Creating A More Compassionate World Through Yoga

As living beings, we have a natural desire both to love and be loved. This is an inseparable aspect of our true nature, our spiritual nature. This is why it feels so amazingly good and right in our hearts to be relating with others in a truly loving and compassionate way. And why it feels so horrible to be relating with others in a non-loving or hateful way. It is not that only some people are like this due to their character or upbringing. All living beings have this innate loving nature. We love to love and we love to be loved – this is what makes us happier than absolutely anything else.

However, when we come into this material world, we are immediately covered by layers of material energy and become forgetful of our true spiritual nature. Instead of knowing that we are eternal spiritual individuals only temporarily wearing the material mind and body like clothes, we believe we are the ”clothes.” Convinced we are material, we take the total reality to be only the tiny section of it that we can detect with our material mind and senses. Thus, we look for fulfillment, happiness, and love only within the limited realm of matter. We fight and compete endlessly with others over things we think we need to be happy, trying to fill our hearts with mental and physical objects of this world. But because we are spiritual beings, made of spiritual energy, none of it can fulfill us. Our hearts are left empty and cold. It is ironic that the very things we are fighting over so mercilessly with one another, can never actually make us happy. All that fighting just leads us further away from the happiness we seek, further into darkness and ignorance.

Because we are spiritual beings, we need to be consciously linked up with our spiritual source, the Supreme Person, to be fulfilled and revive our true loving nature. As parts and parcels of the Supreme, each of us (every living being) is a tiny spiritual spark of the Supreme. We have the same essence and many of the same qualities as the Supreme Person, but we have them in minute quantities. When we are intimately linked with the Supreme, our spiritual qualities are manifest – just like sparks within a fire glow with the heat and light of the fire. But when we leave the close association of the Supreme, these spiritual qualities fade – in the same way that sparks grow dark and cold when they leave the influence of the fire.

This conscious linking up with the Supreme Person is called yoga. Oftentimes people misunderstand yoga as the physical postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) that are just a small aspect of the complete yoga system. But, actually, the word yoga means “union” and specifically it refers to our natural condition of loving union with the Supreme Person. The yoga system is designed to return us to this natural condition in which we are linked up with God in such an intimate way that our heart, our mind, our entire being, are immersed in divine love – our love for the Supreme Person and His love for us. Our every thought, word, and action become expressions of pure unconditional love for all beings. A person who is established in perfect yoga is so completely and utterly full with love, that there is no room anywhere within his entire being for selfishness and greed. He literally is the embodiment of unwavering love and compassion for all.

This transcendental love is what we need in order to truly have harmonious relationships with each other. The conditional love that we have for our child, but not for the child of our enemy is not enough. Material so-called love that is here today and gone tomorrow, that comes and goes according to our current mental or physical connections with each other, is not enough. What we need is unconditional love – love that emanates from the very core of our being, from our spiritual nature, and motivates us to genuinely care about the welfare of every living being. It is this divine love – and the joy that comes of it – that can give us the determination to work and sacrifice as much as is necessary so that everyone can be benefitted in the highest way possible. Without real love for each other, it will be impossible for us to ever work together and sacrifice together in the ways are necessary for all of us to be happy. It is only love that can heal the hurt of the past and carry us into a brighter future.

The unconditional love that we so urgently need may seem very far away at the present moment, but actually the seed of this love is already there within our hearts. Due to our forgetfulness of our true spiritual nature and subsequent identification with matter, this seed is mostly dormant within the people of this world. But it can be awakened through the hearing and chanting of the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person.

The Names of the Supreme Person are no ordinary sound – they are the Supreme Person Himself in spiritual sound vibration. Out of His causeless love for all of us, the Supreme Person appears personally in this world as His Names in order to give us the opportunity to come back into full awareness of our original spiritual nature. Simply by hearing and chanting or singing God’s Names, we are putting ourselves in His direct presence. This has a profound purifying and enlivening effect on our consciousness. As our minds and hearts are purified of the influence of matter, our true spiritual nature shines forth more and more.

When we consciously link up with the Supreme Person through His Names, we again begin to manifest our true divine nature. Through hearing and chanting or singing His Names on a daily basis, we are able to revive our forgotten relationship of loving friendship with Him. And, as our hearts blossom with love for our Supreme Friend, this love naturally extends to all His children – to all living beings. God wants us to be happy. And He knows that we will only be truly happy when we are in our natural condition – when we are truly loving Him and loving all of our spiritual siblings. Motivated by this love and joy, we will naturally relate compassionately with others and use our life for the highest welfare of all.

In the yoga scriptures, it is explained that the hearing and chanting of God’s Names is the highest welfare work we can perform. Not only does it free us of material misconceptions and awaken unconditional love for the Supreme and all beings within our hearts, but it has this same effect on every living being who hears them. So by hearing and chanting the Names of the Supreme Person aloud so that others can hear – and by encouraging them to do this also – we are directly creating a more loving and compassionate world.

