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YL 2022 February

Published by Daya Nidy, 2022-01-31 04:27:48

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Om Ganapathaye ! FIFTY THREE YEARS IN THE PROPAGATION OF CLASSICAL RISHICULTURE ASHTANGA YOGA What a beautiful start we had to the New Year 2022 ! INTERNATIONAL MONTHLY The magnificent celebrations of the 148th Guru Puja for Srila Sri Kambaliswamigal and 28th Guru Puja Vol.53 No. 02, FEBRUARY 2022 for Srila Sri Gitananda Swamigal on 2 January was attended by thousands of devotees who thronged the Sri CONTENTS Kambaliswamy Madam and more than two thousand devotees were fed a full meal following health and safety YOGA, THE GEM OF HUMANITY - 02 norms of Covid times. CHRISTMAS, THE DESCENT OF LIGHT - 05 AUM: THE PRANAVA MAHA MANTRA - 08 This month's front cover depicts the illustrious GURU KULA TO ZOOM WOMB - 11 Rishiculture Guru Parampara represented currently by the current Madathipathi Yogacharya Dr Ananda FROM A HOSPITAL BED TO STANDING ON MY HEAD: - 15 Balayogi Giri and the junior “Swami” Anandraj MY PERSONAL VERSION OF KAYA KALPA Bhavanani. We thank our designer and printer Sri Selvakumar for this collection that has enhanced the STRIKING SPARKS... MAKING FIRE - 21 “spiritual feel” of the whole premises. IN COVID TIMES, EACH JOYFUL MOMENT IS A VICTORY ! - 23 The front inner and back covers depict beautiful moments of the Puja captured with skill by our in-resident URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS - 25 photographer Sri S Velu. These perspectives capture the beauty of the important rituals of the day starting with the flag hoisting, ceremonial bathing of the lingams, and processions with sanctified waters and food offerings by members of the Gitananda Yoga family. The back inner cover depicts special moments from the 27th International Yoga Festival organized by the Tourism Department of Government of Puducherry. Chief Minister Shri N Rangasamy and Minister of Tourism Shri K Lakshminarayanan honoured Dr Ananda, Smt Devasena, Sri C Shanmugam, Smt Lalitha, Dr Meena and others for their contribution. We congratulate Director Smt P Priytarshny and her excellent team of Sri S Subramanian, Sri ST Chidambaram and Sri M Poubalane for celebrating this festival annually with excellence. Yoga is the path of self-re-discovery, and we are fortunate to be guided by our illustrious Guru Parampara. May we always be worthy of their potent blessings and benevolent grace The official publication of Yoga Jivana Satsangha (International); Vishwa Yoga Samaj (Worldwide Yoga Congress); Sri Kambaliswamy Madam (Samadhi Site); SPARC (The Society for the Preservation of Ancient Rishi Culture); ICYER (International Centre for Yoga Education and Research) at Ananda Ashram, Tamil Nadu. Published from Ananda Ashram City Centre at Yoganjali Natyalayam, 25, II Cross, lyyanar Nagar, Pondicherry-605 013, India. Editor and Publisher : Ammaji Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, Editor: (I/C) Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani. Phone: +91-0413-2241561. E-mail: [email protected]; Website: Printers : Sarguru Printographs, Villupuram, Tamil Nadu, India. Subscription Rate: Indian Rs. 500/year; International 50 Euros/ year. Note: All subscribers will be sent e-copies of Yoga Life every month from January 2021 onwards and hence are requested to register their preferred e-mail at [email protected] to ensure uninterrupted receipt of the journal.

YOGA, THE GEM OF HUMANITY Yogacharya Dr ANANDA BALAYOGI BHAVANANI Ashram Acharya and Chairman ICYER at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry. Yoga is one of the most common words in the world today and carries various connotations depending on its usage. It has been defined in various manners as an art and science as well as the process of conscious evolution. Swamiji Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj has defined it as 'Five-Fold Awareness' that includes the initial awareness of how unaware we are, followed by a step-by- step development of awareness of body, emotions and mind. The final step is an ultimate awareness of awareness itself. Yoga may be understood as both the tools and the actual process of unification or w-holistic integration, resulting in the union-reunion-communion of individuality with universality. In modern times, I feel the best way to understand this great way of life is as a conscious performance of skilful action without expectation. This is, of course, to be lived 24 x 7 x lifelong, and for me is both the ultimate destination of our inner search as well as the 'now' of the entire journey itself. Yoga is our cultural heritage, and the great Rishis are our ancestors in more ways than one. Spirituality is in our very genes. This physical and spiritual genetic potential enables us to experience the transcendental concepts of Yoga in their fullness. However, we are hindered by the widely prevalent ignorance of the treasures we have inherited. We have forgotten that we are the safekeepers of these treasures. These encompass the vast literature of our Vedas, Upanishads and classical texts such as the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga texts, Tirumandiram, Tirukkural etc. All of our fine arts like music, dance, drama, pottery, painting, handicrafts, as well as the vibrant folk arts, have a deep element of the spirituality of Yoga running through them. This is also visible in our day-to-day life as Yogic concepts deal with how we eat, sleep, get up, interact with others etc. yuktahara-viharasyayukta-cestasyakarmasuyukta-svapnavabodhasyayogobhavati duhkha-ha. Bhagavad Gita VI: 17 Yogi Swatmarama in the Hathayoga Pradipika, one of the classical texts, gives us the assurance: 'One who tirelessly practices Yoga attains success Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 02

EDITORIAL irrespective of whether they are young, old, decrepit, diseased or weak.' He gives us the guarantee that Yoga improves the health of all alike and wards off disease, provided we properly abide by the rules and regulations. yuvaa vrddho ativriddho vaa vyaadhito durbalo pi vaaabhyaasaat siddhimaapnoti sarvayogeshvatandritah - Hathayoga Pradipika I:64 In our day-to-day personal and interpersonal social life, Yoga provides us with a multitude of tools, concepts, attitudes and techniques through which we can attain inner contentment leading to happiness and spiritual realisation, while simultaneously creating harmony in all relationships. All psycho-social qualities essential for healthy interpersonal relationships are cultivated when we live a life of Yoga that is in tune with the Eternal Dharma. These humane qualities include loving-understanding, an innate sensibility, that sees others' perspectives, compassion, empathy, respect, gratitude, fidelity and responsibility. One who is blessed with these qualities is indeed a divine blessing to the social life of their immediate family, friends, relatives and their society itself. There are many important Yogic concepts that help guide us in shaping our personal lives as well as helping us to create harmonious interpersonal relationships that make up our daily social life. The true Yogic life involves a sustained struggle against past conditioning, an attempt to control one's inner environment, in order to focus inwardly. Yoga is isometric, pitting one part of the body against the other and the Yogi strives to be 'more perfect today, than he/she was yesterday.' The Sr im ad Bhag av ad Gita say s, 'yogahakarmasukaushalam' meaning 'Yoga is skill in action' (Bhagavad Gita II:50). The real Yogi, immensely conscious and aware at the physical, mental and emotional levels, gains great control through that consciousness over all aspects of life, thus developing a real skill in living. Part of that skill springs from his cultivated detachment, his ability to work for work's sake and not for the sake of the reward. He realises that his duty is to do his best, but the ultimate result is not in his hands. The Yogi performs the needed action not for the sake of the fruits of that action, but because it is good and necessary to do so. Such an attitude of mind produces consummate skill in whatever action the Yogi undertakes. Consummate concentration, consummate controls are all offshoots of good Yoga Sadhana. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 03

