Returning to Our Natural Condition of Love Through Yoga

return-to-natural-condition-love-yoga-natural-living-woman-smiling-autumn-leaves-gauranga

Love is our deepest desire and highest aspiration. More than anything else, love is what makes us happy and peaceful, gives our life meaning and purpose, and inspires in us the greatest of qualities and capabilities. Nothing feels more deeply right, true, and joyful for us than when we are able to open our hearts and be genuinely kind and loving, merciful and tolerant, generous and forgiving with others. When we are able to be truly loving with others, we get a taste of our transcendental nature – our nature as spiritual beings.

Each of us is eternally an individual spiritual being, currently covered by layers of material energy.

In the yoga scriptures, it is explained that each of us is eternally an individual spiritual being, currently covered by layers of material energy. The gross physical body is like outer clothes. The mind (subtle body) is like under clothes. Although we are wearing these “clothes,” we are not them. They are just clothes. Just like the shirt, pants, and so on we are wearing at this moment are not us – they are just clothes. The mind and body are also just layers of material energy that we are using for some time, and will eventually discard. We are made of spiritual energy, and our “clothes,” our mind and body, are made of material energy.

Love is our essential nature because it is the essential nature of the Supreme Person. 

It is due to our nature as spiritual beings that we have such a strong desire and need both to love and be loved. Love is our essential nature because it is the essential nature of the Supreme Person. As tiny sparks of His spiritual energy, we are the same in essence as the Supreme Person and have many of His same qualities, but we have these qualities in minute quantities. We are not the Supreme, but we are made of His energies, and He is the foundation for our existence.

We have the inclination to love others – to be loving, kind, caring, compassionate – because this is an innate quality of the Supreme Person. The Supreme Person is the supreme source of love, the reservoir of love, the most loving Being in existence. His love for us, for all living entities, is absolute, eternal, unlimited, and unconditional. There is nothing we could ever do that could make Him not love us. Unconditional love is an inseparable quality of the Supreme Person. By His very nature, He is the eternal Friend and Well-Wisher of all. As we are made of His energies, we also have this innate quality to be unconditionally loving.

Even though unconditional love is natural for us, we rarely experience love in this way because we are currently not in our natural condition.

However, although the inclination to love unconditionally is there within our heart of hearts, we do not generally experience love unconditionally for all beings. Instead, our affection tends to wax and wane according to various external conditions. We may feel we love our family, but we do not feel this love for all families. Or we may feel we love our friend now, but if later this friend rejects or offends us, then this affection dissipates. Generally, we experience love in this world as being conditional. It comes and goes according to various factors. Although unconditional love is natural for us, we rarely experience love in this way because we are currently not in our natural condition.

Our innate spiritual tendency to love unconditionally has become suppressed, distorted, due to the ways we are conditioned by our material environment and materially-centered ways of living. Even though we are not our material mind and body, because we have become so closely identified with them, our consciousness has become altered. Even if intellectually and intuitively we recognize that we are not our bodies, habitually we live as if we are. We are very heavily influenced in our life by the mind and body we have – so much so that we cannot, by our own efforts, disentangle ourselves from this influence.

Material conditioning alters our consciousness in such a way that we cannot, solely by our own efforts, change it back to its original state.

The conditioning effect that material life has our consciousness is compared in yoga scripture with how milk becomes yogurt. When milk is conditioned in certain ways by bacteria, it becomes yogurt. Once the milk becomes yogurt, we cannot change it back into milk. Similarly, once our consciousness becomes conditioned by material life, it becomes altered in such a way that we cannot, by our own efforts, change it back to its original state.

This is why no matter how hard we try, we cannot, by our own efforts, cause ourselves to revert back to our original spiritual condition. And why – even though it is our true nature to love all beings unconditionally – we cannot, by our own efforts, cause ourselves to unconditionally love every person, all the time, in every circumstance. Sometimes we feel more loving, sometimes not very much, and sometimes not at all or even quite the opposite. This is the situation we are in. It does not mean we are bad or broken. It just means we are not in our natural condition – and almost no one here is.

But although our current condition is problematic, we are actually in a most fortunate position if we have the humility to recognize that we are not in our natural state – because this gives us the opportunity to do something about it. While it is true that we cannot return to our natural condition of spiritual consciousness solely by our own efforts, it is possible for us to do so through linking up with the Supreme Person.

Through consciously linking up with the Supreme Person, we can return to our original, unadulterated state of being.

Unlike us, the Supreme Person is not bound by material laws of nature. On the contrary, He is the original Law-Maker, the Cause of all causes. Although turning yogurt back into milk is not possible for us to do, it is easily within the power of the Supreme Person. And although returning to our original state of spiritual consciousness is not something we can do alone, it is possible through linking up with the Supreme Person.

In order to assist us in returning to our original state of consciousness – to our original joyful and unconditionally loving nature – the Supreme Person has given us the yoga system. Yoga is often misunderstood in modern times as a system of physical exercises to promote health and fitness. But, actually, yoga is a complete system of spiritual realization. The physical postures (asana) are only a minor aspect of the entire system and, although beneficial in many ways, are not an essential practice.

In the yoga system, the primary method for linking up with the Supreme Person is Mantra Meditation. 

For each age or yuga, there is a process given in the yoga system for returning to our original condition of spiritual consciousness. In the current age, the primary yogic method for spiritual realization is hearing and repeating the Names of the Supreme Person. In yoga, this is called Mantra Meditation.

