Annual Festival of the Spirit
40 day period of Spiritual Renewal:
27th May till the Full Moon of Guru Purnima, which this year is on the 5th of July, 2020.
We are reminded that since this annual event began in 1983, we have accrued an abundance of wealth for every beautiful thought is worth saving. We have saved a small treasure enhancing the treasures of non-violent, beautiful, and beneficial sentiments. During the festival, we are reminded to renew the spiritual focus of our life. And with the challenges we have all experience through the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is of utmost importance to again cultivate the soil of mind to become abundant in with the fruits of kindness and compassion for all. What we have done together as sangha and kalyana-mitras in the past years have awakened the transforming energies of emotional purification and pure spirituality to remind us of our goal and purpose of life.
First, is our purification of lifestyle: thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and how they influence our actions in thought word and deed. Purification means Beautifying, making the mind a beautiful, gentle and loving place, a harmonious, peaceful place. A place of solitude in the simple, the humble, and in the truthful. And in so doing, practice willfully selecting beautiful sentiments for ourselves and cultivating them, thereby enriching ourselves and those around us.
And second, we practice the pure spirituality in meditation, mantra-japa, and ajapa-japa.
For your practice of japa, I would again recommend 125,000 repetitions of your own mantra or combine it with a specialty mantra such as Saumya, Gayatri or Maha-Mrityunjaya. Those who want to do it a little more intensely need not limit themselves to the period of 40 days. They may complete the practice over a longer period. (Refer to the 40-day Guidelines below.)
Keep the habit of same place, same time for these 40-days, and, when you sit for the practice begin with a few recitations (3-11-21) of Gayatri (or extended Gayatri) at the beginning and at the end of your daily meditations. Also, increase your Saumya mantra recitations and include these in your daily japa. These are the basics of the japa, along with practices from previous years that you may also adopt.
For this year, let us also return to two themes we have spoken of in the past. First, the Vasudeva principle. (Refer to the article: Vasudeva-Toronto-2004
). And, second is Sthita-Prajna, the theme of Steady Wisdom given by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita II:54-72. This Spiritual Festival is an invitation to continue living the vasudeva principle, the principle of the in-dweller, the in-dwelling spirit, in-dwelling consciousness force; and the steady wisdom of a sadhaka who has matured in his practices of purification and meditation. (Refer to the booklet: Stita-Prajna
Allow me to share a para-phrased and highlight what Swami Veda previously shared on this theme:
“All these years, we have prepared, encouraged and practiced this step. And what is that step? - the very first step in yoga, the first one is yama , the interior spiritual disciplines. And the very first one of the five yamas is ahimsa, or non-violence. We come back to this principle as a center-point in our lives. When we live by the in-dweller principle, we know that spirit in all beings is One, and we live with a spiritual center to our lives.
We must live by it in our relationships with all beings. Not the ecology of saving the earth’s bio-diversity for the commercial benefit of human beings, but for the well-being, the unity, and harmony of all life. Why is that? It is because we know we live by fear. We are shaken with fear at all times in our lives. The Yoga Sutras define fear as violence. It is not fear of violence committed by others towards us; it is the recognition of the violence within us: I know within me that I have hurt living beings, not just human beings. I have hurt living beings. I have visited death upon them. We are living in this fear at all times. While you are asleep, thousands of living beings are being killed so that you may eat them for breakfast. And the sigh that goes out of those living beings when they face extinction is the same fear that makes you tremble at the thought of death, and the way this instinctual urge remains so dominant in your life. Your fears are merely creating blocks and barriers and separating you from the whole. You forget that you are part of this very fabric that includes all life living together in harmony as one-spirit.
So for these 40 days extend your non-violence to all living beings, and according to your capacity, refrain from partaking from anything as food that has been killed. Remember, it is not an act of compassion towards them, it is a recognition of the oneness of the in-dwelling spirit. Every act of murder is a suicide because that other is also I, the Universal Self. Please remember that. Experiment with it. Read once again the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi.