EDITORIAL This belies the age-old belief that the competitive spirit produces the highest skill. To this the Yogic answer is: detachment from the fruits of the action produces the greatest efficiency, for one is then free from the emotions connected with goal-oriented, competitive thinking. The beauty of Yoga is that these abstract principles become concrete in the daily practice of the techniques available in the Yoga system. Once the seed of Yoga finds fertile soil, these concepts grow naturally, slowly but surely, taking root in all aspects of life. Yoga, which emphasises the universal, is a perfect foil to those human activities which glorify the personal. The ego, which is fixated only on its own shallow self, will soon run into the blank wall of depression and despair overwhelmed by its own superficiality. That striving spirit which looks within at the universal aspect of its own nature and sees the oneness of the whole of creation will find an endless fountain of inspiration and joy. In short it may be safely said that the practice of Yoga as a unified whole helps the individual shift from an I-centric approach to a 'we-centric' approach. Tasmad yogi bhavarjuna — Be thou a Yogi, says Krishna (Bhagavad Gita VI: 46). May we all grow and glow in consciousness until we reach that highest state of consciousness, the state of Yoga. Yoga understands health and well being as a dynamic continuum of human nature and not a mere 'state' to be attained and maintained. The lowest point on the continuum with the lowest speed of vibration is that of death whereas the highest point with the highest vibration is that of immortality. In between these two extremes lie the states of normal health and disease. For many, their state of health is defined as that 'state' in which they are able to function without hindrance whereas in reality, health is part of our evolutionary process towards Divinity. The lowest point on the dynamic health continuum with lowest speed of vibration may be equated with lowest forms of life and mineral matter while the highest point with highest speed of vibration may be equated with Divinity. - Yogacharya Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 04

CHRISTMAS, THE DESCENT OF LIGHT Yogasadhaka MICHAEL MC CANN, Team 52, Ireland. “The wait's begun again…the long wait for the Angel, for that rare, random Descent.” ~ Sylvia Plath In these cold, waning days of the winter, as we move into the season of Advent, it is worth reflecting on the meaning of Christmas in the light of the Yogic concept of the Avatar, the One who descends. This teaches that at low points in the cycles of history, when forces of darkness and ignorance gather, and humanity has lost its way, then the Divine incarnates and descends to the world to restore righteousness (Dharma). We are said to be well advanced into the Kali Yuga (Age of Iron) at present - a time of darkness and increasing materialism at the end of four great cycles. The concept of history and time is different in India and the West, with one being cyclic and the other linear. Indian cosmology charts the passage of vast cycles of terrestrial life called Yugas, interspersed by great cataclysms that end one phase of life on the planet and begin another. There are echoes of this in the mysterious myth of the flood and Noah's ark. Indian cosmology records a series of avatars, each with a role appropriate to a particular Yuga. There is a pivotal moment in the Bhagavad Gita, significantly on the field of a great battle of cosmic significance, where Lord Krishna reveals that he is such an Avatar: 'Whenever there is decline of dharma and ascendency of adharma, then, O Arjuna, I incarnate Myself in a body.' Likewise, the Buddha, another Avatar, said: 'From time to time a Tathagata is born into the world, a fully enlightened one, blessed and worthy, abounding in wisdom and goodness, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals, a teacher of gods and men, a blessed Buddha.' Christ often referred to the 'end times. The rapid pace of his destiny, and his apocalyptic statements, leave no doubt of his Avataric mission. He is described as 'the Word made flesh', the Logos in Christian theology. This is a similar concept to the Mantra Om of Sanatana Dharma. Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati has said: In India we celebrate the birth of the divine baby on various occasions, on 25 December with the birth of Christ, in August with the birth of Krishna, and in April with the birth of Rama. We think of Rama, Krishna and Christ as representatives of the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Spirit in each and everybody. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 05

CHRISTMAS, THE DESCENT OF LIGHT Whether Christ is the sole Avatar, or one of a succession including Krishna, Rama, Buddha or Zoroaster, is a matter of personal belief. Nevertheless, there are fascinating similarities in the lives of Christ and Krishna, some of which follow: ● Christ was born in a manger, and Krishna in a prison. ● Their names are similar. ● Both were reformers of their birth religions. ● Both were of Royal descent. ● Both had to be whisked off after nativity to a far-off place for fear of the rulers of their country. ● Both withdrew to the wilderness to fast and meditate. ● In a spirit of submission, Jesus was baptised by John, and Krishna was taught by Sandeepany. ● Both washed the feet of their own disciples. ● One was associated with being a shepherd, the other a cowherd. ● Both healed the infirm and diseased. ● Both encouraged shraddha (faith) - Jesus said faith could lift mountains, and to prove this Krishna lifted a mountain with his little finger. ● Both were killed, and yet both forgave those who had injured them. ● Both were called the second person of the Trinity – in Krishna's case he is considered an incarnation of the “preserving” deity, Vishnu. ● Krishna is the 'Light of all lights which shines beyond all darkness.' Christ is the 'light that shines in the darkness and the darkness understands it not.' What is the message of Christ and Krishna for this Age of Kali, and those on the Yoga path? This is most explicitly communicated in the Bhagavad Gita, the Srimad Bhagavatam and the New Testament. While the Bhagavad Gita is obviously a supreme Yoga scripture, its paths (marga) are comparable with the teachings of Jesus. Krishna and Christ were both supreme bhakti yogis, and emphasised love and devotion. They both advocated selfless service – karma yoga or, in Christian terms, 'the Way of Martha', whilst abiding in the Atman/Self/the Father. Krishna and Christ were 'in the world and yet not of the world' and advocated engaging in works with detachment. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 06

CHRISTMAS, THE DESCENT OF LIGHT They were also Gyana Yogis and encouraged the seeking of inner knowledge and understanding. Krishna encouraged a constant yearning to know the inner spirit. Christ said, 'seek and ye shall find.' Both encouraged the practice of meditation. Krishna encouraged 'the retirement to solitary places, and the avoiding of the noisy multitudes.' Christ recommended 'going into thy room, and closing thy door, to pray to the Father in secret.' In the words of Paramahamsaji Niranjananda Saraswati, 'The Christ consciousness of Christianity and the Turiya (unified) consciousness of Yoga are the same' (Yogamag, 1999). The great sages who have looked ahead to the Age of Kali were not fatalistic, and they observed that the descent of great Avatars and their precious teachings, is a tremendous grace (kripa) that comes in darkness. They also state that for such late periods in the human macrocosm there is a heavenly compensation, in that spiritual striving receives, proportionately, a greater reward. This is one of the meanings behind Christ's mysterious parable about the men who only laboured near evening in the vineyards, and yet were paid the same as those who had been there from dawn: “The first shall be last and the last first”. This is a great encouragement for all yoga practitioners and seekers to persevere with their sadhana. And so, the coming of an Avatar is truly a cause for celebration, because it is literally the restoration of light. Let us reflect on all this, in the darkest days before the Solstice, when the sap sinks downwards, the birds lapse into silence, and Nature holds her breath in rapt expectation. As a mirror of the Divine, Nature herself (Maya/ Mulaprakriti) also reflects this truth. I leave you with scriptural quotations on the Avataric descent of the Word. One heralds the incarnation of Krishna, the other that of Christ. Both scriptures convey the silence, the pregnant darkness, and the anticipation of the marvellous. One is immanent, the other transcendent, in verses that pulse with the same mysterious and dramatic cadence. At midnight, in the thickest darkness, the Dweller in every heart revealed Himself in the Divine Devaki, for the Lord is the Self hidden in the hearts of all beings. Whilst all things were in quiet silence and night was in the midst of her swift course, Thine Almighty Word leapt down from Heaven out of Thy royal throne. Alleluia. May the Christ/Krishna Consciousness come to birth in all of us: Om Tat Sat ! Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 07

AUM: THE PRANAVA MAHA MANTRA Yogamaharishi Dr. SWAMI GITANANDA GIRI GURU MAHARAJ, Founder ICYER at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry, India. The OM or AUM in Sanskrit is called the Pranava. Pranava means \"That which has eternal existence; that which exists prior to the concepts of planes, the birth of Gods, beings, creatures or things.\" AUM is the name of God in vibration, in sound. To intone the Pranava AUM, the “Mantra ofMantras\", the “Sound of Sounds\", is to intone, to evoke the most potent of all powers in a Mantra, a vibratory rune. Every possible agent of sound that can be produced by man must be drawn into action to intone the Pranava Mantra. The Pranava is made up of three vibratory sounds “A”, “U” and “M”. The “A” (ah) is a guttural sound which must begin in Manipura Chakra, the Solar Plexus, and is the lowest sound that can be produced by humans. The Pranava continues evolutionarily upwards on an out-going breath, so that the “U” (oo) emanates from the back of the throat, then along the tongue as a palatal sound, then continues forward against the teeth as a dental sound, and finally, as labial sound at the lips. The final \"M\" (mmm) is sounded as the Pranava evolves upwards into the nose as a nasal vibration and finally reaches the height of sound evolution as a cerebral sound as it leaves the top of the skull. The sounding of the Pranava OM thus encompasses every sound made by man. Therefore, it is thought to be a fitting term of God, devoid of language inadequacy and semantically correct. Our ancient Rishis evolved through a stage of naming God or giving names to His attributes, to an experience of At-one-ment (Atonement), where He was Arupa, without form or attributes; Agami, having no function or manifest expression, and Anami, unnameable. To these Rishis the futility, confusion and ultimate violence which would grow out of the propagation, missionorising, proselytising and violent wars to defend these names and beliefs or to inflict them upon others was obvious. Yet, they were able to look with tolerance upon anyone still needing or using a name in any language for God, His laws and His ways of manifestation. Some of these Rishis were great scientists who explained God in terms of the totality called the Universe. They taught that to take three or four or any number of words from any language was to limit an unlimited power. If this power is the sum Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 08

