Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Kalyana Mitra at SRSG

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

The Kalyana Mitra Retreat: The Context

Swami Veda called for a gathering at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama with the theme of Kalyana Mitra, the noble friend, from 24th November-3rd December, 2013.

There is only one mindfield.

Swami Veda said this three times in a row during the Yoga Sutra, Pada 4 course in fall, 2012.

In our vast universe, there is only one mindfield. This is the underlying truth of kalyana mitra. We are all inextricably interlinked, from a stone to the stars. What I do affects my neighbor and perhaps affects someone I may never know or see.

The whorls of energy that form spiraling lines on my fingertips, like everything that occurs in nature, is a pattern that repeats from my fingertips to the galaxies. When did this event begin? I suspect long before any of us dreamt it.

Old Friends Coming Together

I walked up the path toward my cottage past the trumpet shapes of morning glories. If you look inside one of these blossoms, you can see the sun. It seems to go on forever. I walked through the one-note call of a bird that seems to make an arc straight to Anahata, the unstruck sound, the center of the sacred heart. Many old friends were arriving here at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama.

Did we know that Swami Veda would sit before us in fragile health and type out a lecture for us nearly every afternoon? That he would sit with us in the Meditation Hall every evening for an hour of silent meditation before supper? These were precious days together.

The event had many parts

Each day of the Kalyana Mitra event began and ended with ashram prayers. There were hatha classes in the mornings and one-hour meditations both in the mornings and evenings. As I already mentioned, Swami Veda was physically present in the evening meditations. On Thursday, we enjoyed silence, longer meditations and contemplative walking. The other days there were lectures, and small group study sessions made room for focused study and sharing of Swami Rama and Swami Veda audio and print files in family-like groups after lunch.

Late afternoons, we sat with Swami Veda as he taught from silence in the Meditation Hall where he gave laptop lectures that were projected onto a screen so that we could see his flow of thought as he typed. I will go more into that later.

We heard talks from some excellent teachers in our tradition. Among them were some who, after sustained periods of silent immersion in special practices and committed years of practice, have been designated to give mantra initiations. There was a joyous panel discussion by center leaders from around the world. In addition, initiators who were present all came together for a panel discussion. These initiators included Swami Ritavan Bharati, Swami Prashant Bharati, Swami Ma Radha Bharati, Carolyn Hume, Savitri Jugdeo, Michael Kissener, and Stoma (Dr. Stephen Parker). Their comments were practical, reflective and helpful.

There were some evening cultural events. One night there was kirtan led by SRSG residents. Another evening the ashram children gave a beautiful performance.  The small orchestra from Ma Chetan Jyoti’s music school entertained us on another evening with their teacher Shivananda.

One night, Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda graced us with kirtan that overflowed with the divine presence. Shree Maa is a Hindu saint born near Kamakhya, Assam, India. She comes from a family of noted poets and saints and left home at a young age, following a divine calling. Shree Maa is known worldwide for her invocations of the divine in sacred song. That night with her during the Kalyana Mitra event was no exception. The kirtan went deep and many of us were moved to tears and/or went still.

The Study Material

One lovingly thought out part of this gathering was a packet of Swami Rama and Swami Veda classics hand-picked by Swami Veda. Every day - except Thursday, the day of silent practice - we met in small groups to immerse ourselves in the study and sharing of these select print and audio files.

Swami Rama

In the stream of the Guru lineage - from Hiranyagarbha, the Golden Womb of Creation to the Eternal Now of multitudinous traditions - the appearance in the West of H.H. Swami Rama is but a dot, albeit a significant dot.

 Like all great masters of all times and climes, he is like the center of a mandala, a bindu, a meeting place of diverse peoples, an opening into a long tunnel with no beginning and no end - like Ouroboros, the snake who swallows its tail.

The Teachings Continue

The guru stream continues in the work of Swami Rama’s disciples and students.

The Kalyana Mitra meetings at SRSG, like the work of many people the world over who have walked in the Guru Presence, is a part of that vortex of light.

To me, the guru is a living point of light on which whole worlds are strung - as if one vast mala (rosary) silently echoes the initiations of thousands upon thousands on this small planet. Perhaps the universe of kalyana mitra (noble friends) is about the guru light taking palpable form in our lives as we walk together on the spiritual path. 

