Ramakrishna’s Flying Carpet

Notes read at Glen lodge retreat, 3 December, from Swamiji’s discourse at Ramkrishna Loka (13 October 1984).

 

This discourse took place at a meeting a week after a wonderful kirtan at Quintessence ashram (Sita Devi’s and Raja Ram’s place) that was mostly about Sri Ramakrishna. Our Guru Dev. The next kirtan, at Gayatri’s home in Wales, initiated a strongly Christian phase, beginning with a tableau of Virgin Mary with St Genevieve at Lourdes (played respectively by Durga Mai and Sri Lakshmi).   So this discourse suggests the end of one era and the beginning of another. Devotees present included Mahayogini, Steve, Julie, Satchidananda, Jai Narain and Mahalakshmi.

‘The flying carpet of Sri Ramakrishna is meditation when the mind flies and the body burns to pieces. When there is no desire of power, then you join quick to the Master, and it’s the Master that flies to you. The devotee makes one flight and the Master makes hundreds of flights, coming down from heaven to earthplane. Otherwise God is hidden inside, under the carpet, inside you. Are you aware of who you are? That’s the greatest realization: Ramana Maharshi’s “Who am I?”[1]

‘The mind flies, the body flies. Then you have to get rid of these flying bodies – causal, astral, mental, dreaming – the five koshas [sheaths]. These bodies are a hindrance, but in some ways they can be a help to progress, like the five pitches of a string. They give the key but are not the instrument. Start playing from these, and you can compose your own song on a high level.

‘Our Master Sri Ramakrishna was a master of harmony, not only in music but also in religion. The harmony of religion was his work. This is God’s work; ordinary beings can talk and talk, but who will listen if they don’t get their power from God? “It is Thou that singest the song, Thou that clappest Thy hands, man only thinks he is the doer.” You must be in that harmony and in that tune.

‘Some of you devotees are far from God. Such devotees are on the beach, or even haven’t reached it yet. They are far from the liquid form of God, the sea of immortality. Now God comes down from on high, and when He drops on the water He becomes like a boat. Didn’t Jesus walk on the water? So the liquid form of God becomes the boat of safety in the ocean of existence.

‘Now the devotees are coming. “Let’s enjoy our life,” they say, and they bring a picnic down to the beach. Some devotees are raw, some are baked,[2] some are so hot they fry their bodies in the hearth of God and give them as prasad to the Lord to partake of their devotion. Such devotees are changed by the touch of God’s presence.

‘Jesus and Sri Ramakrishna sat among their devotees, who ate and drank with them – and now the room becomes electrified, filled with divinity. Everything becomes different; God is manifesting here. So keep the company of the holy for the presence of God, if you want to see God. Keep the company of the real starvers on the beach of immortality.

‘Now, keeping close to this every day we, who were raw, get slowly ripened by the heat of that Sun. We get peace and breadth of vision, of mind. So when you come here we make you up a little bit more, make up your eyes like lotus eyes. The lotus lives in mud but is not contaminated, so lotus eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands.

‘Devotees are like strings of a bass guitar; one of the strings is E – know ye the Lord. A is Atma. D is divine. E is also Mi, Aham Brahmasmi. Four strings: OM TAT SAT OM. All sounds come from OM, so we have to demist ourselves completely in this hidden God, in this light, this self-effulgence.

‘God comes down to earthplane, and as soon as God comes down man starts to cry, seeing God in spiritual experience. Why does he cry? God comes down with the Goddess; the Power of God is the Mother, and Mother sheds tears when Her children come, but not because of pain. Why cry? I can’t explain why – “Some weep, some laugh, some dance for joy … drown me deep in the sea of Thy love.” There is initiation on the throne of immortality. Dance in samadhi.’

‘You have to have strength – strength of mind is the pivot of the active will. When the will becomes active it acts like a dam to protect the water. This is the water of God’s grace. This water doesn’t give you a cold, it’s not ordinary water. Among holy things it is most holy, among loves it is love supreme.

‘If you don’t change in this birth you will have to go through five births to get all this. So become better than good, become the best. The state after that is the turiya state, beyond good and bad, beyond holy and unholy.

‘God comes down and does us a favour to help us out of this mere maya mesh. He helps us to help ourselves. So man must revere Him. Everything about Him is God, every single action. Even the rubbish of God is still God. The dust of His feet gives salvation and forgiveness. Blessing comes down from the dust of His feet. Wherever He looks is blessed.

