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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Glimpses Into Sant Mat Ashram Life: Sadhus, Sages, and the Occasional Enlightened Master

Glimpses Into Sant Mat Ashram Life
Rishikesh, Sanctuary of Sadhus, Sages and the Occasional Enlightened Master, Sat Guru

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Glimpses Into Sant Mat Ashram Life: Rishikesh, Sanctuary of Sadhus, Sages and the Occasional Enlightened Master, Sat Guru, by Meggan Brummer, Sydney, Australia 

Visiting One of the Maharshi Mehi Ashrams in India

Passing on by the temple entrance I eventually come across a middle-aged American dressed in orange robes peeing behind a rock. His ablutions complete, we engage in the kind of brief conversation designed to assess mutual spiritual worthiness! It transpires he had arrived in Rishikesh some months previously, dipped in the Ganga and prayed fervently for a Master and for spiritual guidance. His prayers were answered by Swarmiji, a holy man who took him on as a pupil and even allowed him to share his dwellings. It is one of those 'coincidences' as it is Swarmiji I am seeking, being fortunate enough to have been previously granted an interview with him.

I am soon led through the simple entrance to Swamiji's living quarters. Swamiji, speaking only Hindi, translated by his American disciple, invites me to sit down on the earthy clay floor besides a beautiful Shrine on which revered pictures of some of the greatest Masters of all time are lovingly displayed - Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Guru Nath (a great 12th century yogi) and Hanuman, aspired to by many as the perfect devotee, with unparalleled strength and commitment.

The 7th of the 8 Limbs of Yoga - Dhyana 

My experience with Swarmiji enforces the emphasis I have noted that Masters place on the practice of dhyana (meditation). Dhyana, Patanjali's 7th limb of Yoga, (as described in the Yoga Sutras), is an integral part of any authentic yoga practice. In fact, the purpose of practicing yoga asanas is considered by many great yogis to be the foundation of one's preparation for dhyana. Through the practice of asanas the body and mind are prepared for the state of inner stillness which would otherwise be illusive to attain. 

Swarmiji was devoted to his guru, Maharishi Mehi, who, at aged 90, could no longer walk. Swarmiji would carry him around to give his talks and lectures.

Maharishi Mehi was a disciple of Baba Devi Sahab, whose belief in the importance of yoga can be seen in his words "You may remain Hindu, Muslim, Christian or a follower of any other religion. But while living the pleasures and pains of human life, do not live even a single day without inner meditation." Mahatma Ghandi, one of mother India's most beloved children, was an equally strong advocate of the benefits of meditation, once saying "today I have so much to do, I will need to meditate for two hours instead of one."

Consistent Daily Practice 

According to Swami Satyananda Saraswati, even a day's break in one's meditation practice lessens the accumulated benefits, as the everyday impressions which gather in the chitta, (memory) will be more difficult to go beyond. An irregular sadhaka (practicing yogi) either sleeps in meditation or is lost in his samskaras (impressions). "A regular sadhaka is able to overcome sleep and dream states, and experiences are seen on the subtle planes." 

Devoted to Meditation Swamiji obviously adopted this dedicated attitude to the practice of meditation. His routine has him in bed by 9 PM and then up at 1 AM to meditate. For 45 years he has been practicing the meditation taught by Maharishi Mehi, a method which has been handed down from Guru to disciple for over 3000 yrs. "Get up early and do your meditation," says Swamji, "5 hours sleep is enough if you have deep meditation, deep meditation."

According to his new American 'cave-mate', Swarmiji starts his day meditating for 3 hours, seemingly entering a state of Samadhi, (a transcended state of Self-realized awareness). He then silently goes about his morning chores - chopping wood, cleaning, carrying water, before taking his daily bathe in the Ganga. "Even though he is walking around and doing his chores he is very introverted and meditative. But in the afternoon he becomes very playful."

Brahmamuhurta - The Best Time For Meditation

In conversation with Swarmiji, he suddenly bursts out enthusiastically with "Brahmamuhurta!" This, I learn, is the time between 3.00 AM and 6.00 AM known as the most favourable time for Sadhana (one's spiritual practices). During Brahmamuhurta, so called as it is considered the most auspicious time for meditating on Brahman (God), the mind is calm and less engaged with worldly thoughts, worries and anxieties. Also the atmospheric energy during this time is more charged with sattva (purity), increasing the likelihood one's practice will go deeper, with the corresponding health and well-being benefits.

Singing the Ancient Wisdom 

Quite spontaneously Swamiji picks up a strange looking string instrument which he begins to play. He sings centuries old songs revering enlightened Masters, their spiritual teachings and methods of meditation. Later he tells me that for thousands of years, great yogis have handed down certain teachings through these simple folk songs.

The Purpose of Life

With Swarmiji there is no such thing as idle chatter; he talks of the impermanence of the body and the purpose of life – attaining spiritual enlightenment to avoid samsara (endless rebirth). He reminds me that when I die nothing will go with me; I will have to leave everything behind, except the accumulated spiritual wealth of my personal sadhana [meditation practice].