Satsangs with Swami Veda

Every afternoon except twice due to fragile health, Swami Veda came to the Meditation Hall to teach from silence. Writing on a laptop which was projected onto a screen, he explained the purpose of the course, defined kalyana mitra in depth, gave practices and expressed his wishes for a continuing worldwide system of noble friends.

Swami Veda: Who is a Kalyana Mitra?

At the outset of the Kalyana Mitra gathering, Swami Veda explained that:

A brother is a kalyana mitra, a neighbor, parents, children, a school teacher. Anyone on the street who helps you in guidance or whom you help.

He explained:

Because in the teaching you are moved by compassion (karuna), you want to reduce the suffering of all living beings. So you offer yourself as kalyanamitra, a Noble Friend, to all:

  • Help them to the extent that your knowledge reaches.
  • Keep increasing your knowledge by way of

(a) Sakshatkara, spiritual realization

(b) svadhyaya, self-study which is being guided.

In his laptop lectures, he covered many important topics from kundalini to how to lengthen the breath to raising children.

Swami Veda cited particular books and audio files for various aspects of our training and for other students whom we might serve. The scope of this course was large. It was an overview of a lifetime of teachings and an invitation to deepen our practice, enrich our relationships and lifestyles, and share with others. At Swamiji’s request, Stoma taught two afternoons when Swamiji would normally teach. Teachers who had been lovingly trained moved about the room, gently correcting postures.

Breathing practices

Swamiji guided us to begin each session with meditation and specific breathing practices. He requested that, over time, we record changes in the lengths of our breath and keep a journal that would help us sustain and deepen our own practice as well as help Dr. Prabhu and our lab in scientific research.

Breath counting from 1 to 5 and 5 to 1 (Variant 1 below) for 3 minutes and a refinement of that (Variant 2 below) was a practice Swami Veda asked us to do frequently throughout the day during the retreat. While at other times, he has taught us to begin by exhaling through the active nostril, on this occasion he told us to begin by exhaling through the passive nostril.

Variant 1

  • Exhaling – 1
  • Inhaling – 2
  • Exhaling – 3
  • Inhaling – 4
  • Exhaling – 5
  • Inhaling – 5
  • Exhaling – 4
  • Inhaling – 3
  • Exhaling  – 2
  • Inhaling – 1

Continue 1 to 5 , 5 to 1.

Variant 2

Follow variant 1 adding the observation of the moment of the transition from exhale to inhale and from inhale to exhale, each time, without pausing; only observing that micro-moment.

A Breathing experiment

It is said in the shastras (ancient texts) that each person is allotted a certain number of breaths based on karmas from former lives, those accrued in this present lifetime and how we choose to accrue or pay off karmas in each present moment.

Swami Veda has often told us to gently lengthen the breath without jerks and pauses. In this way, he said, you “Cheat death.” He has spent years teaching us how to do this. One afternoon, Swami Veda challenged us to lengthen our breaths:

Let us do an experiment and personal practicum for everyone.

Keep a count of how many breaths you take per minute. Reduce the number by lengthening the breaths by five methods I have taught elsewhere. Gurukulam students can explain these to you. If you are taking 15 breaths a minute, before you leave, can you make it come down to 14>13>12>11>10 breaths per minute?

How to slow down your breath without pressuring the lungs? By

  • Sattvic emotions
  • Relaxed neuro-musculature
  • Relaxed internal organs
  • Diaphragmatic breathing

           Not, not, not by pressuring lungs. Never.

At another time, he said:

Many people here are yoga teachers. They start teaching pranayamas without understanding the meaning of the word.


Ayama means stretching, extending, expanding, knowing the peripheries, expanding the peripheries. Without that there is no pranayama.

This is just a small part of what he taught us.

He announced Breath and Silence 1 to take place at SRSG 23rd March – 6th April 2014 , Breath and Silence 2 in 2015, Mantra Practices and Silence 1 in 2016, and Mantra Practices and Silence 2 in 2017.

Our Lineage: A Swami Veda Meditation

Stoma (Dr. Stephen Parker) offered the first presentation—on our lineage— by reading aloud a profound meditation given years earlier by Swami Veda.  

It would be impossible to contain in a few words the Swami Veda meditation that Stoma (Dr. Stephen Parker) read to us from the depths of so much love. It illuminates the meaning of Guru and of kalyana mitra. That meditation is worth hearing again. I just listened to that recording again. It is not a history. It is not about a corpus of practices and techniques. It is alive with all of creation in an infinitesimally small dot, a living potentia within.