‘The mind is like a bird. It can either fly to a certain height or it can just spread its wings and glide. There’s something very special about that state, very beautiful, and if the mind happens upon that state it can play itself a tune. The music of the mind is like a gliding bird then, and any instrument will do, anything that touches on that mind will have a divine tune coming, even if you only have one string, or just a clapping hand. Didn’t Sri Ramakrishna say we should clap our hands and sing, and the birds of sin will fly far away?

 

‘I see with my mental love – there’s a mental body of love, a love that has crystallized in this body and become form – gross, coarse, but really the soul of that is candy, it’s not just ‘treacle tart’[3]. That’s perfect, nothing lower will do. That’s the Neti neti[4] plectrOM of a picky-choosy bliss of Vivekananda.

 

‘Holy company can be very blissful if you get the right man. Sri Ramakrishna wanted to share with his own. People came to him from all walks of life – doctors, barristers, learned men – but he said, “I want my own people to share with, people who can understand what it means.”

‘God has eyes everywhere. When He is in trance He follows the line of his vision and goes to the path of light. That’s why He follows light. Whenever someone is meditating with great love, wherever God is, whatever part of His realm God may be in, Jana or Maha plane, He will come down and disturb the devotee. And not alone but with the Goddess, the family, and the devotees. God is never alone. God seeks His devotees, lives with His devotees. That’s His company.

‘Holy company must be genuine. One should not keep the company of the worldly. If a holy man keeps the company of the unholy, a doubt arises. There are one or two exempts, those who have a mission. But even among the holy in kirtan you can sometimes see how they chit-chat. He who has organized everything can also unorganize it. He who has made people come can make people go.

‘So perhaps it’s better not to have meditation in kirtan. Meditation is positive awareness in God, a state of mind, a stillness and a quietness that fills and overfills until tears come, until hair stands on end in horripilation. This is called IT SELF. IT SELF.  There’s no greater word than this: neither man nor woman but ITSELF. From this thing everything comes. It was always, and ever shall be, Changeless Reality. This is one of the greatest secrets. God likes secrecy, He likes hide-and-seek. You didn’t know there were gems in the sea, you didn’t know that Sri Ramakrishna dwells within you. This hide-and-seek is Mahamaya; so pray to Mahamaya.

‘Coal is kept close to the hearth, close to the glowing embers. Likewise, man must lose his identity as coal and gain the hearth, the blazing glow that which words cannot express. Word becomes vision, vision becomes blurred and loses its “sightedness”. So the devotee has to have a silent eye, he has to swallow his tongue.

‘ “The flight is from alone to alone.” With just a trace of nirvikalpa samadhi, a slight trace before the final mergence. If this divinity is not there  you must bring it in, otherwise it’s the agony of the frog and the snake[5]. There’s no ‘cobra’ in it – the cobra will quickly swallow any frog – there’s no cooperation of Brahman in it. Your kind of cooperation is just a watersnake, not a Kundalini cobra[6].

‘Choose your company, because we will be together again and again. When you are holy you have to keep the company of the holy. Good earth is to be cultivated, and good people cultivate devotion in mind and heart. Indifferent to heat and cold or thirst they carry their own water. And man is like a kind of water – by thinking of God this water can become a little wine-y (as  Jesus turned water into wine). But man drinks too much wine of a worldly kind, he must get back to his everlasting wine.

‘God is in His name. So let there be quick chanting of the Name, essence of divinity. So God “becomes into” the consciousness of the devotees. Then if you’re not ready He hides Himself again. There’s withdrawal, but you get a quick flash. Then it’s back to normal again because you’re not ready in this life. The world of divinity has nothing to do with this world.

‘Opening the curtain of darkness a glimpse of divinity is given – a fragrance of oleander, jasmine, sandal paste – and this in itself stills the mind of the devotee. His mind is stilled in the essence of divinity. He has lost consciousness of the world. The vision of God takes that person and makes him cross the three world-seas – Bhu, Bhuva, Swaha – as if God has come with an aeroplane. “Anytime we’ll have a little charter flight[7], a cheap flight together. Not too too high!” But you feel the essence, you smell the marigold garland. The smell makes you conceive God. You can see. It might be a hallucination, but it’s beyond the world. You have to see for yourself.

  

‘God sends His messengers. Durga Mai has come in the form of one of our devotees. But we are just a tender spring flower in the vast field of God. Nothing has blossomed yet, no one has seen the blossoming here. In the time of ice there will be more: the Ice Lingam [of Amarnath]. But it will also be hard. If you receive a rose you must be careful of the thorn.

