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Vol. 64

Teachings of Shri Mahayogi

 

Satsangha, New York, January 2020

No Matter the Circumstance, Make Yourself Independent as a Yogi

Speak the Truth Alone from a Place of Humility,
Knowledge and Technique are Unnecessary


By Controlling the Mind, Train Yourself to not be Influenced,
Neither by Good nor Bad


The Experience of the Yogi

True Baptism

Kundalini

The Breath and Eye Gaze of Asana

The Mind Can Transform:
Train and Discipline the Mind to Correspond to the Truth
by Learning the Teaching, and Practicing Asana and Meditation


The Most Important Accomplishment of Life

The Karma of the Yogi is Neither Black nor White

Testimonies from Actual Practitioners

The Truth of Shri Mahayogi’s Asana: Part 1
by Sadhya

* * * * * * * * * *

Teachings of Shri Mahayogi

Translation of Satsangha
Saturday January 19, 2020, 3 p.m. The Still Mind Zendo, NY
(The second Satsangha out of four during Shri Mahayogi’s visit from Dec. 2019 to Feb. 2020.)

No Matter the Circumstance,
Make Yourself Independent as a Yogi

Moksha: Shri Mahayogi, it is good to be back and to see you again so soon. When I come to New York, once a year or every six months, and see you and spend time with the gurubhai, this is the only time that I feel that I am true to myself and that I am aware of the reason for which I am living, and what my life is about; and then I go away and it doesn’t last long before the distractions of life carry me away, and then Yoga becomes just an idea or a secret wish or desire in my heart that I wish I was able to live for. But I can’t maintain it without the support of the gurubhai or being together like this, so I have two lives—and this is not working anymore. So, I would like to ask for some guidance about what steps I can take to integrate these two lives. (Tears are falling from his eyes.)

MASTER: Everyone is practicing and progressing on the path of Yoga in similar situations. Surely, the life that is other than that of Yoga can become a life that is based on karma. Yoga has as its content the elimination of karma. Therefore, you need to transform your life based on karma into one with Yoga. (laughing) In this practice, you must remove all thoughts and actions based on karma. And, with regard to your family, think of them as your neighbors who are most close to you, then love them and serve them. If unreasonable demands come from your family, then reject them. In this way, by making yourself independent as a yogi in your environment, within these circumstances, things will go well. Well, because I can see you all every half year just like this, try to continue to create these opportunities. (Moksha: Thank you.) (Tenderly) Do not forget that far away in Europe or wherever you are, I am always watching over you, of course.

Speak the Truth Alone from a Place of Humility,
Knowledge and Technique are Unnecessary

Ekanta: Shri Mahayogi just said that we should serve our neighbor. In serving, when we speak about Yoga to somebody—it could be somebody we don’t know, or it might be among us, the sangha—I have noticed that there are two places that I can speak from: one is from intellectual knowledge, with at times really only a very little bit of practice, like some experience you have while practicing Yoga. But while we speak about Yoga, sometimes the mind gets so excited for different reasons and gets a few steps ahead of itself, and then we speak from personal reasons…we don’t think about the person in front of us, but the mind takes over and speaks from ego—for example, when we speak to get attention, or to show that we know. So, how should we not let our mind get in the way in that moment, how should we speak to somebody while feeling only that person and not let our ego or mind get in the way?

MASTER: (after some silence) Because the air, or in other words, the situation of the other people that you’re speaking to may vary, there isn’t any one way to answer that. However, regardless of who you are speaking to, what can be said that is common to all is only one thing: Yoga is to seek the Truth and realize It. What is that Truth? It is Freedom, and it is Bliss. It will never be broken, and It is Eternal; It is Existence—that is everyone’s Essence, that is everyone’s true Self, and it is also the Truth of the entire universe. There is no need to speak about anything more than this, in knowledge or technique. Of course, you should speak what you feel and sense honestly and straightforwardly, from a place of humility. (Ekanta smiles and puts his hands together in front of his chest to show his gratitude.)

By Controlling the Mind,
Train Yourself to not be Influenced,
Neither by Good nor Bad

Yajna: Shri Mahayogi, I was reading a recent issue of Pranavadipa, in which you said we absorb prana from information as well as from what we see, hear and touch. I was especially surprised to hear that we can absorb prana from information. Would you say a little bit about that?