The Names of the Supreme Person are not ordinary sound. They are the Supreme Person in the form of spiritual sound vibration. The Supreme Person appears in this world as His Names out of His love for us, and offers us this method of consciously linking up with Him. Whenever we hear, chant or sing the Names of the Supreme Person, we are relating directly with Him – and it is this intimate association with our Supreme Friend that purifies our consciousness of the influence of material nature. Through regular, daily, contact with the Supreme Person via His Names, our consciousness is gradually restored to its original condition. It is like the yogurt being turned back into milk.

Daily practice of Mantra Meditation gradually returns us to our natural condition of love.

Because material ways of thinking about our self and life have become very deeply ingrained within our consciousness, it is most beneficial to practice yoga Mantra Meditation daily. By doing so, our progress can become steady, and we will increasingly experience a dawning of genuine spiritual understanding and spiritual love.

As we gradually return to our natural condition of consciousness, we will actually experience love for others spontaneously growing within our hearts. It is not something we have to try to conjure up – or that we even have the ability to conjure up – it is simply the inherent result of our returning to our original, unadulterated state of being.

In our natural condition, we experience unwavering, unconditional love for the Supreme Person and for all beings. Not impersonal so-called love. But very personal, very real, deeply affectionate love for each and every living being. Motivated, moved, by this love, we are naturally compassionate, kind, tolerant, merciful, selfless, generous, forgiving, and so on. Our every thought, word, and action arises from this love, and our life is a glorious expression of love. This is spiritual love, purified love.

Although this extraordinary love may seem very far away from us at the moment, if we sincerely, humbly, apply ourselves to the process given to us by our Supreme Friend, we can and will find this sublime love growing within our own hearts and lives. By following the instructions of the Supreme Person, by practicing yoga Mantra Meditation daily, we will experience the most wonderful inner transformation. We will find more and more that love for others comes easily, joyfully, causelessly, of its own accord – that it fills the emptiness in our hearts with sweetness and light, and illuminates the lives of all it touches. Through following the path of yoga, we can return to our natural condition of love, and inspire others to do so, as well.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

If you would like to learn yoga Mantra Meditation, I highly recommend this wonderful video class:

Yoga Mantra Meditation Class with Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa

The Gift of the Human Form of Life – How Yoga Enables Us To Realize Our Highest Potential

gift human form life yoga highest potential natural living pregnant womanIt is common these days among positively-minded people to encourage us to think of our life as a gift. And, actually, according to the ancient yoga scriptures, it is. Being born into the human form of life is a very rare and wonderful gift. However, to fully appreciate the value of this gift, we need to inquire into why this is so. Just reading it in a fortune cookie or seeing a nice Facebook post that says it is, is not enough for us to truly feel grateful in the core of our hearts for this immeasurably valuable gift we have received.

So, why is this current life in the human form such an precious gift?

To understand the answer, we must first know who we really are.

The ancient yoga scriptures (Vedas) tell us very clearly that we are the eternal spiritual person temporarily wearing our current material mind and body, like clothes. The gross physical body is like an outer layer of clothing and the mind, or subtle body, is like an under layer of clothing. Just as we are not the shirt or pants we have on now, we are not these “clothes” either.

The same is true for other forms of life that we see in this world – animal, plant, bacteria, and so on. Each of these living organisms is an individual spiritual person (jiva-atma) covered by a particular type of material mind and body. It is not that just those in the human form of life are a spiritual being wearing a material body – all the living entities who reside in this world are a spiritual being wearing a material body. In essence, there is no difference between the spiritual individual who is wearing a human body and the spiritual individual who is wearing a plant body. They are simply wearing different types of bodies and experiencing the mentality that fits that body. In fact, the person who is now embodied in a plant form, could have been embodied in a human form in their last lifetime – and vise versa.

Taking birth in a human form of life is a very rare and special opportunity. The Vedas tell us there are 8,400,000 varieties of life forms we can incarnate into and just looking at the ones that make up life on this planet, we can easily see that the number of beings in the human form of life are infinitesimal compared to the number that are currently embodied in other forms of life. For example, there are an estimated 4 quadrillion quadrillion beings in bacteria bodies, 10 billion billion in ant bodies, 500 trillion in Antarctic trill bodies, 3 trillion in tree bodies, 18.6 billion in domestic chicken bodies, and only about 7.5 billion beings in the human form of life. If you think about it statistically, you can easily see how rare it is for an individual to have the opportunity to take birth in a human body.

However, our opportunity to take birth in the human form of life is not simply special because it is statistically rare or even because it usually takes us so many million of lifetimes to get here. And it is not special because humans seem to have more refined methods of eating, sleeping, reproducing, and defending than other living beings on this planet.

So then, why is it that the human form of life is so special?

It is special because the human form of life offers us a unique opportunity for spiritual realization that is simply not available in the animal or plant forms of life. In the human form of life, we have the ability to be introspective – to inquire into the nature and purpose of our existence. We can understand ourselves as the spiritual person only temporarily wearing the material mind and body, and can engage in a process which allows us to completely transcend our material situation. If we are in a dog body, we cannot do this – we cannot understand our self as separate from our mind and body, and so are compelled to act according to a dog mentality and body. We are literally dragged through life by the urges of our doggy mind and bodily senses.

