Each summer, for the AHYMSIN community there is an invitation, with the 40-Day Spiritual Festival, to expand and refine one’s sadhana. This year the 40-Day Festival will begin on 22nd June and will end on 31st July, which is Guru Purnima. These 40 days are celebrated wherever you are.
International Day of Yoga takes place on 21st June and you may want to celebrate this as the beginning of the Spiritual Festival; Swami Veda’s message for International Day of Yoga can be read at Message for International Yoga Day, June 21 .
It is a time to contemplate (and talk with others about) the many ways you can participate.
Perhaps you would like to attend the Guru Purnima Retreat, 23rd – 31st July, at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama or Sadhana Mandir. There will be akhanda-patha (24 hour non-stop recitation) of Guru-Gita, the Song to the Guru.
You might 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. Continue with the 5 year homework that was given in 2013. If you have not yet started this practice, you may want to start now.
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. “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.” – Pandit Usharbudh Arya (now 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.
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.
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."
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 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.
• 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 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.
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. “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.
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.