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Saturday, October 3, 2009

When one thinks of a mother, one usually thinks of one’s birth mother. Sometimes through death or separation, we do not have our mothers in physical form. At these times, a yearning and longing for a mother arises. This yearning or keening for a mother sometimes takes a more universal form. For some it takes form through the worshipping of Mother Earth or Gaia, as she is called. What is it about this Mother Earth that so tantalizing fulfills a longing for some for the Mother in form? Perhaps it is the fertility that she expresses through the mountains, rivers, oceans, trees and all their various expressions. Or is it the feeling of being nurtured and protected as one breathes in the essence of the Mother as she is expressed through bountiful nature. In human form, she is known to us as Mother, Auntie, Good Friend or Goddess whom we might worship in her myriad forms. With our good female friends whom we might unconsciously resonate with as surrogate mothers, we sometimes are able to fulfill that longing. Unfortunately sometimes, these surrogate mothers might disappoint us and we feel untethered once again. It is during those times that one might reach out to the Goddess or the Universal Mother as expressed through the Goddess as consolation. Those of us brought up in the Christian tradition have sought the Mother through Mother Mary. She is the sublime essence of motherhood. She is the gentle, seemingly submissive mother until of course she shows her bravery and fortitude when her son is taken from her; then she has historically become a representation of steadfastness and perseverance and we pray to her for courage and sustainment.
The Mothers White, Green and Black Tara are other representations of the Mother. A Buddhist goddess especially popular in Tibet, the name “Tara” represents “she who saves.” She is a goddess of universal compassion and represents virtuous and enlightened action. It is told that her compassion can be stronger than a mother’s love for her children.

Of course the Hindu lineage has a total proliferation of Goddesses. The Mothers Durga and Kali are more fierce representations of the Mother. Even though these two goddesses have been frightening to those to whom she has appeared, there are even more frightening countenances to perceive in the form of the Mahavidyas. When one loses one’s own outer covering and ego as it were, these forms somehow do not terrify. It is good to remember that the ego is the only thing that becomes terrified of these goddesses. When we can acknowledge and claim our simplicity, we can see beyond the terrifying aspect of the Mother and become reconciled and fed by her kindness and gentleness. How interesting it is that the horrific Mother only appears to the ego.

A mythological representation of the Mother is Isis, a Goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and matron of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, the downtrodden, as well as responding to the prayers of the wealthy. She was also the Goddess of motherhood and fertility.
One of the aspects of the Mother who have resided amongst us in flesh is that of Sarada Devi, the wife and spiritual counterpart of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a 19th century mystic of Bengal. Sarada Devi is addressed as Holy Mother by the followers of the Ramakrishna monastic order and were regarded by them as their own mother. After the guru’s passing, they looked to Sarada Devi for advice and encouragement.

Then of course there is the Mother as reflected in Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, the guru of Kashi Ashram. A Kali devotee, Ma is known for her frankness and candor and ability to slice through unworthiness and illusion. She is also revered by her many devotees for her compassion and kindness.

Our prayer for this day is to ask the Mother to receive you into her abundant arms, to cherish and comfort you throughout your days, and to bind you to her essence so that you too may hold and comfort as mother all those who need you. Jai Ma!
For books, audio, video and statues of the Mother, visit Ma’s India Spiritual Gifts.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

