At our essence, we are Unconditional Love… so why is it so difficult at times to act from that place of perfect, completely giving, non-judging Divine Love? If it is our nature, as the Masters tell us, why do we (and those around us) have such a hard time being “natural” even as the animals are?
I’ve been having this conversation with Divine Mother for the past few weeks… well, maybe my entire life but with especial fervor these past few weeks!
Have you ever been shopping online when all of a sudden, an annoying advertisement pops up on your screen? You close it only to find it back up a moment later and now it seems a friend has joined it! Before you know it, there are little boxes of advertisements all over your screen and you can barely see what you’re searching for! These “add-ons” are supposed to be helpful. We may have even downloaded them thinking they would make our lives easier.
Think of all the negative emotions that we “add on” in hopes that they will make life easier – that they will lessen our pain and suffering and lead to greater happiness… Anger says: “I won’t let people walk all over you anymore!” Fear says: “You don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable!” Lust says: “Why be vulnerable and share intimacy with anyone? They’ll just hurt you in the end.” Doubt says: “You can’t really trust anyone anyways.” Greed says: “Everyone is out for themselves, why not get what you need?”
It doesn’t take long before we don’t even recognize our nature as children of God. We’ve muddied up the water so much with these agents of Maya (delusion). So, what can we do? Think again of the internet browser analogy… have you ever tried to get rid of these add-ons? If you know what you’re doing, and know how they got there, it’s possible to get rid of them… but if you don’t, you’ll probably just make things worse. Then you bring your computer to an expert and ask for help.
This is what we have to do in our personal lives as well. Ask the spiritual expert (or Guru) for help. He knows everything about us, all of our past lives, our good intentions and bad – and he understands us perfectly. He, as a pure instrument for Divine Mother’s Love, will strip us of our evil tendencies (as long as we remain open to his guidance) and leave us as we were before anything was added on – Divine beings of Unconditional Love, radiating the pure Light of Spirit.
“Several astrologers believe there is a connection between the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Somewhat similarly, I want to show a connection between twelve ‘apostles’ of Krishna and the twelve signs. It should not be surprising to find such similarities, as God does not distinguish between spiritual masters of different religions. The fact that ‘Christ’ and ‘Krishna’ have similar sounds is because they represent the same state of being one with God”
The Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual text of India, framed as a dialogue between two warriors, Krishna and Arjuna, who have paused between two opposing armies ready for battle. Arjuna is one of five brother princes, rightful heirs to the throne of a kingdom. Krishna is his advisor in the coming battle against the usurpers of the throne.
The Gita is a metaphor for the battle between good and evil tendencies to win the kingdom of the soul, and Krishna is the voice of God instructing the spiritual seeker.
A short and condensed sanskrit text, the Gita contains a lot of information that can be grasped only with the helpful interpretation of a spiritual master.
Paramhansa Yogananda, a spiritual master author of the worldwide bestseller Autobiography of a Yogi, has provided a fascinating interpretation of the Gita, with several concepts directly tied to Vedic astrology. Yogananda has explained that Arjuna and his four brother princes of the Gita embody spiritual qualities which are characteristic of five planets. For example, Arjuna, the most skilled warrior in the war, embodies the qualities of Mars.
Based on his teachings, I believe that twelve of the warriors mentioned in one stanza of the Gita represent each of the twelve astrological signs:
In the book God Talks to Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Yogananda has given a metaphorical meaning for each of the twelve warriors, based on the sanskrit roots of their names. Kuntibhoja represents asana, self-control. Asana is a spiritual quality known to yoga practitioners, as it is one of eight important concepts explained by Patanjali, the renowned teacher in the yoga tradition. Asana is the physical and mental self-discipline necessary to hold a yoga posture, and to hold the body immobile during meditation.
Yogananda has explained that asana is centered at the third chakra. Chakras are energy centers found at different locations in the human body, along the spine. The third chakra is in the navel area. Yogananda has also explained that the third chakra is related to Mars and its two signs, Aries and Scorpio. The highest expression of Aries is disciplined mental and physical willpower. In fact, an unbalanced Aries will display lack of self-control, anger, and impulsive actions. From the above associations, Kuntibhoja seems to signify the highest expression of Aries, the positive independence and willpower gained from asana, self-control. Kuntibhoja represents dispassion towards the unreasonable requests of the body, a warrior fiercely fighting against laziness, restlessness and sense-attachment.