We may unknowingly look at tree or a dog and imagine that the being in a tree or dog body is happy and peaceful because they do not have the various worries that people in modern society have. We may even think trees and dogs have better lives than we do and wish we could be a dog or tree or some other life form. But, actually, the spiritual person wearing the tree or dog body still has the same material miseries that a person in a human body has – namely birth, disease, old age, and death. Furthermore, he has the same innate spiritual needs as the person in the human body, but unlike the person in the human body, he has no intellectual capacity for understanding his true spiritual nature and so cannot consciously take action to fulfill these needs. Thus, he suffers both materially and spiritually while in the dog or tree body, with little or no opportunity to rectify his suffering.

Because every living being is a spiritual person, we all have innate spiritual needs that can only be fulfilled through spiritual means – through realizing our true spiritual identity and living accordingly. In most forms of life, we do not have the opportunity to become aware of the choices we have and the actions we can take that will move us out our suffering condition of material consciousness and into our fully joyful and natural condition of spiritual consciousness.

In the human life form, however, we do have this opportunity. We can consciously choose spiritual life over material. We can choose to live according to our spiritual nature, rather than be enslaved by the dictates of our materially-conditioned mind and body. But in order to take advantage of this rare opportunity, we need to engage in bonafide process of spiritual realization.

Because our consciousness has become so very covered from countless lifetimes spent completely identified with our material coverings, our attachment to the world of materiality has become very deeply ingrained. We cannot simply pull ourselves out of material identification through our intellectual strength or mental willpower. Therefore, it is imperative that we engage sincerely in a genuine process which can purify our consciousness of material influence and fully awaken us to our true, spiritual essence, position, and function.

The ancient yoga scriptures clearly specify that the process most recommended for spiritual realization in this day and age is Mantra Meditation – the hearing and chanting or singing of the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person. The Names of the Supreme Person are not ordinary, material sound. They are the Supreme Person Himself in spiritual sound vibration. Because the Supreme is always the Supreme, regardless of how or where He chooses to appear, His Names are not tainted in any way by contact with matter. On the contrary, they have a purifying effect on the consciousness of any living being who comes into contact with them.

The Supreme appears in this world as His Names to give us the opportunity to revive our awareness of our true spiritual identity and to reawaken our lost relationship of loving friendship with Him. By receiving Him into our hearts through the hearing and repeating of His Names, our ignorance of our true nature is dissipated. The Supreme Person is the Supreme Sun who dissolves the darkness of material ignorance. As our consciousness becomes more and more purified, we are able to witness for ourselves the absolute sweetness and beauty of the Supreme Person. And so, naturally, we become increasingly eager to welcome Him into our hearts, and to be relieved of the burdensome weight of material misunderstandings and misgivings. Naturally, the spiritual love and happiness that lies dormant within us becomes fully awakened by His loving presence.

All of our spiritual needs can be fully met in this way, and thus the world of materiality will no longer have any hold over us. This is real freedom. Freedom to be who we truly are, to make choices in our life from a solid platform of clarity, love, and wisdom. We cannot do this while bound up in material misidentification, thinking we are our material coverings and so compelled to live according the demands of our mind and bodily senses – like the person in the dog or tree body.

This human form of life is a doorway into a higher way of living, but we must take the initiative to walk through the door. It is up to us to take advantage of the timeless wisdom and methods offered to us by the Supreme Person and saintly yogis by engaging in the process of self-realization – by meditating on, hearing and repeating, the Names of the Supreme at every opportunity. In this way, we can realize our highest potential. We can utilize this precious gift of the human form of life in the most glorious and joyful way possible. In doing so, our very existence becomes blissful, sublime, perfect, complete. This is truly what it means to live naturally.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Who am I? Realizing our Eternal Position and Function

 Who am I eternal position function flowers-girl-heart-nature-

We have talked at length about the importance of knowing our true essence – of understanding that we are not the material mind or body, but are, in fact, the eternal spiritual self (atma) who is temporarily wearing these material coverings. Understanding that we are made of spiritual energy, not material, is the vital first step in the full realization of our true identity, but it does not give us a complete picture of who we are.

In order to fully know ourselves, and therefore know how we can be completely happy and fulfilled, we must also come to realize two other aspects of our identity – position and function.

Because we recognize that we are eternal spiritual beings, we can understand that our true identity has nothing to do with the features of our mind and body, nor anything material. As these material features are just temporary, external factors, they have nothing to do with who we really are.

In order to know who we are, we need to become aware of our eternal position and eternal function. Eternal characteristics do not vary from lifetime to lifetime. They are unchangeable, innate, absolute features of our being and therefore remain constant throughout the continual flux taking place in the material environment

If we want to know the Absolute Truth, the best place to look for answers is in the bona fide scriptures of the world. It is in these scriptures that we can find eternal truths about our nature, including our intrinsic relationship with the Supreme.

When we look to the authoritative scriptures of the world, we find that our eternal position is that of being subordinate to the Supreme. The yoga scriptures describe that there are innumerable individual spiritual beings in existence. Out of all the spiritual beings in existence, there is one being who is superior to all the other beings. He alone is Supreme and all others are subordinate to Him. The Supreme spiritual being, or God, is called Paramatma and the subordinate spiritual beings are called jiva atmas. We are jiva atmas, individual spirit souls who are dependent upon and subordinate to the Supreme. The Supreme Person has unlimited power and control. We have very limited power.

Again, these are eternal realities, eternal truths. If something is eternally true, that means it is true always. So, when we look at the world – at our experiences and the experiences of the rest of jiva atmas here – what we see supports these truths.

