by Manuraj (Maynard Speece)
“A mind expanded by a new idea never returns to its original shape.” We can all relate to the truth of this famous quotation attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes. We each encounter ideas and events in our lives that change and transform us in ways, such that we can never return to the person that we were before the event. This happens to all of us no matter where we live or what we believe. It is an easy exercise to see our lives from a perspective that we are continually flowing from innocence to experience and from experience to understanding. Good or bad. Whether it is tying our shoe for the first time, driving a car, getting married, or the death of a loved one, we can’t return to our previous innocence of not knowing. You can only be a virgin about something once. I believe that this truth of life happens in a most profound way when we are introduced to the yoga science of the Himalayan masters.
It seems likely that most of the people that have ever lived, including you and me, have asked, “Who am I? Why am I here? Where will I go? Does my life have meaning, does it have a purpose? Of course philosophers and thinkers have each in turn tried to answer these questions. Western culture looks as far back as the great Greek philosophers of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and works its way forward in time through the Romans, the Sufis, the European thinkers and so on. These philosophers each espoused their own musings on life and death, love, and the politics of government. The sciences of psychiatry, psychology and even quantum physics have attempted to answer the same eternal questions. Yet, it seems to me that whatever their insights, we, who are seekers of the answers to the questions of life, remain unsatisfied.
We remain unsatisfied because they are just opinions. And the opinions of others are just that, the opinions of others. They are not ours and can’t help us much. We are still innocent about the answers to the questions of, “Who am I? Why am I here? Where will I go? Does life have meaning, a purpose?
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, the roof, even, of the world comes a man with the answers to the questions.
The man is Swami Rama.
He came to the west on a mission, sent by his master, to share the teachings of the Himalayan masters. A perennial philosophy faithfully and carefully handed down from master to disciple for over five thousand years. Teachings that reveal the methods that will lead each of us to the answers for the questions of life…for ourselves.
And our innocence is lost.
We can never return to the innocence of borrowing the opinions and beliefs of others about the meaning of life because we have been given the tools to actually discover the answers. The use of the tools, the methods of the science of yoga show us how to live life, how to understand death and what happens, how to be, and the achievement of knowing our selves on all levels is the purpose of life and why we are here! The remarkable thing about all this is that what Swami Rama teaches can be verified by each of us. This moves the teachings from opinion to spiritual fact. We can each discover the truth of the teachings for ourselves. It is the commitment to these practices of the science of yoga that can give our life real meaning and how to be.
And we know that the teachings are authentic, that these are in fact the answers to the perennial questions of life because he stood in front of us and proved it. Having been innocent that this was even possible, we now have the duty to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. We can’t pretend that we don’t know because now know, that we truly do know.
The innocence is not ours alone. Each human being is innocent of the truth of life until taught. Every great saint and master was once a student just like us. They each had family histories, some good, some bad. They each had to fight with negative thoughts and negative emotions and yet they persevered. They accepted the responsibility to keep trying in spite of their many mistakes and eventually became masters of them selves.
It is left for us students to remember the masters of our tradition. We honor them each July on the full moon. That moon is called Guru Purnima (the moon of the Guru). We gather at IHT to share our memories of Swami Rama and Babaji. To honor them as best we can, and to recommit to our practice as best we can. Students have been doing this for five thousand years and we are privileged to be part of that tradition.
The teachings that guide us in our study of yoga science taught in our Tradition have always seemed to be quite unique to me. I have been an avid student of the Upanishads, Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita for well over thirty years. I have never seen the truths and real-world application of the practices taught else whereas they are taught by the Masters in our tradition. Swami Rama wrote more than 25 books to express the teachings in a variety of ways and in different formats. I want to share just some of them for the benefit of those that have never seen them and for the benefit of all of us that need consistent reminding.
To prod us to remain steady in our sadhana he would say, “All the great sages say you can never attain anything great by fulfilling your desires alone. “Selfishness contracts the personality and the law of life is expansion.” “Sadhana is inevitable. You must take responsibility for understanding yourself. You must really want to train yourself. The inner method of self change is not taught in the outer world. This internal method you must discover for yourself. The whole secret of learning about yourself is to not fight yourself but simply allow yourself to know. To do that you need to create a real and sincere motivation for self-improvement.”
And, “Whatever you do, whether it is the kind of clothes you wear, the way you walk or the way you talk, don not do it for others. You lose touch with yourself. Then you don’t do what you really value. Then you are no longer living for yourself you begin to live for others in a very negative way.” And this, “Your negative thoughts often involve going back into the past, you remember the events of the past and then think you are bad. You identify yourself with your past actions. The sense of identification with the past has always been a human weakness. The moment you decide that you are not going to repeat actions that are unhealthy for you or your growth, then you are free.”