‘So those who are initiated are very fortunate. Some are ready; some are very close. There are many ways of diksha – waving the lamp, keeping the virgin wallet in your heart. Don’t let anyone use or abuse it. These are the leaves that will enable you to cross the ocean[8]. God dwells in His name; He works through His devotees. God appears as a shadow in the picture. Think of that picture shadow and meditate on light.

[To Steve:] Put flowers before Sri Ramakrishna’s picture.

*


[1] Ramana, the sage of Arunachala, used this repeated question to achieve realization.

[2] like seeds that will not be reborn – GSR

[3] ref GSR

[4] ‘Not this, not this’ – the reductive path of knowledge, jnana.

[5] The watersnake can neither swallow nor disgorge the frog from its mouth. The cobra swallows it at once. GSR

[6] Kundalini is visualized as a snake coiled three times round the Lingam in the Muladhara, basic chakra, in dormant state. Aroused, it rises to the Saharara.

[7] cf (Shirdi ) Sai Charters?

[8] cf. the leaves inscribed with Rama’s name enabled Hanuman to cross the ocean

Amma Amritanandamayi and Ambikananda

Mata Amritanandamayi. Who can describe the impact of Ammachi’s darshan? I suspect it’s private and personal to everyone who receives it, but you can be sure the basis is always unconditional love. That’s the way it felt to me last Tuesday, when I went with Sri Lakshmi to Alexandra Palace on a beautiful blue cloudless autumn morning.

For her yearly visit this time there was a surprising amount of interest from mainstream media – this Telegraph video is quite revealing (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8893453/Hugging-saint-shares-her-love-with-Telegraph-reporter-and-30-million-others.html). But why surprising? She has only given her darshan hugs to more than 30 million people, she has only through her devotees housed, fed, educated and saved hundreds of thousands. There hasn’t been a disaster from the 2001 tsunami to the 2011 Fukushima meltdown where the Friends of Amma haven’t been there. She is one of the greatest benefactors in the world. At last the mainstream media are beginning to notice.

I’ve been going to her sessions for many years but have never quite been able to commit beyond darshan-and-donation. Swami Ambikananda first talked to me about her in 1993, not long after I had visited her (for the third time).

“What did she say about the mind?” he asked me.

“ She said it was very hard to tame the mind.”

“The mind alights everywhere, the mind is a fly [GSR].”

Then he warned about flitting from one teacher to another: “Better to abide some time with one who has one eye – king among blind, it is said. He has gone beyond death, he lives like a dead, nothing affecting. You have to have daya (compassion)– that’s Ammachi’s word, isn’t it? … I am one but there is variety in me. Bliss is my pen, you are my ink. Therefore the pen must have a point, the ink must be of different colours. One pen but different inks…”

A year later, in February 1994, Swamiji talked further about Ammachi during a visit to our house with Siva Kali, an old friend and devotee. Siva Kali asked if I had seen Ammachi when she had come to London the previous autumn. I said yes, and how good the kirtan was, and how fully Ammachi participated in the singing, sometimes breaking out in ecstatic cries of ‘Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma!’. And I remembered that Swamiji had hinted that she was an incarnation of Sarada Devi, consort of Sri Ramakrishna – our own Guru Dev.

Siva Kali said she had heard that Ammachi too had said something of the kind to her devotees, not denying that she might be an incarnation of Sarada Devi. And I had recently read that Ammachi had installed at her ashram in Kerala an exact replica of the statue, in the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar, of the Divine Mother as Bhavatarini which Ramakrishna had worshipped until she manifested herself to him. To me this definitely suggested an affinity between Ammachi and our own Holy Mother Sarada.

Swamiji now confirmed: ‘Sarada Devi and these, they do come back again in different form to do what they didn’t do on earthplane…. Time, place, God keeps coming back. Different manifestations, different ways. There are many ways to come, according to time, place and environment. …”

As regards Ammachi’s way of repeating “Ma!”, Swamiji said: “When Ramakrishna went in the boat to Benares [see GSR], he saw Lord Shiva one side and the Divine Mother Kali on the other whispering ‘Ma! Ma! Ma!’ Shiva was liberating souls, the thread was cut, there was liberation. … And She herself has done that in the form of an incognito Sarada. She has said, ‘Ma! Ma! Ma!’ repeatedly, with great love. But what does that mean? She is liberating! I think she is liberating these beings.

