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The Vakhs–Part 4–The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari

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The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari: A Commentary on the Mystical Poetry of the Great Yogini of Kashmir by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke)

Lalla Yogeshwari, also known as Lalleshwari or Lad Ded (Mother Lalla), was a great fourteenth-century yogini of Kashmir. She created a form of mystic poetry called Vatsun or Vakhs (from the Sanskrit Vak, which means Speech) that were the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language.

Swami Nirmalananda’s commentary of these Vakhs mines the treasures of Lalleshwari’s mystic poems and presents his reflections in an easily intelligible fashion for those wishing to put these priceless teachings on the path of yogic self-transformation into practice.

Part 4 – Vakhs 91-137


I reined in the steed of the mind,
And, by constant practice, brought together the pranas coursing through the ten nadis.
Then the nectar of the Mystic Moon flowed down, suffusing my whole being,
And the void merged in the Void.

This and the next three verses are specifically about Soham Yoga.

The wild stallion of the mind must be fully controlled, otherwise there is no hope of the sadhaka attaining the final goal. He can make a great deal of progress, but eventually he will become stalled along the way, for the mind, like a horse, must be able to leap over high barriers and continue on unhindered. Sri Ramakrishna once defined a genuine sadhu as “an unsheathed sword.” A genuine sadhaka is the same. By continuous practice the sadhana unites the pranas and reveals themselves as a single force. First Soham sadhana shows that all the nadis are under the rulership of the Ida and Pingala, and until these are purified and cleared of all obstruction little can be accomplished through them. Then the sadhana goes even further and perfects the functions of the Ida and Pingala, especially in relation to themselves. When this occurs, the Sushumna comes into full function–and not before, whatever the fantasies of the incompetent or badly-instructed aspirant may imagine or suppose. Then all the nadis, including the Ida and Pingala are revealed as totally under the sway of Sushumna, indeed are themselves intimately connected with the Sushumna. As the capstone, the stilled and clear mind, the consciousness, becomes merged in the Absolute Consciousness.

What I have written is just an outline. A great deal more is experienced and shown to the Soham sadhaka all along the way. I have hesitated to relate even what I have, knowing full well that the copy-cats, fantasists, fools, liars and ignoramuses will gladly seize on what I have told and claim its experience for their own–expanded by their own self-mythologies. However, I am not writing for them, but for you, the serious sadhaka and seeker for the truth about the true way of yoga: Soham Yoga.


On nothing else I built my hopes,
In nothing else I put my trust–
My vakh brought me the wine I drank,
My vakh gave me the strength to seize
The darkness that within me lurked.
I rolled it up and knocked it down,
And tore it to pieces.

Lalla relied completely in her sadhana, on the Supreme Vakh, the mantra Soham, which is the original spoken form of both the Paramatman (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1:4:1) and the jivatman (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5:15:2; Isha Upanishad, verse 16). It was Soham that brought her to the state of divine joy and Soham that empowered her to master the negative energies within her and render them easy to dispel and dissolve forever. I know this sounds very exaggerated and even irresponsible to those who have no experience of Soham sadhana. Even I was taken aback when I read the words of Sri Gajanana Maharaj and others in the Nath Yogi tradition about Soham Yoga.

For example, Gajanana Maharaj more than once cited the words of Kabir: “Rama Nama is repeated by almost all people–by thieves, by licentious people, and by rich people. But that Nama (Name) by which Dhruva and Prahlada [two children who attained spiritual perfection by calling on the Divine Name] were saved was something different.” It is said that Dhruva invoked the Divine Name “Narayana,” and Prahlada the Divine Name “Hari,” both Names of Vishnu. Elsewhere he said the same words and added: “I boldly tell you with firm assurance that the ‘different’ Nama referred to by Kabir in these lines is none other than Soham. He who makes that Nama his own becomes one with the universal power. His words acquire the force of truth, and hence are full of power.”

No one can be expected to believe these words outright, but I can assure you that those who begin and persevere in the japa and meditation of Soham will discover they are the simple truth. For as I explain in the second chapter of Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self, the japa of Soham becomes increasingly subtle as the yogi repeats it and undergoes a great many permutations. Thus Soham becomes an altogether “different word” which imparts experiences and insights to the Soham yogi that he could never have dreamed were possible. I had spent half a century on various forms of yoga meditation that were only superficially different, and which all turned out to be of the same minimal character in time. So naturally I could not believe what the Nath Yogis said. But when I did what they did, I did not just believe, I perceived and knew they were telling the truth. You can do the same.


Cutting my way through Six Forests,
I came upon the Digit of the Moon.
By means of the practice of prana-apana,
The world of matter shrank for me.
Then roasting my heart in the fire of love, I found my God.

By the means of observing the inhaling and exhaling breaths (prana and apana) continuously (prana-apana) and joining the syllable So to the inhalations and Ham to the exhalations, Lalla gained mastery of the five vital forces or pranas (see Glossary) which are the basis for all functions of the gross and subtle bodies, including the passions, the “forests” of the six evils–hunger, thirst, old age, death, grief and delusion–and passed beyond their influence forever.

Through the mastery achieved by elimination of the six evils, the “moon” of inner consciousness, which like the moon is a reflection of the “sun” of the Self, manifested and the illusions of the outer world evaporated from within her.

The seeds of karma and delusive mental states in her heart, her inmost subtle being/bodies, were roasted and could never sprout and produce more growth. In the same way, an inner consciousness (heart) that has been roasted in the fires of Soham yoga practice–tapasya–will no longer put forth shoots of the karmic seeds of earthly attachments and delusions. The world of materiality fled from Lalla as a ghost or mirage. As soon as this process of transformation was complete she entered into the full consciousness of the Self, the individual Atman which is itself the abode of the Paramatman, the Supreme Self.


When I became one with Soham,
My body blazed as a red-hot coal,
Then I gave up the Path of the Six,
And betook myself to the straight true Path,
Which led me to the Abode of Light.

When Lalla became united fully with Soham, she became one with her Self, the jivatman, and the Self of her Self, the Paramatman. Then her external being became suffused with the divine fire of purification, as a red-hot coal is suffused with material fire. Then she abandoned all attention to the entire series of Sixes:

  1. The six orthodox philosophies of Hinduism: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta.
  2. The six chakras: Muladhara, Swadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna
  3. The six enemies to realization of the Self: desire (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), arrogance (mada), delusive attachment (moha) and jealousy (matsarya).
  4. The six evils of human life: hunger and thirst, old age and death, grief and delusion or loss of consciousness.

Leaving all interest in involvement with or avoidance of these elements she immersed herself in the “straight true” Path of Soham which carried her beyond all these things without her even giving them thought. For the single result of Soham sadhana–realization of the Self, the Abode of Light–completely transcended these things which then ceased to exist for her, even as possibilities.


For love that would not let me be,
I, Lalla, set forth in search of Him.
And toiled and toiled for days and nights.
Then lo! the most auspicious moment of life–
I saw the Pandit in my own home.

In pondering what to say about these first two lines I vividly recalled crossing the border into Iran in 1968, when the Shah was still there. Walking into the small building to present visa and passport I saw behind the counter a man in a suit and tie, obviously educated and intelligent. When I told him I was on my way overland to India since I followed Sanatana Dharma, he looked interested and then said, “I would like to know a little bit about that religion.” Being aware of how vast Dharma is, so much so that no one can encompass it all in one lifetime, I thought, “How safe it is to only want to know ‘a little bit’ about the Eternal Truth so there will be no danger of realizing its absolute superiority and being obligated to learn and follow it.” I did not attempt to impart the desired ‘little bit’ to him, but smiled, got my passport stamped and continued on my way, vividly saying inwardly the words of Yogananda: “O India, I will be there!”

We must seek with deep longing to know the Self, and we must Go Forth from all that would hinder us or draw us back into the sleep of spiritual death. And we must engage in that search for many days and many nights continuously. We cannot seek in fits and starts, sometimes seeking and sometimes not seeking. Our search must be continual, encompassing day and night. The japa and meditation of Soham must be maintained perpetually. It really is a matter of life and death, spiritually speaking.

Since she persevered, “Lo! the most auspicious moment of life–I saw the Pandit (teacher of wisdom) in my own home.” In the “house” of her own heart she discovered the source of wisdom: her Self.

Lalla did not just have insight into the reality of her Self, she took hold of the Self through constant Soham sadhana–and that was the “most auspicious moment of life” for her, the moment when understanding dawned and she began to walk on the way of Life Eternal.

It was no outside factor which set her feet on the path, but the internal arising of consciousness of the inner reality that was her Self.


Gently, gently, I trained my mind to suspend its processes and thoughts.
Then (in the windless calm), the flame of the Lamp, shining steady and bright, revealed my true nature unto me.
In the dark recesses of my soul I seized upon Him and held Him fast.
Then I diffused the inner light, (and within, without, all was Light).

“Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4) is a cardinal principle of spiritual life. The entire world is formed of the ever-shifting energy patterns that comprise what is known as maya–cosmic illusion. But far greater than that is the consciousness that is the Self which is within us and is the essence of our very existence.

False yoga deals exclusively with “energy” and “operations of shakti.” This was very prevalent in the yoga boom of the nineteen sixties and seventies, since most of the people involved had a background in drug use. Consciousness was rarely mentioned–only vibration and energy–for their minds were still deeply marked by the damage and distortions resulting from drugs and “getting a buzz.” The false gurus also spoke in the same manner, since energy (shakti) is power, and “a natural high” was the ideal and offered result of meditation.

Therefore the practice of yoga was wrongly considered a matter of control of inner forces, or mastery of the mind (manas/buddhi) that was itself formed of energy. This was topped off by interest in awakening “kundalini shakti” and producing its various phenomena. Consequently many strenuous methods were advocated. I well remember an account of a supposed enlightened yogi who described his struggle in seizing the kundalini and pulling it upward from the base of his spine, and the way it often kept slipping from his mental grasp and dropping back down. Just hearing it exhausted me, but this is the way of illusion.

Lalla, however, was not deluded, but was a genuine yogini. So instead of engaging in a wrestling match with “the serpent power” gently she led her mind into the natural tranquility produced by Soham sadhana.

It is really important to keep in mind when Lalla writes of any yogic process that she was in the Nath Yogi tradition and practiced Soham sadhana: observing the natural, automatic breath and mentally intoning So throughout the inhalation and Hum [Ham] throughout the exhalation. When this is done while sitting with closed eyes and awareness of the breath and the inner intonations of Soham, that is meditation, and when it is done throughout the rest of the yogi’s waking day, that is japa (repetition).

When other types of yogic practices are engaged in, the effects are mostly completely different in their effect and experience from that of Soham sadhana. So when considering Lalla’s Vakhs this must be understood. What I will be writing here and later on when needed is completely according to the practice, effects and experiences produced by Soham Yoga.

When practicing Soham meditation, awareness of the mental processes and external breath very early on fades away. This is because in Soham meditation the yogi completely and naturally becomes aware of the movement of the inner breath, and since that awareness very naturally and easily replaces awareness of the physical breath, the yogi does not realize it is happening. Rather, the inner, subtle inhalation and exhalation are experienced very naturally, and in this way the yogi’s mental intonations become merged in the perpetual ajapa japa of Soham–but all so easily and naturally that he may not be aware of that transfer of awareness from the outer to the inner. This is not speculation or falsehood. I experience this daily in every meditation, and so will you if you follow exactly the instructions given in Soham Yoga and Light of Soham for a sufficient amount of time.

Fake yoga and fake gurus make a big noise about “pranayama,” “the breathless state,” “conquering the breath,” and other such things, all stemming from the fact that, however sincere they may be, the very nature of their “yoga” leads them astray and produces abnormal states in their physical and subtle bodies that are often very hard to attain–and are much worse than completely useless.

But Lalla is not a practicer of fake yoga, so she tells us that imperceptibly and completely naturally her physical breath was suspended and the inner, archetypal breath came into the foreground of her awareness. However, the yogi very likely will not be aware that his physical, lung breath has ceased, since at that time the awareness of his inner, pranic breath comes to the fore. And this is all for the best, since he might become frightened if he realizes he has “stopped breathing” in the “normal” way. At this time the calm and observant yogi will experience levels of both his mind and his breath that he never knew existed. This is the effect of his Soham sadhana, and reveals the truth of the statement made by Matsyendranath, Gorakhnath and the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad: “The inhalation comes in with the subtle sound of So, and the exhalation goes out with the subtle sound of Ham. There is no knowledge equal to this, nor has there ever been in the past or shall be in the future any knowledge equal to this. There is no japa equal to this, nor has there ever been in the past or shall be in the future any japa equal to this.”

Then (in the windless calm), the flame of the Lamp, shining steady and bright, revealed my true nature unto me. This is a fact of Soham sadhana that for over fifty years of false yoga I could never have imagined to be true. Going from guru to guru and learning the “highest method known to man” from each one, I eventually saw they were all the same: momentarily interesting and certainly producing an effect–but an effect that only went so far and no farther. Actually they were almost identical in the experiences they produced. When for the sixth or seventh time I found my latest and highest practice producing exactly the same effects that all the rest had produced, I decided to just muddle through somehow and quit looking for something different–since after decades of regular practice I thought I had found that there was no something different.

But I was wrong. Soham Yoga was something different. I discovered that in the first minutes of my practice when I said to myself: “O! I love this!” And never changed my mind. The day I first began the japa and meditation of Soham was literally the happiest day of my life. I was amazed. And still am. For “the flame of the Lamp, shining steady and bright, revealed my true nature unto me.”

The Soham yogi becomes inwardly aware of and observes real openings of awareness which reveal the arising of various subtle yogic kriyas (processes) about which he never knew before. And he also experiences the real kriyas about which the usual yogis only speak obliquely and without anything more than a partial understanding. He finds that all the talk he has heard or read about chakras, ida, pingala, sushumna and kundalini is just that: talk. And erroneous conclusions and mythologies without end. Suddenly there is light that dispels the fog of misinformation and error and shows the truth about these things by his own perceptions and experiences. And that insight continually increases.

In the dark recesses of my soul I seized upon Him and held Him fast. Saint Photini, the Samaritan woman in the Gospel of John, told her friends about Jesus and expressed her faith in him. Later, they came to meet Jesus and then told her, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know” (John 4:42). It was a result of their own experience. Without such experience “faith” usually means very little. So the wise aspirant seeks to know for himself. Otherwise he will not really know even if he believes. The yogi must never be satisfied with the assertions of others, but must always seek his own direct experience of spiritual realities. Krishna makes this clear in the Bhagavad Gita. “Since you accept me and do not question, now I shall tell you that innermost secret: knowledge of God which is nearer than knowing, open vision direct and instant. Understand this and be free for ever from birth and dying with all their evil. This is the knowledge above all other: purifier and king of secrets, only made plain to the eye of the mystic. Great is its virtue, its practice easy: thus man is brought to truth eternal” (Bhagavad Gita 9:1-2).

Then I diffused [spread forth] the inner light, and within, without, all was Light. The word translated “inner light” is drishti–seeing; sight; perception; insight. Light in the sense of consciousness/awareness is our inmost nature, for the Self (Atman) is itself consciousness/awareness. So drishti includes that. It also includes atmabala–soul force, the inmost power of the individual, and most of all the atmadrishti, the power of perception inherent in the Atman.

This inner light is an experience, but it is also a faculty, a power of the spirit. This inner light can both decrease and increase. In most people it is barely more than the glow of a firefly, but through Soham yoga sadhana it can increase and become the full enlightenment of the Self. This increase is the spreading forth of the inner light which Lalla is speaking about. No one can do it for us, nor will it happen through the passing of time. It is solely the intentional action of the yogi himself.


Searching for the Self, I wearied myself;
For none by searching ever gained
The secret knowledge beyond the mind.
I stopped searching, and love led me
to the Tavern door.
There I found wine jars aplenty,
But none desiring to drink from them.

Searching for the Self, I wearied myself; for none by searching ever gained the secret knowledge beyond the mind. When we mistakenly think that the Self is an object, a thing, that can be encountered and related to in the same way we interact with material objects, we cannot possibly search in the right way, having misunderstood its fundamental nature. This is where delusive yoga comes in with its gimmicks, techniques and conditioning practices. But this “searching” never gains the Self-awareness that lies beyond the mind.

I stopped searching, and love led me to the Tavern door. There I found wine jars aplenty, but none desiring to drink from them. When the Self was no longer being related to as an external object, Lalla’s intent application of will that is the true “love” led her to the inner source of spiritual bliss (“wine”). There she found ananda–joy and amrita–immortality in abundance, but no one desiring to drink of them. For only the pure Self can drink at that inmost source. “Others” cannot even draw near the depths of consciousness where immortality is found in abundance.


Foulness from my mind was cleared as ashes from a mirror,
Then recognition of Him came to me unmistakable and clear.
And when I saw Him close by me,
He was all and I was not, (and there was nothing else).

Foulness from my mind was cleared as ashes from a mirror, then recognition of Him came to me unmistakable and clear. The word mala means taint; impurity; defilement; defect; ignorance, and limitation of consciousness. The mirrors known to Lalla were polished silver, so any dirt could be easily washed away and only the mirror itself would remain. The state of dirtiness would cease to exist. So it is with ignorance and illusion. When it is gone it is totally gone and none of its effects (defects) remain. Only the original nature of the mirror continues. This is how total and complete is the nature of enlightenment–the removal of darkness in the form of ignorance and illusion. Darkness can prevail in a cave for countless millions of years, but the moment a light is brought into it the darkness is gone! This is how drastically and permanently the state of true enlightenment is experienced.

Then recognition of Him came to me unmistakable and clear. And when I saw Him close by me, He was all and I was not, (and there was nothing else). Lalla saw the Supreme Self within her own Self and realized that It was within her as her own true being, that It was all, yet the No-Thing, and she, too, by nature was a no-thing within the No-Thing.


