Living with Śiva

The Master Course

Pradhāna Pāṭhyakramaḥ
प्रधान पाठ्यक्रमः

imageRAWN FROM A LIFETIME OF WISDOM GIVEN FORTH TO SATISFY THE THIRST OF THOUSANDS OF SEEKERS, LIVING WITH ŚIVA, HINDUISM’S CONTEMPORARY CULTURE IS THE SECOND BOOK OF A REMARKABLE TRILOGY. THE FIRST BOOK IS DANCING WITH Śiva, Hinduism’s Contemporary Catechism, and the third is Merging with Śiva, Hinduism’s Contemporary Metaphysics. These three make up a Master Course to be studied daily, 365 days a year. It was in 1957 that the first edition of The Master Course was developed to serve the needs of devotees who worshiped at our temple, the first Hindu temple in America. Since then it has taken many forms: as lessons for personal study, a correspondence course and a series of tape recordings, twelve in all, recorded in the Guru Pīṭham at Kauai Aadheenam in 1970. A beautiful children’s course on the Śaivite religion came out of it in 1993; and now, in the year 2001, after two decades of effort, The Master Course has emerged in its final form as three textbooks, Dancing with Śiva, Living with Śiva and Merging with Śiva, each with 1,000 or more pages of information, insight and sādhanas. The Master Course trilogy is a detailed summary and explanation of ashṭāṅga yoga according to the traditions of our lineage, the Nandinātha Sampradāya’s Kailāsa Paramparā. Ashṭāṅga yoga, also called rāja yoga, has eight successive steps, each one dependent upon the one that precedes it. These eight successive steps are yama (restraint), niyama (observance), āsana (posture), prāṇāyāma (breath control), pratyāhāra (sense withdrawal), dhāraṇā (concentration), dhyāna (meditation) and samādhi (contemplation). §

Often the uninformed prefer to start on their spiritual path at steps seven and eight, ignoring the other six, and more than often wonder why no immediate and lasting results are obtained. Drawing upon over half a century of teaching and explaining, the trilogy articulates in no uncertain terms why you must begin at the beginning, with a firm foundation of philosophical clarity and good character, and proceed from there. §

Dancing with Śiva, the first book of the trilogy, lays out the philosophical, Vedic-Āgamic beliefs, attitudes and expectations of the Śaivite Hindu religion, which are so necessary to understand, adopt and uphold in order to make true progress in the areas discussed in the other two books. Living with Śiva, the second book of the trilogy, concerns itself with Śaivite lifestyle, culture, family life, character-building and the overcoming of uncomplimentary habits that disturb others as well as oneself. It focuses on yama, niyama and, in a lesser way, āsana and prāṇāyāma (haṭha yoga). For the entire system of ashṭāṅga yoga to work, a firm philosophical-cultural foundation, as found in Dancing with Śiva and Living with Śiva, must be subconsciously accepted by the devotee as his own way of looking at and living life, relating it to experience, solving problems, approaching worship and so forth. Merging with Śiva, the third book of the trilogy, encompasses steps five, six and seven, leading to eight, all of which is personally experiential once we learn to dance with Śiva and live with Śiva. This means having a good philosophical understanding, a solid commitment, as well as good character, and living the religion. Upon such a foundation, the yogic and metaphysical experiences described in Merging come naturally and are sustainable.§

The Master Course trilogy is a daily, lifetime study for my devotees worldwide to be explored year after year after year, generation after generation. Through great effort we have summarized this entire study of more than 3,000 pages into 365 Nandinātha Sūtras of four lines each that make up Part Four of Living with Śiva. The Master Course is a life-transforming study organized in 365 daily lessons. Devotees may begin at any time—and whatever time lesson one is begun is the most auspicious time—then continue right around the year until 365 lessons are complete. If you are ready to change your life, begin The Master Course today. If not, then perhaps tomorrow. There are three ways to study The Master Course: 1) Internet Study; 2) Home Study; and 3) Formal Correspondence Study.§