“Come and get milk, and dissolve. Didn’t the Mother look at you? The other one will also whisper, but you will not recognize. … God walks among us and is not recognized. There is a state half God, half man, half angel, walking now. It is heart in human form. As long the heart beats, that’s it. … Some people don’t have love, don’t have understanding, their hearts don’t melt. …But God respects your free will, God doesn’t interfere, he doesn’t force you to love Him. Sarada Devi says, ‘If you are happy with your red toys, go on playing.’ But when the toys are put aside, then ‘Ma! Ma! Ma!’ Then the Ma will bring the milk pudding, saying ‘the child is calling me.’ You have read GSR… You are not a foreigner, but you have got mixed in confusion with the world, work, house, argument between devotees. So get unmixed, become undiluted, and dissolve these external layers of wax, because internally there is really flame of Self, undying flame. So, [use] discrimination, dispassion…

“But we are the most lucky because we are really universal. Behind ourself there is this Mary, there is this Jesus, there is Ramakrishna. They are One God. Through us there is a link… Now is such a mixed up time, so try and eliminate attachment – but it’s not easy. Think of purity before you think of God. … When spirituality is mixed with worldliness, you get a worldly result, you get a mixed-type result. Evil has polluted this world. As for yourself, the conquest of the self is the greatest conquest of all. It’s not easy, but that’s the game. Hinduism tells you it’s a game. Hard? Yes, many lives, even, to attain. … So I’m not saying you will control yourself; you may go mad. But holy men convert that passion into love, it’s called ojas. They bring it to here [indicates his heart] and they experience live samadhi instead of that drip to the navel which is the fire of lust. They burn it, separate it, and go in bliss. …This is the advanced birth which people nowadays need many births to attain. But with bhava, with love, you transcend all this in one birth. Ramakrishna, Vivekananda transcended many births in one. Ammachi is making you eliminate, not illuminate, your births. Ammachi is saying, “No more births, my darling.” She didn’t tell you, but I am telling you as an outsider.”

Later, at the end of the same year of 1994, Swamiji told his devotee Vidya: “Amritanandamayi Ma is the headmistress of the school of your life to erase what is not required. Millions of things are erased in [her] darshan.”

*

Follow-up to Glen Lodge kirtan, November 5 2011

I would like to share some of the discourses and memories of  a great holy man, Swami Ambikananda of Mauritius (1934-97), whom I was lucky enough to know for thirty years. This is the first.

From Glen Lodge 31 March, 1997

Following his massive heart attack in 1995, Swamiji’s health was irrecoverably damaged, but he continued to organize kirtans and receive devotees at Glen Lodge. The previous month there had been a kirtan at Madonna’s house in Corfton Rd, London, where a number of his Mauritian relatives were present, including his daughter Virgini. Now at Glen Lodge he was wearing an apron decorated with Mauritian cuisine recipes as he cooked a delicious meal for his guests, Nita, Sada Siva, MahaLakshmi and Jai Narain. Swamiji cooking at Glen LodgeThe following is a version of his discourse at that time.

These notes were read out at the kirtan given at Glen Lodge last week, November 5th 2011.

God is slow but sure, and He is so bearing. He warns you. He doesn’t let you fall completely down to the bottom. And then there are angels too, to grab the little ones. When you go over the border there’s warning – then there’s work. But the Sun will shine. It’s not all dark every day. People don’t thank the Sun. When it shines they say. ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that,’ but they should think of the Sun, they should thank him.

So much has happened that’s irreparable; but you have to learn by accident, by the fall, or there’s no learning. And when accidents happen, not everyone gets hurt. What was inside is now outside. What was hidden is proclaimed

Ideas drag you up and down. We are slaves of our ideas. A slight temptation becomes a big burden, or a net, like the net a coolie has on his back to hold all the things there. So try and control the mind, the ideas. Whatever you do for your pleasure may later be for your bondage. Anticipation pays; it helps, it gives you room to decide, to clear a space, get a breath of fresh air. Anticipation can save a life.

Some people want things all at once. But it will come, if you give it time. Some people have to have their own nature, their privacy. Love is for the other person, it’s not for you. There’s nothing like your own community. Why always think of yourself? Others are also yourself, in another form, happy, or lonely – it’s yourself, alienated, unknown to you – so don’t render evil for evil. Come, share with joy.

