Welcome to the Siddha Yoga gathering of Darshan and Manan: The Siddha Yoga Practices of Seeing and Contemplating. My name is Swami Ishwarananda. It always gives me great joy to introduce myself to you by letting you know that I am Swami Ishwarananda. I am a Siddha Yoga monk, and I am a Siddha Yoga meditation teacher.
To usher you into the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall, a video of beautiful images and artistic expressions was playing just before the gathering began. What I liked so much about this video was that it was created with photographs and artwork from many of you in the global Siddha Yoga sangham. You took these photos and created these artistic expressions in the course of your study and practice of Gurumayi’s Message for 2020, Atma ki Prashanti, Peacefulness of the Self.
During this month of Thanksgiving we have so much to be grateful for. There are many holidays and Siddha Yoga anniversaries that we are commemorating.
For example, November marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the Mahayatra—Gurumayi’s Teachings Visit in 1995 and 1996. The reason Gurumayi gave this pilgrimage on which she imparted her teachings the name “Mahayatra” is that it spanned seven months. The Mahayatra included visits to various parts of the United States and Mexico, and to countries throughout Europe. Gurumayi called the Mahayatra “the tour of a million hearts,” as so many hearts were touched by her grace and awakened by her blessed presence, teachings, and love.
On November 25, people throughout India will be celebrating the day that Lord Vishnu is said to awaken from a four-month period of slumber that corresponds to the rainy season. At this time of the year, the dark and cloudy skies begin to clear and the days come to be filled with bright sunshine.
In honor of this holiday, and as part of your study and practice of Gurumayi’s Message for 2020, I encourage you to listen to and read about the abhanga “Sagunachi Sheja” by Jnaneshvar Maharaj. This abhanga is posted on the “Explore and Study Gurumayi’s Message” pages of the Siddha Yoga path website. It extols Lord Krishna, who is one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
And in the course of your study, do send in to the Siddha Yoga path website your own reflections on what you’ve learned and experienced about Gurumayi’s Message.
The day after we honor Lord Vishnu is November 26, and this is when Thanksgiving is taking place in the United States this year. That brings me to yet another anniversary we are recognizing on the Siddha Yoga path. November 26 is an important date in Siddha Yoga history, because it was on this day 31 years ago—in 1989—that Gurumayi held the first-ever global satellite Siddha Yoga Shaktipat Intensive. The Shaktipat Intensive was broadcast from Gurudev Siddha Peeth.
This is the third Siddha Yoga gathering of Darshan and Manan.
On the Siddha Yoga path, the practice of darshan is held in utmost regard. Gurumayi has explained that darshan takes place in one’s own heart. What is the mystery behind this revered practice?
I’ve heard Gurumayi teach that darshan is not limited to seeing the physical form of the Guru. You can experience darshan of the shakti awakening within. You can experience darshan of scriptural knowledge as you do spiritual study. You can experience darshan of the Truth in meditation and in nature. And you can have darshan through your own spiritual experiences.
Any time there is a moment of spiritual revolution within your being, when a profound inner alchemy takes place—that is darshan. For some, this moment is as electrifying as thunder and lightning. For others, this moment is as soft and gentle as the diaphanous wings of a butterfly.
As a focus for our practice of darshan and manan in these gatherings, Gurumayi has given the term “Bhagavan.” In the Indian spiritual tradition, “Bhagavan” is a reverential term for addressing the Lord. Bhagavan is the embodied deity. Bhagavan is the almighty, omniscent power of the universe. Bhagavan is the one who dwells in the hearts of all.
It is the case in all languages throughout the world that a single word can have multiple meanings, nuances, and connotations. “Bhagavan” is one such word in the Sanskrit language—it has multifaceted meaning. Thus, in addition to being a name for the Lord, “Bhagavan” is used to reverentially address a saint or holy being, one who possesses the six divine qualities.
A verse from the ancient Indian scripture, the Vishnu Purana, defines these qualities and therefore explains why the word “Bhagavan” is so dear to seekers’ hearts. I will give you the English translation of this verse:
Complete mastery, righteousness, glory, abundance, wisdom, and detachment—together these six virtues are known to constitute the root of the word “Bhagavan.”1
In the Darshan and Manan gathering last week on shubh Deepāvali, Heather Williams explained two of the attributes of Bhagavan—complete mastery and dharma.
Today, I will be explaining two more attributes of Bhagavan, and these are yashas and shri, glory and abundance.
The Sanskrit term yashas has a beautiful range of meanings. The primary meanings are “glory,” “splendor,” “radiance,” and “renown.” Yashas also means “worthy of praise or reverence,” as it refers to the bounty of virtues or good qualities a great being possesses.
In great beings such as Bhagavan Nityananda, these qualities shine forth in all their glory. When we worship such great beings, we are in turn blessed with the fervent desire to discover these divine qualities within ourselves, and we feel empowered to cultivate these qualities.
Yashas is attained by the sustained good actions that we perform throughout our lives. These are actions that uplift others, create harmony, and bring about positive change and greater understanding in the world.