Taurus – Yudhamanyu
The meaning of Yudhamanyu, according to Yogananda, is pranayama, control of prana, or life force. Like asana, pranayama is one of the eight fundamental concepts of Patanjali. Yogananda associates it with the heart chakra of Venus, Taurus and Libra.
Yudhamanyu means to fight with great zeal and determination. Similarly,Taurus represents sustaining energy and determination. As the earthy sign of Venus, Taurus is sensitive to material beauty. In this respect, lack of pranayama may lead Taurus into excessive involvement with the material world, causing our life force to be drawn outwardly into material attachments. Yudhamanyu represents the highest expression of Taurus, the sustained determination needed to resist the allure of the material world, by collecting our life force inwardly as calmness and joy.
Gemini – Chekitana
Chekitana is smriti, spiritual memory, and its name means ‘intelligent’. Gemini, as the air sign of Mercury, seems to be the natural association for this warrior. Spiritual memory is the ability to remember our true soul nature. Yogananda said that Mercury’s two signs are in the ether chakra (in the throat area), and ether is where patterns of energy are stored, like blueprints to be used for material manifestation. In this sense ether acts like a place to store information, a spiritual memory. The more we remember our true, spiritual nature, the more we perceive the innate presence of Spirit in everyone, in fact Gemini is a sociable sign. Chekitana represents the highest expression of Gemini, using the intellect to remember our true identity with Spirit.
Cancer – Saubhadra
Saubhadra represents samyama, which means holding together. Samyama groups together the three concepts of concentration, meditation and samadhi as expressed by Patanjali– it represents an intense state of absorption on the object of concentration.
Perhaps Cancer is not the first sign to come to an astrologer’s mind when thinking of concentration, but samyama does not so much indicate intellectual concentration, but a deeper kind of concentration, with one’s own being. In this sense, the similarities with Cancer become apparent, as Cancer has the capacity to become fully absorbed on what interests it. In fact, Cancer can be the most personal and attached sign of the zodiac, but also the most caring and attentive, like a mother.
Saubhadra represents the highest expression of Cancer, when it has learnt to see the whole universe as its own, just like in samadhi.
Leo – Kashiraja
Kashiraja represents prajna, discriminative intelligence. Kashi means shining and raj means to shine and to rule. Kashi is a name for Varanasi, or Benares, the most ancient holy city in India, so Kashiraja in a way also means King of Kashi. The metaphorical meaning, though, derived by Yogananda, is “shining, causing other things to shine and be revealed” – in other words, insight.
Kashiraja can also be taken to mean “to reign with light, in a brilliant way”. All these associations clearly indicate a royal character, such as Leo, the royal fire sign of the zodiac.
Kashiraja indicates the highest expression of Leo, when it uses its charismatic light to guide others towards wisdom, just like Yogananda who had Leo ascendant.
Virgo – Purujit
Purujit is, according to Yogananda, pratyahara, interiorization. Pratyahara is associated with the fifth chakra, the throat chakra, in turn associated with Mercury, Virgo and Gemini. The fifth chakra is etheric, more subtle than the lower four chakras – in fact Mercury is a subtle planet, representing agility of intellect. In a way, we can then see Virgo as an etheric-earth sign, and Gemini as an etheric-air sign. The enquiring character of Mercury can become restless if not balanced by a certain stability of mind. Perhaps that is the reason why Mercury is exalted in the etheric-earth stability of Virgo, rather than in etheric-air adaptability of Gemini.
The interiorization of mind and life-force, pratyahara, brings a steady mental calmness, as our energy flows inside, towards the spiritual peace of the inner world, rather than outside, towards the duality and restlessness of the outside world. This interiorization brings purity of mind, as in the symbol of this sign, the virgin.
