• Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

    May at SRSG

    by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

    Summer at SRSG

    People often ask me what it is like to be here in the summer. Well, this year it has been hotter than usual all over India and the world. Because of the increased heat, an early monsoon is predicted. When the air is plump with intense heat and humidity, the rains burst from the mountains with rolls of thunder.

    This ashram is majestic with the full bounty of nature.  The tiny iridescent sunbirds flit in and about the foliage of the flame trees. From a distance, the tall flame trees make a dramatic splash.

    Last night there was a wonderful thunderstorm—the third one in a week. Mornings in May are fresh and the storm last night completely washed the heat away. Everything was fresh and the blue haze of the mountains on the horizon lifted. You could see the Garhwal foothills clearly. The whole next day was a spray of coolness.

    Some people make a daily practice of an early morning walk or jog along Ma Ganga. Dr. and Mrs. Dixit (our head of gardens) were coming back from their daily constitutional, a brisk walk before the heat sets in. They have been here the longest—if you don’t count the sacred presence that drenches this land at SRSG—or the many mysterious species of flora and fauna, each with its own signature.

    Brahmamuhurtha, Rishikesh

    Brahmamuhurtha means “The hour of God.” It is the hours before dawn and is considered a fertile time for meditation and its preparatory practices. Lately I often rise at 3 a.m. which gives me a whole extra day before the regular day begins. The scent of the madhumalati flower lingers from the night when she casts her spell. During the warm months, her delicate pink blossoms are in full view night and day but are mute in the daytime. That is, she only sings her heavenly scent under the veil of night. Madhumalati is known by other names as well: the Rangoon creeper, the Chinese honeysuckle, quisqualis indica and combretum indicum.

    Another flower here, the night blooming jasmine or Raat ki Rani, literally “Queen of the Night” (Cestrum Nocturnum) is in full flower here these days. Some say it is the most mesmerizing of all flower scents, but I think that the fragrance of the madhumalati flower could rival that claim.

    Nature is noble

    Once last year, I had just left some food upstairs that I had prepared for Swamiji and had stepped outdoors when I was struck front and center with the thought that nature is noble! The same trees and flowers seemed to spread before me in a totally different light. I stopped and turned to look up toward the balcony and there sat Swamiji, smiling from above in his wheelchair. I called up to him “Swamiji, nature is so noble!” Then it occurred to me that he had quite possibly silently proposed that very thought. He said a lot of things in silence those last few years.

    Swamiji loved to take a stroll outdoors in his wheelchair in the wee hours each night. He sometimes hugged the trees that reached out onto his balcony and said that they were his true kin. He really loved nature. He liked to eat the nasturtium flowers I brought him from my garden for his lunch salad. What I wouldn’t give to offer him a sprig of nasturtium again.

    Yet I am reminded that these thoughts are misplaced yearnings. He had a body, but was not the body. Once when Swamiji was lecturing at a Minnesota summer retreat in 2004  he noticed that Dr. O’Hearne was quietly chuckling.

    “John, what are you laughing about?” asked Swami Veda. John was sitting near the front of the audience with a piece of equipment.

    “Well, it’s just that the wires hooked up to you right now while you are speaking show that you are producing  Delta brain waves, which is the brain wave of deep sleep—and yet you are moving and talking—and wide awake.”

    Swami Ritavan

    We have had some wonderful surprises lately including the arrival of Swami Ritavan whom we had not expected before early July. He sits with us each day for morning and evening meditation just as Swami Veda did and some say still does. There is a light force that travels with such holy seekers and many of us have felt blessed by that presence. Swami Ritavan will go away for a short while and be back early July for the special events surrounding the first anniversary of Swami Veda’s mahasamadhi and Guru Purnima 2016.

    Yesterday Swami Ritavan called us upstairs for a family meeting of residents and staff. He was beautiful, and I wish it had been recorded. First he led us in a wonderful meditation. Here are a few of the things he said after the meditation.

    “There isn’t a day that I don’t wake up and ask Gurudeva’s guidance. [I find myself] immersed in a prayer life that is very nourishing and very demanding.”

    He spoke about “rasa,” and its many meanings associated with tastes, flavors and the essence of any experience. “In quietude, you taste the rasa of silence…..In a moment of stillness, you experience … Mt. Kailash in your very body…. The beauty of the ashram is in the subtler aspects, the rasa of spirituality. Our guests come for this spirituality. So you create a class, you create a space that allows them to unfold in which they learn self understanding  that brings them back to their very being.”

    “Swami Veda admonished us to take care of our minds and he gave us the Saumya mantra.”

    “Swami Veda sometimes said ‘if I had a dog, I would name it ‘mind.’ ‘Mind, sit,’ I would say. ‘Mind, stay.’”

    Swami Ritavan encouraged us to read a few paragraphs every day of Swami Rama’s The Art of Joyful Living. He spoke about how Swami Rama read the karmic essence of the feelings that become emotions and behaviors. He also reminded us of that gem of Swami Veda’s Sadhana in Applied Spirituality.

    “We need help so we [inwardly] ask the guru…. We come to Swamiji and ask ‘are there lessons for me to learn?’ Of course, this takes a moment of contemplation…. The Guru speaks in silence.”

    He asked us to keep our daily routines and meditations and meditation times regulated as well as the full moon meditations and the Thursday morning long meditations. He spoke with ashram supervisors and they agreed to encourage all of our workers to come and spend some time in Thursday morning meditations, either at 10 or 11 a.m.

    He mentioned that there were meditations led by Swami Veda in English but also many in Hindi and that these recordings are there for all of us to enjoy. He said “At least once a week, listen to a recording of Swami Veda’s voice…. We have beginning and intermediate meditations and also meditations on the chakras and more subtle levels. ”

    He asked if we were using the mahavakya that Swami Veda gave us, the beautiful “Om kham brahma.”

    He asked us not to hold grudges but to work with ourselves and not give up.

    “C’mon,” he said. “Let’s open our hearts. How have we changed? And today make the resolve for next year.”

    He also said a few words about the inspiring life of Muhammad Ali. “He died on June 3rd and he is all over the news…. He was an American so he was a fighter. You have to get out there and you have to fight, fight….He was loved by people of all religions, all nationalities, all colors.”

    Swami Ritavan continued. “Life is a battleground and we must fight with love….Don’t be wishy washy. So you wake up and you do a few Gayatri. When you get caught up in worry, you can rise like the phoenix or like Muhammad Ali.”



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