THE HOUSE OF WISDOM
Yoga Spirituality of the East and West
By Swami Dharmananda and Santoshan
Foreword by Glyn Edwards
Published by O Books (ISBN 978-1-846940-24-8)
£11.99. 223 pages
Discovering different routes
Whatever route we take, it should bring about profound changes in our nature, in different levels of our being. These deeper changes can only take place with a disciplined application of the practices that we undertake, along with wholesome attitudes of mind that instil deep spiritual levels of awareness.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Opening to greater possibilities
We all rely on others to survive and live healthily. The food we eat and the clothes we wear are usually the products of other people. We cannot live healthily without intimate relationships. We may restrictively extend this intimacy to only a few closest to us, but a genuinely creative and abundant life finds deep and meaningful relationships in all areas and cares and works towards the good of all people.
If we embrace the whole – including higher qualities of mind, intuition, wisdom, reasoning, reflective thinking, compassion and the true Self – in order to untangle ourselves from unconscious fears and conditioned patterns of action and reaction, from grasping for pleasure or rejecting things when they do not fit our current understanding, we will arrive at a more centred and nourishing place. In the midst of unfamiliarity we will tap into the power of authentic being instead of obscuring it, and face and work through denied levels, difficult stages, and find ways of opening up to ourselves and others – allowing people in to touch our lives and to give help freely when others may need it.
The One that unites and creates
Some teachings have encouraged the idea of there being a separation between nature and spirituality, or have promoted ideas about the meaninglessness of life. In opposition to these, wholism is about seeking an integration of our being with nature and being more life affirming. Now, more than ever, we need to include and cherish the Earth and all its inhabitants, instead of denying and/or abusing our planet and not caring about our global brothers and sisters.
Although natural disasters demonstrate a destructive side to nature – just as our own creativity can have when it is manifested without responsibility and a spiritual purpose – it is because of our connections with nature that we find it so healing and often feel pulled to reflect upon its abundant beauty. No two humans or blades of grass are identical, yet all connect with an underlying unity. If meditated upon, the smallest plant or creature can lead us to realising deeper mysteries and how we are not separate from each other. Because of this connection, we have an individual and collective responsibility for humanity and the world, as we are all one family created in God with infinite creative potential, which we were given to use.
Spirituality is in many ways about being awake to this potential, and the abilities and possibilities that are available to us in every moment, which can lead us to being spontaneously creative and skilfully participating in life as it unfolds. For within everyone there is the Creative Divine Impulse, and when we create, we are taking part in and celebrating the Creativity that exists within the universe – we become co-Creators.
This active form of spirituality is intrinsically bound-up with wholeness and compassion. We should not confuse it with egotistical ideas of creativity, but realise that it is bound-up with what can naturally flow from us as a result of our interrelation with all. It connects us to the dance of Creation in the quest for cosmic harmony and balance. Through this we find a deeper sense of the sacred in all. For as the social and spiritual activist Vimala Thakar reminds us, “As soon as there is awareness of wholeness, every moment becomes sacred, every moment is sacred”.
Transformations in development
We all go through various light and dark periods in our development. This is to be expected as we grow out of old patterns of thinking and behaviour, and life wakes us up to a greater truth and reality. For within the darkness of winter there dwells the light of spring and growth.
Development is about bringing together all our experiences of life and being at one with them. After winter look to new vision, new light, new life. Sow and you shall reap the rewards of spiritual growth, happiness and enlightenment.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Nurturing the good
Whichever path we have chosen, whatever religion or our nationality, ‘yoga is for all’. It is the path of union of our individual self with the transcendent and universal Self: the recognition of our true spiritual being – That which is a part of God. For we were all made in the likeness of the Creator.
When the tree casts its seeds then those seeds grow into the likeness of the tree. But just as these seeds need to be nourished, we must also cultivate the Divine Seed within us. Although all practices of yoga can help us to do this, we will often need to rely on more than one method.
When we look at the mistakes we have made in our lives, the anguish or hurt we may have caused others, or things we have done which we are not proud of, we can sometimes understandably find it hard to recognise our spiritual nature. But through prayer and meditation we can come to the sanctuary of the Divine and find forgiveness. “The real way of profiting by the humiliation of one’s own faults is to face them”, Fenelon reminds us.
We must learn to forgive and love ourselves – warts and all – before we can transfer our forgiveness, love and compassion to others. We should never despair, but endeavour to keep evolving and growing. Learn to be kind to yourself and to cultivate the healing power of self-acceptance; for we cannot change anything until we know how to accept it. Realise you are more than the appearance of any negatives, and being aware of and working with and through them is the core of practical development. Go to the roots of the tree and find nourishment there. This is yoga and spiritual growth in action.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Transforming ourselves in the Light of the true Self
Changes are inevitable if we are to continue to grow in the knowledge and application of yoga. Remember yoga is about life, and the practices are for growth and for expanding our spiritual awareness. I would be failing in the work my Guru Paramahansa Satyananda gave me to carry out if I did not endeavour to convey this and, indeed, aim to live by it. My teacher Sri Trivadi Ramachandra also wanted me to encourage all students I came into contact with, to convey the true essence of the practices – the essence that is portrayed in the teachings of the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, Great Epics, Tantras
and many spiritual writings.
