The River of Life, Merging with Siva

Merging with Siva


The precursor to "The Master Course" Gurudeva's inspired talk in 1957 The River of Life.. "...What stops you from flowing with the cosmic forces and becoming one with life's ocean of eternal bliss? Is it not attachment...to personalities and possessions?" Find strength, inspiration, purpose within our self and share with others, let go of experiences and move along with the river of life.

Master Course Trilogy, Merging with Siva, Chapter 4.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

We're starting a new series; new series have always been, going through the lessons of Merging with Siva, commenting on them, however we're doing it in an unusual way. Normally we'd start with Chapter one and Chapter two, Chapter three, chronological order. But we're doing it in the order in which the original talk was given. So we're sorting by year. Start sorting by year so we'll be going through the oldest talks first and so forth and then get to the more recent ones.

Very interesting that you will get a sense of what Gurudeva was teaching at a particular point of time and a lot of what determined what Gurudeva was teaching was: Who are the students? Who's coming, and more specifically what do they need to know to take the next step on the path? So he was very pragmatic in that sense; he wasn't teaching the same thing to every single person who came. So I have a spread sheet, I just typed in the year and then chapter, and 'sssh', so, ordered by year.

The first one is Chapter Four, "The River of Life." And in the back there is, of "Merging with Siva" there is an index of inspired talks, that's what it's called and it tells when the talk was given and sometimes where.

"The River of Life" is an inspired talk given in 1957. So that's the year Gurudeva started teaching at Gurudeva's first temple on Sutter Street in San Francisco where he had the vision of Siva dancing above his head. This was a rented facility, downtown on Sutter Street. "The River of Life" was a central lesson in the "World Fellowship of Yoga Correspondence Course," 1960 edition, which was the precursor to our current Master Course. It was also published in 1972 as one of the six books in the Pathfinder's Library series. At this temple, the eminent Swami Vishnudevananda gave one of his first talks in America accompanied by Swami Radha, who later founded an ashram in Canada. And in it's original title his talk was called "Bhakti Yoga."

We have a nice commentary on this from "The Guru Chronicles:"

"The early years were a time of constant classes, lectures and counseling, for it was only through carefully educating the congregation that progress was made. There is a saying among the Buddhists of Sri Lanka: 'The teaching not adapted to the needs of the taught cannot be called a teaching.' (That's the point we made earlier.) The wisdom of such an attitude was self-evident in the founding years. Despite his eagerness to present Saiva dharma exactly as he had absorbed it while a member of the orthodox Saiva community of Jaffna, Sri Subramuniya was forced to be patient, carefully presenting through the years the universal principles of Hinduism through the teachings of advaita and the science of yoga and encouraging his devotees always in the practice of bhakti."

And we have a quote from Gurudeva:

"During these early years, I gave forth much of the teaching that's in 'Merging with Siva:' 'Life the Great Experience,' 'Love Is the Sum of the Law,' 'The Power of Affirmation' and 'The River of Life.' All those talks that some of you have heard for many, many, many, years started at that time. People started coming and going and going and coming. And I started seeing a new kind of life in the United States and adjusting myself to it."

Next we have the actual text of the first lesson of "The River of Life:"

"The River, a Symbol of Life

"You have all heard about the sacred river Ganges, but have you ever wondered why this river is sacred? Why has this river become personified among all the rivers of the world? Let us meditate on this and let the river tell its own story. The river is the esoteric symbol of life's force, and as it flows it tells us how those cosmic currents flow through the physical body, quieting the emotions and awakening the will power so that we can keep the mind under our control. This all happens, of course, providing we are in tune and flow with that life force, that illimitable power within us.

"The birth of this river high in the Himalayas we can liken to our own conception and entrance into physical consciousness. As the river flows to meet the sea, it drops off many disturbances, just as our life absorbs many of its hindrances. The rapids smooth out, the waterfalls become smaller, the mouth of the river broadens, and as the river flows into the ocean we can see this esoteric symbol of life ending its manifest physical form.

"Let us relate that symbol to our own consciousness, holding it within our mind, the river as a symbol of life. Now look at yourself and see what stops that river from flowing. What stops you from flowing with cosmic forces and becoming one with life's ocean of eternal bliss? Is it not attachment that keeps us clinging to the bank of the river? Is it not fear that we are attached to? All of the personalities we know and the various material objects we are clinging to keep us holding tightly to the banks of life's cosmic river. The river still flows on, but we do not flow with it. We are fighting against life's currents when we allow ourselves to become attached.