As an example,Yogananda had Saturn, the ruler of his 6th house of obstacles, in Virgo. When living in Los Angeles he had a few physical accidents that would have incapacitated a normal man. In such occasions he demonstrated perfect control of his life-force: when he’d let it flow outwardly, he’d grimace in pain; when he directws it inwardly, he was innerly free of any discomfort. He was able to face the obstacle with the interiorization of Virgo.
Another example is Lahiri Mahasaya, another spiritual master and Guru of the Guru of Yogananda. Lahiri Mahasaya had Rahu and Sun in his 12th house, Virgo. After working the whole day as an accountant, he was known to remain in samadhi all night, undisturbed by the surrounding disciples. He was visible (Sun) and surrounded by disciples (Rahu), and yet he was interiorized (pratyahara and Virgo) in samadhi (12th house).
Purujit represents the strength and calmness found in pratyahara.
Libra – Yuyudhana
Yuyudhana represents shraddha, divine devotion. Yudh means to fight, and Sri Yukteswar, spiritual master and guru of Yogananda, describes Yuyudhana as the desire to practice Kriya yoga, a meditative yogic technique taught by Yogananda and other spiritual masters, which actively uplifts the life-force in our energetic spine.
We have seen above that Yudhamanyu represents Taurus. Sri Yukteswar refers both Yuyudhana and Yudhamanyu to Kriya yoga and the expansion of consciousness into infinity, suggesting that Yuyudhana and Yudhamanyu are linked to the same chakra, the hearth chakra, and are therefore both signs of Venus.
Yuyudhana would then be Libra. In fact, Libra is an active air sign with a strong desire for inner and outer harmony. Libra’s desire to see the world in harmony is, in its highest expression, the divine devotion of seeing God as the underlying essence of everything.
Scorpio – Virata
Virata represents samadhi. The meaning of Virata is “to be immersed in the inner Self.” Virata was a king who ruled in the Matsya kingdom in India, and matsya means fish, suggesting that Virata is a water sign. Matsya was the first avatar of Vishnu, who in the form of a giant fish saved the progenitor of mankind, Manu, from a great flood.
Of all the water signs, Scorpio is the one that is naturally most self-possessed and strong. Scorpio is also a fixed sign and fixed signs have a Vishnu quality to them.
Before the events narrated in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna and his four brothers spend a year hidden in disguise at the court of King Virata. Of all the signs of the zodiac, Scorpio is certainly the most secretive.
A primary trait of Scorpio is intensity of feeling. In the search for inner happiness, Virata represents the highest expression of that intensity, the inner bliss of samadhi.
Sagittarius – Uttamaujas
Uttamaujas represents virya, vital celibacy, referring to the use of our life-force for spiritual rather than sensual purposes. Yogananda has explained that the 2nd chakra, the chakra linked to the reproductive organs, is the chakra of Jupiter, Pisces and Sagittarius; he has also stated that the 2nd chakra is closely related to Shakti, a deity personification of spiritual power.
Similarly, the two spiritual masters introduced earlier in this article, Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar, refer to Uttamaujas as ‘Shakti’ and ‘fiery vigor’, respectively. Considering that ojas, a word part of Uttamaujas’ name, means energy and power, Uttamaujas seems to clearly relate to Sagittarius, the fire sign of Jupiter.
In fact, in the book The Holy Science, Sri Yukteswar says virya is moral courage, a parallel meaning to vital celibacy, as we need courage to resist sensual habits; courage is a quality that can be considered associated with the fire element. Uttamaujas represents the highest expression of the fiery expansive energy of Sagittarius, redirected from sensual enjoyment to spiritual upliftment.
Capricorn – Drupada
Drupada represents tivra-samvega, extreme dispassion. Just from that meaning, we can surely associate it with a sign of Saturn, the planet of detachment. Pada means step, and the whole name of Drupada means ‘stepping swiftly’. Kriyananda, a disciple of Yogananda, commented in his book The Sun Sign as a Spiritual Guide how the symbol of Capricorn is a strange animal, half goat and half fish; the goat in India is substituted for an antelope but both animals indicate sure-footedness.
To step swiftly, metaphorically, means to be detached and not be side-tracked by various passing interests. Of the two signs of Saturn, then, Capricorn is the best fit for Drupada as it is an active sign while Aquarius is fixed. Also, stepping is done of the ground and Capricorn is an earth sign.
