The 40-day Spiritual Festival is a time period when students in the Himalayan Tradition are invited to undertake special spiritual practices to refine their meditations and lifestyles in preparation for Guru Purnima. The tradition of the 40-day Spiritual Festival was started many years ago by Swami Veda Bharati, who was then Pandit Usharbudh Ayra, at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. The 40-day Spiritual Festival will start 1st June 2014 and go until 12th July 2014, which is Guru Purnima.
Swami Rama has said, "This day, the day of Guru Purnima is considered to be the holiest day for the students of life; for those that have been treading the path of light; for those aspiring to attain enlightenment in this lifetime. They remember this day and celebrate it by becoming aware the purpose of life is to attain enlightenment; the state of mind, the internal state that makes one free from all pains and miseries. So as you celebrate other days like Father's Day, Mother's Day, this is a little bit different, it is very auspicious. The student mentally, religiously follows the spiritual teaching imparted by the Tradition. For the Tradition is considered to be highest. It is a Tradition that follows truth that leads one to the highest peak of wisdom."
The articles following this letter have been prepared by Michael Smith and include guidelines given by Swami Veda in previous years. Thank you, Michael!
For the 40-Day Spiritual Festival, The Meditation Center community in Minneapolis will be using Saumyā Mantra. If you would like to do this too during the 40 days, please see the Saumyā Mantra section below.
We invite you to read or re-read and contemplate:
• Swami Veda’s Lectures at the 2013 Sangha Gathering: http://ahymsin.org/main/swami-veda-bharati/swami-veda-bharati-s-lectures-at-the-2013-sangha-gathering.html
• Swami Veda’s Last Statement before Taking the Five-Year Vow of Silence: Practice for the Next Five Years and the Rest of Your Life: http://ahymsin.org/main/practice/practice-for-the-next-five-years-and-the-rest-of-your-life.html
May these 40 days be a true celebration.
Each summer, for the AHYMSIN community there is an opportunity, with the 40-Day Spiritual Festival, to expand and refine one’s sadhana. This year the 40-Day Festival will begin on 1st June and will end on 12th July – Guru Purnima.
It is a time to contemplate (or talk with others about) the many ways you can participate. You might read over what Swami Veda’s suggestions have been in previous years and also what his recommendations are for the next four years in his books: Sadhana in Applied Spirituality and the Shiva Sankalpa Sukta.
During these 40 days, yoga students can choose to intensify their yoga practice and/or make beneficial changes in their lifestyles, in a variety of ways. Here are just a few:
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.
5. Cultivating positive aspects of mind through such practices as the Four Right Attitudes (brahma-viharas) or pleasant-mindedness (chitta-prasadana).
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.
If there are instabilities 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. 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 our task during this 40-day Spiritual Festival is to continue to harmonize the mind-field of our community 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."
Self-Examination, Sadhana Practice, Meditation & Mantra Japa
• 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 prasadhana.)
• 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 & 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.
• 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 where he talks about asana as worship. 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.
To further deepen your practice
• 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 book Song of Silence: Subtleties in Sadhana for more details). 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.
• 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.
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.
Saumyā Mantra (See below)
• Saumyā Mantra Pronunciation & Translation from Stoma
• Saumyā Mantra Translation & Explanation from Swami Veda
• “Saumyā Mantra Practice” from Pt. Dabral
In 1999, in anticipation of the Maha Kumbha Mela, Swami Veda announced the undertaking of a special mantra, called Saumyā Mantra. Swamiji’s continued to encourage the practice of Saumyā Mantra for another two years.
In a series of letters, Swami Veda addressed the AHYMSIN community, as “Dear Fellow Beings of Peace and Light” and initially said that from time to time, the spiritual traditions advise that seekers (sadhakas) undertake special acts of self-purification and prayer – practices, periods of observances such as japa to accomplish a certain purpose within one’s own person or for one's own family, or someone else's, or even for an association of disciples and similar other purposes. He said that we needed to intensify our interior peace so that we may share it with our fellow beings and that the only way to do that was by prayer.
Swami Veda said: “Even though we have declared a purpose for that observance, we do it without expectation. We do it simply as surrender to the divinity. It is Guru Prityartham, that is, “for the pleasure of the divine Guru spirit,” to invoke the Guru spirit’s grace. It is with this intent of self-purification that I have requested that all collectively undertake this observance.”
He asked us to please put in some effort to encourage and inspire as many students as possible to share in this wonderful endeavour . . . for the collective peace, and collective good. Surrendering it all to the Guru spirit.
And he said that “the normal rule is that while such an observance is going on there should be no controversial or confrontational thought, not even a thought, let alone a word or action on the part of those who are undertaking it.”
These are some of the blessings with which he closed his letters:
May your innermost light that never dims radiate its brilliance to enlighten many.
Do please proceed, and may the Guru Spirit
thereby be pleased and confer its grace upon all of us.
Now, again this year, for the 40-Day Festival, The Meditation Center community will practice Saumyā Mantra, the purpose of which is "to establish and enhance peacefulness in the hearts and minds of Gurudeva’s vast discipleship into a relationship of harmony, and thereby to strengthen a bond of good-heartedness among all beings radiating first into the personal family, then into the entire Guru family, and then into the larger global family.”
सौम्या सौम्यतरा शेष
परापराणां परमा त्वमेव परमेश्वरी॥
saumyebhyas tvati sundarī
Click on this link for Swami Veda’s Pronunciation of Saumyā Mantra:
This mantra is addressed to the Divine Mother as Saumyā, Divine Mother as cool, gentle, moonlike peacefulness. It is used as a special mantra for the cultivation of these aspects of personality. The mantra occurs in Caṇḍī, or Devī-mahātmya, (I.62 or 71, depending on the edition) an important text in the tantric part of our tradition.