It is very obvious that even the most powerful of us is limited in the larger scheme of things. When we look at the big picture, we can understand that there is relatively little that we can control. We have either very limited or no control over other living beings, the weather, the environment, the physical laws of nature, and so on. We even have trouble controlling our own bodies and minds – and whatever control we do manage to exert is temporary. It diminishes in old age, ultimately to the degree that we cannot even keep our bodies in livable condition. When we look at the practical evidence, it is clear that we are not the supreme controller.

If we are not aware of our natural position, then we will look for happiness elsewhere. For many people, the fact that we are not able to have a high degree of control over our lives and the world around us is very frustrating and frightening. We become wrongly convinced that our only possibility for happiness is in gaining as much control as possible and using that control to try to create situations that we believe will bring us happiness. In other words, we try to take on the role of supreme controller. However, because this is not our natural position, there is no real happiness in it. We can only be happy in our natural condition. Trying to assume a position that is unnatural for us simply leads to endless anxiety and suffering.

However, when we fully understand that our natural position is as a subordinate to the Supreme, we have no problem with serving Him. In fact, we derive immeasurable transcendental bliss and satisfaction in trying to please Him with our lives. We have an innate love for the Supreme Person and He has an innate love for us – and when we become aware of our natural inclination to serve and please Him, and we willingly cultivate this tendency, our love for Him is awakened and flourishes.

Even a tiny taste of the transcendental happiness that comes from the experience of loving service to the Supreme Person, far surpasses all pleasure we are capable of experiencing from any other activity. This is because it is our natural function, our eternal function (sanatana-dharma). By sincerely attempting to serve and please God with our lives, our relationship with Him blossoms, and our love for Him grows.

Bhakti Yoga is the science of perfecting our love for God through devotional service to Him. In the ancient yoga scriptures, it is very clearly explained what devotional service is and how each of us can begin practicing devotional service immediately, regardless of personal skills, intellectual ability, or other qualifications. Devotional service is an activity that anyone can engage in. It is our most natural activity.

In this day and age, the primary means of rendering devotional service to the Supreme Person is through the hearing and repeating of His transcendental Names. (In the yoga system, this is called Mantra Meditation.) These Names are completely pure, spiritual sound vibrations, non-different from God – so when we are hearing, chanting, or singing them, we are directly associating with the Supreme. The more we come into the direct presence of God in this way, the more our consciousness becomes purified – and we are able to actually perceive the presence of the Supreme Person in His Names and in our hearts. Gradually, our relationship with the Supreme becomes more tangible to us and our affection for Him deepens and grows into the sweetest, most beautiful and fulfilling of friendships.

Nothing feels so completely right, joyful, liberating, and life-affirming as being able to be our self in the truest sense of the words. All of the anxiety, confusion, and other forms of suffering that we experience in this world are due to our forgetfulness of our true identity and innate loving relationship with the Supreme. Once we are reestablished in our eternal position and function – in purely loving, serving, and relating with God as our Best Friend – we can again know what it is like to truly live naturally.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

Living Naturally – What’s Karma Got To Do With It?

Live Naturally Happy Good Karma Beyond Karma is a term that is commonly used these days – but very few people have a true understanding of what it means and how it affects our lives.

So what it is karma? Karma means action – and when we refer to karmic action and reaction, we are specifically referring to action that is governed by the laws of material nature. According to these laws, every action undertaken in material consciousness will have an associated material fruit or result. As you sow, so shall you reap.

From a material standpoint, karmic action and results are seen as “good” or “bad.” If we have at least some understanding of the effects of karmic action, we may strive to engage in pious and charitable activities with the intention of reaping a desirable outcome – either in this life or in a future life. Similarly, we may try to avoid doing harm to others because we understand that whatever harm we do to others will result in us having to experience that same harm upon ourselves. Desirable action and effects are commonly referred to as “good karma” and undesirable as “bad karma.” Many of us strive to improve our current or future lives through karmic action. However, from a spiritual perspective, all karmic action and reactions are seen as undesirable.

Why?

Because the end result of engaging in karmic action is that we will remain in material consciousness – in the illusion that we are the body and mind that we are wearing – and so never actually be able to experience the complete fulfillment and pure joy of our true spiritual nature.

So how can we be free from karmic action and reaction?

There is only one way – through fully awakening to our true identity as spiritual beings. We must transition from our current level of materially-centered consciousness to a fully spiritually-centered one. To do this, we must understand what is material consciousness, what is spiritual consciousness, and what is the correct process for moving from one to the other.

Material consciousness is founded on the mistaken belief that I am material. In this condition, we believe that we are these temporary bodies we are wearing and also that we are the material mind that produces thoughts and emotions that urge us to engage in action.

The material mind and body can be compared to a set of clothes that we are wearing. The gross physical body is like outer clothes and the mind or subtle energy body is like under clothes. Just as we are not the clothes we are wearing, we are not the material bodies we are wearing either. We are the individual spiritual beings that temporarily reside within the mind and body.

But in material consciousness, we operate under the misconception that we are our body and mind. Thus, our actions are centered on satisfying our mind and physical senses. In this condition of mistaken identity, we are caught in an endless cycle of karmic action and reaction – inevitably experiencing tremendous suffering without ever be able to reach beyond the karmic cycle to where actual happiness and fulfillment are possible. We are compelled by the demands of our mind and body (that we think is us) to engage is both pious and impious actions and so are subjected to various degrees of suffering sprinkled with the occasional superficial and fleeting moments of material pleasure.

