February 2008

Editorial + Message from the Master + Readers' Contributions + Noticeboard + Swami Says + Swami Replies + Understanding Each Other + Yoga & Ancient Wisdom + Tending the Temple + Expanding Understanding + Clear Quartz + Healing from Within + the Art of Leadership + FEATURE: Kriya Master, Roy Eugene Davis + Food for Thought by Swami Murugesu + Off the Shelf + Questions? + the Meaning of Hindu Rituals + ABC of Life + Meditation + Inspiration + Letters from Heaven + Gitascendence + Science & Power of Gayathri + On Pilgrimage + Truth 4 Youth.

Cover Photo: Swami Shankarananda - Yoga Fun Day at Midmar Dam, Pietermaritzburg


Namasté all. Welcome to the first official issue of Transcendence for 2008. We hope that all readers had a well-deserved year-end rest and are ready to surge forward into a brand new year with renewed spiritual vigour.

In our country we are continually reminded of the aggression that results when spiritual awareness is missing in one’s life. Why not make it your resolution in 2008 to offer the flower of awareness to at least one person every month in the form of loving encouragement, a spiritual gift or a helping hand. Try to share the universal philosophy of yoga and meditation with at least one open-minded individual this month. Even a small group of dedicated people can make a difference in a negative situation.

We start a new article this month, entitled On Pilgrimage by Mahavishnu who will tell us about a different Eastern city or country and it’s spiritual significance an symbolism. Interested readers who would like to take this one step further, are reminded that Swami Shankarananda will be conducting a tour of Sri Lanka and South India during October this year. Contact the editor to find out more.

In Yoga and Ancient Wisdom we start a new series of postures: the 18 Kriya postures of Babaji Nagaraj, as taught by Swami Shankarananda and which will cover this section for the next eighteen months. Our Feature article on Roy Eugene Davis is the first in a series of articles on Kriya Yoga Masters. Mr Davis has had a regular section since the inception of the mini-mag (see Questions? on page 19).

A big thank you must also be extended to all regular contributors who have supported us over 2008 and have religiously sent in their articles on time for printing. Your continued contributions are greatly appreciated.

Then, we are conducting a survey to find out how many readers are actually doing the Soduko on page 32 because we’ve had no response whatsoever. If the percentage of interest in the Suduko is low, it will be replaced with an additional article instead.

Finally, it is certain that everyone who has purchased this edition of Transcendence will have noticed the change in price. As previously mentioned, this is to cover the increased cost of paper and printing. Remember, you can save by arranging a yearly subscription. See details on the back cover or visit our website.

In Love and Service always,

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2008 Reflection
A quick reflection on 2008: firstly, be thankful for the success and good fortune we have had during 2007. Thank you, Lord God. Look to 2008 as a year for growth in your spiritual life. Until February 22nd, devote time to meditation and contemplation. Set positive and attainable goals. Connect with the infinite, God. This is a major requirement for 2008. In 2008 always be thankful, and look to all souls in the world with love. Be aware of your surroundings and every morning and evening thank God for the day ahead and the day past. In 2008, help to meet the needs of others in your community. Meditation and prayer are the only requirements for 2008. I love all of you. Om

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Why are we here?
Why are you here, in this world? Many people do not even think about this question. They don’t think to themselves: “Why am I here in this world?” But when you get to discover why you are here, then you try with the greatest effort to successfully complete the major requirements. You begin to live a different kind of life, a life of meaning. You begin a new experience for the rest of your life - or rather - immortal life.

You are here, in this human incarnation for a very brief journey in this ever-changing realm of time, space and circumstances. During these times your focus should be only on the possibilities of higher consciousness or reality. To know why you are here, you need to transcend to the innermost level of your being, the knowledge of why you are here is embedded there. This begins for you an acknowledgement of your spiritual essence, you begin that everlasting relationship with the Infinite.

Live to your full potential. This will help you to experience bliss and peace in all aspects of your life. Always encourage yourself, ask questions like: “Do I sincerely want to be spiritually enlightened?”, “Did I let some kind of confusion set in my mind?” or “Did I get involved in some kind of negative behaviour or have negative thoughts?” These are the checkpoints in your purpose here, in this world. You are here, born in this human incarnation to better your next journey, to attain some kind of eternal joy or bliss. Meditate to attain these heights of joy and peace.

