Give What Life is Demanding

By Swami Khecaranatha

1375161 739183006114270 114549040 nOne of Rudi’s most important teachings can be summed up in his following statement: "The formula for growth is to give not what you want to give, but what is wanted and needed." This is such an important message, and it touches on the many conversations we’ve had about seva, or selfless service. For me, Rudi’s statement clarifies how important it is to recognize that the act of not giving is precisely what prevents us from receiving. And most of us spend our lives not giving; or rather, we spend our lives giving what we want to give, instead of what is asked of us. An even deeper capacity of service is to not even have to be asked, but to recognize what is needed and to simply give it.

While this applies to all dimensions of our lives, as spiritual students, what is being asked of us is to discover the joy and freedom that lie within us, as our true essence. When that moment of grace awakens in us some profound longing for a spiritual life, realize that that is what is being asked of us. When that longing happens in you, even if it’s just a flicker, know that that is God's request. If we choose to not discover that truth, whether that’s by perpetually demanding what we want out of life instead of recognizing what life is demanding of us, or by pursuing all the other mundane things we do rather than respond to that request, that is a denial of God. Most importantly, we must recognize the profound changes that are required in our own capacity to give, and therefore our capacity to receive, that is the essence of that request.

This can be applied to your own life and to your own inner practice. Every time you come up against your inner resistance and choose to get caught up in mental or emotional drama, you are fighting against the request that's being asked of you from within yourself. Students often blame me for the changes their life is asking of them. I recently had an experience, twice, of a student asking some direct advice. After fifty years of being asked for advice, I give it without a lot of attachment, especially since most people basically ignore it, if not do the opposite! But here’s what I want to address: When life is asking you to change, it's asking for a change of consciousness. When your teacher makes a suggestion about making a change in your life, it's not about the details or the form of those changes. It's never about the outward change you are being asked to make; rather, it is an inner change that is being requested.

As a hypothetical example, a student might ask, "Should I wear blue?" And I’ll say, "No, wear orange." For a while they won't wear blue, but then, after a time, they start wearing blue again, because they “love blue” and “need to have blue” and they invest their life savings in blue. Meanwhile they feel stuck in their spiritual growth, and secretly they’re asking themselves, "What was he talking about, telling me to give up blue?" But in not recognizing that it was an inner change that had been asked of them, that change could not consciously take place, and therefore could not create in them a greater capacity to give and receive, or, most importantly, a greater capacity for freedom.

I have many types of engagement with students. Some of you have formalized your relationship with me, some of you haven't. But the level of engagement is something that creates change in you, not in me or what I give, or even what you receive through the grace of our lineage. But understand that when you ask something of your teacher, when you ask of life, you have to be prepared to hear the answer and respond to it. The fact that we might get away with not responding—lifetime after lifetime—is not a justification for not responding. What we’re really getting away with is denying our own freedom. And guess what the reward is for that? You end up back in Odessa, Texas, which is, as Rudi would say, "a sad reward for all that hard work."

I want you to understand what it is you're asking for every time you sit down to meditate or come to a class like this. It is twofold: First, that we are conscious enough and grateful enough to respond to the freedom that's being called forth in us. And second, that we have the strength to truly live our response. And make no mistake: that response requires change. As Rudi also said, “If you’re not meeting your resistance, you’re not growing.” So when you meet your resistance, understand that that is the moment of grace. That's the moment to give what your life is asking of you, instead of what you want to give.

Your life is asking you to live in profound abundance and freedom, which has no specific form or conditions. And whatever specific conditions your life manifests do not diminish that inherent abundance. This is one of the most difficult and imperative changes we must make in ourselves: to be free from the incessant attempt to create conditions in our life that we somehow think will make us happy, when it's the very belief that we need to change conditions to be happy that keeps us unhappy! There is no conflict in that clarity of understanding and living an abundant life. This is one of the not-so-secret secrets of nondual practice.

Understand what an extraordinary gift it is to have this possibility of knowing the God within you in this lifetime. When you think of it like that, what are you not prepared to change in yourself? What are you not prepared to give for your own happiness, for your own freedom? These are the important questions to ask.