As long as we remain unaware of our true identity as spiritual beings only wearing the “clothes” of the mind and body, we cannot awaken to our true blissful and eternal nature. We simply move from one body to the next in a covered state of consciousness, like a sleepwalker in an endlessly uncomfortable series of dreams.

Spiritual consciousness is realization of our actual identity as eternal spiritual beings. It begins with awareness that we are not the material mind and body, but does not end there. After realizing who we are not, the next step is to realize who we are – our true essence, position, and function. We have talked in some depth about our true essence in earlier articles and will discuss position and function in future articles, but it must be understood that the realization being referred to is not just an intellectual understanding. It is good to have some intellectual understanding of who we are, but that is not direct realization. Intellectual understanding alone does not provide for a transformation of consciousness. For a transformation of consciousness to take place, we must be able to directly perceive the truth of who we are. It is not enough to just read about it – we must seriously and sincerely engage in a bona fide process of self-realization.

The yoga scriptures are very clear in their recommendation of mantra meditation as the process for self-realization in this day and age. Through sincere and regular practice of mantra meditation, we can gradually come into the direct realization of our true spiritual nature. In spiritual consciousness, we are no longer acting in any way whatsoever for the satisfaction of our mind and body. We fully know that we are not these coverings and so do not follow their directives. Instead, we follow the directives of our fully awakened spiritual heart.

In this state of fully awakened spiritual remembrance, we naturally seek only to benefit others – not so that we can prosper in any way, but because we truly love and care about them. Motivated purely by love, we seek to know and follow the highest directives, which are those of the Supreme Person. Our actions are not materially motivated, so they do not incur karmic reaction – “good” or “bad.” In this way, our consciousness becomes free from the influence of material action and reaction, free from the harsh and onerous demands of material nature. Thus, we at last come to rest, joyfully, in our spiritual nature.

Although mantra meditation is very simple, it has the potency to transition us from a materially-clouded consciousness to a fully purified, spiritual consciousness. A true 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.

Through this direct association with the Supreme, our natural spiritual inclinations and activities are gradually uncovered and we are eventually completely relieved of the unnatural influence of material nature. The more we associate with the Supreme through mantra meditation, the more we remember the deep happiness and fulfillment of this most essential relationship. It is like the sun rising within us. Our hearts become full with love, and our lives become full with golden warmth and vibrancy. Our actions naturally become filled with this spiritual radiance, which touches the lives and hearts of others, helping to bring us all back into our original state of harmony with the Supreme and so all of life.

In this way, we can become freed from the karmic cycle and thus live happily and naturally in the deepest sense of the words.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

Finding Real Happiness

be yourself natural living yoga wisdom

We are all searching for happiness. Every step we take, every choice we make, is with the hope or expectation that it will bring us happiness. There is never a time when we choose with the hope of finding suffering. Always, we are seeking happiness. It may be instantaneous happiness that we are focused on, or future happiness, but always we are wanting the end result of our efforts to be happiness.

Moreover, we are not just wanting a little bit of happiness here and there – happiness that is tepid and superficial. We are not just seeking happiness that lasts for a few moments, a few hours, or even a few years. We want happiness that completely satisfies us to the very core of our being and never fades away. We long to be immersed in happiness that is so all-encompassing that there is no way for us to fall out of it. What we truly desire is to be perfectly and permanently situated in happiness.

But how can we expect to find such happiness when we take instruction on happiness from those who do not know where to find it either. So many people want to instruct us on happiness – parents, relatives, teachers, friends, social network acquaintances, celebrities, advertisers – even our own minds want to instruct us on happiness. But who amongst them have actually found the pure and boundless happiness that we seek?

If we are sincerely wanting to know how to be established in real and lasting happiness, we need to look to the bona fide scriptures of the world. For it is in these scriptures, written by and about saintly persons who are actually permanently situated in perfect happiness, that we will find instructions on how we, too, can realize this level of perfection.

In the Vedic scriptures it is clearly explained that the reason we are constantly frustrated in our attempts to find perfect and permanent happiness is because we are looking in the wrong place for it. We are attempting to obtain this perfect and permanent happiness in terms of material objects and situations, but everything that is made of material energy, by nature, is imperfect and impermanent. All things material must come to an end sooner or later – even the bodies that we wear – so we can never find perfection and permanence through material objects or situations.

So then where can we find the happiness we are seeking?

To understand the answer to this question, we must first realize that we are not made of material energy. Our minds and bodies are made of material energy – but we are not our mind and body. We are eternal spiritual beings that are only temporarily wearing these coverings. 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.

When we are convinced that we are the material “clothes” we are wearing, then we search for happiness and fulfillment within the material concept of life – within the realm of the material mind and physical senses. We relate to people, objects, situations, anything we encounter – even our own self – in terms of how they are perceived by our mind and physical senses. When we do this, we do not see or relate to anything as it is, rather, all that we encounter is reduced to that which is within the very limited and inherently flawed perception of the material mind and senses. In this distorted state of consciousness, we completely miss the actual purport of our existence. We do not experience the incredible richness and sublime sweetness of our true calling – and we cannot engage in life with the deep understanding, reverence, joy, and love that is possible when we are actually in full knowledge of our spiritual identity.  

