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 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!
This is the path popularised by Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) of Ganeshpuri in Maharashtra, with the blessings of his Guru Swami Nityananda. It follows the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism and Vedanta, and also of the Dattatreya lineage of Siddha Yogis, like the Navnaths and Sant Jnaneshwar. Simplified to suit modern-day lifestyles, it makes no major demands of the disciple, except to obey the Guru’s precepts in everyday living. The Guru takes full responsibility for the devotee’s liberation, taking over the latter’s karmic burden accrued from past lives to the present one.
Swami Muktananda took to the life of a wandering mendicant at an early age, in search of spiritual fulfillment, eventually finding his Guru Nityananda in his ashram in Ganeshpuri. The latter initiated him in Shaktipat and Kundalini Yoga, the practice of which involved nine years of intensive sadhana. His autobiography, Play of Consciousness provides important insights into the process. Later, with the blessings of his Guru, he initiated work to popularise Siddha Yoga in India and abroad, gaining a wide following of devotees and seekers. He set up many centres all over the world with his main ashram being located at Gurudev Siddhapeeth in Ganeshpuri. He authored 16 books on spirituality until his death in 1982.
Muktananda’s Siddha Yoga is a form of sahaj yoga, where the Guru transfers higher energy to the devotee through Shaktipat, activating the latter’s latent energy in the form of Kundalini, located at the base of the spine. Bliss and union are experienced by the devotee without undergoing rigorous training in yoga, through the grace of the Guru. The only requirement is that the devotee continue to follow the Guru’s injunctions, recite a simple mantra like AUM Namah Shivayah, follow chanting on the mantra and regularly meditate on a photograph of the Guru. The devotee must also engage in satsang with the Guru whenever possible, such proximity being termed as sannidhya. Meditation, chanting, selfless service and dakshina, i.e. devotional offerings in gratitude, form the core of practice at the various centres. Gurumayi Chidvilasananda has inherited the legacy of Siddha Yoga as Guru, from Swami Muktananda.
The experience of kundalini unfoldment is encapsulated by the Master in these words: “The world deceives us when we consider it to be simply the world as we see it. However, once we experience the blissful sport of Consciousness, the world is transformed into a haven of bliss.”
Contact: Email: Info@siddhayoga.org, Website: www.siddhayoga.org
Brahmashri Subhash Patri’s pyramids
Purnima Rajan, Erode
Meditation was never my cup of tea as I always believed that this life needs to be enjoyed and it is too early for a 15 year old to take up the rigours of a discipline with yoga, meditation, etc.
A Sunday morning visit (though reluctant) with my parents to Japan Mohan Palace auditorium in Mysore in July 1998 made all the difference to my life. On entering the hall I observed that the speaker was an individual clad in white kurta-pyjama with a white beard. He appeared to me, ‘more radiant than the sun, purer than the snow, subtler than the ether…” With absolute clarity in his voice, he said: ‘You have the power within yourself to access the higher energies through meditation for which you do not have to renounce your existing sources of pleasures, comforts, happiness etc.’
These were the words I wanted to hear! He then put the audience into the simple system of Anapanasati meditation (mindfulness of the breath) whilst he played the melodious flute.
After some time, we were asked to open our eyes. To my surprise I found that I had been able to sit sans any thoughts for as long as an hour! Tea break was announced and I noticed that here was a unique personality who mixed freely with the crowd. As I was having my first sip of tea, he came to me and asked: ‘Yes, young woman, what are your meditation experiences now?’ It was an unexpected question. I was rather taken aback.
‘How did he know that I really had an experience during meditation?’ Slowly, I tried to overcome my nervousness and told him: ‘During meditation, I felt I was passing through a long dark tunnel at great speed and at the end of the tunnel, I saw Gautama the Buddha!’ The Guruji advised me to continue meditation .