Although the mantras are done for their sound vibration, they may carry a translation. There may be translations within translations going down to thousands of depths. I will give you here the shallowest level of translation:
The first word Saumyā is a feminine word referring to soma-like, or lunar qualities and attributes. Saumyā: she of the lunar aspect, moonlike, peaceful and kind. Saumyātara: even more lunar and peaceful than the moon itself. Here there is a linguistic little secret. There is a hidden ‘a’ in a shesha saumyebhyas: She is even more beautiful than all lunar like forces and peaceful entities combined in the entire universe. So, breaking down the first half of the verse word for word it reads, Saumyā, saumyātara, ashesha, saumyebhyas, tu, ati, sundari.
The next half of the verse is as follows: Paraparanam, parama. Parama: supreme one, transcending. Paraparana: all things of the transcendent realities and the realities of this shore as experience in the world. She who transcends even the transcendent forces as well as immanent forces. Tvam eva: thou alone. Parameshvari: O Supreme Lady. Tvam eva parameshvari: Thou art the Supreme Lady. Thou alone art the Supreme Lady who transcends all transcendent realities and immanent forces.
May the Guru Spirit thereby be pleased and confer Its grace upon us all.
Swami Veda Bharati
Swami Veda has announced he would like the students in our tradition to do a special mantra for one year beginning January 14, 2000 and ending at the Kumba Mela in Allahbad, India on January 26, 2001.
It will be very useful for individuals, for their mind, for their entire environment and surrounding. It is a way to bring harmony and peace within, all the time, no matter what the circumstances are, which seem to be very hard at that moment. After that practice it brings a capacity, and takes you to that state where you have that harmonious state of mind. No matter what goes on in the outside world, will not bother you. That's why he specifically picked up this particular mantra.
It's invoking the divine Shakti, the mother power within, which is the power of equanimity and equilibrium within. Saumyā is a word in that mantra which comes 3 or 4 times. Saumyā means the nature of the yogis, the highly elevated souls. Saumyā means there is a satisfaction, a contentment, a state of equilibrium, of equanimity, with such a love in their faces. By looking in their faces you could see, you could feel, you could experience that state of saumyā. Saumyā is a state of mind, a state of body, a state of your breath. If you continue to repeat this mantra you bring this state into your lives. That saumyā is a force in the universe that is indwelling in us, in one who is practicing this very mantra.
So what happens? You become saumyā. Each mantra has its force, its formation and that force and the presiding forces within the mantra dwell in you. When they start dwelling, what happens? You become that particular force. Then you erase all the impurities, all that holds you back, such as anger, jealousy and hatred. With these impurities you immediately get angry, get tense, which is not such a good thing to keep. That gets eliminated by that force which is dwelling by repeating this mantra. So when you become saumyā, then you don't lose your temper, you don't lose your nature even though there is a situation for you to be very angry. But somehow without any effort, you will not get angry, you will not get mad. You don't have to make an effort, it just becomes like that.
The Meditation Center in Minneapolis is going to put the same mantra with the sound on the website.
Speed comes actually not with rushing or repeating the mantra quickly. It shrinks and becomes one unit that you no longer repeat syllable-by-syllable. When you have concentration, when your mind is familiar with the sound – just as your name comes spontaneously to your mind – you don't repeat it in your mind one-syllable-by-one syllable, it just comes as one unit because it is familiar to your mind. That's how you do the long mantras in a short time. Concentrate on it and concentrate on your breath and then start repeating.
Mantra is already there. Once you repeat a mantra then it becomes a samskara. It means the sound and the words have already gone into your unconscious mind. When you repeat it again and again and while you are practicing, it becomes a permanent and very firm samskara. Those who do it quickly recall that samskara and it just comes. You're not doing anything. You recall and your chitta starts pulsing from within. It's like an incident or an episode that happened in your life. The episode is already done and you sit down, recall it and the whole episode comes to your mind. Just by remembering it you play it like a movie. It goes through each and every single dialogue or steps and what was said and what happened exactly. That's how mantras are supposed to go. That's why we say to repeat your personal mantra as much as you can, frequently, so it becomes a samskara in you.
You are making yourself as saumyā as possible so that when you become saumyā, your surroundings start to become saumyā. It has to be very strong before you can expect that to happen. You don't have to do 3 malas as suggested by Swami Veda because there is a certain number he would like to complete. Most of us don't have the time and capacity, so don't ever feel pressured. The quantity doesn't matter as much as the quality. Try to do at least one mala a day and see what it does in your practice. Do it every day for one year, whether it brings saumyā to others or not, but at least certainly it will bring that to you and to your practice. That is something you can count on, and you could be very proud. If it brings harmony and peace to individuals, then that's how each individual will become saumyā.
Are you all ready for tomorrow morning? Knowing the purpose of the saumyā mantra, with excitement, wake up in the morning, clean yourself, do your hatha yoga, do your daily practice. Then invoke the presence of the lineage, do the sankalpa and start doing saumyā mantra.
These purush-charanas are more powerful as the number of repetitions increase. Swami Veda asked me to encourage people to do at least three malas a day. Aim or have the attitude that “I will do.” With that attitude, you automatically will find the time and you will see that “Yes, I am capable of doing more.” Allow yourself to be open with that challenge, rather than blocking yourself.
If you really want to see the benefits, minimize the rest of your practice and other purush-charanas you may be doing. Do a smaller number of repetitions of your other practices and be sure you do the saumyā mantra. Once you make a commitment, you will see the capacity comes. We have the capacity. We just need to realize it. That is why the sankalpa (resolution) is so important. Mantra itself will make you capable.