If we want the life that we long for in our heart of hearts, then we must seek to understand ourselves in terms of our spiritual identity. We have innate spiritual tendencies and qualities, but they have become covered through living under the influence of material nature. By engaging in a genuine process of spiritual realization in direct association with our spiritual Source, our consciousness can become purified. As the material influence on our consciousness is dissipated, our true nature – our spiritual nature – becomes revealed.

In the ancient yoga system, the recommended method for spiritual realization and consciously linking up with our spiritual Source is mantra meditation. A true 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.

Through mantra meditation, our hearts and minds are gradually purified of material misconceptions, and we are able to increasingly taste the divine sweetness of our true nature. With sincere, daily practice, materially-distorted perceptions gradually fall away and our inherent spiritual nature is revealed. The more we awaken to our spiritual identity and the loving relationship with the Supreme that is inseparable from it, the more we naturally return to an existence that is in complete harmony with all that is.

To be in complete harmony with the Absolute reality is our natural condition. When we are situated in our natural condition – perceiving, and relating to, all beings and all situations from the platform of fully realized spiritual consciousness – we not only are established in happiness, but we radiate it from our very core. It is only when our consciousness is entangled in material misconception that we are away from our true nature and so cannot experience this innate, radiant joy. However, when our consciousness becomes purified through mantra meditation, we are reunited with the Absolute truth and thus are re-situated in the boundless wonder, beauty, and pure unadulterated bliss of our being. This is real happiness – and it is our natural condition.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Resolving Problems Through Yoga Wisdom – Healing Conflict

couple holding hands heart resolving conflict relationships naturally living yoga resize

When our relationship with someone we care about is in distress, it is important to take responsibility for our part in the matter. Even if the other person has also done or said hurtful things, it is still very important that we allow ourselves to see our own contributions to the problem. This way, we can feel sincerely sorry for our mistakes or faults and apologize accordingly. When we are willing to take these essential first steps, the way is opened for healing to take place.

However, sometimes, even if in our hearts we feel very sad about the state of our relationship, we still cannot seem to bring ourselves to see our part, feel remorse for our actions, and apologize. Instead we feel anger and frustration. Our mind cannot help but focus on how the other person, or some other person, or something else is responsible. Deep in our hearts, we fear that we are at fault, too, in some way – yet seeing this fault clearly feels like it is beyond our abilities. When we feel stuck in defense mode, conflicted, unable to act in a way that will remedy the situation, what can we do?

There are many different ways we can approach this kind of a problem, but if we are seeking a permanent solution to any problem in life, looking at the situation from the yoga, or Vedic, perspective will always be helpful. The ancient yoga texts offer us a transcendental understanding of our situation, which we can apply to any problem we encounter and thus have access to transcendental solutions.

According to the ancient yoga scriptures and other bona fide scriptures of the world, we are not the material body or the mind – we are eternal spiritual beings 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.

Even though we are eternal spirit souls, when we take on a material form, we simultaneously take on the pervasive misconception that we are that material form. Our true identity as a purely spiritual being is covered by the misunderstanding that we are made of matter – that we are the mind and body that our consciousness is clothed in. We experience ourselves through the lens of that form, completely convinced that it is us. Our sense of self comes from the characteristics of the material “clothes” we are wearing. If we are born in a female body, we think I am a woman or girl. I am a particular age, ethnicity, nationality, economic and social status, religion, mentality. We think I am this or that – all referring to the material mind and body that we are wearing.

Through living in this way, with our true identity covered, we come to form ideas in our mind about who we are – again, all related to the mind and body. We think I am a good person, an intelligent person, competent, kind, honest, caring, hard-working, respectable, independent. We invest our sense of self-worth in this image of ourselves and derive whatever happiness and feeling of safety that we can from it. We essentially base our life upon this false image of ourselves.

When this image is threatened by something we have done or by someone accusing us in a way that seems contrary to this image, we feel compelled to defend it. We feel as though we are being attacked because we think the image is us. We are reluctant to see the situation in any way that will jeopardize this image of ourselves and will often cause so much unnecessary suffering for ourselves and others to protect this false identity. We will twist our words and minds in so many ways to try to avoid seeing things as they are. But in our hearts we will feel something is very wrong and will not find any real peace and until we are able to see clearly.

It is a difficult situation, but not without a solution. All we need to do is purify our consciousness of the false conceptions of self that we have taken on – then everything will become clear to us. It is only our holding on to the false ideas that keeps us from the wisdom and love that resides eternally in our hearts.

In the yoga scriptures, the recommended method of purification for this day and age is mantra meditation. A true 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 puts themselves in the direct presence of the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

Through sincere, daily practice of any of the yoga mantra meditations we discussed in earlier articles (Kirtan, Japa Yoga, and Gauranga Breathing), the false ideas about ourselves are able to naturally fall away and our true nature as individual spirit souls, part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, is revealed. In this, our true identity, there is a natural harmony, joy, and peace. All the needs that we were trying so desperately to fulfill through false ideas about our self are able to easily be fulfilled through realizing who we really are and engaging in our natural function in loving relationship with the Supreme.

Through a transcendental perspective of the situation, we can see things as they are. When we are faced with the choice between holding on to something that has no real value (false ideas of self) or to give it up for something that does – for actual love, peace, integrity, happiness – the choice will be clear.

In this consciousness, we will be able to recognize our imperfections and apologize for whatever ways we have caused harm to another, even inadvertently. Feelings of genuine concern and care for others that arise naturally from the growing love in our hearts will inspire us to try to ease the suffering of others and rectify our actions accordingly.

