Articles about Spirituality
The House of Wisdom: Yoga Spirituality of the East and West
By Swami Dharmananda and Santoshan
Foreword by Glyn Edwards
Paperback 223 pages
Published by Mantra Books
RRP $22.95 (USD) £11.99 (UK)
Transformations in Development
We all go through various light and dark periods in our development. This is to be expected as we grow out of old patterns of thinking and behaviour, and life wakes us up to a greater truth and reality. For within the darkness of winter there dwells the light of spring and growth.
Development is about bringing together all our experiences of life and being at one with them. After winter look to new vision, new light, new life. Sow and you shall reap the rewards of spiritual growth, happiness and enlightenment.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
If we embrace the whole – including higher qualities of mind, intuition, wisdom, reasoning, reflective thinking, compassion and the true Self – in order to untangle ourselves from unconscious fears and conditioned patterns of action and reaction, from grasping for pleasure or rejecting things when they do not fit our current understanding, we will arrive at a more centred and nourishing place. In the midst of unfamiliarity we will tap into the power of authentic being instead of obscuring it, and face and go through denied levels, difficult stages, and discover ways of opening up to ourselves and others – allowing people in to touch our lives and to give help freely when others may need it.
Nurturing the Good
Whichever path we have chosen, whatever religion or our nationality, ‘yoga is for all’. It is the path of union of our individual self with the transcendent and universal Self: the recognition of our true spiritual being – That which is a part of God. For we were all made in the likeness of the Creator.
When the tree casts its seeds then those seeds grow into the likeness of the tree. But just as these seeds need to be nourished, we must also cultivate the Divine Seed within us. Although all practices of yoga can help us to do this, we will often need to rely on more than one method.
When we look at the mistakes we have made in our lives, the anguish or hurt we may have caused others, or things we have done which we are not proud of, we can sometimes understandably find it hard to recognise our spiritual nature. But through prayer and meditation we can come to the sanctuary of the Divine and find forgiveness. “The real way of profiting by the humiliation of one’s own faults is to face them”, Fenelon reminds us.
We must learn to forgive and love ourselves – warts and all – before we can transfer our forgiveness, love and compassion to others. We should never despair, but endeavour to keep evolving and growing. Learn to be kind to yourself and to cultivate the healing power of self-acceptance; for we cannot change anything until we know how to accept it. Realise you are more than the appearance of any negatives, and being aware of and working with and through them is the core of practical development. Go to the roots of the tree and find nourishment there. This is yoga and spiritual growth in action.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Initially we will have to accept and explore the experiences that have led us to where we are now, as these are our stories, our life histories and narratives which we use to justify our temperament and views. Eventually we will discover they are only partial realities which do not supply us with a complete or very clear picture. Nonetheless, we will not be able to travel far unless we assess the roads that have brought us to this moment and understand something about the way we work – physically, emotionally and mentally – and how to move forward and become more spiritually whole and creative.
Integrating the Teachings
Let us encourage ourselves and others to band together in our work and radiate out like the spokes of a wheel. The wheel can be seen to contain the essence of yoga, the spiritual centre of the Self, which we are all a part of. Yoga in its truest form is ultimately a way of life. We may practise asanas, pranayama, mindfulness and meditation, but unless we carry the formula of the yamas and niyamas into our daily lives, the essence fades. Without the yamas and niyamas we will not be able to achieve a true spiritual awareness that looks deeply into life.
The practices are there to help us tap into inner knowledge of the true Self and our interactive relationship with all. They give us strength during adversity, and courage to overcome the obstacles that confront and often appear to bind or restrict us.
The teachings of yoga and those in various wisdom traditions are there to guide us on our way and remind us that the spiritual life is forever in the ‘here and now’. We may have plans for the future, but we can only act on those plans according to the present moment.
By working on our unfoldment, embodying the teachings, opening our hearts, being mindful and aware of each passing phase or season of life, and through practising God Consciousness, we can rise above entanglements, heal our mental and emotional wounds, and help and inspire others in much freer, compassionate and creative ways.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
The Unfolding Work
The initial stages of working on ourselves are about acknowledgment. If a negative rises to the surface, we must acknowledge any hurt, fear, anger or insecurities, and realise it is an opportunity for growth, understanding and transformation. If we are sincere and let things in, give them some room and own them without judgment, instead of ignoring or suppressing them, we can begin the healing process.