MASTER: Prana is the power that makes everything move, such as the workings of this universe, the human body and the mind. Not only physiological or biological issues, but even the psychological aspects too, or the workings of the psyche are activated through prana. Therefore, in this world, whatever everyone sees and hears and feels or senses in the world, the power of prana is at work in that too. This flower is expressed so beautifully like this by the flower’s prana. And the mind that is perceiving it is able to perceive because of prana. Therefore, it is best not to see anything that is evil or not good to the extent that is possible, so that it is not absorbed into the mind, and instead try to feel the good. In this way, because everything is the working of prana, Yoga seeks and demands that one control the senses—that is called pratyahara. It is not only about the senses, but also about shutting out, or controlling the moving or shaking of the mind due to stimuli. The world is certainly a mixture of good and bad. Even though that is the case, [in Yoga] you train your own mind to be under control so that the mind is not agitated by those stimuli as much as possible. Through training your mind this way, neutral, peaceful thoughts will naturally be produced in you.

Karuna: Shri Mahayogi, if we are trying to avoid bad influences, then that means that we may fall into the trap of searching for the good and still become trapped. Isn’t that so?

MASTER: Yes, that can happen.

Karuna: So how should I avoid that if the tendency is…“if something is bad then I have to find something that is the opposite”?

MASTER: As I said earlier, by controlling the mind you must train yourself to not be influenced, neither by good nor bad. 

The Experience of the Yogi

Imani: I have an experience to share and I would like to find out how this might have been a visual manifestation of taking in this prana, and what I should make of it. About 15 to 20 years ago, I went on a 7-day juice fast, and on the 7th day, I went to an all-day sauna just to detoxify my system. After that I went to a class with Mahayogi Mission, which was located at Sufi Books. After the class I went down the street to a café and sat down for a little while—I just had a tea. I happened to look around and look at the various people sitting there in conversation. And many people wouldn’t really believe what I saw, but I happened to look up and see something like a little flame pulsating in the heart region of every person that I came across. And I have always been curious to find out if that was something that was based on all of the sequences of events that my body went through along with my mind, and also looking at Yoga, if that was a physical or visual manifestation of meditation, and if the cleansing that I went through showed me a bit of…this aspect that we are all connected. Is there any sense of Truth to that? It was almost like this is a way to look at other people, like connecting through some sort of light.  

MASTER: Yes, that experience is surely the outcome of purification through both fasting and Yoga. Have you had any experiences since then (smiling)?

Imani: No, not like that at all. (Shri Mahayogi and all laugh lightly.) It lasted only for 45 minutes and I didn’t see it again, but it always stood out as unusual… And I was always curious if this was something that…if this is normal for people who are in a state of deep meditation…

MASTER: Well, even with people who practice meditation, it does not happen very often. Yet at the same time these experiences can happen from time to time.

This could be a bit off topic, but it is said that within this matter, the physical body, there is thought to be a subtle body that is composed of prana. This body is not visible to the eyes; however, through an inner experience, one may experience it as light. You may all know about the chart of the chakra in Yoga, in which there are lotus flowers located at seven points [in the body]. Those lotus flowers are symbolic expressions, and in fact they are actually light. And from time to time, yogi often experience them as light. (smiling) Nevertheless, these experiences are not the ultimate experience yet. What your experience teaches is that the original form of everything, all beings and things, is like a light, and it is not these complex matters such as ego or karma, in other words the various differences in the mind, of course, and neither is it the differences of the body. And an even further experience, the ultimate experience, is that of the Existence itself, which is the Reality that is at the root of that light.

Sadhya: Shri Mahayogi, I have a question about spiritual experiences—someone recently mentioned to me about a spiritual experience coming through a drug. I wasn’t sure how to speak with them about those experiences, and I am wondering if Shri Mahayogi could teach us about how those types of experiences relate to the Truth, if they do at all.

MASTER: This issue has been of interest for thousands of years, since ancient times in India. On one hand, the yogi displayed various miraculous powers that they were exhibiting; and on the other hand, it seemed that there were groups of people who experienced these things through, for example, things like hashish or various other herbs, and one of the oldest in history was a spiritual drug called soma, which was used by the Brahmin. However, the formula for soma got lost over time, so it no longer remains in modern times. Anyway, in modern times, there is a prevalence of various types of drugs out there, and it seems that through these means there are people who experience quite surreal types of things, for example, it could be hallucinations or could be auditory hallucinations; yet even though they are similar, they are somewhat different from the experiences of yogi. So, then what is written in the trusted scripture, the Yoga Sutra, about this matter? In chapter three, over thirty types of various miraculous powers that yogi may experience [through practice] are mentioned. In the end, it is mentioned that these powers are brought about by five different causes: by birth, through mantra, through herbs, through austerity, and through meditation; and out of these five causes, any of them other than meditation will leave karma [as a result]. Well, these things I mentioned now are things that are good for you to know about in order to progress in Yoga, as well as to correctly understand them. Therefore, going back to what Sadhya asked about the conversation on drug experiences, there is no need for you to have any conversation about it beyond that. (All laugh, and Shri Mahayogi smiles.)

