My name is Swami Ishwarananda, and I am a Siddha Yoga monk and meditation teacher. I received initiation into Siddha Yoga monkhood in 1980, with the blessings of Baba Muktananda. At that time, I received from Baba the name Swami Ishwarananda. “Swami” is the title for the monks who receive sannyasa. Therefore, as you will notice, the names of the Siddha Yoga monks all begin with Swami. Ananda literally translates to “bliss.” Ishwar refers to the Lord. Therefore, Ishwarananda means the “bliss of the Lord.”
Once Gurumayi asked me, “How did Baba pick that name for you?” Since I did not know the answer to Gurumayi’s question, I simply shook my head. Gurumayi said, “It’s because Baba must have noticed that you always smile, Swami ji.” It was very meaningful for me to hear this from Gurumayi, and I thought of how Gurumayi herself has commented on how much she likes my smile. This makes me happy, as I love to share my inner joy through a good smile.
Today in the “Be in the Temple” satsang, in this live video stream in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall, we are celebrating the 112th solar anniversary of Baba Muktananda’s birth.
In a satsang many years ago, Gurumayi said that the month of May is Baba’s month. Of course, all of us who were in this satsang and heard Gurumayi say “Baba’s month” immediately loved it and decided to make it a tradition to refer to May as Baba’s month.
Gurumayi also shared with us how, if we pay attention, we will pick up on signs of Baba at this time. We loved it when Gurumayi said this. And many, many Siddha Yogis realized how they had been noticing signs of Baba. However, until then they had not made the connection. Through Gurumayi’s teaching, they were delighted to understand that the synchronicities they were seeing were, in fact, signs of Baba.
What is more, Gurumayi has shared over the years that especially in May, Baba’s birthday month, and in October, which is when Baba took mahasamadhi and therefore is also Baba’s month, she sees the letter “M” designed by white clouds in the blue sky.
On this auspicious morning, just before sunrise in Shree Muktananda Ashram, a beautiful orange light the color of Baba’s robes spread across the eastern sky. That shaft of orange light was set against a background of clear blue sky. Then when the sun rose, it shed its golden-white light across the entire horizon. It was absolutely gorgeous. And then, right before the “Be in the Temple” satsang began in the Universal Hall, a jet stream arched across the sun in the sky—it appeared as if an arrow was shooting across the sky, through the sun.
A Baba sign? I would say—most definitely yes!
You have heard and read about how Baba Muktananda was initiated into Guruhood by his beloved Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. It was at the command of his Shri Guru that Baba began imparting both Bade Baba’s teachings and his own teachings. Baba traveled extensively in India during his search for the Truth, as well as after he became the Guru. Then, at the inner command of his Shri Guru, Baba embarked on three world tours to impart the Siddha Yoga teachings and bestow shaktipat-diksha on thousands upon thousands of seekers.
Baba was resolute in carrying out his Guru’s command. From 1970 to 1982, he traveled around the world awakening Kundalini Shakti, spiritual energy, in seekers. Baba held many Shaktipat Intensives for this very purpose. And, as far as I know, Baba Muktananda was the very first Guru to introduce the word “Intensive,” both in India and throughout the world. Baba taught the Siddha Yoga practices in daily satsangs, and he wrote over thirty books articulating and defining all aspects of Siddha Yoga sadhana.
As Baba’s mission grew bigger and bigger, Baba foresaw that a structure would be needed to hold all his work and to facilitate this work continuing into the future. Therefore, in 1974, at Baba’s request the SYDA Foundation was established. I have loved studying all of Baba’s teachings, and I have personally experienced progress in leaps and bounds through this study. And I have conveyed Baba’s teachings too. With Baba Muktananda’s and Gurumayi Chidvilasananda’s blessing, I’ve had the opportunity to travel and hold satsang with Siddha Yogis around the world. Today, in the “Be in the Temple” satsang in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall, I want to speak with you about one particular line from Baba’s iconic teaching:
Honor your Self,
Worship your Self,
Meditate on your Self,
God dwells within you as you.
The line I will be focusing on is “God dwells within you as you” since it articulates the essence of the Siddha Yoga wisdom that Baba revealed to the modern world.
“God dwells within you as you.” These two words—“as you”—were the pivot point for Baba’s students. Seekers who came to Baba had heard, studied, or else grown up with teachings that sounded very similar. For example, the words from the Bible: “The kingdom of God is within you.” Or the Zen Buddhist teaching: “To find a Buddha, all you have to do is see your own nature.” Many people held these teachings very close to their hearts.
However, as I have gleaned from speaking to these people over the years, they also initially found it difficult to understand exactly what these teachings truly mean. When you see the phrase “The kingdom of God is within you,” at a glance you might think that there’s indeed something truly great inside of you, but it is other than you or separate from you. What I like about Baba’s teaching “God dwells within you as you” is that even with a quick glance, you have a very good chance of grasping the point—that is, knowing there is oneness between the divinity and the individual soul.
Baba taught, in his unequivocal way, that yes, there is something truly great within you, and that this something great is you. His teaching impels you to go deeper into exploring how this can be so. How is it that the great God is of the form of my own Self?
As I heard Baba give this teaching, and as I have continued to contemplate and experience its profound meaning, I have come to realize that it is a distillation of Baba’s own experience of God-realization. Baba achieved God-realization through many years of rigorous and arduous sadhana under the guidance of his Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda—as well as through his disciplined and focused study of the sacred scriptures of India.
One of these scriptures was the Chandogya Upanishad, which is one of the earliest recorded texts in history, having been written between the sixth and seventh centuries BC. The Chandogya Upanishad declares: “This whole world is Brahman” (the Absolute).1
The Sanskrit word brahman is derived from the root brh, which means “to expand,” “to grow.” The syllable man indicates the “one” or “that” which performs an action. Thus, the term brahman literally means “that which expands.” Brahman is the supreme Absolute—the source of all—which expands to manifest the entire universe and all there is.