I have been regularly practising meditation since then. It has enabled me to develop resistance to illnesses, clarity of vision, innate courage to handle situations and an increasing quest for spiritual knowledge. I now do not get drawn back into regrets of the past, nor do failures upset me. My accomplishments in the spiritual arena include seeing auras, past lives, teaching meditation and spiritual science in schools, etc. This is all because of the spiritual knowledge that I got from my spiritual master.
Thus Guru, Brahmashri Subhash Patri has a clear vision to make the whole world a Dhyana Jagath by the year 2012. What is extraordinary about him is his capacity to travel to far off places to teach meditation free of cost, having started 600 centres of meditation named as ‘The Pyramid Spiritual Societies’ all over India. He is the first person to introduce the concept of using the pyramid for meditation. According to him, pyramids are storehouses of energy and have curative and mystic powers.
The turning point in my life has occurred not by chance but by choice. As I read more spiritual books, new vistas of knowledge about moral and cosmic laws are opened to me, teaching me how to lead life with health, harmony and happiness.
Contact: email: email@example.com
Sickness to healing
N.R. Kalsulkar, Thane
A polio victim since the age of two, I succeeded in my resolve to become an engineer. Due to the nature of my work, I became asthmatic and left the company to recuperate. Two years later, I was seriously affected by abdominal pain. I changed many doctors and was treated for acidity, ulcer and TB. I became so weak that my weight dropped from 65 kg to 47 kg. After two years, I suffered from kidney stones and was given 80 bottles of saline, though the problem persisted. My vision blurred. Weak and unable to walk, I requested doctors to stop the saline therapy.
Encouraged by my wife, I started acupressure on the kidney point for about 15 to 20 minutes. I received a severe jerk in the back and to my surprise the stone’s crushed pieces came out through urine. Next day, I took discharge from the hospital. Tests, meanwhile, showed that 50 per cent of the stone was gone. Two months later, I met with an accident and three fingers of my left hand were severed. Due to the reaction of sulpha medicines, my entire body became swollen.
After about eight months, I tried ayurveda, but as my problem was becoming serious, I tried homoeopathy. Then again, I stopped all medicines and started acupressure combined with magnet therapy. Within 15 days my body pain was relieved.
I started studying homoeopathy, naturopathy, magnet therapy and acupressure and started applying these on myself. As a result my chronic asthma complaints were cured and the abdominal pain vanished. The hand injury and kidney stone problems also vanished. I started to practise acupressure on others and gradually adopted healing as a career.
Once, a patient of mine complained of mild electric shocks at certain points during acupressure. Others experienced similar shocks and I noticed my patients getting fast relief. I then knew that I was the recipient of God’s divine gift, divine energy. I began studying spiritual books, and learnt about reiki, pranic healing and other forms of divine healing.
I can diagnose problems without touching the individual and have established an institute for training in acupressure and magnet therapy, as well as spiritual healing and spiritual acupuncture. Not only have seemingly incurable conditions been cured, sometimes in one session, but also thousands of patients are benefited by direct or telephonic healing.
From engineer to healer is my spiritual journey. To overcome setbacks after giving treatment, I tried many methods of meditation like Vipassana, Bramhakumaris’ meditation, Pranic meditation, Omkar meditation, Siddha meditation and introduced a combination method which makes reiki, pranic healing, etc more effective.
