To give an example, with the long exhalation, the sensation may come, I need to inhale right now! Why? Because if I don’t, I might die!! The mind can be very dramatic that way. These aren’t necessarily thoughts or a dialogue that is happening in the mind, but like sensations that, if observed quietly, may reveal these beliefs hiding underneath.

So then, we can challenge those beliefs in the practice of asana itself! Not by thinking or analyzing, but by using the physical body and the breath to do something differently. And see what happens. See if our limits are our limits, if what we believe to be true is true, through action. Observing and testing over and over, again and again. After all, no scientist collects only one sample of data!

We hold onto so many beliefs, including memories, that result in limitation and unnecessary stress for ourselves. Let’s follow the way Shri Mahayogi is leading us and let’s challenge and shake the very structure of that mechanism of the mind through practice of asana!

~ Sadhya

*

To be able to receive this teaching from Shri Mahayogi, and to receive the instruction in asana from Shri Mahayogi, whether we have received it directly from him, or are receiving it from him through his direct disciples, or both—is a BLESSING. No matter the way, it seems the authentic practice of asana coming from ancient times, with its original purpose of transforming the mind, is what Shri Mahayogi is making concrete and practicable for us!

There are many other great teachings coming through the question and answer that continued at the end of the final class that Shri Mahayogi directly instructed in Kyoto, 2019, and in the Satsangha that followed that evening, all of which is now published in Pranavadipa Vol. 89. (Satsangha, which is a gathering of Truth with Shri Mahayogi, has been held regularly in Kyoto, though it is currently on pause until further notice.) And additionally, there are two Testimonies coming from the actual practice and experience of two different practitioners, both of which in different ways give us excellent material filled with concrete and practical examples of what it might look like to further face this mind, the way it can cause us so much trouble and stress, and some very practical ways of working towards resolving these causes in daily life and through meditation.

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Echo From The Cave: 176

Wednesday April 6, 2022 NYC

Celebration:
Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela
—The 5th Grand Ceremony of the Divine Manifestations—

Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Truth always exists as the essence of the entire universe, and all things. No matter which way the world turns, Sanatana Dharma, always emerges, its brilliance shining forth through the sacred forms of the Avatara, the Great Awakened Beings. No matter the era, no matter the form, no matter the happenings, Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Truth, is always there, everywhere and in everything, and it is Pure Joy. That’s a promise.

However, because our minds are clouded with the filter of our desires and attachments, our minds are not able to see that Sanatana Dharma. That is why the Avatara have appeared in the world, to demonstrate Sanatana Dharma so that we can regain sight of It, and taste the Pure Joy that It Is. It is solely because of the appearance of the Avatara, the true Guru of the world, that we can come to know that the Eternal Truth is within us, and can walk the path toward It.

Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela, The Grand Ceremony of the Divine Manifestations, is a great opportunity to acknowledge the existences of the Avatara, including those who have appeared already and those who will appear in the future, and the great works that originate with them. And it is a precious gift given to us by Shri Mahayogi, as it is a time for us to come together, to heighten and expand our aspiration towards the Universal and Eternal Truth and towards all the Avatara who have appeared in this world time and time again for the sake of all of humanity.

On April 3rd 2022, the 5th Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela was celebrated with disciples in Japan, Taiwan and the USA gathering together online at the feet of our Revered Master, Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa.

Seven messages from various disciples of Shri Mahayogi were shared for the occasion, which all came from their experiences of how they’ve been working towards realizing this invisible Truth within themselves and how they’ve been acting on that in turn within the world; regardless of their respective backgrounds and life situations, their experiences of what they have perceived about what Sanatana Dharma is, is coming through the demonstration of the way their ideal Holy Being lives.

All of the messages, full of admiration and gratitude toward the Master and toward the Avatara, expressed firm commitment and devotion to proceed forth boldly towards each of their highest aims, respectively. And each message was inspiring because what each disciple spoke came from their long-time, single-minded empirical practice.

