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

The Yoga System – Divine Guidance For Our Happiest Life

 

natural living divine guidance happy life yoga

Naturally, if we are interested in spiritual life, we will be interested in receiving guidance from God. Obviously, there is no better person to guide us in our life than the Person who is the Supreme Source of our life, the very foundation of our existence. No one knows us in the way that the Supreme Person knows us, and no one loves as completely as He does. He is our Supreme Best Friend and eternal well-wisher. His love for us is unconditional and His ability to guide us in our absolute highest welfare is infallible. If we at all understand the nature of the Supreme Person, then it is easy for us to accept that He is the best Person for us to look to for the guidance that we need.

So how can we put ourselves in contact with the guidance of the Supreme?

We can do this through following the path of yoga. The system of yoga that is described in the Vedas is actually the direct instruction of the Supreme Person. It is His guidance for us, for all of humanity. It has been given to us, handed down through disciplic succession (parampara), and written down in a specific way to keep the knowledge intact and pure. The yoga system is a practical instruction manual for realizing our true nature and life’s highest purpose, given directly by the Supreme Source of all life. Moreover, it is a living instruction manual.

Inseparable from the instruction of the Supreme is the means by which these instructions can be personally realized and applied to our lives in the most intimate, meaningful, and practical of ways. It is not simply intellectual concepts, and it cannot be understood simply on an intellectual level. The instructions of the Supreme must be lived to be understood – they must be personally realized by us to be fully embraced. This is what it means to actually be divinely guided.

Placing ourselves under the care and guidance of Supreme Person involves being engaged in a real relationship with Him. We cannot truly understand His instructions if we have no understanding of Him. Blind following and mental speculation will not get us very far in the yoga system – their results are shallow, insincere, and do not lead to mature revelation. If we want to fully understand and apply the guidance of the Supreme Person, we must develop a close, personal relationship with Him. We must sincerely endeavor to have a loving friendship with Him. When we do this, when we actually come to know Him as our Friend and well-wisher, we will feel confident placing ourselves in His hands. Cultivating this loving friendship is the central activity of yoga.

God gives us many different ways of knowing Him, but the primary method in this day and age for cultivating a relationship of loving friendship with Him is through the hearing and repeating of the His transcendental Names. (In yoga, this is called Mantra Meditation.) In truth, we already and always have a relationship with the Supreme Person. He is our closest relative and Supreme Friend eternally. However, due to the strong influence of the material world, our awareness of our natural relationship with Him has become covered.

When we hear and chant or sing the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person, our consciousness becomes gradually purified of these material coverings – and thus, our awareness of our innate loving friendship with God can return. The Names of the Supreme are the Supreme Person Himself appearing in the form of spiritual sound vibration. The Supreme is always the Supreme regardless of how or where He chooses to appear. Thus, when God appears in this world as His Names, these Names remain purely spiritual in all circumstances. They are never diminished, influenced, or contaminated in any way upon coming into contact with matter. On the contrary, God’s Names have a purifying effect on the consciousness of all living beings who hear them.

Through sincerely hearing and chanting God’s Names – especially those Names that address Him in endearing ways, such as Gopala, Govinda, Rama, Madana Mohana – all that inhibits our remembrance of Him, or in any way dampens our love for Him, is dissipated. All the misguided beliefs, fears, misconceptions, and so on that we have taken on through living under the influence of material nature are eventually erased from our hearts. Thus, we can again become free to wholeheartedly love God, to resume our naturally loving relationship with Him as our dearmost, beloved Best Friend.

The more we come to know God in a close and loving way, the more we are able to realize the guidance that He makes available to us. When He sees that we are sincerely wanting a friendship with Him again, and are eager to hear and follow His instructions, He will support us in this. He will increasingly reveal Himself to us and give us the intelligence to correctly understand and follow His guidance. This will happen in exact proportion to our actual desire for this kind of relationship with Him. Inseparable from God’s unconditional love for us is His respect for our free will. God never forces His instructions, nor Himself, upon us. Rather, He offers us the opportunity to receive Him. He gives us the means by which we can remember Him, and hear, understand, and apply His instructions – but, ultimately, He leaves it up to us to choose whether or not we want to utilize the gifts that He offers us.