True Baptism

Deborah: This is my first time here. I have somewhat of a strange question. I will give you a little bit of background: I grew up without any religion. My father was an atheist because his family suffered a lot under religion. I found my own mystical path, following a Western Mystic tradition, I am also a musician, and I became a therapist. I was quite older in life, eleven months ago, when I had a baby, my first child, and having a baby opened my heart. I felt vulnerability and suffering, and felt other people’s suffering as I never have. I also felt, this is the very strange part, I felt the presence of the Christian figure Mary—she came to me. And it was not visual, it was a feeling. And I understood some Christian concepts, the most important one being the idea of universal salvation, of all the world. I started going to a church. And I even considered becoming an ordained priest. But the problem is, the church only believes that salvation is available to those who are baptized in the church, so I found myself in conflict and confusion. I suppose that I am asking you for some guidance.

MASTER: There is a story recorded from long ago that Jesus entered into a temple and kicked out the merchants selling things inside and expelled all the people from the temple. Also, when Jesus was teaching his disciples on the Sabbath, the Rabbis accused him because no one should work on the day of rest; but then Jesus replied saying that the day of rest exists for the people, it does not exist for rule’s sake. That is to say, various acts that Jesus performed were to try to correct the misconceptions within the customs of the existing religion. He also said this: “I am not here to destroy religion, but I am here to complete it.” And later, he was called a Savior, he came to be known as the Savior.

What I can say to you is, there is no need to trust these kinds of incorrect rules of the church. What is true baptism? It is not something that needs to be performed by a priest inside a building. John the Baptist informed the people by saying, [before Jesus arrived,] “Right now I am baptizing you with water, but the person who will come after me will baptize you with light.”1 Regardless of where you are, light comes directly to the heart. That is the true baptism. Therefore, what you need to do is, if it is Mary who you have faith toward, that would be fine, but [in this case], while having faith in her, continue to proceed forth honestly and purely. You can consider that Mary baptized you directly herself.

(some silence)

[1] Matthew 3:11. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Kundalini

Arun: First of all, thank you for giving me this opportunity to ask questions. My question is about Awakening. I read a little bit from the book (Satori) while I was waiting. Earlier, I came across the concept of kundalini Awakening. Are there different kinds of Awakenings?

MASTER: There are various types of approaches to Awakening. However, Awakening, which is the experience of the Truth, is only one, without a second. Kundalini can awaken regardless of what approach you take. However, the awakening of kundalini does not mean completion. The awakening of kundalini can take you close to completion, yet Awakening itself happens in a place that transcends that.

Sadhya: About the union of Shiva and Shakti, I have heard that Shri Mahayogi says it is necessary to concentrate very, very strongly to raise Shakti up. I don’t really have an idea of what kind of concentration that must be, would Shri Mahayogi teach us about this?

MASTER: This is about how you can guide the awakened kundalini, that is, Shakti, right? (smiling) In the physiology of Yoga, it is said that kundalini is sleeping around the tail bone. Through asana and pranayama practices, actually, [more precisely speaking,] by kumbhaka, which is a method of stopping the breath, you will raise its power upward. This kundalini rises through the passage called the sushumuna, located inside the spine. Therefore, it requires an enormous power of concentration when you first pull up Shakti, or kundalini, which is in the muladhara chakra, the lowest chakra [located at the bottom of the spine]. Then, [after she reaches the next station,] she will remain at the next station. Yet, even she goes up and remains there, she will try to go right back to her bed where she came from. In order to not allow this to happen, you must stop her and keep her there, which means that while you keep your breath at a standstill, raise her further upward applying the power of concentration. As she passes through each of the chakra [going] upward, it will require an enormous power of concentration. This power of concentration also depends on how long you can keep the breath stopped, meaning that this also depends on the power of kumbhaka. In the ancient scriptures, this is taught as continuing to keep the breath stopped until your body exhibits the quality of the dead. (some laugh) (Smiling) But if you die for real there, then that is the end of it (some laugh). (Smiling) So, [kumbhaka must be practiced with a subtle level of careful attention. Well, about this kind of intenseness of the power of concentration, it is hard to explain it any further than that. In this way, ultimately, to unite Shiva, located in sahasrara [chakra] and Shakti as One—that is kundalini yoga.

Sadhya: So, if in meditation, for example, kumbhaka may happen spontaneously with this pulling upward, then in that moment should I concentrate to pull it up, even if originally I was not concentrating on that?

MASTER: If you are drawn to the union of Shiva and Shakti, then you should do that. However, if you are concentrating on Atman or God, then you should continue to concentrate on that instead; because through this way, Shakti will obediently go to Shiva. (smiling) (Some laughter.)

Sadhya: Okay, thank you. (She puts her hands together in front of her chest to show her gratitude.)