The grace of Gurumaa
Suneela Gokarna, Mumbai
I am 56 years old, working with the State Bank of India as an officer. I have always been a spiritually inclined person and associated with Chinmaya Mission much before marriage. I believe that good health is a primary requirement for a spiritual journey. In July 1999, when my husband was recommended the Yoga Eshdarshan Sammadhi Course to help him manage his diabetes, I also went out of curiosity for the orientation lecture. Hearing Gurumaa Nita Khare explaining the intricacy of Patanjali’s Yoga Shastra in a simple, practical manner, I instantly joined the course. Due to severe migraine, I used to consume 3 to 4 Paracetamol tablets per day, but after implementing the breathing technique taught by Gurumaa in my daily routine, the headaches disappeared. Both my eyes have been operated upon for cataract; one year after the operation, the vision in one eye blurred due to formation of a film. I thought I would lose my eyesight. Immediately, I started doing a particular breathing technique twice a day as taught by Gurumaa. It was so effective that my eye number reduced by half; it surprised the doctors as, medically, it was unexplainable. I have also done Reiki I and II with Gurumaa, who is one of the eldest grandmasters in India. I have also attended several advanced courses, where I learnt how to gain emotional control through many different techniques of pranayam. She has also taught Jal Kriya (water therapy) which is a sublime spiritual experience and I could overcome my fear of water and go scuba diving on my recent trip to Andaman Islands. The beautiful Coral world underwater opened up before my eyes only because of Gurumaa’s grace. I have gained tremendous mental peace and patience and become more energetic and confident. To be with Gurumaa is like keeping myself in total bliss; Satyam Shivam Sundaram experienced. I have also become a trained teacher under Gurumaa’s guidance. Listening to her again and again helps in learning many new techniques, clarifying doubts and marching towards perfection.
Contact: Ph: (022) 26834642
YVSA Trust, Ph: (022) 56976918
A secret turning in us
Makes the universe turn.
Head unaware of feet,
And feet of head. Neither cares.
They keep turning.
Sufism is the Islamic path of mystical surrender through a passionate yearning for Oneness with God. It seeks to experience God in the heart rather than through rational discourse. Turning away from wealth and worldliness, it eulogises the ways of the fakir and the aulia, penniless and wholly immersed in worship. Invocation and endless repetition of the names of Allah, or zikr, results in mystical ecstasy and experience of dissolution in the Supreme. The word Sufi originates from suf, the wool used in the rough gown worn by the devotee; tasawuf indicates the expression of pure love towards God. Beginning with study, prayer and zikr, Sufism evolved into a highly creative expression of love for the Divine. Through the very momentum of its spiritual fervour, it generated distinctive ways of worship, quite in departure from religious orthodoxy.
Sufism has made an enormous contribution to the arts through calligraphy, poetry, music and dance, including the special enchantment of the whirling dervish. This is a Turkish trance ritual called the sema, performed in a prayer to Allah, in the belief that during the dance the soul is freed from earthly ties, able to freely and jubilantly commune with the divine.
The dervishes remove black coats to reveal white robes with voluminous skirts, as they dance shoulder to shoulder with other dervishes. They make small and controlled movements of their hands, heads and arms as they whirl, turning independently around on their own axis, and also around other dancers. This is symbolic of the earth revolving on its own axis and orbiting around the Sun. They are accompanied by music, often dominated by the haunting sound of the reed pipe or ney, as well as drums and chanting, as the ritual gradually transforms itself into spinning ecstasy. Dervish literally means doorway, and it is thought to be an entrance from this material world to the spiritual, heavenly world.
Osho, who has rendered many inspired discourses on Sufism, describes it as a special kind of magic, to be transferred from heart to heart, in what is known as a silsila. Rabi’a al Adawwiya of Basra was a legendary woman whose piety is said to have inspired the Ka’ba to go half-way to meet her on her pilgrimage! Sufi saints are known to compassionately invoke divine intercession on behalf of devotees. All over India, Hindus and Muslims alike are known to worship at the dargahs of Sufi saints, in a secular convergence of mystical traditions.
Pilgrims on the path
Sita K. Chatterjee, Kolkata
We are all pilgrims, following our individual paths on the road of life. The world is both a place full of wonders and also a place through which we have to plod through with all our limitations.
Each one of us is a hero in the story of his or her life, searching for happiness. One considers whether it has been a life well lived or one that has lacerated the innards and is left out isolated and alone. Basically it is a lone battle and yet one could term it to be a dramatic picnic where one has lived and laughed through it all.