"Think today about the personal experiences in your lifetime and clearly view just how often you cling to the banks of life's river by attaching yourself to personalities and possessions. (Two things we attach ourselves to, personalities and possessions.) Have you ever stopped to think that we even become attached to things that we do not like and to the things that we have done against our better judgment? We are attached to objects, values, schedules, habits, memories, even likes and dislikes. We become attached because we do not stop to understand that each of those experiences that conceived the attachment was just a boulder, a waterfall or an old tree trunk blocking one of the little rivulets as it tried to merge with the great stream ever merging itself into the ocean."

So being on Kauai we have certain advantages in thinking about rivers. I wondered how many rivers were on Kauai, I didn't know, couple of different listings. The one I chose gives twelve rivers, twelve different rivers on Kauai and dozens of streams. Lot more streams than I thought of too. So of course we're adjacent to the north fork of the Wailua River which is the biggest river.

I'm moved to tell a story, relates to water on Kauai, not specifically rivers but it's really interesting. When was the helicopter ride on my 72nd birthday was it? So the monks gave me a surprise on my 72nd birthday, Sadasivanathaswami picked me up and drove me out to the Rudraksha forest; I had no idea what was happening. All the monks were there for some reason. Then all of a sudden a helicopter landed in the middle of the pasture. Some of the neighbors came over to look. And so off we went, special custom helicopter tour and the pilot took us into every single canyon on Kauai. All around, all the way around the island. It wasn't the standard route so we got to go into each canyon and each canyon had a big waterfall so it's just amazing. All around the island we had these canyons that have waterfalls and the nature of the waterfall is it's 24/7. Every day of the year there's enough rain to keep it flowing. So if you imagine Waialele as the Siva Lingam, clouds as the pujari, you know we have water being poured over our Siva Lingam, Mount Waialele every day, and it's constant abhishekam.

So, the island is getting a constant abhishekam; that's how it looked to me.

So, back to our talk. So in Gurudeva's opening paragraph he's pointing out that within each human being there's a flow of sacred life force which is like a river and if we can be in tune and flow with that life force what happens? It quiets the emotions and awakens the will power so that we can keep the mind under our control. He then mentions it is attachment that prevents this from happening.

So we have a good chance to look at rivers and attachment particularly during the rainy season in November. November we get, traditionally in November we get the highest level of rain all at once and the river really gets high. And what you notice is that whirlpools form. There's so much water going around the pond it creates whirlpools and very large logs get caught in these whirlpools and then sometimes when the water recedes the log just end up on the bank of the river. So that's like an attachment. The log is no longer able to flow with the river. And of course sometimes, the river comes up again and fortunately is high enough and the log moves along otherwise we'd really have a large pile of logs down there all at once but we just have a few. So that of course is like human attachment; we start clinging to the banks. Just like this big log coming up on the bank and we don't move with the river so we're no longer in tune with the river, we're not moving forward, because of attachment we're standing still. Nice image.

So we need to look at what attachment is. As I mentioned earlier with emphasis, Gurudeva says we're attached to two things, people and material objects. So an example of attachment is a dependency upon a person to give us strength, inspiration, purpose. So, some individuals are very dependent upon finding their strength from other people. They're very attached and they're worried that those other people won't always be there so they're kind of standing still instead of moving forward with life.

So of course the ideal we're striving for is to be able to find the qualities we're getting from others, strength, inspiration and purpose within ourselves. Then we can share that strength, inspiration and purpose with the other person. We're not depending upon them to give it to us. So if we're finding it within our self and sharing it with the other person then we're not attached and we can be moving forward.

Second example. A common attachment is to childhood memories of being mistreated by other family members. We are so attached to the past that we are no longer moving forward with the flow of the river of life. We experience so strong in our mind that we're not moving forward, we're just it's like we're clinging to it. Why are we clinging to it? Because it's unresolved. We haven't figured out how to look at it.

How can we resolve it? Common suggestion that Gurudeva gives in "The Master Course" time and time again is looking at it as our karma to be treated that way. Everything that happened to us is our karma. So if we were mistreated in our childhood, why are we mistreated? Because it's our karma to be mistreated. And if the person who mistreated us didn't do it, somebody else would have to do it, cause we're destined to be mistreated. So, if we can look at it that way we can let go of the experience, move along with the river of life.

Thank you very much.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Purity, devotion, humility and charity are the four keys to good conduct. Of these, purity is the cardinal virtue. We cultivate purity by thinking, speaking and doing only that which is conceived in compassion for all.
—Gurudeva