The Breath and Eye Gaze of Asana

Nandiswara: Shri Mahayogi, lately in the study and practice group, we have been asked to train ourselves to lead a beginner’s asana class. Because of that, I have been trying to restudy the chart that I bought a long time ago. For all these times that I have been practicing asana, I have been told to practice only concentrating on the breath, but since I have started to study the chart again, I was looking at the focal points on the different chakra that are illustrated on those poses. And before I knew it, I was actually practicing asana and focusing on the chakra. So, my question is, because I wasn’t told that I should be practicing while focusing on chakra but I was doing it anyway, am I doing that prematurely or…I just don’t know if I should be focusing on the chakra or if I should just go back to focusing on the breath.  

MASTER: Actually, that illustrated guide explains the details of asana very carefully, very much in detail. In asana, whether a practitioner is aware of it or not, each respective asana brings the focus [of the prana] naturally to an appropriate point, so it is better for you to pay attention to the length of [each] exhalation.

Nandiswara: Ok, then I have one more question about the breath. The instruction is to do a long and complete exhalation—I was just wondering, is that because we need to completely exhale in order to make the breath become long naturally, or should we pace out the duration of each breath and make it long intentionally? Which one is correct?

MASTER: Both.

Kamalakshi: Shri Mahayogi, would you speak about the importance of the eye gaze and the long exhalation in breathing as we practice asana, and why we need to do that with so much concentration?

MASTER: The purpose of the use of the eye gaze in asana is to make the concentration on the focal point, which is created by the form of the asana, become 100%. An easy example can be this—take bhujangasana, cobra pose, as an example, when you go into this cobra pose, (using the hand to show the curve of this asana) you raise the upper body up like this, and by remaining in [your completed] position, physiologically the focal point comes to be around here (indicating the tailbone area). If your eye gaze is going down, the power of concentration becomes weak, if it is up, then more power is gathered here [at the focal point]. Like in this example, the use of the eye gaze in all asana is as important as the angle that forms the asana. And for the other part—by applying the practice of making a long breath [of exhalation while in the asana], the practice in this way transforms the autonomic nervous system, which controls the heart. Through transforming [the breathing in this way] into the long breath, you can acquire this same long breathing in daily life. Consequently, your mind is no longer agitated by various stimuli from the world. It turns out in the end that practicing this way leads to the control of the mind.

Kamalakshi: For the quality of the eye gaze, do we just kind of imagine a point that we are looking at? What should the quality of it be?

MASTER: In the position where your body is in a [particular] angle, as much as [you are able] as I just mentioned, you should gaze lightly toward a point [in the direction you are supposed to be looking in that particular asana].

The Mind Can Transform:
Train and Discipline the Mind to Correspond to the Truth
by Learning the Teaching, and
Practicing Asana and Meditation

John: Shri Mahayogi, it is very good to see you again. It seems that for most of my life, as far back as I can remember, I find myself feeling fear or shame or anger. For some time now, at the end of the meditation I think of some concept at the very end, and one of them is forgiveness, forgiveness of myself, and forgiveness of others who offend me. And I found it has a very powerful impact on all three of those dynamics—fear, shame and anger—it seems to go away, or I disarm it, but then I fall back into it. And I think it might be getting better, but I self-judge or judge others. So, I wonder if Shri Mahayogi can guide me in terms of the role of forgiveness in Yoga, and it may be a realistic pursuit, maybe not, but I want to pursue a perpetual state of forgiveness. I wonder if you have any guidance on that.

MASTER: (After some pause) I don’t want to say something that is half-baked. Simply put, practice to not look at others’ mind or your own mind, and only look at the Truth, which is the ideal. If you see that [something within] you is not in accord with this ideal, then train and discipline yourself to make it correspond with that ideal. Through learning from scriptures, or like in this setting here, and through some training, meaning practicing asana and meditation, your mind will surely transform, little by little, yet surely. If you continue to practice in earnest, then within the next several months, or even a year later, you will forget about any of these past habits within the mind that you just described. This is the surest method.

Imani: In day-to-day living, when dealing with other people who cause discontent within myself, I’ve found that there are certain patterns I get into with others. They’re repeated. The question I have is, how can I change that relationship? My first inclination is to blame others, but to have repeated patterns means that there is some sort of accountability from myself. And so the question is, how do I change the pattern? How do I change the relationships so that this clears up, so that both sides heal and it doesn’t happen going forward?

MASTER: A very important teaching of Yoga may be useful for this too. It is the teaching of what you shouldn’t do, yama (abstinence): non-violence and one more, honesty, or truthfulness. If you communicate with others while keeping these two [yama,] then you will never be able to hurt others, and also when you speak to others, you will only speak what is good for the person who you are speaking to, therefore you will never be violent.