Besides messages, there was a video digest of one of the Divine Plays that was created and performed by the Sangha in Japan, and originally offered during one of the past celebrations of Satguru Jayanti that was held at the Mahayogi Yoga Ashrama in Kyoto. Titled, “A Handful of Rice,” it depicted the story of Saint Sudama, who devoted to God Krishna, portraying the importance of offering pure love to God and the unfathomable Grace of God, both of which bring one towards absolute Joy.

Sadhya, from New York, offered a message titled, Sanatana Dharma and Asana, along with her demonstration of Asana. The concentration and power in her demonstration was breathtaking, suggesting that there is a secret and a deep significance within the Asana that Shri Mahayogi is conveying to us; as Shri Mahayogi has said, “The true meaning of Asana is to abide in Brahman.”

The inspiration we have received from the presence and speeches of each of the seven gurubai will become the motive for us to proceed forward on the path towards our aim. Definitely, Sanatana Dharma Avatara Mela reminds us, deep within our hearts, of what the most important thing is, what’s at the core of the life that we are living, even in the midst of facing the uncertain circumstances of our current world.

It is clear that our work is to grow and establish ourselves more and more in Yoga, so that that bright Light of Eternal Truth, can shine forth. What strength it brings to know the Avatara are always with us, that the Light of Eternal Truth is always with us. The existence of Shri Mahayogi brings us confidence that this is a promise. We should allow ourselves to be concretely led to the Sanatana Dharma that is already unfolding within the shapes and forms of our own life situations.

At the end of Sanatana Dharma Avatara, Mela, we were able to see Shri Mahayogi!!!!!!!

Again and again, we are struck by his overwhelming presence. And in his majestic and unparalleled Siddhasana, the Perfect Seat, Shri Mahayogi offered us his words. Shri Mahayogi is our source of life—if there is anything that encourages us to keep going, it is the presence of our Guru. We are eternally grateful.

I am truly pleased in hearing all the messages,
full of purity, faith and love,
and I feel from them how you’ve matured.
May you all be and come to be shining and flooded with
that which is Holy more and more.
Always, always, I am with you.”

—Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa


「みんなの純粋な信仰と愛に満ちたメッセージの数々、
本当にうれしく、また頼もしく感じました。
今も、そしてこれからも、
益々みんなが聖なる者に、輝きに満ちていきますように。
いつも、いつも私はあなたと一緒にいます」

—サットグル・シュリー・マハーヨーギー・パラマハンサ

Jai Sanatana Dharma Ki, Jai

Echo From The Cave: 175

Monday April 3, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, April 1st 2022

Learning Why We Need to Educate the Mind Through the Teachings of Yoga

It had been over three years, if not four, that I had not visited my parents. Since that time, I have communicated with them and known that their health has been deteriorating rapidly, but when I visited them a few weeks ago, and experienced first-hand their accelerated aging, I was truly shocked. Both of their conditions are manifesting in the mind quite strongly: for one of them the loss of memory is taking place very rapidly, which is triggering quite a severe depression in the other.

Facing the situation was puzzling, overwhelming, and at times exasperating! Even though I felt pretty even-keeled during the first few days, the unpredictability of their minds toward the end of my visit threw me into a type of confusion and, to be honest, despair and sadness. I came back to New York feeling off base and shaken. I felt a deep void, as if I had lost both of my parents, because they were no longer the people that I knew them to be, or the people that I had relied on for so many years. And I realized that I no longer knew how to relate to them. Simply trying to help them cope with daily chores was incredibly challenging because of the sudden ups and downs, changes in mood, lack of clarity, forgetfulness, confusion, and overall difficulty with basic daily life. I came back to New York quite torn inside.