Do away with karmas two and causes three, and you will be honored in the world to come.
Arise, ascend and cut through the Sun’s orb, and you will overcome the fear of death.

Do away with karmas two and causes three, and you will be honored in the world to come. Both positive and negative karmas bind us. We should not cling to the positive and reject the negative, but go beyond them both. We must also rid ourselves of the three forms of impurity that keep us in the karmic realm of cause and effect. They are finitude in the sense of limitation, multiplicity in the sense of blindness to the unity of the individual and cosmic Selves, and the experiences of both pain and pleasure produced by reaping the results of our karma.

Arise, ascend and cut through the Suryamandala, and you will overcome the fear of death. The Suryamandala, the circle of the Sun, is the movement of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac, radiating the influences of both the signs themselves and the planets within those signs. Think of the sun as a magnifying glass which focuses the subtle influences upon the earth itself and all life forms living upon it–especially the human beings. All these forces are reflections of the karmic forces of the individual jivas. So to arise and cut through the Suryamandala is to depart from the body and arise to and through the sun into the higher realms of evolution. When done completely, all the karmas that would draw the individual back into rebirth in the material universe are dissolved and he goes onward into higher regions.

This is not liberation by any means, just stepping off the bottom rung of the ladder onto the rung just above it. The journey is long, but the jiva has eternity in which to accomplish it. Transcending the Suryamandala frees the jiva from fear of material rebirth, but as the jiva enters a higher realm it “dies” to the lower world and is “born” into the next higher world. And this death/birth process occurs for aeons until the jiva has transcended all “birth” through transcending all relative worlds, however subtle and advanced, and entered into Siddhaloka, the realm of the ever-free, the nitya-siddhis. This alone is liberation in the absolute sense. Until then, even those in the highest worlds are still samsarins. Until we pass beyond the possibility of “death” in any form we are not free from death and truly immortal in the total sense of the term.


Clad in the robe of jnana, on the tablet of her heart were engraved the words that Lalla spoke,
And by means of the mystic syllables Soham, Lalla merged in her chit-jyoti,
The luminous light of Pure Consciousness; and thus dispelled the fear of death.

The call to overcome the fear of death is not a simple message. Lalla takes it up again in this verse. Immersing herself in jnana until she reached Atmajnana, Lalla made the invocation of Soham her essential consciousness until Soham Bhava became her permanent state. For Soham alone enables the yogi to unite with the Light of Consciousness that is the yogi’s Self. Soham and the Self are the same. Experiencing this is immortality itself in which no fear of any kind can arise.


I traversed the vastness of the Void alone, leaving behind me reason and sense, then came upon the secret of the Self;
And, all on a sudden, unexpectedly, in mud the lotus bloomed for me.

Jnana is not just knowledge, it is wisdom–insight, direct knowing. At the dawning of jnana the lower faculty of ordinary reason based on sensory experience is left behind, discarded as useless. Then alone is the secret of the Soham Self revealed. Just as the sun arises without effort on our part, so the opening of the highest consciousness, unforeseen by the limited mind, reveals itself in the mud and opacity of the world and the world-bound mind. Then there is freedom from any form of death or darkness. For death and darkness become impossible since they are not at all real, but only misperceptions.


A tapaswin into the world came I,
And bodha illumined my path to the Self.
Alike for me is life and death:
Happy to live and happy to die,
I mourn for none, none mourns for me.

Lalla was born a yogini as a result of having traversed a long path of evolutionary experience culminating in attaining the state of a yoga siddha. Perfection had been attained by Lalla long before she was born as “Lalla.” The true history of every genuine yogi is the traveling of the long evolutionary path before he even becomes capable of beginning the practice of yoga–and then does so unremittingly until the goal is reached. This is hardly a hobby, an avocation: it is the very core and substance of the sadhaka’s entire life. We do not just drop in for a chat with our Self occasionally, but we enter into Atmabhava permanently in time.


Hoping to bloom like a cotton flower, I, Lalla, set forth in the colorful world.
But soon the cleaner and the carder came and gave me hard knocks and blows.
Spun into a gossamer yarn by a woman spinner on her spinning wheel,
I was helplessly hung upon a loom, and given more knocks from the weaver’s broom.
Now turned into cloth, I was dashed and dashed by the washerman on the washing-stone.
Then into a large mortar made of stone, he threw me, and with his grimy feet, rubbed me with fuller’s earth and soap.
The tailor now worked his scissors on me, and cut me with care, piece by piece.
Thus was it that I, Lalla, at last entered the High Estate of God.

The aspirant with no experience of sadhana but who has heard it praised, easily imagines himself as becoming an illumined yogi with all the powers of the universe at his command. Having read lives of great yoga siddhas, he easily sees himself as one of them. Perhaps he, too, will be written about in an inspirational book! But when the process of yoga begins to arise in him through sadhana, he finds that it is a very different matter indeed. Lalla thought she would become a little cotton flower blooming in a bright and beautiful world. But what really happened to her? The sadhana worked! And here is what it did to Lalla.

But soon the cleaner and the carder came and gave me hard knocks and blows. The cotton boll has the seed at its center. So the first step is to remove the seed by the cleaner. In modern times this is done by a cotton gin, but the process is the same as at Lalla’s time: the boll is pulled apart. The carding machine which has replaced the human carder does what the human worker did: it separates the cotton fibers and pulls them straight over and over again until they are in complete alignment and do not curl in any manner. Both cleaning and carding entail the hard knocks and blows Lalla tells us about. Basically the cotton gets pulled apart and violently cleaned and straightened. But that was just the beginning. Next Lalla was…

Spun into a gossamer yarn by a woman spinner on her spinning wheel. Now Lalla was pulled out and twisted mercilessly on a spinning wheel turned by a “woman”–by her own inner energy bodies or layers of shakti. Nothing remained in its original form. Lalla did not get to drop like dew into any shining sea or merge into the void beyond all relative experience. She had a lot more to undergo.

I was helplessly hung upon a loom, and given more knocks from the weaver’s broom. Those who have seen a handloom operated understand this. By means of a shuttle the thread keeps being run back and forth between the warp and woof strung on the loom, and after each passage the weaver vigorously pushes the thread into a tight compacted fabric–the steadily increasing length of cloth. But there is more coming…

Now turned into cloth, I was dashed and dashed by the washerman on the washing-stone. To both shrink the cloth into a finished form and to make it soft and wearable, it is now soaked in water and beaten violently over and over again upon a large stone in the water. So Lalla’s sadhana tightened her up and literally beat her into shape by countless blows of her accumulated karmic force. The washerman of purification (shuddhi) and tapasya threw her again and again against the unyielding stone of karma resistance until the desired texture was achieved.

Then into a large mortar made of stone, he threw me, and with his grimy feet, rubbed me with fuller’s earth and soap. Tossed into a confined state, by continuous yogic kriyas the “washerman” gave her a terrific drubbing with abrasive fuller’s earth and soap. But that was not the end–only the beginning of a new process.

The tailor now worked his scissors on me, and cut me with care, piece by piece. Now Lalla was made to conform to a destined pattern. To do this she was cut apart and put back together with great care and precision by being pierced over and over and recombined and bound into a single unit with a needle and thread. For she was being made into something much more than raw cloth, she was being made into suitable clothing for her body that would be encased in it. In other words, she was being made a fit vessel for her jivatman to function through and attain enlightenment. All the levels her being were pulverized and pulled apart and reassembled in a completely different form or configuration than its original crude state–all through sadhana.

Thus was it that I, Lalla, at last entered the High Estate of God. Then Lalla was not at all a little cotton flower, but an abode, a robe, of God, the divine Self. God was clothed in her and she was clothed in God–a blessed interaction that culminated in the revelation of Divinity within and without.

The aspiring yogi has no idea of what will be required for him to attain siddhi and perfect Self-realization through yoga. It is just as was said about the Western Expansion movement in America: the weak died along the way and the cowards never started. But Lalla did it and so can we.

The great poet-saint Mirabai, whose devotional songs are sung throughout India, was born a princess, but was eventually expelled from the palace of her raja husband because of her refusal to abandon her spiritual life. From then on she wandered around singing her songs of love for God. In one of them she says, “I have sold everything in the marketplace of this world and bought my Khanaiya [Krishna]. Some laugh at me and say the price was too high, and some laugh and say the price was too low. But all I know is that it was all I had.” Only those who give all will gain the All.

If this scares some people: Good. Yoga is not for cowards or layabouts. It is for winners, not compromisers or corner-cutters.


Thou wert a royal swan once, now turned mute.
Someone, it seems, has run off with something of thine.
When the mill-stone stopped, the grain channel was choked with grain,
And away ran the miller with the grain.