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Yvonne Jarvis

All healing is self-healing
What do we mean by the term self-healing? Self-healing encompasses anything we do to help ourselves achieve wholeness, balance and harmony, be it in your life in general, or an improvement in the physical body or the emotional or mental state. We all carry out self-healing as part of our normal lives, whether we realize this or not. It may be to take a much-needed holiday to recharge our batteries, to take a long walk on a nature trail, to cut down on intake of sugars, to drink more water, to relax in a scented bath or to have a refreshing cup of tea. These are all forms of self-protection necessary for our survival. Many of us recognize that we need far more self-healing than we currently carry out.

What is health? It is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not just the absence of disease. Perfect health is an idealistic aim. However, optimum health is an achievable goal, to make the most of what we have and to give ourselves the best possible chance by living a healthy lifestyle. Healing is described in the dictionary as ‘restoring to health and repair by natural processes’, but the root of the word itself is ‘making whole’. Our bodies have an amazing and sophisticated set of healing processes to repair and maintain themselves.

Cells that are lost by wear and tear are continuously replaced by cell growth and division. 98% of the cells in your body are replaced within a year, so you effectively have a new body every birthday! Bone cells take about 3 months to regenerate, although the calcium takes longer (about a year). Your liver gradually replaces itself about every 6 weeks, skin is renewed monthly and stomach lining every 4 days. The natural healing ability is affected by many factors – whether you eat a healthy, balanced diet, whether you are tired or under stress, whether you drink enough water, your age and general health, and other factors. Psychological stress also delays healing.

Healing is not something which someone else ‘does’ to you. Whomever you visit to help you, from a doctor, nurse, or complementary therapist, and despite the interventions they suggest from medicines to herbal remedies, massage or therapy, there is only one healer and that is your body. The body has all the mechanisms to heal itself, so others only help that natural process in some way, either by conventional or alternative means.

The body copes daily with many potential hazards. For example, if a common cold virus establishes itself, the immune system mounts an attack. The unpleasant symptoms experienced, such as high temperature and runny nose are actually the effects of the body fighting off the infection rather than of the virus itself. Actually, by taking medication to reduce temperature could be undoing the good work of the body, because the virus cannot survive at high temperature (although in some cases it is necessary to reduce the body temperature when it gets dangerously high).

Reference: Self-healing with Reiki by Penelope Quest

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Rod Briggs

Q is for Quest
From Jason and the Argonauts through Parsifal’s search for the Grail to Watson and Crick’s DNA discoveries our history is riddled with quest.

Often, the more difficult the quest, the better; the greater the sacrifice the more ennobling the endeavour. We are taught that the more we have to strive for something the more valuable the end result will be; or at least we were until recently.

Today’s generation seems swamped with lassitude, what is called in our house ‘boredism’ Surrounded by more entertainment, information, sensory stimulus and opportunity than in any time in our recorded history, we are simply bored with it all. Why? Simply put, we don’t have anything to strive towards; we are victims of our own success. We look for instant gratification in all our endeavours and, because everything is at our fingertips, we take it all for granted.

As a species we operate best when driven by need; when the need is fulfilled we tend to relax until another need arises then we spring into action once again. A wonderful example of this is the 'miracle”'(New York Post) post war (WW2) economics of the 'defeated' nations of Germany and Japan. Their backs were against the wall to reconstruct and, consequently, they responded by becoming regional, and latterly global, powerhouses within a few short years. A more specific example comes from the Bushido philosophy interpreted by Toyota as Keizen, which means daily incremental improvement, and which I had the opportunity to witness first hand many years ago. I had been invited to inspect Toyota SA’s operation in Sandton and saw a test session on a four cylinder engine; the engineers simply ran the engine at peak revs, on a test bed, until something broke, they then stripped the broken part, redesigned it and replaced the improved part in another new engine and repeated the process. Countless tests later and they were satisfied that they had built the best engine they could. While other manufacturers were building to specifications, they were building as well as they knew how. They subsequently knocked GM off the perch as America’s number one manufacturer of vehicles and are now emulated by their competitors. Ask yourself how often do you see Toyotas on the side of the road with their bonnets up?

