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Pilgrimage and Sadhana

Preparation for pilgrimage. Consistent sadhana changes the purity of our mind, the way the energies flow through us. To us, the Deity is a living Being. Experience the Deity! Have intense blessings of that Deity and we might even have a vision. Put knowledge into practice.

Unedited Transcript:

Begin with a story.

About a year ago we noticed that even though Iraivan Temple wasn't finished, and it's a number of years before it would be finished, more and more families were coming on pilgrimage on a regular basis. And many of them would say that: Oh we're definitely coming once a year on pilgrimage and others even said: Oh we're going to try and come twice a year. So, noticing the increase in this trend we thought we should provide more guidelines as to Gurudeva's thoughts on pilgrimage. So we prepared a pilgrimage booklet on our website. We haven't printed it, just on our website. We've drawn some of the practices into the Innersearch. So, we've already done some of the pilgrimage sadhanas. There's a lot more; I think there's 90 some sadhanas, something like that. Quite a few.

So thought I'd, quotes from the booklet here to start. Booklet starts with statement from Gurudeva about Iraivan as a place of pilgrimage.

"Iraivan Temple is a grand hand-carved white granite temple seated upon a black lava rock plinth (OK imagine the plinth, it's not there yet, maybe next year) golden tower (got that one) shining in a rain bowed sky (occasionally), God Siva's most traditional sanctuary in the West. This magnificent shrine for fellowship members and devout pilgrims intent on worshiping the immanent and transcendent Lord. Being a moksha temple in the center of a cloistered monastery, Iraivan is by no means a tourist attraction. It is a punya tirtha, a sacred destination for devout pilgrims who come with this one goal in mind, having received permission early on and begun preparing themselves far in advance through fasting, meditation and prayer in anticipation of receiving the darshana of Iraivan and performing daily sadhana on San Marga."

Another trend was I was getting regular requests on: How should I prepare for my pilgrimage? I didn't have anything written. So, I said: "This is an opportunity to get that done too." So it works for any pilgrimage. There's a preparation part and definitely the more you can put into the preparation the more you get out of the pilgrimage. That's the idea. Cause you just don't shift states of mind in one day. You know, you fly here from someplace and all of a sudden you're on pilgrimage. It's helpful to take a few weeks to get into the mood so that when you arrive you're really fully involved in the practice and not spending the first week in transition.

So the most famous pilgrimage is the one for Ayyappa Swami, Sabarimalai, it's practiced for forty days, something like that. Get in the mood for forty days. So, that's a long time right? Probably longer than the pilgrimage.

We got on a plane in, guess it was Chennai on it's way to probably Singapore. And I was wondering why two gentlemen didn't have any shoes on. And then the plane stopped in Trichy and I realized they were on the Ayyappan Pilgrimage. So if you're on the Ayyappan Pilgrimage India Airlines doesn't mind if you don't have shoes on.

So that's the idea is: Preparation is very important.

So daily sadhana on San Marga. So, Gurudeva describes as a concept of sadhana.

"Sadhana refers to the regular performance of religious or spiritual disciplines, such a puja, yoga, meditation, japa, fasting and austerity. The effect of consistent sadhana is the building of willpower, faith and confidence in oneself and in God, Gods and guru. Sadhana harnesses and transmutes the instinctive-intellectual nature, allowing progressive spiritual unfoldment into the superconscious realizations and innate abilities of the soul. Sadhana produces personal change through self-effort. Ideally sadhana is performed daily, as in this way it builds a greater inner intensity."

So sadhana could be compared to preparing for an athletic event, for example. Someone who's involved in an athletic event, they have to prepare in a serious way. They have to practice every day, right? Just skip a few days that's not good cause it's that kind of consistent daily training that gets them in shape so that they can do well in an athletic event. Similarly, if someone's involved in say dancing, getting ready for a dance concert. Have to practice every day; you wouldn't ever think of skipping a single day cause you have to change your physical body from the condition it's in into a better one in terms of the sport or in terms of the dance. We have to change it in a significant way. If you skip a few days then the body starts to get out of shape and not go through the changes. So, the mind is the same. You know, we're not preparing the body to go on pilgrimage, preparing the mind to go on pilgrimage. And it's the same idea is that: It's the consistent practice on a daily basis that changes the way the energies flows through us. Changes the general concerns of our mind. Changes the state of purity of our mind. And, if we skip a few days then we're taking a step backwards.

So Gurudeva's point:

"Ideally sadhana is performed daily, as in this way it builds a greater inner intensity.