Recently, while practicing meditation at the end of one of the Asana and Meditation classes, with this situation always lingering somewhere in my mind, I was feeling the urgent need to know, “How do I rebuild my relationship with my parents if they are mentally not themselves anymore?” I wanted to find a teaching that could help me move beyond the state of shock and sadness that would not disappear by itself. While focusing on the center of my chest, I kept searching for my parents, or a part of my parents that I could continue to hold and love dearly in my heart. Suddenly, the memory of a teaching of Shri Mahayogi arose from the same point where I was focusing:

“You are not the body that will one day break down and decay, nor are you the mind, constantly agitated and changing. You are the Pure Consciousness that simply knows and sees. That is your true Self. That is God.”   (From “God”, The Universal Gospel of Yoga)

These words that Shri Mahayogi has spoken so many times and are recorded in The Universal Gospel of Yoga, suddenly hit me as more real than ever. When I felt them arising from the center of my chest in meditation, I felt that specific point as the place where I could possibly meet my parents, perhaps even for the first time, in this true Self, in God. When the words came, and my mind received them, I immediately felt ease in my whole person, and the sadness and confusion that had been overwhelming me, lessened greatly. I felt revived and hopeful that if I continued to focus on this teaching, I could find a way to be with my parents and support them through this stage of their lives.

After this meditation, I was more ready to think about what to do, how to proceed. And I decided to consider my parents’ mind state. Their minds and bodies shift from one mood and state to another: from angry to giggly, from talkative to somber and silent, from active to sluggish, and so on, without warning. They worry, experience fear, insecurity, loneliness, boredom, excitement, anxiety, and many other emotions. And the more I thought about them, the more I realized, “My mind is just like that!” And then I pondered, “All minds are like that!”

In a recent conversation among the sangha in New York, Anandamali had reminded us about the parable in which Buddha spoke about the house being on fire—the house is on fire, and the father tried to trick his children to get out of their house, however the children wanted to keep playing with their toys and ignored the father’s beckoning—in the same way, we do not notice that our own house is on fire. After coming to see that the state of my mind is not that different for any of us, even for my parents—how it reacts to the shifting conditions of others and of the world, and can spin out of control—I understood, my own house is on fire! At that moment I began to realize that the fragility of the mind and body that I see in my parents is in me too, and in everyone, because it is the natural state of our mind, which is reactive and in constant change and movement. Perhaps, for my parents, in their old age, it is more amplified and less controllable, and it becomes more radically dangerous. But, I have to let my mind know that unless I do something about the “fire in my own house,” all I will experience is  the body that will one day break down and decay” and “the mind, constantly agitated and changing,” rather than “the Pure Consciousness that simply knows and sees… my true Self… God.” Suddenly, beyond wanting a calm mind for the sake of a calm mind, I felt that this very still and transparent mind is the gateway to the true Self in myself and my parents too, where we can recognize and care for each other, because there is only One true Self, and we are both that One, God. I felt much more aware of and grateful for everything that Shri Mahayogi has been teaching us. The Guru is here to help us become free from the error that we are the body and mind, and to teach us how to go beyond it, and be free once and for all! I need to believe and never forget this! I need to educate my mind!

What about my parents? How do I relate to them? I told myself that their minds are in a very confused state, just like all of ours; but their true Self is intact and peaceful, just like for all of us, even if we do not realize this fact. So, I began to internalize more the idea that if my mind becomes restrained through Yoga, and stops reacting emotionally to external situations, including the state of my parents, the true Self, God itself, would shine through on its own and offer real Peace to others, just like Shri Mahayogi emanates Peace to anyone around him. I also reflected that, if in fact we are the true Self or God and not the mind, caring for my parents or for anyone by alleviating their daily struggles is really caring for and loving God, the most precious Existence, regardless of whether they show understanding or not, whether they are able to show any appreciation or not, or whether my actions solve their life problems or not. I have a sense that this type of action is the most fulfilling action.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Shri Mahayogi says that we must correctly learn, understand, then meditate on this. To my surprise, it is my parents who are giving me the opportunity to learn to educate my mind through the Teachings of Yoga.