Having conveyed the nature of everything to be Brahman, or God, the Chandogya Upanishad proclaims: “Thou art That,” or “you are Brahman.”2 Those great beings who have come to experience this Truth directly have expressed their realizations in beautiful, astounding, detailed works. In the eighth century AD, the enlightened sage Shri Shankaracharya, the great teacher of non-dual Vedanta, describes his moment of awakening to unity consciousness.
He writes: “The ocean of Brahman is full of nectar—the joy of the Atma. The treasure I have found there cannot be described in words. The mind cannot conceive of it. My mind fell like a hailstone into that vast expanse of the ocean of Brahman. Touching one drop of it, I melted away and became one with Brahman. And now, though I return to human consciousness, I abide in the joy of the Atma, the great Self.”
Last Monday, after I had prepared this speech and reflected on this teaching by Adi Shankaracharya, the blue sky over Shree Muktananda Ashram was suddenly taken over by dark storm clouds. A strong wind began billowing through the tree branches. I began to hear a pounding on the roof. I looked out the window, and I saw balls of pure white ice, a half inch (one centimeter) in diameter, scattered all about the grounds of the Ashram. They were hailstones. You may have heard that on the Siddha Yoga path, we do celebrate synchronicities. Remember how I said earlier that it’s Baba month, and there are Baba signs?
Back in the eighth century, through the timeless technology of meditation and spiritual practice, Shri Shankaracharya pierced through the illusion of solid matter and perceived the blissful light of God, Brahman, as the underlying reality, the eternal essence of all. When Shri Shankaracharya gave initiation into sannyasa to many of his disciples, he also gave the mantra “I am Brahman.”
Today, on May 16, 2020, we are celebrating Baba’s 112th solar birthday. When Baba left home at age sixteen in his quest for the Truth, he went to the Ashram of Siddharudha Swami. There he studied the philosophy of Vedanta. It was in this Ashram that Baba came to receive sannyasa. Baba received initiation into the Sarasvati Order in the mid-1920s. The name Baba received—Muktananda—means “bliss of spiritual liberation.”
Baba spoke and wrote about how he traveled India by foot from the south to the north and all around three times, and how he met hundreds of Siddhas and saints from all traditions. He met acharyas and Gurus of all different paths, and he studied, and studied, and studied the Indian scriptures and philosophies.
One of the Siddhas that Baba loved very much was Zipruanna. In fact, it was Zipruanna who sent Baba to Bhagavan Nityananda. And today is Zipruanna’s lunar punyatithi. It is seventy-one years since he left his body and merged with the absolute. Baba always spoke about Zipruanna with reverence and gratitude, as it was through Zipruanna’s direction that Baba found his Guru. It was only after Baba had the darshan of Bhagavan Nityananda, whom he accepted as his Guru, that he received shaktipat. For many years Baba did sadhana, and he attained self-realization.
When Baba was studying the teachings of the thirteenth-century poet-saint Jnaneshvar Maharaj, he discovered the existence of another great philosophy called Kashmir Shaivism. As the Guru, Baba would go on to teach Kashmir Shaivism in addition to philosophies such as Vedanta. Baba said that Kashmir Shaivism closely described the arc of his sadhana and his experience of the unfoldment of Kundalini Shakti. The texts of Kashmir Shaivism, recorded between the ninth and eleventh centuries AD in Kashmir, explain how God, or supreme Consciousness, creates the world out of its own being. And even when assuming the world of form, Consciousness never loses its inherent qualities of freedom and bliss.
The first sutra of the seminal text of Kashmir Shaivism, the Shiva Sutra, says of one’s own Self: Chaitanyam atma, The Self is Consciousness.3 When citing this sutra, Baba would often ask those present, “Who is listening to my words right now? Who is hearing through the ears, seeing through the eyes?” Baba would then answer, saying that it is Consciousness, the same Consciousness in all, and that “You are That. God dwells within you as you. Meditate.”
In this way, Baba would direct seekers to the presence of something great within—the Self, the supreme Self. Baba taught that Consciousness is within. In his book Play of Consciousness, Baba wrote that at the time of his final realization, he experienced in meditation the Blue Pearl, the light of the individual self, explode and expand beyond all boundaries and then merge with the all-pervasive blue light of Consciousness, of God. The drop became the ocean.
Baba writes: “I could see this radiance of Consciousness, resplendent and utterly beautiful, silently pulsating as supreme ecstasy within me, outside me, above me, below me.”4 I would like to take this moment to state that Baba’s book Play of Consciousness was groundbreaking. Play of Consciousness is an autobiography of Baba’s spiritual journey. Fifty-one years ago this May, Baba wrote it, from start to finish, over the course of three weeks.
Baba encapsulated the great wisdom and realizations of the ancient sages and thousands of scriptures in his potent sutra-like teaching that consisted of just six words: “God dwells within you as you.” In this way, Baba made the ancient knowledge of the great mystics—which he had worked so hard to understand and attain—so immediately accessible to the whole world. Anyone who is interested in pursuing Self-knowledge will benefit greatly by studying this teaching by Baba: “God dwells within you as you.”
My heart is filled with gratitude to Baba for shining the light on me when I was searching for something great in the pitch-black darkness. Baba illumined and gave meaning to my world, which at the time felt hopeless. When I learned this teaching from Baba—“God dwells within you as you”—I truly became lit. Thank you, Baba. I can keep singing “Thank you, Baba” for the rest of my life, and I know that I will still have thanks to give. Happy Birthday, Baba.