April 2009

Swami Says: Who are your friends? + Healing Berries + Sunstone + The Law of Karma + Significance of Pooja + Faith: Stigmata + FEATURE: Brahmachari Jagrat Archarya + Intelligence & Intellect + Yajna as the law of life + Gangotri + Peace meditation for Kids + much more ...

Cover image: Paramahansa Yogananda Mahasamadi Prayer, 2 March, Verulam

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Namasté all.
With both the Easter and Kavadi festivals coming up in a few days, our thoughts should be focussed on the sacrifice of unnecessary material attachments for a higher spiritual life. Carrying Kavadi is an auspicious penance-practise to reduce negative Karma in a similar way to Christ’s sacrifice where He demonstrated how we can reduce our own Karma (sin) by sacrificing things of the flesh. Kavadi and Easter Sunday both share the same day and few are lucky enough to be in a position to take advantage of both traditions.

There are a number of upcoming fund-raising endeavours planned for both the Gayathri Peedam and the Jadatharaya Institute. Few are aware that the talks and workshops held by Swami Shankarananda are presented in order to raise funds for the Jadatharaya Institute. They are always informative and fun with loads of useful and practical information for use on your journey. Three such upcoming workshops are advertised in this issue of Transcendence so please try and support them if you are able. Another such event is the Science of Silence Meditation Retreat in June to be held in the Drakensberg. Places are limited so please book early if you want to attend. Our chalets are already booked so we can’t take last-minute bookings as the resort will be full (contact Jo or Sundrie).

There will be a fundraising dinner on the 30th May at Little India. Tickets are available from Deepak. The purpose of this is to raise additional funds towards the completion of the upgrading of the Peedam. We would like to be able to accommodate international visitors in the near future so an upgrade is essential in this regard. Cost of tickets for the dinner is R150 per person, and the menu will be set by Swami who will also be at the dinner to ‘entertain’ guests. As only 50 people can be accommodated, we urge you to buy your ticket soon to avoid disappointment.

Attention Yoga Teachers: Only one instructor has sent in their details for yoga classes. Please send in your info (name, day of class, time of class, venue, contact details, no of students that can be accommodated), even if it already appears in the Transcendence, so that we can confirm that it is correct and advertise the yoga. Sms 083 459 5852 or email Jo.

Well done to those who got the 3 questions correct last month and received your gifts. To win a copy of Guru’s Spiritual Relationships booklet, your questions for this issue are: (a) What do we call Life force that sustains and animates living things? (b) What is the law of creating balance? (c) Who is the Guru of Brahmachari Jagrat Archarya? (PS we don’t mind the same people receiving a gift each month so don’t opt out if you’re already ‘entered’)

In Love and Service always, Ed.

Swami Shankarananda

Devotee: Guru, how come for some people the connection with the Guru is so perfect, and other people have to strive so hard to make things work. Is it from a past life?

Swami Shankarananda: In a past life you didn’t listen to your Guru, but you did some spiritual work, and you have come back to follow the same thing.

Yvonne Jarvis

This is the third article in the series of the seven laws of spiritual success, as indexed by Deepak Chopra.

“Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind … what we sow is what we reap. When we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.”

There are many ways to describe karma. The Oxford Dictionary describes it as being (in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person’s actions in one of his successive lives, believed to decide their fate in the next. Readers of Transcendence would have read in the December 08/January 09 issue in the Expanding Understanding section that Karma is “An influence that can cause effects to occur. Accumulated mental conditioning and influential subliminal tendencies and urges comprise one’s personal karmic condition (which is of the mind, not the true Self)”.

Karma is the law of creating balance – “Whatever you sow, you will reap”; or put another way, “What goes around, comes around”. As we journey through our many incarnations on earth, all of our thoughts, words and actions are balanced by ourselves – the results reflect back to us as a mirror. You will never look back on the good things you have done in your life, and regret them. However we need to embrace karma and see it not as retribution, but also as a teacher, a gift, to help us to grow, and to reward us when we embrace the principle of love. That which we give out, we receive, therefore if we wish to bring abundance and happiness into our lives, we must sow the seeds of abundance and happiness into the lives of those around us. As Martin Luther King said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “What are you doing for others?” And Buddha said it thus: “The more completely we give of ourselves, the more completely the world gives back to us.” Words of wisdom indeed!