 

 

Letting Go Of Identity and The Levels Of The Suṣumṇa

by Swami Khecaranatha

Letting go of identity is one of the fundamental aspects of spiritual growth. In our practice, we can view the progression of that transformation in relationship to penetrating deeper and deeper into the levels of the suṣumṇa. So let’s begin by exploring those dimensions of the suṣumṇa in order to understand how accessing them would affect our sense of identity.
There are four dimensions of that central channel. You can think of them as being like a telescoping antenna, one dimension/extension with the next. What most people call the suṣumṇa is actually the outermost channel that goes from the base of the spine to the center of the eyebrows—to the ājñā cakra. Cakras are located at the points where the energy channels known as the iḍā and piṅgala cross the suṣumṇa. Although we often say that there are “seven cakras,” there are in reality only six, as the crossing of those major channels stops at the ājñā cakra.

DT man four levels of sushumnaCR.jpgLooking deeper within, the next, more subtle dimension of the suṣumṇa, known as the vajra nāḍī, goes to the center of the head. Subtler than that, the citriṇī nāḍī reaches to the top of the head, and the brahmā nāḍī (what I call the Divine Thread) extends to the space twelve inches above the head, to dvādaśānta. That is the cosmic space from which we are birthed.

When manifesting as individuality, the autonomous power of consciousness (svātantrya) gathers itself into the energy of kuṇḍalinī śakti, and that creates the central channel. It manifests first as a streak of light, and the physical form in the human embryo grows around that. That primitive streak is the brahmā nāḍī, which is not only the subtlest channel of light, but the channel of Consciousness.

In our practice, we develop the capacity to internalize our energy—our pranic life force—and channel it into the suṣumṇa. That energy begins to create the dynamic flow in us, down the front and up the back, primarily to the center of the eyebrows.

In terms of identity, at this stage there’s no shift away from, “I am me and this is happening to me,” which is the essential perspective of individualized identity. But we do begin to experience a dynamic energetic flow within us, and that is very different from what most people experience in their lives. Most people are so far projected outside of themselves energetically that they have no connection to the very current that has given them life and sustains that life.

Connection to flow is a fundamental foundation in any practice that focuses on the ascent of kuṇḍalinī. It is a demonstration that we have internalized our life force. As we establish ourselves in that flow and tune in to the ascent of energy that’s moving through all the dimensions of the suṣumṇa, there’s also a release of a deeper consciousness within us. Consciousness and energy are never separate. The same unbounded consciousness that bound itself into individuality is never separate from its own power to manifest and, ultimately, to reveal itself. And because we are that kuṇḍalinī, that gives us the same power to recognize our own source.

As we truly develop the subtlety of consciousness to feel the flow of energy inside, we start to feel the subtler current within that, which is first experienced as it moves to the center of the head. And then, if we become more adept and—most importantly—more deeply surrendered in stillness, we can perceive that dimension of the suṣumṇa. Now, not only are we experiencing the energetic flow, but there’s also a release of an inner knowing that takes place as we develop our capacity to be centered in the center of the head and the crown. With time, as we live in the center of our head and become established in the liberating current that is always existing within us, our attachment to our identity begins to be dissolved. That’s a significant shift because what binds us to our identity is our attachment to it.

When we function from ego and mind, we’re absorbed in our limited identity, which reinforces itself and keeps us stuck there. But as we come in contact with a more refined level of energy within and establish ourselves in the center of the head and crown, then we’re capable of freeing ourselves from the identity of ego. We move away from a separated, egoic identity to the non-separated identity that we call puruṣa, and we experience and function from knowing we are an individuated expression of the Divine. In terms of the tattvas—the levels of consciousness, from infinite awareness down to physical matter—puruṣa is well above the egoic level and is only reached as we surrender all the mental and emotional constructs that are the structural blocks of ego.

Another factor in letting go of our identity are the granthi, or knots, in the psychic body. These granthis are in the base of the spine, in the heart, and in the center of the head. They are the coalescence of all our patterns, tensions, and karma, and they block the energy from ascending. It is the granthi in the center of the head that ultimately must be dissolved before the energy can rise up to the top of the head and to dvādaśānta. Even though we may have some experience of the energy moving to the crown, that’s very different from being established inside that current, and that generally only happens once the granthi are dissolved.

As kuṇḍalinī does open the trap door of the granthi, our individuated consciousness can ascend to universal Consciousness. The subtlest aspect of kuṇḍalinī is the Goddess Parā Kuṇḍalinī, and she lives in the base of the spine, in the core of ourselves, as well as in the space above our head. The liberation of kuṇḍalinī is the rejoining, the merging of that vital force that has descended and created us, back to its creator, Śiva. Living in dvādaśānta establishes us in the direct recognition that we are Śiva. While there may still be a body and a personality, there is no individuality that’s bound within separated consciousness.

