The self: you can’t explain it.” said Gurudeva in October of 1959. “You can sense its existence through the refined state of your senses, but you cannot explain it. To know it, you have to experience it. And the best you could say about it is that it is the depth of your Being, the very core of you. It is you.”
Ten years before, in the secluded Jalani Caves of Southern Sri Lanka, Gurudeva sat in deep meditation and realized the Self, Absolute Reality, for the first time. He was a young man at that timeÑonly 22 years of age. But this ultimate yogic discovery of the timeless, formless and spaceless essence of all changed his perspective, his identity and his life. A few months later, he found his guru, Sage Yogaswami, who gave him the name “Subramuniya.” Through the 52 years that followed, Gurudeva blossomed like a flower of wondrous beauty as he penetrated the Self again, again and again.
From that life-changing turning point in the Jalani Caves until the last breath of his life, great things happened around Gurudeva, and it was the Self that remained his guiding light. The Self, known in Sanskrit as Parasiva, “transcendent Siva,” was the center of his daily yoga practice, the kingpin of his mystical teachings and the source of his power to play a leading role in sculpting the worldwide Hindu renaissance of the twentieth century. While many yoga teachers advocated a more accessible attainment of bliss-consciousness as the ultimate goal of yoga, Gurudeva boldly and adamantly proclaimed that the Self was the one ultimate spiritual destinyÑnot bliss, but rather the source of bliss. Such an austere destination was, he warned, far more elusive, demanding severe discipline and total renunciation.
Like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and other great saints, he had many mystical visions and experiences, but they were always accessory to this Nirvikalpa Samadhi, or Self Realization, and they each served a practical purpose.
Two of his most powerful visions inspired the construction of the Kadavul Hindu Temple and the SanMarga Iraivan Temple, both at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery in Hawaii, where Gurudeva lived and worked for the last 32 years of his life.
“The exact location of the [Kadavul] temple sanctum was chosen by Lord Murugan himself,” said Gurudeva in describing a vision of a handsome, twelve-foot being who appeared to him during an early morning meditation in 1973, inspiring the construction of the temple. “Lord Murugan upturned His glistening vel and pounded its point three times on the cement steps at the monastery entrance, marking the precise spot to install the Nataraja Deity that had just arrived from India. Lord Murugan’s orders were obeyed. The Deity was moved into place and worship began immediately.”
Two years later, on February 15, 1975, he had the three-fold vision that motivated the conception of the Iraivan Temple and San Marga Sanctuary which is dynamically under construction today. “I saw Lord Siva walking in the meadow near the Wailua River,” explained Gurudeva. “His face was looking into mine. Then He was seated upon a great stone. I was seated on His left side. This was the vision. It became more vivid as the years passed. Upon reentering earthly consciousness, I felt certain that the greatstone was somewhere on our monastery land and set about to find it. Guided from within by my satguru, I hired a bulldozer and instructed the driver to follow me as I walked to the north edge of the property that was then a tangle of buffalo grass and wild guava. I hacked my way through the jungle southward as the bulldozer cut a path behind me. After almost half a mile, I sat down to rest near a small tree. Though there was no wind, suddenly the tree’s leaves shimmered as if in the excitement of communication. I said to the tree, ‘What is your message?’ In reply, my attention was directed to a spot just to the right of where I was sitting. When I pulled back the tall grass, there was a large rockÑthe self-created Linga on which Lord Siva had sat. A stunningly potent vibration was felt. The bulldozer’s trail now led exactly to the sacred stone, surrounded by five smaller boulders. San Marga, the ‘straight or pure path’ to God, had been created. An inner voice proclaimed, ‘This is the place where the world will come to pray.’ San Marga symbolizes each soul’s journey to liberation through union with God.”
Gurudeva was famous for his strictly traditional approach to religious life. This perspective was a significant part of his spiritual inheritance from Yogaswami. Yet even as a child, he was taught traditional Hindu thought by well-informed teachers. It was the validation of all this through his own personal experience that endowed him with the power to grow into the spiritual leader he was destined to be. First, in study and training, he absorbed the Hindu philosophy and culture from the outside in. Then, through worship and yoga, he unfolded it from the inside out. When he was satisfied that these two processes complimented each other without contradiction, he had the power and confidence to set forth on a life of teaching dedicated to the clarification and practical application of ancient Vedic wisdom.
Asserting that the Gods were real, not just symbols, Gurudeva spoke convincingly of the structure of the second and third worlds, known in Hindu scripture as the Antarloka and the Sivaloka. From his own experience, he colorfully described the beings who live in these realms, what they do and how they can be of practical assistance to devotees requesting their assistance.