~ Karuna

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Echo From The Cave: 174

Sunday March 27, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, March 27, 2022

Life Experiences Are the Ground for Contemplation

We learn from Shri Mahayogi that Yoga is not something that is done at a particular time of day, or something that has to look a certain type of way, but rather Yoga lives in every moment of the day, it is the way of Life itself.

But, what does that mean? And what does it look like?

Going back again to one of Shri Mahayogi’s most fundamental teachings: “The Truth must first be heard, then contemplated, then meditated upon”—it is clear that learning the Truth is essential. Yet, simply reading or hearing the teachings of Truth or of Yoga, doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand them deeply in the context of our every-day experiences, even if the teachings may seem to make sense to us. Here’s where I have started to feel more and more the importance of contemplating the teachings through our own life experience comes into play. Actually, it feels kind of like, while contemplating the teachings, keeping them alive within the mind or heart, we may be allowing the Truth to reveal itself, or teach us, little by little, through our life experiences. And that includes through practice of asana too, which I feel is a mirror given to us to constantly be using to reflect on and look at those life experiences from another angle, another view.

Each one of us is given unique material in our daily lives as the ground for Yoga, for learning and living the Truth. Yet, no one has exactly the same ground—same job, living situation, people around us, responsibilities, etc.—so our material for learning and living the Truth differs slightly (or drastically!) from one to another. Yet, surely we each have an ideal and perfect situation for Yoga, in the scenes and scenarios that unfold in our lives.

~ Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 173

Saturday March 26, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, March 25, 2022:

Reflecting Daily Life in Practice of Asana:
Asana is for Filling Our Heart with Silence

During asana, I have been trying to forget about the body, and instead place my focus much more on the long and complete exhalation. It is very difficult to forget about the body altogether in asana, but because I have come to realize that I really need to work a lot on my mind, this instruction of Shri Mahayogi—“long complete exhalation”—has become a crucial tool. I would like to really experience the transformation in my mind that Shri Mahayogi says can take place if we truly work on this long and complete exhalation.

One of the reasons that I am feeling more urgency to work on my mind at this time is that, here in New York, from this winter in Study in Practice, we have been trying to learn from reading a book of teachings together, like a Book Club of sorts. Last week, a senior disciple mentioned that there is a crucial need of learning how to read. She posed a question: “What does it mean ‘to read’?” On another occasion, she said, “Shri Mahayogi and the scriptures say, ‘Listen to the Truth, think about the Truth and meditate on the Truth,’ and the first part is to listen.”  Actually, I identify this issue within myself, that listening is something that I personally struggle with for certain! One of the fundamental challenges that I face when it comes to reading scripture comes from not being able to truly listen, which is in fact step one in Shri Mahayogi’s simplest indications. So then, the next question was posed, “What is ‘to listen’? Do we really know how to listen? We need to learn how to listen.”

When reading, Where There Is Love, There Is God, the book of Mother Teresa that really inspired me two years ago, I found out that to the Mother listening is absolutely necessary so that we can Love God. In addition, she said that the prerequisite for listening is silence. Reading this at that time made me long to know and reach silence. But recently, I have concluded that my mind, impulsive and active by nature, needs help in this journey toward silence. So, as I mentioned, I very recently decided to use the practice of asana more proactively, in the way Shri Mahayogi has taught us, to give support to my mind in becoming more silent.

During asana, in addition to trying to bring the attention away from the body and onto the breath, I have been reframing the idea of the “long complete exhalation.” I have begun to consider the exhalation as a path or road that eventually leads to complete silence, endless silence. When exhaling along this path, the exhalation can continue, on and on, without end. From the few times that I have practiced this way, I feel a much deeper serenity during and after practice. It brings a sense of continuity between each breath, and between each asana even, which seems to contribute to heightening concentration.

