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Articles by Swami Veda Bharati

Marks of Spiritual Progress

Yoga is not merely a matter of learning a system or a technique; it is something in which your whole personality is reconstituted.

A meditation that is an escape from life's problems is not meditation.  A meditation that solves life's problems by itself, a meditation that is not self-centered, is the true meditation — self-aware yet not self-centered. The non-self-centered meditation has certain features to it.  It is dedicated entirely to the will of God, and to the grace of the guru lineage.  

To learn how to calm down, how to be still, how not to keep wavering, how to sit long in meditation. One cannot sit in meditation long.  Why not?  Because one cannot settle on anything in life for long. The spine is not straight because the pranic energy is not flowing straight.

There are two paths: from inside outwards, and from outside inwards.  The two are one and the same.  Being aware of your spiritual being.  And that spiritual being, that Atman, that Self, is ever steady.

Spine straight, shoulders relaxed, face calm.  Even the movement of the hand made with awareness  Not like the leaves of a tree in a storm.  To learn to move and to sit with that awareness.  There is disturbance, because, you have not permitted the effects of that meditation to permeate your body, to make your prana stream flow steady.

In the beginning, whenever one is trying to change a habit, it becomes an effort!

Whatever you do repeatedly becomes your habit.  And a sattvic habit will evoke from inside you your sattvic divine nature

Be aware that you are looking.  Be aware that you are reading/breathing Be aware that you are moving.  Be aware that you are breathing.  Be aware that you are feeling, sensing, observing.  Be aware that you are sitting, or reclining, or lying down, or kneeling, or standing.  That is spiritual practice.

As a candle flame, dipak flame, in a windless, breezeless spot burns steadily, that is how the yogi's body remains steady.When the mind is performing certain acts, interior mental acts, with the higher mind as a witness, observing the lower mind — at all times, even in sleep, the higher mind is observing that the lower mind is resting in sleep — then you are on the path.

Two or three minute meditations, every two and a half hours, or every three hours.  Before falling asleep, before starting your hatha practice, before breakfast, before leaving your room, before going for a walk, upon returning from a walk, repeatedly, 2-minute, 3-minute meditations, undertaken many times in the day, help you to break down the process of imprinting from the outside. The imprints from the outside become weaker, and the samskara and the nirodha samskara, the imprint of internal control becomes more deeply etched.

Meditation, starting with breath awareness in nostrils.  Resolve in your mind that again and again throughout the day, that you will bring the mind to this calm state.

Yoga-sutras of Patanjali and Hatha-yoga-pradipika by Svatmarama

In our tradition, we place the greatest importance on two texts, one is the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali and, in the field of hatha yoga, Hatha-yoga-pradipika by Svatmarama.

The meaning of a word cannot be expressed in any language.  The word is part of the language, but the meaning is not language.  The meaning is that experience to which the word refers.

The Hatha-yoga-pradipika begins with the very clear emphatically repeated statements that hatha yoga is meaningful only in the context of raja yoga.  Hatha yoga, by itself, has no existence.

The emphasis here is the experience that is imparted.  The Yoga-sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Hatha-yoga-pradipika, the Vedas, all these texts are nothing but narratives of the yogis' personal experience. Until one begins to be inwardly oriented, the meanings of those passages cannot be understood.

Out of the two, antar-mukha habit, habit of inward oriented consciousness, and the habit of stillness, other qualities of character develop automatically.  The yamas and niyamas simply happen effortlessly.  The inclination towards them simply arises.

Development of  abhyasa  i.e. practice of   Tatra sthitau yatno bhyasah. ("Between these two, practice and dispassion, the endeavour towards stillness and stability of the mind-field is called practice." Yoga-sutra I.13 )  What is abhyasa?  What is practice?  Effort at stillness.

Abhyasa, "practice," has two meanings.  That whatever state you arrive at, attempt to remain there.  That is the exercise for becoming antar-mukha, inward-flowing, the mark of the inward-flowing consciousness. The other meaning of the same sutra, the definition of abhyasa, the definition of practice, is attempting stillness, stithi.

Stillness while you are speaking, stillness while you are looking, stillness even when  you are moving your arms. Going into an asana, at the same time experiencing stillness.  Being in the asana and experiencing stillness.  Coming out of the asana experiencing stillness.  That is abhyasa; that is practice.