I believe that a circle of light was drawn around the event. More than once during the Kalyana Mitra retreat, I felt it.

Another day, Stoma spoke on Citta prasadanam and kalyana mitra, (pleasant-mindedness and the noble path).

Stoma: Citta prasadhanam

Stoma (Dr. Stephen Parker) talked about the history of the term kalyana mitra or mitta (Pali):

In the Pali Canon there is a story about a conversation between the Buddha and his disciple Ananda in which Ananda says ‘this is half the holy life, lord —admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.’ The Buddha corrected him by saying that those 3 were actually the whole of holy life.

He further explored how the concept evolved in later Buddhist texts, such as in Buddhaghosa’s 5th century text The Path of Purification in which Buddhaghosa  mentions the 7 qualities of a kalyana mitra or mitta (Pali):

Loveableness, esteemableness, venerableness, ability to counsel, patience in listening, ability to deliver deep discourses, and not applying oneself to useless ends - meaning not wasting your time.

Stoma continued:

Increasingly kalyana mitra came to mean a relationship between a spiritual mentor and a student; sometimes it’s used as a kind of synonym for guru or maybe someone who is a little farther along on the path—and then peer kalyana mitras -  people who are in the same boat. That’s where you find the ability to create a sangha, a family of choice, to create a community where we all work on your spirituality together…

Stoma explained that it is almost impossible to do this work without community because you cannot see your own dark side, that our defense mechanisms against seeing the undesirable parts in ourselves are strong. “We really need each other’s help. We need to be mirrors for each other,” he said. “That’s why I value all my difficult friendships.” But he also spoke of how we need people who have compassion for us and people who just listen.

“As a noble friend,” said Stoma, “we get the gift of seeing someone embrace themselves in a way that they never could do before. You have to talk to people. You have to get to know people. It is not important for you to make sense of it.”

Stoma said that “Swami Veda said that your enemy has information about you that you don’t want to see. Stoma says that this is important in transformation. “

“How free are you of your ego?” He asked. “How generous are you with your compassion?”

Stoma spoke about the importance of the importance of the yamas and niyamas and about not identifying with your work. He spoke of the Yamas and Niyamas as:

a process of gradually lifting the veil of ignorance so that your natural capacity for compassion comes forward as a natural development, as a vibhuti. These siddhis are not things that are added to your personality. They are just things that grow in you naturally as you become more of a spiritual person…. Even in illness, he said, it’s sometimes all about being a kalyana mitra to the disease in your body.

Stoma encouraged us to cultivate “patience with the roughness that happens sometimes and how things work” and said that he has seen such enormous deepening of this "sense of family” in our sangha.  

He spoke about cultivating a true sense of innocence and practicing the Brahma Vihāras.  Our innocence is “being able to live in that sense of openheartedness all the time. It’s the picture of a person that’s presented by Patañjali on the Brahma vihāras… friendliness, compassion, joyful mind, an ability to overlook the rough spots in people’s personality. That’s really what innocence looks like. And it’s really important because that’s how you come back to the sense of what it really means to be a human being…”

He spoke of an “openhearted vulnerability [is] really the nature of divine presence; it’s how you make yourself into a divine person who is capable of talking to God.” He said “God is always speaking in our hearts. It’s just we can’t hear….”

Michael Kissener: Cultivating both Maitri and Karuna to be a Noble Friend

Train yourself in receiving and giving and do this by riding the breath.
—from The Seven Points of Mind Training

On his first visit to India, Michael heard the above words coming from a hall playing a recorded lecture. The words caught his attention and stayed with him. A few years later, he met teachers who taught him how to do this, systematically and in steps given in an ancient text.

He explained that maitri (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion) were inseparable and were the core foundations of kalyana mitra, that the brahma vihāras of the Yoga Sutras and all schools of Buddhism teach this as well.

He described Kalyana Mitra as “being a friend on the path, being available for others to support them on the path, and that maitri - not only maitri - but all the qualities taught in the Brahma Vihāras were essential.”

Someone asked “What is maitri?”

