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How Our Soul Matures

Bodhinatha presents a new pattern for "Hinduism Today" whereby the "Publisher's Desk" discourse will be podcast through Apple's Music Store. He then reads the July, August, September 2006 Hinduism Today Publisher's Desk entitled: "How Our Soul Matures." After the reading Bodhinatha provides bhashya on the topic "How Our Soul Matures" and "What is the relevance of Hinduism to the modern world." He explains how every one of us has the ability to experience God.

Unedited Transcript:

This morning I'm reading a "Publisher's Desk." We started a new pattern last quarter. The "Publisher's Desk" two page article in "Hinduism Today," is being recorded and that recording is being used in two ways. One is in our new "Hinduism Today" digital edition, the recording is part of the digital edition so not only can you read the "Publisher's Desk" article you can also listen to it which is an extra bonus. And then we've also started pod casting it. And for those of you who aren't familiar with pod casting, it's a way that you place a recording on Apple's Music Store web site and it gets listed, in our case being religious, it gets listed in the religious section. So we have a section for the "Publisher's Desk" recording and people can subscribe to it so that it automatically comes to them when a new version is issued be it, in our case, quarterly or monthly or weekly or daily, whatever. They simply log into the Music Store and anything they've subscribed to automatically downloads into their computer. So it's a very good system and we hope to have a number of Gurudeva's recordings offered through subscription in the near future. We just started with the "Publisher's Desk." But we'd like to get some of Gurudeva's Master Course recordings and other material as separate subscriptions there so it'd be available on a regular basis to everyone. So it's reaching out to a new audience, very broad general audience when you place something in the Music Store subscriptions. And the best part is it's free to everyone. There's no cost to us to place it there and there's no cost to the listener to download it and get it. It's all a service of Apple because it increases the traffic to the store and of course when you go into a store what do you do usually? You buy something. So of course they're hoping that people will go there to get free things and end up buying different things. You can buy the latest episode of "Desperate Housewives" for a $1.99, it's a real bargain, and other things as well that are more educational. So, going to read this and we're hoping for no mistakes but if we, if our tongue gets tied around a word, might be one of these Sanskrit words, I'll repeat the sentence. So that's why I'm repeating the sentence so that the first version of it can be edited out and the second version remain. I'll read the intro, the title and the subtitle which, we don't want to put that on the recording, but gives everyone here an idea of what it's about. So this will be in the July, August, September issue of "Hinduism Today" which we wrap up at the end of this month, right? End of April? That's when we wrap it up it gets printed in May and shipped in May and our readership gets it in June. So, and then our goal is to put the digital edition on a month early. So magazine's July 1. so we're hoping put the digital edition on the web June 1st as well as the pod cast on the Music Store side on June 1st.

Title is: "How Our Soul Matures."

Subtitle: "People the world over are working for spiritual advancement. But just what is the soul and how does it progress and mature."

"In Hindu thought the concept of life and the soul are synonymous. For example, the Sanskrit word jiva refers to both and contains the meanings of individual soul, living being, life, vitality, energy, spirit and strength. The Tamil word uyir has the same double meaning of life and soul.

The soul, which is so perplexing and seemingly out of reach to many, can be understood simply as life itself. One of the advantages of this simple description is that it makes it easy to experience the soul. How can we do this? Just look into a mirror. Specifically, look deeply into your eyes and see the light and sparkle within them. That life, vitality, willpower and awareness is your soul, your divinity, the real you, that which continues on after the physical body's passing. Looking into the eyes of another, you can become aware of the life within that person and thereby see the soul and acknowledge his or her divine nature.

The Tamil word uyirkuyir takes this concept of divinity one step further. It is translated as "God, who is the Life of life, the Soul of the soul." A philosophical phrase that conveys the same meaning is "God is the essence of the soul," implying that if you look deeply enough into the soul, you will experience God.

How do we know, when seeing the life within ourselves or others, if we are experiencing the individual, evolving soul, or experiencing God as the essence of the soul, the Life of life? Here is one way to make that distinction. When we are perceiving an individual soul or souls, there is a sense that every soul is separate from the others. When we perceive God as the Life of life, that sense of separateness is replaced with a sense of oneness. Thus, if you can look at a group of people and be aware of the divine oneness that pervades them all, you would be seeing God in them. This deeper experience is achieved through internalizing our awareness, going deeply inside ourselves through worship or meditation.

