Each summer during the 40 days that precede Guru Purnima, students in the Himalayan tradition are invited to participate in the 40-Day Spiritual Festival, to expand and refine their sadhanas.
This year the 40-Day Festival will begin on 7th June and will end on 16th July, which is Guru Purnima.1
It is a time to contemplate (and talk with others about) the ways you can participate.
“We are all here for a purpose; it is an on-going spiritual process. We are all here for spiritual liberation and serving that mission. For that purpose we are purifying ourselves of our pride and ego. For these reasons we train ourselves in constant self-observation: to see oneself, to hear oneself to develop this internal dialogue. I have used one criterion for all my thoughts, my words, and my actions: ‘Is this conducive to spiritual liberation?'"– Swami Veda
The many presentations,2 sacred ceremonies and scriptural contemplations3 in recent years have pointed to the main focus of this year’s Spiritual Festival, which is the japa of the Saumya-Tara Mantra and the celebration of the Divine Mother in the universe and in ourselves. The Saumya-Tara Mantra was given to us in past years by Swami Veda, and now again, in 2019 by Swami Ritavan to bring loving peace to the collective mind-field: “Saumya-Tara Mantra can be a means for expiation and purification and lead to pacification, a peace that is necessary now and at all times.”
At the 2019 Sangha Gathering (February 25 to March 5, 2019) at SRSG, Swami Ritavan guided the AHYMSIN Sangha into the Saumya-Tara Mantra practice for the next three years. Please see Three Year Mantra Practice, 2019 to 2022 and follow the many links which are included.
The Saumya-Tara Mantra practice is especially propitious, as it reconnects us with Swami Veda’s love for this mantra and the immersion in the energies of the Divine Feminine, as when Swamiji first introduced Saumya Mantra to the Himalayan community in 1999 when he further expanded it in 2012 4 by joining it to it to the Tara Mantra, and when he prescribed this mantra for the Spiritual Festival in 2014.
In February of 2002 Swami Veda spoke these words:
“The swift, yet soft current in the middle of the river is that of Soma – in the whole universe all that brings peacefulness. In the common spoken languages of India we often refer to a person who is very Saumya person. That gentleness shows on his or her face. That gentleness and softness is exuded from his body and from his voice. Such a one does not need to make an effort to ascend, to rise. Such a one simply floats like water filling all the holes and making everything even. Wherever there is disharmony such a one’s presence creates harmony. Where there is strife, such a one’s speech, glance, thought establishes symphony. We seek to be such for in these times there is enough of the exhibition of fire in the world. If each one of us – even one single one of us – becomes a Saumya person, his very presence on this planet can bring about a mildness in the flames of fire….
If you want to know what a Saumya feature is like, [remember] the face of your mother when she was suckling you on her breast and looking down at you. That was a Saumya face. Pray that your face may be seen like that face by all living beings – not only by your family and friends and neighbors and your co-nationals, but all human beings and all living beings. [Let them seek you out]…as hungry children come and crowd around their mother….
So each time you utter the word “Saumya,” let that quality of personality be invoked in you so that slowly, slowly, gradually you may become the source of Saumya forces flowing swiftly, softly. Gently like a breeze made fragrant by flowers . . . [may] others who pass by you smell that fragrance and may their minds become Saumya….
The great divine Mother’s presence has to be invoked and invited to dwell in your body, speech, mind, eyes, even more intensely manifesting…a clear presence at all times. “Saumya, Saumyatara.” Each time we recite these words let these qualities, let these attributes be invoked in you and may the mother who is ever Saumya – suckling all her children, the entire universe after universe – may she descend and dwell in you and look out to the world through your eyes. Saumya, Saumyatara. Hari Om. Hari Om. Hari OM.”
(from “Saumya, Yajna and Yajmin” by Swami Veda on February 10, 2002)
1 As Swami Ritavan has written, “Celebrating Guru Purnima is a joy beyond words, a deep stillness that echoes a wholeness and holiness. A wholeness that provides the answers to our pursuits, our yearnings and reveals a purpose for life. To live and to love with a heart unconditioned by conflict, and a mind, unified beyond division.”
3 SAUNDARYA LAHARI, VERSE 3 by Shankaracharya
avidyānāṁ antas-timira-mihirod dvīpana-karī
jaḍānāṁ chaitanya-stabaka-makaranda-śhruti sṛtiḥ
daridrāṇāṁ chintā-maṇi-guṇanikā janma-jaladhau
nimagnānāṁ daṁṣṭrā mura-ripu varāhasya bhavatī.