Capricorn is a sign that can be skeptical in an overly practical way. Drupada represents the highest expression of that skepticism: extreme dispassion towards the material world.
Aquarius – Dhristaketu
Dhristaketu represents yama, the power of mental resistance. Yama is associated with the 1st chakra of Saturn, Capricorn and Aquarius. Dhristaketu’s name means to uphold dharma and overcome adversities through discriminative intellect, so Aquarius, an air sign, is a good fit. Swami Sri Yukteswar, guru of Yogananda, had Jupiter and Moon in Aquarius. The perfect example of an expansive Aquarian nature, he was impersonal yet kind.
Dhristaketu represents the highest expression of impersonal Aquarius: to behave in a dharmic way through self-control.
Pisces – Shaibya
Shaibya represents niyama, the power of mental adherence. Niyama is associated with the 2nd chakra of Jupiter, Sagittarius and Pisces. The root of Shaibya’s name is the same as that of Shiva: it means “in whom all things lie.” In fact, Pisces is a water sign that can be very open to outer influences, good or bad. Yogananda explains that the metaphorical meaning of “Shaibya” is “adherence to what is beneficial” – the spiritual prescriptions of niyama. “Shiva” also means “auspicious” and “happy.” In fact, one of the five concepts of niyamas is “contentment.”
Shaibya represents the highest expression of Pisces: receptivity to inspiration coming from the practice of niyama, such as contentment, introspection, and spiritual devotion.
God has made the Gita available to humanity as a source of wisdom. The text is deeply layered with multiple meanings. As Yogananda showed, some of the main characters of the Gita has metaphorical and astrological meanings. Some represent qualities, good and bad, present in our consciousnes. Some of these qualities are associated with astrological entities, like the planets, which are understood by astrologers as symbols to deepen our knowledge of human consciousness. I think the fact that twelve of these warriors are mentioned together in the same stanza of the Gita could be taken as an hint. The above associations seem reasonable to me and I believe them to be true. Whether you agree or not, I hope you’ll find them worth your time as a reflection on some higher spiritual aspects of the twelve signs.
Kashiraja (Massimo Barbagallo) Kashiraja (Massimo Barbagallo) practices meditation, yoga and Vedic astrology following the teachings of Yogananda, Indian yogi and author of Autobiography of a yogi. Kashiraja obtained his PhD in Physics at the University of Cambridge, where he spent almost as much time rowing as working in the lab. Of Italian origin, he immigrated to Los Angeles in 2012 to eat the abundant free citrus fruits. In his spare time he likes to bake cookies. Kashiraja may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see his book, Astrology for a yogi on Amazon.com
This past weekend was a deeply inspiring kriya weekend with Nayaswami Devarshi from Ananda Village. He led us through an introductory class on Kriya Yoga, a Kriya initiation, and service on Sunday. What joy to share in the divine inspiration and magnetism together!
As I was talking with Devarshi over the weekend, he shared with me a new website he created dedicated to Divine Mother — www.thecosmicmother.org . Devarshi shares about Yogananda’s worship to Divine Mother with inspiring stories, pictures, and more. For example:
Yogananda taught the worship of Divine Mother as both a philosophy and a practice, and freely shared many deep devotional experiences. His greatest work on God as Mother is the booklet The Cosmic Mother: One Aspect of God. In other writings, he taught that the AUM vibration is an aspect of the Divine Mother as Kali. He also said that She is far more than any of the limited forms in which She is worshiped—though worship of a personal form can help one reach the Universal ‘form’ of God.
Having grown up in the Catholic Church my relationship with God as Mother was pretty much non-existent. Yes, I had heard of the Holy Ghost, the Madonna, and the Comforter, but I never really felt all that much comfort from Churchianity.
However, I’ve been blessed with a saintly mother who raised me with love, kindness, and compassion. My mother was my first experience of the Divine Mother. When I made mistakes, she always corrected me with loving persuasion. I always feel I can talk informally and openly with her. “Mother is closer than the Father”, Yogananda said.
As I reflect how much my mother in this life cares for and loves me, I cannot even begin to fathom how much our Divine Mother loves us!