When we make the conscious choice to use all of our life situations in service of our quest to realize our true nature – to live in integrity – then all life situations can become this for us. Distress in life is inevitable, but when we approach this distress with a willingness to learn and grow from it, we will. Utilizing the transcendental wisdom of bona fide scripture in the quest for self realization is essential. The first step is hearing – then we must apply what we learn.

The purification of our consciousness is a gradual process, but well within the reach of absolutely any person who sincerely applies themselves. As we continue to practice these very simple, yet potent methods of yoga mantra meditation, everything becomes increasingly clear. The rewards of living a life of integrity and wisdom – of a life in harmony with the Supreme and all living beings – makes every effort more than worthwhile.

 

Here are some nice quotes on Apologizing to inspire you:

Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.
Margaret Lee Runbeck

It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize.
Stephan Covey

In some families, please is described as the magic word.  In our house, however, it was sorry.
Margaret Laurence

Apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your (false) ego.
– Anonymous

 

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

Why Is It Important To Know My Essence?

In Parts 1 and 2 of What Is My Essence?, we discuss scriptural and practical evidence and also exercises to help us realize that we are neither the mind nor the body. Both the mind and body are made of material energy. But we are the spiritual self (atma) that inhabits the body for some time, then leaves it. The atma does not cease existing when the body is left behind. Rather, we continue on and take on a new body according to the condition of our consciousness.

Why is it important to know our essence?

Because who we know ourselves to be is the basis for all the choices we make in life.

If we mistakenly believe that we are the material body, then our entire life will be based upon this fallacy. We will look for happiness, love, meaning, and satisfaction based upon bodily identification and be continuously disappointed and unfulfilled – no matter how hard we try or how determined we may be or how many self-improvement classes we take or professional life coaches we hire. If we think that we are the body or the mind and this is our sole focus for improving our condition, we will discover time and time again that there is no lasting joy or actual satisfaction to be found there. We may find temporary or superficial happiness, but we will not find the deeply satisfying and lasting joy, purpose, peace, and love that we seek in our heart of hearts because it is simply not there on the material level. Material pleasures do not touch the soul, they only temporarily gratify the body and mind. Because we are the non-material self (spirit soul, atma) we can only be satisfied by that which is made of the same energy that we are – by that which is transcendental, or spiritual, in nature.

There are countless incidences of people throughout history with extraordinary material opulence (beauty, fame, power, wealth, etc.) that were extremely depressed and miserable – some even committed suicide. Even though they were successful on the material level, they were devoid of spiritual fulfillment, so they suffered intensely. And in today’s societies, even though many countries are far advanced in material opulence, the citizens are so empty inside that they are miserable, sick, depressed, anxious, addicted to legal and illegal intoxicants, engaging in violent behavior, destroying themselves, each other and the environment. Even people who put themselves forward as being “spiritually advanced,” if they are not actually understanding and applying the knowledge that they are not the material body, then they are still in misery trying to satisfy a thirst unquenchable through material means.

It is one’s actual condition of consciousness that determines whether a person is truly happy or truly miserable – truly full with joy or mostly anxious and fearful with intermittent, fleeting moments of pleasure. Again, who we know ourselves to be determines whether we pursue happiness through material means or through spiritual endeavor.

If we know ourselves by the mistaken belief that we are the body and mind, we will pursue happiness through the body and mind, even if we put a spiritual label on what we are doing.

If we know ourselves as eternal spirit souls only temporarily housed in the body and mind, we will automatically and naturally pursue happiness through actual spiritual endeavor, even if it appears to others that we are just ordinary persons living ordinary lives.

It is the consciousness of the person that makes the difference, not the externals, not the label.

This is why it is so very important to have a real understanding of who we are, of what our actual essence is. Even if we only have an intellectual understanding in the beginning, that is enough to start applying this knowledge to the choices we make.  And if we continue to apply this knowledge in ways which will deepen our understanding, we will then be able to go beyond an intellectual understanding to the level at which we are naturally living it, naturally and spontaneously making our choices from the solid platform of knowing ourselves as eternal spirit souls. This is obtainable by anyone for it is simply a realization of our own true nature – natural living is the truest sense of the words.

To make steady progress in this area, it is recommended to apply ourselves sincerely and humbly, following in the footsteps laid out by great self-realized, saintly persons and the instructions of bona fide scriptures.

In this day and age, the recommended path is very simple and anyone can begin simply by adding to their daily lives the practices of kirtan, japa yoga, and/or Gauranga Breathing. Because these meditations are so transcendentally potent, even a small amount of dedicated daily practice will enable a person to gradually realize their truest nature on the deepest levels and actually become happy and fulfilled.

What Is My Essence? (Part 2)

natural living sunlight meditation

In Part 1, we discussed practical, scientific, and scriptural evidence that you are not the physical body. The next question to ponder is, if you are not the physical body, then…

Are you the mind?

According to the Vedic scriptures, you are not the mind either. The mind is also a body you are wearing, but it is made out of subtle material energy so you are not able to see it under normal circumstances. The gross physical body is like outer clothes and the subtle mental body is like underclothes. In both cases, you are the person who is temporarily wearing these bodies. But unlike the physical body, the subtle body generally stays with you, continuing to cover you after you leave your physical body at death.

A simple and practical exercise to see that you are not the mind is called the Silent Witness Technique.

Begin this exercise by sitting comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the floor, with your back supported if possible. Close your eyes. Touch your thumb and index finger together and place the backs of your hands on your knees, palms facing upward. This is position is called chin mudra and it helps to relax the body.