Gurudeva was blessed with special siddhis, or psychic powers. These, he explained, came to him after his Realization, as gifts to enable him to better perform his work in service to Hinduism, though he received a thorough occult training beginning in his early teens. One of these siddhis was the ability to receive verbal messages from inner-plane beings of great wisdom and purified character. Three of the beings, who communicated with Gurudeva from time to time for over 50 years, were Rishi Kalidas, Guru Omkar and Detaza. They helped him in all of his work. In the following excerpt from an unpublished message from Guru Omkar on June 28, 1996, a sense of their identity is given.
“When you teach, you know more. Rishi Kalidas, he released himself of all his baggage [by resolving his karma before his death], and is now free. He deals with the future, I deal still with the past. You go to him for foresight. You come to me for hindsight. Detaza, he’s in another field, never been physical, never will, was created when the Earth itself was created, along with numerous others, many of which are under his control.”
Gurudeva promoted the yogic perspective of monistic theism, the religious theology (also known as panentheism) that embraces both monism and theism, two perspectives sometimes considered contradictory or mutually exclusive. He brought uncommon clarity to the pivotal Hindu concepts of karma and reincarnation, affirming that all souls are intrinsically good, that all karmas can be resolved, that RealizationÑas he had experienced itÑcan be attained and that liberation from the cycles of birth and death is indeed possible.
He propounded Saiva Siddhanta’s four-stage path to God consisting of charya, (service), kriya (worship), yoga (meditation) and jnana (wisdom). These stages, he said, are successive and cumulative, each one preparing for the next. He extolled temples and elucidated proper ways of worship. He also laid out in detail the disciplines of monastic and family life, including specific instructions about the control of sexual force. So that people could “catch the overview” of the world’s oldest religion, he summarized Hinduism in nine beliefs and Saivism in twelve. He put forward the Vedas and Agamas as Hinduism’s primary and revealed scriptures, but also acknowledged secondary scriptures like the Tirumantiram by Tirumular (ca 200 bce) and the Tirukural by Tiruvalluvar (ca 200bce).
No one but a true mystic could have promoted these teachings so convincingly. Feeling the power of Gurudeva’s experience in all that he said, readers and listeners found themselves unable to doubt him. Such was the magic of his way, the power of his perception.
Gurudeva set an example, living his life in accordance with the principles he taught. He would say something. Then he would do it. Theory meant little to him if it could not be put into practice. Students were amazed at his ability to translate abstract philosophical principle into simple essenceÑthen go one step further to conceive specific sadhanas (religious disciplines) designed to put that essence into practice. Take, for instance, the mystical axiom of “clearing the subconscious,” so essential in yoga.
“The subconscious mind is the storehouse for the conscious mind,” explained Gurudeva. “All the happenings of each day and all reactions are stored up there. When the subconscious is in control, the control is at one rate of vibration. When the subsuperconscious is in control, after the subconscious has become understood, concentrated and cleared of all confusion, the vibratory rate is higher.”
Most yoga instructors would have been happy to simply verbalize such explicit insight. But Gurudeva devised a method for putting it into practice. “Ganga Sadhana is a practice for unburdening the subconscious mind, performed by releasing the energy of unwanted thoughts,” he says, “while sitting quietly by a river or stream and listening to the Aum sound as the water flows over the rocks. When a thought arises, it is mentally placed into a leaf held in the right hand, then gently tossed into the water. Then a flower is offered to thank the water for carrying away the thought.”
Another practice Gurudeva advocated for clearing the subconscious was vasana daha tantra, which means “purification of the subconscious by fire.”
“Mental impressions can be either positive or negative,” he explained. “In this practice, we burn confessions, or even long letters to loved ones or acquaintances, describing pains, expressing confusions and registering grievances and long-felt hurts. Writing down problems and burning them in any ordinary fire brings them from the subconscious into the external mind, releasing the suppressed emotion as the fire consumes the paper.”
And it brings results, as one of Gurudeva’s monks testifies: “In Jaffna, I saw people killed in front of me, houses looted, homeless refugees, and more. I put each thought of these things in a leaf. For example, if I recalled seeing one of my friends killed, I put the leaf in the water and prayed for him to get a better next life. Then I felt relief.”
Aside from what Gurudeva did, how he helped others and who he was known to be, there was something intangibly magical about him. Because he lived at the center of himself, the Self of all, everyone felt close to him and loved him dearly. For them, his life was like a magnificent rainbow, arched high above the woes of the daily norm.
On the Path to Perfection
Excerpts from the mystical masterpiece, Merging with Siva
Hold your center. Find the place within you that has never ever changed, that’s been the same for many lives, that feelingthat has been the same within you since you were a little child up to this very time. Find that! Catch that vibration, and you’ve caught the vibration of the soul.
Man’s individual awareness is like a ball of light, and it’s like a camera. It photographs. It registers. It understands. It is pure intelligence. Man knows where he is in the mind, but the first step in awakening on the path of enlightenment is to separate awareness from that which it is aware of.
