September 2008

Editorial + Message from the Master + Readers Contributions + Noticeboard + Swami Says + Swami Replies + Understanding Each Other + Yoga and Ancient Wisdom + Tending the Temple + Expanding Understanding + The Jewel Box + Understanding Energy + The Art of Leadership + FEATURE: Understanding Initiation + Food 4 Thought + Off the Shelf + Questions? + Faith + The Spirit of Vedanta + ABC of Life + Meditation + Inspiration + Letters from Heaven + Gitascendence + Great Science and Power of Gayathri + On Pilgrimage + Truth 4 Youth.

Cover image: Swami Shankarananda at Initiation ceremony, 24 August 2008

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Namasté all.

As we make our way towards the end of the year with only a few months left to go, we look forward to the summer months and warmer weather. Let’s use the longer days to designate more time to God in meditation and yoga in the early mornings before we start our working day. Using last month’s YogaCard or the instructions on page 9 of this edition, try and start your day with Sun Salutation for vibrant health in body, mind and spirit.

Transcendence this month includes another collection of motivating articles and inspirations to encourage you on your spiritual journey. We learn about the benefits of tangerines and sapphires, and discover the inner-workings of Yajna by Swami Murugesu, a practice in which we can all participate with Swami Shankarananda at the Gayathri Peedam every full moon. Yvonne Jarvis explains ways of Undoing the Ego and we find out the meaning of ‘shaanti’. Suren gives guidance with his article on Spirituality in Tough Times, Mahavishnu takes us on a journey to Thiruchendur and on page 24 you’ll find an extremely interesting albeit short article on Yoga by Paramahansa Yogananda. Our feature article this month explores the enigma of Initiation and its various forms, subtle and physical.

Your YogaCard for September is the pose of Kriya Vanakam Asanam, or Kriya Pose of Salutation, with benefits.

Once again, remember to mark your diary to attend the annual Yogathon of the Jadatharaya Institute on the 27th September (see advert in cover). This is not a yoga competition, but a gathering of all Swami Shankarananda’s yoga students to meet on common ground and experience togetherness for a day. There will be guest speakers giving valuable advice on various yogic practices. On the 5th of October, Guru leaves for Sri Lanka to attend the Mahasamadhi Prayer of Swami Murugesu, and will return around the 17th October.

Finally, try and make an effort to attend Swami’s talk on Circus of the Intellect on the 20th September (see advert on page 5) at the Energy Centre in Hillcrest. Swami’s talks are always extremely informative and allow ample time for questions on any topic. There is always lots of laughing (and eating). Please contact Tracy to book.

In Love and Service always, Ed.

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Swami Shankarananda

For the human race, suffering is a vehicle on this journey. After many years of trying to overcome this, all attempts seem inevitable and too slow. All religions have the same universal concerns: dissatisfaction of the human race and ongoing suffering; and they attempt to introduce ways and means of slowing or stopping this cycle. We are always faced with an inability to remain happy for a prolonged period of time; our happiness always seems to be short-lived. For this reason great teachers, like Jesus, Babaji and Buddha, have come along to help us. All discourage the human race from seeking any kind of temporary happiness. All teachers taught the same fact that our sensory experiences are impermanent and our journey on earth is short, restricted and dissatisfying. Different names have been given to the spiritual journey by these teachers. Buddha called it the ‘path to enlightenment’, Babaji called it ‘Kriya Kundalini Dhyanam (meditation)’, Christ tells us of the ‘road to Heaven’ and ‘the Father’s abode’, and Swami Murugesu referred to it as ‘Gayathri Ramayana and Meditation’. Many great teachers have perfected what they teach by their own practices. These teachings are reinforced statements of similar teachings that have been practised and verified by the experiences of past teachers. The collective term for these teachings is ‘Yoga’, which has been further popularised and strengthened by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who tells us that all suffering is due to our living in ignorance and that our real natures lie beyond this restricted physical existence, characterised by divine ecstasy and untainted by suffering. This real nature, called Truth, lies deep within, far from the slightest flicker of thought or mind. It can be experienced as an eternal, everlasting divine vastness of omnipresence. This is the Truth. This is the Absolute Truth. This is Absolute Consciousness. This Truth is your source, your goal and attainment in life. This is the Self. Your purpose here is to attain a more perfect and eternally joyous expression of the Greater Self.