This “experiment” with asana and the breath began very recently. I am hoping that this serenity and concentration will naturally extend on to my daily life at some point and settle in me as silence. I am aware that the most important part is to continue and persevere, every day. To inspire my on-going practice, I went back to the words of Mother Teresa about silence that hold so much meaning for me. I hope they also inspire you to move toward the silence from which we can Love God.

FULL OF SILENCE

I think it is very important: that union with God. You must be full of silence, for in the silence of the heart God speaks. An empty heart God fills. Even Almighty God will not fill a heart that is full—full of pride, bitterness, jealousy—we must give these things up. As long as we are holding these things, God cannot fill it. Silence of the heart, not only of the mouth—that too is necessary—but more, that silence of the mind, silence of the eyes, silence of the touch. Then you can hear Him everywhere: in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, the animals—that silence which is wonder and praise. Why? Because God is everywhere, and you can see and hear Him. That crow is praising God—I can hear its sound well—that stupid crow; we can see Him and hear Him in that crow and pray, but we cannot see and hear Him if our heart is not clean.

—Mother Teresa, from Where There Is Love, There Is God

~ Karuna

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Echo From The Cave: 172

Thursday March 24, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Wednesday, March 23, 2022:

Reflecting Daily Life in Practice of Asana:
Working to Overcome Procrastination

“Whatever you have to do tomorrow, do today;
whatever you have to do today, do this minute.” ~ Swami Turiyananda

This week I have been trying to notice my own habits in asana practice and how those come up for me again and again in other ways, no matter what I may be doing.

Something that I have struggled with all my life, and that I have been trying to work on and change in myself, is the tendency to procrastinate. As a child, I was always asking for five more minutes before doing a chore, or starting my homework, even if I wasn’t really doing anything other than daydreaming at the moment when the task at hand needed to be performed. I find that not much has changed in all the years since then—I still have a tendency to stall and ask myself for five more minutes before getting started. And even though I have been making attempts to force myself to just get up and do whatever is at hand, I am still struggling to fully embrace that instruction of Shri Mahayogi—to just get my mind out of the way and simply and proactively do! I feel this teaching comes up again and again, but it is so difficult for me to learn!

This week, after reading the Blog, Echo From the Cave:  171, written by Sadhya, about learning to listen and working to align oneself with the asana, rather than allowing the mind to feel “I am doing this” or “I am making this pose,” I began to seriously confront this tendency to stall and procrastinate during my own asana practice.

Oftentimes when I am practicing by myself, even if I can maintain my concentration fairly well while I am holding a pose, once I release it I may rest in shavasana for a long time. And when that happens, my mind may start to wander so that I am no longer even really in shavasana, but am simply lying on the mat, and I may become distracted and get lost in my thoughts, completely forgetting that I am supposed to be practicing asana.

While trying to discover how to more fully align myself with the asana, I realized that not stopping for too long in between the poses and not following the thoughts of my mind was important to practice as well…and also that this tendency did not only exist in my practice, but also in how I conduct myself in my daily life. I have been trying to see more clearly how these two reflect each other, and because asana practice is so concrete and involves so much focus, it may be a good place to start training myself to break this habit that is so ingrained in me.

Therefore I have begun to make a conscious effort to limit the amount of time between poses in my asana practice, keeping the teaching of Swami Turiyananda (who was known to hate procrastination) firmly in mind:

“Whatever you have to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you have to do today, do this minute.”

In some small ways, I have started to see some changes in the way I approach my daily tasks. I find I am more likely to remember why I should take action immediately and not put things off until later when it comes to tasks like washing dishes, putting away laundry or other simple mundane tasks. But I still notice other situations where my mind is still begging for those extra five minutes, like when it comes to taking the dog for his last walk of the night or finishing a work project, for example.

Like so many of the changes I need to make to transform my mind, this one does not come easily and requires a great deal of repetition and concentration in order to become natural. As I continue to work on becoming consistent and continuous in my practice, I am understanding more and more how I need to go about battling my mind’s habits. This is just one battle out of many that I need to engage in to move myself closer to the goal of living in Yoga.