Michael said:

Maitri is loving kindness… true friendliness, a loving, caring, compassionate attitude…true openness to any kind of experience or encounter… dropping all your resistances to any kind of undesired experiences …and allowing [yourself] to be touched and to respond from another place within--- from a deeper space.

He went on to say that it took him a long time to grasp what was meant by that important admonition which he had heard on his first visit to India:

Train yourself in receiving and giving.

He explained that there are specific practices taught in a particular sequence, and that they are “a very essential part” of the training at Yoga-Zentrum Innsbruck (the yoga center of Michael and his wife Nura).

He explained more about maitri and receiving:

Receiving is no more, no less than accepting, acknowledging, having an open heart, being receptive… [to whatever presents itself] in my experience.…This may be inner states… things happening in my life…encounters with others. It is not what often is misunderstood about this kind of practice---loading or taking on the pain or suffering of others. It is about having an open heart and [receptivity]… to others in such states and if we find ourselves in such a state…some karmas coming up…might happen…confronted with turmoils .... [This]applies to internal states as well as external experiences…[and]  dropping your resistances to undesired experiences, being ready to touch what is really there….[and] start accepting the facts as they are.

Giving is all about true friendliness, love, compassion, the peace of your heart and mind. Take any sattvic sentiment - any of them - [radiating]… these kinds of qualities… and sharing it, whether [someone else is in a] desperate or difficult situation or if necessary sharing it with yourself. Sometimes…we forget about ourselves…. “Oh, what should I do, what can I do” and we always forget that the first step is acknowledging yourself and your life and what it presents to you…Somehow you try to control it and manipulate the situation and it won’t work. There is this hidden tension underneath that you don’t grasp or maybe you grasp it at a certain point. As soon as we start becoming aware of such a tension/defense/attitude, that’s the moment where maitri starts—opening up to it, accepting the fact…take it into your heart, open your heart to it.

At that moment when we really start to acknowledge what is there, a change is starting inside of us. Not that the [difficulty] immediately vanishes. [It] may happen but rarely. Another kind of atmosphere may be present in you, will shine forward in you….We need the experience of that. The very moment that you accept a certain inner state, a very new quality will start to shine [on it] from within…and this will allow you to meet these conditions with an open heart. An emotion may start to loosen up and at some point to dissolve….In that moment the light of bodhisattva is shining into…and this sattvic light will bring a change…a different awareness… [of] how we can confront difficulties in a different way….At this point practices develop their specific qualities coming out of this experience.

Then he led us through a meditation to explore the first step of maitri, in developing a benevolent acceptance of ourselves.

He reminded us that Swami Veda once said that emotional purification starts with maitri.

Michael said that the real challenge is making changes in our daily experiences, not only in meditation but also “cultivating the sankalpa to make the changes in ourselves.”

He beautifully described just one glance that Swami Veda gave him at just the right moment and what Swamiji said that changed Michael’s whole life with that one piercing glance.

Michael said “Don’t put pressure on yourself. You can experiment. And definitely with time, changes can occur.” His wife Nura added that healing happens step by step.

He ended with a meditation and this request:

“Dedicate your practice to the well being of all sentient beings. Om shreem.”

Swami Ma Radha: the 5-year practice

Swami Radha spoke about the 5-year-and-for-the-rest-of-your-life practice which Swami Veda gave to the 2013 Sangha Gathering. The 5-year practice does not compete at all with the kalyana mitra practices, she said. She described how all these practices fold into one another. This was important because it clarified the practice and how all of its parts fit together in one cohesive whole.

She also pointed out how in doing the same practice, we all come together at a subtle level. Concerns about how one manages one’s time with all the new practices too were addressed. She mentioned that this AHYMSIN world community functions as a family. By doing these practices, we take the next step forward. We also harmonize with the extended sangha.

Swami Ma Radha said that in order to avoid feeling trapped by your worldly station or a sense of power or ego, you need to do these practices as taught in Sadhana in Applied Spirituality, a book which talks about applying spirituality in your feelings, voice quality, relationships and emotional purification. The focus there is on how we conduct ourselves, how we refine our acts of thought, speech and action.

Swami Veda tells us that you cannot do the practices properly without first purifying the mind. So there is a prayer, the Shiva Sankalpa Hymn in which you invite a benevolent resolve to do the practices. This prayer intensifies your sankalpa shakti, your will to do the practices and not just the power of will but also the sankalpa which is a benevolent, Shiva-like resolve. The Shiva Sankalpa Sukta is powerful and even just mentally thinking the refrain, the last line that repeats in all 6 stanzas or shlokas, at different times throughout your day strengthens the power and intensity of your resolve.