It’s good to be a bit active if you’re not affected. When you go beyond the limit you need correction. I am very Krishnaic; I can kill or I can save. To say ‘I can’t help it’ is inventing a kind of disease for yourself. Then nature takes action, there is justice.

We wouldn’t survive if there was only justice. We’re definitely being overlooked [let off]: there is the grace of the Guru, and the grace of your own mind. You don’t know because you haven’t shuffled the card of divinity in the pack of 52 states of life. So grace is very important. Even revelation is not much good if you don’t understand it. ‘Greater than the vision is the interpretation of the vision.’ Therefore divine life needs explanation from a knower, or one who has been told by the Immortal preceptor. I exist before an action takes place. I am declaring it myself.

Spirituality mixed leads to insanity. But you have to know why something must be done. [Just being told] “Don’t, don’t,” doesn’t help you if you don’t know why. Let the person go through these squares. As Jesus said, ‘I don’t condemn you; go, commit sin no more.’

Every action has a reaction. But when a thought has been curbed, controlled, which a man cannot do yet,  it clears away the cloud and brings the Sun. Nature is the Sun, working for the Father; one blow of the wind, and all the leaves are pushed aside, all the leaves of autumn  are brushed away. Due to power of  control, there’s a spontaneous manifestation without action.

The joy is for you, to present what you have brought. But the Person is everything. He is the picture, the rest is the frame. It’s all built on Prema. Self-corrective, self-adjusted. You appear at our meeting as you are. But all is to be discovered in another life. Slowly, slowly, it will come to be printed. You can’t hide forever. Everything is done hiddenly. Jesus said: “What you did in darkness shall be proclaimed.”

Where is heaven? Where is the kingdom? The kingdom is within you. God takes his time, but if you’re willing, you can untangle the loose rope [of free will], Ramakrishna says. Jesus didn’t explain why He taught us to say, “Lead us not into temptation.” He didn’t explain to the crowd, only to his own people, because if there’s no understanding it gets more confused; if you try to explain something to a child it’s no good.

Explanation is spiritual help and blessing, to reassure the doubters. But you are tepid, unawakened. You have to be the same in every breath, every thought, if possible. Confession helps. People are hypocrites, but they want to be strong.  Beyond man and woman is the Paramount One – pure knowledge and bliss. Through that bliss a man is conscious of the reassurance of that blissful Reality. Then he gets knowledge to reassure him.

Heart, mind, words, action, all these should be straight together. We are trying to express what the supernatural language speaks to the heart. Abide by what we are saying. Try to decipher. It is audible trance. It’s coming out, telling you one or two words that bubble, bubbles of reality. As soon as you go from here it disappears, but here it is crystal clear, Words bubble and drop.

Life blossoms in one birth, but if you’re not careful you can lose even this birth. Do not waste it. It’s a matter of your interest. If you have assistance renewing spiritual life is easy; but depending on yourself is greater than any assistance. You have to have will power, discrimination, self-control. But allowance is given for falling. The closer you are, the greater the temptation.

A man can have love, but without will power it’s a neglected field, it’s a fruit tree that hasn’t been cultivated, the fruit left to drop, abandoned. Will power is a determination, where ‘no’ becomes a virtue, yielding becomes a vice. Will power is another word for capacity to reject. Don’t be distracted, be oblivious of surroundings.

Feeling is very dangerous. You can’t explain your weakness; it takes you over. Feeling has a rite and ritual of first introduction, then possession, then madness, a dangerous malady if you have body-mindedness. These little things are overgrowing us, they are a slow death to the soul. Everything is being chewed up slowly, swallowed, in different ways. When you wake up from this unreality then you realise how much of you has been wasted. So you must get astride the giant. The greater the temptation that comes, the greater the challenge. You have to conquer. The greatest conquest is to master yourself first, not the world.

Ganga keeps the body pure. But once we’re in the water, don’t make a mess in this water.
You have to have experience, or emotion  rules you all your life long; you’re reborn in it; it goes into the subconscious. So, you are put in the forge. You are test-driven. Ramakrishna’s guru was a woman [the bairavi Brahmani]; Vivekananda’s first Western disciple was a woman, Cookie.

All this is due to lack of will power, weakness. If a man has will power he is a god. But you are yourself, however much you project yourself into another person, you are yourself. You identify but, minus the One, you  are that ugly gorilla. If the field isn’t cultivated the yield is minimal. Human beings are the best produce in the world, so we believe in rebirth – next time you catch up in next birth. A strong will is the basis of discrimination.