Lalla returns to the subject of the grinding-mill mentioned in verse 28, this time as a symbol of tapasya, the purifying and refining process of yoga sadhana. She addresses the sadhaka, reminding him that in his highest nature he is a royal swan, a mystical bird that flies higher and higher into the sun, the solar world of the spirit, and transcends the bonds of the material universe and becomes freed into the boundless realm of the Spirit, the Paramatman, and thus is liberated. But although the sadhaka was once aware of this, his voice has been stilled and his awareness clouded, for his involvement with samsara has run off with this essential awareness and made him forget. In the state of forgetfulness the mill-stone of sadhana has stopped and the karmic seeds (grain) can no longer pass through it and thus be rendered of no effect. Instead they are reserved for manifestation in this or a future life. So the cycle of bondage is being perpetuated through the yogi’s laxity and negligence. The solution to the problem is resumption of diligence in the practice of yoga sadhana. There is no other way.


The pilgrim sannyasin goes from shrine to shrine,
Seeking to meet Him who abides within himself.
Knowing the truth, O soul, be not misled;
It is distance that makes the turf look green.

In the very ancient spiritual texts of India it is assumed that the fourth stage of life, that of the sannyasi, is a life of perpetual wandering and the sannyasi is therefore also a yati–a wanderer. This had two major purposes: to prevent the sadhu from becoming attached or entrenched in any one place, and to provide access to his wisdom and spiritual inspiration to those whom he encountered as he wandered.

This is a supremely laudable motivation, but in Lalla’s time and today sadhus wandered from holy place to holy place as a supposedly spiritual exercise, solely for their own benefit inner and outer. (And often just to get free food provided for them and other pilgrims by devout people in these places. Once in India I heard a sannyasi describe to someone at length all the best eating spots for a monk in India.) But moving the body around while the mind remains steady in material consciousness is a guarantee of never finding the ever-abiding, inner Self. It only creates obsession with where the next meal is coming from.

Knowing she could not change such pilgrims of the plate, Lalla wisely just tells herself that is an illusion to think that a place at a distance will provide any benefit to her inwardly or outwardly. The spiritual grass at a distance may look greener in the wanderer’s mind, but it is a illusion. Reality–the Self–lies within.


Some leave their home, some the hermitage,
But the restless mind knows no rest.
Then watch your breath, day and night,
And stay where you are.

Some people abandon their worldly life to find peace, and others abandon their monastic life for the same purpose. Both fail. For the release of the mind from all discontent occurs only through the realization of the Self. And that is done in the simplest possible way. Here is the relevant section from Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self:

Soham Yoga Sadhana In Three Sentences

The two supreme yogis of India’s history, Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath, and the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad have each made three identical statements that are most important for the yogi, for they present the essence of Soham Sadhana.

  1. The inhalation comes in with the subtle sound of So, and the exhalation goes out with the subtle sound of Ham.
  2. There is no knowledge equal to this, nor has there ever been in the past or shall be in the future any knowledge equal to this.
  3. There is no japa equal to this, nor has there ever been in the past or shall be in the future any japa equal to this.

The implication is that the unequaled, and therefore supreme, knowledge and the unequaled and supreme yoga practice are the mental intonations of So throughout the inhalation and Ham throughout the exhalation. And therefore that intoning So and Ham in time with the breath is the totality of Soham Yoga practice.

And it is japa: the deliberate intoning of Soham in time with the breath–not a passive listening to a sound supposed to be the ajapa japa breath sounds. (Those sounds may be heard, but only peripherally, while Soham is still being deliberately and continuously intoned inwardly in time with the breath.)

What makes the japa of Soham in time with the breath the unequaled japa? All other mantras by themselves produce a particular, intended effect. And this is of great value. But the Soham mantra does not just contain the seed-consciousness of “I Am That,” the Soham Bhava. Its ajapa repetition has been going on within the yogi from eternity, before he entered into relative existence–and was then propelled along the evolutionary path by the inner power of Soham. Therefore, when repeated in time with the breath it directly joins the yogi’s consciousness with his original condition, his transcendental nature. It does not just make a change in his consciousness, it moves his consciousness into its original state. Right from the start the process of Self-realization begins and moves steadily toward complete revelation of Atmabhava–Atmajnana which is the same as Brahmajnana: liberation.

Kabir has said, “If you want to know the Eternal, you will not find him in the Vedas, the shastras or in the Koran, in the temples or in the mosques. Penance, pilgrimage, breath-control, or living on nothing but neem leaves, will not lead you to him. You can find him only in your breath.” (Soham: “So” when taking in and “Ham” when giving out the breath).”


Should you destroy vain imaginings, desires,
which form the very web of time;
Should you realize the Lord, all-pervading
and yet untouched and pure,
You may live the life of a householder,
Or a hermit’s life in a hermitage,
living the truth that you have known.

Samsara is essentially in our mind–fantasies, illusions, desires, aversions and random impulses. These are the bonds we must cast off through sadhana to transcend samsara and enter into freedom (moksha). When the ever-free Self is known within the all-embracing reality of the Paramatman, the yogi lives his external life according to his illumined will. For truth is not something we only believe, empty concepts of philosophy, but it is what we actually live. Yoga is the Life of the Self.


Constantly invoking the name of Shiva,
Meditating on the Way of the Swan,
From attachment and duality set free–
Such a one, even if busily engaged
in the affairs of the world, both day and night,
Wins the favor of the God of gods.

The ultimate Name of the Shiva-Self is Soham. Soham japa and meditation are the Way of the Swan, the Self in its flight to the Absolute. Constant japa and meditation frees the Soham yogi from attachment and duality. Always inwardly flying in the Chidakasha, the Sky of Consciousness, however much the yogi may seem to be involved in the life of the world, he wins the favor of the Supreme, the Paramatman, Brahman Itself. And becomes that Supreme, the Paramatman, Brahman Itself.


Some though asleep are yet awake;
Some though awake are yet asleep;
Despite ablutions some are unclean;
Despite householders’ active life,
Some, by their actions, are untouched.

Some though asleep are yet awake; some though awake are yet asleep. All of us are awake deep inside even though our bodies are asleep. This world is a dream and everything in it are dream images, some of them inhabited by intelligent beings. So all are awake in the depths of their being, but most are asleep in the upper reaches of their being. Blessed are those that are awake in the dream and know it for a dream and so aspire to higher awakening.

When I was a small child I more than once dreamed that I woke up and after awhile woke up again in the dream several times. This disturbed me greatly, and I began to wonder if I would one day wake up from my continuous waking state into a completely other, higher state, and awaken even from that and keep awakening…. How could I ever know if I was ever fully awake? Actually I was seeing a hint of the truth: we can awaken into That which is beyond sleeping and waking. When I read the Bhagavad Gita I realized that I was both asleep and awake at the same time, just as a partially-sighted person is both blind and seeing simultaneously. Fortunately I discovered that yoga was the means of awakening into higher and higher levels of consciousness, passing from one dream world to another until Real Awakening into Divine Consciousness would remove sleep–and the possibility of its recurrence–forever.

Only when I found Yoga and Dharma did I understand the puzzle and begin to work it out.

Despite ablutions some are unclean. There is no doubt that since the body is mostly water it can absorb the vibrations of water which it touches. Sri Ramakrishna said, “A bath in the Ganges undoubtedly absolves one of all sins; but what does that avail? They say that the sins perch on the trees along the bank of the Ganges. No sooner does the man come back from the holy waters than the old sins jump on his shoulders from the trees. The same old sins take possession of him again. He is hardly out of the water before they fall upon him.”

Why? Because his mind was not immersed in the sacred Ganges–only his body. The water never touched his mind. Others, however, who have pure minds will find that simply touching Ganges water purifies and elevates them. To drink Ganges water is a wonderful thing, but can its power reach the minds of most people? If we bathe in poison but do not swallow it, it cannot harm us. In the same way holy water, holy objects and the company of holy people do not benefit those who cannot absorb the sacred energies of those things.

Despite a householders’ active life, some, by their actions, are untouched. Sri Ramakrishna said, “If you can weigh salt, you can weigh sugar,” meaning that those who are competent in spiritual life are competent in worldly life, and vice-versa. Intelligence does not change when it is focused on various objects. It remains the same. So it is with inner and outer life. The Gita says, “Yoga is skill in action” (2:50), implying that it is ease and freedom from strain. The wise are free from action in the sense that it does not affect or bind them in any way. “The lotus leaf rests unwetted on water: he rests on action, untouched by action” (Bhagavad Gita 5:10).


To stop a running stream, to cool a raging fire,
To roam the skies on sandaled feet,
To milk a wooden cow–
All this is fraud and jugglery.

But people under the spell of maya are attempting these things every day and fooling themselves into thinking they are succeeding. Who needs religion? Who needs its rules? Who needs yoga? They do, but they do not want to know and acknowledge that.

The running, noisy stream of their little, confined yet out of control life cannot be stopped. Day and night it flows on, yet going nowhere, really. They hold coals of burning, torturing fire that forms their tormented life and speak of how cool, how easy and how soothing it is, bringing them happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment.