Thou art the sun that dispels the darkness of the ignorant;
to the unknowing Thou art a spiritual flower overflowing with honey;
to the needy Thou art the gem which bestows one’s heart’s desires;
and to those who are drowned in the ocean of births and deaths,
Thou art the Rescuer.
SAUNDARYA LAHARI, VERSE 27 by Shankaracharya
japo jalpaḥ śhilpam sakalam api mudrā virachanam
gatiḥ prādakśhiṇya-kramaṇam aśhan ādyāhuti-vidhiḥ
praṇāmas-saṃveśhas-sukham akhilam ātmārpaṇa-daśhā
saparyā-paryāyas tava bhavatu yan me vilasitam
“Oh, Supreme Divine Mother,
Whatever action of mine, may it be intended for and dedicated to Your worship:
may my speech become recitation of Your name as prayer (japa),
may all my actions become gestures of Your worship (mudras),
may all my movements become a circumambulation around Your form (pradakshina),
may all my food and drink become offerings to You as oblations to divine fire (havan),
may all my resting and sleep become prostrations to You (pranam)
may all my worldly pleasures and enjoyments be transformed into acts of devotion to you (seva),
(May “I” become “Thine” and “Thou” become “mine”, O Mother.”)
4The installation of the Tara Shrine took place on March 31st & April 1st, 2012. To appreciate the profundity of this event and its relationship to the Saumya-Tara Mantra, please read the article “The Birth of The Lady of Compassion at SRSG.”
In addition to the practice of Saumya-Tara Mantra, during these 40 days students can choose to intensify their yoga sadhanas and/or make beneficial changes in their lifestyles, in a variety of other ways. Please review what Swami Veda’s suggestions and teachings have been in previous years, including Sadhana in Applied Spirituality and the practice given by Swami Veda on 9th March 2013 for “your next five years and for the rest of your life.”
Prepare a study and practice plan for yourself. If there are instabilities in our lives, they exist, Swami Veda said, not because our circumstances are unstable, but because our minds are unstable. Stable minds, he said, are like soft, gentle ripples in the calm lake which can stabilize all external circumstances.
Some possible undertakings for the 40-day Spiritual Festival:
1. Increasing one’s practice of meditation and japa.
2. Expanding some other aspect of one’s daily yoga practice with subtle relaxations or pranayamas.
3. Studying an inspiring book and applying a principle or practice in it.
4. Implementing an element of yoga, such as a particular Yama or Niyama. “These Yamas and Niyamas are the sure means of advancing spiritually. When your mind is clarified, purified, by the constant application and implementation of these principles, you’ll find that your problems will become less and less overwhelming.” (Swami Veda Bharati)
5. Cultivating positive aspects of mind through such practices as the Four Right Attitudes (brahma-viharas – friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked) or pleasant-mindedness (chitta-prasadana - clarity and purification of mind, making the mind pleasant and clear).
6. Making lifestyle changes so to honor the natural environment – reducing clutter, consuming less, planting trees, simplifying one’s way of living.
7. Making healthier choices in one’s daily schedule in terms of diet and nutrition, sleep and exercise habits and punctuality of meditations.
8. Refining one’s personal relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
In reviewing the guidelines and making your own commitments, please keep in mind your own capacity. Success with a series of smaller goals will lead to greater purification and capacity for next year. Assess your own capacity and do not try to push to complete "on time." Accommodate for your family responsibilities.
Some further suggestions from Swami Veda for stabilizing the spiritual mind-field include:
1. Let your selfless service increase, whether by one percent or five percent or whatever. Increase the time and energy you spend in SELFLESS service of others. That is the first concrete action you can begin with.
2. Refine your personal practices including concentrating more on exhalations. This will help you achieve 2:1 ratio of breathing without physical effort.
3. Review: Read Mind Field: The Playground of Gods . And Marks of Spiritual Progress.
4. Keep your regular meditation time. In addition to that, you may sit at other times in the day. Do not forget to take 2 minutes, 3 minutes breaks, for breath-awareness many, many times in the day.
A group of spiritually-oriented people, thus stabilized, can become part of a larger, stabilized mind-field called a sangha. We are all part of a global network of spirituality in the Tradition, and we can continue to harmonize the mind-field of our community, through our own self-transformation, so that its mission work will be successful.
