Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN Newsletter, Issue - August 2013  

Guru Purnima in Rishikesh

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

The Guru

Swami Rama often began his lectures with

Om asato mā sad gamaya,
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya,
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya.
Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ

Om. Lead me from the unreal to the Real.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from mortality to immortality.
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

Before he began the lecture he would always place his hands together and say “I pray to the divinity within you.”

More than once he explained “the word guru is a compound of two words, gu and ru. Gu means darkness and ru means light.” There is a beautiful lecture by him on the guru in which he explains many fundamental things about the guru. For one, he clarifies that the guru is not a person:

Guru is not a physical being. Those who think of the guru as a body or as a man do not understand this pious word. If a guru comes to think that his power is his own, then he is a guide no more. The guru is tradition, he is a stream of knowledge. That stream of knowledge goes through many channels. Christ also said this when he healed people: “This is because of my Father; I am only a channel."

[Note: Please see the book Sacred Journey: Living Purposefully and Dying Gracefully by Swami Rama.]

Thinking about the Guru Force, I recall a satsang with Dr. Usharbudh Arya in Minneapolis in the 1970’s. He was holding a Sanskrit book, one tiny fleck of the vast scriptures called the Yoga Vashishtha and translating it into English as he went along. We sat in awe and wonder as he opened worlds for us---though we knew that we were seeing only the tiniest tips of these worlds. Now he does this from silence.

On that particular evening, Dr. Arya told us that, in one passage, the Yoga Vashishtha refers to this earth as one small fruit on a vast tree. Alongside it are countless such fruits, countless worlds. Just as this earth is one small fruit that spins and turns in space, so too is the Guru force---of all great traditions---an unimaginably vast tree holding many, many fruits, many worlds. So it is with the Himalayan Tradition whose body has many parts like a great tree whose roots go on forever and whose branches reach up far beyond our current seeing.

So when Swami Veda sent out a note that, here in Rishikesh, the Shri Guru-Gita would be recited in an unbroken flow for 9 days leading up to Guru Purnima, the thought occurred to me that this living text was a sacred presence and must be very important in the guru-disciple chain, of who and what went before us as well as those who would carry on the lineage.

Guru Purnima in Rishikesh, 2013

Every Guru Purnima here is gleaming but this year was unusual for three powerful reasons. First, Swami Veda was at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG). Usually he is at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, and here we would listen to his Guru Purnima talk on the internet at 5:30 am the day after Guru Purnima in India.

Second, the Shri Guru-Gita was chanted 24 hours a day for 9 days at both Sadhana Mandir and SRSG from July 14th to 22nd culminating on Guru Purnima. 

Third, for those same 9 days, the chanting of the Akhanda mandalakaram mantra magnified this beautiful procession before Agni, the living fire, both in the mornings, following the daily morning pujas and directly preceding the 1-hour meditations each evening with Swami Veda upstairs in his Initiation Room. Any one of these alone would have had deep effects. Together, the atmosphere was “electric” as Swami Veda described it in his 2013 Guru Purnima message. If you have not yet read it---some have said and I agree--- that it stands out from all his previous Guru Purnima letters.

It was high monsoons, that fecund time when all is lush and green. Gurubhai old and new, infants to elders, all friends in the guru, began to appear. I saw two dear ladies, Mrs. Pal and Mrs. Kapoor, coming up the walk. Mother Pal is aged and frail in body now, but her youthfulness prevails. In 2004, Swami Veda named her the ashram mother. She has a tiny frame and a twinkling joy. She has known Swami Veda since he was a teenager speaking to crowds in Delhi back in the 1950’s.

Akhanda mandalakaram

Swami Veda’s article on the akhanda mandalakaram mantra  is extremely rich in explaining why this mantra is so important.

akhaṇḍa-maṇḍalākāram vyāptam yena carācaram

(Which) pervades the entire unbroken form of the circle (of creation), moving and unmoving.

tatpadam darśitam yena, tasmai śrī gurave namah.

To that beautiful and benevolent Guru through whom that state was revealed (to me), salutations.

Swamiji’s article gives a more detailed translation. It is a classic that elucidates the meaning of the Akhanda-mandalakaram mantra with great depth and clarity. He links this mantra with Yoga Sutra I.37:

uniting with the mind-field of the guru…. The one who we invite… whose… presence we invoke and merge with our presence, with our essence.  Whose shape and form and configuration is no other than the indivisible arrangement of all the shaktis in this universal mind-field of guru, the light that dispels darkness of ignorance.