"Sadhana is a core concept in our guru lineage. Gurudeva's guru, Siva Yogaswami, coined the phrase 'sadhana marga' to describe the way he urged serious aspirants to follow--a path of intense effort, spiritual discipline and consistent inner transformation, as opposed to theoretical and intellectual learning. "

So that's not necessarily self-evident. There was a rather intellectual shishya of Yogaswami from Germany, ended up being called Germanswami. Simple names in those days: Germanswami. One for Germany. This was you know, probably back in the 1940's, 1950's somewhere in there. So he just loved to study philosophy. And well because of that he wasn't doing a lot of actual practice. Wasn't meditating well, wasn't doing puja and so forth; he was spending his time reading. And so Yogaswami scolded him and said: "It's not in books, you fool." Remember that? "It's not in books, you fool."

So, obviously, you know we were studying the Vedanta course, stretched our intellect there. So, we were studying. So, if we say: "It's not in books, you fool" and we study at the same time, you know, what, what are we trying to say? Well we're trying to say we need some intellectual study. We need to understand the concepts clearly. For example, you know, we need, we need a map. First we're here, we're trying to go there, we need to understand how to get from here to there. But, once we have that basic understanding then we need to walk, right, or drive. We need to move from here to there. We need to do something beside study the map. So, our tradition is one where I'd say: Intellectual learning is not a main goal. We have enough intellectual learning to guide us but we're not focusing every day on acquiring more and more intellectual knowledge.

"The Nandinatha Sampradaya (this was Gurudeva) is a mystical lineage that places great stress on direct and personal experience of God, on seeing God everywhere and in everyone, on knowing God within oneself. This is achieved through non-intellectual spiritual disciplines called sadhana--a term which in its fullest sense embodies kundalini yoga, profound esoteric practices, intense introspective meditation, and worship--through purificatory effort, mind-transforming austerities, egoless service and most importantly, through the bountiful grace of the living satguru. Following such a path, called sadhana marga, Nathas have come to know God, in ancient days and modern.

"Sadhana is performing the same discipline over and over and over again. Just as we methodically exercise the physical body to build up its muscles, we perform spiritual disciplines over and over again to strengthen our spiritual, inner bodies."

One area in which this approach is apparent is in the Deities. You know I've been with certain individuals and we're discussing the Deities in, such as Lord Ganesha, for example and they are very concerned about the symbolism. And that seems to be the major focus is on the symbolism of the Deities. This means this, this means that, that means this, this means this, this means this, this means this. Well, symbolism is good but it's not our focus. To us, the Deity is a living being. So, if you understand the symbolism of the Deity you still may not have any rapport or any connection to the being of the Deity. So, it's a different focus. It's like getting to know someone. To get to know someone. It's nice to know what country they come from and some certain facts about them but you have to interchange; you have to speak to them, spend time with them and then you get to know them.

Likewise our approach to the Deity is the same. It's nice to have some knowledge but we have to get to know them; we have to understand the feeling of the Deity, the energy that the Deity provides to us. And in that way experience the Deity. As Gurudeva says: Personal experience.

Ganesha seems to be the one that gets the most attention on symbolism because there's a feeling that a Deity shouldn't have an elephant head so we have to explain it away. Well they haven't, note that if you go back in the ancient religions lots of them have deities with animal heads and even you know, Christianity, when it comes to one of the Archangels, they have animal heads and so forth, even in Christianity.

So, you know, but, usually that's not known that well so we have to explain it away. But that's the way Ganesha has chosen to manifest. If you have a vision of Ganesha, you have an elephant head. You know, it's just what's there. And sometimes I get asked: Well, why does Ganesha have an elephant head? And the only answer Gurudeva ever gave is: Because in that way you know it's Ganesha if you see him.

Have you ever gone to a temple and you look at a Deity and you say: What's that Deity? Never had that problem with Ganesha. Never had that problem with Him, so. So Gurudeva's statement is some modern Hindus, you know, think that Ganesha is just a symbol, a way of explaining religion to children. However, He's real and He's come to me in vision several times and convinced my lower mind of His reality. Something like that, Gurudeva said. So, that's the emphasis here. Personal experience.

The knowledge is good but then we have to do something with that knowledge. We have to put it into practice. Attend puja. Perform puja, in this case, cause we're talking about an experience of the Deity. Bring ourselves closer to the Deity through certain practices such as go on a pilgrimage just to temples of that Deity. And in that way we get a feeling for the Deity and at least we have intense blessings of that Deity when we worship in a strong temple. And, we might even have a vision.

[End of transcript.]