I was born in a happy family surrounded by everchanging situations that left impressions on my mind; often I was fazed out but never down and out. I never put tags on anything but just moved onwards spontaneously and all things pleasant or unpleasant were the same to me.
The turning point came when a sort of fear gripped me, and I found that the world situations were just not another cup of tea but something tremendously ponderous and weighty and I was being swept away and may reach the vortex of the Bermuda Triangle. Just when I was feeling helpless, a call came from my village and I had to go for some family business.
Up in the north of India between our village and another is an ashram called Santsar where our family preceptor saints resided. They never spoke a word of guidance but transmitted their blessings through mental remote control. In the evening, a little later when other people came, Sant Nikkuramji uttered ‘Hari Hari’ and I went into a trance. I saw Lord Shiva and the other two great saints Sant Ramdasji and Sant Giandasji in an atmosphere of golden light. It was too real to be termed as an illusion. Nothing was permanent; everything was transitory, changing all the time. I realised we were all spiritual beings.
The light that appeared way back in 1972 is with me always. It has never left me, it surrounds me with its love and security and I count it as my best friend in the world. It teaches, shows and advises me and I have learnt to let go of all things. I take things as they come, I am free. The process is very complex and the human brain is definitely limited, so it is best to do your duty, to love big and small alike, never hurt but to be compassionate and kind. Elders are always to be highly respected and one should be grateful to the light, the spark of life, God or any other term, for it is the all in all.
The system of good living, optimistic survival and belief in the present moment is all that is necessary to pass successfully in one’s life. One should learn to laugh both in joy and sorrow. The pearl of peace is God, the living spark within each one of us. Each moment should be honoured and loved as a gift of God. Our parents should be revered always because through them the present of life has come to us.
Ph: (033) 25211690
Preksha Dhyan is often called ‘the lost meditation technique of Jainism’, reformulated for modern times by Terapanth Svetambara Jain Acharya Mahapragya. Preksha means to perceive and realise the subtlest aspects of one’s self—’ to see the self with the self’. Its practice includes:
Kayotsarga: This means ‘abandonment of the body in conscious awareness’. To practise, choose a comfortable position. Keep spinal cord, neck and head in a straight line. Allow breathing to become slow and rhythmic. Relax all muscles through auto-suggestion. Gradually, as the body becomes calm, it is cast off and consciousness reveals itself.
Antaryatra (inner journey): In this, the conscious mind travels from the energy centre at the bottom of the spinal cord to the top of the head (jnana kendra). Repeated practice increases flow of vital energy necessary for meditation practice.
Svasa Preksha (breath perception): This controls mental restlessness through breathing awareness. Attention can be focussed on a single point in the respiratory tract, like the nostrils, or it can travel the entire tract during inhalation and exhalation. Sarira Preksa (body perception): From the outermost layers of consciousness, one moves inward, with the aim of developing impartial perception of pleasure and pain. Perception of sensation signals is altered so that they are experienced without suffering.
Chaitanya Kendra Preksha (perception of psychic centres): The endocrine system is also the seat of psychic centres. Development of upper endocrines (like the pineal gland) establishes control of the reasoning mind over all actions.
Lesya Dhyan (perception of psychic spectrum): This is the process of transforming harmful vibrations from one’s microbody into beneficial ones under the authority of the spiritual self. As one’s psychic colour spectrum moves towards red, the colour of spiritual progress, there is a remarkable drop in animal instincts. The final change into white is believed to completely eradicate cruelty, hatred, and so on.
Present moment perception: This is practised through bhava kriya: synchrony of mental state with behaviour. For example, when one walks, the mind should be completely aware of the action. Though the senses send innumerable signals to the brain, one keeps the mind engaged in walking. Thus, each activity becomes purposeful and empowering.
Thought perception: Perceiving thoughts as an impartial spectator slows the mind until it becomes still. This unveils the conscious self, which in its purest state is capable of experiencing universal reality.