AUM: THE PRANAVA MAHA MANTRA total of all sensations and experiences, then He must be thought of as the sum or the total of all language, thought action and expression. Even in this, man would not come close to naming or understanding this power, for to coin a name for God would require using the entire alphabet of every language belonging to every race, in every clime, in all times, past, now and still to come, plus the use of all ciphers, codes, gestures and meaningful symbols; yet, this could not be the name of God, for God must be more than any of this. God must be beyond the print of this page and the mind which conceives any idea of God in word, thought and symbol. At the end of futility, a single Prateeka, a symbol, still remained the last vestige of human reasoning. This Prateeka stands as a signpost pointing the way still higher up-ward; hence, the term Pranava, that which exists before ideation, mentation, mentalization, creation or birth of any form. Beyond the sign, the symbol, is the substance, the source, the goal; no words, no actions - stillness, inaudible, ineffable, AUM is an experience. The Pranava OM or AUM is used as a universal invocation of this high experience before all rites, rituals, Yoga Practice or the use of any other Mantras. The Practice of Om Bija and Om Mantra In Mantra Yoga or Mantra Dhyana there are two methods commonly used: one is to repeat with vocal sound the Bija or the Mantra; or to mutter softly the sound by the movement of the lips alone, making it nearly inaudible. This is considered to be the lower method. The second or higher method of Mantra or Japa is to silently repeat the Mantra in the mind's eye. It is chanted silently, mentally, with no movement of the tongue or lips. The highest form of Mantra or Japa repetition is when the Mantra or Japa of OM flows back as a Manasika or sub-conscious repetition from the lower mind, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that the sub- consciousness is now filled with the Supreme Name. Yogis believe that this filling of the sub-consciousness with the Supreme Name OM or some form of a Bija or Mantra is the purpose of our human existence, so even at the moment of death we will utter only His name and enter into Nirvana or Brahma Nirvana. Vedantists will tell you that there is a state of Jnana Nishtha of knowing/experience which can be attained by the correct use of Mantra and other forms of Jnana Yoga. The Vedantin argues that embodying Brahman at the level of the Omkara is to drag Him down to man's level, when actually one should think of Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 09

AUM: THE PRANAVA MAHA MANTRA the Mantra and then direct the mind to the state or plane of Brahman indicated by the Mantra. They continue their argument by saying that to mistake the symbol or Prateeka as Brahman is to have incoherence of understanding. They point out that many chant the Pranava OM for years together and spend their time in repetition and Bijas and never attain Jnana, wisdom. Sticking to the sound of the Mantra without sending the mind up into the Truth-Consciousness state is to not understand the import of the union suggested by the term Mantra Yoga. Yoga is to come as a result of using the Mantra correctly. When used correctly, Mantra and Bija produce Nididhyasana, spiritual stability. Some will teach Mantras or Bijas without teaching the correct understanding of the meaning and purport of the Mantra. This is totally wrong, and no higher state of meditation will come about. Some teach a state of transcendental meditation by the use of Mantras; all meditation must be transcendental to be meditation, but simply repeating Mantras will not help the Sadhaka attain the Transcendental State. Learned Vedantins teach that with the knowledge of Mantras like the Pranava OM, you then sit in any of the Antaranga Yoga postures. Feel the three states of consciousness which begin with Jagrat and those below of Swapna, the dreaming state, and Sushupti, the deep sleep state. Then let the amalgam of these three states of consciousness be replaced by the three parts of the Pranava OM. AA - now stands for Jagrat; OO - stands for Swapna; MM - stands for Sushupti, Let the Pranava merge into the Adhi-Matra, the power behind the sound of the OM. Cultivate a Bhava or state of being so this merging is not simply imagined but actualized. When the practice of Mantra Dharana becomes Nididhyasana, then the mind is automatically released from its earth-bound concepts and states, and the power behind the mind, the Jiva, is released to return to its source in pure Consciousness, the Chidakasha, freed from all grossness and merging with the Atman. Without the proper Bhava, Omkara Dhyana or OM sounding is making sound only. With the proper Bhava, the mind will dissolve and the Atman resolves in the silence of the Paramatman. “It is only at the lower levels of any religion that quarrels exist. In the higher levels, perceived by the refined and sensitive mind, God is One; though His names are many.” - Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 10

GURU KULA TO ZOOM WOMB Yogacharini PADMA (TAMMY CARTER), Gitananda Yoga Mentor, Canada As a senior student of Gitananda Yoga and a graduate of Team 47 of the Six- Month International Yoga Teacher Training (IYTT) it was a blessing to partake in Team 52, the inaugural Guided Sessions of the Yoga Step-by-Step (YSS) correspondence course. What a difference five years make! Team 52 (2020-2021) Team 47 (2015-2016) Virtual – Zoom Womb In residence – Guru Kula Yoga Way of Life Yoga Immersion 27+ Senior Mentors 4 Senior Teachers 108+ Classmates 4 Classmates ≈180 Hours a Week 24/7 (except Thursday afternoon) 4 Modules 12 Modules Codified by Swamiji, Lead by Dr. Sir Codified & Lead by Ammaji During the annual six-month IYTT, Ammaji protected and nurtured her “eaglets”. While attending the IYTT, every detail was attended to by Ammaji from her perch in the family home above the Ashram. From there she doled out daily instructions to the staff, conferred with the resident senior teacher, laid out directions for the students' daily lessons, wrangled grandchildren off to school, activities and to do homework, all while keeping tabs on each of the resident students. Nothing escaped her watchful eye as the three “Rs” of the Ashram were underway: regularity, rhythm and repetition. This system, away from the world, provided a cocoon for the students to safely transform themselves as one was stripped of old habits (Samskaras) and tendencies (Vasanas) which did not suit a Yogic Life. The whole atmosphere was created for this transformation. However, in the virtual YSS classes, the work of finding one's own way was left to each student. There was no place away from the world where one was sheltered from the Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 11

GURU KULA TO ZOOM WOMB monotony of daily life. The responsibility to create a Yogic Life within the confines of the day filled with cooking, cleaning, working, child rearing, etc. was self- directed. This is where the responsibility to nurture a Yogic Life became one's own. While the vigilant eyes of Ammaji were not so present, there was still the weekly touchstone of our Zoom Womb with Dr. Ananda, Sir. The safety net was spread far and wide as Ammaji and Dr. Sir carefully curated the team of 27 mentors from all corners of the globe to assist the 108+ students on the inaugural voyage of the guided YSS. Under the new virtual format, students no longer relied solely on the resident senior teacher as their single beacon while navigating the deep oceans of Swamiji's teachings. Lighthouses appeared across the earthly plane (Bhuloka) as the mentors shared with us their successes and failures of living a Yogic Life. As the lessons unfolded, the mentors regaled us with stories, warned us of obstacles and encouraged us to continue our journeys. The entire team was aboard an epic trip in uncharted waters. The new batch of students quickly had to find their rhythm to keep up with Dr. Sir, the mentors and other students. Duties were quickly divided and the team, with each one, mentor and student, establishing their new routine. This was no easy feat given a world-wide pandemic where daily routines could be interrupted by any number of obstacles (Antaraya). As Yogamaharishi Patanjali warns in the Yogasutras, sickness, apathy, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensual indulgence, false perspective, non-attainment and instability throughout the stages of Yoga are distractions of the mind and obstacles along the path and goal of Yoga : Vyadhistyanasamshaya pramadalasyavirati bhrantidarshanalabdha bhoomikatvanavasthitatvani chittavikshepaste antarayaha - 1.30 However, with the new virtual format, one could reach out to any of the mentors or fellow students for guidance and support. Each face on the screen in the Zoom Womb was like a lifeline throughout the YSS. While each journey may have been slightly different, the intention (Sankalpa), the goal of the Team was the same; to show up, to hold on and to reach the end of the journey, and there are so many resources at one's disposal to facilitate this success. During the six months of the IYTT, a strict routine was laid out for each day as the students were stripped, cleansed and built up again through the systematic approach prepared by Ammaji. The days started with the Aarti, quiet sitting and Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 12