An analogy can be made to japa beads. We can focus on the beads and perceive them as 109 separate beads. We can also focus on the cord on which they are strung and see the oneness that connects all the beads. A popular story about Paramaguru Yogaswami illustrates this point. There were four people gathered to sing devotional songs in his small hut one day. Yogaswami asked, "How many are here?" Someone replied, "Four, swami." Yogaswami countered, "No. Only one is here." He saw the unity; they saw the diversity.

The Hindu idea that God is inside every person as the essence of the soul, which can be experienced today, is quite different from the concept of Western religions that God is up in heaven and cannot be experienced by those living on Earth. They believe they have to die to meet God. Gurudeva often spoke of the immediacy of God's presence: "God is so close to us. He is closer than our breathing, nearer to us than our hands or feet. Yes, He is the very essence of our soul."

Turning now to the goal of life, we know the Hindu perspective is that life's ultimate purpose is to make spiritual progress. This is also described as evolving, maturing or unfolding spiritually. All of these terms refer to enjoying ever more profound realizations of God - personal experiences that deepen our understandings of life and transform our very nature - culminating in moksha, liberation from rebirth on planet Earth.

We can usefully distinguish here the Hindu view of the spiritual destination - experience of God and subsequent liberation - and the journey to that destination, which we are speaking of here. By focusing on the journey and the steps in front of us, we progress more surely and swiftly.

Let's ask the question, "What, exactly, is it that makes this spiritual progress?" Not the personality. Not the intellect. Not the emotions. It is, of course, the soul. In thinking of spiritual progress, it is helpful to understand the concept of the soul as a human-like, self-effulgent form comprised of the life and light we previously talked about. Technically, there are two terms in Sanskrit for this immortal soul body: anandamaya kosha, "bliss body," and karana sharira, "causal body." Just as our physical body matures from an infant into an adult, so too does this self-effulgent body of light mature in resplendence and intelligence, evolving as its consciousness expands, gradually strengthening its inner nerve system, progressing from ignorance of God to intimate communion with God. In Sanskrit, this advancing on the path is called adhyatma prasara, spiritual evolution. It is a process that takes place over many lifetimes, not just one.

Gurudeva shared, from his own experience, a mystical description of the soul body in Merging with Siva: "One day you will see the being of you, your divine soul body. You will see it inside the physical body. It looks like clean, clear plastic. Around it is a blue light, and the outline of it is whitish yellow. Inside of it is blue-yellowish light, and there are trillions of little nerve currents, or quantums, and light scintillating all through that. This body stands on a lotus flower. Inwardly looking down through your feet, you see you are standing on a big, beautiful lotus flower. This body has a head, it has eyes, and it has infinite intelligence. It is tuned into and feeds from the source of all energy." Similar descriptions of the soul as a body of light are found in our sacred scriptures and in yogis' writings.

Let's turn now to the question of what can we do to hasten the unfoldment of our soul. In Hindu thought, there are fourteen great nerve centers in the physical body (sthula sharira), in the astral body (sukshma sharira) and in the body of the soul (karana sharira). These centers are called chakras in Sanskrit, which means "wheels." Esoterically, spiritual unfoldment relates to the raising of the kundalini force, the serpent power, and the subsequent awakening of these chakras within our subtle bodies. Everyone has all of the chakras, though they usually are content to live in only a few.

There are six chakras above the muladhara chakra, which is located at the base of the spine. When awareness is flowing through these chakras, consciousness is in the higher nature. There are seven chakras below the muladhara chakra, and when awareness is flowing through them, consciousness is in the lower nature. Most Hindu teachings regarding the chakras focus on the yogi's awakening, balancing or stimulating the muladhara chakra and the six above. These seven centers of consciousness govern, in order, memory, reason, willpower, direct cognition, divine love, divine sight and illumination/Godliness. However, my guru has a different emphasis. He states that spiritual unfoldment is not a process of awakening the higher chakras, but of closing the chakras below the muladhara. The seven chakras, or talas, below the spine, down to the feet, are all seats of instinctive consciousness, the origin, respectively, of fear, anger, jealousy, confusion, selfishness, absence of conscience and malice.