So, if we truly want our lives to be divinely guided – and thus experience the deep joy, peace, meaning, and fulfillment of being aligned with our highest path – then we will invite the Supreme into our lives, and into our hearts, by earnestly engaging in meditation upon His transcendental Names. We will hear and chant or sing His Names regularly, daily, as often as we can. By doing so, we put ourselves in the best position possible to directly realize the guidance that the Supreme Person gives us from within our own hearts – and also the guidance He gives us through authorized scripture (sastra) and the great self-realized, saintly persons.

The yoga system, itself, is divine guidance. It is God’s own perfect process of divine realization. Every time we engage in yoga Mantra Meditation, we are placing our self under the care and guidance of the Supreme Guide. There is no safer, happier, more sure path than being under His care. Irregardless of our current level of purity or piety – even if we feel ourselves to be very low and fallen – we can take shelter in the ability and the willingness of our Supreme Friend to guide and assist us into the full realization of our true nature and highest potential.

The most gigantic banyan tree begins its life as the tiniest of seeds. Similarly, when we sincerely invest any amount of daily effort in this yoga process, our investment will continue to grow over time, and eventually we will find a magnificent tree thriving where once there seemed only barren ground. Through yoga, we can return to our natural life of joy and harmony, of complete safety, peace, and love in the sweet embrace of our dearmost Friend. It is the path we were born to walk, the perfection of our existence, and the absolute fullest, highest, happiest expression of our being.

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

 

The Joy of Clarity

Finding Clarity Natural Living meditation yoga woman river
We are constantly faced with choices throughout our lives. There are smaller choices like what flavor of jam to buy and larger choices like what will be the focus for our lives. Sometimes we can become so overwhelmed by the amount of choices we face, or the possible consequences of these choices, that we become confused and don’t know what to do. We want always to be making the choices which will lead us to happiness, peace, and fulfillment, but when our minds and hearts are so conflicted and bewildered that we cannot clearly see the best path, what can we do? How can gain the clarity we need to navigate the choices in our lives for the happiest possible outcome?

The key to success is in knowing who we are. If we know very clearly who we are, and thus what our true purpose is, we will naturally be able to discern what is the best and happiest path for us.

So who are we?

When asked to describe our self, most of us will immediately look to the features of our body and mind. I am a woman or a man, with this color hair and eyes, a particular body type, age, ethnicity, social class, economic status, and occupation. I am artistic, intellectual, clever, witty, energetic, ambitious, creative, generous, easygoing, passionate. But all of these labels are not who we really are. They may be characteristics of the mind and body that we currently possess – but they are not who we are.

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.

When we erroneously take our self to be the body and mind that we are wearing, then we unknowingly put ourselves in a position of inevitable misunderstanding. We will believe that we are basing our choices upon who we are, but in actuality, we will be basing our choices on the “clothes” we are wearing. We will strive to fulfill the demands of our mind and senses, mistakenly thinking that this will bring us the deep and lasting happiness that we long for, but it never does. We may experience some superficial physical, mental or emotional pleasure, but it is fleeting, at best. It never lasts and never fills the emptiness in the core of our hearts. When the foundation which we base everything in our lives upon – our understanding of who we are –  is faulty, nothing about our lives can be rightly understood. So no matter how strenuously or diligently we strive for clarity, for happiness, for fulfillment, they will remain always just beyond our reach.

Because we are not the material mind and body, we cannot find true happiness and satisfaction in treating them as the foundation of our lives. This is not any more possible than treating the pants, shirt, underwear, etc. that we are wearing at this moment as the foundation of our lives.

In order to be permanently situated in happiness, we need to fully understand the actual foundation of our lives – our eternal identity as spiritual beings. We have innate spiritual tendencies and qualities, but they have become covered through misidentifying with the mind and body. 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, we begin to taste the sweetness of spiritual happiness – and with sincere, daily practice, our hearts and minds are gradually purified of material misconceptions. As it becomes increasingly clear to us who we are and thus what our true purpose is, it becomes increasingly simple for us to discern what is actually in our best interest and what is not. The clarity we gain through mantra meditation allows us to steadily navigate our life in a way which brings us into an ever greater and deeper state of happiness and fulfillment.