Self-discipline: To awaken and develop our will, self-discipline is necessary. When the will is partly awakened, we discriminate between good and evil. Once fully awakened, thought and perception begin to rotate around reasoning and rational conduct.
Bhavana (counter-vibrations): In this, forbearance, humility, honesty and contentment are practised to generate vibrations that countermand cruelty, pride, deceit, greed, and so on.
Anupreksa (contemplation): This post-meditation practice includes a four-fold contemplation of solitariness, impermanence, vulnerability and reality.
Concentration: Preksha requires vigilance. As the intensity of vigilance increases, so does the capacity of concentration.
Contact: Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra,
Ph: (011) 26802708,26803678
Seeds of healing
Kumud Bothra, New Delhi
It was in the year 1980 when my mother and I shifted to a new city. A new place, new people and new atmosphere, though unknown, welcomed us. One day, my mom felt chest pain, nervousness and became unconscious. I took her to a doctor but he could not diagnose. Worried and nervous, I decided to go to my neighbour’s house for help.
They were busy praying with a Catholic priest. As soon as they came to know about the situation, they rushed to our home and started praying for my mother. The priest held mummy’s hand and started giving her healing. She got some relief. Since I was alone, my neighbours took my mother to their house.
The priest came again in the evening, held mummy’s hand and started the healing. As soon as he started praying, we experienced a kind of grace surrounding us. I could not understand the phenomenon; it appeared to me as if the intensity of the tubelight has increased. The priest smiled and promised to visit again in the morning. Mummy slept peacefully in the night.
Next morning, after giving some healing again, the priest said he would visit after three days as he was going out of town. I got worried. At night, mummy said the priest was giving her distance healing, as she was getting inner joy and peace. It was a surprise for us. Those three days she could feel the priest’s healing from distance and almost recovered.
The fourth day when the priest visited us, mummy told him about distance healing. He smiled. We were grateful for our Catholic neighbours and the priest for helping us in that crucial time.
The first seed of healing was sown in me. Afterwards, I was eager to know about healing. How does it take place? What is distance healing? How does it heal the person?
I always wanted to perform healings like the priest but I did not have spiritual powers like him. Besides, as I was into export business, I did not have time for social service.
One day, I found ‘Reiki, The healing touch’ through Life Positive. First I learned Reiki I & II and again through Life Positive came to know about ‘World Reiki Weekend’. I joined it and got the Reiki Mastership personally from William Lee Rand (of International Centre for Reiki Training, USA) and became a member of ICRT.
Through Reiki my whole life has changed. From an exporter to a Reiki master, it is quite a journey. My aim is to use Reiki to heal people, to make them realise the need to rise above physical, mental and emotional levels and to reach the spiritual level.
I would always be grateful to the priest, to my Catholic friends and my Reiki master William Lee Rand. We have no news of the priest. He is in the US but I always pray for him. I know that one day, I would be able to thank him for transforming my life.
Dr Sujata Rao, Mumbai
It began at the tender age of 14. I remember it because it was my first brush with consciousness. I felt a need to express my thoughts on life and death. I penned down pros and cons about life and death and came to the conclusion that they are but two sides of a coin. The best one can do is to make this life a worthwhile one. I haven’t found a reason yet to alter this perception.
I was enjoying the calm and uncomplicated life of a school-going teenager, till I was confronted as any adolescent with harsh realities of life. I was confused about people’s sensitivities and sensibilities. How one could mouth idealistic thoughts, yet compromise in one’s day-to-day relationships? Was their no way one could remain honest in thought, action and deed? If one is raised with certain values, what triggers one to divert from this path?
Further, is it a crime to be ambitious and follow one’s goal to its successful outcome? Many such questions haunted me. Fortunately, instead of being disillusioned, I continued to analyse my thoughts honestly. My foremost hobby was to observe people, their behaviour, reactions and thought processes.