GURU KULA TO ZOOM WOMB contemplation and then into the required practices. The remainder of the day's classes of Pranayama, Mantra, Sanskrit and Satsanga were all designed to support the mounting intensity and subtlety of the practices. Ammaji, with the help of the resident senior teacher, carefully orchestrated the progression, sending down messages, tweaking the lessons and supporting the students in their transformations. After a basic foundation of Yogic principles was established, the practice of yoking (Yoga) began with a beginner series including: Awareness of the Body (Kaya Vidya), Awareness of the Breath (Prana Vidya) and Knowledge & Balancing of Two Universal Energies (Loma Viloma Vidya). Then the intermediate: Knowledge and Practice of Basic Asanas (Asana Abhyasa Vidya), Meditative or Foot Postures (Dhyana or Pada Asanas), Pelvic Looseners, Abdominal & Lower Back Strengtheners (Katha Shaitilyas) and finally Topsy -Turvy Postures (Viparita Karana). In the last four to six weeks were the Advanced: The King of Asanas (Shirsha Asana), Oli Mudras, Spinal Twists and the Gitananda hallmark of the Infinite Variations (Paravritti). Swamiji, however, in the YSS, groups these various concepts differently. He instructs on things that were incorporated so skillfully in the IYTT that you weren't even aware. Diet and lifestyle were all part and parcel of the routine, so you only had to focus on oneself. His discussions on diet, lifestyle and Yoga are succinct and profound. But in the YSS, you must learn to incorporate all these aspects that support a Yogic Life for oneself. If followed, you will see it is like there is a spell upon the YSS book, you must be ready to receive the teachings and they will reveal themselves as you progress in your studies. In addition, it is like the YSS is a book of spells itself. The profundity and subtleties of the lessons are only revealed once the Guru has provided the “key” to the sincere student (Chela) who has proven themselves worthy through their correspondence. I feel this is Swamiji's way of honouring the teacher-student (Guru-Chela) relationship that has been part of the sharing of Yoga since its inception. His beginner, intermediate, advanced and senior practices weave concepts from all limbs of Yoga as he skillfully imparts the tools for a more subtle transformation. Under the weekly guidance of our Guruji, Dr. Sir, the keys of the YSS are revealed and gifted, providing the practical to the subtle, in each lesson. It is up to you, the student, to incorporate the aspects into one's life in a suitable and sustainable manner for oneself, allowing the lessons to unfold in a new Yogic Life. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 13

GURU KULA TO ZOOM WOMB Traditionally, with the YSS, you had to wait for the lengthy submission and response time to questions and self-discoveries through the postal service, so Swamiji ensured there was enough to contemplate each week to carry one through, not only weeks or months of practices, but years and lifetimes. With the guided YSS, Dr. Sir, the mentors and fellow students were merely a click or two away through the various social media platforms, emails or video conferencing. A gift of COVID was the adoption of these platforms and a unification of the global Yoga family like never imagined, facilitating the opportunity to go online with the YSS for a full year of in-depth Satsanga and growth for every participant, be it teacher, mentor or student. In this new virtual way, the feedback loop was greatly shortened as we posted, commented, emailed and chatted with our Yoga family regarding our questions and discoveries throughout these lessons. Having not completed the entire YSS prior to attending the IYTT in 2015, it was a gift and an accomplishment to complete the YSS this way. Through this process, whether it was the first time, sixth time or more, a new understanding and experience was gained as we went through, or back through, each lesson. We can never enter the same river twice and as the teachings flow through us, and we grow and transform, there is a new understanding. Another great gift of this YSS is the virtual bank of information that never existed before which has been created to support one's journey as we go deeper into ourselves and the teachings deeper into us. A true resource and gift of the YSS teachings for all to revisit. In my approach to the question refreshers, I realised there aren't any answers, as question and answer is duality (Dwandwa). There is only experience as you incorporate and become the teachings. Therefore, my focus was more on the “refresher”, submitting a single page with a succinct and complete refresher to evoke an experience of the concept each time I might revisit, refresh and reframe my understanding of these timeless teachings. These are the three “Rs” I've adopted during the self-directed work of creating a Yogic Life throughout the YSS. As Dr. Sir likes to point out, all we need is less. May we all be blessed with less as we journey on our path of involution to the singularity from which we came. Less is more and Yoga is ONE. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 14

FROM A HOSPITAL BED TO STANDING ON MY HEAD: MY PERSONAL VERSION OF KAYA KALPA Yogasadhaka SELWYN WILLIAMS, Member Team 52, New Zealand. In one of her many articles, Ammaji (Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani) writes about the rejuvenation of an eagle. When the eagle gets to a certain age it flies to its high nest and begins to pluck out its own feathers. For a period of time, it is featherless and very vulnerable. Eventually new feathers grow, and the eagle is rejuvenated and flies off again with a new lease of life. She refers to this as the eagle having undergone a 'Kaya Kalpa' - a rejuvenation. I had an experience of being in a situation, lying in a hospital bed and, like the eagle, feeling completely plucked. First, some back story. Growing up in NZ I took part in the usual things, playing sport (mainly rugby) and as a teenager and into my twenties indulged in the 'good things life had to offer' – the parties, the indulgences, the carefree lifestyle. After marrying and starting a family I began to improve my lifestyle and in my mid- thirties became a vegetarian and discovered Yoga. However, my practice was only one or two classes a week. My progress was not exactly rapid. Then I met Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani at a weekend retreat and he inspired me to take Yoga more seriously and I was, over a period of many years, fortunate to be able to attend some more of his weekend retreats and attend a few ten-day retreats at his Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India As I was about to enter my sixth decade a medical situation arose which saw me carted off in an ambulance to hospital - and after several tests, I was told I had suffered a heart attack and would require triple bypass heart surgery. This came as quite a shock - after all I was a vegetarian, I did Yoga, I didn't drink or smoke and thought I was quite healthy. I was admitted to the hospital to await the surgery. I had to wait for many days as at the time there was a minor flu epidemic in the city and the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) was full, so they were limiting the number of operations being done that week. So, I had plenty of time to lie in my hospital bed and ponder my circumstance. An opportunity for some Swadhyaya, some self-reflection, perhaps to see some of my true self.Obviously, I was not as healthy as I thought I was. I looked back to my misspent youth where I did eat meat, drink beer and smoked some cigarettes, and took little care of my health. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 15

MY PERSONAL VERSION OF KAYA KALPA I had made the mistake of thinking the pleasant was good. It was many years later I learned of the advice given by Lord Yama – “The pleasant is not always good and the good is not always pleasant. Don't mistake the pleasant for the good.” Despite many years of apparent healthy living the damage had already been done. (I was told there was some genetics involved – both my parents had undergone heart surgery).This situation was very humbling. I was weak and vulnerable like the aforementioned eagle. The ego was in a tattered heap. I don't think I had ever been in a situation like this before. So, as I lay in my hospital bed, I thought to myself this could be the end. Will I survive this? Strangely, I was not overly concerned - as what I had learned from the teachings of yoga was that it is just my body lying in this bed and my true self will carry on. In fact, it was interesting to ponder the next stage - I could imagine it as a bit of an adventure. When my family came to visit, their level of concern made me feel I should try and stay longer. I carried the thought of Ishvara Pranidhana – giving over to the Higher Power - I could do little for myself and had to leave my fate in the hands of others - may they be Divinely guided! One by one the other patients in my ward were wheeled out for their operations - we waved goodbye, and I never saw them return. I lay there for 12 days due to operational delays – I was prepped (fasted, body shaved etc) and was then told my operation was cancelled – this happened four times and some of my visitors wondered how I was remaining calm and sane in that situation. “My yoga studies,” I told them. I had some Kirtan, and Bhajans recorded on my phone which helped me. I guess I was undergoing a Tapasya– a trial or test of my resolve. Maybe I was burning off some bad Karma – who knows? I sent a Facebook message to Doctor Ananda to tell him of my circumstances. In his reply he said all will be fine, he was with me always and sent a healing hug. This gave me the boost I needed, and I was able to face my situation without anxiety. He advised me to do Pranava Pranayama and Savitri Pranayama which I did. The day of my operation eventually came. I underwent heart surgery. I awoke in the ICU – success! I am still in this body. I was moved to a ward called the Step- Down Unit where lo and behold I was reunited with the other patients I had seen in the pre-op ward. Everybody still had surgical drains, oxygen lines etc. attached, as there is a lot of mucus and fluids to be got rid of after such operations. I felt my lungs were full of fluid and I could not breathe well. Awakening in the night listening to the beeping of monitors and the gurgling breath (and other noises!) of my fellow Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 16