The second step along with that is that all anger is anger at yourself. Frustration at one's own inadequacy in love is fear and fear invites anger. Where you find excuses or justification let this sentiment mature. Let us start working on the periphery, and not solve all the moral dilemmas right now. Let us make an experiment in life for these forty days. Cultivate sweet sentiments, cheerful and kind sentiments. Again, it is not an act of compassion, nor is it a repression; it is an act of cultivating a beautiful sentiment. For if the in-dwelling spirit is one, at whom am I being angry? Ask yourself that question, and that would help you to overcome the strong urge towards violence. Violence of speech, for instance, violence that exhibits itself in a loud voice, in a screaming and a stamping of feet. Recognize this urge to use other living beings for your pleasure, to use others as your emotion-releasing valves. Both are violations of the principle of the one, indwelling spirit. Just begin curbing it for this period in your life. I am simply recommending cultivating the thought of the one, in-dwelling spirit.
Contemplate, and let your contemplations become your sentiments, and let your spirit soar to realize the unity that is the uni-verse. I think of this world at times as one single poem, and that is how I think of the word uni-verse. Let your life be a poem. Let your world be a poem to you. In this way, the level of relationship you feel with the guru lineage will become more clear. And, I have observed in my own life, that unless this relationship deepens, all these practices will lead you nowhere. Please find your own path and ways of deepening this relationship as the period will end on Guru Purnima.
Finally, I suggest that each day during these forty days that you take a walk for about ten minutes and watch where you are stepping. And then when you come upon an ant or a bug, know the oneness of the in-dwelling spirit. Let your heart be filled with love and compassion. Carry some sugar in your packet and bend down and feed the ants. Walk for ten minutes, watching so that you are not crushing any living being. Not only that, but you are seeing every living being as your kith and kin - lovable. And after you have thrown some sugar to the ants, you will have such a sense of satisfaction. Think over it. Let this be an experiment in your life. Yet, let-go of the strict self-judgements you have a tendency to make toward others and yourself. Get in the spirit of it. Absorb and assimilate the sentiment and attitude. You know what it will do you if you practice this non-violence? It will help you to conquer the fear of death; for fear of death, as I said, is nothing but the unconscious recognition of the fact of "how many times I have visited death upon others; may it not rebound to me."
If you have at any time any questions about your spiritual practices, please talk with your spiritual mentor in our AHYMSIN centers, or write to me, address an email to Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is...
I pray for you, pray for your serenity and love in your life. Srb
The Annual 40-Day Spiritual Festival
May 27 till Guru Purnima, July 5, 2020
Each summer during the 40 days that precede Guru Purnima, students in the Himalayan tradition are invited to participate in the 40-Day Spiritual Festival, to expand and refine their sadhanas. This year the 40-Day Festival will begin on 27th May and will end on 5th July, which is Guru Purnima.1
It is a time to contemplate (and talk with others about) the ways you can participate.
“We are all here for a purpose; it is an on-going spiritual process. We are all here for spiritual liberation and serving that mission. For that purpose we are purifying ourselves of our pride and ego. For these reasons we train ourselves in constant self-observation: to see oneself, to hear oneself to develop this internal dialogue. I have used one criterion for all my thoughts, my words, and my actions: ‘Is this conducive to spiritual liberation.’” – Swami Veda
The many presentations2, sacred ceremonies3 and scriptural contemplations in recent years have pointed to the main focus of this year’s Spiritual Festival, which is the japa of the Saumya-Tara Mantra
and the celebration of the Divine Mother in the universe and in ourselves. Saumya Mantra was given to us in past years by Swami Veda, and now again, in 2019, by Swami Ritavan to bring loving peace to the collective mind-field: “Saumya Mantra can be a means for expiation and purification and lead to pacification, a peace that is necessary now and at all times.”
At the 2019 Sangha Gathering (February 25 to March 5, 2019) at SRSG, Swami Ritavan guided the AHYMSIN Sangha into the Saumya Mantra practice for the next three years. Please see Three Year Mantra Practice, 2019 to 2022
and follow the many links which are included.
