Vitarka Atmajnanam

Vitarka Atmajnanam

Right Discernment Is the Knowledge of the Self

April 1, 2017

Dear seekers,

Welcome to the month of April!

There is a saying that “April showers bring May flowers.” Where I live, however—the eastern United States, in Washington, DC—April is all about flowers. Plum trees, magnolias, pear trees, dogwoods, and especially cherry trees, which are famous in our area, burst into bloom throughout the month. Ordinary streets turn into enchanted, petal-strewn walkways. The whole city, it seems, is drenched in color. The air is fresh and sweet. As I drive to my office at a nearby university where I work as a law professor, the bright blossoms around every corner lighten my heart.

I often feel that the outer renewal evident in springtime reflects the inner rejuvenation I experience in my own sadhana. Yet the opportunity for inner renewal is not limited to one season; it is present at all times. Thank goodness! This is why I love to visit the Siddha Yoga path website regularly. Every time I visit, I encounter Gurumayi’s teachings—and my own Self—in a distinct and vibrant way.

Let me take a moment to speak about this magnificent website. I particularly love how, each month, the website features a few specific teachings. I enjoy unpacking the nuances in these teachings, whether they take the form of words, images, videos, or music, and I try to use these teachings as a guide throughout my day. When I speak with other Siddha Yogis—my mother, my husband, my teenage son, and many friends—I have found that they like to engage with the website in similar ways. In fact, sometimes we will be so enthralled with something we have discovered on the website that we will call or e-mail each other to point it out, or to share an insight we have gleaned. As we contemplate these teachings, we often notice a connection between what we are learning and the diverse events of our lives.

I also love to notice how so many seekers from around the world share their experiences on the website—in words and through other forms of creative expression, such as photographs, painting, or poetry. My heart soars when I see these contributions made by Siddha Yogis from Mumbai to Mexico City, from Lyon to Los Angeles. I feel so connected to the global Siddha Yoga sangham.

And so it will be this month. I invite you to once again set aside time to explore all that you find on these digital pages and, through writing and imagery, to share your experiences of the teachings with others.

nataraj-ring of fire

In April, we enter the fourth month of our study of Gurumayi’s Message for 2017.

Gurumayi’s Message is an extraordinary gift to all of us. It supports us to ascend to new heights of understanding, and to cultivate a more elevated experience of our universe—if we are willing to undertake the climb!

Gurumayi’s Message is

Breathe in deeply the fragrance of the Heart.
Revel in the light of the Supreme Self.
Breathe out gently the benevolent power of the Heart.

About fifteen years ago, I received a potent teaching from Gurumayi about the breath. I was participating in a Shaktipat Intensive in Shree Muktananda Ashram in South Fallsburg, New York. When Gurumayi walked into the hall, I was captivated by her presence. I watched Gurumayi take her seat, in awe of how she made no extraneous movements. She was speaking with the people around her, and yet I perceived that there was a profound stillness in her being. I remember noticing the steadiness of her breath as she inhaled and exhaled.

As I sat there, I felt my own breathing deepen and lengthen, and a sense of peace descended on my entire being. Then something shifted within me: I had the sensation that I wasn’t the one breathing. The breath wasn’t inside me, but rather, I was inside a great breath that was in turn moving through me. In that precious moment, I felt great strength within.

Throughout the years I have carried this experience with me. When I was taking the bar exam, a major test to certify new lawyers, I remembered the breath that moved through me that day in Shree Muktananda Ashram; this memory settled the butterflies in my stomach, slowed my breathing, and steadied my mind as I sat at my desk. When I cradled my newborn son and rocked him to sleep in the middle of the night, I recalled this same experience and found an oasis of calm inside myself.

Now, whether I am standing in front of a classroom of students or debating my teenage son, I bring to mind once again the profound stillness I perceived in Gurumayi’s being. I am able to let go of whatever tension I may be holding. And I find that my breath flows more naturally and evenly. I gain greater mental clarity, strength, and focus—greater ability to bring my best to the varied situations of my life.

nataraj-ring of fire

Each month this year, to guide our study of Gurumayi’s Message, we are focusing on a teaching from Gurumayi’s Message talk. The teaching for April is

You are endowed with the power to know the Truth.