Be spiritually minded  and you attain everything. God has wanted you to serve humanity in this form. If you love your work and adhere to it, you will get a result. But you have to come to that stage of satiation. Some people are like prophets – we give you a hint.
Chastity, purity, not too much indulgence, moderate in eating, drinking, sleeping. You are an instrument, you must be in harmony. The body is a temple, like it or not. The cleaner it is, the better for the Indweller. Otherwise the body pays tax for the soul to use it.

Do your best. Say, “I don’t know any mantra. I have faith in Thee. Lead me.”

Broaden the heart to the point of having nothing tomorrow. Just live on faith and water. God provides. All failure comes from lack of will power. The actor rehearses, but you have to have this power and guts. You have to repeat, night and day. Your  nature is perfection, so your standard is perfection. All you need is a good jockey with a cotton whip, and a bowl of trifle in the paddock for the horse.

Without practice there is no progress. You don’t have to practice everything; but you have to be practical in reality, honesty, dharma, being yourself without anybody,  with everything in your mind, your thousand whims and fantasies. Truth conquers; otherwise the sorrow overpowers you every day.

You have to be that which is not without experience, knowledge, high consciousness, transcendental bliss. There is a special channel of grace of reassurance positive, to communicate with Truth; the path of clarity, honesty, and cleanliness. And you are the end of the destination. You start here but you are already there. So it transcends space and time.
*

Bilsborrow kirtan February 2011

BILSBORROW 19 AND 20 FEBRUARY 2011
You are to be adored (Gayatri) Ramakrishna(Gayatri)
Govinda and other bhajans to Hari (Gayatri) Divine Master (Maha Yogini)
Sri Ramakrishna is dancing (Tryambaka)
Sadashiva (Maha Yogini) Ambikananda (Maha Yogini)
Glory Be (Maha Yogini) Jesus my Life (Tryambaka)
Soul of Christ I (Hari Om) Reading about Jesus from Swamiji’s teachings (Kumari)
Soul of Christ II (Hari Om) Love bade me welcome – George Herbert (Tryambaka reads)

Sentimental Journey

“Gonna take a Sentimental Journey,
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna take a Sentimental Journey –
To renew old memories.