There have been many systems and principles of ethics and morality established by various world teachers down through the ages. All of these have had only one common goal to provide for man living on the planet Earth a guidepost for his thought and action so that his consciousness, his awareness, may evolve to the realization of life’s highest goals and purposes. The ancient yoga systems provided a few simple yamas and niyamas for religious observance, defining how all people should live.
Unfoldment doesn’t take a lot of time. It just takes a lot of willpower. Someone can go along and sit at attention, and concentrate and meditate for years and years and years and, with a minimal amount of willpower, constantly be distracted, constantly be complaining and constantly be unsuccessful.
Everyone is prepared to die. Whether it happens suddenly or slowly, intuitively each individual knows exactly what he is about to experience. Death, like birth, has been repeated so many times that it is no mystery to the soul.
Learn to concentrate the mind so that you can study not from books, but from observation, which is the first awakening of the soul. Learn to study by practice. Learn to study by application. Become a student of life and live life fully, and as you merge into the sea of actinic life, you will realize that you are not your mind, your body or your emotions. You will realize that you are the complete master of your mind, your body and your emotions.
The Story of Shum
How my language for meditation came to be
By Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
In the summer of 1968, Himalayan Academy conducted an Innersearch Travel-Study program to Ascona, Switzerland. I was working on a little book called The Advaitin. The book was about refined states of experience deep within the inner realms of pure consciousness, just before one merges into the Self and after one comes out of that state. The book was unfolding beautifully, but upon rereading what had been written, I thought, “This is going to be so difficult for beginning students to understand. There are no words in the English language for what I wish to portray. Unless my students have had deep experiences themselves, it will be difficult for them to believe in the reality of the inner man, simply because there are not enough words to describe it.”
I then began to feel that using Sanskrit might be necessary to find adequate words to convey the meanings of these refined areas of the mind. I thought these areas should have their own names in the same way that emotions and physical things have their own names in English.
At our Ascona summer retreat, I began looking through several Sanskrit dictionaries to locate certain words that could be used in The Advaitin. But in three dictionaries, each translator had translated each of the words in a different way. I threw up my hands at this and said, “This is going to make it more confusing.”
The feeling began to come that what was really needed was another language, a new, fresh language, one giving me a vocabulary that we could use to accurately describe inner states of consciousness. Two or three days later we traveled to Venice, Italy, for a few days’ excursion. This idea of a new language was still very strongly in my mind. So, I went within and wrote down some instructions to my outer self as to how to proceed and where to go to be able to unfold this language. My instructions were, “You go within the ooda current.” That is the current of mind flow where language exists.
In following the instructions, my spine lit up in a beautiful pale yellow and lavender light. The yellow and the lavender intermingled, one color coming in and out of the other. It was just beautiful! But I only found one end of the ooda current, so did not have any results in Venice. Three days later, after returning to Ascona, I found both ends of the ooda current while working within myself. Within two hours of meditation, the script, the fundamental alphabet of 18 sounds and the syntaxÑas well as some of the basic vocabulary all came through. The first word to be uttered was Shum. Shum now names the language of meditation. As fast as I could, I wrote it all down and ran downstairs to one of the monks shouting, “I have it! I have it! Here is our language!”
Because I thought I needed only a vocabulary of fifty or a hundred words, Shum started out in a very simple way. However, in the days that followed, this ooda current became stronger and brighter. I didn’t tell anyone about this at the time, except for two or three of the Saivite monastics who were with me in Switzerland.
I began working day and night. The structure and script for the language began to refine itself, and vocabulary started coming through right from the inner light. I would see light within my head and see little images or letters in the Shum script drop down, one after another, and line up. Vocabulary flowed out like this for two or three weeks. In Nice, in Southern France, the whole concept of leoonasee, the psychic nerve system, and aleekashum, the warmth and psychic heat of the body, came through.
Then, later, on our Innersearch in Paris, more Shum developed. Upon returning to the United States, I had a vocabulary of about 300 words, and every day even more were coming through. Finally, the images stopped dropping out of the inner light, and I heard the meaning of the words clairaudiently, almost as if someone were speaking to me. Sometimes they would come in reverseÑEnglish first, Shum second.
The vocabulary and the structure of the language developed very quickly, but what was more important, the perspective of the Shum language was now available. I began to realize that each language has its own point of view, or position of awareness, that comes into effect when one is speaking that language. In English and other European languages, our awareness is out in the material world. It seems to be located outside of the physical body, looking back at the physical body. From that perspective, a person, if he is daring enough, might be able to fathom the inner areas of the mind like looking through a little keyhole. But often the external world is so distracting, one does not even bother to try to look within.
The meditative perspective of the Shum language is deep within the mind. It is called shumeef. In shumeef, we have the consciousness that we are the center of the universe. We see light within the spine as the central pole, and then open our eyes and look out into the world.