~ Prajna

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Echo From The Cave: 171

Sunday March 20, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, March 20, 2022

Reflecting Daily Life in Practice of Asana:
Getting Ourselves Out of the Way to Listen

There is much that can be learned about daily life through the experience of practicing asana. And today I would like to share something that I was reflecting on just this morning as the asana class began. I had been thinking about the participants of the class, the topic of expanding the way we “read”, which we were discussing among some gurubai the previous night as we met for a Study in Practice Book Club, and also how sharing a certain issue I’ve been facing up against within myself and trying to work on might relate and be of some use. And perhaps I am also, in part, encouraged by the timely material I was working on in the editing process for Pranavadipa, our online monthly publication, which, in the upcoming edition, will be a Testimony written by Satya, a disciple in Japan, about her experience and practice of meditation.

*

Not that long ago it was pointed out to me that it would be good for me to focus on practicing “being humble.” Now, this is not the first time that I have been pointed towards this practice, but perhaps I had been overlooking it, or not clear on how to approach it. Anyway, what was shared with me as an important aspect of it is “listening.” And on the particular occasion that this was pointed out to me, well it just so happens that I had not been listening well because I was instead getting caught in my mind’s reaction to what I was hearing. If I’m honest, I think I thought I was listening, but having this pointed out made me have to check myself. What really is listening? How does one listen?

I suppose I can say that when I see a lack of listening in others I can easily identify it, and just like I was reminded, it’s true that the one who is not listening is the one who misses out. But isn’t it always the case that it’s so much easier to see these kinds of issues outside of ourselves than to see them unfolding right within us?! Anyway, I’m sure we can all identify that when in conversation with someone else, when we think we are listening, or even the same goes for when we are reading, whether in a noisy or in a quiet way, the mind can have a lot to say. It has its opinions, it is processing according to its experiences and prior knowledge and views that have developed through those experiences, it wants to assert itself, feel that it understands, or bring up a further point, etc, etc…and sooner or later what we thought we were listening to has come to be neatly fit into our own mind’s world, all the while giving us the illusion that we have listened and understood. Certainly, the mind has various reasons or motives that can come in the way of listening, which I’ve been observing in myself, but that will have to be a conversation for another time.

The bottom line is, for myself, I decided that the first thing I would do just to make some ground for gaining clarity, was to just be quiet. There’s no need for me to say anything, I don’t need to express my opinion, I don’t need to jump to a conclusion, but just simply sit with whatever I am hearing and try to take it in without fitting it into my own mind’s existing story. There’s not a lot more I have to say about this at the moment—this was just a place to begin.

However, that being said, as I was reflecting this morning, the practice of asana and the experience of how it goes, started to reveal an important clue, yet again. This too, is just like practice of asana!

Oftentimes, when it comes to the practice of asana, we can get in to a wave of the mind that approaches it from the notion: “I’m going to do this asana” or “I’m going to make the form of this asana.” But in asana, there is nothing to “do” and there is no form to “make.” From what I experience, asana is nothing like that at all! Asana is not something that needs to be “done” or “made.” Asana is already there, regardless of us. And rather, asana is about using these few ingredients that we have been given—simple instructions, focus on the breath, etc—to bring ourselves to align with the asana. Then, the asana starts to reveal, taking care of itself by itself, in spite of us. But to align ourselves to the asana, there is something we need to let go of, in other words, I feel we need to get ourselves out of the way—and “what gets in the way” can include tensing the body too much as we make efforts to “do the pose,” that can include various concerns and beliefs of the mind, that can include being self-conscious and all that goes along with that…there’s a lot that can get in the way and make us block ourselves from aligning with and coming to get to know the practice of asana itself that Shri Mahayogi so graciously teaches us.