There is a chant to the Divine Mother that expresses this Divine Love. It’s called “Will That Day Come to Me, Ma?” by Paramhansa Yogananda. One of my favorite lines is, “a thousand vedas do declare, Divine Mother’s everywhere.”
How would we act if Divine Mother is everywhere?
Through his example Swami Kriyananda answered this question for me. Loving God as the Divine Mother was also a hallmark of his life. In fact, the last song Swamiji wrote (changing the lyrics to an opera song) he named “The Divine Mother”.
All this to say, we are grateful this Thanksgiving for Divine Mother! For her love that is expressed through your divine friendship.
As the Divine Mother song says, may your Thanksgiving be filled with “love more ancient, Bliss eternal and may our hearts soon be merged in Thee!”
I see the
astral light of Divine Mother
I hear the
cosmic sound of Aum Aum
I long for the
infinite love of Heavenly Father
I feel the
heavenly joy of Almighty Him
I live in the
celestial calmness of Our Creator
I revel in
blissful peace of my Sweet Lord
I know of the
ultimate wisdom of O Highest God
I seek the
supreme power of The Mighty King
“I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
How can we “abide in Him”? “If my words abide in you.” By words he meant not only his spoken words, but his vibration, his consciousness, or which words are only expressions. We must abide by the teachings but we must also absorb those teachings into ourselves, that they become our own experience.
There is a story of Swami Sri Yuktewar and a pundit which illustrates this point:
“I am waiting to hear you.” Sri Yukteswar’s tone was inquiring, as though utter silence had reigned. The pundit was puzzled.
“Quotations there have been, in superabundance.” Master’s words convulsed me with mirth, as I squatted in my corner, at a respectful distance from the visitor. “But what original commentary can you supply, from the uniqueness of your particular life? What holy text have you absorbed and made your own? In what ways have these timeless truths renovated your nature? Are you content to be a hollow victrola, mechanically repeating the words of other men?”
“I give up!” The scholar’s chagrin was comical. “I have no inner realization.”
How do we cultivate our own inner realization? “Wisdom is best assimilated through the atoms, not the intellect”, Sri Yukteswar said. This absorption comes through our own experience in deep meditation and inner silence.
God speaks to us through stillness and silence. Groundbreaking discoveries in all fields come from a sense of “mystical awe” when we are not talking, but listening with breathtaking receptivity.
For example, Einstein saw the theory of relativity in a flash. It was an experience that he absorbed within first, then expressed without in scientific terms.
People’s awareness darkens when their minds and brains become “matter sold”, buying this physical world as the only reality. As Christ said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”
I’m reminded of a Pepsi advertisement that shows people partying and living it up with the slogan, “Live for Now!” This wrongly interpreted carpe diem attitude is exactly what “casts us forth” and our spiritual life withers and is burned in the fire of our desires. You only live once, right? That’s another question…
Paramhansa Yogananda wrote a chant to help us battle these worldly desires. “Do not dry the ocean of my love with the fires of my restlessness…with the fire of my desires. For Thee I cry for Thee I weep…”
The saints cry for God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. They live in the eternal now:
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Where is this eternal presence of God? Yogananda said the “spine and brain are the altars of God”. God’s conscious cosmic energy flows down from the medulla like electricity animated our chakras and then our physical bodies.
This is why kriya yoga is so helpful because we are working directly with the life force within our astral spine and brain. We magnetize the spine so we return to our center to abide in Him, His consciousness, vibrations, and joy.
I have a friend who is an advanced kriya yogi. After reading Lahiri’s Mahasya’s letters to disciples, he was inspired to increase his number of daily kriyas. So much that his daily meditation practice takes a few hours each dour.
Of course quality not quantity matters. Lahiri instructed disciples to stop practicing kriya once they felt the “tranquil mind” and to enjoy the “calm after effect poise of kriya.” Sitting in the silence after kriya is a very important and essential part of our meditation practice.
He inspired me to go deeper into my kriya practice. I believe I’m just beginning to realize what Lahiri meant when he said, “solve all your problems through kriya yoga.” When we are in touch with that inner joy, all of our questions are answered. There is no need for book learning for we absorb Him through our own experience “in joy and in more joy, in the light of mellow joy.”