The happiness and harmony we long for in our heart of hearts is entirely possible. If we sincerely want a better life for ourselves and others, we will have the determination and make the effort to actively be part of the solution. We cannot just sit back and blame others for our problems or depend on others to fix them for us. The Supreme Person makes it very easy for all of us to take part in His perfect solution. All we need to do is be humble enough to take advantage of this immeasurable gift and earnestly apply ourselves. The more loving and compassionate world we desire begins with us.

In the yoga system, meditation upon the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person is called Mantra Meditation. For information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below:

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Some nice quotes on Love and Compassion to inspire you:

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”   ― Martin Luther King Jr.

“We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.”  ― Mother Teresa

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ― Fred Rogers

“If someone thinks that peace and love are just a cliche that must have been left behind in the 60s, that’s a problem. Peace and love are eternal.” John Lennon

“The only thing we really have to work at in this life is how to manifest love.”    George Harrison

Naturally In Harmony – Music for Spiritual Realization

natural living in harmony music spiritual realization2

Naturally, we are attracted to music. For many of us, it plays such a central role in our lives that we listen to it every day, throughout our day, and even while we sleep. Music has a powerful influence on our consciousness and can affect us in very beneficial ways. Many hospitals and healthcare centers nowadays are regularly using music to assist in the health and wellness of their patients. Certainly, our mind can be affected by music in a variety of desirable ways. However, the most beneficial way that we can use music is for spiritual realization.

The music that most of us listen to is made up entirely of material sound. Even nature sounds, like the sound of ocean waves or rain or songbirds chirping, are all material sounds. Although material sound vibrations can be used to create pleasant mental, emotional, and physical states, all these benefits are only temporary. They may help our mind and body to feel calm or happy or energized for a short period of time, but then the effect diminishes. We may listen again, but the desired effect still fades away. If we listen to a material sound or song all day every day, what tends to happen is that we grow tired of listening it.

The reason material sound only brings us temporary pleasure is because it just feeds the mind and body, which are also made of material energy. But we are not the mind and body. In fact, we are made of a completely different energy – spiritual energy.

According to the ancient yoga scriptures and other bona fide scriptures of the world, we are eternal spiritual beings only temporarily wearing the material mind and body. The gross physical body can be compared to outer clothes and the mind or subtle energy body can be compared to under clothes. Just as we are not the clothes we are wearing, we are not the material bodies we are wearing either.

Because we are spiritual beings existing within material coverings, and within a world made up almost entirely of material energy, we tend to lose awareness of our spiritual nature. Our consciousness becomes covered by the misconception that we are material and that everything in existence is material also. In this condition, we fall asleep to our true spiritual nature and operate as if we actually are the material mind and body we are wearing. Our life becomes centered on taking care of these “clothes” and we become lost in this endeavor, like a dreamer becomes lost in a dream.

The mind and senses are always agitating for stimulation of some kind and so we are endlessly engaged in running here and there, trying to obtain this thing or that situation in a vain attempt to satisfy them. We do this under the misperception that by satisfying our mind and bodily senses, we will be satisfying our self. But, in fact, it has just the opposite effect. The more we focus our life on trying to appease the mind and senses, the more agitated they become. And, the more we buy into the misunderstanding that the clothes are us, the more empty, bewildered, frustrated, unhappy, and desperate we become. We will find ourselves doing all kinds of unhealthy things in an urgent attempt to pacify the increasing agitation, and in doing so, we drift further and further away from our true spiritual nature.

We become so caught up in chasing things outside of ourselves – in trying to obtain recognition and approval from others, external power and control, wealth, fame, sensual gratification, and whatever else it is that our mind and body agitate for – that we forget who we are and what is actually essential for us to live a rich, meaningful, and fully satisfying life. Without realizing who we truly are, it is impossible for us to know how to be actually happy and fulfilled.

So how can we realize our true nature?

When we look to the yoga scriptures, we find an answer that can easily be incorporated into some of our favorite activities – hearing, singing, and playing music.

The yoga scriptures recommend mantra meditation – meditation on sacred sounds – as the primary means for self-realization in this day and age. A mantra is not something anyone makes up. It is the Absolute Truth in sound vibration. This spiritual sound vibration descends from the spiritual platform to the material world without losing any of its potency. In mantra meditation, a person hears and chants or sings this spiritual sound and thus is directly relating with the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

These sacred yoga mantras can very easily be combined with music of all genres to create a musical meditation that is an incredibly potent and delightful way to practice meditation – alone or with others. Already we have a natural tendency to want to hear and play music, sing, dance, and engage in joyful activities with other people. By making mantra meditation the basis for these activities, they transcend the mundane and become a means by which participants can taste the sweetness of their true spiritual nature.