Swami Rama repeated many times, in many places these thoughts; “This is the important question, when people try to give you their anger or negative feedback why do you accept that? You accept it because you do not have self confidence, you do not accept yourself and know deep inside you that you are good. You do not really know yourself. In your heart of hearts you should never accept negative suggestions from those who are near you. This can create a very serious problem for you.”
He would say, “Without investigating or inspecting yourself you don’t know who you are. And how can you fix something if you don’t know where to look?” “Habit patterns are well established, seductive and comfortable. The irony is that the very things we seek to avoid are the most crucial to our awakening.” “Relationships and situations repeat themselves because uncomfortable relationships and situations represent the barriers to our freedom.”
Each of us can be tempted to blame others for our situations, for our conflicts and problems. Guruji says, “Each soul chooses the parents and family situations he or she needs, the role in society and the mix of comfort and discomfort to provide the perfect opportunity for progress on the path toward freedom. Remember that you have chosen this life. You have moved toward this moment of discovery in your journey. This is the perfect time for you to live in the world to make spiritual progress. The people in your life, your parents, spouse, friends, colleagues, are perfect for your growth.”
Guruji’s master, Babaji (he is not the Babaji referred to in Yogananda’s book) gave these four guidelines for our sadhana. “Have a desire to meet and know God. Have no selfish desire to acquire things for yourself. Give up all greed, anger, and attachment. Practice meditation regularly.”
Its also worth remembering that our task is the quality of our effort alone. Guruji said, “The fruits of your efforts are the province of the Divine and it is thievery to offer none of it back because we had no role in it.”
At this time of Guru Purnima it is natural to yearn for a tangible feeling of the lineage of the masters. To experience their presence in us. You can, every time you repeat your mantra. To me the initiation into our Tradition and your guru mantra are the gift of a lifetime. You are strumming the chord that connects us to the sages and the Divine when you repeat the vibration of your mantra.
Guruji said this, “In the beginning, the mantra will frequently be deflected by the mind. But when the mantra becomes established, when you receive its vibrations, when you really start feeling it, its effect is very strong. Your whole being absorbs the strength of the mantra and you are transformed by it.”
“Mantra shakti (power) has an amazing effect. By practicing mantra faithfully, sincerely with utmost devotion regularly, your whole being and your personality are permeated by the mantra. This spiritual practice opens a whole new fantastic view of life. Mantra overpowers your existence and gradually opens the gate of higher awareness. By its constant practice your whole being begins to reverberate, pounds and resonates with the sound of the mantra. You can hear it echoing in every cell and tissue of your body, even though you are not repeating the mantra verbally. Your mantra is a link between you and the cosmos, between you and the deeper mysteries of the universe. Gradually your mantra takes you deeper and deeper, unfolding the many layers which exist between you and the Self. Then every situation in life becomes joyous. No problem of this world can be a source of pain and unhappiness, because you achieve total balance.
By mantra’s practice, the immense reservoir of power hidden within you is released and changes begin to occur within you that seem miraculous. All your fear, anxieties, worries and doubts are removed and you become a dynamic, joyful, successful person in life. Also you receive supreme joy, spiritual inner strength, unalloyed felicity and infinite internal peace. By mantra shakti you get deep inner sight, intuition and communion with God.”
This is the profound movement form innocence to experience and from experience to Understanding. The master’s removal of our innocence is a debt that cannot be repaid. By his loving touch we cannot go back to what we were before. What he has taught was taught to him, and what reshaped him has reshaped us setting us on course to meet the Lord of Life that lives within each of us. This is our Tradition and what we honor on Guru Purnima.
Guruji always spoke of his master Babaji with love and reverence. If you read his book,
“Living with the Himalayan Masters” you can read his masters words and hear them echoed in Guruji’s many writings. About self discipline and will power his master would say, “You only know how good it feels to do something, you don’t know how good it feels to not do something.” And his guidance for sadhana was summed up this way, “Don’t do what shouldn’t be done, don’t think what isn’t helpful.”
There are several streams to be crossed on our paths to Self-realization that are best crossed by surrender. Babaji and Guruji often emphasized the importance of performing our duties and practices with faith, love, and sincere devotion. What greater offering can one make than to surrender to the teachings and the Lord of Life?
Babaji said, “Detach yourself from this mundane world and be linked to the Beloved. Offer your soul to the Lord.” “As I went to see my Beloved, He asked, ‘Who is that standing at the entrance to my shrine?’ I said, “Thy lover Lord.” The Lord said, “What proof can you give?” I said, “Here is my heart on my palms and tears in my eyes.”