Om Kham Brahma is a Mahavakya in the stream of the great sayings of Vedanta, and it does not replace your mantra, but it is a thought to contemplate often throughout the day.

“The 3-minute little pranayama practice that Swami Veda has just given are to be done at intervals throughout the day, just like now we do 2-minute meditations and try to keep our foreheads relaxed. It should feel a little familiar to insert these practices in your day” she said.

“The pranayamas, the meditations and concentrations are very important,” she continued. They affect what we do the other 23 hours of our day, even our sleep, our relationships, our work, the quality of our concentration—everything is affected by our meditation practices. Swamiji has taught that just by slowing the breath, you calm the emotions.

In order to avoid being thrown off by our feelings of vanity or position, you need to do the practices as taught in Sadhana in Applied Spirituality. These are not sitting down practices. They are emotional purification practices.

“The yamas and niyamas, the Brahmavihāras, compassion and loving kindness are all very much a part of our sadhana, she said.  “Emotional purification is stressed over and over,” Swami Ma Radha explained. “How do you really go about applying these concepts in the market, in board meetings, in communication, in your emails, your voice quality? It includes what he, Swami Veda, has learned in what he calls his ‘experiments.’ It involves downplaying your ego and really applying these practices.”

Upaya kaushala is expertise in liberating oneself and others. It is one of the 10 perfections of a bodhisattva. [Swami Veda] has put himself in training all his life practically. He has approached everything with the thought ‘Will this help me attain moksha, my goal?’ If it doesn’t, then he doesn’t do it. He is incredibly disciplined. He has been able to make progress by constant mindfulness and by his constant lifelong experimentation. He has deconditioned himself from deeds of thought, word and action that do not harmonize with the highest principles like ahimsa, for example. Swami Veda described how we arrogantly, insensitively talk down to others and at the same time we are always in denial about our …personal pride and arrogance our ungentleness…. He talks in here (Sadhana in Applied Spirituality) about how to buy potatoes in the market!”

She told us:

One man was always so impressed how, over many years, a man called ‘Usharbudh Arya’ had always conducted his airline reservations and credit card affairs so calmly and gently. The man finally came here to see who this man Usharbudh Arya actually was.

(Before sanyas, Swami Veda Bharati was Usharbudh Arya.)

Swami Ma Radha carefully explained how all the parts of the practices fit into one another and offers a possible order of approach to what otherwise might seem a complicated set of practices. She has so thoughtfully put it all together in her talk on the 5-year practice. She talked about how to make it quite natural yet affirmed that it requires strengthening your sankalpa shakti, the power of resolve. She continued:

[Swami Veda] strongly recommends the entirety of the Shiva Sankalpa Sukta. It is not to be used instead of a meditation or like a mantra. It is a prayer for resolve. He says “do it like you do the 3-minute meditations throughout the day and you can just do the ‘tan me manaha shiva sankalpam astu.’ the last line of each of the 6 stanzas. Or if you are running into trouble with your ego, just mentally repeat it. Or do one of the verses or all of the verses before you start your meditation if you like.

[Note: To read the practice given by Swami Veda Bharati: http://ahymsin.org/main/practice/practice-for-the-next-five-years-and-the-rest-of-your-life.html]

Carolyn Hume

Carolyn Hume spoke about communication as a tool for Kalyana Mitra. She led us through a relaxation and meditation and quoted one of St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians:

For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Swami Veda has put her in a position of communications as editor of the AHYMSIN Newsletter, and many other situations, including head of communications for the Samiti, our sangha’s worldwide spiritual committee which includes, but is not limited to initiators. This has been humbling for her, listening to and hearing ---not just at the level of speech---what others say.

What do you want from this life and who are you? She asked. Do you want to come together as a sangha and what can you contribute?

She requested that we subscribe to the newsletter and read it. She encouraged us to contribute to the newsletter as well: When we share, we enlarge the world of others. She added that it would be nice if people could ask instead of demanding….(and) to respond when you get an inquiry.