The more we practice mantra meditation, the more our consciousness becomes purified of material misunderstandings and misgivings. Practicing daily – with or without music – enables us to gradually awaken from the dream of the material self and into remembrance of our actual self. We all have innate spiritual inclinations and activities which become covered when we erroneously take ourselves to be the material mind and body. Through regular practice of mantra meditation, this mirage can eventually be seen for what it is and we are able to resume our natural way of life, in full awareness of our spiritual nature.

In this awakened state of consciousness, we revive our original loving relationship with the Supreme and it becomes very clear to us how to live our lives both happily and in harmony with all of life. In our natural state of consciousness, there is no confusion about what is to be done and what is not to be done. There is no struggle to find happiness or interact peaceably and honestly with others. There is no longer anything subverting our hearts, so we spontaneously relate with others in genuinely kind and caring ways.

We become the friend and well-wisher of all, endeavoring with unwavering compassion to give others the same opportunity that we were given –  to discover the Divine love song that will lead us back to our real self and our highest, happiest, most fulfilling life.

For more information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below:

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Finding Happiness in Selfless Service

natural living selfless service volunteer

When I was a child, my parents would take my brothers and I with them to volunteer in a soup kitchen on Saturday mornings. We all helped in preparing the meal and serving it to the people who came to eat there. I remember sometimes people asked us if we could make something extra for them – a cheese sandwich for later or maybe something they could take to a friend who was sick or otherwise prevented from coming in person. It seemed no one ever felt inconvenienced by these requests. Rather, we all really liked helping and felt a natural joy in being of service to others. I remember honestly liking the people who came in and really looking forward to serving them each week. I did not see a dirty person or an undesirable person – I saw a person. And I felt in my heart a natural, spontaneous, desire to do something nice for this person. To do so felt naturally wonderful. There is something about the act of striving to bring more happiness into the lives of others that naturally grows the happiness in your own heart.

In the Vedic yoga system, selfless service is considered to be essential to the health and happiness of the living being. Both Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga incorporate this principle. Selfless service is also a core teaching in many other scriptures of the world and the lives of saintly people throughout history attest to the value of this type of service.

A person does not have to be a great saint, however, to experience the natural joy of serving selflessly. Even if one is not able to dedicate their entire life to serving others or to be completely free of selfish desires, a person can still taste the sweetness of helping others in the same way that I did as a child. You can volunteer to help people in material distress, to give up some of the time and energy you would have spent in pursuing material pleasures and instead use it to try to bring some happiness and warmth to the hearts of others. Even dedicating just one morning or afternoon per week can be life-changing.

Moreover, volunteering with your kids is a wonderful way to teach by example and also give them the opportunity to develop this virtue early in their lives. Many parents would like their children to be less self-centered, but just telling them they should be or even explaining why they should be, does not give them the personal experience which will actually allow them to realize this for themselves. By giving them opportunities and encouraging them in activities that will awaken their natural attraction for selflessness, you will be giving them the most amazing gift.

There are many forms of selfless service and when people refer to service being selfless, they may be talking simply about unpaid work (volunteering) or they may be referring to selfless service in its purest form. The core of selfless service is that you are not working for personal gain, but are are actually sacrificing your time and energy for the benefit of someone other than you. An interesting paradox in selfless service is that when you give of yourself freely, without thought or desire for personal gain, you actually do benefit on a much higher level – in your heart. It is not a business exchange, it is a loving exchange. The deep joy that you feel in your heart when selflessly giving to another is the natural effect of sincerely caring for that person. It springs from an innate recognition of our common spiritual essence, our relatedness as one family in the truest sense.

When we consciously understand in our hearts and minds that we are spiritual beings, not the material bodies we are temporary wearing, we automatically recognize that we are all related as one family. This recognition naturally increases our desire to love and care for one another, regardless of material differences such as ethnicity, religion, nationality, social status, age, gender, appearance, etc. We feel natural joy in being loving with our spiritual siblings and our Supreme Mother/Father. Selfless service is essentially loving service. Each of us has a natural desire to love, to be loving toward others. When we are truly loving another, we are not thinking about ourselves, we are only seeking to care for this other person, to bring them happiness. And we cannot help but be happy in our hearts in the happiness of someone we love.

When our natural desire to render loving service is restricted only to those who we identify as biological extensions of our body or to those we consider desirable because they can give us some material benefit, we keep ourselves from the full true experience of it. However, when we allow this natural tendency to have its full expression in unconditional love for the Supreme Person and for all living beings, we experience selfless, loving service in its truest and purest form.

