By Suma Varughese
The 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 cant promise you a custom-made path, we give you the next best alternativea 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 dont 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 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.
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.
Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, Ranchi, Ph: (0651) 2460071, 2461578
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 focus on the breath, mantra, idol, thoughts, etc. Through the process of awareness and acceptance, the conditioning that creates reactions is vented. This causes the mind to become still and peaceful, eventually vaulting over the polarities of joy and sorrow. In time, we make the stunning realisation that we are not our mind and that our true Self lies beyond it. By helping us detach our identity from the mind, meditation prepares us for the highest step of allunion with the divine and the experience of our true nature. This last step, however, is not in our hands. Only surrender and grace will bring this about.
There are hundreds of meditation techniques available, many of which we have explored in other paths. Whatever the technique, its effect can only be gauged by the level of transformation within you. This is the important milestone, not the occasional seductive visions and experiences or powers that may visit you.
Connected to the Infinite
Dr Suresh Kumar Sharma, Ropar, Punjab
I experienced light in the form of permanent bliss (Atmananda) while participating in the November 1996 Art of Living course during the practice of Sudharshan Kriya and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation.
Through the radiant grace and fragrance of Sri Sri Ravishankar, I developed joy, peace and stillness of the mind, dynamic energy, contentment, creativity, love, loyalty and discipline, foresight, as well as perfection in action, expression and feelings. My every moment is now joyful and full of enthusiasm.
I really love others; my time, thoughts, energy and efforts are directed towards them. It is a living and dynamic law. It is not spiritual fluff. Love is not an emotion but my inner existence. My regular practice provides me with a blissful state of mind. I do not identify with my body and since I am not the body, I do not suffer any pain. Worldly matters are now like passing clouds for me. Meditation is like an infinite benign force, which refreshes me, purifies my heart and helps me realise the Supreme Being.
I feel a greater sense of balance and contentment. Last year, I was travelling in my car. My sister's son Vinod was driving it. While, I was reading Rishimukh magazine, suddenly a thought of an accident came in my mind. Just a few minutes later, our car met with an accident. Although the car was crushed, we didn't suffer a single injury. How did this thought come in my mind? And who saved us? I believe the answer to my first question was that my regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya and deep meditation gave me the clairvoyance. The answer to the second question is that Guruji saved us. So, through a master, you can be connected to the Infinite.
Ph: (01881) 263575
An experience with Sudarshan Kriya
Surindar Paul Aggarwal, Ropar, Punjab
I believe the Holy Bhagwat is the only ancient scripture that tells us about spirituality and self-realisation. But its interpretation requires the guidance of an enlightened Guru.
Year 1999 was an eventful year in my spiritual journey; our son was at the Institute of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences at Bangalore for a brief stay. There, he heard about the Art of Living organisation founded by Sri Sri Ravishankar. He did a one-week AOL basic course, of which Sudarshan Kriya forms the core. Inspired, my wife and I also did the course. While doing the Kriya, I had a unique experience of almost reaching a state of pure consciousness, totally at peace with my inner self.
The process of Sudarshan Kriya is effective for everybody, irrespective of social, financial and educational background. After this process one can easily follow the path of seva, satsang and sadhana to soar to greater spiritual experiences.
Ph: (01881) 223420
One of the principle paths expounded by the Bhagavad Gita, Karma Y oga is ideally suited to the householder whose busy round of duties leaves him little time for devotional activities. Ergo, convert duties into devotion. Work as worship. It gets its validation from the concept of nishkama karma advocated in the Gita, i.e., action free of desire for the outcome.
Thy right is to work only; but never with its fruits. Let not the fruit of action be thy motive, nor let thy attachment be to inaction. (II -47).
The truth is that we do not have control over outcome. But we do have control over effort. The Gita tells us to focus on what we can control and ignore what we cannot. In modern personal growth terms, this would mean focusing on the circle of influence and not on the circle of concern.
By doing so our efforts become more skilful and focused, thereby enhancing the possibility of success. Secondly, such action is free of all samsarik entanglement. We incur no karma. The very actions that have trapped us in lifetimes of birth and death can be used to free ourselves of them. Karma yoga implies clearly that motivation and not the action itself is the creator of karma. Giving someone a gift to obtain power over them has a karmic entanglement which is absent when the gift is given with an open heart. Apart from detachment to results, karma yoga also demands dedicating the action to God.