Never thought my heart could be so yearny
Why did I decide to roam?
Gonna take a Sentimental Journey,
Sentimental Journey home.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I begin our conversation with this lilting lyrical tune from 1944 (although, I feel there is never a need to apologise for Doris Day, it is for the context I may need to be forgiven!). There is reason, if not rationale, to this seemingly random premise, for my mind is forever awash with the sentimental reverie of ‘old memories’. This ‘renewal’ at times serves to inspire what our Guru would call a ‘clue’, a spiritual ‘tip’, which leads to some greater understanding:
“ You are feeding yourselves with all these tips, all is loose steps, do-it-yourself kit, so now go to your bed and take your spiritual ladder from earth to heaven.”
My own spiritual path has proved to be an ever evolving recipe, with ingredients taken from a vast store cupboard, a larder of experience, teachings and memory. To continue with this somewhat clunky culinary metaphor: The roux of mysticism, stirred over the heat of divine love, the meat of scripture basted with truth and sincerity, subtly spiced with the personality of the Masterchef, our GuruDev! – “ Cooking is you, converted onto a plate and offered to Brahman.”
But as ever I digress: –
Dear Friends, I have been contemplating and exploring this idea of a personal path, the path for and of the ‘individual self’:
“ Think of God in your own way. Think of yourself- how you can make it easy. Think of God in the way YOU approach God.”
This means finding your own technique, your own strategies for meditation and practise, discovering and crafting your own natural and intimate relationship with God:
“ I don’t meditate to force myself, I don’t go by duty, I go by nature and nature is divine. I don’t go by technique. So much the better if you have technique, but the first technique is love, that’s the only rope that can bind individual self to supreme self. If you have got love you have got everything. And on top of that, if purity is added, sincerity, truthfulness! It takes time, but as long as there is no ego, and you know nothing belongs to you…
Don’t force your own nature. If you can’t do something give it up, put it aside, sleep. But while you are sleeping, cradle your mind. Ramakrishna gives a tip:” When you go to bed, at least if you cannot do anything put your hand on your heart, and think of the Mother.”
To extract solitude or silence from your everyday ‘householder’ life is no easy matter. The Swami often described himself as a “ thief in the night, stealing time and solitude for meditation”. Although I have no memory of him actually ever sleeping, in repose, in meditation- yes, but not actually sleeping, not even snoozing! For me, even when the physical state of solitude is achieved, arresting the ever-racing mind and retrieving some real state of peace is a rare and precious thing. My Grandmother used to say, as she sat in contemplation in her wing-backed armchair, ” Don’t disturb darling, I’m thinking”. This ‘thinking’, I now understand was a natural form of meditation; disengaged yet fully present. What begins as reverie deepens into an expansive plateau of consciousness, what begins as a sentimental journey, can lead you home.
“ You have to have this mind, you have to be calm, to receive, to witness, to put all these divine things into your bones, so when you come back to your ordinary life, you know you are not this, you are soul!”
So my “Dears”, I have come to understand this one small thing about my’ individual’ Self: That my nature is sentimental and my journey through reverie to meditation always begins with a memory. A memory of something, that seemed so inconsequential at the time, can now evoke something profound. So that some thirty years later, seated in an armchair, just such a thought is pushed to the front of the mind. And one is forced to say to a small child peaking round the door, “Don’t disturb darling, I’m thinking”!
And this is what I am thinking: As a young child of the Ashram, I was given a task, a little chore by our Swami at the beginning of each kirtan. On his arrival at the abode of the hosting devotee, in one of his most beautiful and dearly loved celestial chariots, or bangers! In amongst the meeting and greeting, the salutations and welcomes, he would hand me his briefcase; a battered, yet decidedly formal attaché case, with gilded clasps and hinges. Though heavy, I would carry it with care, to his appointed seat in the kirtan room situated before the resplendent shrine. There I was to undo the stiff latches and leave it open and ready. I remember completing this procedure a number of times, over a number of years and in a variety of different locations. This is only of importance from the point of view of what it contained. Firstly the ubiquitous text, a holy scripture that was the ‘ Word’ of the time, be it: Universal Prayers or Sister Josefa, Vivekananda or Anne Catherine Emmerich, Shirdi Sai or Maria Valtorta etcetera, etcetera, for as you know we were never monotonous! It also often held small gifts for a particular devotee, a picture or card, a medal or amulet, specific yet simple treasures. But in retrospect, what was truly extraordinary, was what else the case contained: Never less than a hundred sheets, usually more, two inches deep of foolscap typed up and annotated notes. Page after page of prayer and text, dense sheets of type, with handwritten notations in margin and scrawled symbols in every available space. Now remember this was before the time of computers, before the time of photocopier or word processor. This was work done sitting at a typewriter toiling over key and inky ribbon, and what’s more it was rarely, if ever removed from the case. This was spiritual labour, preparation done prior to a meeting, devotion in the form of work and industry. We think of the Guru as one enlightened, inspired, filled with the spirit, teaching from the illumined page of divinity. He is fully formed teacher, preacher and reacher, the embodiment of Brahman. But also he is spiritual labourer, worker, artisan, skilled practitioner and messenger. His labour may be guided, and I believe in some cases supplied, but it is born of searching endeavour.
“ I didn’t read all these books before, I had a call first, then I wanted to find out more- the Virgin herself was supplying me. She is still supplying me, and it is not finished … I am telling you what I am doing, and if you abide here, I am getting somewhere to the goal of my life, not forgetting what we have already done. Ramakrishna already reached his goal, then he practised different religions-Christianity, Mohammedan, different, different…. I am perhaps delaying in Hinduism because I have got a kind of work to do and I am doing it.”
There is work in worship, there is work in meditation. But is it not your own devised yet natural way of working, your “do-it- yourself kit”, that builds your spiritual ladder, rung by rung, from earth to heaven. Your own journey (sentimental or not) home.
“ Vedanta points out to aspiring men and women the numerous roads, hewn out of the solid rock of the realities of human life by the glorious sons or human manifestations of God, and stands with outstretched arms to welcome all to that Home of Truth and Ocean of Bliss, wherein the human soul, liberated from the net of maya, may transport itself with perfect freedom and with eternal joy. “
Swami Vivekananda