Are you, like Toyota, constantly striving for perfection, or do you settle for less? Most of us settle for less because we have forgotten the importance of the quest to be better. Find your weakest link and set out to improve it slightly, and then find another. Do this in all areas of your life and notice how quickly the quality improves.

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Suren Pillay

Spirituality and Technology
Today the world is moving to a new age. Technology has grown a thousandfold since the beginning of the century and communications have also improved drastically. Today two people may communicate anywhere in the world with little cost and effort. The question in this regard is whether or not this growth in technology is an impediment to spiritual realisation. Many have argued that this is the case as many people utilise newly available technology to express desires and actions that are harmful to society.

In my opinion, technology was always, in itself, neutral, in that it could be used for negative or positive, much in the way the human intellect can be used. A brilliant mind can be used to create an atomic bomb to destroy the world, or to innovate new sources of energy. How technology is used ultimately depends on the level of spirituality of the people who utilise it, and that depends to a great degree on their level of spiritual awareness.

In recent times I’ve heard many people complain about current communications technology especially that related to cell phones. While technology itself does provide an opportunity for people to act unrighteously, it provides an equal opportunity for righteous action. In his commentary of the Bhagavad Gita, Paramahansa Yogananda has stated in a comparison of the householder and the monastic, that the householder is faced with numerous temptations, as opposed to the monastic who has little or no temptation to deal with.

The same principles enunciated by the Master can be applied to modern technology, in a meaningful and practical way. If one feels an inherent weakness towards the temptation offered by a particular piece of technology, one should rather stay away from that technology than expose himself to it. The reason is that the possibility of succumbing to temptation is increased every day until the person acts unrighteously.

The problem with modern society, especially the younger generation, is that by staying away from technology, one is often viewed as an outcast. The best way to avoid temptation is find bliss within for, in this way, there is little or no effort for the individual to try and act righteously; he does so because he wants to, from the depths of his heart. Technology is automatically used for the benefit of society for the spiritual man only utilises the technology for the benefit of humanity.

Increasing, love, joy and peace in the world are duties that the spiritual man does not take lightly. Technology with its multifarious forms such as e-mail, mms, sms, mxit, pulse, skype, and the rest, offer us a great chance to increase spiritual bliss and righteousness.

My message to you this month, dear readers, is that all of life is distilled in a fragrance that you choose to express. Using any instrument of expression to increase spiritual awareness, bliss and peace in the world is a noble act worthy of an accolade not to be found in the physical plane. Therefore start being an instrument of the divine and influencing the world in a positive way by utilising technology for positive and divine purposes! Aum, Shanti, Shalom, Amen!

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In the mystical love story, Banaras, Shwetambari is introduced to Baba, her lover’s guru. Yet, this esoteric man shed his mortal body well before meeting her. How was it possible for him to have placed his hand on her head and, even more astonishing, how did she feel his touch? Yes, it is merely a film, but such events are said to be commonplace in Varanasi. This holy place is revered by three names. In the times of Shiva (this is the manner in which the locals speak. I do not understand what they fully mean), it was known as Kashi, the city of light. Since the land is enveloped by two main rivers, Varun and Asi, the inhabitants have called it Varanasi. This is the commonest name. The modern reference to this holy place is Banaras (Benares).

Varanasi is said to be the oldest living city in the world. This statement by Mark Twain sums it all up, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”Considered by Hindus worldwide to be hallowed earth, Varanasi is indeed special. There are twelve distinguished lingams in India, known as Jyotirlingams (lit. radiant images of Shiva). Varanasi houses Lord Vishwanath, one of these jyotirlingams.