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Devotee: Where is God?
Swami Shankarananda: God is everywhere. “The one who is disciplined by yoga practice sees the Self equally in all beings, and all beings in the self. That devotee who sees me everywhere and sees all things in me; I am not lost to him and that one is not lost to me.” Chapter 6 Verses 29 and 30) “Nothing transcends me. The entire universe is strung on me like pearls on a string. (Chapter 7 Verse 7). “I am the origin of all. From me all creation is emanated. Knowing this, wise devotees, endowed with devotion, constantly contemplate me.” (Chapter 10 Verse 8).“With hands, feet, eyes, heads, faces and ears everywhere, the Absolute remains ever what it is, including every manifest thing.” (Chapter 13 Verse 13).

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Yvonne Jarvis

Undoing the Ego
Much of our everyday suffering is caused by insults – real or imagined – to our ego story. Fortunately we can learn to let go of these conditioned responses. To overcome our fear, anger and doubt, we can practice meditation, yoga, inner reflection or listen to sacred music, all of which lead to investigating the ego and to the life-changing experience of spaciousness and connecting to the Divine. To begin to undo the ego, there are five basic principles that we must embrace:

We are all one in consciousness
We need to recognize the unity (no separation) of all, and therefore let go of the judgment of others that we perceive to be different from ourselves. We must let go of the attachment to physical reality, which promotes division of mind and cosmos. This must be consciously practiced, and we all have innumerable opportunities to practice this every day, in our dealings with other people.

Quiet the ongoing mental chatter
Each day we must make time for self-reflection – prayer, meditation, forgiveness and gratitude. Even a few minutes is beneficial, and can be done while traveling or waiting in queues. The pacifying effects of meditation on brain waves, blood pressure and heart rate are well documented. To release old thought patterns, we must empty our backpack of smelly old resentments that contaminate our past memories and inhibit our compassion and unconditional love for all beings.

Oneness leads to the practice of compassion
As we begin to change our perspective of seeing everything as “I” to seeing “we” or “us”, we begin to understand how and why we react as we do. Continuing practice develops compassion, or loving kindness to yourself and others. It opens inner doors of perception, to experience unity, thereby giving meaning to life. This is also a good time to examine and surrender the story of ME, who we think we are. We can choose not to collect suffering memorabilia to paste into our scrapbooks, but rather release them and let them float away like helium balloons.

Share the experience of loving awareness
We must go beyond the individual personality and ego to experience unity and fellowship without judgment or condemnation. Once we have had the experience of oneness, or the Divine, we generally want to share that experience. Humanity finds its real essence in working and sharing in a community of spirit to allow the fullness of who we are to shine forth. It is vital to participate in some sort of spiritual sharing community.

Surrender and give up negativity and judgment of others
We have a choice in each moment of residing in negativity or becoming part of the solution to problems. We must reflect positive thinking, which brings personal healing.

Ultimately, it is our life’s purpose to first feel ourselves as part of a deep unitive experience that we are one with the Divine, to discover who we really are, and then to help others have the same experience. Earth can only change for the better if the consciousness of each individual is changed. We can all play an important role in participating in this transformation by simply taking the time to experience the flow of loving awareness which is our true nature. The apostle Paul called it the “peace beyond human understanding”, and Mother Theresa put it another way: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

Reference: The End of Suffering by Russell Targ and JJ Hurtak

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Swami Murugesu Maharishi

Healing throughYajna
In the Vedas it is written, “Agni Meela Purohitam”, which means that we should send our prayers via ‘Agni’. Here the word Agni means God who manifests in the form of Agni. If there were no sun, no living beings nor prana would exist. The sun is fire, or Agni. The resting place of the atom is Agni. When dormant atoms begin to split, fire (or light energy) is expressed. There is even this fire existing in water. In fact, everything in existence can be reduced to this same property of Agni.