MY PERSONAL VERSION OF KAYA KALPA patients, the fogginess of the drugs faded away and I could think more clearly. I decided to try yoga breathing. It took me a little while to recall the mudras - I had not practised them for quite a while - but under the bed sheets I put my hands in Chin Mudra and began abdominal breathing. Then moving my hands to Chinmaya Mudra for some mid chest breathing and then Adhi Mudra for upper chest breathing. Things started to happen. A burbling in my chest began and fluids began to come up my throat which I was able to swallow or spit out. This continued for close to an hour. This would not have been nice to listen to I thought - but then my fellow patients were also making noises, so I carried on. My lungs were clearing. I could breathe deeper and deeper, and it was such a wonderful feeling. The next morning the Physiotherapist came and asked if I would be able to get out of bed and stand up for a little while and perhaps take a few steps. Sure, now with my lungs cleared I could not only stand up, I walked out of the ward and down the full length of the corridor and back, dragging my attached lines and equipment with me. The Physio was impressed. So, my drains and lines were removed, and I was taken from the step-down unit and put back on a regular ward. “Goodbye chaps” I said to my fellow patients who had all had their operations before me. Thanks to my knowledge of Yoga breathing techniques, I was able to leapfrog them and move on to the next stage of recovery. On the fifth day after my heart operation, I was discharged from hospital and went home. Imagine the benefit to patients if they could be taught basic pranayama techniques before undergoing surgery and again coached on breathing when they were in the recovery phase. Not only would this be an improvement to patient health and wellbeing but if their stay in hospital was shortened there is a benefit to the hospital, both in financial and capacity terms. At home I got stronger every day. After six weeks I returned to work, and I resumed my attendance at yoga classes two to three times a week. The postoperative aches and pains gradually faded away, and so life more or less returned to normal. One day I went to the dentist. He noticed a lesion at the back of my mouth and sent me off to the hospital to have it checked. A Biopsy was performed, the result was I had a carcinoma. Cancer. Great - now I'm really being tested! So now for another major surgery. My neck is to be opened up and the carcinoma removed along with several teeth and gum tissue. Before going into surgery, I sent another Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 17

MY PERSONAL VERSION OF KAYA KALPA message to Dr. Ananda and received another encouraging reply – “May the best outcome manifest” he said and then commented “You are a Yogi”. His words struck a chord in me, and I felt strengthened and ready to go under the surgeon's knife again. The operation was successful. “Still in this body” again, I send this message to Dr. Ananda. The following days were difficult. I was being fed through a tube in my nose. Various other tubes were sticking out of my neck, and I was in a degree of pain. I was feeling like that plucked eagle once again. Gradually I recovered but then had to have a second surgery to fix an internal issue arising from the first surgery. Then I received more news - I will have to undergo radiation treatment for six weeks. This involved travelling to the hospital every day and lying in a special machine that emits a precise burst of radiation to the area that has been treated. This results in some collateral damage to some taste buds and saliva glands and the end of my tongue. A part of my mouth was getting roasted every day and the pain and fatigue were accumulating. It was a long six weeks. But it eventually passed and once again after recovering I was back at work and attending yoga classes again. I felt that the yoga classes were assisting my recovery, but I felt I could or should do more. Maybe I should enroll in the Yoga Step-by-Step correspondence course offered by Ananda Ashram. I had thought about it on various occasions over the years but was always too busy or distracted – the time never seemed right. Then along came COVID-19. When the student is ready the Teacher will appear! The Covid pandemic had caused lockdowns all around the world and put a halt to international travel. Overseas students were no longer able to come to the ICYER at Ananda Ashram for the six months residential course. As a result of this, Dr.Ananda was able to offer (for the first time ever) the Yoga Step-by-Step course as a 52-week online course. The course was dictated by Dr Ananda's father, Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri and penned and edited by his mother, Ammaji, about 50 years ago. What an amazing opportunity that presented itself. It came for me at the right time. The course consists of 52 lessons, one to be completed each week. Every Sunday there was a 2 1/2 hour online Zoom meeting led by Dr Ananda and ably assisted by many senior mentors of the Gitananda Yoga tradition. (Many thanks to those who gave of their time and energy.) Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 18

MY PERSONAL VERSION OF KAYA KALPA These sessions were held alternatively in the morning and evening Indian time. For me in NZ that translated to a Sunday afternoon session and the following week a midnight Sunday session which made for some challenging Monday mornings at work. These sessions were soon nicknamed the “Zoom Womb” - it was the closest thing to learning at the Ashram, a Gurukula (the womb of the Guru). So, week by week, lesson by lesson, the learning began. And the practices – each lesson had Jattis, Kriyas, Asanas and Pranayama practices to do. These started with basic practices and progressively got more complex in a step-by-step manner. This course is aptly named! The first thing I noticed was the difference that practising nearly every day made. I had only ever done daily practice when on a retreat, otherwise it was normally two to three sessions a week. Practising daily, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the late afternoon after work and before dinner, and oftentimes a bit of both, started to bring about positive changes in my physical and mental/emotional state. Swami Gitananda, in the text of the course, states “The yoga process of Kaya Kalpa or rejuvenation includes the practices of yoga Asanas and Mudras which stimulate the endocrine and exocrine glands of the body into balanced activity.” I could feel myself getting stronger, and definitely more flexible. (Although I still have some way to go – some of the more difficult Asanas may not be achieved in this lifetime!) I noticed better balance, and more subtle differences - a strengthening of resolve, more resilience, less stress reaction, and detectable improvement in sense perception. Swami Gitananda's words leapt off the pages. It all seemed so current, it seemed hard to believe this course was written over 50 years ago. His advice on diet would have been way ahead of the times. As I read his words, I became so aware of all the mistakes I had made in my past. For example, the effect of sugar in the diet – I had eaten a fair bit growing up – and other dietary 'misdemeanours' were well explained including the effect these have on different organs and systems of the body. It is explained in some detail. However, the good news is there are many yoga practices, including Asana, Pranayama, Kriya and others that can counter many of these health issues if one is prepared to put in the effort. The adoption of a yogic diet as best as one can is but one of the many steps. Dedication to regular practice is another. Ammaji has always expounded the idea of the three R's - Repetition, Rhythm, and Regularity. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 19

MY PERSONAL VERSION OF KAYA KALPA Near daily practice definitely made a difference as compared to a class two or three times a week. Through the regular repetition of these practices a certain rhythm is built up which carries one through the ups and downs of everyday life. Pranayama is the fourth limb of Maharishi Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga. One of the great gifts of the Gitananda Yoga tradition is the many Pranayama practices that are taught. I feel that the regular practice of Pranayama has been a significant part of my recovery and rejuvenation and continues to be a daily friend. And then there are the Jnana Yoga Kriyas - these visualisation and relaxation techniques, of which there are plenty in this tradition, have aided my progress at an emotional and mental level. This Antaranga Yoga, the inner aspects of yoga, is opening up a new world and I have so much to learn and explore. Swami Gitananda tells us Kaya Kalpa literally means body rejuvenation. If the anabolic process of metabolism is accentuated to a greater degree than the catabolic process of metabolism, then we remain youthful. The full process of Kaya Kalpa requires at least six months of conscious living normally taken in an Ashram familiar with the techniques. Most of the food eaten should be raw and fresh fruit and vegetables that do not contain any preservatives or refined foods and plenty of clean water. Some fasting may be required. The appropriate amount of yoga asana practice and plenty of pranayama is undertaken. I haven't had the opportunity to spend six months in an Ashram - for me the Step-by-Step course has been a rejuvenating process as well as a tremendous learning process for which I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to take part in. It has been my personal version of Kaya Kalpa which has taken me from a hospital bed where my life hung in the balance (Shava Asana – the corpse posture – nearly a reality!) to a happy healthy yoga student who can now stand on his head (Shirsha Asana – giving me a new perspective on the world!). My eternal thanks to Swami Gitananda, Ammaji, Dr.Ananda, the amazing Mentors, and my fellow Team 52 members, whose energy and enthusiasm gave me a boost every week (particularly when it was 3:00 AM on a Monday morning!). I have been given a new lease of life. Feathers regrown and ready to fly! Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 20

