Developing A Personal Relationship With God Through Bhakti Yoga

A photo by Barbara Hegler. unsplash.com/photos/7WSlka25cJM

In general, what comes to mind when we hear the word “yoga” has very little to do with the original meaning of yoga. These days, the common perception of yoga is mostly related to the physical asana practice which has become very popular in modern times. Thus, when we hear the word yoga, we typically think of attractive people with fit, strong bodies in various bending poses. But, actually, this has very little to do with the original meaning of yoga.

So what is yoga?

Yoga is our natural state of loving relationship with the Supreme Person.

When we look to the ancient yoga scriptures (the Vedas), we find that yoga means “union” or “the linking up” of two individuals. Specifically, in the yoga system, yoga refers to the relationship between the individual person (jiva atma) and the Supreme Person (Paramatma) that is our most natural condition. It is explained in the Vedas 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, and dependent upon, Him. The Supreme spiritual being, or God, is called Paramatma and the subordinate spiritual beings (all of us) are called jiva atmas. In our natural state of being, we (the jiva atmas) are linked up very intimately and joyfully in a relationship of love (yoga) with the Supreme Person.

In the material world, most of us are not in our natural state.

Unfortunately, here in the material world, most of us are not in our natural state of being. When we are first born into this material dimension, our consciousness is immediately covered by forgetfulness (avidya). Our spiritual form is covered by a material mind and body, and our awareness of our spiritual nature is covered by the mistaken belief that we are these material bodies we are wearing.

In fact, we tend to forget nearly everything about who we are, where we came from, what our natural position and purpose is in life. We forget the millions of past lives we have already had in this material dimension since we first came here long ago. We even forget our innate relationship with the Supreme Person, the very foundation and source of our existence. Although the Supreme Person is our closest relative and eternally our dearmost beloved Friend, we forget Him. We forget our relationship with Him and all the vivid details of what He is like – His form, character, pastimes, what it feels like to be loving Him and to feel His love for us. Many of us forget Him so completely, we do not even acknowledge His existence. He is the most important Person in every way, the Source and maintainer of everything, and yet we more or less completely forget Him. This is the powerful influence that material nature has upon us.

Due to forgetfulness of our eternal relationship with God, we experience deep emptiness.

Due to our forgetfulness of our eternal relationship with God, we suffer immensely in this world. We feel a deep and painful emptiness in our heart of hearts, a persistent loneliness, an inexplicable sadness and dissatisfaction. Intuitively, we know something essential is missing from our lives. But because awareness of our spiritual nature is covered, it is very difficult for us to ascertain what is the actual root cause of this emptiness. Thus, we erroneously try fill it with material objects, experiences, and relationships of this world. This causes us to become even more deeply entangled within the world of materiality, even more thoroughly covered in forgetfulness of our true nature. In this way, we wander further and further from an actual solution to our suffering.

To return to our natural state, we need to revive our lost relationship of love with the Supreme Person.

However, if we recognize that we cannot fill this deep spiritual emptiness with material things, then we can instead devote our time and energy to filling it with what is actually needed – the restoration of our lost relationship of love with God. In order to do this, we must develop a very real, tangible, and profoundly personal close loving relationship with the Supreme Person. We cannot just join a group, speculate about Him, or externally go through the motions of having a relationship with Him. We need to be actually relating with Him again as our dearmost Friend – embracing Him in our hearts and lives, looking to Him for comfort and direction, completely taking shelter in Him, trying to serve Him, to please Him, out of genuine love for Him.

But how can we have a profoundly personal and deeply loving relationship with someone we cannot even remember? Due to our situation of forgetfulness under the influence of material nature, He may seem almost like a stranger to us – distant, vague, unobtainable. How can we love someone we have almost entirely forgotten?

Our answer is in the yoga process known as bhakti yoga. The yoga scriptures explain that although we have forgotten God and our intimate relationship with Him, He has not forgotten us. Our relationship with Him has not been dissolved by our estrangement from Him. Rather, it is covered, dormant. Through following the process of bhakti yoga as it is clearly laid out for us in yoga scriptures, this relationship can be uncovered and awakened.

Bhakti yoga is the most direct path to knowing and loving God.

Bhakti yoga is the very heart and soul of the entire yoga system. The yoga scriptures (the Vedas) are a vast treasury of knowledge, within which many different processes for purification and spiritual advancement are described. But the essence of all these processes – and, indeed, the essence and purpose of the entire Vedas – is contained within the yoga process known as bhakti yoga.

Bhakti yoga is the Supreme Person’s direct instruction to us on how we can come to know and love Him again. It is the most swift and direct path to complete restoration of our natural eternal relationship with Him. The Supreme Person freely gives us this instruction out of His kindness and love for us. In the yoga scriptures, He tells us exactly what to do. He makes things very clear, simple, and accessible for us, so that if we are sincere, we will be successful.

The essence of bhakti yoga is in hearing and chanting the Names of the Supreme Person.