The Saumya Mantra practice is especially propitious, as it reconnects us with Swami Veda’s love for this mantra and the immersion in the energies of the Divine Feminine, as when Swamiji first introduced Saumya Mantra to the Himalayan community in 1999, when he further expanded it in 2012 by joining it to it to the Tara Mantra4, and when he prescribed this mantra for the Spiritual Festival in 2014.
In February of 2002 Swami Veda spoke these words:
“The swift, yet soft current in the middle of the river is that of Soma – in the whole universe all that brings peacefulness. In the common spoken languages of India we often refer to a person who is very Saumya person. That gentleness shows on his or her face. That gentleness and softness is exuded from his body and from his voice. Such a one does not need to make an effort to ascend, to rise. Such a one simply floats like water filling all the holes and making everything even. Wherever there is disharmony such a one’s presence creates harmony. Where there is strife, such a one’s speech, glance, thought establishes symphony. We seek to be such for in these times there is enough of the exhibition of fire in the world. If each one of us – even one single one of us – becomes a Saumya person, his very presence on this planet can bring about a mildness in the flames of fire...
If you want to know what a Saumya feature is like, [remember] the face of your mother when she was suckling you on her breast and looking down at you. That was a Saumya face. Pray that your face may be seen like that face by all living beings – not only by your family and friends and neighbors and your co-nationals, but all human beings and all living beings. [Let them seek you out] …as hungry children come and crowd around their mother...
So each time you utter the word 'Saumya,' let that quality of personality be invoked in you so that slowly, slowly, gradually you may become the source of Saumya forces flowing swiftly, softly. Gently like a breeze made fragrant by flowers . . . [may] others who pass by you smell that fragrance and may their minds become Saumya...
The great divine Mother’s presence has to be invoked and invited to dwell in your body, speech, mind, eyes, even more intensely manifesting…a clear presence at all times. 'Saumya, Saumyatara.' Each time we recite these words let these qualities, let these attributes be invoked in you and may the mother who is ever Saumya – suckling all her children, the entire universe after universe – may she descend and dwell in you and look out to the world through your eyes. Saumya, Saumyatara. Hari Om. Hari Om. Hari OM.”
(from “Saumya, Yajna and Yajmin” by Swami Veda on February 10, 2002)
In addition to the practice of Saumya Mantra, during these 40 days students can choose to intensify their yoga sadhanas and/or make beneficial changes in their lifestyles, in a variety of other ways. Please review what Swami Veda’s suggestions and teachings have been in previous years, including Sadhana in Applied Spirituality
and the practice given by Swami Veda on 9th March 2013
for “your next five years and for the rest of your life.”
Prepare a study and practice plan for yourself. If there are instabilities in our lives, they exist, Swami Veda said, not because our circumstances are unstable, but because our minds are unstable. Stable minds, he said, are like soft, gentle ripples in the calm lake which can stabilize all external circumstances.
Some possible undertakings for the 40-day Spiritual Festival:
1. Increasing one’s practice of meditation and japa.
2. Expanding some other aspect of one’s daily yoga practice with subtle relaxations or pranayamas.
3. Studying an inspiring book and applying a principle or practice in it.
4. Implementing an element of yoga, such as a particular Yama or Niyama. “These Yamas and Niyamas are the sure means of advancing spiritually. When your mind is clarified, purified, by the constant application and implementation of these principles, you’ll find that your problems will become less and less overwhelming.” (Swami Veda Bharati)
5. Cultivating positive aspects of mind through such practices as the Four Right Attitudes (brahma-viharas – friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked) or pleasant-mindedness (chitta-prasadana - clarity and purification of mind, making the mind pleasant and clear).
6. Making lifestyle changes so to honor the natural environment – reducing clutter, consuming less, planting trees, simplifying one’s way of living.
7. Making healthier choices in one’s daily schedule in terms of diet and nutrition, sleep and exercise habits and punctuality of meditations.
8. Refining one’s personal relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
In reviewing the guidelines and making your own commitments, please keep in mind your own capacity. Success with a series of smaller goals will lead to greater purification and capacity for next year. Assess your own capacity and do not try to push to complete "on time." Accommodate for your family responsibilities.