I just read an article about yoga boosting “endorphin levels.” That’s new. I have heard about yoga being for relaxation, energy, promoting calmness and serenity, and of course for those who seek spiritual purposes, moving an aspirant much closer to enlightenment. I have also heard of yoga as being an alternative to smoking and overeating. Best to practice an asana rather than picking up a cigarette or bagel. Not bad advice.What is the true purpose of yoga? Or is there a true purpose of yoga? I’m sure in times past, perhaps as recently as ten years ago, that yoga was thought of as an adjunct to other spiritual practices such as meditation, pranayama, etc. and maybe good deeds. Hatha yoga, perhaps the most well known and one type of yoga with particular asanas (positions), was thought to stretch and perfect your body so that you would be more receptive to the divine influence. It was not a well-known and widely done practice. I remember when growing up that to find yoga class w as as rare as finding a health foods store that served yogurt and wheat germ as a lunch item. Nowadays it seems everybody is doing yoga. Yoga practitioners, schools and studios are cropping up everywhere. They are even teaching yoga in elementary schools and there are now yoga alternatives to “tumbling” and “band practice,” such as I was forced to attend in high school. Yoga is “out of the closet” and has tumbled into everyday life.As a result of a book falling out of shelf, I took up the practice of yoga at 14. My mother was shocked to see me in some amazing what she called “pretzel-like” poses. I didn’t think I was trying to prepare my body for any special purpose. I was mostly interested in using yoga to help me deal with the amphetamines my doctor prescribed for me to help me lose weight. A 14 year old such as myself just wanted to soothe those terrible spikes of adrenalin along with the normal surges of adolescence that were erupting inside of my body. At night I did special yoga poses that were supposed to enhance sleep and relaxation, taking care to place my body in bed so that it faced south where supposedly all harmonious influences resided. Now some would say that perhaps I hearken back to those days when there were only vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavors in ice cream, way back before Howard Johnson and 39 or 40 flavors. Now there are many flavors of yoga also: bhakti yoga, karma yoga, ashtanga yoga, bikram yoga, kundalini yoga and many others too numerous to mention. For example, at Kashi Ashram where Ma’s India is located, we practice a yoga created called Kali Natha Yoga. This unique yoga has been developed over the course of more than 30 years by Kashi Ashram founder, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. Kali Natha Yoga is comprised of many unique flow series that include classical asanas, pranayama, mudras, mantras and meditations. Just as one feels a necessity to sample all those ice cream flavors, one can just as easily sample these forms of yoga. It is best, however, to choose one and practice it for a while to see whether you can accommodate it in your life. Just as one seeks a true resonance in friendships and relationships, so too there is the hope and desire that one will choose a form of yoga that best serves the purpose of union within our spirit and ourselves.

Learn more about the yoga products at Ma’s India.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When we speak of chakras, we refer to the seven energy centers within your body, whose function is to keep your spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health in balance. They are a part of Hindu Tantric practice and are visible to those who have the ability to see psychically. Most of us just sense them through feeling the energy emanate from various points of the body. If one places one’s hands at the various centers, one can actually feel the energy expressed at the base of the spine, pelvic area, solar plexus, heart center, throat, third eye and finally, the space above the head. Each chakra, with its own unique color, is also connected to a specific gland in the endocrine system controlling our physiological functions. If the chakras function properly, one has more access to the universal energy available to all of us. It is believed that great spiritual teachers have all of their chakras open and spinning correctly so that they can express without hindrance a healing and dynamic force. For those who are interested in greater health, vitality and spiritual awakening, it is important to become aware of the chakras.
In his book Chakras, Energy Centers of Transformation, Harish Johari, Indian scholar and practitioner of Tantra, outlines in a very relevant fashion the chakras, giving both the classical history of the chakras as well as rendering them understandable for practical application in today’s world. Noteworthy is his ability to relate the chakras to the Western concept of the mind and duality. His visualizations for each chakra are enlightening and clear.
For chakra balancing, we recommend Ma Jaya’s Chakra Balancing Meditation, with Painting. Noted spiritual teacher Ma Jaya actually provides what is known in Tantric teaching a yantra, similar to a mandala, in that it focuses the mind with great clarity upon the chakras, enabling the aspirant to heightened awareness of the chakras and the ability to balance them. Using flute, tuning forks, harp and Tibetan bowls, Jonathan Goldman in Chakra Chants II synthesizes sacred vowel sounds and vibrational frequencies of the chakras that will enhance your ability to become aware of the chakras. Also included are visualization exercises to further chakra balancing. And for those of us who want to be always mindful of the chakras, there is the beautiful silver Chakra Bracelet with semi-precious stones relating to all seven chakras:

  • Garnet/red for Root Chakra
  • Carnelian/orange for Sacral Chakra
  • Citrine/yellow for Solar Plexus Chakra
  • Onyx/green for Heart Chakra
  • Turquoise for Throat Chakra
  • Lapis lazuli/blue for Third Eye Chakra
  • Amethyst/purple for Crown Chakra

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