“We all dream,” Swami Veda has said, “of the possibility of living in a peaceful world. This aspiration can be realized only if we first provide to our very soul, the self, atman, a peaceful home in the mind inside which it lives. That is the essence of our spiritual journey; that is yoga; that is meditation; that is peace in the family, which, then, extends to becoming world peace. We need to keep a diligent vigil, to keep this mind pure and peaceful and clean, to make it progress towards becoming the environment suitable for an enlightened soul. There needs to be sense of continuous progress in us so the world may progress towards peace.”
Lokas samastas sukhino bhavantu
"May the whole world attain peace and harmony."
“May we weave the fabric of spirituality in our lives,
and within our spiritual family – AHYMSIN” (Swami Ritavan)
• Maintain mindfulness and an attitude of self-examination throughout the day. Observe thoughts and emotions asking oneself, “What transgressions did I commit?”
• Where there was fearful or aggressive thoughts/words/actions ask, “What was it in me that evoked that response and reaction?”
• “What right thing that should have done have I omitted?” – replacing such negativity with kindness and compassion. (Refer to Swami Veda’s Yoga Sutra commentary of I:33 on Chitta prasadana.)
• Do Nadi Shodhana (channel purification) 3 times a day.
• Do one to three malas of your personal mantra japa daily.
• For any thought critical of anyone, do 11 recitations of Gayatri.
• At juncture points in your day (or about every 2 hours), sit for 2 minutes, observing the flow of breath in the nostrils and repeating your personal mantra.
• Recite the Gurur Brahma Prayer and the morning and evening prayers .
• Surrender samskaras & random thoughts to the inner Guru.
• Resolve to enter into non-self-centered meditation.
• Om Tat Sat Brahmarpanam Astu – dedicate prayers to the enlightenment and happiness of others.
• Your last formal thought at night should be the Gurur Brahma prayer and entry into meditative mode as you fall asleep. Your sleep will become a meditation. Awaken with a Yoga Nidra practice or simply breath awareness in bed before rising.
• Participate in Full Moon Meditations . "The full moon meditations are an opportunity for us to come together in connecting with the universal mind-field bringing unity, harmony, peace and love. Go into your silence; exhale-release, inhale-accept, forgive & fulfil, with purified heart and mind receive the blessings of the Lineage." - Swami Ritavan Bharati
• A practice of hatha yoga to purify the body, breath and mind. Consider undertaking a practice of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) during these 40 days. Please refer to the section in Swami Veda’s Philosophy of Hatha Yoga in which he writes about asana as worship. Do Joints & Glands Exercises. Use whatever asana practice you undertake as a way to strengthen your link with the lineage through whom all blessings flow.
• If possible do not eat alone. Take a small portion of food and give it to a companion or co-worker. If it is embarrassing and not socially acceptable, then surrender the first portion to the Great Prana of the Universe.
• Recite Grace.
• Eat 5 mouthfuls less than enough to fill the stomach at each meal.
• Eat no solid food after 9:00 p.m. A glass of liquid may be taken at night. Special health and medical situations are exempt. Total fasting is not suggested.
• Try to avoid eating meat or fish during the month although you may serve it to your family.
• Consider taking a vow of one month's celibacy, but only with the happy consent of your spouse.
• Keep a personal journal on subtle violence in personal life, e.g. an unjustified sharp tone of speech, or in using objects obtained by violence and disregard for the rights of other living beings.
• Dedicate 10 percent of your month's income plus one dollar to a charity of your choice, in addition to your usual commitments. Through this ancient Western and Eastern tradition of tithing, one learns the way of giving sacrifice joyfully.
• Look for ways to reduce your possessions, acquisitions and energy consumption at least 10%.
• Conquer anger, laziness and selfish thoughts.
• Vow to give special love to your family and reach out to others, beyond your blocks and fears.
• Experiment with a practice of silence (see Swami Veda's booklet Silence for more about silence). This could be through observing your speech in daily life to see if you are using more words than necessary, speaking louder than necessary and if your tone and voice evokes a positive response in the listener. You could undertake to practice a half day of silence or a longer period. “Silence should not merely be an absence of speech. If it is merely an abstinence from speech it can even be emotionally and spiritually damaging. Unless one has filled oneself within there is no silence. Fill yourself with meditation. Fill yourself with contemplation. Fill yourself with your mantra…” – Swami Veda Bharati
• Take a one or two-day, or longer, personal retreat.
On Guru Purnima day you may decide to undertake further observances of self-purification for next year.
Do please proceed, and may the Guru Spirit
thereby be pleased and confer its grace upon all of us.