By Harshada David Wagner
Gratitude and awareness will help multiply the profound blessings that life gifts us.
In the Chandogya Upanishad, there is a story about a boy named Satyakama Jaballa.
When Satyakama became a young man, he wanted to receive initiation and enter the ashram of the master Haridrumata Gautama; he wanted to attain knowledge of the truth.
Meeting Satyakama, the master was impressed with the boy’s honesty and purity. He initiated Satyakama and immediately gave him an assignment. The boy was given a herd of 400 sickly cows to take away and care for. Satyakama vowed that he would not return until the 400 had become one thousand.
Many years passed and the cows thrived under Satyakama’s care until one day the bull of the herd approached Satyakama to speak: ‘We have become one thousand; it’s time to go back to the ashram.’
On his way back, each night, Satyakama was given a lesson about the secrets of the divine – first from the bull, then from his campfire, then from a swan and finally from a Magdu bird. By the time he reached his guru’s house, Satyakama had become a knower of the truth. Upon arriving, Gautama noticed the boy’s attainment. He observed that the boy was ‘shining like the sun.’ Pleased with Satyakama’s devotion and studentship, Gautama finally granted Satyakama’s ultimate wish for liberation.
The stories in the scriptures and holy books may use different characters with various names, but in truth, I believe they are all about us. The sages gave us these stories to inform our sadhana; so that we may experience what they experienced and join them in their state of total freedom.
‘Take what you have received and care for it…’
These may be the unspoken, unwritten instructions that come along with every teaching or practice or blessing that we receive along the spiritual path.
The Satyakama story is a great example of what happens when we truly cherish and care for the divine wealth with which we are entrusted. On the path of divine transformation, we are constantly receiving, and constantly being asked to expand our ability to hold onto the blessings and knowledge that we receive.
So, if we are Satyakama, what cows have we been asked to care for and how do we care for them?
Each time we turn to the divine, every time we open ourselves – even a small amount – we receive something great. It seems to be a law of the universe. The divine principle is so abundant and generous, it cannot help but give and give. We receive enlightened practices, ancient teachings, mysterious blessings, initiations. We receive transformation and the company of other seekers to share our experiences with. We receive oceans of love. The list could go on.
The following are some ways to expand the wealth we receive:
Usually when we visit a temple or come into contact with a manifestation of divinity, we receive some sort of prasad or blessing – an ashirwad, a dose of divine energy. It can happen during meditation, in nature, in a dream… blessings can take infinite forms. The shakti enters us and then heals us, teaches us and transforms us inside out.
We can expand the power of the blessings we receive by making a sweet and subtle effort to remember them and know that they’re in us. I like to think that every blessing I have ever received is there inside my heart – like a vast treasure vault. When I sit to meditate, sometimes I simply imagine opening the vault and going inside. Other times, I experience my storehouse of blessings as a profound ocean of power in my inner being; as I meditate, I let my mind and ego dissolve into this ocean. Along with meditation, other internal practices such as mantra repetition, pranayama, and quiet prayer are also terrific for expanding our store of inner energy. It’s not that we are actually making the blessings expand; their very nature is to expand. Our efforts simply allow them to grow, by making space for them and giving them an honored seat.
Practicing to Cultivate Blessings
The next time you visit a temple or holy place, or even your puja room, be aware that you are receiving divine energy. As you pranam or as you pray, imagine welcoming and accepting the energy into your heart. After darshan, take some time to be very still and savor what you have received. You may want to find a place to sit down and close your eyes. Take time to imagine the energy you received expanding. Imagine it swelling; imagine it filling every part of your body, mind, and spirit.
As you go about your day, be aware of what you carry in your heart. This way you carry your blessings into every room, every train, car, every conversation you enter into. Let your blessings flow out through your speech. Let them accompany everything that you do.
When I practice like this, I find that I am more aware not only of the blessings that are in me – but of those that are around me as well. As I live in remembrance of what I carry inside, I find that I see blessings happening all the time. I am able to see the blessedness of the universe and give my blessings to the universe.
Expanding the Sangham
Satsang – good company. Too easily can we take for granted the people with whom we have the great fortune of sharing the spiritual path. It is said that the company of other seekers is one of the greatest boons that God bestows. The people who walk the path with us provide priceless support to our journey in many ways.
True satsang is the company that challenges us and supports us in equal measure. We’re there to encourage each other to keep going higher and higher. At the same time, we’re there to acknowledge one another and give the oft-needed pat on the back or the shoulder to lean on.
So how do we expand the treasure of sangham? By this I don’t mean getting more people to come to our ashram or enrolling more people on our spiritual path; this effort is subtler. It’s about taking stock of the great company that we have been given. Our sangham may be very large or very small – it may consist of only our spouse or best friend. Our experience of sangham expands when we take the time to appreciate the great souls in our life and ask: how can we spend more quality time with them? How can we learn more from their company? What can we offer back to them?
Practicing to Cultivate Sangham
Sometime in the next two weeks, put together a list of your closest sadhana buddies. Write a few lines describing what you’ve learnt from each person, what you love about them. Then, plan a get-together; invite a circle of your sadhana friends over for a sadhana party. Share food, share a spiritual practice, share your experiences. Most of all, take the time to acknowledge your friends and share why you appreciate walking the path with them. You can have these sadhana gatherings regularly. Take turns having them at different homes.
In the story, Satyakama succeeds in his goal of making his herd one thousand strong and when he does, a miracle happens. When he fulfills his vow, when he expands the wealth entrusted to him, the wealth itself begins to instruct him.
The divine gifts, the ancient teachings and priceless experiences that we have along the path, are not inert. They are living, chaitanya – instillations that take root and grow inside us. I have to always remind myself of this. Instead of looking for more and more from my guru, from my ashram or from God, I can instead choose to take stock of what I already have received and then honor and protect that storehouse of grace inside my being. In this way, my cup is always full.
David Harshada Wagner lives in New York City with his wife, Anushri. He is a meditation teacher and the founder and director of Banyan Education.
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