Within these teachings it reminds us that we are pure Spirit here and now. They advocate practices that help us to awaken to the infinite qualities of the Spirit within and reveal Its true radiance. The mantra So-ham
can help us do this by reminding us of the ever-present Divine. It is within everyone’s capabilities to be able to chant this mantra, or to contemplate it silently on the in and out flow of breath (‘So’
on the in-breath and ‘ham
’ on the out-breath).
By daily chanting the Gayatri
, it can help to remove obstacles and bring us closer to that Great Union, the Ultimate Yoking/Integration of our being with the true Self – realising That which we know as God, the Divine Light. Through meditation, mantra and profound and deep levels of prayer we can become instruments of God’s compassion, forgiveness, light, joy, peace and love.
We need to offer ourselves in service and share the truth and wisdom of yoga in all areas of our lives and in all that we do.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Knowing ourselves and manifesting the Divine in everyday life
If we look at what has occurred over the centuries and learn from the mistakes that humankind has made, we may one day be able to achieve a true peace that everyone can benefit from. Humankind needs to use its scientific and spiritual discoveries to help and benefit humanity and the world. Not for the purpose of destruction, but for progress, growth and spiritual advancement in order to create a better place to live and achieve a closer bond with each other and nature.
We all need to work harder to understand our relationship with God, the created universe, life and our authentic spiritual Self. Through the Union/Yoga of our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual being we can bring about harmony within and so manifest a unity that reaches out to include others. Only through knowing ourselves can we begin to know God. The work is always ongoing, a constant awareness and consciousness of the living presence of God that works and expresses Its sacdredness through all. Let us start a new era with the determination to look at ourselves, and overcome the everyday problems that disharmoniously separate us from one another. Let us grow in love, compassion and peace, and start a new beginning with the intention of spreading our unitive and creative abilities and attributes in order to achieve a greater spiritual awareness in the world.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Integrating the teachings
Let us encourage ourselves and others to band together in our work and radiate out like the spokes of a wheel. The wheel can be seen to contain the essence of yoga, the spiritual centre of the Self, which we are all a part of. Yoga in its truest form is ultimately a way of life. We may practise asanas, pranayama, mindfulness
and meditation, but unless we carry the formula of the yamas and niyamas
into our daily lives, the essence fades. Without the yamas and niyamas
we will not be able to achieve a true spiritual awareness that looks deeply into life.
The practices are there to help us tap into inner knowledge of the true Self and our interactive relationship with all. They give us strength during adversity, and courage to overcome the obstacles that confront and often appear to bind or restrict us.
The teachings of yoga and those in various wisdom traditions are there to guide us on our way and remind us that the spiritual life is forever in the ‘here and now’. We may have plans for the future, but we can only act on those plans according to the present moment.
By working on our unfoldment, embodying the teachings, opening our hearts, being mindful and aware of each passing phase or season of life, and through practising God Consciousness, we can rise above entanglements, heal our mental and emotional wounds, and help and inspire others in much freer, compassionate and creative ways.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Initially we will have to accept and explore the experiences that have led us to where we are now, as these are our stories, our life histories and narratives which we use to justify our temperament and views. Eventually we will discover they are only partial realities which do not supply us with a complete or very clear picture. Nonetheless, we will not be able to travel far unless we assess the roads that have brought us to this moment and understand something about the way we work – physically, emotionally and mentally – and how to move forward and become more spiritually whole and creative.
The unfolding work
The initial stages of working on ourselves are about acknowledgment. If a negative rises to the surface, we must acknowledge any hurt, fear, anger or insecurities, and realise it is an opportunity for growth, understanding and transformation. If we are sincere and let things in, give them some room and own them without judgment, instead of ignoring or suppressing them, we can begin the healing process.
Instead of thinking there is something wrong when we feel cut-off, needy or agitated, and placing conditions on how we image we or things should be, we accept life and ourselves in all dimensions.
A sense of spaciousness can be experienced as we release any tension or negatives and become aware of richer fields of existence. We may at first feel like avoiding a part of our life because it feels too painful to embrace, or fight against opening ourselves, as it means entering unfamiliar territory. But we will discover that connecting fully with ourselves – meaning more than just the shadow side of our personality – leads to a fullness and wholeness where we are no longer separated from the experience of truly living.