The beloved Indian deity Ganesha, the elephant god, who ushers in new beginnings and removes all obstacles, comes to mind as I enter this blog.
I have found the process of approaching new endeavors more than a little scary at times but also revealing. The Bhagavad Gita reminds us that if life changes were easy, we wouldn’t develop the stamina, clarity of purpose, and inner resolve needed to rise to new stages of growth and wholeness. Patience and acceptance is a big part of the process – imagine trying to force the butterfly out of it’s cocoon halfway before it is ready to pry its wings out. Its visual spectrum of change is vividly clear: caterpillar’s incarnation, the mid way hibernation (and vulnerable) stage in the cocoon, and lastly the transformational beauty of the butterfly spreading its wings and taking flight into its new adventure.
Ganesha playfully reminds us rather than fear change – to embrace it. The deeper yogic lesson of life’s changes is that ultimately it’s ripples (and sometime riptides!) can bring us back beneath and beyond to a wordless inner “ocean” of peace, stillness, and unconditional joy.
We may not be fully aware of this much of the time in the “matrix” of life, but we do get tastes in our yoga and meditation practice. We can start to breath deeper, feel more serene, and have more compassion for ourselves and others. Regardless of our physical, emotional, or spiritual needs, yoga meets us like a patient friend wherever we are. Its healing power transmutes pain into beauty because its essence is love.
Perspective shapes an enormous amount of our lives. When you read a book, the perspective of the book is all important because it is from that perspective that the rest of the world revolves. Throughout life we are met with an infinite amount of circumstances and happenings, but the tone of those infinite moments is dictated by our perspective. Perspective is like wearing a pair of glasses, if you wear pink glasses the world looks pink, and if you wear black glasses, than the world appears darker.
For example, in the children’s book The Giving Tree the main character is an apple tree who gives it’s fruit to a boy when he’s hungry, allows the boy to cut itself down to make a canoe from, and finally when the boy is old and the tree has been reduced to nothing but a stump, the tree tells the boy (now an old man) to sit on him so the boy can rest. The story is very poignant because the tree isn’t reluctant to help the boy, he’s actually very happy to help him. It’s the tree’s joy to help the boy. He only wants the boy’s happiness, so when the boy is content, the tree is content. That’s perspective.
Imagine if that story had been written differently. Same story, same characters, but this time the tree’s perspective was one of fear. The boy sneaks into the clearing where the tree resides and brutally rips a fruit off it’s branch, sending streaks of searing pain shooting up the poor tree’s trunk! Suddenly we’re transported from the idyllic world of a children’s story to a harrowing horror account. Now when the boy cuts the tree down to make the canoe each ax blow is a confirmation of man’s ignorance and arrogance, instead of the original context: selfless giving. The whole story changes with the perspective. The same thing applies to our lives.
In the past months I’ve been plagued by a perspective of lack. I would look in the mirror in the morning and see everything I wasn’t. I wasn’t who I thought I should be, I wasn’t the hero I wanted my story to be about. My self-deprecating perspective drained me and beat me down. My attitude caused me more mental and physical discomfort than anyone else could. I glanced at my reflection and saw my flaws and my pitfalls. I saw all the reasons why I should fail, why I deserved to fail, and why I was worthy only of despisement. I tortured myself day in and day out because of my perspective.
I’m very good at seeing the good in others, I can meet someone and five minutes later I could expound on their positive qualities. I love holding people up, I love making others believe in themselves, I am obsessive about convincing them of their incredible value and beauty as human beings. When I notice that a friend of mine has doubt about themselves I take it upon myself to shine the light of belief into their life. I make war against their self-lack, I try to eradicate their ability to doubt. So why wasn’t I doing that to myself?
That was the question that one of my close friends posed to me, “You show up for all your friends and loved ones, but how do you show up for you?” I wasn’t showing up for me. My perspective was one of defeat, one of inadequacy. So I changed my perspective. I vowed to cut out the negativity from my thoughts and consciousness. I decided to rip it out by the roots and then burn it (best to take no chances with these things). Instead of telling myself, “I can’t do it” I said, “I will do it!” I stopped saying, “You’re broken,” and started affirming my infinite strength.