Shum has grown into a marvelous teaching tool, because within the structure of the language is contained the entire Advaita Yoga philosophy. It has within it the perspective man had to hold to bring back the great yoga of the ancient rishis. As soon as I released a little bit of Shum to my students, they began teaching it all over the country. Two universities wanted to teach the Shum language in their philosophy departments.
Working with Shum benefits the individual’s natural spiritual unfoldment. It has the effect of harnessing awareness from straying. It is not a quick cure-all for problems of the subconscious mind, nor is it exclusively a mystical set of mantras, although it can be chanted like mantras.
Shum is mostly spoken within a person. When a meditator has an inner experience, he can call it by name in Shum and draw a map for himself, showing how to return to the same inner state again. Shum is not designed to replace secular languages, like French or English, which are conceived to completely address all the detailed needs and concerns of physical and emotional life. Also Shum, as a working language, is still in its formative stages.
The following year, we returned to Switzerland and I experienced the tremendous breakthrough of mambashum. These are Shum maps for meditation that enable a devotee not only to plan out where he is going to go inside before his meditation begins, but also to make memos along the way as it progresses and afterwards when it is done.
That year, nashumeef moolingmee shum came through as well. This special collection of Shum words opened the door to speaking Shum during the day. It became possible to remain in inner states while getting things done around the ashram or in the home, without having to use another language. It was easy and fun. nashumeef moolingmee shum made things look simple and allowed one to deal with the world without getting drawn too far out into it.
That same year in India, I did more work on Shum at Sandakphu, a tiny camp located 12,000 feet high in the Himalayas, 15 miles from the Tibetan border. There, some of the most profound states were unfolded and recorded as mambashum. Sixty-five devotees were with me. Our intense meditations there inspired us deeply.
We found that the study of Shum provided concentration practices and powers better than any other system in the mystical arts and meditation techniques. Mystical experiences began to develop between myself and devotees, as we would go into the same area of the mind and experience, hear the same sounds and see the same colors.
The vibration the language makes when a group is speaking it is in itself uplifting. When chanting Shum, all one has to do is listen inwardly to the tones of the chakras, and let one or two out orally while chanting. We made a great study of speaking the Shum language. Students chanting Shum found that just by uttering the tones, awareness was drawn into an expanded state.
A mantra vibrates the inner areas of the astral body and the soul body. This allows the soul body to come through the astral into the physical. All this does not have to be understood to occur. It will just happen naturally. You do not have to consciously know the meaning of a Shum chant or even a conversation in Shum for it to have an effect on your inner nerve system.
Before the advent of Shum, we did not encourage group meditation at Himalayan Academy. During a group meditation, there were usually several who meditated quite well while others let their minds wander here and there, going into a half sleep or becoming distracted. This caused a strange vibration to occur. Now, we have very uplifting group meditations in Shum. In fact, at our monastery in Kauai, we begin every day with a long Siva puja followed by a guided group Shum meditation which lasts about 45 minutes.
One person, speaking only Shum, gently guides the entire group into and out of deep meditation. All individual awarenesses flow into the same areas of the inner mind at the same time. The Shum words give a strong and supportive direction to all present. When this begins to happen successfully, the vibration in the room becomes very strong, more potent and intensely more satisfyingÑfor the group helps the individual, and the individual helps the group.
Four Points of View, a Shum Meditation
The shum meditation map at right, called a mamsane, names the four perspectives or focuses of consciousness. Shumeef is the classic meditator’s point of view, in which awareness is flowing through the mind, the mind itself being stationary. The simneef perspective is the opposite of shumeef. It refers to the point of view in which the mind is moving and the intelligence of the person is still, as a scientist observes living matter through a microscope. The mooleef perspective is “the way of words,” the way of a scholar’s intellect. It signifies the ever-deepening knowledge of a maturing mind. The opposite to mooleef is deemfee which is just now coming into focus on this planet through the newly found abilities of being able to communicate with Mahadevas, devas in the inner worlds, and with beings of all kinds on other planets, such as the Pleiades, in this galaxy and beyond. This communication is a complete unfoldment of the mind of the individuals who possess the deemfee perspective. They are not aware of being the center of all things, as in the shumeef perspective. Nor are they aware of philosophy, the mooleef perspective. Nor are they much concerned about the nature of a drop of water, the simneef perspective. You will find when you meditate on this mamsane that the shumeef and simneef are companion states of consciousness and inner awareness, as are the mooleef and deemfee, experiential perspectives of human consciousness and awareness. Gurudeva urged seekers to try to gain a superconscious glimpse of all four at one time. He observed that a fully developed Hindu should be able to experience at will each of these points of view and consciously live in two, three or more at the same time, as did the rishis of yore.