The confusion that comes from mistaking ourselves for the material mind and body can only be cleared completely through engaging in a bona fide method of spiritual realization. Although many different processes are employed in the whole of the ancient yoga system, mantra meditation is the most essential and recommended method for this day and age. It is the only yogic method of spiritual realization that is practical for people to follow in modern times because it is so simple and easily accessible to any person. We do not need to have any special qualifications or skills. Simply through engaging in mantra meditation daily, motivated by the sincere desire to realize our true nature, we will find ourselves steadily transitioning from the darkness of material confusion into the clear and joyful light of spiritual realization.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

Here are some quotes on Clarity to inspire you:

For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.
Meredith Monk

In the kingdom of glass everything is transparent, and there is no place to hide a dark heart.
Vera Nazarian

When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.
Horace Walpole

Clarity is the most important thing. I can compare clarity to pruning in gardening. You know, you need to be clear. If you are not clear, nothing is going to happen. You have to be clear.
Diane von Furstenberg

 

Spiritual Life is Happiness

 

spiritual life happiness natural living joyful

Everyone is looking for happiness. We base our lives – either directly or indirectly – upon what we are convinced will bring us the most happiness. The desire for happiness is an innate quality of every living being. It is inseparable from us. We simply cannot be satisfied without happiness. Our desire, our need, for real and lasting happiness is so strong that we will continue to look for it until we actually find it.

The way in which most of us have been trying to find happiness is through material means. And the reason why most of us do this is because we generally go through life believing that we are the material mind and body that we are temporarily wearing. When our mind and bodily senses are agitating for something, we try to fulfill them thinking that it will fulfill us, but it never actually does. Whatever relief or pleasure we experience is temporary, at best. Very soon, again, the mind and bodily senses are agitating for something else and we are constantly struggling to deal with these demands – hoping against hope that somehow we will find a way to fulfill them permanently. Thus, we ardently search for the profound happiness that we long for in material things, thoughts, and circumstances. When we give our entire heart, mind, and life over to the shiny hope of success in material life, we will be heart-broken over and over again, as we will not find fulfillment there, despite our arduous efforts.

Most of us live in a state of deep hunger for something vital that is missing from our lives. We search for it constantly, but finding it is impossible unless we have correct understanding of who we are.

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.

If we fully believe that we are the “clothes”, then we will mistakenly seek to satisfy our desire for happiness solely through trying to satisfy our material mind and body. We will try to fill our minds and physical senses with things and thoughts that are pleasing to us in some way, but will never actually be able to find more than temporary and superficial happiness. We cannot experience fulfillment in this way because these thoughts and things only feed our mind and body. They do not touch us – the spiritual self wearing the material coverings. We remain in a state of endless hunger. We can temporarily distract ourselves from the painful emptiness deep in the core of our being, but as soon as our distraction ends, awareness of the emptiness within us returns.

In order to be truly happy, truly satisfied, we need to look for happiness where it can actually be found – through the realization of our spiritual identity and the spiritual life that blossoms from this realization. We need  a process that will purify our consciousness of the material misconceptions we have erroneously taken on and reconnect us with our spiritual Source,  so we can experience the completely nourishing, deep joy of our true nature.

The only process that has the potency to do this is a bona fide spiritual process. If it is a material process that has simply been given a spiritual label and snazzy packaging, but it is not actually a process that comes directly from the Supreme for the purpose of spiritual realization, it will not be sufficient, nor satisfying. This is why it is wise to look to the bona fide scriptures of the world when we are seeking to realize the truth of our self. Material methods will not yield spiritual revelation. Only the method which is truly spiritual in nature will result in the uncovering and blossoming of our natural state of consciousness because our true nature is spiritual.

In the ancient yoga system, the recommended method for consciously linking up with our spiritual Source and cultivating the spiritual love and happiness that will completely fulfill us 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 linking up with the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

Through yoga mantra meditation, we begin to taste the sweetness of spiritual happiness. And with sincere, daily practice, our minds and hearts are gradually purified of material misunderstandings, so that we are able to know in our heart of hearts the deeply fulfilling joy of our true nature and the loving relationship with the Supreme that is inseparable from it.

