Swami Saradananda's Posts (32)

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Santosha - Contentment


I find that people often misunderstand the yoga principle of santosha (contentment), believing that it means giving up their will to change. I get students who say, “I don’t want to be content, because if I am content then I won’t get anywhere in my job. I need to want something. I've got to be on the cutting edge in my profession”. They don’t understand that santosha is not inertness. Rather, santosha means being content right now, even as you are changing your life.

If you are a yoga teacher, you may find that many people actually fear contentment. They worry that it will make them lethargic and lazy – that life might prove boring. Without it they see themselves as exerting and energetic. However, I’ve noticed that contentment never makes anyone idle. It is a sattvic virtue that propels you towards
peace. It gives you strength of mind and checks unnecessary and selfish exertions. It calms your mind and opens your inner eye of intuition. If you are a contented person, you seem to be more able to work energetically and peacefully, with a one-pointed mind. All the dissipated rays of your mind are collected and available for use.

I'm planning to be in London for the entire month of September.

with best wishes
Swami Saradananda

Santosha is this month's subject on the Yama-Niyama e-course.

"From contentment comes supreme happiness".

- Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.42

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Tools for meditation: Mandala-Yantra

Mystical diagrams, stylized geometric projections of the world

Mandala: circular symbolic representations of both universal and personal forces; they do not always represent a deity.Instead, they are symbolic compositions of energy patterns that are more powerful than pictures.

Mandalas are tools that draw energy from outer world and direct it to the inner. According to Carl Jung,they represent the unconscious self.

Tibetan Buddhist monks create mandala sand paintings in times of stress, danger and conflict. The positive energy of the creation, coupled with the meditations of the monk-artists and the participating public, produce a very special environment that is conducive to healing and protection.

Yantra: uses geometric shapes to represent cosmic and personal connections. Every yantra is a mandala, though not all mandalas are yantras.

The literal meaning of the word ‘yantra’ is ‘instrument’ or ‘machine’. In actual practice a yantra is a symbolic representation of aspects of divine energy. It is an interlocking matrix of geometric figures that form patterns of great elegance and beauty. Although usually drawn in two dimensions, a yantra represents a multi-dimensional object or being.

A yantra is a meditation tool for serious spiritual seekers. Intense meditation on it causes the fully formed image to manifest in your mind's eye with an intensity that is remarkable for its imprinting ability.

Most yantras are connected to the Goddess, the most famous one being the Sri Chakra, an abstract representation of the Divine Mother as the Cosmos. There are also yantras for Ganesha and other male deities. And, there are yantras that are used for more mundane purposes: to enhance your quality of life, to attract prosperity, to attact love; to heal and relieve health problems, to protect you from negative forces.

Yantras are seen as essential to a god or goddess as a body is to a living human being. Constructed using sacred geometry, yatras are a most powerful centring devices for harnessing the divine energies. The design always focuses your attention onto the centre of the yantra where the bindu (dot) is supposed to constitute the spiritual body of the goddess or god

Yantras focus your desires and aspirations. They help you to transform your negative mental patterns into more positive mental habits. Yantras may be used to bring about healing and maintain a state of positive health and abundance. Because they are active energy systems, yantras are powerful in deflecting negative energies and maintaining internal harmony. All yantras are best understood as enhancing potential that already exists. They cannot force something to happen that is against natural karma, but they can aid and assist in bringing about desirable outcomes. For example, you cannot force somebody to love you, you cannot
force good luck and prosperity, but yantras can be used to speed up theprocess if the potential exists. They also help you to remove obstacles that may exist.

It is important to handle a yantra with the utmost respect and consideration. Careless treatment reduces its power.

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Yantras and Mandalas


I'm just getting ready for my talk on Friday at the College of Psychic Studies in South Kensington. The topic "Yantras, visual tools that help you to enhance your meditation practice.

Yantras help you to transform your patterns of mind intohabits of thought that will bring about the results that you desire. You can use yantras to bring about deep healing. They are active energy systems that can assist you in deflecting negative energies and maintaining internal harmony.