Brahmadvara, the doorway to the Narakaloka located just below the muladhara, has to be sealed off so that it becomes impossible for fears, hatreds, angers and jealousies to arise. Once this begins to happen, the muladhara chakra is stabilized and consciousness slowly and naturally expands into the higher chakras. As the kundalini force of awareness travels along the spine, it enters each of these higher chakras, energizing them and awakening, in turn, each function according to the intensity of spiritual effort.

This understanding of the centrality of sealing off the lower chakras highlights how important emotional control is to our spiritual progress. Certainly the emotion that is the most important for people on the spiritual path to control is anger. Just possessing the knowledge that anger prevents us from experiencing the higher chakras increases our motivation to live a life that is totally free from this devastating force. Anger comes in many forms, ranging from frustration and resentment to uncontrollable rage. In its simplest shade, it is an instinctive, emotional protest to happenings at a particular moment. "Things are just not right!" anger shrieks. The source of peace and contentment is the opposite sentiment - a wholesome, intelligent acceptance of life's conditions, based on the understanding that God has given us a perfect universe in which to grow and learn, and each challenge or seeming imperfection we encounter is an opportunity for spiritual advancement. To those who are anger-prone, I advise replacing that fuming reaction with an affirmation that everything is just as it should be in God's perfect universe.

An initial focus on controlling anger and the other lower emotions and instincts is wisely built into the traditional concept of yoga as having eight limbs. The first limb is yama, which means restraint and is exactly what we have described - controlling our base emotions and instincts. Unfortunately, many modern yoga teachers and texts leave out this essential step that allows us to keep awareness above the lower chakras. Having sealed off the lower chakras, we are naturally drawn to be of service to others, to worship regularly and thereby deepen our devotion to God and to look within through meditation to experience our soul nature and eventually God's indwelling presence as our very essence.

The regular practice of these traditional spiritual disciplines not only keeps our awareness in the higher chakras, it also provides nourishment to the soul body. The soul body starts to grow within the emotional body. Gurudeva described this growth process by saying that the soul body grows like a child, fed by all of our good deeds. All of our service and selfless actions toward others feed that body. All of our working with ourselves to conquer instinctive emotions is food for that body, as it draws from the central source of energy. Finally, the spiritual body matures to the point where it becomes aware in the superconscious, intuitive mind, taking on more spiritual force from the Infinite. Ultimately, it takes over the astral emotional-intellectual body. And after moksha is achieved, it continues maturing in the inner worlds."

OK, not too many mistakes, huh, about three or four. So, I'll do my own bhashya, my own commentary. So what is this addressing? Well, it's addressing the concept of the purpose of life. Or said another way - that's a question you often get - What is the relevance of Hinduism to the modern world? Well you ever thought or heard that question asked? Heard somebody else's children ask that question, you know, it's a common question, and of course it's being asked because those asking the question feel Hinduism is old fashioned in some way, that it's, the modern world is kind of leaving Hinduism behind. So, this is showing, well when we think about the modern world and think about life we have to ask ourselves: "What is the purpose of life?" And that's where Hinduism comes into play. So, you know where religion, all religions come into play. Without religion the purpose of life is simply a material purpose, you know, we're here to enjoy life, we're here to, as we say in, artha and kama, selvam let's see, imbam and selvam. Pleasure and wealth are the purposes of life. And if we don't have a religion, life is oriented toward family and toward wealth and profession and that's the end of it. So the various religions of the world add some other purpose to life. So, in the case of Hinduism - because Hinduism believes in many lives - it adds the purpose; well more important than wealth and love is spiritual progress. That's the relevance of Hinduism to modern life, it says: We're not simply here to enjoy family and to become wealthy, we're here to make spiritual progress. We don't want to forget that. So, Hinduism reminds us of that. And so that's the core question it's answering, but then it's taking it further.