1. INTERNET STUDY: The Internet Study can be begun immediately at any time. The current lesson of the day is found on the Internet at in the The Master Course Daily Lesson section. Or you can receive it via e-mail by sending a message to The lessons begin on the first day of the Tamil calendar year, in mid-April, but can be commenced on any day during the year. You need not wait for day one of the year to roll around. Start with the current lesson, which might be number 132—and consider your year complete when you reach lesson 131. You will find the lessons filled with philosophical, practical and soul-stirring information potent enough to inspire even a skeptic to change his ways of thinking about life and the ultimate goal of existence on this planet. Begin now. Today is the most auspicious time. §

2. HOME STUDY: The Master Course Home Study requires the ownership of the three books of the trilogy. Begin your daily reading on any Monday with Dancing with Śiva, śloka one and its bhāshya. Then open Living with Śiva and read Lesson 1. Next, turn to the Nandinātha Sūtras in Part Four of Living with Śiva and read the first sūtra. Lastly, open Merging with Śiva and read the first lesson. Reading each day’s lesson from the three books takes about twenty minutes. Because there are only 155 lessons (ślokas and bhāshyas) in Dancing with Śiva, when you complete lesson 155 of this book, begin again at the beginning. Then, when you complete the second reading, totalling 310 days, begin again with lesson one, and continue reading until lesson 55, to coincide with lesson 365 of Living with Śiva and Merging with Śiva. If you study these lessons each day for a year, you will have completed a profound sādhana, a personal odyssey into the interior of you and on into the depths of Hinduism, a practice sufficient to transform your life by transforming the way you look at life itself. The Master Course trilogy of Dancing, Living and Merging with Śiva can be enjoyed by the entire family year after year after year, studied personally and read aloud at breakfast, dinner or in the shrine room after the morning pūjā. Proceed with confidence and without delay. §

3. FORMAL CORRESPONDENCE STUDY: The Master Course Correspondence Study is for those who seek a personalized, supervised approach. This is a service offered by Himalayan Academy since 1957. It requires formal enrollment and qualification, openly describing the goals one wishes to accomplish and the details of one’s background, education and experience. Correspondent students are required to purchase the color edition of all three books. They have access to regular e-mail news reports, discounts on Innersearch Travel-Study Programs and special attention when visiting the monastery in Hawaii. E-mail for more information.§

A word of advice: There is a strong tendency when a student first begins meditation to want to give up external things, to give up work and devote more time to making his meditation the perfect thing. But this is not the spirit of The Master Course. Many more forces that are negative would result from his turning away from the world as possibly already occurred in his work in the exterior world prior to his ever hearing about meditation. The thrust of The Master Course Correspondence Study is to improve all aspects of one’s life. Step one is for the student to prove to himself that he can work positively in the world, performing his duties with full energy, intuiting how the whole mechanism of life is constructed—the exterior world, his mind, himself. Then ten, fifteen or twenty minutes of good, dynamic meditation a day and The Master Course studies to guide the mind along in a step-by-step manner are more than sufficient. It comes down to readjusting our thinking and making our point of reference the reality within ourselves instead of the reality and permanence of the external world of things, forms and fancy. Once our whole philosophical structure is in line with Śaiva Siddhānta thinking, it is easy to throw the mind into meditation. Then when we are working in our daily life, involved in external things and material affairs, the point of reference is that the energy within and the core of the energy and the Self itself are real. §

The key is to put more energy into each activity you are engaged in. Rather than renouncing it, really work at it. Put your whole self in it. Get enthusiastic about it. Then you are flooding more life force through the body, right from the center of life itself. Having the Self as a point of reality reference and not the material things, with the life force constantly flooding through these nerve currents, you are actually seeing what you are doing as part of the cosmic dance of Śiva, as the energy of Śiva flows in and through you. Through this practice you can cut through many of your deep-rooted subconscious hang-ups that were provoked in past lives without having them come to the surface, simply by creating a new habit pattern of facing and looking at yourself as a divine being performing your dharma in God Śiva’s perfect universe. You create the new habit patterns by doing everything as best you can, with as much forethought and as much energy as you can command. This approach will bring steady progress on the path of personal spiritual realization and transformation. Write or e-mail us for an application to begin the supervised sādhanas of The Master Course Correspondence Study. We welcome you. It won’t be easy, but anything worthwhile is not easy. §