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Yogaswami and one's relationship to the guru.

Bodhinatha relates stories about Paramaguru Yogaswami. These stories illustrate profound truths drawn from Swami's legacy such as: God is within and without, You are He, What is the one thing God cannot do. Bodhinatha then reminds us that Yogaswami reflects our own potential. Every year and lifetime we live, we become more like Him, more spiritual.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Pulled out a few stories this morning about Paramaguru Yogaswami. This is the introduction. Pulled this together a few years ago and just had come back from a kumbhabhishekam in Cincinnati. Was very interesting. I was looking at the notes here, and a few years ago we went to a kumbhabhishekam in Cincinnati, and for a Murugan deity, Kartikkeya, who's on our left here, and the deity had been gifted by Gurudeva many years before, and they finally got around to installing it. And Gurudeva's original message when he gave them the deity back in 1995 was: "The power of He who wields the Vel, comes from His powerful temple in Nallur to His murthi here at Kadavul Hindu Temple and soon to His devotees in Cincinnati." So I was thinking well that's very good and very similar what happened; we just came back from a kumbhabhishekam in Montreal, Canada for the Murugan temple there; they've had a small temple for many years but they just completed a much larger agamic structure in cement, with traditional shrines and the central deity again is Murugan. In this case Gurudeva didn't give the deity, he promised to give the deity and passed on before the deity was actually gifted. So we, we ended up sending the money just a couple of years ago to fulfill Gurudeva's promise. And so there it was, the main murthi again of Murugan, had been provided by Gurudeva, as in the Cincinnati case. So seemed very appropriate to pull out these stories, which are both based on coming back from wonderful kumbhabhishekam at Murugan temples.

So, we have a couple of stories here about our Paramaguru Yogaswami from Jaffna.

Sometimes when Swami stayed in our house he would spend hours in deep meditation. Seeing Swami seated in the padmasana pose as the Lord of Meditation on my return from work would enrapture me. (Think it would enrapture anyone, right? Come home from work and there's a great sage sitting in lotus in your living room.) Early morning when we wake up, seeing Swami lying on the bed, he would look like the Lord of Serenity. On seeing that form I would sense that we were looking at God thus proving the words given in that rare mantra: "I am He."

Even when Swami was not there it was natural to recall his divine form in words. In the letter he wrote to me there is a line: " Great souls have arrived from their experience." The plural word, great souls, generally signifies all those souls who have gained spiritual. As time went on it appeared to me that Swami alone remained hidden in those plural words. Swami, by his own experience, gained the knowledge that we are the soul, Atma. It also became clear that Swami sees directly that God is within, and without. I recollected that Swami once said: you can only see God, Swami once said: "You can see God only through God." As I remembered this, the certainty arose that there was no greater God than Swami, who was constantly seeing God everywhere, within and without. Just as a researcher who touches, feels and tests the statue, suddenly realizes the true form of that statue which was worshiped earlier, would tremble like a devotee before the original God, such a tremor arose in me.

In this state of mind I went to Jaffna and I went to see, and I went to the ashram at Columbuthurai to see Swami. Swami was seated amidst a few devotees. That day even without my knowledge, I fell spontaneously at his feet and worshiped him. From that day onwards until he attained samadhi, whenever I went to see Swami, I worshiped him despite his saying these words: "It is not necessary to worship in front of people and it is not necessary to fall on the ground. And it is sufficient if you worship mentally." From that day I could not be without falling prostrate and worshiping him. One day he called me by name and said: "What is the one thing God cannot do?" (So of course many of you know the answer. You've heard this story before but it's a great question, you know. God is "omni," you know, omnipotent right? Omnipotent! God can do everything. All powerful. But yet Yogaswami is saying there's one thing God can't do. So what in the world could that be?) I heard this question and remained shocked. When it is said that God is all powerful is there something He cannot do? Swami quietly said: "You need not answer now, you can give the reply when you come in two days time." When I came home that question kept resounding itself. I could think of nothing else. While I was musing over that question a section I had studied in the Mahabharata came to my mind. When Krishna asked: "What can be done to prevent the war?" Sahadevan's reply was the section I recalled. Sahadevan's reply was: "If I bind you straight away, the war can be prevented. Then Krishna asked him: "How will you bind me" and Sahadevan responded that he would bind him with the fetters of love. This seemed a satisfactory answer to Swami's question.

I decided to tell Swami that when God is captured by the love of the devotee, He cannot free Himself. Two days later when I went to see Swami I gave this reply. When he heard my reply Swami said: "How can that be? You can bind God by love only if love is different from God. However, you cannot separate God from love. God is Love." He continued: "The one act God cannot do is to separate Himself from us, even for a moment." (That's the answer.) "God cannot separate Himself from us, even for a moment."