Some further suggestions from Swami Veda for stabilizing the spiritual mind-field include:
1. Let your selfless service increase, whether by one percent or five percent or whatever. Increase the time and energy you spend in SELFLESS service of others. That is the first concrete action you can begin with.
2. Refine your personal practices including concentrating more on exhalations. This will help you achieve 2:1 ratio of breathing without physical effort.
3. Review: Read Mind Field: The Playground of Gods and Marks of Spiritual Progress.
4. Keep your regular meditation time. In addition to that, you may sit at other times in the day. Do not forget to take 2 minutes, 3 minutes breaks, for breath-awareness many, many times in the day.
A group of spiritually-oriented people, thus stabilized, can become part of a larger, stabilized mind-field called a sangha. We are all part of a global network of spirituality in the Tradition, and we can continue to harmonize the mind-field of our community, through our own self-transformation, so that its mission work will be successful.
“We all dream,” Swami Veda has said, “of the possibility of living in a peaceful world. This aspiration can be realized only if we first provide to our very soul, the self, atman, a peaceful home in the mind inside which it lives. That is the essence of our spiritual journey; that is yoga; that is meditation; that is peace in the family, which, then, extends to becoming world peace. We need to keep a diligent vigil, to keep this mind pure and peaceful and clean, to make it progress towards becoming the environment suitable for an enlightened soul. There needs to be sense of continuous progress in us so the world may progress towards peace.”
Lokas samastas sukhino bhavantu
Self-Examination, Sadhana Practice, Meditation & Mantra Japa
"May the whole world attain peace and harmony."
“May we weave the fabric of spirituality in our lives,
and within our spiritual family – AHYMSIN” (Swami Ritavan)
Stabilizing the Spiritual Mindfield
Additional Spiritual Festival Guidelines
Prayash-chitta and Chitta Prasadana: through Self-Examination & Meditation
• Maintain mindfulness and an attitude of self-examination throughout the day. Observe thoughts and emotions asking oneself, “What transgressions did I commit?”
• Where there was fearful or aggressive thoughts/words/actions ask, “What was it in me that evoked that response and reaction?”
• “What right thing that should have done have I omitted?” – replacing such negativity with kindness and compassion. (Refer to Swami Veda’s Yoga Sutra commentary of I:33 on Chitta prasadana.)
• Do Nadi Shodhana (channel purification) 3 times a day.
• Do one to three malas of your personal mantra japa daily.
• For any thought critical of anyone, do 11 recitations of Gayatri.
• At juncture points in your day (or about every 2 hours), sit for 2 minutes, observing the flow of breath in the nostrils and repeating your personal mantra.
• Recite the Gurur Brahma Prayer
and the morning and evening prayers
• Surrender samskaras & random thoughts to the inner Guru.
• Resolve to enter into non-self-centered meditation.
• Om Tat Sat Brahmarpanam Astu – dedicate prayers to the enlightenment and happiness of others.
• Your last formal thought at night should be the Gurur Brahma Prayer
and entry into meditative mode as you fall asleep. Your sleep will become a meditation. Awaken with a Yoga Nidra practice or simply breath awareness in bed before rising.
• Participate in Full Moon Meditations
. "The full moon meditations are an opportunity for us to come together in connecting with the universal mind-field bringing unity, harmony, peace and love. Go into your silence; exhale-release, inhale-accept, forgive & fulfil, with purified heart and mind receive the blessings of the Lineage." - Swami Ritavan Bharati
• A practice of hatha yoga to purify the body, breath and mind. Consider undertaking a practice of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) during these 40 days. Please refer to the section in Swami Veda’s Philosophy of Hatha Yoga in which he writes about asana as worship. Do Joints & Glands Exercises. Use whatever asana practice you undertake as a way to strengthen your link with the lineage through whom all blessings flow.
• If possible do not eat alone. Take a small portion of food and give it to a companion or co-worker. If it is embarrassing and not socially acceptable, then surrender the first portion to the Great Prana of the Universe.
• Recite Grace.