Spiritual realization is generally a gradual process, but even in the early stages, we begin to feel an incredible joy awakening and growing deep within us. As we continue to practice mantra meditation, sincerely following the guidance of bona fide scripture and learning from the words and lives of genuinely enlightened, saintly people, we experience this joy maturing and blossoming – along with an increasingly clear understanding of our spiritual essence, position, and function. Through yoga mantra meditation, our hearts and minds are freed from living in the illusion of the material perspective, and thus we can resume our naturally happy state of spiritual consciousness.

The true spiritual process takes us on a journey that is joyful from start to finish because the very nature of spiritual life is happiness. In the beginning, the happiness we experience is a tiny seed that we water daily and carefully nurture. If our consciousness is very covered, the seed may be very, very tiny – like the seed of a banyan tree – but it is unmistakably there within our heart of hearts. As the seed sprouts and flourishes, grows strong and tall, flowers and bares fruit, we will know happiness in ever new and wondrous ways. The transcendental happiness of full spiritual realization is something that completely surpasses the very highest happiness that can be had in any material mode of consciousness. The pure, unadulterated bliss of such a state is unfathomable by material means, but as our consciousness transforms and we are able to taste it even a little, it feels sweetly familiar because what we are tasting is our true nature increasingly revealed.

This is real spiritual life. It is never something we do to get something else. It is what we are. It is our natural state of being – our natural inclinations, activities, condition that we return to when we are purified of all that is artificial. Spiritual life is not only the way to happiness – it is happiness. It is pure joy. When we truly find our way into it, we will not give it up for anything because it is exactly what we have been searching for all our lives. We will know for certain that we have found it because we will no longer be searching.

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 My Essence? (Part 1)

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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?

Who Am I – Answers in the Vedic Scriptures

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If a person is seeking to purify themselves of what that is unnatural, then the question of “what is natural for me?” arises. To know what is natural for you, you must first know who you are.

To completely know a object, there are three essential aspects that must be known: What is its essence? What is its position (in relation to others and the whole)? What is its function?

The same is true for knowing yourself – you must realize the answer to these three vital questions.

If someone were to ask me these questions many years ago, I would only have been able to answer them on a superficial level. I would only have been able to answer in terms of the body and mind. I had an incomplete understanding of my self, of who I am, and so was basing my life choices on a false idea of myself. This led to me experiencing a constant underlying sense of uneasiness, anxiety, bewilderment, imbalance. I could not solve this problem until I became aware that a deeper understanding of my identity was possible, an Absolute  understanding.

I needed to understand not my temporary identity, but eternal identity. I needed to know who I am eternally, always, regardless of external circumstances.

For this level of understanding, I needed to look to a higher authority.

The Vedic scriptures are unique in many ways. They are written in the ancient Sanskrit language, which is an extremely complex and highly polished language. The Vedic verses have a particular form and meter that has them fit together so precisely that any alterations would immediately stand out. Thus, the Vedic scriptures remain in their pure and original form even to this day. Secondly, they contain very detailed information about the nature and make up of the living being, the material world, the spiritual world, and the Original Source of all. These were certainly not the only factors that led me to look for answers in the Vedic scriptures, but they are perhaps the most compelling ones for many people.

Some people become interested in the Vedic scriptures and what they have to say due to positive experiences with kirtan and other practices from the yoga system. This was more the case with me. I experienced first-hand the profound positive effects of kirtan and japa yoga and became very interested in knowing more about these practices, where they came from, and any other useful related information.

So it was in the Vedic scriptures that I began to look for the answers to my essential questions about life in general and about my life, in particular. And as my consciousness gradually became more clear through yoga meditations like kirtan. japa yoga, and Gauranga breathing, I began to really understand what I found there. The intellectual understanding came first, but it was not until I was able to reach a deeper understanding through my own personal realization that I was able to apply the answers. My actual identity – the answer to the question of who am I – began to unfold itself within me and with it came the meaning and connection I had longed for all my life.

In the future articles we will discuss both the answers available through authoritative sources such as scriptures and great saintly persons, and also practices which enable a person to realize this knowledge on a personal level. Both are important and helpful in the quest to live a life in harmony with one’s true nature, a life of actual and lasting joy and fulfillment.