OK, we're talking about spiritual progress, so what is it that makes spiritual progress? So we say it's the soul, more specifically it's the soul body, and then we describe the soul body in Gurudeva's beautiful vision of the soul body, makes it very real in everyone's mind. So then we have this vision of the soul body. And another analogy I use is the variable light switch. You know the one on the wall where you turn it to the right and the light gets brighter? So, if it's turned to the left and it's on, the light is dim, right? And if you're turning it to the right the light gets brighter. So that's another analogy for spiritual progress. The light bulb is the analogy to the soul. We start out in our initial births and the light isn't very bright. And by following a religious life the light gets brighter and brighter. Our soul gets brighter and brighter. That's the spiritual maturity in a visual sense. But it's always a light, it's just it's getting brighter as the text says, by performing religious actions of service, devotion, meditation, controlling the lower emotions is very very crucial part of that. And the soul matures and has deeper and deeper experiences of God.

So one of the problems in Hinduism, when you simply say the goal of life is moksha is, sounds pretty far away. What does that have to do with me in this life? Moksha! Oh that's ten twenty years, twenty lifetimes from now, you know, it's hard to relate to. Just sounds so far away. So this text doesn't stress moksha, it just mentions it at the end but it says: "An ever deepening experience of God starting with an experience of the soul." So, that's what it's focusing on. And it makes the experience of the soul foolproof. You know everyone can look in the mirror and see the light and sparkle in their eyes, right? So, everyone can experience their soul. There's no one on the planet who can't experience the soul. So you have a positive experience here to start with. OK this sounds pretty easy. I can do that. I can even look into the eyes of my family members and close friends. I can see there soul too. This isn't so hard after all. And then we take that philosophically deeper and say: "Well don't stop there, go into the soul. Internalize awareness. Go into the soul through worship or meditation and experience God." Cause God's right there within the soul. If you can experience the soul you just have to go within that a little bit to experience God. It's real easy. And as Gurudeva says: "God is closer than your breathing." What a wonderful statement. The opposite of talking about moksha which sounds ten lifetimes away: "God is closer than your breathing." So, we get this sense, it's easy to experience the soul and we go deeply into the soul, we can experience God. And then we even have a way of verifying we experience God.

Well if we see everything as One then we know we're experiencing God. And it's one of Yogaswami's favorite teachings. He liked to stress that. And there's a nice story about that. Quite often people would go to Yogaswami and talk to him and Yogaswami would say: "I am in you." What does that mean? Yogaswami only saw the One. He never saw two. He just lived in that state of Oneness. Everybody, he was everybody. Everybody who came to him. He was everybody because he was inside of everything. Just a state of mind he held. So everyone would say: "Oh yes swami, yes," you know. That's all he'd say back. But, you know, he said that to Gurudeva one day. He said: "I am in you." And Gurudeva responded back: "I am in you." He may have been the first and only person to respond back in that way, I don't know. We're working on Yogaswami stories but it's a wonderful story you know and it shows a lot of things, but it ties in nicely with our talk this morning which is that it was one of Yogaswami's strong themes. He's constantly trying to, he wasn't saying it to show off, you know. There's a nice phrase, it's just easy enough that I can say it in Tamil: "Anandam anandam anandam, ingum angum engum nan. That's what he said. "Bliss, bliss bliss, here, there, everywhere am I. " So, what's unusual about that? You think it would, here there everywhere would end: here there everywhere is Siva, right? That's how you think it would end. Bliss, bliss, bliss, here, there, everywhere is Siva. No! "Bliss, bliss, bliss, here, there, everywhere am I." So you see he focuses on this all the time. This consciousness of his being the One consciousness that permeates everything, which is Siva. But why is he doing that? As I say he's not doing that to impress others with his attainment, he's doing that to encourage them to change their perspective. He's encouraging them toward this realization that God permeates everything, has a unitive consciousness. And it's something you can experience, it's not distant. Don't have to wait till you die. Don't have to wait till twenty lifetimes from now to achieve moksha. You know you can experience it right now. God is closer than your breathing as Gurudeva says. So, it's a wonderful theme that our parampara puts forward, both Yogaswami and Gurudeva, the idea of the unity of consciousness as God, and as something we can experience through self discipline and particularly through devotional or meditative practices.

OK, have a wonderful week.

Aum Namah Sivaya

[End of transcript]

Photo of  Gurudeva
How do we practice contentment? Simply do not harm others by thought, word or deed.