She spoke about the many ways we communicate-- how we walk, talk, and communicate even in silence by what we carry with us. Observing the yamas and niyamas in thought, speech and action, she explained, helps us to change ourselves and also to refine our communications. Here are some direct quotes from her talk which you might find helpful:

Be indifferent to compliments and criticism.

Speak gently and kindly rather than making demands.

The most profound communication is in silence, which contains all sounds. Silence pervades everything.

The whole foundation of yoga is nonviolence. Any harming has to go.

Truth is more than factual.

We carry around such preconceived ideas. Grace helps us drop the pain that comes from this.

The teacher asks that we make full effort first and then grace helps these things to fall away.

Love is. The blessings are always there.

We are held in such a high love. Even though we think we are crashing someone holds us in such a high love.

Communication starts by communicating within yourself.

We are all one breath. Each of us reflects it differently and beautifully.

It is only fear that holds us back. In our sangha, Swami Veda has said over and over that he would like us to be a sangha.

Yet even now we don’t really communicate with each other as well or as much as we could.

Swami Veda has tried to urge us to have a united mindfield. We all drink from the same cup and we should be joyful in it. It touches people around you.

As your grasping need falls away….If people gather together, they strengthen one another.

Even our good deeds we claim for ourselves. [Try to remember] Not me, not mine.

Swami Veda is offering us to join together, to be willing to reach out and help one another.

It helps to have a sense of humor. If you can get so you laugh at yourself, perceived failures take on a different character.

Whatever negativities in you come out in the way you speak, walk, act. This is what others feel.

[You can choose to be someone with] laughter running through you at all times. This can only come through practice and intention.

Communication happens all the time.

Swami Ritavan on Mantra and Initiation

Swami Ritavan welcomed us to the family of the guru and asked that we do 3 minutes of silence, using the breath counting practice that Swami Veda suggested for the Kalyana Mitra. He asked us to think about what we can bring with us to our centers and groups back home.

He reminded us of the depth of simple practices and of the yoga sutras that Swami Veda is sharing with us and is available in books and in audios. He spoke of relaxation, pratyahara, and of how much is possible just by deepening our shavasana practice.

He also spoke a little about the loving guidance of Swami Veda who has travelled over a million miles in just the last 4 years to teach us in so many countries. He said that even though he had known him for 43 years, he still did not came anywhere near understanding the full range of Swami Veda and of Swami Veda’s commitment to the spiritual life of each and every student and of the need for us to integrate what we have learned with the hopes of sharing the depths of those lessons. Swami Ritavan told some stories of how Swami Veda has taught from the wordless form over the decades, not just over the past few months.

Swami Ritavan encouraged us to rely less on Swami Veda’s physical presence - and to engage in our small groups and in the entire global community.

Last of all, Swami Ritavan encouraged us to identify the resources and practices and to pass on the feelings of kinship that we can share with others. He spoke of the homeland of consciousness that transcends geographic boundaries.

Randall Krause (Mokshadeva): Practice, practice, practice!

Swami Rama often said that there were 3 secrets to success in yoga: practice, practice, practice. This was the title of Mokshadeva’s presentation in which he talked about how we can make ourselves adhikara (qualified to receive and give teachings).

He discussed several aphorisms in the Yoga Sutras. He also led the group through some interactive mirroring exercises designed to help us learn how to listen better.

He discussed the following sutras vis-à-vis establishing an unbroken sadhana over a long period of time with sincere devotion. The translations of sutras below Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: With the Exposition of Vyāsa: A Translation and Commentary, Volume I, Samādhi Pāda by Pandit Usharbudh Arya©1986, but a revised edition of this book is expected.

Yogaśh chitta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ. (Yoga Sutra I.2)
Yoga is the control of the modifications of the mind-field.

Abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṁ tan-nirodhaḥ (Yoga Sutra I.12)
The control of those vṛttis occurs through practice and dispassion.

Sa tu dīrgha-kāla-nairantarya-satkārāsevito dṛḍha-bhῡmiḥ (Yoga Sutra I.14)
That practice, however, becomes firm of ground only when pursued and maintained in assiduous and complete observance for a long time, without interruption and with a positive and devout attitude.

Mokshadeva discussed these sutras and also quoted both Swami Rama and Baba Hari Das, the silent swami of Mount Madonna in California.

“Swami Rama said that you don’t have to know everything, but you have to practice what you know. Baba Hari Das likened progress in meditation without practice to sitting on the beach waiting for a pearl to wash up,” said Mokshadeva.