Pra-yatna-shaithilyananta-sam-a-pattibhyam.  ([The posture is perfected, made steady and comfortable] through relaxing the effort and coalescence [of awareness] with the endless, or with endlessness.)  The attempt to remain there, effort to remain there, effort to remain still — what kind of effort?  Pra-yatna-shaithilya in which there is a relaxation.   A relaxed effort, not a tense effort, not an anxious effort.People are missing out on these subtleties of yoga.

That relaxation slowly develops when we practice awareness at all times, and certain times, special exercises for relaxation alone.

"Cancalam hi manah krshna pramathi balavad drdham tasyaham nigraham manye vayor iva suduskaram," says Arjuna ("The mind is indeed fickle, turbulent, very powerful, and strong.  I believe its control to be as difficult as that of the wind."  Bhagavad Gita 6.34)  Oh, Krishna, the mind is so cancala!  Ever agitated.  Ever unstable.  Ever fidgety, running here, running there.

Sa tu dirgha-kala-nairantarya-satkarasevito drdha-bhumih.  "That practice, however, becomes firm of ground only when pursued and maintained in assiduous and complete observance for a long time, without interruption and with a positive and devout attitude." (Yoga-sutras I.14.)    Undertaken for a long time, without interval, with firmness of faith, it becomes firm of ground.

We speak of three stages of consciousness: jagrat, svapna and sushupti.  Wakefulness, Dream and Sleep.  We do not mix dream state with sleep state.  Those two are distinct states.  So, when you have mastered the wakefulness and the dream, and finally have mastered the sleep state, then you are fit for the knowledge of fourth state!

"Yoga is control of the vrttis."   What vrttis?   Pramana-viparyaya-vikapa-nidra-smrtayah. (Yoga-sutra 1.6) [pramana (valid proof), viparyaya (perversive cognition), vikalpa (imaginary cognition), nidra (sleep), smrti (memory)]  The fourth vrtti is nidra: sleep.  Without that, there is not even the beginning of dhyana, not  even the beginning of meditation

The secret of mastering sleep?  Purification of emotions!  It is your emotions that exhaust your mind.  It is your emotions that exhaust your mind, that tire you. The secret of going directly into the deepest state is that the debris that floats about in the mind should not block you as you are entering the state.

The question of eclectic teaching: Mixing the various techniques and in between using imagination to bridge the gap.  That is where the problem is.   The techniques are all valid, if they have been taught within an ancient tradition. All of those are part of a vast gigantic galactic system, just as in your body, there are more cells than there are stars in a galaxy.  But, they are arranged in a certain pattern.  The strength of the Himalayan Tradition, as it is taught here, is that there is no system that is not known to this.

Master the fundamentals!  The basics: correct sitting, correct breathing.  Correct breathing, correct breathing!  Relaxation of all muscles and nerves and mind.  Emotional purification.  That is, calming down, not going to extremes of depression and exhilaration and depression and exhilaration.  Breath awareness.  Unbroken breath awareness.

At the beginning level, the definition of meditation is very well known.  The mind flowing as a stream with one object only.  And with the help of that kind of awareness, practicing the antar-mukha vrtti: inward consciousness.  Being aware of the still point within while operating successfully and efficiently in the world:  that is antar-mukha vrtti, the inward awareness.

Spiritual Progress Begins

Sometimes, one should spontaneously enter a state of silence.

The subtle body is made up of subtler forms of matter, not spirit. Being able to hear what someone is saying about you two thousand miles away or being able to see has nothing to do with spiritual progress.

Rising above wakefulness, dreaming, and sleep state, your spiritual progress begins —progress of Atman in Atman, progress of Spiritual Self in Spiritual Self.

The body of  a person who is at advancing spiritually undergoes a change.  His posture is different.  When he is standing straight, he is not stiff, but he is standing straight and is relaxed, and is not strained.  Effortless, relaxed stillness of the body.  A balanced body.

One thing happens, eventually: you know what position of your body will make you more effective, and that is called the control of mudra.  These are changes that happen at a physical level, before you go on to uncontrolled subtle body experiences.

In the later stages of Kundalini Yoga, there is a practice known as Danta Mudra, "the mudra of the teeth," where your teeth are not clenched [held closed] like you would normally, but they are placed edge on edge.  That is a secret part of the kechari.  Because, when the energy moves, you have trained your whole body to not move, but you have not yet trained your jaw not to move.  The jaw and the tongue move, and waste your kundalini energy.  So, part of the reason for kechari is to still the tongue; and the reason for the Danta Mudra is to still the movement of the jaw.