Blissings, Blessings and Sentimental Love
Sanjana Yogeshwaree
Of the Order of Ambikananda MSSA
(All quotations taken from the teachings of Swami Ambikananda)

yogeshwaree@gmail.com

And Only Say The Word

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Many moons ago a fellow child of the ashram told me a simple fable, the moral of which I hope will explain the premise of this humble attempt at an open letter. (Or to use the hateful modish terminology a ‘Blog’) &ndash But I digress, so to return to the tale:
On moving to a new abode, this dear brother had put much time thought and energy into the creation of a large and lovely Shrine. Complete with swathes of fabrics, precious holy statues and images of deities, Ishta Devs, Saints and Paramahamsas. Great church candles stood at the fore, incense held in ornate bronze receptacles and sacred texts lay open on a carved sandalwood plinth. On a small shelf, in his galley kitchen, he placed a photograph of our Guru, in his incongruous attire of knitted hat and orange vest! He told me that throughout the day, when making coffee, snack or meal, he would make salutations and abeyances to this tiny faded snapshot, a little nightlight burned, incense ash mounted in grey peaks and saucers of miscellaneous offerings of Prasad were regularly replaced. While the splendid shrine in the next room stood still and dormant, the little nook above the kitchen sink was brought alive by daily worship and devotions, in essence became a living shrine.
As our Guru said, “There is no particular room, no particular place. Where you are for Me, there I am with you, manifesting.”

Since the passing of our Divine Master Swami Ambikananda, I have in my immaturity, devoted much time and energy to the architecture and construction of great temples to the Master’s teachings. In childish grief, I have indulged in future plans for my spirituality; Aha, I have said, when I am free from the responsibilities of work and children and elderly relations, I will dedicate myself to the ‘Inner Life’, to devotion and prayer, meditation and the thorough exegesis of Holy Scriptures. These vast tomes of knowledge I will read and annotate from start to finish and come to great and wonderful understandings, as I meditate on the powerful Word held therein. “I shall become a Yogi”, a Pilgrim on the Way of Truth, come to know the secret wisdom of my own beloved Master. Aha, I have said again (for I am nothing if not repetitious!), but I am at heart a Bhakta and so having imbibed the power of the word, I shall return to the path of devotion; in an attempt to find that divine love, that Agape. In the midst of these spiritually inspirational thoughts, dear Brothers and Sisters, I confess I am plagued by the imagined sound of ‘laughter terrible and loud’! For I have a most vivid memory of a spiritually intense and joyous weekend spent at the Kedernath Ashram; I had just been initiated by Swami Ji and had spent much of the night happily ensconced in a caravan, writing up my future plans for my life of ‘monkdom’. Page upon page of my ‘Spiritual Diary’, emblazoned with pious intentions of sacrifice and search, practise and prayer, to start on some future date, when the busy schedule of the 8 year old would allow. Next morning I took this handwritten pledge and proudly showed it to the Guru, he read it with due care and attention and then to my chagrin smiled, his golden smile; and complimented me on my handwriting!

So here is the rub, Dear Friends, this my resolve: To take a Word of our Master, a thought for the day, the week, the month; contemplate this, meditate on the meaning, “gather the broken pieces of thought into the basket of (my) your mind.” And in doing so, create an internal living shrine in the hope of “treading the hidden path to the feet of my Beloved”, through the somewhat thorny path of life.
“Let us go back once more, O mind, to our own abode.
Here in this foreign land of earth
Why should we wander aimlessly in stranger’s guise ? ….”

This Word I will share with you as often as I can on the Ashram website, which due to the tireless work of the devotees, is the World Wide Web Living Shrine, sending Word and Music floating out into the firmament.
So here Brothers and Sisters is the Word of our Master, that I hope may induce for us a contemplative meditation, a ‘centred thought’:
“We are very blinded from what we are trying to see, We are living still in a dark world, it’s up to us now how we are going to take our life up there or down here… You have to be very patient in this game of tossing up and down on present and future worries. You have to be strong-minded, to have the grace of your centred thought, the grace of God. Practise picture guidance – God in the shrine. Believe that God is in the picture, that suffices for the turmoil of life…
In reality there’s nothing but One Thing (God). Due to the multifarious particles and atoms of this One Thing our minds are broken into these bits and pieces so we can’t come to full satisfaction to the One – our minds are already scattered. Before we can get a universal harmony in this world, we have to let our will work patiently through the will of the Knower.” Swami Ambikananda 1981
And only say the word and I shall be healed…

Another day, another plan, another golden smile, and no compliment for the font!
Blissings, Blessings and Love

Sanjana Yogeshwaree, June 2010.
Of The Order Of Ambikananda MSSA
yogeshwaree@gmail.com
www.quintessenceashram.org