STRIKING SPARKS... MAKING FIRE Ammaji, Yogacharini MEENAKSHI DEVI BHAVANANI, Ashram Acharya, ICYER at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry. Tejas, fire, is the root of Tapasya, which basically means to “burn away all that is not real, so that the real may emerge”. Fire is the ultimate purifier, the ultimate test of sincerity and purity. The term “trial by fire” is a common expression in English. In Sanskrit this is the exact meaning of the phrase “Agni Pariksha”. Sita had to “enter fire” to prove to Lord Rama that she was pure, undefiled by Ravana even though she lived as his captive for nearly three years. In Indian villages, people are often tested for their innocence of a crime or the veracity of their statements by burning a piece of camphor they have on their palm. If they can endure this, they have proved themselves. Agni, the God of fire, was chief amongst the Vedic gods. He was worshiped and adorned, implored and invoked in so many hymns. Fire was also an important metaphor in Vedic lore. One must cast one's mind back thousands of years to the time before “fire” could be summoned so easily and cheaply with a matchstick. Fire was not easy to attain. Every household had to keep the fire (Homa) burning continuously, if it went out, it was a disaster. Fire was necessary not only for heat, warmth and light, but for cooking and ritualistic worship. (The word “home” has probably sprung from Homa – the fire that keeps burning in the household). If one traveled, one carried a very important item on one's person: fire sticks. These were the “sticks” used to create fire. The fire sticks were a “life off” bestowed upon one either by Guru or father. The fire sticks are a pair, consisting of the flat lower stick, known as the Aranim Kritva. This has a small groove cut in the centre, into which the Cottara Aranira, the upper stick fits. To create the fire, the upper stick must literally be drilled into the lower stick with exactly the right speed and pressure. The upper stick moves a full circle to the left, stops for an instant, and then returns for a full circle to the right. The heat builds up. The process must not stop, otherwise the point of friction will defuse and ignition will not occur. Repetition (Abhyasa) constant action without stop is the key to creating fire. Incessant, unrelieved friction and intensity of unbroken effort alone will produce the sparks which create the fire. The wood begins to warm up. Once must continue to rotate the upper stick. Suddenly, the ignition point is reached and when fire erupts, the fire is taken with cotton and transferred to twigs and the fire is Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 21

STRIKING SPARKS... MAKING FIRE full blown, ready to obey the will of the Master who called it forth from the heavily resistant wood! A beautiful passage from Svetasvatara Upanishad (1-14) makes this process a wonderful metaphor for the process of enlightenment. Svadeham aranim kritva, pranavam cottara aranim Dhyana nirmathanaabhyasat, devam pashyen nigudhavat. “Make your whole being the lower fire stick, and the Aum (the Pranava) the upper fire stick. Ignite the fire within by the power of the Adhyaan, your meditation, and touch the hidden source.” As with so many Upanishad, the power of the Pranava AUM is extolled. In modern times this sacred syllable (or three syllables, depending on how it is used) has been vulgarized by cheap, ignorant usage. One sees “AUM” written on T-Shirts, commercial products or even muttered mindlessly by bond priests in the temple. It is good to step back and contemplate the power of the wonderful spiritual tool and use it properly, mindfully, skillfully, consistently with a focused mind. The Pranava AUM has the power to produce the inner time which will transform the dull, Tamasic, inert nature, and light up the darkness within. “Karma is the Law of Balance, of Cause and Effect, and manifests at all levels of cosmic and personal life; even in the atom. If you want health, you must do healthy things, eat healthy food, and live in a healthy self-created environment. If you want to be happy, you must do happy things. This is diametrically opposite to the modern attitudes and lifestyle. Hence the epidemic of psychological diseases. Dharma is duty well done, the acceptance of human responsibility and the creation of personal and social schemes and institutions to bring harmony so that “Heaven is here on earth…a Kingdom within. - Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 22

IN COVID TIMES, EACH JOYFUL MOMENT IS A VICTORY ! Yogacharya WILLIAM UBER, Gitananda Yoga, Germany This summer, our dog Desireé turned 100 (in dog years). Until a year ago, she was, like most canines, over-the-top enthusiastic about taking walks. So, we took walks. Four per day was our standard. Lately, and here is the smaller point of this story, she has grown increasingly under-the-top in her enthusiasm for taking walks. On occasion, we thus act out the following pantomime: I shake my keys. Dog runs to our apartment door. We walk downstairs to the entry hall. I hook up her harness and attach her leash. I open the front door. She hops down the stoop to the bottom step, from which she can then stick her nose around the corner into the carriageway (she has a long nose). She elevates said nose into the breeze and sniffs assiduously, a study in concentration, swinging her head methodically from side to side, like a vintner assessing a glass of burgundy. Her nostrils quiver. That done, she turns to me with a look somewhere between imploring and accusatory that I interpret to mean: do I really have to go out there? 'Out there' meaning the world. Now, here is the larger point of this story. Often this past year, I have found myself responding just like my dog to the prospect of going 'out there'. Even though my nose is not as sensitive as hers (or as long), it still works well enough to make me suspect I am not about to enter a garden full of blooming roses. I too ask myself the question: do I really have to go out there? Last winter, when local Covid cases spiked, my anxiety about leaving the house was at its peak. Consequently, I became a masked man and prolific hand washer. I shopped but once per week, when the grocery store was least crowded. I ordered goods on-line and had them delivered to my front hall where they sat in quarantine for a day before entering our apartment. I stopped riding the bus. I put my friendships on hold and instead streamed old movies on a Russian You-Tube analog. I put my cleaning lady on indefinite paid leave and scrubbed the floors myself. When I did go out, I zigzagged down the sidewalk to avoid coming into proximity with other pedestrians who were, for their part, zigzagging to avoid coming into proximity with me. I learned to Zoom. Then, in late spring, I went to a vaccination centre set up by the German Health Ministry and got my two doses of Biontech-Pfizer mRNA vaccine. My Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 23

IN COVID TIMES, EACH JOYFUL MOMENT IS A VICTORY ! anxiety levels dropped after the first dose and then dropped further after the second. The world began to smell a bit more like a rose garden. That is, I began to feel comfortable leaving my house to go look at the trees (amazing!), the flowers (fantastic!), the ducks swimming in the creek (unbelievable!), and the clouds sailing across the sky (incredible!). I said to myself often: I'm happy to enjoy such things again and I hope I can enjoy them a while longer. Amen. Thank God for molecular biologists. Summing up with my motto for 2021: these days, each joyful moment is a victory. Maybe it always was so, and I was simply too preoccupied to notice. I notice now. That's the end of my story. I hope you all have had, are having, and will continue to have many joyful moments, wherever you may be. They are your victories. Ours is a beautiful planet and I am glad to have shared it with you for another year. With best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2022 ! “O my Lord, Thy hand holding the sacred drum has made and ordered the heavens and earth and other worlds and innumerable souls. Thy lifted hand protects both the conscious and unconscious order of thy creation. All these worlds are transformed by Thy hand bearing fire. Thy sacred foot, plated on the ground, gives an abode to the tired soul struggling in the toils of causality. It is Thy lifted foot that grants eternal bliss to those that approach Thee. These Five-Actions are indeed Thy Handiwork.” ~ Chidambara Mummani Kovai Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 24