Become aware of how the body is breathing automatically. Do not try to force or control the breath in any way. Simply observe the body breathing in a detached way. Say to yourself, “I am watching my body breathe, I am not the body.”

Now do the same thing with your mind. Focus your attention on the river of thoughts flowing through your mind, but don’t attempt to control the thinking process by trying to think certain thoughts and not think others. Instead, just watch the thoughts in a detached way. In the same way you might sit on the bank of a river, watching leaves, sticks, and other debris floating down the river – just sit silently on the river bank of your mind and watch thoughts, emotions, images, desires, fears, etc. just float by like debris in the mind river. Watch your mind and become aware of how you are actually aloof from the thinking process. Say to yourself, “I am the silent witness. I make no effort to think, but thoughts come automatically. I am watching thoughts flow through my mind, but I am aloof from them. I am the silent witness to my mind’s activities.” In this way, you’ll be able to experience that you are separate from the mind.

Through this exercise, you can experience that you are not the material mind or any of the thoughts and desires that flow in the mind. Rather, you are the self, the one who sits beside the constantly flowing mind-river – you are next to it, but separate from it.

You, the self, are actually made of a different type of energy than the body and the mind. According to the Vedas, there are two types of energy that make up everything in existence. One type is material energy. Material energy is dead matter. The other type of energy is life or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive. Material energy is always dead. But when the two energies come together in a living organism, the material body inhabited by the life particle temporarily takes on characteristics of life. It appears to be alive, but that is only because the life particle or atma (self, soul) is occupying it and infusing its qualities throughout the material structure of the body. As soon as the atma leaves the material body, the body resumes its natural condition, which is that of dead matter. At this time, the physical body decomposes very fast and reverts back to the simpler elements from which it was constructed. We can observe this in all life organisms – plants, animals, humans, etc. – and so we can know that the atma inhabits all these organisms for some time, then leaves.

From the above information you can understand that your essence is life energy, or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive and so, you, too, are always alive. You exist eternally. Your material body will at some point become useless to you and when you leave it, it will revert back to its original characteristics – that of dead matter. But you will continue on – usually in your subtle material body – and take on a new body in accordance with the condition of your consciousness.

Now that we know – intellectually, at least – that our essence is life or spiritual energy, how can this help us in our quest to experience our true nature?

To be continued in Why Is It Important To Know Our Essence?

 

What Is My Essence? (Part 1)

ladyflowr

Knowing who you truly are is essential to realizing what it is that will actually make you happy, and bring meaning and fulfillment to your life. There are volumes of books and countless self-improvement and self-help magazines and websites dedicated to the subject of making changes to the self in an attempt to affect some kind of benefit. But without correct knowledge of the self – of “who” it is that you are trying to improve or help – you will have only temporary or shallow results at best.

So who are you? If you ask a person to answer this question, to write down a paragraph describing who you are, most people will immediately begin to describe their body. They may say I am a woman, 23 years old, Italian, five and a half feet tall, with a light complexion, brown hair and green eyes. Or, I am a 30-year old Portuguese man with a muscular build, six feet tall, with black hair and brown eyes. Perhaps they will describe their occupation. I am a teacher. I am a scientist. Or family relationships. I am a mother, a father, the middle child of three. All these descriptions are descriptions of a person’s body, but is this really who they are?

Is this who you are? Are you your body? How can we tell if we are?

According to the Vedic scriptures, you are not the body, but rather the person who is temporarily wearing the body, in the same way a person temporarily wears a set of clothes. When a person is finished using a particular body and/or if the body is damaged beyond usability, the person inside leaves that body and obtains a new one. Again, very much like a person discards a worn out, damaged, or undesirable garment.

A practical way to think about the question of are you the body is to think about each of your different body parts and ask yourself, am I this body part? If I were to lose this body part, would I still be me? Am I the hand? If I was to lose my hand, would I still be me? And of course, it is obvious that without your hand, you would still be the same person, just without one of your hands. Some people have actually lost hands, legs, ears, eyes, all different body parts and if you ask them are you still the same person, they will say, yes, I am still me. I don’t have my hand anymore, but it is still me inside this body.

And, in fact, if you are to look at the question from a molecular or atomic perspective, you will see that the body you have now is completely different from the body you had just five years ago. Dr. Paul C. Aebersold of Oak Ridge Atomic Research Center discusses in the Annual Report for the Smithsonian Institution that scientific studies have revealed that about 98 percent of all the atoms in a human body are replaced every year. You get a new suit of skin every month and a new liver every six weeks. The lining of your stomach lasts only five days before it’s replaced. Even your bones are undergoing constant change. The bones you have today are different from the bones you had a year ago. Experts in this area of research have concluded that there is a complete, 100 percent turnover of atoms in the body at least every five years. In other words, not one single atom present in your body today was there five years ago.

According to these studies, the atoms in your current body are completely different from those in the body of five years ago, yet you are the same person. You are the person who was wearing the body five years ago and it is you who is wearing a completely different body now. Same person, different bodies. If you were the body, then you would also be a completely different person. You would have no memory of experiences five years ago if you were that body because you would be gone now with that body, scattered about in innumerable different places and reabsorbed by other bodies. But you are still here, wearing a body made up completely different atoms. So you can see from a scientific perspective that you are not the body.

So, if you are not the body, are you the mind?

To be continued in Part 2 of What Is My Essence?