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Sangha Practice for the Next 3 Years

by Swami Ritavan Bharati

[This is a transcript of a talk given by Swami Ritavan on 25th February 2019 during the 2019 Sangha Gathering at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama.]

Om yaj jāgrato dūram udaiti daivaṁ tadu suptasya tathaivaiti,
dūraṅgamaṁ jyotiṣāṁ jyotir ekaṁ tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu.

Tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu is the essence of the teachings in many ways. Many of you have heard Swami Rama say ‘all of the body is in the mind’ so this understanding that, yes, this personality is more than feeding the body, taking care of the body, for I am a mental being, and the ways in which this life of the mind unfolds are the secrets and the mysteries of yoga.

This morning we have spoken how the Tradition is one of meditation; the Tradition is one of transformation of the mind. Those qualities of the Prakriti and its first devolutes as its gunas, sattvic guna, rajasic guna, tamasic guna, and in that sense the sattvic, the rajasic and the tamasic mature into further evolutes by which the mind and that mind as senses, perception and cognition the very essence of the ahamkara, the I maker, and the buddhi, the intelligence.

So such a manner of understanding one’s personality is key and core to living life and a life worth living. The essence of Swami Veda’s teachings is citta-prasadanam, making the mind a pleasant place, and it is only through that constant maturing of that faculty of mind that mind is left behind. No longer needing this vehicle, you have taken the boat from one shore to the other, and you are free. Free to now leave mind behind, yet use it as accordingly as you wish, as you give the intention from that higher mind of buddhi.

This is the essence of sacrifice, knowing how to first understand the qualities of mind, regulate those qualities, control them, and in that way transform them to allow the buddhi to be the instrument reflecting the ātman, and so you become a being of light, yet you carry on with your day’s activities. You, receiving the light of the soul, carries that into all your actions and that illumines the words of your speech and sanctifies the thoughts of your mind, and thus we understand through this principle the art of worship, the method of sacrifice, and the two together become the constant yajna, the constant way in which reverence is paid by all your actions or your thoughts and words being offered as svāhā, not me and not mine.

We have a beautiful example of that in the Bhagavad Gita and, of course, with Swami Rama’s explanation of the Bhagavad Gita. [Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad-Gita by Swami Rama] In the third chapter, verses 10 through 20, are the essence of sacrifice, the essence of worship, the essence of understanding the role of mind and thus the freedom from the bondage of mind when we look at that particular verse.

There are three types of yajna. These are performed with the goal of sacrifice in that you give up the fruits that you have received, and these practices bring value to your life as non-attachment. Ordinary people go about their day’s activities, and thus their oblations are into a fire of pleasure. It is only those that perform without attachment that these activities become austerities, and in so doing the fruits are no longer binding.

I said, a couple of years ago I think, to Jan and Lori, we introduce the verse 27 of the Saundarya Lahirī for the sangha community in Minneapolis, and this particular verse is a preparation for further Shri Vidya practices for it sets the mind’s framework of understanding sacrifice. Understanding the way in which japo jalpaḥ śilpam sakalam-api mudrā-viracanā that all my speech, all my moving about throughout the day, all my satisfying the hungers and lying down at night to find rest, each and every action, thought and word, are offered to Thee, O Divine Mother.  If this is an attitude for your life, no doubt Mother will embrace you with her love, speak to you in the mysterious words of silence and this will open your heart.

