New Year’s Resolutions

It’s almost that time again. Time to think about your New Year’s resolutions and priorities. This January counts 11 years since I made the New Year’s resolution to practice yoga in a meaningful way.

One of my favorite quotes from Swami Sivananda is excellent to reflect on when deciding your spiritual New Year’s resolutions. I find it to be very inspiring. It’s from the book Sadhana:

“In the spiritual path it is a case of progress or regress. There is no comfortable “sitting on the wall” frequently. To rest is to rust. With a flaming aspiration push forward. Every day must show that you have taken one step more upon the path. Progress is not to be counted in number of days that have passed in practice. It lies in how far you have outgrown your former ways of thinking and living. What is the extent of your victory over external environments? Do you maintain a calm and balanced mind? Do you remain unaffected by little annoyances and irritations? Are you more ready to forgive and less ready to offend? Has your aspiration grown stronger? Are you doing increased Sadhana or are you expecting Divine grace to help you to carry out your resolves and vows? Are you waiting to get blessings or Asirvad from saints and Avatars? Blessings are always there, but unless you prepare to boldly struggle upwards and onwards blessings are just as useful as staff and shoes to a traveller who does not care to march ahead.”

sivananda from life archive

Swami Sivananda

Pranksters Pounding on My Door?

I just watched the taped delay broadcast of Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray in the Australian Open. Unfortunately for Murray he played quite poorly up until the very end of the match. Federer won. I learned recently that Andy Murray does yoga and he believes it helps his game a lot. I was wondering how much more improved Federer’s game would be if he also did yoga.

Anyway, the live broadcast of the match aired at 2am here. In hindsight I realized I could have watched most of the match live this morning but I was busy with something else and didn’t think of it.

At 2:30 am I was awakened from a very restful sleep by pounding on my door. BAM! BAM! BAM! I came fully awake in literally three seconds and immediately entered the middle of a scary movie.

I have seen so many scary movies where I think to myself, “Why do they do that? I would never do that! I would hide right away and call 9-1-1.”  For me the scariest movie of all time is “The Strangers” (2008). Based on a true story it’s about a young couple who stays at somebody’s house overnight and for some unknown reason they get seriously harassed by three unknown strangers. It does not end well.

In the movie the strangers pound on the door, peer in the windows, stare at them from the yard, eventually break into the house… for me it’s seriously horrifying because of the similarity to recurring scary dreams I had when I was young. The movie still scares me but over the years I worked through the dreams and don’t get them anymore.

So anyway, I hear the three BAM! BAM! BAM!’s on the door at 2:30am and in three seconds I’m wide awake standing in the hallway that connects the front and back doors and from which you can see most of the windows of the downstairs part of the house.

It was very bright full moon night, and even though cloudy I could still see quite well through the cracks in the blinds to outside the house. I stood there holding my breath, looking for movement and listening for sounds.

Nothing.

Then I made the rounds of all the doors and windows, peeking through the blinds to see if I could see anybody.

Nothing.

After a few minutes I realized, as one naturally realizes first thing every morning, that nature called and I had to go to the bathroom. Bad timing! I abandoned my searching and walked back to the bathroom. Just as I got there BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!

This time five pounding fists and I realized it had to be coming from the front door. So I ran to the front door and peeking through the blinds again I saw nothing.

Maybe it’s a blessing to see nothing, but I can tell you I was really scared.

I formulated a plan at this point. Get the phone in my hand. Make rounds of the doors and windows. Wait to wake the kids and call 9-1-1 unless it happens again. Listen to see if they enter the gate to the backyard. How can the dog be sleeping through this?

I kept up my rounds for 30 minutes. Complete adrenaline rush. Trying to forget the movie. Eventually as I had time to think I realized whoever it was must have gone because the temperature was in the low 30’s last night and very very cold – no one would just stand out there in the cold. If they wanted in, they’d come in or do something else.

