By Suma Varughese June 2004The search for enlightenment is what drives us, consciously or unconsciously. however, finding the right path is no easy matter for it has to suit our inclination, interest and temperament. while we can’t promise you a custom-made path, we give you the next best alternative—a compilation of 100 paths including 59 formal paths and 41 readers’ experiences to pick and choose from. happy seeking!Yoga and meditation Spirituality lives in the heart. We cannot be spiritual unless we observe ourselves deeply. For me, meditation is the best medium to be spiritual. I am a yoga instructor and a naturopath. I love to practise yoga as I feel that because of this, my life is heading towards spirituality. I have come to know that everything in this universe is false, only soul is real. So every action should be aimed at earning peace for the soul. I now realise that spirituality is not only to devote yourself to God but also to study soul. And meditation and yoga are worthy tools for this. Scientists also admit that the energy called prana is always around us—in trees, plants, rocks, sky, stars, etc. The whole world is like a sea of prana. We should try to take as much as from this sea. Sometimes the process of taking prana reaches a stage where there appears no need to take anything else. Lord Mahavir used to fast for long periods. Yet he remained healthy always. How? Because of yoga. He was a great yogi. Sometimes we complain about things that we have no control upon, but we are not grateful for the things that we have. A physically challenged person who has lost one leg doubts about the existence of God. But when he had both the legs in working condition, he never thanked Him. But when a person reaches spiritual plank, little things of life do not affect him. Osho said: ‘‘Pain, joy, entire happiness are natural. If you adopt some unnatural attitudes you will suffer, but if you adopt natural and real attitudes, you will find happiness and satisfaction. And if you give up all these attitudes, you will have full happiness and satisfaction.’’ Meditation has wonderful power. Choose a tree in the garden and concentrate on it everyday. Also choose another tree and don’t give it attention. Give same amount of water and fertiliser to both. One tree will show more growth. Which one? The one you concentrated upon. The other tree will become impoverished. It means that the things that are given proper attention show gradual change and become unique. This truth is also related to our inner life. So, concentrate only on those qualities that you want to develop. You should increase love and eliminate anger because anger is the most dreadful enemy of human beings. One day, anger will melt into meditation and will transform into love. I have experienced it myself. One who has no demand for gain in life, who leaves everything to God, gains everything. But one who wants to take the key in his hand, gains nothing. To sum up, I think that the best path of life is spirituality. Ph: (01254) 236319 Sikhism Sikhism appeared as a progressive movement, inspired by Bhakti and Sufi beliefs, some 500 years ago in north India. Its 10 gurus, beginning from the Bhakti saint Guru Nanak, gave a message of devotion to one God, truthful living, and interfaith harmony, enshrined in the holy book, Adi Granth. The Granth is considered a living guru and is a compendium of teachings of Bhakti and Sufi saints along with the 10 gurus. God in Sikhism is nirankar (formless) and the goal of human life is to merge with Him (moksha). The way to achieve this is through complete surrender and constant remembrance (simran) of the Lord. Practices include: • Faith in the guru: The guru keeps one on the path of truth, applies the salve of knowledge to one’s eyes so that one can see God, and ferries one across the turbulence of life. The guru is not to be worshipped though—he is a teacher, not a messiah. • Detachment: The Sikh faith is for householders. Living in the world, one is to be detached from its illusions, and steeped in the reality of God. Satsang (the company of holy people) and the singing and listening of hymns, are seen as helpful instruments. • Universal equality: Perhaps because of the divisive times it originated in, the Sikh faith requires a belief in and a practice of universal equality. Barriers of caste, religion or gender are to be seen as artificial and cast aside, seva performed for all, and community living practised as much as possible. Each man and woman is to be their own priest and empower themselves to perform rituals of birth, marriage and death. • Path of truth: Since God is believed to be sat (truth and reality), the path requires unflinching commitment to truth. The logic is simple. If God is truth, then to speak untruth or to grasp what is unreal (worldly objects) would mean a disrespect of Him. • Nama Marga: The conscious repetition