Imani: In turn, how do I relinquish blame externally and reclaim a sense of self-power in those relationships, so that they’re not repeated, so that there isn’t resentment outwardly to others? I guess it centers on forgiveness as well…so I can feel like I’m more in control of my emotions in terms of clearing out relationships that are toxic to me, and creating healthy boundaries.

MASTER: You must understand that regardless of what result it will bring, the causes of them are all within yourself. If you can already predict a negative result, then you must clear out those conditions or situations in the relationship beforehand. If you have already experienced [a negative result], then you can deal with it by taking preventive measures to never repeat the same experience again for the next time. The fact is that in this world, most of our time may be spent in relationships with others. Even if you are alone, memories from various occurrences and happenings arise within your mind. There is no time to rest, (smiling) and then you get some sleep from time to time. If you want to end this habit, you must transform the mind itself. The mind can transform. It cannot be transformed only by having intellectual understanding, or by only having a theory, a discussion or an argument. After all is said and done, it is the training [that is needed]! Indeed, asana, pranayama and meditation are necessary. Train yourself, then realize the Truth swiftly. (smiling)

The Most Important Accomplishment of Life

Aniruddha: I have a question with regard to my goals, both spiritually and non-spiritually. I realize that I want peace within myself and peace within my mind. I don’t want my mind to keep chasing things, I just want it to be at peace. And it was always asking me why I keep chasing success. And I really wasn’t aware of it until last night. (laughter from many) I went home and I was thinking about it further and I realized that the thoughts that came to mind create a lot of heat in my stomach. It related to social prejudice towards blacks, and I felt that a part of me feels that I need to prove that I can be successful. And even though I know that no matter how much I achieve in this world, in the end it amounts to nothing, there is this struggle between wanting to be free and then wanting to achieve something. And on top of that my mind plays a trick on me, letting me feel like I can’t run away from chasing a dream because of religion—meaning don’t quit or don’t use Yoga or religion as an excuse as to why I shouldn’t pursue success. So, this is creating complete opposites. How do I discriminate against this?

MASTER: Understand your job simply as karma yoga. The most important thing or accomplishment in this lifetime is to realize the Truth. There is no need for a name to the religion. The Truth is the Truth, naked by itself. It has no relevance to the color of skin, nor the intellect. Once everything is completely eliminated, then the naked Truth exists there. You may call It the true Self, God, or you may call It whatever you like. In truth, it doesn’t have a name, nor does it have a form.

However, only That exists! It is the Truth within everyone, within every single person. Therefore, in order to realize that too, you must maintain the body and keep it healthy. For this reason, you perform your job as karma yoga. That is sufficient.

The Karma of the Yogi is Neither Black nor White

Gabriel: Thank you Shri Mahayogi. I have a short question about karma. How do we know we have it and what should we do about it?

MASTER: When it comes to karma, there is good karma and bad karma. And certainly, this too has a cause. The cause is attachment toward the world. Where does it come from? It comes from ignorance. Ignorance is to think that the ego is your true Self, to think of the world as if it lasts forever, to think that the happiness that you try to gain in this world is real and will never be broken. Well, in this way, the things that the mind normally thinks are all incorrect. The true Self is neither the mind nor the ego, it is the Pure Consciousness that is witnessing it. The world is constantly changing, and since it was born, it will eventually be gone. The happiness that you can gain in the world constantly has as its shadow, unhappiness. In this world, there is no perfect happiness. When you give up both happiness and unhappiness, there is true Happiness. Even though this is the truth, you must not deny the world or become pessimistic, in other words, what you need to do is to get rid of the attachment towards the wrong things, the cause of which is based in ignorance. Well, if the mind has not yet established independence sufficiently, you should learn the Truth and make that your foundation. Through practicing this way, karma will come to be eliminated. When the ignorance is eliminated, then attachment is eliminated, and when the attachment is eliminated, karma is eliminated. The following is a very famous remark from the Yoga Sutra, (smiling) “The karma of the yogi is neither black nor white, whereas in the people of the world, karma is mixed.”1 Practicing Yoga results in transcending karma.  

Alright. Today, I see some of old faces here. It must be more than 10 years since you have come?

Tomorrow too, we will have a class (laughing), come again.

[1] Yoga Sutra 4:7

 

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Testimonials from a Practitioner

The Truth of Shri Mahayogi’s Asana: Part 1

by Sadhya
September 2018 New York

Yoga asana has never been more popular and widespread outside of its Indian origins. Even so, I am beginning to feel, with an increasing sense of gravity, that asana has actually never been more unknown than now.

What is asana? Nowadays it is mostly just referred to as “yoga”. In fact, it is next to impossible to say the word “yoga” to anyone and be sure that they know you are talking about something that is vastly more extensive than how it is often reduced—physical postures. Indeed, “yoga” in its reference to the asana (physical postures) is becoming increasingly seen and known as an exercise, as a way to relax, to center yourself, as a way to feel more “happy” and “carefree”, as a way to become more flexible or perhaps more beautiful and healthy, and on and on.