We augment a fire by adding certain ingredients to make it glow. We add ghee to the fire with the chanting of each mantra. This is the ritual of yagna. But yagna is not performed as a mere ritual as specific mantras are changed. Many have forgotten the great benefits conferred on them by this practice. In the same way that sound and light rays combine with electrical energy, the waves of mantras combine with the heat waves of homa. This fact was practically experienced by our preceptors. There is an ancient practise wherein the positive and negative aspects of a person can be established by the flickering of a clay-lamp wick in their presence. Fire is the God of the Parsis who chant mantras to and worship the God of fire. During no part of the lives of these devotees is there a time when fire is not worshipped.

This leads us to the conclusion that when a fire is kindled and specific homa materials are consigned to it, the atomic structure of the fire is changed and it performs a specific intended function. When Ravana knew that Rama was invading his country, he performed Nithum Balai Yagna, but it was not completed. If it had been completed, perhaps Rama would have not conquered Ravana. Those who knew this saw to it that the yagna did not conclude. Why did Sage Vishwamithra take Rama and Lakshmana to the jungle? In order to protect from the demons the yagnas carried out by them. Viswamithra who was blessed by Gayathri and received Gayathri Sakthi, was also doing homa. From this we can infer how great is the power of yagnas. Foreigners who have learned come to know the power of this process, perform yagnas for days at a time in order to achieve desired results, which even include curing so-called incurable diseases.

For each kind of homa, a particular type of wood from a specific tree is used (usually referred to as Samith or Samagri), and mantras are chanted. The heat frequency generated by the ingredients placed into the fire mixes with the sound frequency of the mantras and fulfils the objective of the homa.

Agni is referred to as ‘Devavahanam’ (the carrier for Devas). When agni and mantras join, the devas who are invoked by the mantras present themselves. By converting the substances to subtler states, they are said to be satisfied and so fulfil the desires of the devotee performing the homa. This can be explained further.

When we offer havish saying ‘Om Shivaya Swaha’, it invokes Shiva and His Sakthi and the offering reaches him. When we offer havish saying, ‘Om Lakshmiai Swaha’, the appropriate havish will reach the goddess of wealth. This applies to all the deities each of which has a specific mantra of invocation. In addition, it is not always necessary for the person for whom the homa is being performed to be present as the process can be performed on behalf of another. Performed on a small-scale in a household, homa purifies the air and eliminates bacteria and disease, also promoting pure thoughts. Usually the ash from the homa fire is kept and used to bless family members and entrances to the home.

Similar fire rituals are performed by Swami Shankarananda at the Gayathri Peedam in Verulam. Please contact the editor if you would like to attend one.

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Rod Briggs

We are the World
The interconnectedness of life still has the power to surprise me. I have just received news about a seventeen year old boy in Ireland who has been diagnosed as having a brain tumour. My heart goes out to him and his family and I feel, for a few moments as I think myself into the situation, their pain, suffering and anguish through what will no doubt be a very trying time, whatever the outcome.

As I write this in South Africa the people concerned in Ireland may not even know that I’m aware of their setback, yet here I am deeply moved by events that are happening the other side of the planet. Our empathy has the power to breach our ego and connect us to the rest of the cosmos. This is true whether the emotions evoked are positive or negative; if the news involves someone winning the lottery or some tragedy the principal remains.

We may all be unconscious instruments by which power can flow from one to another.
A wonderful illustration of this is the story from a few years ago, of the young man in Durban who was on the way to commit suicide by driving his car off the edge off the bluff. Caught in morning traffic he noticed a lady in a red car who, in passing, smiled at him. The smile gave him pause for thought and, instead of going to kill himself, he drove directly to the local radio station where he told his story and publicly thanked the woman in the red car. The story became a cause celebre and the local press had a field day. However the real power in the event was not the short term feel good impact of the story but the fact that everything the man did, from the moment of the smile onwards, for the rest of his life as well as the people he impacted on, both for good and bad, and the entire ripple that runs through history, is as a consequence of one smile. The lady in the red car changed the course of history… with a smile. How many times do you do the same?