The essence, and central activity, of bhakti yoga is in the hearing and repeating of the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person. In the yoga system, this is called Mantra Meditation.

The Names of the Supreme Person are not ordinary sound. They are, in fact, the Supreme Person Himself appearing in this world in the form of spiritual sound vibration. Thus, every time we hear and chant or sing the Names of God, we are putting ourselves in direct contact with Him. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness. Every time we come in contact with God through hearing or chanting His Names, the forgetfulness that clouds our consciousness, that keeps us from remembering our true nature and eternal relationship with Him, is steadily dissipated.

By hearing or chanting God’s Names, we are inviting Him back into our hearts, and into our lives. We are humbly praying to Him to help us know and love Him again. Approaching Him in this way, sincerely desiring to revive our close friendship with Him, our memory Him quickly begins to return and our love for Him, to blossom.

Because we have become so deeply conditioned by material life, this is generally a gradual process. But through the regular, daily, hearing and repeating of God’s Names – especially Names which relate with Him in very endearing ways, such as Krsna, Govinda, Gopala, Rama, Gauranga – our consciousness is steadily purified, and we are able to deeply know and love Him again as our dearmost beloved eternal Friend.

If knowing and loving God is what we sincerely desire, then bhakti yoga will enable us to do so.

Bhakti yoga is a practical, potent, and invaluable process for understanding and developing our personal relationship with the Supreme Person. Although oftentimes anything having to do with God is automatically categorized as a religion, bhakti yoga is not a religion. It has nothing to do with external labels or joining an organization. It is the most wonderful, transcendental gift of love from our Supreme Friend. It is divine assistance for reawakening, restoring, our most special and sacred of relationships. If we humbly choose to take this assistance, to hold it close in our hearts and to apply it in our lives with earnestness and care, we will experience the sweetest of fruits. If knowing and loving God is what we sincerely desire, then bhakti yoga will enable us to do so.

Through bhakti yoga, through hearing and chanting or singing the Names of the Supreme Person, the deep emptiness and longing within our heart of hearts can at last be fulfilled. And we can return to our original, purified state of absolute happiness, satisfaction, and the most exquisite, blissful, transcendental condition of divine love. This condition, wherein we are wholeheartedly engaged in loving exchange with our Supreme Friend – where we are joyfully reunited with Him in heart, mind, and will – is yoga in the truest sense of the word. And it is our most natural condition.

“Pure love for the Lord is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, this love naturally awakens.”
~ Sri Caitanya-caritamrta-Madhya-lila 22.107

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Knowing God As Our Best Friend

knowing God Best Friend Natural Living bhakti yoga woman lotus flower-crop2Everyone is searching for a best friend. We long to share our life with another person, to have the shelter, intimacy, and happiness of a close loving friendship. And so we spend our lives searching for the perfect person, the perfect friend. This longing for a best friend – to be engaged in a deeply loving relationship with another person – is common to us all because it originates from our eternal spiritual nature.

Every bonafide scripture in the world tells us that we are not material beings – but, rather, that we are eternal spiritual beings temporarily living within the material body. Both the gross physical body and the mind (subtle body) are layers of material energy that cover us, like clothes. As spiritual beings, we remain always distinct, separate, from our material coverings. Although we can become so enamored by our external trappings that we may erroneously take our self to be the material mind and body we are wearing, we never actually become them. This is simply a case of mistaken identity. We are constitutionally, eternally, spiritual.

As eternal spiritual beings, we long for a friendship that is also eternal and spiritual in nature. Specifically, we long for a loving friendship with the very source and foundation of our existence – the Supreme Person. God, the Supreme Person, is our closest relative and eternally our most intimate Friend. In truth, no one can be closer to us than Him. We come from Him, are made of His energies, and our very existence rests upon His existence. Our eternal relationship with Him is compared to the sun globe and the particles of sunlight which emanate from the sun globe. The Supreme Person is like the sun globe and each of us is like one of the innumerable, infinitesimal particles of sunlight which emanate from Him. As individual spiritual sparks, we are distinct from the Supreme and He is distinct from us – yet we are eternally, intimately related with each other.

This intimacy of relatedness between ourselves and the Supreme Person actually goes far beyond what can be intellectually grasped from this metaphor. The relationship between the sun globe and the particles of light emanating from the sun globe is impersonal. But the relationship between the Supreme Person and each and every one of us is absolutely personal – and the foundation and essence of these relationships is love.

Constitutionally, we are so intimately related with, and dependent upon, the Supreme Person that we cannot actually be separated from Him. However, we can – and do – fall into the illusion that we can live separately, independently, from Him when we come into this material world. The separation that occurs is not a factual separation – rather, it is a separation of consciousness. We have the experience of being estranged from the Supreme Person due to the clouded condition of our consciousness.