It is possible to become so still, from the moment of our first effort, that we connect, and are absorbed back into the divine thread—but that very rarely happens. And so, there’s a continuum of refining our awareness. The effort shifts from “I’m making an effort,” to “I’m surrendering to this śakti,” to “let me just be this śakti.” It is the śakti that really does the work of allowing us to let go of separated identity. But although the energy is doing the work, we must be aware of what it’s doing, both with the energetic channels and how that is expressing itself in our lives. It’s always a conscious allowing and a conscious letting go of our identity.

 

Nityananda Sampradaya/Rudrananda Pantha Commitment Ceremony

By Swami Khecaranatha

“There are Thousands of Paths to God, Choose One and Become a Master of it.” — The Dalai Lama

Why Take Vows of Commitment?

The Sanskrit word for vow is vrata, derived from the verbal root vrn, “to choose.” The purpose of taking vows is to express conscious choice. It is your declaration of intention, the commitment that opens you so that you can receive Divine Grace. Taking vows is about openly declaring what you hold as sacred. By taking vows you commit to freedom, and while there is often fear associated with making a commitment, it is, in fact, commitment that frees you.

GuruyogaThere is a tendency to be involved in all kinds of activities in life, and the effect is that not much ever takes root in one's core being. Our lives consist of multiple problems—of pain, pleasure, points of view, having too many options—and they all complicate our existence. Everything in our life experience, concerning spirituality or anything else, is usually a matter of “shopping around for the best deal.”

We all make hundreds of choices in our lives, particularly in regard to our sense of discipline, ethics, and our spiritual path. There are numerous disciplines available, taken from many types of traditions and philosophies. You may try to combine all of them, and find that some might conflict while others work together harmoniously. But in doing so, you are constantly “shopping,” and that is really the basic problem. By taking vows of commitment, you end your shopping spree in the spiritual supermarket. You decide to stick to a particular brand because it has worked for you. When you take vows in a practice you are committing yourself to that path. You are affirming, “I know there are thousands of paths to God. I choose this one and will become a master of it.”

Our Practice Comes From an Ancient Tantric Tradition

By taking formal initiation through the Nityananda Sampradaya/Rudrananda Pantha Commitment Ceremony you are committing to a path that emerged from the inner practices of the ancient Tantric adepts over two thousand years ago. There is a tremendous power inherent in our practice and lineage. That power resides in an unfolding, living spiritual force passed from heart to heart, generation after generation.

Mark Dyczkowski, a preeminent Tantric scholar/practitioner, recently stated emphatically that our practice embodies the ancient teachings of Tantric Shaivism. In fact, he said it demonstrates the highest of those teachings identified by Abhinavagupta, the most renowned of all the Shaivite masters. Abhinavagupta called the highest practice Anuttara Trika Kaula (Anuttara means “none higher,” and Kaula means “energy,” or “force”).

Mark declared that the Trika (Tantric) practice that focuses on the use of energy (particularly through śakti transmission) to uncover the Supreme Consciousness within is the highest practice discussed in the ancient scriptures of Tantric Shaivism. He stated that our practice is the practice of Anuttara Trika Kaula. It is by Rudi’s grace that this practice is available to each of you. Although he did not study scripture, Rudi’s practice and teachings, uncovered from within himself through commitment, are a perfect expression of the most sacred of the Tantric Shaivite practices.

The Value of Making a Choice

Once you take vows you have said, “I seek no alternative.” You vow to enter a discipline of choicelessness—because you have made your choice. Perhaps, at first glance, this approach may seem repressive but it is only possible to find freedom when there are no side tracks or exits. Usually you tend to look for solutions through something new, something outside yourself. Commitment to your spiritual growth through a particular path is working ever more deeply within, without escape routes.

Taking vows is an expression of freedom because you are no longer bound by uncertainty. The commitment ceremony represents a decision to focus. Acknowledging that the only real means to unconditional joy and fulfillment is  through transforming yourself, you take vows to affirm your spiritual aim and the path you have chosen. Ultimately, taking vows is a total commitment to the God who dwells within you as your Self. The commitment ceremony marks the beginning of an odyssey of dedication.