Yantras are best understood as being tools to enhance potentials that your already have. They cannot force something to happen that is against your karma. For example, you cannot force somebody to love you, nor can you force prosperity to come to you. But you can use a yantra to speed up the process if the potential exists. Yantras also assist you in removing obstacles to your meditation practice that may exist. It is important that you use yantras with the utmost respect as careless treatment reduces their power.

More tomorrow ....
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Located in your solar plexus region, the manipura chakra is the base of what is known in ayurveda as “digestive fire”. Digestion is the process by which your body changes matter into usable energy. When you do any kind of work or activity, that energy is burned again. The functioning of both your digestive system and your muscles are said to be controlled by the manipura chakra.
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This is a wonderful practice combining mudras and mantras that I plan to teach at the "Spiritual Retreat" that I will be leading in Bad Meinberg 1-6 August

Sit in any meditative position and close your eyes.

“Aaa” chanting

· Inhale slowly and completely fill your lungs.

· Adopt Chin mudra while exhaling, chant "Aah” .

· Feel the sound resonance in the abdomen and the lower parts of your body.

· Repeat nine times.

“Ou” chanting

· Inhale slowly and completely fill your lungs.

· Adopt Chinmaya mudra (tips of thumb touching the tips of the index – and the middle, ring and little fingers folded to touch the palms) and while exhaling chant "OU".

· Feel the sound resonance in your chest and the middle part of the body.

· Repeat nine times.

“Mmm” chanting

· Inhale slowly and completely fill your lungs.

· Adopt Adi mudra (make a fist by folding your thumb inside and fold the other fingers touching the palms) and while exhaling chant "mmm".

· Feel the sound resonance in the head region.

· Repeat nine times.

AUM chanting

· Inhale slowly and completely fill your lungs.

· Adopt Brahma mudra (make each of your hands into a fist with the thumb tucked inside the fingers. Place your fists on either side of the navel) and while exhaling chant :AUM".

· Feel the sound resonance throughout your body.

· Repeat nine times.

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Mudras (continued)

Mudras are hand positions that seal the psychic energies into specific channels. They are powerful spiritual tools that can enable you to receive and transmit energy more efficiently. Mudras aid you in the purification of your physical, mental and psychic bodies. Perhaps the best known mudra is “Namaskar” , which symbolises "I salute the divinity within you".

In Indian philosophy, your body is viewed as being made up of five elements, with each of your five fingers representing one element:

Thumb: fire, sun, radiant matter, heat, light – the energy that drives all other matter

Index finger: air, wind, matter in gaseous form

Middle finger: sky, space, akasha, ether

Ring finger: earth, matter in solid form
Little finger: water, matter in liquid form
Mudras consist in using your thumb (fire) tolightly stimulate one or more of the other elements by touching its finger tip, knuckle or base.
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Tools for Meditation: mudras

Your body is a subtle and powerful antenna that is continually receiving energy and also transmitting it. Mantra, mudra and mandala are three types of powerful spiritual tools that assist you in purifying your physical, mental and psychic bodies.

With regular practice, these methods sharpen and expand your spiritual wisdom. They help you to restore balance within the microcosm and bring it into harmony with the macrocosm. They support your meditation practice and aid you in finding inner peace.

  • Mantra: auditory tool, sound vibration
  • Mudra: hand position, sealing the psychic energies
  • Mandala/ yantra: visual tool; mystical diagram
I'm preparing to give a talk on Friday, 7pm, at the College of Psychic Studies. It is the second of three talks entitled "Tools for Meditation: Mantra, Mudra and Mandala". This one will be on mudras and promises to be quite interesting. If you are in London, I hope you will attend.

More tomorrow ....


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OM - I've just found some notes that I made seveal years ago, listening to a talk by Swami Chidanandaji - which made me think of the benefits of ashram life:

The purpose of an Ashram is not to stimulate you or to provide enjoyment for your senses - although you may enjoy the scenery and the people you meet. An ashram is a place to spend time and return home feeling refreshed. It was established to offer an oasis of peace to real spiritual aspirants who have realised that there is really something greater than commercial and social activities, ordinary worldly life. Its purpose is enable you to rise higher and higher.