What does it mean to be endowed with the power to know the Truth? The phrase “endowed with the power” connotes both grace and self-effort, cornerstones of the Siddha Yoga path. “Endowed” reminds us that this ability to know the Truth is a sacred gift we have received. “Power” signifies a latent strength within ourselves that we are called upon to develop and use. By the grace of Shri Guru, we come to know the Truth when we put forth effort to cultivate the power we have received.

As a law professor, my job is to teach my students about the law, to enable them to recognize not only the rules that govern society, but also the deeper, more fundamental principles and purposes of those rules. Understanding the law, and practicing it, requires the discernment of deeper truths that can only be comprehended by repeatedly applying the process of legal reasoning to specific cases.

On the Siddha Yoga path, the discernment of the Truth also requires continuous right effort, in the form of meditation, chanting, cultivation of the divine virtues, contemplation, and being mindful of what is and what is not. When we study Gurumayi’s teachings, when we engage in the Siddha Yoga practices to get closer and closer to our true nature, we are able to transcend what the great sages of India call the antahkarana chatushtaya.

The Indian scriptures describe antahkarana chatushtaya as comprising four functions: manas, thinking or feeling; citta, memory; buddhi, intellect; and ahamkara, ego. At the root of all these functions—the substratum of them all—is the Supreme Self.

I sometimes perceive this substratum, the Supreme Self, while I am chanting, listening to a chant, or meditating. My awareness dissolves into an expansive space of peace and love, a space far bigger than my body and mind. In these moments, I feel as if I become pure being and reunite with the Lord—with the Supreme Self.

Though this awareness fades as the day-to-day tasks of my life occupy my attention, the impact is lasting; I return to these experiences that anchor me in my true being. I revel again and again in their beauty. Whatever I may be doing—whether I am confronting a tough decision at work or counseling my son on a middle-school social drama—if I take a moment to recall an experience of chanting and meditation, I am better able to listen, sift through information, and determine the appropriate path forward. I am better equipped to let go of what is not important—such as an attachment to how another person might perceive me in the moment—because I have tasted the exquisite purity of my own true nature. I can remind myself that that is my true Self.

It is such experiences, I believe, that Gurumayi is emboldening us to seek out when she says, You are endowed with the power to know the Truth.

nataraj-ring of fire

Earlier, I mentioned that I enjoy visiting the Siddha Yoga path website regularly. And in this month of April, especially, I am eager to visit on a daily basis! Let me explain why.

Gurumayi has been so generous as to identify specific teachings for the website that will support us to explore the focus for this month: You are endowed with the power to know the Truth. Some of these teachings will be given in the form of short passages—Words of Illumination—from the Siddha Yoga Gurus. Again and again, I have found that the Guru’s words spark greater understanding, and transformation, if I take the time to focus on them, contemplate them, reflect on the images that may accompany them, and call on them in the situations of my life. I am always amazed at how the more I work with a teaching, the more it keeps revealing to me.

I am particularly pleased to let you know that, this month, we will also receive teachings in the form of stories. Throughout my life, I have always been a voracious reader of stories, and as a mother they hold a special place in my heart. Ever since my son was little, I have told him stories before bed. Sometimes they are stories from books. Sometimes they are stories that we make up together. And often they are stories from the Siddha Yoga path website. As we engage with these stories, we connect with the teachings in a visceral way. We talk about the characters and recognize ourselves in them. The situations that the characters face, the choices they make, and the lessons they learn give us a lot to contemplate. I feel blessed that we are able to study the teachings in this way, together as a family.

As we all move into April and delight in the sights and scents of spring, let us also take delight in studying Gurumayi’s teachings on the website. And as you reflect on these gems of wisdom and teaching stories, recall Gurumayi’s words from the conclusion of A Sweet Surprise Satsang 2017. Gurumayi invited all of us to make the gift of her Message our own. Isn’t that a remarkable invitation?

May Gurumayi’s teaching, You are endowed with the power to know the Truth, build your confidence in your own abilities. You can make manifest Gurumayi’s wish for you to understand who you truly are. You can make Gurumayi’s gift to you your own. If you put forth the effort, you will make it happen.

Warm regards,

author
Siddha Yoga Student

Title is Shiva Sutra 1.17;  English rendering by Mark S. G. Dyczkowski, The Aphorisms of Siva: The Shiva Sutra with Bhaskara’s Commentary, the Varttika (New York: SUNY Press, 1992) p.48.
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