The steadiness of your eyes shows whether you are gaining intensity of stillness, not your ability to gaze at a flame for a half an hour. Your voice undergoes a change; your face undergoes a change.  People who have seen you before you have embarked on the path and after you have made some of these subtle accomplishments, [will notice that] there develops on your face a saumya quality, a quality that inspires confidence in others, that makes them feel peaceful, reassures them.  Not the quality of fire, but the quality of flowing water, of a smooth flowing stream.  The quality of the coolness of the moon.  These are the signs of spiritual progress.

The more you withdraw your mind from your senses, the more your senses become acute — not become dumb, because they become infused by that energy which, because of your stillness, you are no longer wasting in random movements, random indulgences, random experimentations.That is what is meant by mastering the state of wakefulness.

The same applies to the application of conscious mind.

We experience, ordinarily, only two states of mind: kshiptum and mudham.  Both of them are simultaneous.  Kshiptum: totally distracted.  This thought now, that sensation then, These random movements of the mind do not let the mind be alert.  So while a small part of the mind remains thus distracted and agitated, the remaining vast area of the mind remains in a state of mudham, "stupor."  Unaware, not awake, comatose — we're all in a coma!

The conquest of sleep state is measured in two or three different ways.  Can you go into sleep when you wish?  Can you come out of sleep when you wish?  Are you aware, is your higher mind aware and a witness to the fact that you are sleeping?  That's a very high state!  The yogis sleep that way.

The first practice for mastering sleep?  Let me give you a universal principle about the practice of yoga. When you have done a leftward movement, and you want to start a rightward movement, what do you do in between?  You first come to the center!  You don't change the direction without first coming to the center.  You change nothing without first coming to the center!  So, from wakeful state to sleep state you come to the center.  You enter the state of meditation.  From there you go into the sleep state.  And, upon waking up, you do not go from the sleep state to the wakeful state.  Because you have been observing the fact that that part of your mind has been asleep, so, as soon as that part has rested sufficiently and you have observed that this part of the mind has rested sufficiently from the sleep state, you go into meditation state.  And, from there, you come to the wakeful state. Then, with those habits comes the practice of Yoga Nidra.   What you think is Yoga Nidra is a beginning preparation.

Yoga is a path of great subtlety, great purity.  It's a path of turning the mind into a beam sharper than the finest, the most powerful laser beam.  Along with these achievements, or changes, you then have total mastery of the functions of your mind, and the functions of your emotions.

Emotions have a function. We all maintain a baseline emotion, whichever one.  It could be anger, it could be sorrow, it could be fear.  A person who is making spiritual progress has total control over the functions of the mind and functions of the emotions.  He wants to feel love, he feels love.  He wants to feel neutrality, he feels neutrality chooses to be neutral, and thereby becomes neutral.

Emotions are the most easily controlled phenomena of human personality.  Thoughts are more difficult. One who has total control over the functions of the mind: this moment he may be dealing with the most profound, philosophical text and someone walks in who's in need of reassurance; he listens to his story, give the reassurance; the person walks out and leaves no residue behind in his mind. A mark of spiritual progress!

A person of a spiritual path who is making progress knows his goal at all times.  Even when he digresses, he knows his goal and knows that "I am right now momentarily digressing, and I shall digress only so much but not more."

One thing more: the person who is making spiritual progress never utters a word uselessly.  Never utters a sentence without weighing it and balancing it for its maximum benefit to others — only for its maximum benefit to others.

"If you need to be self-centered, first find out what that 'self' is." Only then you can be truly Self-centered.  When you are truly Self-centered, you are Universal-centered.  [That] means constantly [that] even the benefit of your meditation is not for yourself.

This is Yoga-sutras!

Restlessness changes as one begins to make spiritual progress.

In meditation there is only one experience worth checking, and that is non-experience.  The only valid experience, is silence of the mind, the subsiding of the waves of the mind.  If your witness mind, or buddhi observes that your lower active mind is now flowing as a smooth deep and steady running stream, without bubbling over, then you are making progress in meditation.

Secondly, when you sit down in meditation, how long does it take you to achieve that state?  As you make progress in meditation, it takes you less and less time to enter that state of non-experience.  As you make spiritual progress, after the meditation session, how long does this unconfused state of the mind last, and permeate your daily activity?  How long does the stillness of your senses last?  How long does the steadiness of your body remain?  By these, you know whether you are making progress in meditation.