Varanasi is best seen in the early hours of the morning. One can witness the soul-stirring abishegam of Lord Vishwanath (the Lord of all) at 3am. The temple is pervaded by strict police officials, and compliance to be physically searched is not negotiable. With marble walls, into which deities have been carved, this gold-domed marvel lends an ethereal atmosphere. The pooja (prayer ritual) is conducted in the most serene conditions at the most auspicious time – the hour of Brahma. The Lord’s Lingam, embedded into the floor, is adorned with marigold garlands, bel leaves (the leaf that is commonly associated with worship of Lord Shiva) and various powders. After the mangala arthi (waving of lamps in front of the icon) comprising of many lamps, and amid the beating of a gigantic Dhamaru (the drum held by Shiva), the articles are removed from the lingam and distributed among those present. The elaborate abishegam is then performed, and each person can personally touch the lingam – a rare opportunity. The temple becomes a buzz of activity as the sun takes its place, and shouts of “Har Har Mahadev” fill the air.

In the same alley as Lord Vishwanath is the temple of Mother Annapurna, the goddess of food who is known as Kashi’s Queen. Sadly (or maybe not so), Her arthi and morning rituals are kept private. (We were offered the reasoning that being a woman, Her rituals aren’t meant for everyone.) The darshan (lit. divine view of the Lord/Goddess) here is shorter, and everyone is given rice, with the instruction to distribute it to neighbours and loved ones.

Next is the temple of Lord Kaal Bhairava, known as the “Gaurdian” of Varanasi. Kaal means ‘time’, and aptly so, This expansion of Shiva is the God of Death (the God of Death is also Yama. There is close relationship between these exponents, since both are manifestations of Shiva). Entering from the street, through a door guarded by a dog, the mount of Bhairava, one can only view the silver face of Bhairava. The rest of His body, said to be pot-bellied and holding a trident, is covered by a black cloth. The shrine is rather small, and one should not expect warmth from any of the officials, especially in the wee hours of the morning! Nevertheless, the vibration of Bhairava overwhelms the hostility. As is custom, one should not enter the House of God without an offering. In this particular temple, every visitor should purchase a garland.

Annadhanum (food offering) performed at Varanasi procures immense blessings. There are sadhus and many realized masters in the guise of beggars. One can order 108 ready-made meal packs from a street vendor. Be prepared to wait at least an hour and a half. Then one starts at the bottom of the steps leading to the Ganges, placing a parcel in each of the begging bowls held by the many mendicants seated on these steps. To bathe in the Ganges here, one has to be habitual. The closest option is a boat ride! What a benediction indeed to be in the midst of Ma Ganga and watch golden-hued Surya, the Sun-God take His position. When the sun rises from the east, it spreads a scarlet radiance. One has the choice of purchasing a diya (clay lamp) from a passing boat-merchant. This is lit and, with love, placed into the river, where it floats and dances to the ebb and flow of the sacred water.

Also breathtaking is Ganga Arthi. Under seven large umbrellas, prayer is offered to Ganga, the Goddess who is said to be flowing from the matted locks of Shiva Himself. Kashi Visalakshi is the temple of Mother Visalakshi, a form of Mother Shakti. This shrine is a well-known Shakti Peetam.

There are three great Mother shrines in India – Kasi Visalakshi, Madurai Meenakshi and Kanchi Kamakshi. Amid the architecture that is characteristic of North India, one is surprised to find the traditional Gopuram (tower) and carvings that is a trademark of South India. Even the murthi (idol of God) is carved from granite, as opposed to the widely used marble in North India. Housed in separate rooms of the same temple is a Shiva Lingam together with the Navagrahas, the nine planets noted in Indian Astrology.

Somanath, the other less-known lingam in Varanasi is housed in a less-elaborate shrine as Vishwanath. The priest is courteous, and one is allowed to touch both the lingams of Somanath and Saranganath. Garlands adorning the lingams are distributed freely. To the left of the temple is a shrine dedicated to Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. Their epic, known as the Ramayan, tells the story of virtue and chastity, and is the most loved and widely sold book in India.

There are also Buddhist and Jain temples worth visiting. 2500 years ago, a king became enlightened in Gaya. That great sage, Buddha, walked for 60 days to give His first preaching in Sarnath, 10km from Varanasi. Hence the place is adored by Hindus and Buddhists alike.

“Oh Lord Shiva, I am yearning to get a glimpse of You. I have been longing to offer my prayers to You since many births. Please have mercy on me. My life is just for You and no one else. My heart sings, ‘Om Namah Shivaya!’