Even if you only have an intellectual understanding of our essential relatedness with one another, selfless service with a sincere desire to develop real love for others and for the Supreme Person will lead to spiritual realization – especially when combined with spiritually-nourishing activities such as the yoga meditations we discussed in earlier articles (Kirtan, Japa Yoga, and Gauranga Breathing). As you develop spiritually, you will find that selflessness comes more easily, spontaneously, and naturally to you. You will find that you really like to be kind to others and you like helping them, that it brings incredible joy to your heart. You may even discover for yourself that selflessness is your natural state of being.

 

Here are some nice quotes on selflessly serving to inspire you:

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large. ”
Mahatma Gandhi

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”
Mother Teresa

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Albert Schweitzer

“Love is Sacrifice. When you love, sacrifice is easy. And when you really love, sacrifice is joy.”
― Gramma Roxie Owens

What Is Kirtan

guitar player oho

Kirtan is a type of yoga meditation. It is the most-recommended type of yoga meditation for this day and age because it is so easy and accessible to everyone.

Usually, when people think of meditation, they think of sitting still and silent, while focusing the mind on a particular object. In the ancient  yoga system, the act of concentrating the mind one-pointedly on an object is called Dharana. It is actually considered to be a pre-meditation technique. Once a person mastered Dharana, they could then proceed to Dhyana which is when a person uses this ability to fix their mind one-pointedly on the Transcendent. (In yoga, to be considered meditation, the object that is being focused upon must be the Transcendent. Yoga meditation is transcendental meditation.) Yogis who were successful in this type of meditation were extraordinary individuals who lived in solitude under very austere conditions because that was what was required to bring the mind under control to the extent that a person could hold it in a single fixed position for extensive periods of time.

This exceptional level of mastery over the mind and senses is just not practical or even really possible for people in this day and age. Fortunately, there is a type of yoga meditation that is both practical and very accessible to all people…kirtan meditation. Kirtan is an ancient form of yoga meditation that became very popular in India over 500 years ago due to the influence of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who created a spiritual phenomenon that has since spread around the world.

In kirtan, people gather together to chant or sing transcendental mantras. Kirtan can be accompanied by traditional or electric instruments, drums and percussion, clapping of hands or no music at all. In a kirtan, usually one person sings the mantras and then others respond with the mantra going back and forth between leader and responders.

A transcendental mantra is described as being the descent of the Divine in the form of sound vibration making it possible for us to experience yoga or union with Supreme. Hearing and repeating such spiritual sound vibrations has the gradual effect of reawakening one’s natural spiritual love.

Not only is kirtan possible for everyone to engage in, but it is also very enjoyable. The teachings of yoga recognize that we all have a natural tendency to enjoy singing, playing music and being with other people. The practice of kirtan perfectly harmonizes these natural tendencies into a spiritually uplifting activity.

People of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, lifestyles, physical and mental abilities can engage in kirtan. There are no qualifications or lifestyle rules necessary for kirtan. Kirtan is for everyone and anyone. Even if a person is not particularly interested in spiritual life or is not very developed intellectually (as in the case of a baby or a mentally-impaired person), they can still benefit from kirtan and experience happiness and healing from it because kirtan is transcendental. It works on the level of the soul, gradually clearing away that which interferes with one’s experiencing the peaceful, joyful, loving nature that is innate within every living being.

Finding Kirtan

woman-playing-guitar

From the very first time I encountered kirtan, it held an attraction for me that I could not explain. Before I had attended, I had heard that kirtan was spiritually beneficial and certainly that was something that attracted me. And I very much enjoy singing and dancing to beautiful music and being in the company of other spiritually-inclined people. But the attraction that I felt was on a totally different level. It was not intellectual, not something I thought about. It was just there in the way that something that has always been there suddenly reveals itself to you. And you can not help but recognize this something because it naturally belongs with you. Like breathing. You never think about your attraction to breathing because it so naturally belongs with you. Finding kirtan for me was very much like finding my breath and realizing that I had been holding myself from it for my entire life.

The more I participated in the weekly kirtans that were being held in my community, the more my attraction and appreciation for it grew. I felt my heart healing and opening to new levels and experiences of love, joy, peace, and understanding. For me, finding kirtan was the end of a very long search. I had spent my life searching for something I could not name. In the experience of kirtan, I found what I had been looking for.

So what is kirtan, you may now be asking. There are many ways to try to understand the answer to this question.

You may have heard that kirtan is the group singing or chanting of transcendental sound vibrations, or yogic mantras. That it is a spiritual activity which purifies the mind and heart, bringing with it deep states of joy and peace. That it is an eternal love song between the soul and the Supreme Soul, a form of musical meditation that has the gradual effect of reawakening one’s natural spiritual love.

Kirtan is all of these and more. And it is the most natural inclination of the soul.

(More on kirtan in the next article…What Is Kirtan?)