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Suren Pillay

Today we live in a world where we see incidences of rape, suicide, violence and brutality with injustice ever on the increase. As governments attempt to solve such problems by political and social means, one can’t help but think that these problems arise only partially from economic and political problems. If one looks at the world’s history we also find that political and economic solutions have only resulted in short-lived peace and harmony.

Violence, rape and suicide are certainly not restricted to the poor and politically unstable countries. Even in so called ‘first world’ countries such as the US and UK we find violence, suicide and rape, especially amongst teenagers, to be highly prevalent. The reasons for this lie in the fact that inner calmness and joy has more to do with your inner state of mind rather than your economic situation or social relations.

Yogic seers have comprehensively demonstrated from time immemorial that one need not live lavishly at all in order to be inwardly blissful. Recently I observed a group of youth, who were no doubt wealthy, being deeply intoxicated and expressing violent behaviour. These individuals although young, healthy and wealthy, were not truly prosperous, for their inner state of mind had not developed to express an inners state of calmness and joy.

As the world economy slowly marches on to an economic recession and with political instability ever on the increase, the question is: what can we do to improve the situation and ourselves in the process? In order to effect positive change in the world we must first attempt to change ourselves. To live in true harmony with nature is one of the golden rules of success in the development of one’s inner consciousness. Meditating to realise the universal truth that we are one with God has been described as one of the fastest routes to God realisation.

By becoming more and more spiritual everyday, we automatically begin to effect transformation in a positive way, as our thoughts and actions become more purer and beneficial to society. If the whole world started to act more beneficially towards each other, we would not find the social and economic problems of current times. By praying for world peace and harmony collectively we may also effect positive change in the world.

Dear brothers and sisters of Gayathri, my message to you this month is to march inwards towards your soul. Find your redemption in the grace of Divinity, and experience love in everything around you. Pray for the well being of every living being on the planet and act as a catalyst for positive change in the world.
Aum, Shanti, Shalom, Amen!

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by Vishnu Moodley

Journey to Thiruchendur
Surapadman was a demon who wrecked havoc amongst the good people of his time. He captured heavenly beings and tortured them. The devas or gods could not manage the tyranny of Surapadman, and prayed to Lord Shiva to save them. From His powerful third eye emerged six sparks of fire. The energy of Shiva was transported by the God of Fire, Agni, to Ganga. From the hallowed waters of the Ganges, the energy sparks were swayed to a lake, Saravana Poigai. In this lake, the energies assumed the forms of six babies. These divine infants were nursed by the Kritikkas, who were, through the blessings of Lord Muruga, destined to become the six stars noted in Vedic Astrology. When Goddess Parvathi came to see the babes, she took all six at once to her chest, and with Her intense energy, they became a single form with six heads and twelve hands, Arumuga. Muruga manifested to defeat the wicked and serve as a refuge from the plagues of problems that afflicted humans. He waged war with Surapadman at Thiruchendur, where the demon was consequently defeated. Surapadman was then converted into a peacock (mayil) and a rooster (ceval). The peacock served as Lord Muruga’s mode of transport, and the rooster became the symbol on the flag. After defeating the demon, all the Devas and humans praised Muruga. They worshipped Him nine times, called Nava Kala Pooja. Muruga then went on to worship Lord Shiva in the form of a lingam at Thiruchendur.