I also began to think of who, and why. It also occurred to me that some classmates of my younger daughter have harassed us before (although at reasonable hours) playing ding-dong-ditch with the doorbell, and other stupid things. Think of 6 year olds in mens’ bodies. I thought it was a good chance it could be them although I had no way of knowing for sure.

Finally I went back to bed. It took a long time to fall asleep.

Eventually this morning I woke up and started my usual routine. While I was doing asanas I reflected on the whole situation. I was thinking it’s kind of normal to be afraid and have the adrenaline rush if someone bangs on your door at 2:30am. However, I wondered why is this? Why is fear the first feeling?

I had the power position – I was inside behind locked doors, I had 6 phone/handsets to call for help, I could see outside much better than they could ever have seen inside, I had a dog (not sure how much help that would have been :-)…

But still the first thing you feel is fear. I guess fear of ultimately losing your life.

In yoga they call this feeling of clinging to life Abhinivesa. Like all things there’s tons of details to define it all, and I forget exactly everything, but they break these fears down into things like fear of: wild animals, insects, disease, losing loved ones, losing things, getting your body maimed, losing your life, etc.

One time Swami Sivananda was sitting in a satsang in Rishikesh and somebody who didn’t like him came in and axed him in the head. The ax bounced off and nothing happened to Swami Sivananda. I think the story goes that he then treated the man as his best friend with total forgiveness and the man eventually repented because of how well he was treated even though he tried to kill Swami Sivananda. Throughout the whole thing Swami Sivananda never flinched. He had total belief that the body is transient and unreal, and therefore, there’s nothing to lose if you die.

Lots to think about.

Yogic Limiting Adjuncts – Upadhis

In yoga, a limiting adjunct is something that limits the mind. In sanskrit it is called an Upadhi.

In Swami Sivananda’s Yoga Vedanta Dictionary he defines it as:

A superimposed thing or attribute that veils and gives a coloured view of the substance beneath it; limiting adjunct; instrument; vehicle; body; a technical term used in Vedanta philosophy for any superimposition that gives a limited view of the Absolute and makes It appear as the relative. Jiva’s Upadhi is Avidya; Isvara’s Upadhi is Maya.

He seems to suggest that an Upadhi is a concept of limitation, that anything that limits the Jiva, or mind can be considered a limiting adjunct.

During the SYVC Teacher Training Course, we are taught that there are three Upadhis – time, space and causation. Admittedly, these would seem to be the “first” limiting adjuncts because a mind can exist only within these dimensions.

First, would arise the concept of space, here vs. there, me taking up space over here, you taking up space over there. Next would be time, if something is here and not there it has to get from here to there and can’t be in both places at once, therefore, it takes time to travel from one place to another. Finally causation, in space and time one thing seems to be the cause of another.

In the relative sense all this is real. In the absolute sense none of it is real.

However, I think the concept of limiting adjunct is more broad than simply time, space and causation. In the book Self-knowledge, Swami Sivananda goes on to explain:

Sense-organs, physical body, mind, Pranas, intellect, etc., are the products of Avidya (nescience). They are Upadhis (limiting adjuncts). Negate them, sublimate them or eliminate them through Vedantic doctrine Neti-Neti (not this, not this). What remains behind, the balance or residue left is Atman or Brahman only.

And also:

Atman is one and the same in all beings. It appears different in different persons on account of the Upadhi or limiting adjunct, Antahkarana (mind). Akasa is one and the same. On account of Upadhis of pot, cloud, room, etc., it is differentiated as Ghata-Akasha (pot-ether), Megha-Akasha (cloud-ether), Mat-Akasha (room-ether), etc. When the Upadhi-pot is destroyed, when the pot is broken, the pot-ether becomes identical with the universal ether. When the Upadhi-Antahkarana is annihilated by Sadhana, the individual becomes identical with the all-pervading consciousness.

I’m pretty sure I also read in another book by Swami Sivananda that the Upadhis of the mind are time, space and causation, and the Upadhis of the Jiva are body, mind and senses. This quote I cannot find. If I find it someday I will post it here – if anybody is familiar with this quote please let me know where it is.