The sounds of this mantra are quite penetrating and you may wish to listen to it.

The Shri Guru-Gita

I knew little about this text so I asked Chandramaniji, an SRSG resident and Sanskrit scholar, a few questions.

Question: Can you tell me a bit about the Shri Guru-Gita? Who is the deity to whom it is offered? Or is it simply to the Guru?

Chandramani: Parama-brahman, the Supreme Consciousness.

Question: To whom was it revealed?

Chandramani: It was a lady who inquired into the nature of the Guru—Parvati, the divine consort of Shiva, saying everyone worships you but whom do you worship? Then Shiva told her the essence of the eternal Guru whom he worships.

Question: So it was first revealed to the goddess Parvati by Shiva. Who is the Rishi to whom it was revealed? Who composed it?

Chandramani: Yes, it is from Shiva himself teaching his wife Parvati. The second time it was revealed to the great sage Vyasa, the author of many texts. He taught this to Suuta, one of his disciples, who taught other meditators. So the great sage Vyasa is known as the first person to whom it was revealed and who composed the text in verse form. However the knowledge is revealed to every disciple who seeks learning from the Guru.

Question: What text is it from? How long is it? What is its meter?

Chandramani: It is a part of the Skanda-Maha-Puranam. The Shri Guru-Gita has 352 verses, mainly in Anustup Chanda/meter.

Question: Are you aware of any important prayers in this very sacred text?

Chandramani: The Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu comes from the Shri Guru-Gita

This next verse also comes from the Shri Guru-Gita and is widely known:

om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurava namah

I pay all reverence to that Guru/master who, by his collyrium stick of knowledge, opened the eyes of one who was blinded by the darkness of ignorance.

I believe the vibrations continue

Unfortunately, I do not have sufficient understanding of Sanskrit or of the Shri Guru-Gita to say much about this important sacred text. The continuous flow of the Shri Guru-Gita is no longer spoken here but I believe that its vibrations continue. It is one more part of the sankalpa, the divine resolve, of a great teacher who prays without ceasing for all his children and grandchildren scattered over the earth like so many seeds.

On Guru Purnima

On the morning of Guru Purnima, final ceremonies were done first at Sadhana Mandir and again later at SRSG.

Guru Purnima is a full moon day so while some of us went to Sadhana Mandir for the final puja, others sat together with Swami Veda in his upstairs initiation room at 7 am for the worldwide full moon meditation. Wherever he is, Swamiji sits on his meditation seat for an hour several times a day on every full moon day with people around the world at times designated for their time zones.

The final puja at SRSG was particularly moving, even though I did not understand many of the words spoken. I found myself inwardly inclined toward this prayer from my childhood:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

I always love to hear our priests chant in strong unison, but this time, the chanting was even more powerful. The subdued 9-day unbroken chanting of the Shri Guru Gita continued quietly in the same room as a counterpoint to the priests who sang the Guru Purnima Puja in sustained crescendo. The fugue of overlay---puja and Guru Gita—was glorious, a sort of Magnificat. Each prayer magnified the other.

If the day had ended there, it would have been a full day, but the fullness spilled over into the purnahuti, the final fire offering at the yajnashala (fire altar). Most of us went up to the fire hut while some stayed back in the Meditation Hall, continuing the Guru Gita recitation, which by now was its own fire blazing!

Next, 65 students of every age gathered at the fire and Swami Veda arrived for the final chanting of the akhandamandala karam mantra that had blazed every morning and evening for the last 9 days. I really felt the depths of that light-sound those 9 days. Now it felt like we were all there to greet him as he greeted one and all, the far and the near, the full retinue of all shining beings in body, light and sound----including those who were physically far away.  The strong and unified call of the priests joined to the one who holds us all. It felt like we were so many beads side by side, a part of one single set of prayer beads threaded together that could never break. I again remembered that passage from the Shiva Sankalpa Suktam:

OM yaj jāgrato dūram udaiti, daivaṁ
tadu suptasya tathaivaiti,
dūraṅgamaṃ jyotiṣāṁ jyotir ekaṁ,
tan me manaḥ shiva-saṅkalpam astu.

Om. That divine shining force which travels far as one is awake and also travels far and wide, the same way, when one is asleep, this far going, far travelling, one light of many lights, may that my mind be filled with beautiful and benevolent resolve.