To set this law in motion, we must observe or witness all the choices we make. This means that we must be in the present moment, be consciously aware of every choice that presents itself, and the consequence of that choice. Much of the time we make these choices subconsciously, and react in a way that reflects our programming that we received from our parents, society, and from the makeup of our DNA. This is simple action-reaction … you hurt me, so I will hurt you back. This is a choice made in ignorance, and we think we are justified in our response. We need to change to being a conscious choice maker, to bring our choices into consciousness and retrieve them from the subconscious mind. It is helpful to then ask ourselves two questions before we choose how to respond. The first: What is the consequence of this choice I am making? And the second: Will the choice I make bring happiness to me and those around me?

To help us make these choices we have an internal compass within, which is infallible. Our physical bodies are mirrors of the greater universe, and the organ within which resonates with the love anchored throughout creation is the heart. The way to make a conscious choice is to feel the reaction in your heart. Your heart also resonates with the field of all possibility of which you are a part, therefore you will feel the effect it will have on others and have an inner knowing of whether the choice is right for you.

The fruit of your lives today is the result of your thoughts of yesterday. The choices you make today are creating your future. Travel the path that your heart tells you.

Reference: Christine and Kevin Core; Deepak Chopra - The seven laws of spiritual success; Oxford Dictionary

Rod Briggs

We seem to be victims of the days we experience; we say things like “I had a great day today” or “what a lousy day, I’m glad that’s over” and imbue days with almost omnipotent powers to rule our lives. While it is true that each new day is an act of creation, the events of a particular day have more to do with our internal landscape than a given mark on a calendar. I had an experience, last week, which highlights this beautifully.

On a given day last week, after much searching and red tape, I finally took delivery of a new car and experienced all the attendant excitement of what, for most of us, is the second most expensive purchase of our lives… It was a great day. Within a few hours of this I heard of the tragic death of a friend from the village. Thinking about him and his family brought great sadness and made the temporary euphoria of the new car seem trivial… It was an awful day. This highlights the truth of the situation; at any given moment a day is great, awful or indifferent depending on ones viewpoint and the corresponding highs and lows of ones emotional state.

Attachment to this emotional rollercoaster always leads to turmoil due to our perception of the permanence of the sensations within us. When we are on a high we are worried that it won’t last and when we are depressed we are convinced that the dreadful weight of life will be felt for ever; we literally cannot conceive ever getting through the “darkness”

The dualistic nature of the world we live in is such that there will always be balancing forces in our lives. It cannot ever be otherwise. The wise strive to live accordingly by reminding themselves that good, bad, or indifferent… this to will pass.

Swami Narayani

Christ did not say “Dance and follow me”. So pick up your cross, look at it, see where you have perhaps missed the mark. (The word ‘Sin’ means ‘to miss the mark’.)

When you are ‘picking up the cross’, examining it, you are looking at yourself: you are going through things, you are admitting. Courage is needed for the spiritual path and looking at yourself is not easy, but the moment you do it, you are following the Master. Self-analysis is another word for “Pick up thy cross and follow me.”

Swami Venkatesananda used to say the cross is something very beautiful. The body of the cross is buried in the earth, in the world of suffering and heartache, mistakes, and so-called sins. The top of the cross is way up in the inner kingdom, and here are all your heavenly treasures. The two arms of the cross...in one you are holding hands with all those with whom you are at one, and with the other you are blessing all those that curse you.

There is your cross, complete. If you can see this as a working unit, then, right there in the centre of your heart, the Light will begin to shine. You will become a light to all men, a light which you cannot hide under a bushel.

Christ does not promise happiness. His teachings is of a Path that we must tread with our minds centred on the Kingdom within. We must walk through valleys, facing our difficulties (crosses) and rising above and beyond them.

The the Peace that Passeth all Understanding happens.

Swami Shankarananda

Chapter 8 verse 15
mam upetya punarjanma dukhahalayam asasvatam
napnuvanti mahatmanah samsiddhim paramam gatah

Great souls, having achieved ultimate perfection, attain Me, never again having to enter this uneternal, sorrowful cycle of birth and death.

Biblical Reference: John 3 verse 16 New Testament
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.

Notes: ‘Great souls’ refers to those individuals who have lived righteously and surrendered to God, attaining relief from the cycle of birth and death. They are saved from having to return to earthly existence but can remain eternally with the Lord.

In John we are told that God sent His only son (Christ, a great soul) to guide us in our practices and belief in God so that we will not perish in the continuous cycle of rebirth, but will instead gain everlasting life. Christianity teaches us that only through Christ can we receive eternal life. Belief in Christ presupposes a belief in and understanding of Christ-consciousness, as only by achieving this state can we attain salvation.

