Gurudeva sanctioned the prayaschitta of walking prostrations for pilgrims and members who come to Kauai Aadheenam. The Jivana Ritau is a study of Living with Siva, and of the sutras also. One sadhana for this ritau is how we deal with difficult situations with wisdom and without emotions. Self-evaluation can be done by examining our relationships. how many people are we close to? The key to the path is to learn to resolve difficulties with others.
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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our last few weeks have been filled with two very special events. First, we had Gurudeva's Mahasamadhi Observances and then Skanda Sashti. The high point of the Mahasamadhi observances was the final day's Guru Puja performed by Janahan. Many of the pilgrims tangibly felt Gurudeva's powerful presence during the Puja and were quite uplifted by it. Others mentioned that the meditation that was held at the Svayambhu Lingam was the best meditation they ever had in their life. And, still others found the suggestions of how to deepen one's inner-plane contact with Gurudeva during sleep to be quite meaningful.
Skanda Sashti was special this year, in that devotees performed walking prostrations as a penance. Some even decided spontaneously after doing it once, to do it on the following day, as well. For those listening to or reading this talk on the web, let me explain this practice a little. Traditionally, at the time of a major festival for Lord Murugan such as Tai Pusam and Skanda Sashti, Hindus worldwide perform penance as a way of burning up negative karma and atoning for misdeeds. The specific form of penance that Gurudeva sanctioned for the Aadheenam is walking prostrations on our San Marga path, starting at the Rudraksha Forest and ending at the Svayambhu Lingam. The basic idea is that you prostrate and then take a few steps forward to the spot where the top of your head reached, then prostrate again and keep repeating the process. To go from the Rudraksha Forest to the Svayambhu Lingam takes a few hours in this manner.
With these two wonderful festivals passed, we are settling down to a normal routine at the Aadheenam and are recollecting that we have six weeks left in our current sadhana season, which is the Jivana Ritau from mid-August to mid-December. The Master Course book for this ritau is 'Living with Siva' and gives us, just by the title, the general focus for this ritau, which is to think about our life, actions and conduct in the external world and strive to bring into it more refinement and more religion. Gurudeva also describes the season as the natural time for work, that it is a physical time, a time of exercise and exertion in the physical world, a magnetic time for action and willpower. It focuses on preserving what has been created, manifesting goals and fulfilling plans made in the past and finishing jobs already started. It is a natural time for caring for the practical details of the external world, including the environment.
Gurudeva gave us a number of special sadhanas for the Jivana Ritau. The main study is the Nandinatha Sutras both at home and at the mission satsang. Specifically go through the Sutras, as well as review your daily sadhanas, looking for the ones that have been neglected or totally ignored. Strive to make improvements in those areas. Bring up-to-date all vratas and sadhanas in which you have gotten behind. In addition to these general sadhanas, which apply to every year's Jivana Ritau, this year we have also been working on the specific sadhana, which is facing difficult situations. This sadhana is described as follows.
As we know, life can give us difficult situations to face. We are treated unfairly. Our friends seem to turn against us and no longer be trustworthy. Our feelings are hurt by how we have been spoken to and treated by another. Sound familiar? It is easy to be happy and content when we are not facing difficult situations. The challenge is to find a way to be happy and content even in the most difficult of situations. Handling these difficult situations without emotion and with wisdom is of course, the key. The suggested response has three principles, which we are all familiar with. Forego retaliation. Accept responsibility. Forgive the offender. The Tirukural has a verse that encompasses all three of these principles together. "If you return kindness for injuries received and forget both, those who harmed you will be punished by their own shame."
That is a subtle form of retaliation. You get back at them by their own shame! Very subtle.
This Kural gives us an effective insight to the problem of man having a tendency to retaliate and not forgive. It shows that human nature has not changed much since 2200 years ago, when the verse was written. Of course, we all know that this is great advice and are of course, striving to follow it. However the question is, how well are we following it? How can we effectively evaluate our application of these principles to our lives? A simple but effective way of self-evaluation is to look at the nature of relationships with others. How many of the people we relate to regularly, do we feel close to and speak freely with? How many do we dislike and only speak the minimum to? Of course, it is this latter group that is the basis of self-evaluation. For someone to be in this group means they said or did something to us in the past, for which we have not forgiven them and forgotten the event. The larger the group, then the more we are not following the principle in our life.
Gurudeva gives us some very useful advice in this regard. "Holding hard feelings against other people without letting them go and realizing that it is all in the experience of life itself. Whatever happened to us is our own creation. To run away from the situation, without solving the situation, without making amends, without harmonizing the prana flow of energy between us and others or between us and ourselves, is detrimental because it creates more karma."
One reason we may tend to hold grudges, is that when we are growing up, our parents and other elders in our family, often did so. Therefore, we think that this is an acceptable form of behavior. However, as Gurudeva points out that, "For those on the spiritual path, it definitely is not acceptable, as it keeps the lower chakras stimulated."
In summary, an important part of making progress on the spiritual path is resolving misunderstandings, hard feelings and disagreements as soon as they occur. Don't give in to the tendency to classify someone as a person you dislike and take delight in holding the grudge against them for how they treated you or what they said to you. Set as a goal, having all of your relationships in the category of those we feel close to and none in the category of people we dislike.
As Gurudeva puts it, "A spiritual man always has to have the upper hand on the lower nature."
Aum Namah Sivaya!