You have to recognize the sacredness of your experience. It has to be found on the intimate level of your everyday existence. There are no scapegoats. When you take vows you become responsible to yourself, for your own liberation.

The purpose of taking vows is to make the unwavering declaration that you are going to do something. You commit yourself to yourself, no longer thinking that some divine principle that exists in holy scriptures is going to save you. It is very personal. But at the same time there is a sense of belonging: You belong to a tradition and practice in which people work together toward the same goal of liberation. Participating in a ceremony like this expresses your sense of coming home to your own awakening, through this practice. It is a reflection of the aspiration to turn your individual life toward freedom.

Taking vows is a deeply personal matter. It’s not required, so it’s a request that rises from your own heart—to acknowledge the sense of coming home and the desire to live a life of greater consciousness. In taking vows you profess your own longing and expose your vulnerability. Taking on the precepts of the practice is a beautifully reckless act, in which you make nearly impossible promises and express your willingness to have life act upon you in ways you won’t be able to control.

You offer yourself, asking nothing in return, but trusting that if you make this gesture of intention towards Life, God will respond by lifting and carrying you along. To make this gesture is to declare your love of Life and to move from the prison of your own small story into the effulgence of a Divine Life.

The Nature of This Ceremony

The vows taken during this initiation focus primarily on your personal commitment to living a spiritual life, but do include commitment to this practice. As you go through the ceremony, learning the vows and discovering your own understanding of them, you may react with a certain panic. This arises because you do have a powerful impulse to commit to the vows, but don’t entirely know what they signify or what it means to take them on. Then you realize that you’re embarking on a process of deepening and learning to love the vows themselves. For the rest of your life these vows will be questions, and for the rest of your life you will be maturing into the full understanding of them. And so you invoke the spirit of inquiry, exploring deeply what each vow might mean rather than signing on to a predetermined set of rules for living.

Taking the precepts is meant to enrich and enlarge our lives, not to narrow them. The vows aren’t meant to serve a habit of feeling inadequate or of monitoring every thought and intention. This is a practice of generosity for  you and for others. The meaning of your vows arises from an exploration of  your own sense of integrity—and you understand that this is a lifetime practice.

It’s a process that’s paradoxical, frustrating, magical, and sometimes messy. Just like life. You accept that you’ll make mistakes along the way, but that doesn’t stop you from trying. This is the lotus in the fire, and it’s a process full of transformation, tears, doubts, sacrifice, service, and surrender—as well as joy, freedom, gratitude, and devotion.

Fortunately you have help, because you also take refuge in your practice, your teacher, and the lineage. For some people, this happens the first time they walk into the meditation hall, when they feel they’ve come home. For others, the sense of homecoming grows slowly over time with deepening practice, as they become more and more intimate with their own true nature. This is the ultimate homecoming—immersion into the heart of God.

The intent of spiritual vows is to develop the discipline to follow the teachings all the time. It is so easy during a weekend retreat to follow the practices, open your heart, and make commitments. However, to really have a conscious life of freedom you must be able to continue this even when you are in difficult situations, faced with the grip of your own ego and the prison of the veils of duality.

In that regard, making vows, especially when witnessed in public by your teacher, can be invaluable because it engulfs you in your own commitment—allowing you to recognize when you are able to follow through with your intentions and when you slip into old patterns and tensions which are not conducive to a life of freedom. By strengthening your resolve and awareness, vows can help you maintain your practice and develop discipline.

Vows of commitment to a particular practice and teaching deeply connect you to the energy and the inspiration of the teacher. I am unconditionally devoted to those who are dedicated to their spiritual freedom and I have designed this ceremony for students who want to declare that intention. However, since there have been a number of cases in which people have taken the initiation and soon thereafter stopped doing our practice, I only want those who demonstrate a serious commitment (time involved here isn't the only measure) to participate in this ceremony. Please understand that your decision whether or not to participate does not change what I give, only what you receive.

Why Wouldn’t You Take Vows of Commitment?