By this device Swami impressed on my heart that God does not separate from us even for a thrice and is always within us, as the soul of our souls. Now since Swami is my God I began to meditate on the fact that Swami is the God who is inseparable from me. (He's a hopeless guru bhaktar, isn't he? Everything that gets said about God he turns into something about the guru.)

This same teaching from Yogaswami is found in his published sayings in Words of Our Master where it says: "There is one thing God cannot do, He cannot separate Himself from the soul." Yogaswami of course is impressing upon the mind the teaching that the essence of the soul is identical with God. That God is the soul of our soul. The life of our life. In the story Yogaswami could have simply made the statement to the devotee: God is always within us. However, instead he asked the question: "What is the one thing God cannot do?" and asked the man to think about it for two days. When the answer was finally given that the one thing that God cannot do is separate Himself from us, of course it made a much deeper impression on the devotees mind than it would have if simply spoken as a statement in the first place.

Gurudeva states this same teaching in the first sloka and bhashya of Dancing With Siva, wherein the answer to the question: "Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?"

Gurudeva answers:


Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions. We are divine souls on a wondrous journey. We came from God, live in god and are evolving into oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek. Aum.


We are immortal souls living and growing in the great school of earthly experience in which we have lived many lives. Vedic rishis have given us courage by uttering the simple truth, 'God is the Life of our life.' A great sage (meaning Yogaswami carried it further by saying there is one thing god cannot do: God cannot separate Himself from us. This is because God is our life. God is the life in the birds. God is the life in the fish. God is the life in the animals. Becoming aware of this Life energy in all that lives is becoming aware of God's loving presence within us. We are the undying consciousness and energy flowing through all things. Deep inside we are perfect this very moment, and we have only to discover and live up to this perfection to be whole. Our energy and God's energy are the same, ever coming out of the void. We are all beautiful children of God. Each day we should try to see the life energy in trees, birds, animals and people. when we do, we are seeing God Siva in action. The Vedas affirm, 'He who knows God as the Life of life, the Eye of the eye, the Ear of the ear, the Mind of the mind -- he indeed comprehends fully the Cause of all causes.'"

And there's one more story. When Yogaswami began living in the Columbuthurai Ashram he would spend the first three days of a week in meditation. He would rest on the fourth day; again he would spend the last three days in meditation. (Imagine that. That's pretty strict regimen, hmm? He gets one day a week off. That's not bad. 72 hours of meditation, takes a break for 24 hours, another 72 hours in meditation. Makes our 3 hour vigils look a little shorter. 72 hour vigil.) Even after the devotees began to arrive in great numbers he would be wrapped in meditation at will. On Sivaratri Day it was his custom to meditate through the night. A few devotees, who had the good fortune to be with Swami at these times, saw a light shine where Swami's body should have been. Those devotees who saw this shining light for a few seconds, believe that this was the Divine Light that shone from his blemishless form and was his true form. Even those who could not see this shining light were amazed at the erect still form of Swami, seated like a statue without any movement. That golden form sat as still as his umbrella in the corner. On one occasion, when Swami sat like a pillar, a crow came flying, rested on his head for a while and then flew away.

So Swami talks about that in his, Words of Our Master, where he says: "If you think of the state of Siva which is beyond all attributes, it won't come. It will come by itself. One day when I was in that state a bird came and sat on my head. Even yogis and jnanis cannot understand that state." So if a bird comes and sits on your head, you're truly motionless. It means the bird has no sense that you're a human being, right? No sense that, he just thinks that you're a tree or something. So anyway those are some wonderful Yogaswami stories. And whenever, we're trying to encourage collecting up Yogaswami stories and of course the ones we prefer are those that have a philosophical content. And many people when they tell Yogaswami stories they say, well Yogaswami helped me to buy a new house or helped me to build my house. But, of course that doesn't mean anything to anyone else. You know what we need are stories that have philosophy in them such as these do and what I always stress when speaking to Yogaswami's devotees, we run into lots of Yogaswami's devotees. For example in Montreal quite a few people attending the kumbhabhishekam, I think we had some, at least four thousand people at once in the temple for the kumbhabhishekam in Montreal, which was a good turnout.

And many of them knew Yogaswami, some of them very well and so what I always encourage is -- of course everyone wants to put Yogaswami up on a pedestal and worship him, which is fine. -- but I try to remind everyone that well, Yogaswami's attainments also reflect your potential. So that we don't totally separate Yogaswami from us but rather we look at Yogaswami as, you know we're all becoming more like Yogaswami every year of our life. Every lifetime we live we become more and more spiritual. So, we're eventually moving toward the same experience that Yogaswami was living all the time.

[End of Transcript]

Photo of  Gurudeva
Beginning to meditate can be likened to starting a long journey. The destination and the means of travel must be known before setting out.