Steadiness and stillness with relaxed neuromuscular system constitutes stillness.  Otherwise, it constitutes only stiffness.

The purpose of nadi shodhanam is to center, to make the left and right energies flow in the center There should be no change in the balance of your shoulders.  There should be no change in the inclining or not inclining of your neck.  The only thing you need is your arm, your elbow, and the mudra of your hand.

The seven crowns of wisdom, in Sutra II.27. Along with that, seven conditions are dropped.

jijnasah: the desire to know; jihasah: the desire to reject to abandon;prepsah: the desire to attain or accomplish; jikirshah: the desire to do; shokah: grief; bhayah: fear; vikalpah: counter-thoughts, doubtful thoughts, uncertainty.

As one makes spiritual progress, these seven signs of bondage and ignorance are dropped, so that there are not internal conflicts, internal conflicts about the nature and the choice of our spiritual path, the subtlest conflict.

A person who is spiritually advancing makes an internal commitment without fear of a conflict because in him conflicts do not arise, because his mind becomes universal, because he knows that both opposites are truths. That is quite a spiritual skill: rising above what is commonly known as the dvandvas, the forces of the opposites, things that come two-by-two.

Being able to absorb the opposites into one single whole as complementary forces, and realizing in nature, in the universe, in spirituality, and in God, that there are no opposing forces, there are only complementary forces.

As you make spiritual progress, your mental view becomes enlarged; your concept of time changes. As one makes spiritual progress, one lives simultaneously in the awareness of five thousand years, or fifty thousand years, or a cycle of creation and dissolution, lasting several or many billion years.   It is thus that the yogi becomes "knower of the three divisions of time," and then one views the events of today as a part of that entire chain of causation.

The principle in spiritual life is to open your mouth only when it is beneficial.  You don't open your mouth for bubbling, bubbling emotional self-expression.

Just as your sense of time changes, so your sense of space changes.  The yogi is aware of the entire world, all at the same time.  That is the holistic view of events.

A person who is making spiritual progress does not suffer from conflicts (in his mind.)  His ultimate goal is very clear.  His intermediate goals are very clear. There is no confusion.  The mind is clear. Also, his mind is clear about intellectual processes.  The mind divided constantly, that ceases.

When someone slaps you out of the blue, what is your reaction?  If you are making spiritual progress, your first reaction is a smile.  First reaction.  It's not that you have to control your anger and then replace it with a smile, but you've made the shift.

Deconditioning the Mind

The world of desires promises fulfillment, but never delivers.  So, you never reach a level of satisfaction. These not-to-be-satisfied desires are nothing but a parody, a warp, a projection, reflection in the wrong direction, of interior discontent, the divine discontent.

In all the mystic traditions, the contentment towards the matters of flesh in the world is recommended, and that is where the niyama called "santosha" comes in — contentment.  But, divine discontent is encouraged.  Not to be satisfied with one's spiritual station.

So, deep inside you, not to be contented with what you have achieved in the way of stillness, is a sign of progress.

As you grow spiritually, other changes occur.  Changes in your choice of food.  You want lighter foods, you want more sattvic foods. As one makes progress, an internal change occurs.  Then, it is not only a question of being a vegetarian.

As you make spiritual progress, your desire for the intakes, the nature of the intakes changes – your intake by way of diet, your intake by way of colors and music.  One who is making spiritual progress keeps a log of day-to-day thoughts, month-to-month progression and regression, year-to-year ascent and descent, keeps a mental graph, and every now and then sits back and traces and works out, as it were, a statistician's averages, the way a businessman keeps his accounts.

So, as your mind progresses, your tastes change.  Your taste in music changes.  Your taste in the kind of clothing you wear changes.Your company changes.

Aversion is the strongest attachment.  Dvesha is the biggest raga.  And, if you are averse to someone else's bad habits, someone else's bad speech, and you hate them for it, and you criticize them for it, and you cannot stand their company, you are regressing; you are not progressing.

So, there are two phases to this. Your inclination for a certain kind of company changes.  Then, you become neutral to that which you have left behind.  Having become neutral, you go back to them, to uplift them.  You leave them behind, you become neutral to that past experience.  It no longer forms one of your samskaras.