He also talked about how hard it can be to practice and that the purpose of this seminar was about mentoring and supporting people who are interested in yoga but are perhaps not consistent with their practice.

He wondered why people so often do not practice if they could sit for 2 minutes and get something out of it. He talked about our busy world, the internet and how people are so easily distracted. People don’t want to work. He talked about how people expect instant results, want to go to the movies, the beach. Swami Rama used to talk about “Coca Cola Enlightenment” and how people expected fast results in yoga.

Mokshadeva shared a beautiful example of how our own actions affect others, how our practice inspires others, carries perhaps a certain positive force. A man brought his son to Gandhi and asked Gandhi to tell him that sugar was bad for him and not to eat sugar. Gandhi told the man to come back in a week. So a week later, the man brought his son back to Gandhi and Gandhi said “Don’t eat sugar.” The father asked why Gandhi didn’t tell him that a week ago.  “Because then I was still eating sugar,” said Gandhi. This was a beautiful illustration of how when we practice, the practices become a part of our being and that without practice we do not speak from a place of authority.

“When we practice” he said, “we have to face our own resistances. We learn what it’s like to overcome our resistances and we carry that with us. We can then be supportive of others who want to get past their own obstacles,” he said.

We want to teach people not to be like us but to be what they are in themselves.

Mokshadeva said “Vairagya means letting go of the place where you are to get to the place you are getting.

“It’s through the love that people connect. It’s the love that draws me to [Swami Veda],” Mokshadeva added. Then he asked everyone to do a silent mirroring activity. “One way to love people by just receiving them,” he said. “Often we are not really listening. Usually [it is just] superficial listening. If you really listen you feel where this person is coming from.”

People seemed to enjoy the activities. Then he talked about how psychotherapists sometimes mirror the client’s body language. Stoma added that you can also mirror their breathing and know a lot about them.

Mokshadeva talked about providing a small base from where people can grow. Swami Veda, for example, tells people to relax their foreheads and to do a few minutes meditation several times a day.

Baba Hari Das would talk about how to get up earlier. He suggested that you change 10 minutes at a time for a long, long time. By small increments, Mokshadeva changed his waking time over years. Just by making tiny changes until it became firm. Really firm.

“You can also help people to celebrate their successes---to notice the benefits to their practice,” he said.

Another thing Mokshadeva said we can do is “create satsangs, go hiking together and practice yoga in the way of hiking...” He invited people to join his online Yoga Sutras study group. [Randall has written: if people are interested in the yoga sutra group study they can contact me [email protected]  or they can contact me on Facebook.]

Shailendra and Komal Bisseswar and Mokshadeva (Randall Krause)

It was really a privilege to hear Mokshadeva join former long term resident and gurukulam student Shailendra Bisseswar and Komal Bisseswar, his uncle, both of Holland. They spoke on the topic “What is a teacher in the Himalayan Tradition?”

Many of Swami Veda’s students are the 2nd and 3rd generations of Swamiji’s students. Shailendra and Komal are a part of that stream. They have children who are Swamiji’s students too.

From a position of humility and citing passages in the Yoga Sutras and the Sankhya Karika, they spoke about the need for a teacher to be humble and to surrender the ego and that the teaching is given with an attitude of namah (not mine).

Quoting a Sankhya passage, Komal said that one goal of a teacher is to make utmost effort to reduce and eliminate the 3-fold pains caused by 1) living beings in the world, 2) physical and mental tendencies and 3) forces of nature. He discussed the importance of the first aphorism of the Yoga Sutras.

Komal referred to the prayer that begins “Hiranyagarbha…” showing that we trace our lineage all the way back to Hiranyagarbha, the golden womb, and which continues in those like HH Swami Rama and Swami Veda.

People felt very at home with them, and there was a lot of interchange with members of the audience.

Komal brought up the importance of discipline on the part of the student.

Mokshadeva mentioned how his guitar teacher corrects him, thereby helping him to improve and that a good teacher gently helps students to transform themselves. He also talked a bit about how Swami Veda can sometimes be firm with his students. A member of the audience pointed out how it is also good for a teacher sometimes to give a student space, to just stand back and not correct a student.