Then we all returned to the Meditation Hall with Swami Veda who utterly blanketed us with his love and blessings, his joy so deep. There is a lightness about Swami Veda like that of a tiny infant as if his crown was ever open to offer his whole being and receive the light.

Prasad was distributed and a special lunch followed at Sadhana Mandir. In the evening we sat in meditation upstairs with Swami Veda for an hour. Afterwards, at night, we enjoyed bhajans in the Meditation Hall offered by Jaya Bhagat and friends who came from Delhi.

The celebrations continued the following night at Sadhana Mandir where a few of us went to hear Shri Tiwariji, Shri Pandey and a young protégé of Tiwariji, a younger Pandey. Swami Rama often brought Mr. Tiwari, the singer, and the elder Mr. Pandey, the tabla player, to the United States to teach us Indian music. Some of us lit up at the opportunity to be with them again and hear them.

What is Guru Purnima?

Guru Purnima is a full moon day when the guru is venerated. On this day, many of us meditate for an hour with Swami Veda in Full Moon Meditation whether we are in his physical presence or not, whether we are initiates or have meditated before or not. People from all around the world and of diverse traditions meditate on the full moon days.

Swami Rama explained in his 1988 Guru Purnima address to The Meditation Center,

This day, the day of Guru Purnima is considered to be the holiest day for the students of life; for those that have been treading the path of light; for those aspiring to attain enlightenment in this lifetime. They remember this day and celebrate it by becoming aware the purpose of life is to attain enlightenment; the state of mind, internal state, that makes one free from all pains and miseries.

So as you celebrate other days like Father's Day, Mother's Day, this is a little bit different, it is very auspicious. The student mentally, religiously follows the spiritual teaching imparted by the Tradition. For the Tradition is considered to be highest. It is a Tradition that follows truth, that leads one to the highest peak of wisdom.

So you know in our Tradition there have been many, many sages. If you find any obstacles on the path there will be help. Always you will be guided by the spiritual beings; those who watch your progress. I want you to faithfully tread the path of light and life by doing your duties selflessly, lovingly and skillfully in the external world and punctually meditate.

Random Notes

One prayer layered upon another, like an ancient protecting shawl.

The driving chants crescendo. If light were sound, this would be it.

Approaching the Meditation Hall escorted by sounds of the Shiva Sankalpam astu.

The chanting is so strong, like a living, breathing person.

23 priests and many seekers are gathered.

At the head of the room, there is a beautiful yantra of different seeds, a mystic diagram that seeds us. The guru flame is alive.

The shantih pada, prayer of peace to all---is why we do this. To, in, and of the One who is us all.

Now the priests are crowning the Devi, the eternal divine mother.

Mounds of flowers are place on her head and at her feet. The freshness of barley grass atop tied in red thread. Abundance.

I don’t know what they are saying but I never tire of hearing these oceanic, ancient chants that carry so many who have gone before us on her sacred, perfect meter and mantra.

I hear the light--- Agni, the witness who engraves these sounds, these prayers on the heart of the world, present or not.

Slideshow of Guru Purnima Events 2013

  • 11a_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11b_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11c_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11d_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11e_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11f_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11g_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11h_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11i_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11j_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11k_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11l_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11m_Guru Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11n_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11o_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11p_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11q_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11r_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
  • 11s_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_2013
11a_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_20131 11b_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_20132 11c_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_20133 11d_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_20134 11e_Guru_Purnima_sadhana_Rishikesh_20135 11f_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_20136 11g_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_20137 11h_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_20138 11i_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_20139 11j_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201310 11k_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201311 11l_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201312 11m_Guru Purnima_Rishikesh_201313 11n_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201314 11o_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201315 11p_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201316 11q_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201317 11r_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201318 11s_Guru_Purnima_Rishikesh_201319


Editor's Note:

The vrata (vow) of “Shiva-saṅkalpa” is part of the practice for the next five years and the rest of your life that was given by Swami Veda on 9th March 2013.  Please see http://ahymsin.org/main/practice/practice-for-the-next-five-years-and-the-rest-of-your-life.html

Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann) has written a book GU-RU, Contemplation on the Guru Gita. Please see http://www.5elementsglobalproductions.com/store/products/guru/. An excerpt from the book A Contemplation on the GURU-Gita can be read at this link: http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1107Jul/09.html


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