When we come into this material realm, we are immediately covered by layers of material energy. Our spiritual form is covered by a material form – a material mind and body – and our consciousness, our awareness, is covered by a thick fog of forgetfulness (avidya). Immersed in such unnatural and bewildering circumstances, we forget our spiritual nature and what our life was like before coming into this material dimension. And thus divorced from our true identity, we fully believe we are the material bodies we are wearing and define our life in these very limited and misconceived terms. We forget everything about our spiritual origins, including our Supreme Friend.

Although the Supreme Person is our closest relative, dearmost Friend, and the very Source and foundation for our existence, we forget Him. Sometimes we are so bewildered by the influence of our material environment, that we do not even acknowledge His existence. And even if we do acknowledge His existence, we forget what He is like. We do not remember His qualities, what He looks like, the sound of His voice, the beauty of His smile, what it feels like to be loving Him and to feel the sublime sweetness of His love for us. He is eternally our dearmost beloved Best Friend and our most intimate companion, yet we do not remember even the smallest details about Him.

Not only do we forget everything we know about Him and our eternal relationship with Him, but we fail even to see or sense His presence in our lives, in our very hearts – even though He is always there. Each person experiences this clouded condition of consciousness to different degrees, but, in general, our memory of the Supreme Person – and the vivid details of His form, character, qualities, pastimes, relationships, and so on – become lost. This is the immensely powerful covering influence which material nature has upon us.

However, even though our awareness becomes so thoroughly subverted by the influence of our material environment that we forget our spiritual identity and relationship with the Supreme Person, our original spiritual qualities and tendencies remain. They are covered, hidden, suppressed, dormant, but they are permanently situated in the core of our heart. In our heart of our hearts, we experience an unquenchable longing for our forgotten relationship of loving intimacy with our Supreme Friend – and it is this innate spiritual longing that inspires us to continue searching for this lost love until we find it.

When we try to satisfy our innate spiritual longing for the Supreme Person through relationships with other embodied spiritual sparks, we are frustrated, disappointed, and heart-broken time and time again, lifetime after lifetime. This is not to say that we cannot have sweet and genuinely affectionate friendships with other living beings – but if we are looking for the supreme spiritual love that we are longing for in our heart of hearts with anyone other than the Supreme Person, we will be inevitably disappointed. Even the sweetest, most kind and caring friendships we may be so fortunate to find in this world with other embodied beings, cannot satisfy our innate spiritual longing for loving relationship with our Supreme Friend. It is an altogether entirely different category of love and friendship than is possible with ordinary living beings.

So how can we recover our memory of our spiritual origins and revive our lost relationship of loving friendship with the Supreme Person?

Fortunately, our Supreme Friend knows our predicament and gives us invaluable instruction in the bonafide scriptures of the world. In the ancient yoga scriptures (the Vedas), in particular, we are given very clear, detailed, and practical directions that we can immediately begin applying to our lives in order to rectify our situation. We are told exactly how we can consciously link up again with the Supreme Person, realize our true nature, and actively cultivate a very tangible, personal, intimate, sweet and loving friendship with Him.

The method prescribed by the yoga scriptures for this day and age is called Mantra Meditation. Mantra Meditation is the hearing and repeating of the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person. This simple yet immeasurably potent yogic practice is the essence of all yoga practice. And it is the only means necessary to achieve full spiritual self-realization and God-realization in this modern age. It is completely accessible to people of all ages and abilities – and if we earnestly, faithfully engage regularly in this yoga practice, we are assured by the Supreme Person Himself of ultimate success.

Although the Names of the Supreme Person may, at first, seem like ordinary material sound vibrations, they are not. Rather, they are the Supreme Person directly appearing in this world in the form of pure spiritual sound vibration. The Supreme appears in this world as His Names in order to allow the living beings in this world the opportunity to remember Him – to consciously reconnect with Him and reawaken to our natural condition of conscious loving relationship with Him.

Through regularly, daily, welcoming Him into our hearts by hearing and repeating His Names, our consciousness gradually becomes purified of material influence. As the coverings of material forgetfulness that cloud our hearts and minds are steadily dissipated, our original spiritual condition is revealed more and more. We begin to remember our dearmost Supreme Friend and experience the familiar sweet joy of His presence in our hearts.

With this growing remembrance, naturally, we become happy in affectionately relating with Him, and eager to have Him fully back in our lives. This happiness and eagerness continues to increase in intensity and eventually blossoms into the most blissful, sublime, and wondrous of friendships. Our hearts are at last able find the complete rest, joy, fulfillment, and perfect friendship we have been longing for in loving relationship with our eternal Friend.

Existing in a state of deep and abiding love for the Supreme Person is our most natural condition. It is upon this foundation of spiritual love with the Supreme that our entire life becomes an expression of unconditional love, and all relationships we have with others become expansions of this love. When we consciously know and love the Supreme Person as our Best Friend, then naturally, we relate with  our spiritual siblings (all living beings) as friends. Thus, we gain, not only one lost Friend, but the ability to genuinely become a loving friend to all.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

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

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

 

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?

Who Am I – Answers in the Vedic Scriptures

yoga-meditation natural living

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.