By freshly evaluating restrictive emotions, feelings or thoughts, without involvement in any inhibiting stories we may give to them, we open up to ourselves and allow our troublesome areas room to truly communicate with us. In this process, we find that we are able to be authentic and feel a sense of release as we let old restrictive patterns go and allow a deep healing to take place. We may at first feel raw and exposed. But once we recognise inhibiting parts and realise them for what they are, we begin to see them as areas that can be changed and grown out of.
The empowering voice of silence
We need to be looking for a stillness within, through which we can come to discover the deeper aspects of ourselves. External silence will help us to find this internal state, but we must also quieten our minds, thoughts, physical actions and emotions in order to invoke an inner stillness, so that we can arrive at a deeper level of interior silence and discovery.
In most traditions silence is considered to be a necessary factor for all kinds of meditation practices that are undertaken in order to awaken to an awareness of the authentic Self. We need to immerse ourselves into silence so that we can become conscious of an inner world which transcends all conceptual understanding, and aware of the presence and influence of deeper levels of stillness which can transform our overall being.
Within yoga there are various practices designed to help us move along this path, such as the practice of ajapa japa
(using sound as an instrument for spiritual development) and the practice of antar mouna
means inner; mouna
means silence), which is used to bring about an awareness of external sounds that then leads to an inner awareness, for the purpose of attaining a state of internalised silence; thus we use that which might prevent us from knowing, experiencing and manifesting silence as a vehicle for achieving inner stillness. We, therefore, practise mouna
(silence), then antar mouna
(inner silence), and use sound itself to lead us to a deep level of stillness and quietness of the mind and the body.
These practices take us from the external to the internal, enabling us to become aware of our inner environment, thoughts, emotions and reactions. We then gradually refine our awareness of silence and fully enter into and become one with it – we realise that we are in fact part of the silence and it is part of us.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
The alchemy of purification
The idea of purity might seem old fashioned in today’s world. In yoga is it bound up with knowledge of our original goodness – That which is eternally pure in all.
At first we might experience parts of ourselves in conflict with finer qualities within us. But yoga does not advocate becoming guilty about the less refined parts of our nature, but to find ways in which we can harmonise the whole of ourselves and ground ourselves in the knowledge of the One Life that embraces all
The application of yogic practices is, therefore, seen as a way of purification, an integration of all parts of our being and a way to Self-realisation. By including and working on these different facets of ourselves we allow the light of our true Self to shine more brightly.
Use the whole of your life as a form of meditation and reflection for learning more about growth and awakening to the Divine, and make all your actions a method of dedication for unfolding your true spiritual nature. All this will lead you to knowledge of the Supreme Self that permeates all, and to an openness and freedom in everyday life. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by becoming One with the All of eternal existence.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Moving beyond the dance of restriction
Strongly rooted negative impressions are a particular obstacle, as they continuously feed the mind with a stream of inhibiting activity. This is a psychological heritage we all have to work with. The impressions may be the product of our own actions, or caused by subliminal influences, and various factors of modern living and the pressure to fit in with a growing materialistic world that wants to make us dance its tune. Seeking the right kind of influences in one’s life is therefore highly recommended. Yoga teaches that all inhibiting influences and aspects of ourselves can not only be known, but also conquered.
Awakening to the One Life
Questions about whether yoga was originally a path of escape from life or a path to wholeness and integration is quite an old one. If our emphasis is solely on transcendence and the realisation of Ultimate Truths without looking at other realms of development and practical ways of living, then we are in danger of using spiritual exercises as a method of avoidance. In many ways the spiritual journey is about “aestheticism not asceticism”, which as Matthew Fox reminds us, is about the art of living – living our life skilfully as a form spiritual practice – finding unity in diversity, and discovering and manifesting creative beauty in our development.
Engagement in the world
In the book The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana
, the writer Ian Whicher puts forward an excellent case for Patanjali’s teachings being about the integration of all parts of ourselves – the moral, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This approach ties in with other wisdom traditions that are life affirming and is the central message of many contemporary teachers, who seek to encourage their students to find an active balance between spiritual engagement and healthy non-attachment within the world. It means rising above our everyday entanglements, and combining discernment with emotional and social responsibility; thus allowing us to participate in and respect life with spiritual understanding and display compassionate empathy towards others.
* * *
‘The House of Wisdom’ draws on a variety of profound insights to encourage personal growth and creative and skilful living, and includes crucial chapters on indispensable spirituality, such as the benefits of mantra, paths to the sacred, understanding the many facets of yourself and the classic eightfold path of Yoga. Various practical meditations and beneficial relaxation practices for discovering and harmonising the spiritual whole of yourself are also included.
SWAMI DHARMANANDA SARASWATI MAHARAJ
, Director of the Dharma Centre for Yoga, Spiritual Awareness and Healing, is renowned for being both an inspiring teacher and one of the most practical people in her field.
SANTOSHAN (STEPHEN WOLLASTON)
is a respected spiritual writer and teacher of transpersonal and integral growth, and studied World Religions and Religious Education at King’s College London.
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