Then came the need to secure a prestigious professional admission. Once again, I was on my karmic path. The cut-throat competition was too much to handle. Was I a weakling that I couldn’t sustain competition or did I expect too much from this modern world? Once I was out of the rut armed with a prestigious degree, I could freely deal with my spiritual leanings. By now, I had practised the art of following a thought to its logical conclusion. It seemed to calm me and my mind was fresh to gather new information.
My first acquaintance with formal spiritual training began with Reiki. It taught me to utilise my energies in a focused way. I have consciously avoided seeking gurus or following a particular sect. I believe that all the spiritual paths lead to the mind. Something similar to the Jaina philosophy that says a man’s virtues make him godly!
Further, this empowerment taught me to be responsible of my actions, my success or my failure. I realised that changing the system begins by changing myself.
My path has been to pursue the truth. I perceive that the universe functions in a unique pattern. This is possible with activation and fine-tuning of our chakras, and then one may see into the future of events with ease. The expression of our soul depends on how far we are wrapped in the material world. One can be highly successful and at the same time be perfectly in sync with one’s soul. Mind controls the events of our lives for it alone is the expression of existence. Alas! It changes with the speed of light and carries us through a gamut of emotions: Fear, greed, jealousy, desire, vanity. Can we be free of this turbulence?
I accept the existence of opposing elements: good/bad, beautiful/ugly, success/failure. One can empower oneself to overcome/subdue the turbulent effects of the material world. Empowerment is through meditation. Once you do that, you can master the universe, because you have controlled the supreme centre of your existence. The beauty of life lies in surviving each day with something to smile about and bringing a smile to someone’s face.
Ph: (022) 28846416
Zoroastrianism is the world’s oldest revealed religion. Probably the world’s first monotheistic religion, it is supposed to have influenced later faiths such as Judaism and Christianity. In India its followers are known as Parsis.
The religion was founded by Zarathushtra somewhere between 1700 and 1500 BC in Persia (ancient Iran). Legend says that Zarathushtra was born smiling and the attempts by an evil sorcerer to kill the baby were thwarted by the child’s inherent divinity. Thus, wild animals refused to harm him, and flames on licking him turned into flowers. Zarathushtra grew up to be a precocious and curious child who spent time in contemplation.
He could not reconcile himself to the religious traditions of his clan and set out to find his answers. After facing many trials and temptations, the Truth was revealed to Zarathushtra by God. However, his attempts to preach this wisdom met with failure, till he converted a monarch, King Vishtaspa, who then helped to spread the faith all over the land. Lord Zarathushtra married, had children and died at the age of 77.
Zoroastrianism is a strongly monotheistic faith that believes in a good, just, holy God, Ahura Mazda, who is the supreme creator of all things. However, there is also an opposing, active evil force known as Angra Mainyu. The forces of good and evil are perpetually locked in conflict with each other. Zarathushtra preached that humans must actively exercise the choice available to them to side with the good.
Zarathushtra preached the threefold path of good thoughts, good words and good deeds. This enables the Zoroastrian to become wise, self-reliant and progressive and a worthy soldier in the battle for Truth. Noble virtues such as compassion, charity and service are to be cultivated and great emphasis is laid on purity and hygiene as the body and soul are supposed to work closely linked together.
Zarathushtra teaches that the rewards for goodness accrue after death, when each departed soul must cross the chinvat bridge on the way to Paradise. For the righteous, the passage is wide and easy, but for sinners, the bridge becomes narrower than the blade of a sword from where they plunge into hell.
Zoroastrianism does not advocate ascetism and followers are expected to achieve virtue by marrying and carrying out their worldly duties. While there is free choice available to all humans, Zarathushtra reminds us that Ahura Mazda is the Supreme God; that good will ultimately triumph over bad, evil will be vanquished and suffering and sorrow will cease to exist.
Contact: Website: www.avesta.org
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