Instead of thinking there is something wrong when we feel cut-off, needy or agitated, and placing conditions on how we image we or things should be, we accept life and ourselves in all dimensions.
A sense of spaciousness can be experienced as we release any tension or negatives and become aware of richer fields of existence. We may at first feel like avoiding a part of our life because it feels too painful to embrace, or fight against opening ourselves, as it means entering unfamiliar territory. But we will discover that connecting fully with ourselves – meaning more than just the shadow side of our personality – leads to a fullness and wholeness where we are no longer separated from the experience of truly living.
By freshly evaluating restrictive emotions, feelings or thoughts, without involvement in any inhibiting stories we may give to them, we open up to ourselves and allow our troublesome areas room to truly communicate with us. In this process, we find that we are able to be authentic and feel a sense of release as we let old restrictive patterns go and allow a deep healing to take place. We may at first feel raw and exposed. But once we recognise inhibiting parts and realise them for what they are, we begin to see them as areas that can be changed and grown out of.
The Empowering Voice of Silence
We need to be looking for a stillness within, through which we can come to discover the deeper aspects of ourselves. External silence will help us to find this internal state, but we must also quieten our minds, thoughts, physical actions and emotions in order to invoke an inner stillness, so that we can arrive at a deeper level of interior silence and discovery.
In most traditions silence is considered to be a necessary factor for all kinds of meditation practices that are undertaken in order to awaken to an awareness of the authentic Self. We need to immerse ourselves into silence so that we can become conscious of an inner world which transcends all conceptual understanding, and aware of the presence and influence of deeper levels of stillness which can transform our overall being.
Within yoga there are various practices designed to help us move along this path, such as the practice of ajapa japa (using sound as an instrument for spiritual development) and the practice of antar mouna (antar means inner; mouna means silence), which is used to bring about an awareness of external sounds that then leads to an inner awareness, for the purpose of attaining a state of internalised silence; thus we use that which might prevent us from knowing, experiencing and manifesting silence as a vehicle for achieving inner stillness. We, therefore, practise mouna (silence), then antar mouna (inner silence), and use sound itself to lead us to a deep level of stillness and quietness of the mind and the body.
These practices take us from the external to the internal, enabling us to become aware of our inner environment, thoughts, emotions and reactions. We then gradually refine our awareness of silence and fully enter into and become one with it – we realise that we are in fact part of the silence and it is part of us.
– SWAMI DHARMANANDA.
Engagement in the World
In the book The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana, the writer Ian Whicher puts forward an excellent case for Patanjali’s teachings being about the integration of all parts of ourselves – the moral, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This approach ties in with other wisdom traditions that are life affirming and is the central message of many contemporary teachers, who seek to encourage their students to find an active balance between spiritual engagement and healthy non-attachment within the world. It means rising above our everyday entanglements, and combining discernment with emotional and social responsibility; thus allowing us to participate in and respect life with spiritual understanding and display compassionate empathy towards others.
ENDORSEMENTS AND REVIEWS
“From this book one may well decide that Yogic tradition, both in its ancient and modern expression, has a lot to offer.”
– Sky, Amazon review.
“As a description of the 'real' Yoga, the book is immensely valuable and interesting. There is a valuable bibliography and a helpful list of further reading. This book is both challenging and inviting.... I was intrigued, stimulated and educated.”
– Peter Hope Jones, De Numine magazine.
“This goes to the heart of spiritual wisdom. It is destined to become an important classic.”
– Glyn Edwards, coauthor of ‘The Spirit World in Plain English’.
“An excellent book. The House of Wisdom is a real treasure-house of spiritual knowledge.”
– Priya Shakti (Julie Friedeberger), author of The Healing Power of Yoga.
“There was a lot to enjoy with this 223 page exciting and mind expanding guide ... I would recommend this eye-opening book to anyone who is drawn to this totally encompassing, multi-fold pathway of enlightenment.”
– Riki Frahmann, Mystic Living website.
“A helpful guide written by a well known teacher who has devoted her life to her own spiritual search.”
– Yoga and Health magazine.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Swami Dharmananda Saraswati Maharaj, is the director of the Dharma Centre for Yoga, Spiritual Awareness and Healing, and is renowned for being both an inspiring teacher and one of the most practical people in her field.
Santoshan (Stephen Wollaston) is an author and coauthor of several books on spiritual matters, has served as a council member of GreenSpirit, is the designer of GreenSpirit Magazine and studied world religions at King’s College London.