I always tell if you are a celibate, you will go to the prostitutes quarters.  And, if you are a saint, you will seek out robbers.  And, these are the laws of spirituality.  Another thing that happens is that one seeks solitude — not privacy, solitude. Solitude is something that is filled with an interior fullness.  It is not empty; it does not become lonely; it does not lead to frustration; it does not lead to self-centeredness.  In the group, you create your solitude, you become solo.

The word kaivalya, the goal of the Yoga-sutras – ultimate solitude.  And, that ultimate solitude is not the solitude of a person from the crowds. Knowing Purusha, Atman solely that.

The body and flesh and bones, and annamaya kosha, and this physical shape made up of so many pieces of bread and milk, this identification with that is left long behind, the last confused identification of the Atman with the mind, that is dropped, and then the Atman is solo; and that is solitude; that is Kaivalya. This is the true brahmacharya, which means "walking in God."

As one progresses towards this interior solitude, the conditions of the body no longer affect his mind.So, your attitude towards age, illness, and death, changes.

Since you have known that Atman, the spiritual Self, the conscious Self, is other than the body, which is subject to birth, growth, old age, and decay, but you, Atman, the Self, by your presence, have infused into this every decaying body, a freshness, you learn the art of constantly infusing that life force into your body, and you are not afraid of the old age.

One of the definitions of meditation, given by Gurudev Swami Rama of the Himalayas is "deconditioning the mind."  Examples of deconditioning: no fixed habits, and yet, clear choices at a spiritual level

When you live in an interior center, you neither take this side, to go to the opposite end of the spectrum, nor that side, but you hold the entire reality in your hands, and you play with it.

In moments of accord and comfort and prosperities, the heart of the great is tender like a blossom.  In adversities, the exterior remains tender like a blossom, and inside exhibits the adamantine strength.  Then, the words of the Bhagavad-gita come true in your life.

In prosperity or adversity, in pain or in pleasure, in honor and in dishonor, you remain absolutely the same.

You maintain your center.

Your own conquest of your own emotions makes you a conqueror of others emotions.

Once you start, you begin to enjoy these conquests.  These conquests are much, much more, far more pleasant that the conquests of a Cassanova.

Swami Rama has said in one of his lectures, "Instinct is nothing but a habit."  Instinct is but a habit accumulated over lifetimes! As you begin to conquer the power of instinct, your reptilian brain is overpowered by your mammalian brain.  Your mammalian brain is overpowered by your human rational brain.  Your human brain, then, is overpowered by your intuitive mind.  And then instinct has no power over you.

Real Conquest

One who has reached perfection is dina, the conqueror. That is the real conquest. Conquest of the lesser parts of our psychological personality make-up.  So that it becomes much more elevated, beyond your identification as a male or a female, being poor, being rich, unfortunate etc. It is not that those events are not in his memory, but they are not the source of his reactions any more.

The yogi’s karma action is non-white, non-black. When acting from the essence, not acting from psychological conditioning, what is most needed, then you are free. Along with that comes the vow of the Bodisattva. You reach a point where there is not one single selfish thought. Every thought is only for removing the pain and ignorance of others.

A person who is making spiritual progress becomes a mother to the whole universe and seeing everyone crying in pain, has no time to sleep. That is the vow of the Bodisattva.

Presence of  Shiva by Stella Cramrich is the best book for the Westerner to understand the concept of Shiva.

The Divinity within you is Shiva and that is SHIVOHAM, SHIVOHAM.

We are absolutely in love with our pains, the same with our emotional pains. Rise above

your addictions to pleasure and pain, because the two are one and the same, addictions to bodily sensations. This is not to say you are insensitive, but you are in control.

"Be even minded in pleasure and pain," Bhagavad Gita.  Go deeper than the periphery, in the non-physical consciousness.

No one enjoys his food because one is not concentrated.

Mental habits, the way your father and mother treated you, psychological conditioning. These are all psychological handicaps. They prevent you from rising above your present spiritual station.

A person who is on the spiritual path, a sadhaka, rises slowly, by constant self observation, above all his psychological conditioning. What is the difference between the tiredness of a tourist and the tiredness of a pilgrim? Rise above your own personality. Be whatever someone needs. Be a mother if there is need for a mother or a father if there is need for a father. Be whatever is needed for a person at a certain moment.

Illness is a time of very great blessing. Use this time to go in the interior, stay in the interior during the time of illness. Use illness as an opportunity for your spiritual development.

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