Then this year we have moved to the third verse that we use also in our evening prayer, ‘avidyānām-antas-timira-mihira,’ where my actions are no longer binding, for I am no longer grabbing for the pleasures of the fruits, satisfactions that are simply moment to moment, temporary pleasures and in my pursuits of knowledge, even there I am stuck. I am searching, and yet I find in Mother the flower that has the sweetness, and that honey is the satisfaction of Mother’s love. And those of us that are now on the spiritual path, having matured with the citta-prasadana, having practiced svadhyaya, constant japa and self-reflection, then in there is one knot to untie, the knot of samsara, that though I have lived a life with a spiritual nature I have not yet reached the other shore, and I am yearning for that final cutting of the bondage, and in that way Mother will deliver. These are the sacrifice, these are the yajña of life that we will perform as a worship tomorrow and each of the days following until we bring the purnahuti, the conclusion and the continuation for, as a collective sangha, collective mindedness, we will engage in the special mantra that is given as the initiatory mantra when the priest tomorrow will say, who will take the sankalpa, each of us will take it in our own way, and I will represent all of you at the yajña to, you might say, impregnate it with that mantra that I will carry like a child for three years until we come together again for the final pūrṇāhuti at our next sangha. Along the way you will have the opportunity to keep that subtle connection like a foetus with the mother through the japa of the special mantra.

This mantra from the Caṇḍī text is again one of our Tradition. Swamiji, as Stoma knows, recited verses from the text everyday of his life, the Devī Māhātmya text, or the Caṇḍī.  It was a way by which his personal sacrifice, worship, his internal yajña and offering to the Divine Mother through the mantras of that prayer recited mentally, and he would judge both his physical and mental health by the time that it took for him, for it was a regular practice that had a regularity of a certain amount of time, and every so often he would say, I must not be feeling well today; it took me 20 more seconds. It wasn’t that he was identifying with an illness, but he was identifying with the mind having some difficulty, some length of an extra moment or two to recite about 700 verses, the same size as the Bhagavad Gita. Don’t worry, you are not going to recite all those verses, but there is one in particular that was his favourite for he talked about the moonlike, cooling and soothing presence of Mother as Saumya. Actually even before the giving of the mantra to us originally at the 1999 gathering to bring in the new millennium, as a householder, he and his wife Lalita, chose that particular name for their third child, Saumya, so in that sense there is a real connection to understanding what it means both as a name, both as a spiritual practice, both as a way in which the sangha that truly became his expanded family.It is so near and dear to him to give that name and that mantra for us now once again.

Coming back to the yajna that will start tomorrow, you will see on your schedule the practice from after breakfast, you can come over, continuing with the pujas, the formalities of calling the divine forces, and in that way establishing those special relationships by which that divinity, those forces are present with us, and then each day the puja or the offerings, the worships that are done to strengthen those relationships to bring forward the way in which the maturing of a spiritual relationship with divinity will no doubt bring its fruits. Yet for us as sadhakas we will see how it will embellish the sattva of our minds, and through the mantra the essence of that sattvic mindedness will mature now, day by day, month by month, year by year. I will invite you to either in our library, our guest library next to our dining room, to look through the Yajña booklet, or you can purchase one for a minimal cost in our bookstore, which will explain a little more about the theme of the sacrifice, the yajña, as well as having some additional verses of the third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita associated with sacrifice.

Before imbuing the mantra, you will be receiving this, so I won’t actually go over the details of it, but it is the assimilation of some comments Swami Veda has made, some lectures he has given, some writings he has done on the saumya mantra. Over the years we have also used it during our 40-day practice to give it a little extra booster done each year leading up to Guru Purnima. The purpose of the observation is to establish and enhance peacefulness in the hearts and minds of Gurudeva’s disciples and thereby to strengthen the bond of a good heartedness among all beings for the pleasure of the Guru.

Guru prītam-artham. We will say that as part of our sankalpa.

For the Guru’s pleasure. For the Guru’s spirit guidance. For the Guru’s Grace.

The mantra is addressed to the Divine Mother, Saumya, in her moonlike peaceful presence. This particular observation over the next three years is to bring about the peacefulness, not only in each one’s mind, but then radiating that, applying that fruit of your sadhana to your family and then expand that to your students and continue expanding that through the samasṭi-citta, the universal mind, with that sentiment of svāhā, not me and not mine.