Mahavishnu Moodley

Gangotri, the origin of the sacred river Ganges, attracts tourists in large numbers every year. The confrontation with the daunting rivers and attempts to unravel the mysteries of the supernatural world are ubiquitous sights here. Along with the thrill of conquering nature, what one experiences here is the mystical aura that India is so famous for. Couched in the magnificent Garhwal hills, Gangotri is at an altitude of 3048 meters above sea level. It is on the northernmost part of the state of Uttar Pradesh and is very near the Indo-Tibetan border. It is approximately 300 km from Dehradun, 250 km from Rishikesh and 105 km from Uttarkashi. The summers are relatively cool and winters are freezing cold, with rains in the months of May and June. For the devotees and tourists, the gates of the temple are open only in the months of May to November.

The 18th-century Gangotri temple, dedicated to Goddess Ganga, is located near a sacred stone where King Bhagirath worshipped Lord Shiva. Ganga is believed to have touched earth at this spot. According to another legend, Pandavas performed the great ‘Deva Yagna’ here to atone the deaths of their kinsmen in the epic battle of Mahabharata. The temple is an exquisite twenty-foot-high structure made of white granite, believed to have been guilt by a Gorkha commander, Amar Singh Thapa. It was renovated in the 20th century by the Maharaja of Jaipur. The statue is taken to Mukhimath Village for six months every year during the winters and worshipped there.

The natural rock Shivling, submerged in the river, is an amazing sight reinforcing the power of the divine. According to mythology, Lord Shiva sat at this spot to receive the Ganga in his matted locks. The shivling is visible in the early winters when the water level goes down. The picturesque pilgrimage in the hinterlands of the Himalayas is the most sacred spot where Ganga, the stream of life, touched earth for the first time. According to an old legend, Lord Shiva rewarded King Bhagirath after his penance and Ganga came down to earth.

However, due to her pride, and the fact that the earth would be devastated if Ganga came down in her full force, Lord Shiva caught her in his locks. It was then proclaimed that Goddess Uma or Parvati, Shiva’s consort, would bathe in the Ganges daily and only then would she descend on the earth. The sacred stone near the temple denotes the place where Ganga first came down to earth. This is why Ganga is also called by the name of Bhagirathi.

Along the right bank of Bhagirathi stands the shrine of Gangotri dedicated to the Goddess. Perched at a height of 3042 mts. It was constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha Commander, Amar Singh Thapa. Every year pilgrims throng the sacred temple between May and October. By November, Gangotri is covered by snow. It is believed that the Goddess retreats to Mukhba, her winter abode.

Ganges has remained in the Indian psyche as the ultimate source of receiving nirvana - be it by bathing in it or just by taking a drop of Ganges water in mouth. Every important place along the Ganges has become a major pilgrimages centre for millions of Hindus.

An arduous trek along the Gangotri Glacier leads to scenic Nandanvan - the base camp for the Bhagirathi peaks, that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Shivaling peak. A trek across the snout of the Gangotri Glacier leads to Tapovan known for its beautiful meadows that encircle the base of the Shivling Peak For the Hindu devout, Gangotri, the birthplace of Ganga, is one of the four dhams that, collectively, guarantee a ticket to heaven (the other three being Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath). Most adventurists, irrespective of their religious loyalties, think so too.

To watch the whitewater Bhagirathi (this is what the river is called here; it becomes Ganga only at Devprayag after meeting the Alaknanda) moving with a devilish fury, making its way from rocky mountains, is a sight to cherish for a lifetime. Around 540 km from Delhi, the route to Gangotri, Hrishikesh onward, offers ideal sideway sighting. One can also take up the Mussoorie route to reach Tehri and then move on to Uttarkashi and reach Ganganani hot water spring, a little before Harsil.

The entire Himalayan region is considered as the abode of gods by the Hindus and it is not hard to believe why. The tranquillity and serenity along with the majestic charm and mystery behind the high hills of the Himalayas have always been a matter of curiosity for the civilisations for whom there could not have been any better abode for their beloved gods. Each step along Gangotri is a revered place and that makes hundreds of pilgrimages. Some of the famous ones are Gaumukh, Nandan van or Tapovan, Bhairon Ghati, Uttarkashi, Gangnai, Kedartal, and Harsil.

Reference: http://www.liveindia.com/ganga/gangotri.html