Now I look in the mirror and I see the same guy, but this time I’m not discouraged by what I see; I’m inspired. I still see that I’m not all I wish to become, but just as a lion-cub looks at his shadow and sees a full grown king, I now look at my reflection and realize that I’m just starting this story entitled my life. I might just be a cub now, but one day I’ll be a lion. I know that sounds corny, but electing this perspective has changed me.
Take for example that I’m writing this article. It isn’t coincidence that I’ve only just now started writing again. Three weeks ago I would have told myself that I had no business writing, that no one would want to hear my thoughts, I had nothing worth sharing, I am a horrible writer, that it would be a depressing experience, so I’d better not even bother trying. After I adapted this new perspective, writing was exciting! I couldn’t wait to express myself on paper, to learn more and more about myself through the experience and trial of scribing. Consequently I’ve been a more prolific writer in the past two weeks than in the last three years.
Now I can’t wait to sit down at my computer and write, because even if my work is a bit sloppy now that doesn’t even phase me (maybe just a tad). Because in six months of consistent writing I’ll be that much better, that much closer to the man I know could be staring back at me from the other side of the mirror. I’m a child of God, and greatness is my destiny, my inevitability, and my certainty. Joy is my birthright, power my inheritance, peace my companion. If I’m not completely realized yet, fine, that’s okay. Because I’m coming. I’m working. So I invite you to adopt the perspective of hope and aspiration. A perspective that turns challenges to opportunities for growth, pain as an opportunity to increase our empathy and understanding, doubt as an invitation for exploration and action. It’s changed my life, what could it do for you?
I recently went through a sort of intestinal D-Day. Okay, maybe not that bad, but I’ll tell you, it’s pretty bad. It all started on a Friday morning, I awoke feeling cramps in my abdomen and a stiff spine, which is very uncommon for me. When I found my way to my meditation practice, the first conscious inhalation left me dizzy and in quite severe discomfort. That’s when I knew I was in for a doozy; even meditation was agony. Long story short, I quickly realized that this abdominal inconvenience was much more problematic than I thought. But the worst was yet to come.
When I realized that what I was facing wasn’t going to go away, I called my helpline; my father. Just as I anticipated, after only a few moments on the phone he diagnosed me, gave me the remedial cure and I thought that would be it. Game, set and match, intestines, I win! Not so fast there, Keshava… My father explained to me, “Keshava, this is from unexpressed anger. When you suppress the anger it builds up in your intestines and eventually works its way out by causing these cramps. So who are you angry with?” I couldn’t answer the question.
I endured the day, which although uncomfortable and very frustrating, wasn’t incapacitating. I still had enough energy to curse my predicament and grumpily complain to my guru that, in my opinion, I didn’t deserve such an inopportunely timed dose of abdominal warfare. Because pain is never convenient. Hours crept by, and soon I found myself staring at the clock at 6pm, and I was practically pain free! I was very impressed with myself. My dad told me it would probably take me a few days to work this thing out, but here I was twelve hours later and I wasn’t feeling anything! Take that pent up anger, I win! Not so fast, champ…
Just as Luke Skywalker may have thought he defeated Darth Vader after he blew up the Death-Star, I too thought I had conquered this abominable abdominal aberration, but as all Star Wars fans know, The Empire Strikes Back, and oh boy, does he strike back with a vengeance. The pain came back in a full display of force, this time hitting me at my weakest point; when I was alone. My housemates had all bid me goodnight, gone upstairs to their (hopefully) restful night, and I went to hell.
Tangent! Pain fascinates me. I love that pain and discomfort lead to adaptation, and therefore, to growing stronger. With that in mind, I embrace pain and discomfort. I hurl myself into discomfort with a fury because growing into the strongest, wisest, kindest, most empathetic, powerful, and awesome being I can be is sort of my dream. Note in the sentence above, “with a fury”. That’s how I deal with pain, by burning it out with anger. My housemates nicknamed me The Hulk, which I suppose is more apt than I’d like to admit it is. See, when I’m faced with excruciating pain or adversity I summon a volcanic eruption, and I ride the lava-waves till I’ve overcome whatever obstacle I had to face. But that didn’t work this time.