Now in preparation for receiving the mantra and in imbuing the mantra with the energy that it can provide. The normal rule is that while observing this practice you should refrain from confrontational or controversial engagements. Confrontational, controversial, in the sense of setting resistances and encouraging resistances. In the sense of creating boundaries and also the mental boundaries that you will find when you deny something or when you justify something and not be open to a correction or not be sensitive to others that may have a different understanding of your action and may question your intent. So these attitudes would go along with the practice, the constancy of observation and purification. Even though we declare the purpose is without accepting the fruits of the practice we surrender to divinity with the sense of Guru prītam-artham.

It is the intent of self-purification that you have requested and collectively undertaken this observation. It will go on to explain a little of the psychology also of the sattvic nature of these subtle changes that you will have with your attitudes and your mental processes along with your emotions.

The first line

The word itself saumyā saumyātarā śeṣa saumyebhyas-tvati-sundarī.

Saumyā the feminine word for the soma like lunar qualities and attributes. She the lunar one, the moonlike peaceful and kind one.

Saumyātarā: even more peaceful than the brightness of the moon and in that way she is even more beautiful than all the forces of nature that bring a peaceful contentment and satiety.

The second verse:

Parāparāṇāṁ paramā tvameva parameśvarī.

Parāparāṇām: all things of the transcendent nature. The realities that are of the other shore. She transcends even those transcendental forces as well as the imminent forces. She alone a supreme lady is the one who will guide us to moksha and so the ultimate goal in the Indian psychology is a spiritual one.

The highest is to leave mind behind, the state of amanaska yoga or asamprajñāta samādhi, yet immediately leading up to that state and stage of your meditation is viveka-khyāti, the raining of wisdom. It is like the cloud has been removed for in that rain intuition arises. The beauty of mind is truly understood through that god-given knowledge and before even this we must learn to cultivate the sattvic mind. Once again, we come back to the Bhagavad Gita for the understanding of the three gunas and in that way begin to find these relationships in our personal psychology by which subtle changes can be both made and understood. So, in the 14th chapter, the 17th and 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. 3rd, 14th, 17th and 18th chapters, so remember these for your reading and reflection.

Now in preparation for the mantra we will take the 3 minutes meditation bringing our minds into that harmony and unity and then there will be these 3 steps.

One: I will say the mantra and in that space of purity, calmness, to be the receiver of that flow of grace. You will hear and receive the mantra as it is recited three times.

In the next three recitations, you will also recite it in your mind along with me.

In the third set of the three recitations, you will move the lips and the tongue, but do not bring the voice forward for the spoken word.

In the final, we will say together out loud in one voice the Saumya mantra, reciting it three times.

As we prepare bringing our minds awareness to the Guru’s space and place, the place and space in which now Guru sits. Exhale and empty, letting go.

The breath of life breathes through you. That gentle rhythm and flow, exhalation followed by inhalation without a pause or break. Centring the mind with your personal mantra with or without the breath. Word mind mantra flowing as a single stream of awareness. Follow the mantra back to the bindu, the still point merging in silence. Now carrying that bindu point to the yajña centre and now follow upward the centre of the forehead, three digits above the yajña centre. A presence, the bindu, in the Guru chakra. Ask for Guru’s blessings to receive Guru’s grace. Becoming a child of innocence. And now listen.

Saumyā saumyātarā śeṣa saumyebhyas-tvati-sundarī.
Parāparāṇāṁ paramā tvameva parameśvarī.
Tāre tut-tāre ture svāhā

[Swamiji recites this three times in each step, so nine times.]

Continue in your meditative state with your mantra or your personal mantra and then each of you will come up to receive the handout and the shawl. The shawl of Mother Divine wrapping you and wrapping your mind in that peaceful harmonious pleasure of moksha, liberation.

[Picture taken by Stephen Parker (Stoma)]



The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation

Purification of Thoughts     Dhyana    Mindfulness
Japa     Dharana     Shavasana
Breath Awareness     Qualified Preceptor
Guru Disciple Relationship     Unbroken Lineage
Yoga Nidra     Silence Retreats     Full Moon Meditation

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