Shankara is part of the Supreme Self, the inner teacher. You rely on the Guru outside, but when he’s not present, you need Shankara. When I met my Guru, I learned from the scriptures and from him that Shiva represents the Supreme Self and I learned to direct all of my attention always there. My mantra was a Shiva mantra, nothing else, because Shiva represents the Self. This Self is the Self of everything.
If you hit this one here (the Supreme Self residing at the center of the chest, the right side of the physical heart), you hit everything else. All of your attention should go within to Him. Everything you do is Him, Him, Him, Him. Very soon, that activates Divine attention from within. “Oh mind, to gain liberation, concentrate wholly on Shiva, the sole reality underlying the worlds.” -The Atmabodha, Nikhilananda translation
I remember once going to the Guru. I said to him: “I cannot keep to the instructions you gave me to follow. You told me not to eat candy, but here I am eating candy. You said to me not to watch a certain kind of a movie, but I couldn’t control myself and I was watching that sort of movie.” Sometimes I was doing those things and crying the entire time–I couldn’t help it.
Once, I did a Rejuvenation Course. I devoted six weeks to cleansing the body, passing through terrible pain. Juices and green juices, I spent $600 in 1960, which is like $6000 today. Then in 20 minutes due to lack of control, I dirtied the entire system and my $600 was as gone. I was so angry with myself. And then after a few more minutes, I had to eat again. I went out, got a pizza and ate it crying the whole time.
On the next day, a Saturday, I had to offer a posture demonstration. I said to myself: “I need to place my legs behind my head tomorrow, and you prepare for this by eating garbage?” And then you stand up again little by little.
After I told him all this, my Guru said to me: “As long as you are doing your best to avoid wrong action, if it happens, don’t worry, my son. It’s just the previous impressions from the past (Karma). You are not committing sin; don’t worry about it, just let it go. Clean the body on the next day: drink juices–clean up ‘the house’ (the physical body).”
We can never truly follow all the instructions we are given. It’s very difficult to strictly abide by anything, but as long as you accept that, you’re already forgiven when you fail.
“The fool who believes he’s truly wise, he’s indeed a fool. The fool who sees that he’s really a fool, he’s indeed wise.” -The Dhammapada, Kornfield translation
Who makes all these mistakes, forgets the oblations and forgets the Guru? It’s not the Real You, it’s the mind and the senses, the small self. Deep within, you are Shiva there already and you don’t require discipline or anything from outside. But the mind needs to be disciplined, to turn its attention to the Real Self, and the mind is not you; as long as you can come to recognize that, you are already forgiven for any misdeeds or failings. “Oh Lord, forgive me. I am not even fit to be the dust under your feet.” When we start crying out of repentance, then the bliss really starts to flow. Some people though will never accept that they are impure, and this ignorance compounds the issue.
We all have the impressions from the past (our personal basket of Karma), lack of discipline from the past, habits from the past and sometimes all these reflect on the present. I remember when I started doing yoga, I was doing everything all right, and then suddenly I could not control myself. I was bombarded with cravings for food, I was watching TV and this and that. And then after a while, I could keep up with the practice again. Then suddenly, the action of the Glandular System changes again and you feel depressed.
One day, you can’t cope at all with the instruction as given (this all according to your deeds from the past). Some people can cope with these disturbances because they did lots of practice in the past. These older souls are more self-controlled and they don’t ever have cravings for food disturbing them at all. They are indeed calm souls. I have a brother like that. He was born already disciplined: eating moderately and following the Guru’s instruction perfectly. In school, he was always the same: the best. My Mother never had to tell him: “Do your homework,” –it was already done. He always takes right actions, he always stands by the truth. That’s why my Guru gave him the spiritual name Satya (truth).
I remember once a while ago when I brought the Guru to the airport. When he stepped out of the car, he almost fell down. At that time, I was a little ignorant. I said to myself: “I thought a Saint should never slip; that he’s protected by God, or something.” No, the Guru also can slip and fall, the Guru also can get mugged by someone who may even cut his throat.
Think of the Buddhist monks in Tibet. The Chinese soldiers kill them, chop their heads off or hit them. Some of the monks are enlightened, but there are reasons they must be subjected to this violence if we look deep into their past. Maybe many thousands of lives ago, a given monk wasn’t a monk, he was a very bad person. He may have disturbed some other monks, or maybe even killed them. He said to himself then: “Oh, this that they believe in is garbage!” Now in this lifetime, he became a monk, but he still has the Karma, the impressions from the past (his personal history) to work out in the present. In some cases, he may even have volunteered to be born into this life as a monk so as to pass through that.
Even after enlightenment, you’re still subject to your Parabda Karma, you’re still subject to some impressions from the past. Not only in simple matters like making food choices, but in dealing with anything that’s already there. The main thing is this: you have to see that it is only the body and mind that are passing through and being affected by any given circumstances, not the Real You. Do what you can to acquire Self Knowledge and this will help you make progress. Who is full of doubts, suffering, depressed? It’s the body and mind passing through the effects from your previous deeds. Pass through this suffering gracefully and try never to complain.
Did you ever wake up at four in the morning? Well, very few have on purpose. Did you ever check the lights on Lord Shiva’s altar? Arrange the flowers there? Light the incense? Did you ever go far away into Central Park and find the tiniest, the most beautiful flower for the Lord? Did you ever follow the instruction of the Guru? I could never follow his instructions perfectly no matter how hard I tried. The mind is distracted by our lack of control–it’s always disturbed. The sins are different today than they were in the past. Instead of going to bathe in the Ganges as instructed, we can go to Central Park and find a beautiful flower there to offer to the Lord. We don’t have Lotus flowers growing wild here, but there are other flowers readily available that are just as precious. Many people do the breathing exercises, but few do them properly; for a long time with faith and the locks so that they will be able to control the Prana. (Through constant practice, you’ll be able to control your emotions and raise the Prana up.)
Two days ago, I stuffed myself with burrito. “What is this now,” I though to myself? There I was teaching with this entire burrito here in my stomach: “What the hell is this? I’ve lost all my control now.” But, that doesn’t affect me at all, I just go dancing with it. Actually, when your senses are satisfied after eating a burrito, your mind becomes very cooperative. If you become too strict, then your mind is very powerful and it will “throw you down”. If you wish to eat pizza today, you do your best to eat something healthy instead. But if you have to eat pizza, enjoy it and don’t worry about it. Tomorrow, eat only watermelon and clean up “the house”.
To shun worldly pleasures means that you may experience them, enjoy them and even love them, but to see them as illusion and clearly recognize that you cannot hold onto them. The only thing that is left when everything passes away is Shiva–your True Self, not this one here (the personal self–the body and the mind). Of course, it’s through this self that Shiva manifests.
Legendary yoga teacher Sri Dharma Mittra first encountered yoga as a teenager before meeting his Guru in 1964 and beginning his training in earnest. Sri Dharma founded one of the early independent schools of yoga in New York City in 1975 and has taught hundreds of thousands the world over in the years since. Sri Dharma is the model and creator of the “Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures”, the author of ASANAS: 608 Yoga Poses, has released two DVD’s to date – “Maha Sadhana” Levels I and II, and the Yoga Journal book Yoga was based on his famous Master Chart. Sri Dharma continues to disseminate the complete traditional science of yoga through daily classes, workshops and his “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Trainings at the Dharma Yoga New York Center and around the world. For more information on all things Dharma, please visit: www.dharmayogacenter.com.