They roam the sky of self-delusion and self-illusion in freedom claiming to be without a bond or a care, when all the time they are bound hand and foot and jammed into a cave of darkness and futility, even misery being a relief through distraction. The wooden dolls they consider the source and sustenance of their life are as false, barren and dry as the carved udders of a wooden cow. All this is self-fraud and self-deception on their part. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).


To the lake too small even for a mustard seed,
All living beings come to quench their thirst;
And into it, as soon as born, keep falling, falling,
Deer, jackal, rhinoceros, elephant seals and all.

The vast lake, the vast expanse of samsara, which seems to contain worlds beyond number and yet is seen by those with clear sight to be too small to accommodate even a single mustard seed, is sought out by sentient beings to quench their unquenchable thirst through countless lives in countless bodies, ranging from atomic gases to human forms. The moment they touch it in their minds they fall and fall and fall into it perpetually. Through creation cycles this circle of misery and futility repeats itself over and over.


Three times the lake overflowed its shore;
Once its waters and the sky did meet
From Haramukh [in the north] to Kaunsar [in the south] in one vast sheet.
Seven times I saw the lake vanishing in the void (shunyankar).
I remember having seen, in former lives, through aeons of time,
These dissolutions of the worlds and their rebirth.

The overwhelming sight Lalla describes appeared to her as a miniature of the universal creation cycles which never cease. She saw the entire expanse as a single unit of water which brought to mind the Cosmic Ocean in its perpetual round of projection and withdrawal, or manifestation and dissolution. This is the way the mind of the yogi sees beyond the surface to deeper meaning at all times.


However many parts I played upon the stage,
However often I quaffed that wine, the water of the Syand [river],
However many lumps of human flesh I ate,
Yet I am the same Lalla still.
What profiteth it all to me?

Through the seemingly infinite string of births in forms beyond counting or calculation–including being a fish in the Syand river and a wild animal feasting on human flesh–Lalla was at all times only a single thing: the Self. Therefore this entire panorama appeared as nothing to her. It takes a vast mind to see in vast perspective and think vast thoughts about the whole thing. Such is the perfect yogi.


Throughout the ages, we have been.
Forever the sun rises and sets;
Forever Shiva creates, dissolves, and creates again.

And that’s that.


When the light of the day is quenched in the darkness of the night,
The earth extends to meet and dissolve in the ethereal sky,
And [on amavasya] all is blank and dark eclipse.
But strange! Raahu, the Demon of eclipse, is swallowed by the New-born Moon.
The illumination of Cit-Atman is the true worship of Shiva, the Supreme.

When the light of the Self is extinguished in the darkness and blindness of illusion everything is a single mass of blackness eclipsing the perception of all reality. But for the yogi, the eclipsing “demon” of ignorance and delusion is itself swallowed in the advent of the yogi’s inner sight. Therefore Lalla says that the only true worship of the Shiva-Self is the illumination of the Self by its own flawless consciousness.

On the amavasya, the new-moon day, it is said that the demon Rahu swallows the sun. But, says Lalla, the seeker who treads the yogic path to Self-realization has the experience of the manifested universe–the sun and the sky and all the worlds–vanishing and becoming one with the unmanifested all-pervading Akshara: the imperishable, indestructible, immutable, undying, undecaying and unchanging Self that is rooted in the Supreme Self, Brahman. There, for the moment, it seems to be “dark, irretrievably dark” in the great Void; but soon it is lit up by the “new-born moon,” the Parasamvit, the supreme consciousness, the supreme knowledge, which is the illumination of the higher consciousness of the Self that is itself the abode of the Supreme Shiva.

The first three lines refer to various events in which there is both end and beginning, and reversal of the “natural” samsaric order. The line that matters of the fourth one in which Lalla tells us what is the true worship of God, the true religion: illumination of the Self.


They who have known the Supreme Self, Chidananda Jnanaprakasha, they are the jivanmuktas.
The ignorant add knot to knot, in hundreds, to the tangled web of samsara, its recurrent birth, its recurrent death.

They who have known the Supreme Self, Chidananda Jnanaprakasha, they are the jivanmuktas. The Self is pure consciousness (knowledge-light) alone, though it experiences millions of bodies in millions of rebirths, beginning with a single atom of hydrogen and moving upward from there to habitation in Siddhaloka itself. Though it experiences relativity, it is essentially at all times nothing but consciousness, inseparable though distinct from Brahman, the Absolute.

How can it experience all these births and all these forms it seems to inhabit, being born and dying over and over? Through the divine power we call Maya–actually, Yogamaya which A Brief Sanskrit Glossary defines as: “The power of Maya, of divine illusion. It is Maya in operation, the operation/movement rising from the presence (union–yoga) of God (Ishwara) within it, and therefore possessing delusive power.” That is as near as anyone on this earth plane can come to a viable definition.

Yet at all times the Self is chidananda–conscious bliss. How can this be really understood or experienced? By becoming a yogi and experiencing it for ourself. It will not be an overnight attainment, but it will come to those who persevere. They, while yet alive, have gained release(from earthly births). By “alive” is meant living in a physical body, the idea being that even here in this world it is possible to become freed from further material births. This does not mean, however, that future births in astral and causal worlds will not be necessary–they will be. Simply stepping up from the first rung on the evolutionary ladder is not the end of embodiment, but only the end of material embodiment. A great deal of evolution remains, for the ladder has many rungs.

The ignorant add knot to knot, in hundreds, to the tangled web of samsara, its recurrent birth, its recurrent death. Confusion is the inescapable state of those still in earthly rebirth. It is not just a net, it is a tangled net in which we become caught over and over. Ignorant and foolish, we have added to and strengthened the net of rebirth again and again through countless lives. But freedom is possible to those who follow the advice of Sri Krishna: “Therefore be a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).


Who dozes off? Who is alert?
What lake constantly oozes away?
What should be offered in worship to God?
What supreme station should one gain?
It is the mind that dozes off.
It is the Akula [the Formless] that is ever alert.
The mighty senses are the lake constantly oozing out, constantly filled again.
The constant awareness of the Self is worship befitting the Lord,
And Shivahood the supreme station [state] man should gain.

It is the mind that dozes off. It is the Akula [the Formless] that is ever alert. Since it is the mind, composed of name and form, that “sleeps” and fades away, the yogi must cultivate awareness of the formless, transcendent Self that is the only reality. Involvement in the mind is sleep and awakening into the Self is just that: awakening.

The mighty senses are the lake constantly oozing out, constantly filled again. The senses are continually being depleted, which causes anxiety and even pain, but they are constantly being renewed or re-energized, so the process is repeated perpetually. This is their very nature, so they cannot be reformed or made permanent. The only solution is to go beyond them into the buddhi, the principle of Self-enlightenment. The problem cannot be resolved–only gone beyond.

The constant awareness of the Self is worship befitting the Lord. Worship of God as a separate being is false and erroneous, resulting in an abyss of confusion, conflict and error. But to live in the unbroken consciousness of Self-realization is the only true worship or religion.

And Shivahood the supreme station [state] man should gain. Not only is divinity (Shivahood) the highest state an individual should attain, it is the only state that anyone can truly attain. All else will fade away and be lost over and over until the consciousness is established in Unity.


Shiva is the horse, Vishnu holds the saddle,
And Brahma the stirrups.
It is the yogi who, in the light of his yoga, knows
Which god can mount the horse.

Shiva is the horse, Vishnu holds the saddle, and Brahma the stirrups. There is only one Supreme Being, but that Being is so vast and beyond our powers of conception that in order to speak of It–especially in relation to human beings–a tremendous amount of symbolism must be used. Here Lalla is referring to the Trimurti–Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva–who represent the divine processes of creation, maintenance, and dissolution (not destruction, for dissolution is liberation–deliverance) within relative existence.

It is the yogi who, in the light of his yoga, knows which god can mount the horse. The yogi, through the insight his practice of Soham yoga has produced in him, can perceive which process (which god) is guiding his life as a horseman controls and directs a horse. And he should either change or confirm it. If Brahma is directing him, he will be oriented toward control and alteration of his external, material life. If Vishnu is directing him, he will be oriented toward the harmonious integration, maintenance and stabilization of his material and mental life together. If Shiva the Great Yogi is directing him, he will be oriented toward the spiritualization of his entire life in all its aspects by the practice of Soham yoga sadhana, purifying evolving all the aspects of his inner and outer being with the ultimate goal of transmuting them into the pure consciousness that is his Self, and thereby becoming fully liberated from all that is not the Self and transcending all lesser modes of being and literally and permanently to Abide In The Self As The Self.

But how is that accomplished? Lalla continues:


He who is the eternal Anahata,
The ever-unobstructed sound of Soham;
Whose is the all-permeating form of the etherial sky;
Whose dwelling is the vast transcendent Void;
Who has no name, caste, gotra, nor form;
Who is Pure, Undifferentiated Self-awareness;
Who is “Nada-Bindu,” the Logos and the Light–
He is the God Who mounts the horse.

