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Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization

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The cave of the heart is the dwelling place of both the individual spirit (jivatman) and the Supreme Spirit (Paramatman): “There are two selves that drink the fruit of Karma in the world of good deeds. Both are lodged in the secret place (of the heart), the chief seat of the Supreme” (Katha Upanishad 1:3:1). The Advaya Tarakopanishad in verse eight says: “One tries to find the turiya state hidden in the cave of the heart,” turiya, pure consciousness, being the essential nature of the Spirit-Self.

To “dwell in the cave of the heart” is to have our consciousness established fully and permanently in the Self. That, and that alone, is the goal of our life. This is not something that takes place after death, but an experience that can be lived right now in the material body, for matter is simply frozen spirit and not inconsistent with spiritual realization. It is our delusions which make the separation and blind us to the ever-present reality of Spirit.

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All sentient beings are headed toward divinity, not just sainthood. We must aim for the top because that is our inherent destiny, and in the process we may help others along the same path.

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Not even material embodiment can diminish the power and glory of the Self (Atman). Therefore when we correctly enter into the experience and consciousness of the Self we shall be in touch with that power and attain perfect (and permanent) realization when we are established in it.

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It is commonly thought that the way to be free from desire is to fulfill all desires. But that just keeps us in the cycle of ever-rising desires. Trying to stop them by fulfilling them is like pouring gasoline on a fire to put it out. It will only get bigger and hotter. The only way is for us to find and possess that which renders all other things pointless, revealing them as nothing. The sages of India have told us this one thing is the Self which is to be united with the Supreme Self–the jivatman with the Paramatman. Therefore the only path to moksha is the yoga which leads us to that Supreme Attainment, the Paramartha. And only the persevering yogi will succeed in that path. The Bhagavad Gita tell us:

“He whose happiness is within, whose delight is within, whose illumination is within: that yogi, identical in being with Brahman, attains Brahmanirvana” (5:24).

“The yogi whose mind is truly tranquil, with emotions calmed, free of evil, having become one with Brahman, attains the supreme happiness.

“Thus constantly engaging himself in the practice of yoga, that yogi, freed from evil, easily touching Brahman, attains boundless happiness.

“He who is steadfast in yoga (yoga-yukta) at all times sees the Self present in all beings and all beings present in the Self.

“He who sees me everywhere, and sees all things in me–I am not lost to him, and he is not lost to me.

“He, established in unity, worships me dwelling in all things. Whatever be his mode of life, that yogi ever abides in me.

“He who judges pleasure or pain by the same standard everywhere that he applies unto himself, that yogi is deemed the highest” (6:27-32).

The faith we need is faith in the truth of the Eternal Self and the possibility of regaining full awareness of the Self: Self-realization. Without this, desirelessness is impossible, for what else is there but material existence if the realm of spirit is unknown to us? Of course we will run after all the mirages within the big mirage of maya, for they alone will be real to us. Consequently only bondage is possible for us, and liberation will be unthought-of and therefore unattainable.

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To be an authentic Sanatana Dharmi is a lifework requiring continual study and application of what is learned. As Vivekananda said in Jnana Yoga: “Say to your own minds, ‘I am He, I am He.’ Let it ring day and night in your minds like a song, and at the point of death declare ‘I am He.’ That is the Truth; the infinite strength of the world is yours. Drive out the superstition that has covered your minds. Let us be brave. Know the Truth and practice the Truth. The goal may be distant, but awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached.”

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To not seek Self-realization as our prime objective in life is to waste incarnation after incarnation, compounding our ignorance and rendering that realization more and more difficult to attain when we do develop the intelligence to turn back from the unreal and seek the Real.

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Satchidananda is in us as our essential being just as we are in Satchidananda as Its essential being. Though two, we are one. This cannot be perfectly comprehended by the human intellect, but as Yogananda said, it can be known by the yogi in direct realization. This is what yoga is all about. This unity must be recovered, although it has not really been lost to us–it has been forgotten. Self-realization is a remembering of our Self and of Brahman, the Self of our Self.