• Eat 5 mouthfuls less than enough to fill the stomach at each meal.
• Eat no solid food after 9:00 p.m. A glass of liquid may be taken at night. Special health and medical situations are exempt. Total fasting is not suggested.
• Try to avoid eating meat or fish during the month although you may serve it to your family.
To further deepen your practice
• Consider taking a vow of one month's celibacy, but only with the happy consent of your spouse.
• Keep a personal journal on subtle violence in personal life, e.g. an unjustified sharp tone of speech, or in using objects obtained by violence and disregard for the rights of other living beings.
• Dedicate 10 percent of your month's income plus one dollar to a charity of your choice, in addition to your usual commitments. Through this ancient Western and Eastern tradition of tithing, one learns the way of giving sacrifice joyfully.
• Look for ways to reduce your possessions, acquisitions and energy consumption at least 10%.
• Conquer anger, laziness and selfish thoughts.
• Vow to give special love to your family and reach out to others, beyond your blocks and fears.
• Experiment with a practice of silence (see Swami Veda's booklet Silence
for more about silence). This could be through observing your speech in daily life to see if you are using more words than necessary, speaking louder than necessary and if your tone and voice evokes a positive response in the listener. You could undertake to practice a half day of silence or a longer period. “Silence should not merely be an absence of speech. If it is merely an abstinence from speech it can even be emotionally and spiritually damaging. Unless one has filled oneself within there is no silence. Fill yourself with meditation. Fill yourself with contemplation. Fill yourself with your mantra…” – Swami Veda Bharati
• Take a one or two-day, or longer, personal retreat.
On Guru Purnima day you may decide to continue with certain observances to strengthen your resolve and establish a habit, or undertake further observances of self-purification for next year.
Do please proceed, and may the Guru Spirit
thereby be pleased and confer its grace upon all of us.
1 As Swami Ritavan has written, “Celebrating Guru Purnima is a joy beyond words, a deep stillness that echoes a wholeness and holiness. A wholeness that provides the answers to our pursuits, our yearnings and reveals a purpose for life. To live and to love with a heart unconditioned by conflict, and a mind, unified beyond division.”
2 “Sangha Practice for the Next 3 Years”
by Swami Ritavan
“Advancing Guidance in Yoga Sadhana”
by Swami Ritavan
“Saumya Mantra Explanations”
3 SAUNDARYA LAHARI, VERSE 3 by Shankaracharya
avidyānāṁ antas-timira-mihirod dvīpana-karī
jaḍānāṁ chaitanya-stabaka-makaranda-śhruti sṛtiḥ
daridrāṇāṁ chintā-maṇi-guṇanikā janma-jaladhau
nimagnānāṁ daṁṣṭrā mura-ripu varāhasya bhavatī.
Thou art the sun that dispels the darkness of the ignorant;
to the unknowing Thou art a spiritual flower overflowing with honey;
to the needy Thou art the gem which bestows one’s heart’s desires;
and to those who are drowned in the ocean of births and deaths,
Thou art the Rescuer.
SAUNDARYA LAHARI, VERSE 27 by Shankaracharya
japo jalpaḥ śhilpam sakalam api mudrā virachanam
gatiḥ prādakśhiṇya-kramaṇam aśhan ādyāhuti-vidhiḥ
praṇāmas-saṃveśhas-sukham akhilam ātmārpaṇa-daśhā
saparyā-paryāyas tava bhavatu yan me vilasitam
“Oh, Supreme Divine Mother,
Whatever action of mine, may it be intended for and dedicated to Your worship:
As Swami Ritavan has written, “Celebrating Guru Purnima is a joy beyond words, a deep stillness that echoes a wholeness and holiness. A wholeness that provides the answers to our pursuits, our yearnings and reveals a purpose for life. To live and to love with a heart unconditioned by conflict, and a mind, unified beyond division.”
4The installation of the Tara Shrine took place on March 31st & April 1st, 2012. To appreciate the profundity of this event and its relationship to the Saumya-Tara Mantra, please read the article “The Birth of The Lady of Compassion at SRSG.”