Brahman Itself is Soham, the eternal, unprojected and therefore self-existent Sound. It is Itself the Chidakasha, the infinite Space (Ether) of Consciousness. Yet It is simultaneously the Infinite Dweller of the Chidakasha. The sound of Soham is eternally arising in the depths of Brahman–and therefore in the depths of every sentient being. It has no name–designation in the sense of a descriptive word–because its origin is beyond name. It is nameless because Brahman is Nameless, and it is one with Brahman and IS Brahman. It has no conditioning attributes such as name, caste, gotra (family lineage) or form, and it has no genealogy in the sense of having come into existence or manifestation from something other than Itself. It has no “history,” for it is not in time even now. It is Eternity itself in this world of time and space and change. It has no form because it has no modifications nor is it “inside” something. It transcends and is untouched by time, space and all conditionings.

It is itself the Self-existent. Yet at the same time it is all things by its nature as both Sound and Consciousness which manifests as individuality in all things and is therefore absolute Unity. This is why the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1:4:1) tells us: “In the beginning this (world of relative manifestation/existence) was only the Supreme Self [Paramatman], in the shape of a person [Parampurusha]. Looking around he saw nothing else than the Self. He first said, ‘I am Soham’ [Soham asmi]”. So the awareness “I exist” or “I am” is itself Soham–not just its relative manifestation.

Soham alone “mounts the horse” as the ruler-director, of the yogi which in time is revealed to the yogi as both his own Self (Jivatman) and the Supreme Self (Paramatman), the very root of his own existence. Therefore, the yogi, too, says: Soham Asmi. It is the totality of his being.


Would you understand what Oneness is?
It has turned me into nothingness.
Though He is One, Alone, and All,
Yet I am caught in the War of Two.
Though He has neither color nor form,
Yet I am caught in His wondrous forms.

This is perhaps the most intriguing verse of Lalla. She tells us that understanding Oneness turns you into nothingness: no-thingness. This is actually logical, since only Brahman is absolutely One, and those who unite with Brahman transcend all relative existence where “things” or even qualities can exist. Touching the One transforms us into the No Thing Itself. Yet as long as we remain in the sphere of relative existence we are caught in duality, and although what we see is really only the One which is beyond attributes or form, yet we are entranced by the infinite glories and forms of the Absolute–even if in essence It does transcend them!

In the Bhagavad Gita (11:10-13) Arjuna is shown the universal form(s) of God: “Speaking from innumerable mouths, seeing with a myriad eyes, of many marvelous aspects, adorned with countless divine ornaments, brandishing all kinds of heavenly weapons, wearing celestial garlands and the raiment of paradise, anointed with perfumes of heavenly fragrance, full of revelations, resplendent, boundless, of ubiquitous regard. Suppose a thousand suns should rise together into the sky: such is the glory of the Shape of Infinite God. Then the son of Pandu beheld the entire universe, in all its multitudinous diversity, lodged as one being within the body of the God of gods.” He is naturally overwhelmed by this vision. And so is Lalla. But she is not speechless! In most of the remaining verses she will eloquently convey her experience.


He is in myriad colors and forms. Seek Him out.
Patiently suffer whatever your lot, and happy be.
Anger and hate and enmity, you must destroy.
All this done, though hard it be: Behold your God.

This is extremely clear. There is no need to analyze it, but we must get busy and follow it. How? Through yoga! We need to tell ourselves this a lot and follow our own advice.


I roamed the ten directions and pierced the wind and the void.
I closed the nine gates of the body and shut out the Thirty-six.
Wherever I looked, I found the Lord, within, without, and in the Void.

The purpose of yoga is the purification, clarification, expansion, development and evolution of the mind. That means the mind has to travel meaningfully in a lot of directions. Yoga is for adults who can understand and control their minds and the directions it goes in. No human being on earth is as unique and complex as an adept yogi. Intelligence and right judgment are essentials, as well. And yoga opens it all up to the yogi.

It takes audacity and courage to be a yogi, and enormous power of will. The will and courage it took for Magellan to sail around the world for the first time in its history, and thus to prove that the earth is round, is necessary for success in yoga. The yogi is a wonder in the world. And I hope from this that you can draw two conclusions: 1) There are hardly any real yogis in the world. 2) For you to be a yogi you must become more than human. You must become a god. And you will not have much company on the path to the Infinite. In fact, you may be the only one walking it. And if you cannot, will not or do not want to forge ahead and make it on your own… then you won’t.

But Lalla did. She mastered all the directions the mind can travel, she went beyond the wind and kicked aside “the void” of No Thing. She sealed the nine chakras–the nine entries of cosmic energy into her physical, astral and causal bodies–in perfect union and passed utterly beyond the thirty-six cosmic principles of which relative existence consists from top to bottom. (For information and analysis regarding the nine chakras, see Chapter Four, The Yogi’s Subtle Anatomy, in Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self).

Then and only then did she even look for the Supreme, and found It within, without and in the Nowhere which is really the Everywhere.

And she did this with just one thing: SOHAM.


I turned to Him heart and soul,
And heard the ringing of the Bell of Truth.
There, in dharana, fixed in thought,
I soared the Sky and the Region of Light.

Lalla’s turning to Him in totality was Soham.

The Bell of Truth which she both rang and heard as herself was Soham.

The Dharana in which her consciousness became fixed was Soham.

The Universal Chidakasha, the Infinite Light in which she rose, was Soham.


I searched within for the Mystic Moon,
For like seeks out the like.
Thou art all this and this and this;
There is none else but Thee.
What then is the meaning of Thy sport,
Of Thy creation’s wondrous forms?

Lalla searched solely within for that jivatman which reflected the light of the Paramatman, for only like can seek out like and find the Like. She clearly saw that Brahman was all that can be designated or perceived as “this and this and this”–there is only The One. And she asks: What is the meaning of the One manifesting in many forms? But she gives no answer….


O Lord of the Dark Blue Throat,
I have the very same Six Thou hast.
And yet, estranged from Thee,
I suffer misery.
There surely is this difference:
Thou art the master of the Six,
But by the Six I have been robbed.

O Lord of the Dark Blue Throat. Shiva is said to have a blue throat (nilkantha–though in this verse the word Lalla uses is shyamagala) from drinking poison at the beginning of creation so it would not harm anyone.

I have the very same Six Thou hast. There are six attributes of Divine Being: Sovereign Power (Maya Shakti), Omnipotence (Sarvakar-tritva), Omniscience (Sarvajnatva), All-inclusiveness (Purnatva), Eternality (Nityatva) and All-pervasiveness (Vyapakatva). Being made in the divine image and likeness, humans have the same attributes in a finite manner, whereas in God they are infinite.

And yet, estranged from Thee, I suffer misery. Since we exist solely in the Paramatman, Brahman, if we fall into forgetfulness–and therefore alienation to that reality–we cannot help but fall also into the various miseries of relative existence which produce in us a multitude of pain-bearing illusions and delusions. Alienated from our own ultimate Self, this is a spiritual death that produces a state worse than any mere physical death.

There surely is this difference: Thou art the master of the Six, but by the Six I have been robbed. As a bent lens or mirror will distort that which is reflected or perceived, so the human being, though possessing the divine attributes in himself, will misperceive, misapply and misuse them to his own harm and virtual self-annihilation. Instead of realities the six become tormenting hallucinations like the fever dreams resulting from severe or mortal illness. In the grip of false perceptions the human being can only live irrationally and perpetually harm himself. This is truly the condition of a living hell.


Lord, I did not know who I was,
nor Thou, the Supreme Lord of all.
I knew only this body of mine always.
The relation between Thou and me,
That Thou art I and I am Thou and both are one, I did not know.
[But now I know], To ask: “Who art Thou,
who am I?” is doubt of doubts.

Lord, I did not know who I was, nor Thou, the Supreme Lord of all. Until we experience our true nature as spirit which is in truth a part of Brahman, we do not at all know either Brahman or ourselves. We are like someone who sees himself in a mirror for the first time and asks, “Who is that?”

I knew only this body of mine always. This is because we identify with the body and say such things as “I am sick” or “I am dying” when it is the body alone that is sick or dying. And naturally we become attached to the body and call it “me” and value it above all else, thinking that without it we would not exist–not knowing that within the body is the true “I” the true Self.

The relation between Thou and me–that Thou art I and I am Thou and both are one–I did not know. And not knowing the truth of ourselves, the state of irrevocable union with Brahman, we identify and become involved and obsessed with the untruth that we think is us. Consequently we do not know that we and Brahman are one–though not the same, since Brahman is infinite and we are finite. We both are the same as Brahman and are different from Brahman. But the difference is not separation, only distinction of ourselves from Brahman. This is totally impossible to understand, but it can be experienced and known by the yogi who frees and transmutes his consciousness by Soham yoga sadhana.

[But now I know], to ask: “Who art Thou, who am I?” is doubt of doubts. Once we know who/what we really are and Who/What Brahman is, then we have no more doubt and misunderstanding. We know it by directly being and experiencing fully what we and Brahman are. Tennyson wrote of this mystic puzzle:

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Notice that he says, “what God and man is,” not “are.”