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Although we experience the world as a prison, the bondage is not only in our mind, it is our mind in its present state. There is only one solution: the attainment of liberation in which only freedom is perceived.

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Self-realization is the only purpose of life itself. To not pursue that realization is to be totally without purpose and therefore to live in confusion and frustration birth after birth. Those who think that the pursuit of liberation is a kind of secondary purpose to life and that it can be relegated to second place are profoundly deluded. Those who offer God second place offer him no place. No matter how many karmic strands we may have to manage in our life, still our spiritual realization must be first in priority at all times.

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“Night and day, night and day, I look for Thee night and day. Door of my heart open wide I keep for Thee.” During part of my university years I used to sing this chant of Yogananda’s in desperation as I walked across the campus where everything was being sought except God. “Will my days fly away without seeing Thee, my Lord?” I sang, having seen the truth of Lahiri Mahasaya’s words: “If you don’t invite God to be your summer Guest, He will not come in the winter of your life.”

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I had read more than once the words of Yoganandaji in the twenty-fourth chapter of his autobiography: “To allot God a secondary place in life was, to me, inconceivable. Though He is the sole Owner of the cosmos, silently showering us with gifts from life to life, one thing yet remains which He does not own, and which each human heart is empowered to withhold or bestow–man’s love. The Creator, in taking infinite pains to shroud with mystery His presence in every atom of creation, could have had but one motive–a sensitive desire that men seek Him only through free will. With what velvet glove of every humility has He not covered the iron hand of omnipotence!”

As Yogananda’s greatest disciple, Sister Gyanamata, said: God First. God Alone.

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When liberation is only a theory to us, and we have not really grasped the implications of the nature of our own divine Self, we think that moksha is not just in the future, but “way over there” in a vague pseudo-metaphysical way. Mostly this is because the erroneous concepts of the Western religion we grew up in or were surrounded by are ingrained in us to some degree. But when we shake them off and take the Upanishads and Gita at their word and understand what they say about the Self, then we know that we are the Self right now and only have to experience that. And since the Self is within us, there is nowhere to go or any external acts for us to do. We need only learn the way to turn within and enter fully into Self-experience, and it is done–not as quickly as it takes to say that, but still not countless lifetimes away as most people (even in India) think. Our search must be intelligent through our mind becoming completely directed and illumined by the buddhi. Intelligence and discrimination are absolutely necessary lest we mistake some stage along the way for the Goal. (This is a common error.)

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Self-realization is the eternal state of the Self. That alone is liberation. Yogis wander through lifetimes because they do not one-pointedly seek the Self. Readers of Autobiography of a Yogi will remember the accounts of Swami Keshabananda there. I knew some disciples of Keshabananda, and they told me amazing stories of his yogic powers. Keshabananda even materialized after his death when he so willed. Yet Master Yogananda said that he did not attain liberation in that life because of his attachment to miracles.

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To become totally liberated is a matter so great and high that it is beyond our conception. Because we do not realize its nature we can mistake a point on the way for the end. Those who are being taught by Sri Yukteswar in Hiranyaloka would seem God to us if they incarnated now, but they still need to keep moving onward through yoga even there at the heights of the astral world. And when they graduate from there they will have the even vaster reaches of the causal world to traverse! Those who do so and return to this world are avataras.

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Yogananda described the experience of God as “ever new joy,” implying that enlightenment is not a static condition, but is ever new. The Self possesses a perennial newness; it is always sunrise, always looking forward to new heights and new depths. Just how this is, or how it can be, is for us to find out by experiencing It ourselves.

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Every moment of our lives we are being tested–not to reveal to God our worth, but to reveal to us our true worth or lack thereof. Satyam eva jayate. The truth alone will prevail.

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To know the Self and God the Self of the Self is the eager yearning of each one of us. But lifetimes of karmic debris (samskaras and vasanas) have either buried or so distorted it that practically speaking we have lost it. Therefore we have no lasting happiness or peace because we continually violate our nature at every moment of our ego-directed and materialistic life. Only the yogi has the possibility of everlasting peace and joy in the Self.

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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