Thiruchendur is the second Aarupadai Veedu of Lord Muruga. The temple is situated on the seashore, and is a distinguished shrine which commonly falls on the itinerary of devotees and tourists alike. The entrance tower or Rajagopuram is oddly situated on the western side of the temple, since the sea resides to the east, and the shore would not manage to carry such a heavy load. The inner sanctum sanctorum is circled by 5 lingams. These are the lingams worshipped by Muruga Himself. Legend has it that whilst Muruga was worshipping the lingams, he was called by the devas or gods, and he looked up. That is the position he is worshipped in, with flowers in his hands. This is the image in the inner shrine, and is adored by the name of Balasubramanian. Next to these five lingams, known as Panchalingam, a hole is visible. Locals believe that devas or gods are entering through this hole to offer prayers to the lingams and Lord Muruga.

Within the temple premises and the nearby shore, there are 24 thirthams or holy wells, which bestow freedom from sin and disease if bathed in. To enter Nazhikinaru, famous among the springs, one has to pay an entrance fee. Water is constantly oozing out of the sand of this spring, whose dimensions are seven feet deep and about a square foot wide. It is said to have been pierced by Muruga’s vel, to quench the thirst of the soldiers. Another well-known thirtham is the Vadanaramba Thirtham. According to local folklore, a king’s daughter had been cursed with a horse’s head. By dipping in this thirtham, she regained her human face, and to illustrate this, there is a statue of the horse face near the thirtham.

In Hindu custom, any endeavor must first be blessed by offering prayers to Lord Ganesha, the older brother of Muruga. He is the remover of obstacles. Even in South Africa, we have established the habit of moulding a Ganesha out of turmeric paste before embarking on mass cooking on open flame. In India, before any building construction is started, an idol of Ganesha is installed. He serves as the guidance during the procedures, and oversees the project. When the building is completed, he is venerated daily. In Thiruchendur, there is an icon known as Mela Vasal Vinayagar. He is affectionately referred to as the guardian who surveyed the building of the Gopuram or tower.

The chariot procession is the highlight in every temple, both in India and abroad. The procession deity differs from the one installed in the temple. In this temple, the procession deity is Lord Kumara Vidanga Peruman, who is the embodiment of Arumuga in a mobile form capable of being pulled or carried in an elaborately decorated chariot by devotees. Kumara Peruman is housed in a separate shrine from the main alter. In close proximity lie the marble wonders of Goddesses Valli and Deivasena’s chambers.

Flag hoisting takes place during the Tamil months of Aavani and Masi, when extravagant festivals celebrate the grace of Lord Muruga. The flag pole, known as Dwajastamba or Kodi Maram, is copper plated at Thiruchendur. Adjacent to the flag staff lies an idol of Kalyana Vinayagar, and marriages usually take place under his blessings. The wall opposite to the flag post has a hole in it. Through that hole, one can see the ebb and flow of the sea, and the Pranava Mantra, Aum, can be heard if you place your ear against it.

Also in the proximity of the temple is the Cave of Valli. It is a good meditation spot, and a Dhyanam Hall has been erected nearby. Thiruchendur has 3 samadhis. Samadhis are the burials of saints who have willingly left their body. By being laid in Samadhi, their energy remains a vibrant source of inspiration and guidance for thousands of years to come. Mouna Swami, Kasinatha Swami and Arumuga Swami have all been consecrated in samadhis at Thiruchendur, since they served the temple during their lifetimes. They are also worshipped in stone carvings on pillars.

Thiruchendur has a rather adventurous and inspiring history. Historical recordings confirm that the Dutch had invaded the temple and desecrated the granite icons of the deities. Seeing the glistening image of Panchaloka Arumuga, they decided to take it with them as a worthy prize. As they sailed back, torrents of rain and storm frightened the sailors, who consequently dropped the idol into the sea. The devotees of the temple were devastated at the happenings. The graceful Lord Muruga appeared in a dream to Vadamaliyappa Pillai, an ardent devotee. In the dream, Muruga showed him where the idol had been dropped. The next day, Vadamaliyappa rushed to the spot. At the time, Garuda, the eagle vehicle of Lord Vishnu was circling the spot and lemons were floating on the exact position of the idol. They dived and retrieved the idol, which was received at the temple with gratitude and praise. The incident, according to inscriptions, is said to have transpired on Friday, the 29th day of the Tamil month of Thai 1653.