Another way of saying it is, perhaps in the same vein of listening, in order to not lose the opportunity to learn or come to understand something that is not already in the small realm of our minds’ experiences, something that we are lucky enough to have come before us, it’s important to try to quiet ourselves and get our minds out of the way, so that we can try to align and come to understand whatever it is that is being presented to us. It seems that there are many things that are trying to be shown to us all the time, but, just like with asana, we are the ones who need to shift something in ourselves in order to hear and be able to receive that which is being shown, otherwise we just continue to keep ourselves blocked.

Anandamali often reminds us of one of Shri Mahayogi’s most basic teachings: “The Truth must first be heard, then contemplated, then meditated upon.”

What does it mean for the Truth to be heard? What does it really mean to listen and what is required of us in order to make ourselves able to listen? As Anandamali has pointed out to us today, “listen” is such a basic word that we hear from the time we are young children, yet it may be so common that we can easily take for granted or assume we understand what it means or how to do it. Or like me, slip under the impression that we are doing it already. Perhaps, given that this is one of the first and foremost teachings of Shri Mahayogi and a prerequisite for passing to the gate of Yoga, it is an area where we can all step back to and start to reexamine. Indeed, this also relates to something that Anandamali was recently bringing to our attention. Which is that, in the traditional or classical approach, when one is really wanting to learn something, already the mind is prepared to go to great lengths to first find where it can be learned, and then further, to set aside its own prior notions and understandings without objection, all to make way for coming to align with that which is being sought out to learn and know—that is listening.

And finally, there is one last thing I would like to mention today.  It’s a topic that keeps coming up in multiple conversations about a variety of subjects…as if it is being highlighted to me no matter which way I look, like a bright neon flashing sign begging me to pay attention.

“Patience”

Patience, it’s great value, and the importance of cultivating it. I’m sharing it with you now, because I certainly suspect that it is an important message to listen to and another clue for us to follow, whether for developing the ability to listen in daily life situations or for developing the practice of asana. Very often, we are all reminded—be it directly through scriptures or through the Testimonies of various brother and sister gurubai—of the importance of consistent and continuous practice, whatever that practice may be. Perhaps “patience” is an important tool in dealing with our minds as we train ourselves in all varieties of life situations towards “action without expectation of any result.”

~ Sadhya

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Echo From The Cave: 170

Saturday March 19, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, March 18, 2022:

Yoga is Wherever You Are, Whoever You Are With

 Today, I am in New Mexico. This is where my brother and his family, as well as my parents, live. I have not visited them for several years because I felt that I was not ready. To make a long story short, my mind tried to believe that I would not “feel good around them” because being around my family throws off the way I live and feel at ease. But in truth, when I consider what is behind “not feeling good around them,” I realize that it has nothing to do with being disruptive to my lifestyle or detrimental to my well-being, but with thinking of myself as superior to them, protecting myself, judging, blaming or simply disagreeing with their ideas or ways, and therefore, not feeling inspired to be around them. That is how I ended up preferring to stay away from them—that and attaching myself to the idea that made me feel that this was the best decision for me.

In the recent talks at the end of the online Asana and Meditation classes in New York, we have been focusing on Yoga in daily life, as well as asana as a preparation for Yoga in daily life, hearing examples of empirical practices from others. It reminded me of Shri Mahayogi’s words about daily life being the field for practicing and living in Yoga. But even though I have read or listened to this topic for a long time, I am noticing that there is still a tendency in me to become rigid and try to define “Yoga” as something separate from daily life, or as needing its own allotted space and time in my life.

When I decided to come to visit my family, I was uncomfortable because so much in my daily routine, diet, environment and habits had to change. In New York, I have a relatively steady routine around what I consider conducive to the practice of Yoga: I wake up to a short meditation, shower, practice nauli, water plants, eat breakfast, think about a practice for the day, come home, eat early dinner, read scriptures, relax a little, go shopping, talk to a friend, clean and organize, practice or attend asana class or attend a sangha Zoom meeting, prepare lunch for work or dinner…then, the next day, I do more or less the same.

