A Man's Home is His Ashram
by M. Govindan
As we awaken to the spiritual
dimension of life, we may find ourselves almost always confronted
by a mind which causes us much distraction. This universal human
dilemma, wherein our consciousness is completely absorbed in the
fluctuations of the mind, the "vrittis," such as memories,
sense perceptions, sleep, conceptualizations and misconceptions,
has been analyzed by Patanjali at the beginning of his Yoga-Sutras
(verses (I.5-11). But Patanjali also describes the goal of Yoga,
Self-realization throughout his famous text by clearly distinguishing
these fluctuations of the mind (the Seen) from the Seer, or the
Self . He writes: "Then the Seer abides in his own true form,"
(verse 1.3) But in the following verse he clearly indicates how
prone we are to lose this Self-realization: "Otherwise, there
is an identification (of the individuated self) with the fluctuations
(of consciousness)." How can we overcome this fundamental
ignorance, avidya wherein we confuse the Self with the non-Self,
the Seer with the Seen, the permanent with the impermanent? Is
our Yoga today helping us to remain awake, or making us fall asleep?
Yoga today has become a big
business. A recent article in the Yoga Journal estimates that
there are over 18 million Americans now practicing some form of
Yoga, and that on average they spend $1,500 per year. That adds
up to a $27 billion dollar a year industry, only a little bit
less than what Microsoft generates each year! Consumer and Corporate
America, the yin and the yang of our materialistic culture, has
Is this consumer element of
American Yoga creating delusion? Being consumers, driven by a
culture and economic system which constantly tells us that the
more we consume, the happier we will be, we usually find ourselves
"consuming" in the spiritual marketplace: classes in
Yoga studios, seminars, cassettes, props, books, teachers., teachings.
Always looking outside ourselves for things which will give us
what we are missing. For example, most persons who go to Yoga
studios do not even practice Yoga at home! They are trying to
get something which they feel that they are missing, from someone
else. And far too many of the thousands of Yoga studios which
have sprouted up in the shopping malls of America, the great temples
of materialism, are promoting this delusion! Make no mistake,
there is a great cultural battle going on here. While such goods
and services may make us feel or look better, or improve our health,
and at best even remind us of our spiritual path, they can only
take us a little way towards the goal of authentic Yoga: Self-realization.
Self-realization, wherein one
realizes oneself as the Seer, as distinct from the Seen, the experiences,
may come in a flash of insight. But Self-realization or Samadhi
(cognitive absorption) as described by Patanjali in the Sutras
1.40-51 is elusive, as long as we continue to identify with our
mind, that is all of the fluctuations, the vritti arising within
consciousness: the thoughts, sense experiences and memories. At
the very beginning of the Yoga-Sutras, in verse I.2, Patanjali
tells us that "Yoga is the cessation (of identifying with)
the fluctuations (arising within) consciousness." After analyzing
these fluctuations he recommends as a solution not a specific
method but: "By constant practice and detachment (arises)
the cessation (of identifying with the fluctuations of consciousness)."
But how long will it take? Because
of our conditioning, we all want to find the quickest and easiest
path. And we are willing to spend for it! But Patanjali tells
us in effect that the only currency with any value in the field
of Yoga is sincerity: "Thus, the characteristic difference
(as to how quickly cognitive absorption is reached depends on
whether the yogin's practice is weak, moderate or intense."
A mild practice is uneven, sporadic,
full of doubts, ups and downs and full of distractions, which
carry one away. A moderate practice has periods of intensity and
devotion, alternating with periods of forgetfulness, distractions
and indulgences in negative thinking and habits. An intense practice
is characterized by the constant determination to remember the
Self and to maintain equanimity through success, and failure,
pleasure and pain, growing in love, confidence, patience and sympathy
for others. No matter what the intensity of the events or circumstances,
no matter how great the play of the illusion filled drama, we
continue to see Divinity throughout.
We may often hear our mind making
excuses like, "I don't have time to practice Yoga, I have
to go to work" or "I wish I had more time to practice."
We may also find our mind yearning for a time and place which
would be more ideal: "When I retire, I will go to India and
live in an ashram." Or "Next year, Iam going to go on
a retreat at that ashram in the mountains." This of course
is just more of the same habitual reaction of the mind, seeking
something outside, involved in the duality of the moment such
as liking or disliking, success or failure or loss or gain. And
as long as we consider our practice of Yoga to be something which
we consume, or consume "out there" we will only be reinforcing
the mind's game.