As I said, my housemates went to sleep and I went to hell. The reason I say that is because I was completely stripped of my means of coping with pain; this agony was caused by anger, so heating it with wrath was just adding logs to the fire that was quite content with destroying me from the inside. The pain brought me to my knees. The more I fought the worse it got. I lay on my floor and cried. I haven’t cried from pain in years, but this pain broke me. It shattered my will to win, it broke me and left me whimpering on my own floor; it left me hopeless.
I realized that I had two options, I call my father again in the hope that he could help me somehow, or I go to the hospital. As I could barely crawl to reach my phone, let alone stand, let alone drive myself to a hospital, I figured that I should probably start with the call. The first thing my dad told me was, “You can’t get angry, it’ll make it worse.” Oops. Alright then, what could I do? Drape myself over a chair, with it’s back pressing into my imploding intestines and wait.
The hardest realization I made during the whole experience was that I was powerless. I couldn’t beat this thing no matter how hard I tried, the only way to win was to surrender. So eventually I surrendered myself to the pain, but more importantly to my guru. I said, “Master, I cannot beat this pain. You can. Please help!” That was probably the most coherent sentence I made mentally, mostly it was just, “Master, help!”
It should be stated that I did not witness a miraculous healing at that point. I was not suddenly relieved of my pain, as convenient as that would have been. I was not overwhelmed with the presence of God such that I forgot all bodily pain. That would’ve been great, and believe me I tried, but it didn’t happen. And here’s the crazy part: I’m glad it didn’t. No, I’m not a masochistic yogi who secretly walks across hot coals to burn himself, or lays on beds of nails to intentionally impale himself, not at all. God is in everything. Sit on that one for a second. Everything. I often get caught up in my own little judgments of that statement, like “God is in everything that’s nice.” Because it’s easy to see God in the flowers, the mountains, the sea, joy, bliss, or love; those things are all nice. They’re all enjoyable to feel, uplifting to see, and lovely to experience. But God is everything. God is in agony, pain, terror, loneliness, fear, and despair. His presence permeates the sounds of gunfire and dying just as much as the sound of a harp being struck by a little cherub chilling out on a cloud somewhere.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Woah, that escalated quickly! Where is he going with all of this? This is getting sort of weird,” maybe accentuated by thoughts of “Devil worship,” or something to that effect (just kidding reader, I love you), but bear with me! What I mean to say is that when I accepted my pain as being of God, from God, I stopped hating it. Because if God is in pain, oh man, was he ever with me that night!
One hellish night later, what did I discover? I endured pain, what part of me was strengthened because of my ordeal? Well, a few things. I learned first hand that stuffing your emotions doesn’t get rid of them, it just saves ‘em for that rainy day when they decide to work themselves out in your intestines, because if I won’t express them consciously, my body expresses them involuntarily for me! “This above all, to thine own self be true,” powerful words indeed, Mr. Shakespeare. I’m beginning to understand that it is better to be totally truthful to where I am emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually than it is to try and fake my way into perceived greatness. Yes, I’m saying that if I’m angry it’s better to rage for a moment and express that fire than it is to shovel coals into my stomach and pretend I’m a peace-loving pigeon with unruffled feathers (no judgment against peace-lovers or pigeons).
I also saw a glimpse of what it could mean to truly see God in everything. To be able to experience peace amidst disease, joy in suffering. I’m happy to say that in the midst of my terrible discomfort, I still turned to God and guru for help, and hopefully when the moment of my death comes I will react the same way. Because that’s what matters, right? Someone once said, “There is only one choice in life, to turn towards God, or to turn away,” and during my seething, my agonizing, my cursing, and my despair I still turned to God. That, to me, is reassuring. So, I have a new resolve: I will sharpen the practice of self-awareness such that I may remain truthful to myself always in every situation. For as long as I keep God and guru close to heart, the fastest way forward is to recognize where I am now.
Ananda is my home, and the incredible people there are like my family. Being a part of Ananda LA is participating in a greater reality that buoys the spirit, even in these times of uncertainty. — — R.G., Torrance