This idea is neatly encapsulated in one of the classic epics of India, the Mahābhārata, which describes yashas as a magnificent collection of excellences that generate wonder in the minds of others.
Now I will explain the meaning of the Sanskrit term shri, which is another one of the divine attributes of Bhagavan.
Shri is defined as “abundance,” “beauty,” “auspiciousness,” and “good fortune.” Shri is also a beautiful name for the devi Mahalakshmi. She is the shakti or divine power that manifests the qualities of beauty, abundance, auspiciousness within us and around us.
The word shri is connected to a Sanskrit verbal root meaning “diffusing light or radiance”—in other words, the light of divinity. Shri is therefore often used as an honorific before the name of deities, holy places, sacred books, and spiritual teachers. For example, we say Shri Guru, Shri Krishna, Shree Muktananda Ashram, Shri Guru Gita. “Shri” acknowledges their auspiciousness and heralds the capacity of each of these divine beings and entities to convey light—the light that connects us with the radiance within ourselves.
In India, “Shri” is used as a term of respect or courtesy. It can be used to refer to people of a certain stature or prestige—for example, people who have done great humanitarian work, who have a distinguished family background, or who are elders.
Additionally, a form of the word “Shri” can be used as a title equivalent to “Mr.” and “Mrs.” Men may be called “Shrimaan” and women may be called “Shrimati.” These titles literally mean “one who is endowed with Shri.”
In India, social niceties like saying “thank you” and “sorry” are embedded in the language—so people don’t need to constantly say these words aloud to convey their gratitude or their remorse. Similarly, respect for others is woven into the language and customs of India. That is what use of these terms—Shri, Shrimaan, Shrimati—illustrates.
The practice of darshan is about seeing and being seen. It is about seeing one’s beloved deity and being seen by that deity. It is about seeing Bhagavan Nityananda and being seen by Bhagavan Nityananda.
The practice of manan, contemplation, concretizes the experiences of darshan and the knowledge you gain from being in the presence of a great being. Gurumayi has always emphasized the importance of thinking through each idea, concept, or notion that passes through your awareness.
Think about it. There are so many fragments of thought that remain unresolved in our minds. It is disrespectful to yourself to leave these thoughts unresolved. Whether they are thoughts you like or don’t like, thoughts that are pleasant or unpleasant, thoughts that are positive or negative, they arose for a reason. It is imperative that you investigate those reasons—and that the recesses of your mind are not backed up by undigested thoughts.
With the practice of manan, you are giving yourself a tool to go there—to go to the place where you didn’t want to go, to get to know that part of your being that is actually amazing. Gurumayi has taught that once you cleanse yourself of the unnecessary, cumbersome, and overwhelming debris that has collected in the caverns of your mind—once you redeem your own inner being—you come upon great wisdom. You discover your own joy. You unearth your own lightheartedness. You recognize your own virtues. You find yourself happy, and you create your own oasis, in which you experience Atma ki Prashanti, Peacefulness of the Self.
Practice darshan and manan of Bhagavan Nityananda’s effulgent and enlivened form. Hold the attributes of Bhagavan, yashas and shri, in your awareness.
During this time of darshan and manan, the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall will be permeated with the melodious sounds of classical piano. Carlos del Cueto, an accomplished classical musician and an SYDA Foundation staff member, will be playing.
Let the swells of sound carry you deep into the chambers of your heart. Just as the wind lifts up the wings of a bird as it soars through the blue sky, let the sound of music embolden you to roam in chidakasha, in the clear blue firmament of supreme Consciousness.
Participants practiced darshan and manan, seeing and contemplating, while holding yashas and shri in their awareness.
Afterward, Swami Ishwarananda gave concluding remarks.
I want to acknowledge you for designating time to practice darshan and manan in this gathering in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall.
By discovering and cultivating the qualities of yashas and shri within yourself, you are consciously allowing your positive energy and light to illumine your day-to-day life. You keep the company of these attributes when you are by yourself, when you are with others, when you are doing your work, and when you are going about your day.
These attributes are yours—they are with you, supporting you, whether you are experiencing highs or lows in your life. Think of a bird. Whether it’s flying high or it swooping down low, it knows: the wind is there. The wind is its constant, sustaining power.
I have heard that due to the pandemic this year, 2020, the health experts are advising that everyone celebrate Thanksgiving in their own homes. They are recommending that people connect with their family and friends through various technological means—and in that way, celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving.
On the Siddha Yoga path, you know that celebration takes place even when you are on your own because your heart can still experience grace in abundance. Therefore, you have the understanding that sharing joy and love with others is not dependent on seeing them in person.
My advice to you is to find creative ways to express your gratitude for God, for the Guru, for Mother Earth, and for the people you love and care about. There are also many ways for you to lend support to those in need. Therefore, I encourage you to learn about how you can take action during these trying times to be of service in your communities and help those who are less fortunate.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving week, remember: yashas and shri are shining brightly within you.