A natural offshoot of karma yoga is the practice of seva or service. The karma yogi dedicates himself to the selfless service of the universe. Serving humanity as manifestations of God, the yogi rises above all separateness and sees himself in everybody and everybody in him. Great examples of flawless karma yogis include Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda.
Karma yoga is particularly suited to the action-oriented seeker. It is part of the regimen of most spiritual organisations such as the Sathya Sai Baba organisation, Ramakrishna Mission, and Sadhu Vaswani Mission. All seekers are enriched by exposure to it. Says Rajiv Nambiar, Sathya Sai devotee: "When you become seva-oriented, you start putting yourself in others shoes and understanding their difficulties.
The central concept of Advaitic thought is that God alone exists. It is this truth that the seeker must discern and in time embody. Yet the goal is lofty and abstract, making attainment dauntingly difficult.
However, a little known spiritual teacher from Delhi named Shihn Diljit offers a practical and relatively easy way to arrive at this realisation. Shihn, who has a small band of devoted followers, details his philosophy and prescription in the book, The Answer.
The premise of this philosophy is stunningly simple. If God is all that exists, then we do not. It follows that God does everything and that it is only our delusive I-centredness that creates the illusion of doership. The goal then is to free ourselves of the false sense of doership and return to the knowledge that God alone is.
Shihn's prescription to dissolve our sense of doership is to attribute all actions to God.
When waking in the morning he urges you to say once in your heart: God, you have woken up. And so on right through the day.
When anger or negative emotions strike, he suggests you say: God, the anger belongs that to you. Do the same with all wealth and possessions, including your loved ones. Say these words in relation to the possessions of others to drop envy, he suggests. The fruits of all action are either pain or pleasure. So whichever emotion you experience say: God, the pleasure (pain) belongs to you.
When problems besiege you, use that same phrase. Eventually, the problems will be resolved. When disease overtakes you, say: God, the disease belongs to you. When thoughts of your death overcome, he urges you to say: God, this is your body. You have realised yourself in this body and therefore, you will live in this body forever. His contention (debatable though it is) is that man is meant to be immortal in the flesh and not only in the spirit.
If you are vigilant and practise this at least 15 times a day, though more is recommended, he promises that within three weeks, worry will recede. By the fifth week, diseases will start leaving you and by the sixth week you will see Holy Light with your open eyes. This last manifests as the ability to see a halo around objects, especially when silhouetted against a wall. Eventually, the illusion of separateness will fall away in the blinding realisation that all is God!
Contact: Noble Foundation.
Oneness with Nature
Amodini Bagwe, Mumbai
Go to the mountains; they will teach you, said 95-year-old Gagangiri Baba, in his thin, reedy voice, with a piercing look full of the power of presence. There was nothing outrageous in that statement, because he has spent a major part of his life in the mountains. Baba is also known as a jalayogi, spending hours meditating underwater, communing with nature spirits and devatas while doing tapas. He is deep inspiration on my solitary sojourns in wilderness, although there are other gurus who also influence my life's path.
I am allowed a free run of his ashrams in wilderness." Once I stayed in a mountain cave in the Western Ghats for 15 days during heavy rains in August. There is an open freshwater pool inside the cave, and at nights I slept to the shrill sound of frogs singing incessantly. There were rich veins of quartz shimmering in the roof.I felt connected to the earth's core in meditation, heartbeats merging with rhythmic pulsations of the earth. One night I woke up around 2 a.m., to the sound of a deep, resonating AUM rising from the very depths of the pool, in a powerfully transformative interregnum.
The mountains are charged with the presence of the legendary Navnaths, and it is awesome to become aware of the timeless dimension prevailing there.� There is a sense of lightness on the ascent, with bundles of old karma dropping away at each step.� Sitting down to rest on a rock, eyes closed, brings the realisation of flying backwards into flaming recesses of the brain, adding new shifts to the meditative consciousness.� I often visit a slightly recessed cave by a mountainside closer home for meditation or reading.� In that place, the words reveal entirely untapped levels of cognition, with an endless panorama of ridges and valleys stretching all the way to the horizon.