In the meantime if this is an incorrect interpretation based on these quotes, maybe someone who has more knowledge than me can enlighten me to the proper understanding. It seems like depending on your stage of personal evolution you would have more or less limiting adjuncts, and within a person they can vary from day to day depending on your mind set.

I don’t know, seeking answers…

Picasso_Ma_Jolie_Woman_with_Zither_or_Guitar_1911

Picasso’s Ma Jolie – creating limiting adjuncts or trying to break through them?

How To Tell If You Are Advancing Spiritually

In this entry from “May I Answer That?” Swami Sivananda answers the questions –  What are the marks of spiritual progress? How can I know whether he is advanced in the spiritual path or not?

Peace, cheerfulness, contentment, dispassion, fearlessness and an unperturbed state of mind under all conditions indicate that you are advancing in the spiritual path.

Spiritual progress is not measured by Siddhis or powers, but only by the depth of your bliss in meditation.

These are sure tests of your spiritual progress: Is your interest in inner spiritual activity and outer Sadhana increasing day after day?

Does spiritual life mean to your consciousness a matter of great delight, a delight far transcending the happiness that the world of vital pleasures affords you or offers you?

Has your personal awareness come to a possession of a sense of peace and strength which men who are not aspirants do not find in their everyday lives? Do you feel certain that your power of discrimination and light of thought have been steadily growing? Is your life being gradually led to such experiences which reveal to you the operation of a will and intelligence other than your own, the will and intelligence of the Omnipotent Lord?

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Has there come into the conscious activities of your everyday life, the active function of a new delightful angle of vision, a new perspective, a strong sense of self-possession, a steadily growing convinction of your dependence upon and intimate relation with the all-pervading Divinity?

If your answers to all these questions or to any one of them are in the affirmative, be absolutely sure that you are progressing, and progressing speedily, in the spiritual path. ~ Swami SIvananda

Why Do Sadhana?

From the book “May I Answer That,” Swami Sivananda answers the questions:   The Lord’s grace will do everything for me. Why should I do any Sadhana (spiritual practice)?

This is wrong philosophy. God helps those who help themselves. God’s grace will descend only on those persons who exert. The Lord’s grace will descend in proportion to the degree of surrender. The more the surrender, the more the grace. You cannot expect the Lord to do self-surrender for you. Be up and doing. Strive. Plod. Persevere. The Lord will shower His grace upon you. ~ Swami Sivananda

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End Negative Thinking

From the book “May I Answer That,” Swami Sivananda answers the following question: “How can a person, who has been thinking in a negative way for a long time, change to positive thinking?”

Let him start with some positive suggestive formulas: “I am hale and hearty. I am healthy. There is nothing wrong with me. I was under a misconception of my own abilities and capacities. Now I have realized my real nature”. Let him do it with the help of some person advanced in Yoga or a devotee of the Lord. Let him start with a prayer to the Lord. Let him make prayer a part of his daily life and ‘a must’ in life. All negative thinking will end. ~ Swami Sivananda

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On Time

I have been reading lately and reflecting about how time is so regimented in most people’s lives. In reality, human invented time is totally arbitrary. One day seems long, another short. The same day varies quite a bit from person to person and from moment to moment. It all depends on whether you are interested, bored, afraid, worried, etc. All these factors affect your memories and perceptions, which over time become distorted.

Here are some quotes and some art trying to capture different ideas about time.

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

~ T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”

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Profile of Time, Salvador Dalí, sculpture.

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Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dalí, 1931.

Today becomes yesterday. Yesterday is today’s memory. It is a remembrance only. Tomorrow is today’s dream. It is a longing only. Live in the solid present alone. Wipe off yesterday and tomorrow. In God, there is neither past nor future. It is all eternity. It is all solid present alone. Present only is the solid reality. ~ Swami Sivananda