Today the monks held a morning homa, invoking the inner worlds for blessings and guidance, while worshiping Siva in the sacred fire. Afterward Satguru Bodhinatha gave a talk about the power of any form of worship, being largely dependent upon the worshiper's devotion. He read from today's Lesson from Merging with Siva:
What do we mean by internalizing worship? In external worship we are trying to see God and communicate with God with our two eyes and our physical nerve system. We enjoy His darshan and feel His shakti. In deep meditation, the external worship is deliberately internalized, and we are trying to see God with our third eye and feel God's all-pervasiveness through our psychic nerve system. Externalizing bhakti is really much easier than internalizing it. But once the externalized bhakti is perfected, it will be easy and natural to internalize bhakti right along. When this is accomplished, the most rigorous hurdles and time-consuming practices of yoga, which often lead the person onto anava marga, will have been side-stepped.
To internalize worship, after the puja is over, sit before the Deity and draw into yourself all the pranas you feel around your body. Then draw those energies up the spine into the head. This is done with the mind and with the breath. It is very easy to do. It is especially easy when one is at the end of a major karmic cycle. The bhakti of uncompromising surrender, prapatti, to the God during a temple puja awakens the amrita. The amrita is the sweet essence from the sahasrara chakra. It is the binding yoke to the Divine. Bind yourself in the lotus posture after temple worship and simply internalize all the feeling that you had for the God during the worship. That's all there is to it. The yogi yoked within enjoys the amrita that flows from the cranium throughout his body. Devotees who want to awaken the higher chakras and sustain that awakening on the safe path will throw themselves into becoming uncompromising bhaktars. Then all the Gods of all three worlds will open their hearts and shower their blessings upon them.
What is my advice for those who find such uncompromising surrender hard to imagine but realize it is their next step on the path? Go on a pilgrimage once a year, read scriptures daily, perform puja daily, go to the temple at least once a week, if not more often--fulfill these disciplines, known as the pancha nitya karmas. This is the basic Saiva Siddhanta sadhana.
But on another level, one will not be able to fulfill the pancha nitya karmas if he or she is not fulfilling the yamas and the niyamas, for these are the character-builders. We must possess a good character to be successful in bhakti yoga. Therefore, begin at the beginning. Right thought produces right speech, which produces right action. Right thought is produced through the knowledge of dharma, karma, samsara and the all-pervasiveness of God. This knowledge correctly understood disallows the devotee from having wrong thoughts. He simply has right thought, and of course, right speech and action follow naturally.
Saiva Siddhanta extols the guru and says that when the student is ready, one will appear. The guru will always restate the dharma to a devotee who is having problems with bhakti yoga practices. He will always direct the mind to the beginning teachings, for it would be obvious that the student does not understand one or more of them. If the devotee is not following the pancha nitya karmas or the yamas and niyamas, it is obvious that purified knowledge of these four areas--dharma, karma, samsara and Sivaness--needs to be strengthened.
Individual practices to advance spiritual unfoldment include prostrating before God, Gods and guru, full body, face down, arms and hands outstretched, and in that act, total giving up, giving up, giving up, giving up. In Sanskrit it is called pranipata, "falling down in obeisance." What are these devoted ones giving up? By this act they are giving the lower energies to the higher energies. It is a merger, a blending. When one is performing this traditional devotional act, awakening true prapatti, it is easy to see the lower energies from the base of the spine, the muladhara chakra, rising, rising, rising up the spine through all six chakras above it and out through the top of the head. It is transmuting, changing the form of, the base energies which breed conflict and resistance, "mine and yours" and "you and me," division, insecurity and separateness, into the spiritual energies of "us and we," amalgamation, security, togetherness.
Once the giving up of the lower is total--body and face on the ground, hands outstretched before the image of God, Gods or guru--those energies are surrendered into the higher chakras within the devotee, and it is a blissful moment, into the consciousness of "us and ours," "we and oneness," and inseparable love, thus claiming their individuality, not as a separate thing, but as a shared oneness with all. Thereafter, these devoted ones, having been transformed, are able to uplift others, to harmonize forces around them that they work with day after day after day, year after year after year. This total surrender, prapatti, is the meaning of Siddhanta. This is the true meaning of Vedanta. The combination of both, and the pure practice of prapatti, as just described, brings out from within the deeper meanings of Vedanta, the Vedic philosophy, without having to depend on the path of words, lectures and debates. My satguru was once heard saying, "It's not in books, you fool."