But is that what asana is? Is that it’s purpose? Is that what it actually does? Who really knows asana?

Asana—the 3rd limb of the eight limbs of raja yoga is actually a very small part of what Yoga is. In fact, it is not even mentioned in the Yoga Sutra, one of the principle texts of Yoga until Book 2, verse 46, which says: Sthira sukham asanam. The words literally translated are still, ease, & posture or cloth carpet. But what does that actually mean?1 With any scripture, the words are mere symbols of something that holds within a much more profound meaning. However, if we take the words at face value, then we are likely to miss the meaning altogether and only take them for what we want to take them for, rather than allowing them to reveal the meaning, as is the nature of the word as symbol.

[1] Detailed in Part 2 of this article series.

***

Yoga schools teaching primarily asana are everywhere, as are classes in almost every gym. Teacher training programs are just as abundant as yoga schools, and that is even how many yoga schools are able to survive and maintain themselves financially. It has come to be an essential component of a “yoga business.” There are various levels of trainings and, in a similar way to college courses, there are trainings with a variety of numbers of hours: 200, 300, 500, even 800 hours. The more hours you have completed, the more of an expert you become. And on top of that there is another organization that verifies the training program you attend as “authentic” or “legitimate,” or not.

But is that really how one masters the practice of asana? Attending a school program? Being recognized by an organization that is given authority to recognize the program you attended just because people believe that since they are an organization they have the authority to do so? Is that organization actually checking the level of subtle knowledge and mastery of each student?

As a high school teacher, and I am sure as any school teacher is well aware, just because a student goes through your class and passes the exam or completes the project at the end, their level of mastery varies widely, as does their depth of understanding and ability to convey their knowledge to someone else. 

So then, what is it that is being presented to the world as asana? Who is truly an authority and who is deciding how to verify that what yoga schools are teaching and what trainees are walking away with is an authentic and safe practice. And when I say “safe”, you may think I am talking about keeping the physical body safe from injury, which is in part true, but much more so I am referring to the subtle body, all the things that the eye cannot see. Without concrete understanding of this fundamental aspect, what is being taught as asana, could be quite detrimental to the practitioner!

We are so accustomed to taking everything at face value. If we see something with the eye, we think that is what it is. Asana may look like a physical practice at first glance, but the truth is, that is just like looking at the ocean and only seeing the glistening surface of the water—beneath that surface there are depths that are far beyond what we can see and even far beyond what our modern inventions can explore. The ocean is deep and mysterious, and so is the practice of asanayet it can come to be known.

I come back to my original question: who is there then that really knows and understands what asana is and what asana can do?

Despite such a boom of yoga classes and yoga teachers, all focusing primarily on the practice of asana, truly asana remains unknown!

Encountering Asana

It is said that Lord Shiva was the one to first instruct asana. For those who have a hard time believing in the actual existence of a god, like Lord Shiva, then please think of it in the metaphorical sense. Lord Shiva, as the symbol of Brahman, the true Self within one and all, reveals from within the knowledge of asana and all of its most subtle aspects, thus this is the primordial instruction of Lord Shiva on asana. After all, the essence of all existence is contained within our very Self, what is needed is for it to reveal itself. When Buddha reached Satori, it is said that he stated, “I have found the ancient straight road.”1 In other words, Buddha found the way that had been walked in the past and would continue to be walked in the future. He did not proclaim that his own Satori was novel or anything that could not be attained by others – before him, in his present day, or after – yet it exists already within one and all.

Shri Mahayogi’s practice of asana in a way is the same—it came spontaneously from within, having no prior external instruction or knowledge of it at all. It is as if Shri Mahayogi too found “the ancient straight road” and intuited directly the practice, meaning, and purpose of asana from the physical down to the subtlest of intricacies, far beyond what can be seen by the eye. He practiced daily throughout his teenage years, in the middle of the night, after everyone in his home had gone to bed. Asana was revealed from within. And it is from that experience that Shri Mahayogi instruct us in asana today. As such, it feels to me as if the essence of Lord Shiva himself is contained within the asana that Shri Mahayogi now teaches and conveys to us. It is the very asana of Lord Shiva!

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I cannot say that I personally ever practiced or began to learn asana until I started learning from Shri Mahayogi, even though I practiced in other schools before then. Of course, I was completely unaware of this for a long time and years would pass before I really started to understand this deeply. But now I feel more strongly than ever that true practice of asana is extraordinarily rare to find and encountering one who has mastered asana is almost impossible.