of the name (‘Ram’, ‘Rab’, ‘Hari’, ‘Rahim’) is believed to conquer the ego from which flow the five defilements—lust, attachment, greed, anger and pride. The requirement for the path of recitation is threefold: Realisation of truth in one’s heart, its expression in prayer, and detachment. It is in this state that nama japa is performed, leading to the restless mind being stilled and opening to the light of God. Guru Nanak intended the Sikh path to be sahaj (gentle), in which gradual training of body and mind brings out the goodness inherent in all human beings. Later gurus embodied the ideal of the ‘warrior saint’, the karmayogi who performs his duty detached from results, submerging his will with the Divine, and his being with God. Contact: www.sikhs.org; www.srigurugranthsahib.org Kriya Yoga Kriya Yoga is a form of control of life force energy through special techniques of breathing, which quickens spiritual evolution through the attainment of higher states of consciousness. The root of the Sanskrit word kriya is in kri, which means to do or to act; thus Kriya Yoga is defined as ‘‘union with the Infinite through certain actions or kriya’’. There are references to Kriya Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita (IV:29 and V:27-28) and in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (II:1 and II:49). Mahavatar Babaji, the legendary Himalayan yogi, revived Kriya Yoga, which had fallen into obscurity. His disciples included Lahiri Mahasaya, who taught it to Sri Yukteswar Giri, whose disciple, Paramahansa Yogananda propagated it for the first time on a wide scale through the Yogoda Satsanga Society in Ranchi, and the Self-Realization Fellowship in the USA. Paramahansa Yogananda gave a detailed explanation of the basic principles of Kriya Yoga in his Autobiography of a Yogi and in God Talks With Arjuna, his translation of and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. The Kriya Yoga path encompasses the eightfold path of Patanjali: yama to samadhi. It is a psychophysiological method by which human blood is decarbonised and recharged with oxygen. The extra oxygen is used to rejuvenate the brain and the six energy centres aligned with the spine. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent decay of tissues. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining heart action, is freed for higher activities by the natural stilling of the breath. The ancient rishis found that it was possible to accelerate the progress of evolution by revolving the life current up and down the spine. This refines and purifies the consciousness, and magnetises the spine. This in turn draws the energy and consciousness from their restless preoccupation with the body. As the energy is switched off from the muscles and senses and thereby from the external world, the attention becomes interiorised, free of distractions, and absorbed within in spiritual perceptions that are far more satisfying than the external world can offer. One realises, through direct experience, the self's inherent oneness with God. Kriya, controlling the mind directly through the life force, is an easy, effective and scientific avenue of approach to the Infinite. Yogananda demonstrated his extraordinary powers in his Mahasamadhi, which he had announced ahead of time. Even 20 days after his certified passing, his body remained fresh as ever, without any signs of decay. Contact: www.yogananda-srf.org Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, Ranchi, Ph: (0651) 2460071, 2461578 E-mail: email@example.com Meditation Of all the paths that lead to God, perhaps the one common factor linking most, if not all, is the practice of meditation. Meditation, or dhyana, as it is called in India, is the simple yet radical act of turning your consciousness within, by detaching it from the senses. Most spiritual practices emphasise the need for preparatory work before attempting meditation. These include the formulation of an ethical code of conduct, breathing practices, yogasanas, affirmations, the practice of charity, ethical livelihood, silence and creative visualisation. A certain amount of purification is necessary to gather the energies required to turn the focus within. The practice of meditation is a paradoxical one. One is working with the mind in order to go beyond it. But the very fact of observing it can intensify reaction. We see aspects of ourselves we shrink from and we react against our inability to control the slippery mind. The operation, therefore, is a delicate one. It requires patience, self-acceptance and determination. The idea of meditation is to reach the stage where we can contain all the contents of the mind without disturbance or flight. Impassive observation (sakshi bhav) of our inner and outer worlds is the goal of the path. There are many tools to facilitate this—focu
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