You are not the mind. You have
a mind. You are Being-Consciousness-Bliss, Satchitananda. And
in order to fully realize this, in every moment, you must play
the game of consciousness: constant Self-awareness. In Babaji's
Kriya Yoga, many techniques or kriyas are taught to enable one
to cultivate awareness in every moment and at all levels of existence,
including the asanas for the physical, pranayama breathing for
the vital, dhyana meditation for the mental, mantras for the intellectual
and devotional bhakti Yoga for the spiritual dimension of our
being. This brings about an integral development and ultimately
perfection or siddhi at all levels, not merely a spiritual or
When and how will you do this?
As often as you can remember to do so! It is up to you! All Yogic
sadhana or practices may be summarized as: "everything you
do to remember who you are, and everything you do to let go of
what you are not." You are probably reading this at home
at this very moment. As you read these lines, can you allow part
of your consciousness to stand back as a witness, watching your
mind read these words? Can you continue to allow your consciousness
to be divided into two parts: one part absorbed in seeing, hearing,
doing, thinking, feeling and another part simply being aware of
everything going on? If so, you will find bliss in each moment.
You win this "bliss" whenever you are aware. This "game
of consciousness" is the only game worth playing. Every time
you remember to play it, you win, every time you forget to be
the witness, you suffer, and lose. Even if your karma is delivering
roses, and not rotten tomatoes to your doorstep, if you are absorbed
by the drama, your mind will soon start worrying about when it
will end, and so suffer.
So make your home a place where
you will practice this Yogic sadhana in every moment. What do
we do at home? Eat, sleep, wash up, relax, play and do housework.
Make all of these activities fields of consciousness, opportunities
to practice awareness as taught in Babaji`s Kriya Yoga. Here are
some specific suggestions in each of these areas:1. Mealtime:
when you sit down for a meal, make it a sacred activity, starting
from the time you begin the meal preparation. Sing devotional
songs or chant mantras, and cultivate the witness as you chop,
cook, serve. When you sit down, say a prayer or chant the food
dedication mantra: Ahm Hreem Kram Swahaa, Chitrya Chitra guptraya
yamarupy dryah Om Tat Sat Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum. Chew each
mouth full, practicing being the witness toeverything experienced.
Even when you are washing the dishes and taking out the garbage
continue to cultivate this Self-awarenss.
2. Housework and bill paying.
The old dictum, "cleanliness is next to Godliness" applies
here too. Maintain your home as though you are expecting God to
visit you at any time. By creating a space of order, brightness
and cleanliness you will experience more equanimity within yourself.
Cultivate the witness as you go about this activity. By learning
to budget your expenses according to your revenue, and paying
them on time, you will avoid much stress and so free the mind
from disturbing reactions.3. Exercise, bath and dressing times.
Train your mind to focus inwardly as you go about the daily rituals
of your Yoga postures practice, your bath anddressing time. Do
one thing at a time, with part of your consciousness withdrawn
from involvement in the play of the senses and the mind.
4. Playing with your children.
Your children can teach how to regain spontaneity, laughter, and
being in the present. Seek out opportunities to share with them
what you love about life, and encourage them to express themselves.
Be a good listener not only to them, but to your own mind's reactions
and inner dialogue. Be a witness, not just a doer.5. Sharing with
friends: Invite like minded persons to join you in satsang, or
"sharing of truth," remembering that the spirit has
no form, and that what is truly important is to be, more and more,
Who you truly are. Satsang may express itself in the form of sharing
of the best of what one has appreciated orrealized, song, chanting,
fellowship, meditation, a session of Yoga postures, a meal, any
expression or gesture of love and affection.
6. Practice yoga nidra to gradually
replace sleep with Yogic rest. Start with the practice of conscious
rest when you are not fatigued, and so reduce the risk of falling
asleep. Learn to allow the body to rest, while keeping your awareness
in the state of Self-awareness, not withdrawn from the physical
By cultivating Self-awareness
in the midst of the above activities, you will experience unconditional
joy, or bliss. Bliss, or ananda does not depend upon whether the
outer circumstances are agreeable or not, whether you get what
you want or what you don't want. It depends only upon your being
present, in a state of awareness of how it all is.If you can do
cultivate awareness at home, you can begin to cultivate it everywhere.
By practicing equanimity constantly during the highs and lows
of life, the painful and pleasurable moments, the happy and unhappy
times, you will gradually become a Yogi, rather than simply a
consumer of spiritual materialism. You will remain in a state
of Self-realization. While the spiritual market place may lose
you, the world will benefit immeasurably from yourenlightenment.
We do not need more Yoga studios! We need more ashrams! An ashram
is by definition the residence of a Yogi. So be a Yogi, and automatically
your home will be an ashram!
Copyright 2003 by Marshall Govindan.
All rights reserved.
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Babaji's Kriya Yoga