The first time I started to realize that the asana Shri Mahayogi teaches us is fundamentally distinct, came after I had been practicing according to Shri Mahayogi’s instruction—every single day—for several months. What I started to realize was that the way Shri Mahayogi teaches asana is incredibly fine and refined. Around that time I could only sense to what degree, but as I continued to practice and learn about asana, I began to understand that every detail of the way Shri Mahayogi teaches asana has a carefully crafted purpose. There is a reason for everything, there is nothing that is left unchecked, there is nothing that is overlooked, there is nothing that is extraneous…down to the subtlest aspects of the prana and of the mind. This was something that I had never experienced before from any other yoga school.

Without doing daily sustained practice as Shri Mahayogi instructed, I honestly don’t think I would have been able to perceive so clearly the difference of these more subtle aspects. In fact, before then I couldn’t really perceive much of anything that was more subtle…I had no real concept of such things beyond mere ideas, so it was nothing concrete or real or tangible to me before then. My understanding of asana was more on the surface level of what is most visible to the eye. But through practicing daily, it was like, without even being aware of it, I had been conditioning the subtle body, almost as if untangling and smoothing it out with a fine-tooth comb. And as this happened I started to become more aware of how vastly different the content of the asana instructed by one who has mastered it truly is. In a way, through the content of asana, we are being guided toward and prepared through every minute detail to walk on that “ancient straight road.”

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When I was first trying to learn more about Yoga, before ever meeting Shri Mahayogi, I remember many books cautioning against the practice of asana or pranayama without the guidance of a master. To be honest I could not really understand this. What could possibly be so dangerous about moving the body around or breathing?! I suppose it was slightly easier for me to think of how the body could possibly become injured, but breathing? I had no concept at that time of the subtle body. Or perhaps I had read or heard some information about it, but as much as I knew was just that, and I had no knowledge coming from actual experience, so I could not even fathom what it might mean. (What’s more, even if one did want to learn properly from a master, how do you even go about finding one? Aren’t they all in India? Do they even exist nowadays or are they just relics of the past?)

Because of my lack of knowledge and understanding of actually being able to perceive something that was beyond what the eye could see, I took the practice of asana quite casually at first. And if I am honest, I saw it as more of a physical practice or exercise than anything else. There was a part of me that thought that through conditioning or purifying the physical body I would perhaps be able to purify myself enough to come closer to the actual aim of Yoga, or to God. And actually, at that time I could not separate the thought of my body from the thought of my Self, and although I had most likely heard the teaching that we are not this mind or this body, and probably told myself that often, my actual understanding of that was zero. 

It was only after I had been practicing asana as Shri Mahayogi instructed, every single day, for several months that I had the startling realization that this asana was fundamentally distinct. At that time, I had immersed myself in this practice and abandoned the practices of other schools where I had been attending classes previously. But one day, I went back to a yoga school where I had taken classes before and attended a class with an acquaintance who was visiting from out of town. I struggled through the class that had once seemed so natural. I was shocked to experience the condition that was being created through that practice.

From the view of the eye, the asana practice surely seemed quite normal and perhaps nothing out of the ordinary. It was the same thing that I had done time and time again before learning from Shri Mahayogi. It wasn’t that my body struggled to put itself into the poses, but internally I felt as if the prana was barreling around out of control, wreaking havoc. In that moment, for the first time I started to realize that the way Shri Mahayogi teaches asana is incredibly fine and refined. I could only sense to what degree at that time, but every detail of the way Shri Mahayogi teaches asana has a carefully crafted purpose. There is a reason for everything, there is nothing that is left unchecked, there is nothing that is overlooked, there is nothing that is extraneous…down to the subtlest aspects of the prana and of the mind. That was five or six years ago now and it was only the beginning.

Having not gone through daily practice as Shri Mahayogi instructed, I honestly don’t think I would have been able to perceive so clearly any difference in the subtle aspect. It was like, without realizing it, I had been conditioning the subtle body, almost as if untangling and smoothing it out with a fine-tooth comb.

Now, I no longer practice asana. Shri Mahayogi teaches that the practice of asana should be completed swiftly and we should move on from it—a drastically different message than the majority of what we see and hear about asana! In the summer of 2016, Shri Mahayogi made it clear to me that for me to continue practicing asana would be unnecessary from that point on. I had the feeling before he said it. I could feel how the prana in the body changed. Asana had become too stimulating for the prana, too much the quality of rajas. Before beginning the asana practice I would sit quietly and would feel that I wanted to just remain still and become more and more still. But I would move myself to asana because I felt that I needed to continue. In a way, I was attached to the practice of asana, and I feared giving it up. I felt that all the benefits I had received up until then might disappear or be reversed. Nevertheless, I felt that if I did not follow Shri Mahayogi’s instruction, then I would have no faith in his teaching, which simply would not make any sense since up until then, everything Shri Mahayogi said, if I did, came to be true. So, I gave up asana as I had come to know it.