Pure and unconditional love was also mentioned as an important part of teaching as was the necessity of knowing that you, as teacher, are not a great guru. The manner of speaking, the timing for speaking and the appropriateness of particular words and gestures are also important for an aspiring teacher to consider. The tone and intent of correction is also significant. One should be attentive that the student does not feel put down. Shailendra added that it is good for a teacher sometimes to know their limits and in some cases not direct the student. Chander Khanna spoke about the situation in Toronto where there are many more yoga teachers than students. He also expressed genuine humility about being a student of Swami Veda. Another person mentioned that sometimes people say “not me, not mine” or “this is my teacher, not me teaching” and it is really an assertion of ego, a statement “I am HUMBLE.” This person then asked how people can get into the mode of non-ego where you don’t need to say “not mine.” Komal said that it is a subtle practice. Stoma said that Ashutosh said that if you genuinely love your students then you walk alongside them, rather than teach them. If you get self-conscious about it not being you, then there is always the guru to come along and smash your ego. Mokshadeva also talked about our being a noble friend, not just a teacher. He also spoke about the need for a teacher to be very discriminating about what to do and not to do with and for our students.

Dr. Prabhu

Dr. Prabhu is director of the Meditation Research Institute at SRSG. He gave an engaging presentation on meditation research here.

Swami Rama, Swami Veda’s master, demonstrated much to modern scientists and Swami Veda wants this work to continue. Swami Veda has participated in science experiments in Europe and the U.S. and Dr. Prabhu indicated that the lab was getting some very interesting results in the study of deep silence, a subject which, to his knowledge, has never been scientifically examined before. Swami Veda is a key subject in the scientific research on silence.

Many meditators come to be tested in our lab, in particular those doing long silence practices. Dr. Prabhu emphasized that your breathing process is very important and that if you are a regular practitioner, if your breath is not shallow and it is diaphragmatic, smooth and without jerks or pauses, the machines will show results. The sustained length of one’s breath, according to Swami Veda, also plays a role. Swami Veda, he said, has indicated that simply by observing someone’s breathing he can know a lot about a personality and the person’s condition.

Dr. Prabhu told us “you must face the reality, and only then you can progress.”

He said that occasionally people come to the lab saying things like “I am a great yogi!” One such swami visited our campus and the lab tested him for 1 ½ hours without showing significant results. He went on to relate an incident with this swami man who had come to Dr. Prabhu, saying “you must test me. You will be very surprised!” “What is your specialty?” Dr. Prabhu asked. “Within a fraction of a second I am coming out of the body,” the man said. But the test results of this fellow were quite unremarkable. When Dr. Prabhu told him that the machine showed no special results, the swami was irate and proclaimed that we had “missed such a rare event.”  “Why did your machine not record this!? I was far, far above, floating outside the body!” said the swami.  Dr. Prabhu replied “yes, that is okay, but our machines are restricted only to persons who are in the body.” When the swami urged him to check again, Dr. Prabhu accommodated and checked the man’s blood pressure and diaphragmatic breathing. Once again, the measurements were unimpressive. Dr. Prabhu shared this encounter as an example of how important it is for us not to have fantasies about our meditation, no matter how many years we have been practicing.

During the session he also demonstrated one parameter that the lab looks at and tested a volunteer from the audience.

Access to 44 years of teachings

Swami Veda explained that there was a vast reservoir of Swami Rama’s and his teachings and that these 44 years of teachings needed to be organized and made available to the 15,000+ initiates worldwide so as to better understand how to proceed after mantra initiation and deepen one’s practices. The books, audio files and practices handed down are voluminous. One part of this is an important project:

Swami Ma Radha is working on systematizing hundreds of guided meditations as to what should be listened to/learned in what sequence. Any volunteers to help with that massive project, ask Swami Ma Radha.

This came with a gentle admonishment from Swami Veda.

BUT BUT BUT… some who will take these recordings will want to start practicing all of them!! Get all confused. Don’t do that. Too many different kinds of meditation -  too many husbands and too many wives, all at once!!

In Swami Veda's final lecture, a reminder:

Go with sankalpa to be a sadhaka. Learn to recognize the time you DO have but never noticed before...

Please popularize the 2014 and 2015 events [at SRSG]. Even if you cannot come back so soon, be a kalyana mitra (Noble Friend; friend on the Noble Path) to many. You can send others. Before I leave the body, I need to pass on as much of my experiential knowledge as possible and have it indexed, translated, and so on.




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