Sri Ramakrishna said that when there is a banquet there is conversation, but when all have eaten they leave in silence. In the same way, once the yogi has become “full” in his experience of the Self, there is no more talk, only satisfaction.


I, Lalla, entered by the garden-gate of mine own mind,
And there, O joy! saw Shiva with Shakti sealed in one;
And there itself I merged in the Lake of Immortal Bliss.
Now while alive I am unchained from the wheel of birth and death,
What can the world do unto me?

I, Lalla, entered by the garden-gate of mine own mind. This is an extremely important statement, for the Self is entered only through the gate of the mind. The mind itself is dual. It is both the manas, the sensory mind, and the buddhi, the intelligence–the intellect. In meditation the yogi joins these two in a union in which at first they reflect one another and then they absorb-assimilate one another.

And there, O joy! saw Shiva with Shakti sealed in one. Thus the union of Shiva and Shakti takes place on the level of the individual and on the level of the universal. Lalla realized her Self as Shiva and Shakti merged on these two levels.

And there itself I merged in the Lake of Immortal Bliss. In this manner she was merged in the perception of That Which Itself is Immortal Bliss (Ananda).

Now while alive I am unchained from the wheel of birth and death. What can the world do unto me? Although in the body, Lalla has become liberated from the cycle of birth and death. And therefore truly is no longer in the world, which as a consequence cannot even touch her in any manner or even be in any relation to her. She is truly a siddha-purusha, transcending all duality and dwelling totally in the state of Unity. This is absolute Fearlessness.


Thou dost pervade all shapes and forms,
Thou breathest life into all frames,
The whole creation hums with Thy silent sound.
Who can measure the Immeasurable, O Lord!

Lalla in this manner addresses Brahman as Soham, the silent sound which pervades the entire range of existence, immanent and transcendent. Nothing can encompass the unencompassable essence that is Soham.


He who regards himself and others alike,
He who regards alike both day and night,
He whose mind is free from duality–
He alone has seen the God of gods.

There is real non-dualism (advaita) and also false non-dualism. The real thing is a genuine seeing and experiencing of unity. Just parroting “it is all one” is meaningless and is ultimately detrimental. If we actually see unity we will not have to keep saying it like a recording. Such a habit is usually a way to evade realistic evaluation and to deny the practical and obvious. Also, duality is not some ghost to shoo away with a positive platitude. Either we see unity or we do not. Pretense is never wisdom.

Both duality and unity are real. Duality is necessary for us to even function realistically. When you become hungry you eat. That is duality. You are not one with the food, otherwise you would not be hungry. When someone asks you for aid, it would be both insulting and idiotic to say, “It is all one” and go your way. I once read about a group of militant cultists who said to someone who objected to their non-dual bullying: “Look man, you’re making duality!” What foolishness–and evil. As long as we are in the realm of duality, things are dual. However, the is wisdom in realizing that all things come from The One and all things share a common existence in The One. But for our evolution we have come into relative existence–or into the experience of relative existence–in order to evolve into direct experience of the Unity, not just to have faith in it and become a nuisance to both ourselves and others. Regarding this Sri Ramakrishna said the following.

“Let me tell you a story. In a forest there lived a holy man who had many disciples. One day he taught them to see God in all beings and, knowing this, to bow low before them all.

“A disciple went to the forest to gather wood for the sacrificial fire. Suddenly he heard an outcry: ‘Get out of the way! A mad elephant is coming!’ All but the disciple of the holy man took to their heels. He reasoned that the elephant was also God in another form. Then why should he run away from it? He stood still, bowed before the animal, and began to sing its praises. The mahut of the elephant was shouting: ‘Run away! Run away!’ But the disciple didn’t move. The animal seized him with its trunk, cast him to one side, and went on its way. Hurt and bruised, the disciple lay unconscious on the ground. Hearing what had happened, his teacher and his brother disciples came to him and carried him to the hermitage. With the help of some medicine he soon regained consciousness.

“Someone asked him, ‘You knew the elephant was coming–why didn’t you leave the place?’ ‘But’, he said, ‘our teacher has told us that God Himself has taken all these forms, of animals as well as men. Therefore, thinking it was only the elephant God that was coming, I didn’t run away.’

“At this the teacher said: ‘Yes, my child, it is true that the elephant God was coming; but the mahut God forbade you to stay there. Since all are manifestations of God, why didn’t you trust the mahut’s words? You should have heeded the words of the mahut God.’

“It is said in the scriptures that water is a form of God. But some water is fit to be used for worship, some water for washing the face, and some only for washing plates or dirty linen. This last sort cannot be used for drinking or for a holy purpose. In like manner, God undoubtedly dwells in the hearts of all–holy and unholy, righteous and unrighteous; but a man should not have dealings with the unholy, the wicked, the impure. He must not be intimate with them. With some of them he may exchange words, but with others he shouldn’t go even that far. He should keep aloof from such people.”

This is just good sense. If the supposed non-dualists really believe in unity, why are they so hostile, rude and bullying to those who are “making duality?” It reminds me of an incident in the first year or so that I was a yogi.

A fellow yogi whom I had admired and respected began drifting away from the yoga life. The first symptom was his reading and citing books of false non-dualism. And having become a “jnani” he became increasingly rude and contemptuous of everyone else. One evening I was sitting in a small vegetarian restaurant when someone asked me my opinion of one of the non-dual teacher-gods Jack worshipped. I said that I would not give my opinion, but that I would tell him the history of this “non-dualist” and he could form his own opinion. After I had said just a few sentences, Jack interrupted, almost shouting: “Just tell me this! Is everything Divine Mother, or not?” This amused me, because this advaita deity I was speaking of mocked the concept of “Divine Mother” which Jack was evoking. So I answered, “Yes. Everything is Divine Mother, so will you please shut up, Divine Mother, and let Divine Mother as me continue giving an answer to a question I was asked–and not you?” Grumbling, he sat there and shuffled, breathing hard in exasperation, and soon left. A short time after this he moved away to an isolated place hundreds of miles distant. A yogi friend of mine who had been a close friend of Jack’s for several years went all the way there to see him. She found him appallingly ravaged from alcohol and drugs. Jack immediately told her that he did not want to hear any “yogi or devotee talk,” because the only thing that interested him any more was sex. (He did not express it as genteelly as I have.) And that concluded the career of Non-dual Jack. Well, he did say he was intent on just one thing, so that is a form of non-duality isn’t it?


By oft-repeated practice, the wide expanse of the manifested universe is lifted to absorption;
And the saguna world, of forms and qualities, merges in the vastness of the Void with a splash of water on water falling;
Then the ethereal Void dissolves, and the Ineffable Supreme alone remains.
This, O Bhatta [Brahmin Pandit], is the Truth to gain.

First it must be kept in mind that every human being is a miniature universe. My friend, Dr. Judith Tyberg, who was a great Sanskrit scholar, told me that when she was doing advanced study at Benares Hindu University a lecturer came who displayed a map of the universe and the chart of Gray’s Anatomy depicting the human body. He showed the many correspondences between the two, demonstrating that the human body is a living model of the universe. In actuality, the individual Self descends into material incarnation in the very same stages that the cosmos is projected into objective existence. And the process of the withdrawal (pralaya) of the universe and the individual jiva follow the same order or pattern. This is because the microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm. Soham Yoga accomplishes this consciously through the will and practice (abhyasa) of the individual yogi. Nothing is haphazard, but occurs in precise order just as the cosmos is projected and withdrawn in exact order. So that is what is being described here as the experience of the adept sadhaka.

By oft-repeated practice, the wide expanse of the manifested universe is lifted to absorption. Reading this I remembered hearing, when I was nine or ten years old, a man telling of his spiritual awakening. He said: “At first I thought, ‘The whole world has changed.’ But then I realized that that world had not changed at all: I had changed. And my ‘new me’ naturally saw it in an all new manner.”

Therefore Lalla is not just speaking of an observed experience, but of a state of consciousness that is also a state of being. So this is not some kind of philosophical insight but a thorough transformation of perception by means of a thoroughly transformed mind. And this occurs only “by repeated practice” of yoga: Soham sadhana. It is a matter of resolution (laya) of the yogi’s consciousness into its higher levels. In Soham meditation it is possible for the yogi to experience the ascent of his awareness to the levels in his subtle bodies that correspond to the higher stages of consciousness from which he descended to external, material awareness. It is this yogic process Jesus was meaning when he said: “Arise, let us go hence” (John 14:31).

It is not the external universe that has been withdrawn into its Source, but externalized consciousness has been elevated and returned to its original state of Self-awareness. “The Ineffable Supreme alone remains.” And this is the true doctrine of authentic yoga: Soham sadhana.

The individual is a miniature universe, containing within himself all the levels of existence physical, astral and causal. Originally he was a point of consciousness within the Infinite Consciousness, but extended himself through a series of expansions to encompass the three level of manifestation–physical, astral and causal.