Sometimes your home atmosphere is not conducive to spiritual life and practice. There are so many obstacles. After visiting an ashram we may find the strength to develop a daily routine which will enhance your spiritual practice. You get the strength and direction when you get up early to sit and commune with God.
An ashram gives an ideal atmosphere, completely saturated with thoughts of God. The daily programme, from early morning to night, is connected only to God. Sitting in silence, turning to God, chanting, reading and study of scriptures – all the facilities for sadhana.
When entering an ashram, it is best to leave behind all daily thoughts, all shortcomings and faults, bad habits. In your secure home life you may have a short temper, a sense of self-importance – all this you should leave behind. Come with sense of humility, sense of serving God and serving humanity, i.e. in the spirit of humility, spirit of service, spirit of devotion, spirit of longing for God – can be combined in a place like this.
Look inward on yourself – “since the day I arrived I have released the following negative thoughs and habits ….”

An ashram is not a place for gossip, the inevitable consequence of worldly chit chat. In an ashram, if you want to talk, talk of Bhagavad Gita or some other scripture. Speak of the lives of saints, or about bhakti or vedanta. An ashram holds up to you an ideal of love and service. Every person is welcome. There is a vision of divinity in all beings.

Whatever service you do in the ashram, whatever experience you have, it will also improve and deepen your life in the outside world.

I look forward to seeing you in Haus Yoga Vidya, Bad Meinberg in August!

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Midsummer Weekend


Loving greetings on thisauspicious Midsummer weekend

I’ve just returned from a few daysin Dorset at the Midsummer Festival that was organised by the Independent Network.

I’d like to say a special “thanks” toBhavani, who drove me down and back. I always enjoy the drive to Dorset. Soon after leaving London, you come to the awe-inspiring Salisbury Plains. One can imagine why it was a holy place in ancient times. The view and feeling of spaciousness is still exciting today, especially when you come over the hill and see Stonehenge before you. This Friday, the road was packed with people going to the Solstice celebrations – but the view was still great!

The Yoga Festival was laid back andrelaxing – a nice place to chat with old friends and yoga colleagues – and a fine place to meet new ones. Thanks to Ellen Lee, who is the new Chair of the Independent Yoga Network – and to Peter Yates, who has just gotten up to give her the seat. The look of effortless that allowed everything to run so smoothly made it obvious how much loving attention had been put into organising things beforehand. The organisers were able to sit back and chat with the rest of us.

On Saturday, I gave a“Power of Breath” workshop to a group of mainly yoga teachers. This is my favourite type of class – I always enjoy the dialogue involved.

Today:Sunday, I’m back in London – and just getting ready to go out to teach part of a Teachers’ Training Course philosophy module. Topic of the day: The Three Bodies and how they all relate to the practice of Hatha Yoga – which always seems to spark a good amount of thought and discussion among the soon-to-be teachers.
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Thinking about Ishwara-pranidhana


Recently, I've been working with the principle of "ishwara-pranidhana". The last of Patanjali's niyamas is usually translated as "self-surrender" or "surrender to the Lord". This is a hard one for many modern yogis, many of whom don't seem to be inclined to surrender to anyone or any teaching.

You may feel that you do not relate to the concept of "God" — or that you do not really know who or what God is — or even whether God really exists. You may (understandably) be loath to commit to doing things that you don't understand, even though they have been advocated by both ancient scriptures and modern yoga teachers.

If this is your situation, it might be helpful to envision ishwara-pranidhana as the steps you take towards letting go of your self-imposed limitations. You might begin by looking at how much your world is created by your thoughts. For example, when you tell yourself that you are weak, you will probably find yourself lacking strength. Or if you focus on an emotional experience, such as grief, it begins to form an integral part of your personality.

Begin by being a "silent witness" and seeing how you mould your character by your thoughts. The more you hold on to negativity, the more it controls you.

Remember, it is only the thought that you are not free keeps you from being free.

with best wishes for great success in your sadhana
Swami Saradananda

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