I have practised the walking meditation for many years now, and my mantra charges and gets charged in turn with the lilt, the rhythm of walking, as the four-fold body swirls and merges with the powerful mantra in motion.� There is satori happening in most unusual places, followed by sadness at its illusory and transient nature.� I behold the numinescence of a setting full moon on the horizon, reflected in a channel of water that seems to be headed straight into the great orb. I become an invisible part of the landscape, merging with sentience into the living beauty of this event.��
I playfully fling a mentally charged arrow of Gayatri at thick clouds hovering around the cliffs at dawn, and the blanket of clouds lifts for an ephemeral moment, for the orange rising sun to bathe me in its glow.� Walking along an endless bridge across the Ganga, I rub my eyes in disbelief to see a sharply emblazoned AUM across the rising solar disc, stationary, until I turn the other way towards my destination.� While riding the local bus from Rudraprayag in considerable psychic turmoil, a full rainbow across the valley of the rushing Alaknanda river intrudes upon my vision, and then, after a moment's gasp, simply lifts me up into its delicate embrace, filling me with deep gratitude for its unexpected solace.
My older Guru introduced me to the Ganga four years ago, and it's been a deep love affair ever since.� Meditating for hours in icy waters in winter, I learn to raise inner warmth that brings a red opacity behind closed eyelids, repeatedly.� I practise anekagra dhyan while meditating in the forceful river at Hardwar, staying fully aware of each wave, each turbulence, while doing tratak on the sun, but also noticing every single bird that flies across the line of vision and aware of each little energy shift in my body, trying not to be swept away by the current.�
The river has taught me complete surrender, as I meditate underwater like my Baba.
The path of Nature teaches to let go, to surrender.� It responds at each step, handing over keys to transformation of consciousness.� Whatever the mode of sadhana, Nature gently nudges on with encouragement, with newer revelations, in perfect harmony and unity of being.� It becomes the wise companion in solitude, bringing indescribable richness to the act of living.
Otherwise called Advaita Vedanta, Jnana Yoga, one of the three principle paths mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, is considered to be the path of knowledge.
For the Jnani, the material world is illusory and only Brahman, the source of creation, is real. In Adi Shankara's pithy words, Brahman satyam, jagat mithyam(God is real; the universe is unreal).
Jnana yoga maintains that Brahman is neither the doer of actions nor the enjoyer of the fruits. Brahman is only the witness, while the creation, preservation and destruction of the world is through maya.
The goal of this path, therefore, is to pierce through the veil of maya and know the Brahman as one's own Self.
The tool for this path is primarily the mind. Like a laser, the intellect bores through the many layers of false identity to find that which is permanent, the true Self.
Focussing directly on the contents of the mind is no easy matter, and the aspirant, say the wise, should possess four qualities: viveka, vairagya, shad-sampat and mumukshutva.
Viveka refers to the ability to discriminate between the real and unreal; the permanent and impermanent. It means being true to unchanging principles amidst the whirl of the changing world. Vairagya stands for dispassion from sensual and worldly pleasures. Shadsampat is a composite of six virtues: Sama (serenity), dama (self-control), uparati (satiety�freedom from desire for sensory enjoyment), titaksha (endurance); shraddha (faith) and samadhana (fixing the mind on Brahman). The fourth quality, mumukshatva, is an intense desire for liberation, without which no progress is possible.
Progress is through negating what is illusory�neti neti (not this, not this). Of course, once the goal is reached and the seeker is immersed in the bliss of unity, his chant changes to iti, iti (this too, this too) for all then is Brahman. Another technique is vichara, the practice of examination, reflection, and introspection.
Within the guru-shishya equation, there are three steps to Jnana Yoga. The first is sravanam�the guru explains the Vedanta teachings to the serious aspirant. The second is mananam he student reflects deeply on what he has heard. The third is nidhidhyasanam he student meditates on the Brahman, leading to a direct, intuitive experience of the truth.
Contact: Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai. Ph: (022) 8570368; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.chinmaya.org
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