At first glance, there did not seem to be anything wrong with my routine, it has looked pretty good actually. But, when I thought about leaving New York to come to New Mexico, I worried about losing my schedule and not being able to sustain my practice. Even though we have been talking so much about Yoga as an integrated part of daily life, I found myself wondering when I would practice Yoga in my families’ homes in New Mexico!! When I realized that I was thinking this way, I began to suspect that there must be something that I had to correct about my understanding of Yoga and way of living Yoga in daily life.

When I arrived in New Mexico, Echo From the Cave: 161, the blog post from a recent talk (Feb. 25th) at the end of the class, came to mind. In this talk, I had shared a reflection from my work as a primary school teacher and the teaching of Shri Mahayogi: “Make your body, words and intentions in daily life match.” I explained how I had begun to see that even though what my students need the most is “to feel that I genuinely care about them,” what I care for the most was “to be perceived as the one who knows.” I had then reached the conclusion that “wanting to show that ‘I know’ was a stronger intention than wanting to show ‘I care.’” Having had the opportunity to reflect on the lack of coherence between my intentions, words and actions, I decided that I should use this time with my family in New Mexico to try to align these three things in daily life, because doing that may help me integrate Yoga into anything I do, wherever I am and whoever I am with.

As I expected, in the last few days, it has been nearly impossible to adhere to a routine in which I am able to confine “practice” to a set schedule. By not being able to control my own schedule, I saw more clearly how I tend to separate Yoga from daily life, and similarly, how I separate others “outside of Yoga” from me. Knowing that I do not have many days to work on this while I am here, I proposed to myself to stay close to the people around me and simply and actively attend to the need of each moment, one by one. This did not seem so difficult, but at first, I found myself thinking too much about how to show that “I care” more than “I know,” and not flowing with the situations. I also noticed that hiding in my mind there was the wish to come up again with a perfect routine and to sabotage my attempts to simply do what is needed when it is needed. Still, I have kept working on responding in the moment to the person in front of me and on forgetting about what my mind prefers as the perfect scenario, company, and condition for Yoga.

At some point in the last few days, I began to feel the need to be inspired or guided by a stronger understanding, and not just continue to act robotically and incessantly to meet the needs of others. And I began to feel that living in Yoga requires that I forget about myself, and that I am also guided and filled by the Truth inside my body and mind. This conclusion led me to ask myself about the intention behind my idea of “I care.” Why should I act in a caring manner towards others? What is the reason or the motivation for that? Is it simply to be a good person in the eyes of others? Although I was not really guided by a concrete aim when I asked myself these questions, I believe that I was beginning to suspect that I could deceive myself to think that “I care” and in reality be back to wanting to feel “I know.”

At some point, while I was trying to check my own motivations for acting in daily life, the lyrics of the song we sang in New York for Shri Mahayogi, during the Guru Jayanti last year, filled my mind and my heart and gave me a direction, a way to understand and a deeper reason to act for others. These beautiful words reminded me of what Shri Mahayogi has constantly been teaching us.

I invite you to read the fifth verse (and the entire song) again and again as a reminder of what Shri Mahayogi is here to teach us. When these lyrics came back to me, they helped me clarify the Truth and inspired me to aim toward a deeper way of living from this Truth all the time with anybody, no matter where, how or who they are, what they think, say, how they live, if I agree with them or not, if I like them or not—just act from this Truth all the time. I am so thankful for these words in the lyrics!

Seeing only the singular Existence behind all
You show all forms and names as manifestation of One
You say act through pure love and harmony
For all is God, we are all That, Joy permeates

Every single life, so sacred, no one can deny it, just like the sun rises after the night
Every single life, so divine, no one can deny it, just like the sun rises after the night

It is true, it is true, seeing the One shine through all forms
It is true, it is true, your Love imbues all with holiness
It is true, it is true, the invitation to return to pure Joy
It is true, it is true, ever-leading us to salvation

~ Karuna

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