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS Ammaji, Yogacharini MEENAKSHI DEVI BHAVANANI, Ashram Acharya, ICYER at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry. Editor's note: We are sharing here one of the most beautiful short stories ever written by our beloved Ammaji in 1984. Appearing as part of her phenomenal 'Rishi and the Rakshasas' book, this heart- touching and enriching essay recreates the Indian ethos that she so loves. Her time with her Natya Guru Padmashri Adyar K Lakshman, and the experiences of her Natya Sadhana of those enchanting days are brought to life through her words filled with poetic sensibility. Radha poked Prema with her finger. “Look what just walked in!” Both girls giggled. There, standing at the gate, talking to their Dance Master,Sri Narasimhan, was one of the strangest creatures ever to walk in the gates of the Salangai Academy of Bharat Natyam. \"Look how tall she is!'' Radha exclaimed. “Master looks like a midget next to her!\" Prema added. “And she is so black! Where do you suppose she has come from?''. Radha could not take her eyes from the stranger. \"See her hands and feet, how large they are! And she's so thin, like a palm tree which hasn't eaten for a week! I wonder why she is here. Surely it can't be to study dance?\" They soon found out, to their utter amazement, that the strange creature that bore the most unlikely name Urvashi, had indeed come to learn to dance. Because Radha and Prema had seen her first, they felt she was their own personal property, and laid claim to her, for she amused them, and intrigued them in her strangeness. At first, she was a great source of quiet giggles for the pair, and they used to come earlier than their own scheduled practice time, just to watch her struggling with the basic Adavu1 steps. Urvashi was indeed the \"ugly duckling'' of the Salangai School. She stood out like a weed in a pot of roses, amongst the other 100-odd students of Master Narasimhan. The others viewed her with amused tolerance, confident in their own light-coloured skins, straight noses, clear features and large, expressive eyes. This was a serious school of the great Dravidian classical dance, and a prerequisite for success in this field was a strikingly beautiful appearance. A black “ugly duckling\" floating amidst a bevy of beautiful swans could not have been more conspicuous than Urvashi was amongst the dance Shishyas2 of Master Narasimhan. Take for example, the group classes. She was always the tallest, often by head. Her hands and feet, though nicely formed, were immense. And she really was so very black, very dark complexioned, that it was difficult to see her features clearly in Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 25

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS uncertain light. She was so lean that her practice saree hung in an unusual way on her bony hips. Yet, despite all this, Radha and Prema became more and more fascinated with Urvashi as the weeks passed. For one thing, she was so strong. She was always the last to finish the Adavus set and never wanted to stop even after several hours of practice. And she was determined. Even when Master was called from the practice hall, and the others broke into little groups to gossip and giggle, she continued to work on what Master had been teaching. She soon became Master's favourite as well, with her devotion and sincerity. She never failed to touch his feet in the morning before the class began and, in the evening, when leaving. Most of the other students, who had been educated in modern Westernised convent schools, felt embarrassed at this old custom, but for her it seemed perfectly natural. She was always bringing sweets and fruits for his family and was eager and willing to carry out his least command. In short, she was a real 'Chela'3 in the twentieth century, a time when that intimate relationship has been lost in the maze of mass education. Still and all, Radha and Prema agreed in their many private conversations on this very topic that she was ugly, well, if not ugly, certainly not beautiful. Yet even as they spoke, they both knew that Urvashi had some unique attraction for them both, and that daily they were more and more drawn to her. They couldn't seem to help themselves. They sought her out at every opportunity, but Urvashi was elusive. She didn't like to engage in small talk, and the only time the two girls were able to keep company with her was if they discussed some aspect of dance. That was a topic of which she never tired. Gradually they came to enjoy these talks with her, for Urvashi had a mystical conception of the dance. \"For me dance is my Sadhana4, my spiritual discipline'', she often said, her earnest black eyes challenging any of the more frivolous amongst them to make a derisive remark. For Radha and Prema, this was a novel concept, something difficult for them to understand. They both had been dancing since small children, first because their mothers had sent them to classes, wishing to see them on stage at their school functions, now because they wanted to give public performances and even make the dance their career, a means of livelihood, prestige and acclaim. But the dance as a Sadhana? \"What do you mean, when you say dance is your Sadhana?” Prema asked her one day. Urvashi smiled. “l'll tell you if you promise not to let your mind wander off to the condition of your fingernails, or the colour of the saree that the girl in the corner is wearing.” Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 26

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS Prema blushed and Urvashi seemed to feel a surge of tenderness towards her and patted her on the back and though she really could have been much older than them, at that moment, seemed very wise and ancient. In the years to come, both Prema and Radha were remembering that day most vividly with bright clarity. They were sitting cross legged on the floor of the practice cottage, waiting for their Master to come. It was early morning, and the South Indian sun threw soft sweet rays through the cracks in the thatched roof of the hut, making lovely slivers of light on the floor. The air was cool and fresh with the scent of the jasmine the three were wearing in their long black plaits of hair, and the birds were vibrant in the surrounding trees with early morning happiness. The wind was soft and somehow the moment was magic, for both Radha and Prema were transfixed as Urvashi spoke. She told them so many things, voiced so many thoughts they themselves had never had, and seemed to open door after door for them in their whole concept of the dance. She spoke of Lord Shiva the Nataraja5 and His mighty power, and the thunder of His feet which caused the primordial vibration. She told tales of celestial dancers, the Apsaras6 and their rise and fall in glory, in such intimate detail as though those dancers had been her own comrades. She spoke of the intrigues in the courts of the Devas and the Asuras, of the temptations of the mighty Rishis by the Apsaras. She spoke of the sacredness of the ancient art, and how the Gods were propitiated and pleased with a dedicated dancer's movements, indeed, how the gods were drawn to the spot where a concentrated dancer performed her worship. She told of the correlation between the various Talams7 and the intimate, sweet rhythms of the Universe. She explained the Bhava8and Rasa9 as tools by which human emotions were clarified and purified and made fit for awareness of that highest emotion - love of the Divine Spirit. She described the Adavus as geometric patterns in space by which the body moved in Mandalas10 creating positive energy forms, psychic forms, which lifted and purified human thought and lifted the human to higher realms of life. She told the enchanted girls the secrets of the Mudras11, and how they acted upon the nervous system, releasing age-old feelings and thoughts much as a key undoes a lock. She told of how the combination of Mudra, Adavus, Bhava, and Rasa produced immense flows of Shakti12 through which the performer and those who viewed the performance could unite with the Universal Power. She spoke and her words flowed unhindered like a golden river of sound, with the intensity Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 27

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS and depth of Mantra, changing shape, provoking visions, till Radha and Prema caught their breath afraid to breathe in case even slightest movement should shatter illusion. \"Girls, sorry I am so late. I was held up at the recording studio. I am afraid we'll have to cancel the morning class, it's almost noon!\" The voice of the Master broke the spell, and the three tumbled abruptly back into the world of practice halls and birds and thatched roofs and now bright hot sunshine. He looked at the three faces, which must have carried strange expressions, for he smiled a knowing smile which Radha and Prema had never seen before, nor were they ever to see again. \"So\", he said in a mischievous tone, glancing at Urvashi, \"You have taken the chance to have a nice, relaxed session, have you?\" She dropped her eyes, in a most coquettish fashion, to the immense surprise of Radha and Prema. They felt a unique comradeship between the two, a deep understanding of the Master with his disciple, and felt humbled by the beauty of the feeling. They never forgot that morning with Urvashi, for some good change had been wrought upon them by the experience. Everything they did in their dance now took on deeper meaning, was seen in a new, inner light. Though they never spoke so intensely with her again, a strong bond had been forged amongst the three, which had produced a lovely inner satisfaction and fullness. Prema and Radha became slowly aware of another change taking place, but this change was in Urvashi after that morning. She seemed to develop daily in radiance, beauty and grace, till they could hardly recognize her as the girl who had entered the school on that day so long ago. She was still too tall, with large hands and feet, but her skin had lightened, and she had a luminous quality about her. Just as before Radha and Prema had stared at Urvashi in amusement at her first fumbling attempts at the graceful movements of the dance, they were now fascinated by her dancing. Her movements were effortless, and filled with brilliant energy, crisp, defined. Sometimes they imagined that they saw patterns of light in the space in which she moved, but when they looked more closely, the light disappeared. When she performed an item containing Abhinaya, she drew their souls into her own and together they soared into the ecstasies and the agonies of the human in its spiritual yearnings. At first Radha and Prema felt they were the only ones to be aware of this transformation in Urvashi. Later they noticed that whenever a group of students were dancing, it was invariably to Urvashi that all eyes in the audience were drawn. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 28