[1] Buddha also stated the words: “I alone am the World-Honored One.” No matter the form or the age in which the Great Awakened Beings appear, there is only One.

The Effect of Asana is Lasting

Recently someone asked me rather unexpectedly if I did any exercise. My answer was, “no.” That person then said, “well you must do something to stay fit, what is it? Is it this Yoga that you talk about?” I thought about it and had no answer—I literally do no exercise, I don’t practice asana any longer, and if I am not standing around on my feet at work at the school, I am sitting on the floor, working on the computer. One might even say I am more on the sedentary side, since if I don’t need to be anywhere, I can easily pass hours and hours, or even the whole day, sitting on the floor working and writing. I didn’t know what to say (or why it really mattered), I just recalled all of the times I had heard Anandamali comment about how much the body of Yogadanda or Gopala (Shri Mahayogi’s disciples in Kyoto, Japan) keep transforming and becoming more like Shri Mahayogi’s body and how the bodies of those who are practicing Shri Mahayogi’s asana start to be regulated and shaped in a certain way. And I thought, maybe this has something to do with it.

Then, exactly one day after that conversation I came down with a bit of a cold. I decided to practice some asana to help speed up the condition and clear it out of the body, which is something that had often helped in the past. Because I had more time than usual on my hands, I decided to practice the full advanced asana that Shri Mahayogi had given me in the past, and I did so for four days. After 2 years of not practicing asana, I was again shocked by it.

All of the asana, even the most advanced, came easily, as if there were no break. And on top of that, salabhasana, an asana that I could never predict when I would be able to do the full version or not, came almost effortlessly each time. I started to question…what is going on?? How is this even possible?? Then it hit me…

 

The transformation of prana is REAL!!! And it is not just a temporary effect
the transformation stays and as a result, affects all other things.

 

Then I recalled the words of Shri Mahayogi that I had read on the Mahayogi Yoga Mission website: “When the body becomes regulated as a yogic body, the ‘water’ adapts to its vessel. When the breath calms, the mind likewise calms. The power of concentration gets strengthened and meditation follows.”

“Water” here is referring to the breath or prana. When I started to think about this, I thought ok, we bring the physical body under control first because it is easiest. But ultimately it is to bring the mind under control. The mind moves at the activation of prana – they are intimately linked. We are working backwards, but once the mind and prana come more under control, than that must have a reverse effect, because now the source will have transformed. So, that transformed source must in turn take effect on the breath and of course the body too (from “in” to “out”). And, what’s more, because the source is transformed, the effect that results in the breath and body does not reverse like one might think would happen if you don’t do something for a while. Then, rather than the “water” adapting to the “vessel,” the “water” actually shapes and regulates the “vessel” itself.  

We are so accustomed to thinking in the manner of: if I don’t exercise this muscle regularly it will become weak, if I don’t keep practicing my second language I will start to forget it, if I don’t stimulate my mind, I will lose memory, If I don’t sleep x hours a night my health will decline, etc. etc. How little we must understand of ourselves to think in such limiting ways!! The authentic practice of asana makes such temporary practices or exercises that we may think we need seem so meaningless and useless! If asana can create a nonreversible transformation, imagine what the continued practice of Yoga in its totality can do!!!

But who really knows asana? Who is there that teaches asana in this way?

The true master of asana knows its power as a tool, not as an end in and of itself. Without one who has mastered the subtle realms of asana, the content of the practice that is taught can be completely missing, and without that content, there is a danger of leading others in a way that can be a great disservice to them, or even unintentionally cause the harm of a subtle internal state of un-ease. 

Shri Mahayogi has said that this is the first time that true practice of asana is being revealed, even since ancient times. We are all so blessed to live in a time in which we have the opportunity to receive such teaching, or even to be in the world while such a being as Shri Mahayogi exists.

I heard that Shri Mahayogi has said that if Swami Vivekananda were to be alive today and see what is happening in the yoga-world, he would destroy it! I feel this fire of Vivekanda kindling inside of me. It is so hard to bear to look around and see for myself the tremendous illusion that the yoga-world is producing. Anyone can read scriptures and repeat them, anyone can position the body this way or that, anyone can attend a teacher training program and receive a certificate of completion. As the yoga-world booms, the true way of seeking and learning Yoga seems to be forgotten, as has its content and its aim. Indeed, Yoga is becoming even more rare and precious than in ancient times.

Shri Mahayogi, who has been silently teaching in New York since 1996, remains almost unknown. But there are people who are sincerely interested in what Yoga originally has to offer, there are those who are searching for something that they may not even know yet what it is—I want them to find this pure and precious teaching of Shri Mahayogi and to be touched by the truth of Shri Mahayogi’s asana!

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