Through Soham yoga the consciousness of this diversity is transformed into consciousness of/and is perfect Unity. That is what this Vakh is all about: a purely subjective experience/practice in which the focus of the mind rises to increasingly subtler levels of the individual’s manifested being, which in time results in a permanent state of awareness of the jivatman, the individual spirit, within the Paramatman, the Supreme Spirit which is the basis of all existence.

This alone is yoga: Soham Asmi–I Am Soham (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1:4:1, 5.15.2. Isha Upanishad 16.) Soham Asmi–“I am That I am”–is exactly what God told Moses was his Name in Exodus 3:14.

And the saguna world, of forms and qualities, merges in the vastness of the Void with a splash of water on water falling. The entire range of relative existence from highest to lowest is saguna and therefore is experienced by those whose consciousness is oriented toward the conditioned and the changeable. The transcendent realm of existence/consciousness, the Chidakasha, is beyond such relative perceptions because only the consciousness of Oneness (Advaita) prevails there. A Brief Sanskrit Glossary defines it: “The Space (Ether) of Consciousness. The infinite, all-pervading expanse of Consciousness from which all ‘things’ proceed; the subtle space of Consciousness in the Sahasrara (Thousand-petalled Lotus). The true ‘heart’ of all things. Brahman in Its aspect as limitless knowledge; unbounded intelligence. This is a familiar concept of the Upanishads. It is not meant that the physical ether is consciousness. The Pure Consciousness (Cit) is like the ether (Akasha), an all-pervading continuum.”

Then the ethereal Void dissolves, and the Ineffable Supreme alone remains. All that is relative in the yogi becomes resolved or returned to its original state of being that is Pure Consciousness. In one sense we can call it a transmutation, but it reality it is not an actual change but a recovery of what the yogi has always been. It is both Return and Revelation.

This, O Bhatta [Brahmin Pandit], is the Truth to gain. The only true upadesha, spiritual teaching, is the Realization of the Self–not just words of philosophy or ideas about the Self.


Here there is neither word nor thought,
Transcendent nor non-Transcendent here.
Vows of silence and mystic mudras
cannot gain you admittance here.
Even Shiva and Shakti remain not here.
The Somewhat that remains is the Truth
to know and realize.

Here there is neither word nor thought. Not only “is neither word nor thought” proceeding from the mind, the manas, the manas itself is not there. This implies two things: 1) the mind cannot reach that state of enlightenment; and 2) the mind no longer exists in that state of enlightenment. It is important to realize that the manas is absent in that state, but Lalla does not say the buddhi, the intellect/intelligence is not there, for it is. Thought is the province of the manas, but direct knowledge through intuition is the province of the buddhi. This state is known as buddhi-sattwa, the experience of the buddhi in its most subtle level in which the buddhi and the Self are virtually indistinguishable. It is also the experience of I-am (asmita/aham)–experience of the Self through the buddhi. And this is perfectly encapsulated in the declaration: Soham Asmi–I Am Soham.

Transcendent nor non-Transcendent here. When we get beyond space there is no Up or Down. In the same way when we have entered into the Self there is nothing to either transcend or not transcend. An entirely other State of Being prevails. Sri Ramakrishna put it this way: “Once a salt doll went to measure the depth of the ocean. It wanted to tell others how deep the water was. But this it could never do, for no sooner did it get into the water than it melted. Now who was there to report the ocean’s depth? Then the ‘I’, which may be likened to the salt doll, melts in the Ocean of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute [Satchidananda] and becomes one with It. Not the slightest trace of distinction is left. Reaching the seventh plane, the mind is annihilated; man goes into samadhi. What he feels then cannot be described in words.”

Vows of silence and mystic mudras cannot gain you admittance here. Nothing relative or finite can lead to the Infinite Absolute.

Even Shiva and Shakti remain not here. The duality of Consciousness and Energy disappears and becomes non-existent in that state, for there is only the One which is both and at the same time neither of them, for their perception depends upon an observer and the power of observation, both of which are relative in character and therefore no longer there. Instead there is Unified Consciousness.

The Somewhat that remains is the Truth to know and realize. It is not Nothing, but rather is the No-Thing. We cannot even accurately say it exists, for it is Existence Itself, Total Being in which no kind of duality exists even as an illusion or misperception. It cannot really be explained or described because language is formulated on sensory and subject/object experience which in that state is left behind. And what “remains” is what the liberated siddhas teach but never really speak or describe. Only a yogi can make sense of this.


Here there is neither you and I,
No “postulated thought,” nothing to contemplate,
Even the All-Creator is forgotten.
The ignorant blind cannot see the Ineffable Supreme hard to know.
But the pure, the wise, having seen merge in the Supreme.

In THAT there is nothing but Thatness–Absolute Unity. So there is no you/I axis on which to base dualistic consciousness–for dualism is unconsciousness, not consciousness. There is no object to perceive, much less contemplate and draw conclusions about. When all creation has been transcended, where can be even the thought or concept of an All-Creator? Pure Being alone remains, and is all that ever has been.

Ajnanatimira, the glaucoma of ignorance, blinds all to the presence of the Ineffable Supreme which is hard to know, since there is no thing that can perceive or understand Its existence–especially since it does not “exist” the way relative, limited things do. External existence is really non-existence, a mirage. But those who purify themselves in the fires of yoga sadhana see the Absolute, and instantly, simultaneously, experience It as their own true being. For them Seeing is Becoming. The salt doll merges into the Ocean.


Thou wert absorbed in Thine Own Self, hidden from me.
I passed whole days in seeking Thee out.
But when I saw Thee in mine own Self, O joy!
Then Thou and I disported ourselves in ecstasy.

Thou wert absorbed in Thine Own Self, hidden from me. The Nath Yogis have a very important principle: All the seeking is on the part of the seeker, not the sought. This is a reflection of the way things are for the authentic sadhaka. God is not “seeking” or “calling” or “drawing” the “devotee” as in the ideas of the “bhakti” tradition. Rather the sadhaka on his own has to become awake to the existence of the Absolute and then to seek It on his own initiative and through the application of his own will. Considering that the Absolute is his own Self, he could do nothing other than exactly that.

I passed whole days in seeking Thee out. Lalla spent not just many days of a single life, she spent entire lifetimes in seeking the One Reality.

But when I saw Thee in mine own Self, O joy! Then Thou and I disported ourselves in ecstasy. Becoming a yogi, Lalla then searched within, and in finding her true Self found the Infinite Self, the Paramatman. Like two mirrors reflecting one another they continually flowed into one another and yet were only One. Each was the Self of the other, not an object. Again: only the yogi understands this.


The chitta, the mind, is ever new,
The ever-changing moon is new,
And ever new the shoreless expanse of waters that I have seen.
Since I, Lalla, have scoured my body and mind, (emptied it of dead yesterdays and tomorrows unborn),
I live in the ever-present Now, (and all things always are to me) forever new and new.

The chitta, the mind, is ever new, the ever-changing moon is new, and ever new the shoreless expanse of waters that I have seen. There is a configuration of energy that is considered the mind. But it is really only an instrument of the mind which in essence is consciousness (chit). The substance of the mind is chitta, the subtle energy that is the substance of the mind, and therefore the true mind itself. It is the field of the mind, the field of consciousness, and consciousness itself which includes the subconscious mind.

Because of its subtle, rarified nature, the chitta is ever-new in the sense that time and change cannot touch it, nor can the higher reaches of the yogi’s perception, “the ever-changing moon,” be touched by time and change. This is because they both are really extensions or reflections of the shoreless expanse of Consciousness that is the Ultimate Reality in which the chitta and the higher mind exist and are are illumined.

Since I, Lalla, have scoured my body and mind, (emptied it of dead yesterdays and tomorrows unborn), I live in the ever-present Now, (and all things always are to me) forever new and new. Having rid herself of the karmas, samskaras and vasanas formed in her past that could manifest as an equally confined and conditioned future, Lalla lived in the timeless, unconditioned Now of her own liberated Self. This eternal Now, having no past or future duality, is therefore “forever new and new” in the sense of every moment being the eternal Now. No past. No future. Just Being.


Whatever work I did became worship of the Lord;
Whatever word I uttered became a mantra;
Whatever this body of mine experienced became
The sadhanas of Shaiva Marga illumining my path to Paramashiva.

Having become permanently established in the Eternal Consciousness that is Shiva, everything Lalla did became a manifestation, an extension or action of Shiva (the Shiva Tattwa or Principle). Everything became simultaneously Path and Goal, Yoga Sadhana and Liberation. Their essence was revealed as The One.

And thus the sadhana of Lalla was completed. And so is this commentary.

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Pages in The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari

About The Inpired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari

  • Preface–The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari
  • The Vakhs–Part 1–The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari
  • The Vakhs–Part 2–The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari
  • The Vakhs–Part 3–The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari
  • The Vakhs–Part 4–The Inspired Wisdom of Lalla Yogeshwari
  • For unknown terms, see A Brief Sanskit Glossary

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