 

God’s Heart is Revealed in Stillness

By Swami Khecaranatha

Learning to live in the stillness of the heart is vital to spiritual growth. An authentic spiritual practice provides us with the tools to contact this deepest resonance of our heart—both during our meditation and as we extend ourselves out in to the world. We anchor ourselves in our center, in the stillness of our heart, and this is what creates a profound, permanent immersion into the heart of God.

blue moon moonlight beautiful beauty nature ocean SmallWhen we find ourselves caught in turmoil, it is a strong clue that we need to get still. Instead of immediately reacting to the incessant need to do something, find something, or get rid of something, we must learn to rest in stillness. If we do that, whatever we are attached to will lose its grip. It is vital to recognize that our personal willfulness emerges from and perpetuates our patterns of desire and attachment. That need to control life comes from the mind, which is able to create an extraordinary amount of delusion in us.

Desirelessness is freedom from the incessant thought and feeling that life has to be a certain way. It is the recognition of the perfection of our life at every moment. In this acceptance, what can we desire, except to allow Grace to unfold? This is not a concept. It is not theory. It should be and can be our experience that perfection is unfolding in our life at every moment. When we still our desires and awareness we cut the cords of attachment, which frees us to be immersed in our highest Self. We discover unconditional joy within ourselves not by manipulating, pushing, and shoving, not by trying to make life different, but by simply diving into the state of consciousness where perfection is crystal clear.

The Stillness of Will

Ultimately, desirelessness shows itself as stillness of will—which is beyond the mere acceptance of God’s will. It is the celebration of God’s will as it expresses itself through us. The capacity to live in simplicity is fundamental to being able to free ourselves and to allow Divine Presence to reveal Itself. When we find the stillness of breath, awareness, desire, and will, we gain the ability to truly open our heart and feel the incredible Presence that lies within—always there, just waiting for us to tune in to It.

When we align our will with God’s, devotion arises and sets us free. As Nityananda said, “As is your devotion, so is your liberation.” He also said, “Devotion is not intended to eliminate difficulty.” What an amazing statement. It means we are not living in God’s will if we can only be devoted when life is the way we think it ought to be. Nityananda’s words are so powerful because they cut through any illusion we may have that if we open our heart, every aspect of life will henceforth be perfect.

Until we open deep enough to feel the emergent quality of devotion to the God within, we remain devoted to ourselves. We bow at the altar of ego, selfishness, and desire. The real opportunity to know a profoundly different place in ourselves can only arise from an open heart. Our relationship to the Divine rests in the commitment we make—which is an expression of our love, gratitude, devotion, and surrender—no matter what surfaces in our lives. We trust the God within when He presents us with the perfect situation that requires us to get bigger inside and find our freedom.

We cannot want freedom one day and not want it the next. We cannot appreciate it when we have it but be unwilling to work to find it again when we have lost it. Devotion is an act of service to the God within who is trying to express His own freedom through us. If that is not yet your experience, start at the bottom of the ladder and learn to serve, to give, and to extend yourself. This is how we sacrifice our selfishness, laziness, and self-centeredness. It’s how we really get in touch with what life is asking of us and move beyond any resistance to offering what is needed.

Rising to Meet God’s Grace

Liberation emerges from the descent of God’s Grace and the ascension of the seeker’s devotion. These two forces converge in stillness, allowing God in and allowing us out. In stillness we make contact with profound Grace and can live in God’s heart, every moment of our lives. Every moment of our lives—not just some moments. God gave us the experience of life so we can find our Divinity. Being human should not negate our Divinity, just as being Divine does not negate our humanity. Of course, the problem is that we consistently get caught in the duality of human existence and think we are separate from God. We lose contact with Unity as we identify with the dynamics of daily life, with being happy or sad. These fluctuations are natural, but we mistakenly believe that there is duality in those seeming opposites. When we enter into the sky of the heart, individuated consciousness merges with the Divine, allowing for the dissolution of all dualistic misunderstanding.

It is purely our misperception that there is a mountain of obstacles between us and God. The choice to live in the utter simplicity of God’s love is the first thing we must bring to our spiritual endeavor. Then our practice is to get more deeply in contact with that love and less with the mountain of obstacles we have built in front of ourselves, which we perceive as a barrier to living in Divinity.

We must become a master at meditation in order to find that sweet essence, and this requires becoming a master of our consciousness instead of continuing to be a slave to our unconsciousness. When we focus our awareness back into its own Source, we are merging into that which we always were. We are dissolving the veils of duality. The glimpses we have of pure being, of stillness, accompanied by feelings of love or joy, are God’s Grace showing us “This is what it is like.” Grace is giving us the experience of who we really are so that we will know our way home, even if we get lost. Then it’s up to us to do the inner work to actually get there.