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS It was strange, this quality of hers, Radha often pondered, frankly speaking, though Urvashi was not downright ugly, she certainly was not a beauty. Yet, when she danced, it was almost as though her physical body disappeared, and only her spirit was visible, and that was “a thing of beauty and a joy forever.” One day Urvashi did not come to the school for practice. The Master, Radha noticed immediately, looked downcast, which was rare for him. Radha and Prema were very much aware of her absence, as though the sun had failed to shine after giving so many days of brightness and warmth. She wasn't there the next day, nor the next, and Radha and Prema could hardly contain their anxiety, for they had become quite dependent upon their strange friend. They approached their Master with trepidation. \"Sir\", they said, \"Where is Urvashi? Why hasn't she come to class?\" He simply looked at them sadly and said, \"Her time is fulfilled,\" and walked away, abruptly calling a halt to the discussion. The girls were perplexed at the odd statement. \"What he meant?” Prema said, with a frown. “Her time is fulfilled! What a strange thing to say?\" Radha and Prema took a bath, and changed from their practice clothes into cotton sarees, discussing all the while the mystery of Urvashi. They recalled how suddenly she had appeared in their lives, and how just as suddenly she had disappeared. Somehow, she seemed to hold a great meaning for their lives, but exactly what it was, they could not decipher. It was a late afternoon, pleasant and cool, when they walked from the school hand in hand to their bus stop. They had fallen into silence, each trying to understand the unsettling emotions they were experiencing. Prema tugged eagerly at Radha's hand. \"Look!\" she pointed. “Look! There she is!\" And then Radha saw her too, looking quite magnificent standing on the corner near their bus stop, dressed in a bright red gold Kanchipuram saree with an exquisite wide border. She literally glittered with gold and looked charming. The girls stood speechless; hardly able to comprehend who she was, Jasmine cascaded from her long black braid and the sweet smell wafted even across the road to where they stood. She saw them, waved gaily, and came to meet them. The sound of gold bangles tingling and ankle bracelets jingling added to the girl's excitement of seeing their friend dressed in so much finery. Urvashi spoke first, with a lovely affectionate smile. \"I was waiting here just for you. I knew you'd come now after your practice. I wanted to tell you that I am going home at long last. I wanted to say goodbye.\" She was so radiant, so happy, that Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 29

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS Radha and Prema felt like wilted flowers alongside her brilliance. She looked light and young, as though a great burden she had carried for a long time had suddenly been lifted away from her. \"Where is your home, Urvashi?\" Radha asked \"You have never told even a little bit about yourself. We don't even know how to contact you.” She tried to fight back the dejection which rose within her at the thought of life without Urvashi. She laughed a gay and light sound. The girls had never heard her laugh like that before. It charmed them and they stood waiting for her to speak again. \"My story is a very long and involved one and I can't tell you now, for I must hurry, else I'll be late. But I found a kindred spirit in you two, so I'll share my secret with you. I've written this letter for you - read it - and may your Sadhana be fruitful!\" And then she was gone. Later, when the two girls discussed it between themselves, they couldn't figure out exactly where Urvashi had gone or how. As much as they hated to admit it, they both had the queer sensation that she had simply disappeared. Of course, that kind of thing couldn't happen in the twentieth century, they knew, yet one minute she was there, laughing and talking, handing them the letter. The next minute she was gone. Radha and Prema sat down on the corner to read the letter. They hesitated to open it, for they had the sense that their lives would never be the same if they read this message from their friend. Finally, they overcame their trepidation, and opened the cover. Dear Ones: I know you modern people don't believe any more in our ancient Gods and Goddesses, but they do exist, anyway, despite your scepticism and their existence does not depend upon human belief or disbelief. That Urvashi which you have known in her disgusting human form was none other than myself, Urvashi, the Celestial, Urvashi, the Apsara. I was cursed to spend some time on earth in the most disgusting human form and suffer the knowledge of self-ugliness as a penance for my overwhelming pride in my physical beauty. I have learned my lesson well and the curse has been lifted. Remember me when you dance, for I shall always be present when the spirit of your dance is pure, when your dance is an act of worship of that Divine Force, and not an act of mere egoism. Farewell, my little Sakhis. I am yours – Urvashi. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 30

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS The girls could not believe their eyes, and looked at each other, to reassure themselves that what they had read was indeed real. Radha reached out to take the letter into her own hand, to read it a second time but a sudden gust of wind pulled the thin paper away and lifted it high into the air, turning it this way and that, in circles and triangles, making Mandalas - geometric forms of white on blue against the sky. And then the small piece of paper was lost to their view, like lovely Urvashi herself, remaining but a graceful, beautiful movement in their minds and hearts - deeply etched - forever. Glossary of Sanskrit Terms Used in the Short Story \"Urvashi” 1. ADAVUS: The basic movements or drills which must be mastered by a student of Bharatanatyam before actually performing dance items. They are well defined movements which have remained similar in structure over thousands of years during which the classical dance was performed in South India, geometric in structure with the triangle the basic form out of which other forms - circles and semicircles most particularly, are created. 2. SHISHYA: A student of Guru. The term implies a student who is completely devoted to his Guru and worships his Guru as God. The relationship is a spiritual relationship, deep and life-long, implying many responsibilities on the part of the Guru and many duties on the part of the student. The student is always submissive to the will of the Guru and waits for the pleasure of the Guru to receive his teachings. In this system of real educement (education), the whole burden of learning is upon the student who must prove himself worthy of the Guru's knowledge before he is considered fit to learn. 3. CHELA: This has roughly the same meaning as Shishya. 4. SADHANA: Literally. Sat Dharana, or the concentration upon finding the Truth. It has also come to mean the path which one follows in seeking spiritual fulfilment, also implying a path which is difficult and disciplined. 5. SHIVA, the NATARAJA: 'Natya' means dance and 'Raja' means king or lord. Therefore, Nataraja means the Lord of the Dance and is one of the most common appellations of Lord Shiva. The name “Shiva'' itself means Ultimate Goodness. It is believed by the Shaivites, that is the followers of Shiva, that Lord Shiva danced the Universe into existence, and that He will also dance it into dissolution. Nataraja is always portrayed with one foot lifted, the other foot firmly astride the Asmara, or ego, which He Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 31

URVASHI: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS keeps firmly in place with His dance. His right hand is raised in Abhaya Mudra, which reassures His devotees that they have nothing to fear in the Universe. His left hand is the Varadha Mudra, which indicates to His devotees that He will bless those who approach Him properly. Lord Shiva is the God most frequently associated with classical dance, and it is believed that all classical Hindu dances were given to man by Shiva Himself. 6. APSARA: An Apasara is a celestial dancer. Hindu legends and scriptures abound in stories of the Apsaras, their amazing beauty, charm, intelligence and art. They were often sent by the Devas to earth to tempt humans who attempting through Tapas or severe discipline to achieve God-like states even in the human body. One of the most famous stories concerns the temptation of the great Rishi Vishwamitra, the Guru of Lord Rama, by the Apsara Menaka. He dallied with her ten years before realising she had been sent by the Gods to distract him from his Sadhana. He then sent her away, but not before a daughter was born to her by the name of Shakuntala, who became famous in Hindu history. 7. TALAM: Means rhythm. The rhythms of the Hindu music and dance are most intricate and are believed to be manifestations in the sensual world of the mysterious rhythms of the Universe. 8. BHAVA: Means emotion, but pure and deep emotion. 9. RASA: Literally means a “taste''. When used in reference to dance, it means that exquisite and subtle feeling which a skilled dancer is able to create in her audience, leading them to more refined emotional and spiritual experiences. It is a means of communion with the ancient heroes, heroines and ideals of Hinduism. 10. MANDALA: A geometric form which produces a peculiar type of powerful psychic energy. There are many types of Mandalas used for many different purposes. They can be used also to invoke Gods and Goddesses, and also to concentrate the mind, eliciting powerful thought forms in the meditator. 11. MUDRA: This is a complex word which has many layers and nuances of meaning. In reference to dance, it usually refers to the complicated positions of the hands used by the dancer to convey the meaning of her dance. It is believed that the Gods and Goddesses can also be invoked by these hand gestures, and that certain types of spiritual energy can be roused by their use. It is thought as well that Mudra can create emotion, as well as control emotion, and express emotion. The use of Mudras has been developed to a very great art in the system of Bharatanatyam. 12. SHAKTI: This is another term which carries a multiplicity of meanings. It is used in this context to mean the powerful spiritual energy which can be roused in a human being through any intense form of positive Sadhana. Vol.53 No. 02, February 2022 32

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