“So, do you want the beginner’s class or the advanced class?” opened Shunyamurti during Sat Yoga’s meditation class and teaching, “El Secreto de la Felicidad” (“The Secret of Happiness”), at Costa Rica’s fifth annual national yoga festival, “Yoga Para Todos,” in San Jose. After the students opted for the advanced class, Shunyamurti continued: “What makes it an advanced class is that this will require an advanced level of discernment, or Viveka. And what you will have to come to discern during this class is the difference between your existence and your being. Most people live in their existence, unaware of their being. The secret of happiness is the discovery of your real being. OK, we’re done,” concluded Shunyamurti, as the room exploded in laughter.
Of course, he was not done, but continued to elucidate the process by which we have misidentified our being with our existence, confusing our Self with our body/mind. Shunyamurti also explained how this condition of misidentification—in which we relinquish nearly all of our power, transferring what remains to the languaged and languished, and therefore anguished, mind—creates with it an unconscious plane of existential fantasy, showing up in our lives in the form of physical symptoms, full-blown illnesses, external karmic events, and, of course, unresolved emotional problems.
The guided meditation that followed the teaching clearly demonstrated the power of a group energy field in which all participants enter into a state of profound peace. In an adjacent room, a dancing class was taking place that literally shook the floor. Outside, the voices of vendors and yoga enthusiasts could be heard, but tuned out, all melding together in the warm background of spiritual openness. But in the meditation room, there was a deep and blissful stillness, T.S. Eliot’s “still point of the turning world.” The inner peace transformed the environment, causing a rush of kundalini energy, a joyous flow of shakti, to enter the consciousness all of the meditators.
A few hours later, Sat Yoga’s kirtan band, Anuttara, took the stage and filled the atmosphere with heart-opening melodies, revealing to all present the unsurpassable beauty of the Sat Yoga community. The energy created during the morning meditation was carried through and passed on to the crowd through the mystical mantras that the group intoned. The sacred lyrics of the songs, mahavakyas such as “Om Namah Shivaya” and “Tat Tuam Asi,” reminded the audience of the true purpose of kirtan, to “be the music” as Anuttara lead vocalist, Shivani, explained. A Sat Yoga student, Diana, added, “The musical performance was a shower of peace during a much needed time.”
The yoga festival was a beautiful communion of like-minded souls, all trying in their own ways to attain the joy of union with the Absolute. Sat Yoga was honored to be invited to participate in one of Costa Rica’s biggest spiritual gatherings of the year.
“The term ‘virgin’ was anathema to me growing up. It either signified a kind of prudishly pious type of purity or an otherwise odious innocence inoculated with nerve-wrecking notions of naiveté. I wanted nothing to do with nescience, and, for me, purity was a pipe dream. Needless to say, the retreat was not something I was looking forward to. But the teachings throughout the week taught me that our True Self is unblemished, is immaculate, is virginity itself. Our Real Self is undefiled because it can never have intercourse with illusion. The Virgin is the pinnacle of virility: Purity is power,” remarked one retreatant, transformed after a week of paradigm-shifts at the Sat Yoga Ashram.
Sat Yoga’s “Purity of Heart” retreat (July 28 – August 1) was a five day abstention from intercourse with egoic discourse, with negative thought patterns and emotions, and with maya (egoic delusion and illusion) itself. The retreat reinvigorated antiquated, worn-out signifiers and gave them new vitality, both through classes, which extracted the essence of such auricularly abrasive words as “angel,” “purity,” and “virgin,” and through actual meditation and yogic experimentation with the inner meaning and feeling tone of these terms.
Saraswati shared, “These retreats always leave me feeling blessed, at peace and with a strong (and lasting) sense of centeredness. This retreat in particular, focusing on true purity of heart, helped me to realize in seeking ‘purity’ and staying away from ‘impurity’ in the egoic and imaginary way keeps me from seeing that true Purity is the silent Self beyond all seeking, beyond all duality. We were guided into this state by the enchanting melodies of Sat Yogi musicians and the wise and soothing words of Shunyamurti. It is not something the ego can ever grasp or be. The game is up, time to rest in the eternal and unstained essence of the Self.”
In nearly every teaching given by Shunyamurti, it was revealed that the virgin and angel archetypes are universal and found in every spiritual tradition, such as the (angelic) qualities of the Divine Mind in Buddhism, and the virgin birth of Patanjali, the compiler of the yoga sutras and the founder of Ashtanga Yoga. Shunyamurti revealed that the archetypes of the virgin and of angels are not external gods or icons, but are symbolic representations of states of consciousness that pertain to everyone—and that are achievable by all.
Surya resounded, “It was a beautiful retreat! The angelic love was emanating on a high level for sure. It was amazing to see the seva (egoless service) flowing like a stream of chocolate; it really inspired me. It was a strong and transformative retreat that really opened hearts, teaching by teaching, inch by inch.”
The retreat was sprinkled with heavenly angel food, the purest of all prasad, harmonious melodies, and what Shunyamurti has called “honey seva” (egoless service from which sweetness and joy emanate). One had the opportunity to be in the company of angels and yet to explore in solitude the heavenly realms within one’s own soul.
“The ‘Purity of Heart’ retreat mangled my current understandings of reality and left me shipwrecked and mindbroken. A couple of days afterwards I found myself welcoming an adventurous mixture of deep peace and fear of the unknown,” pronounced Bhuma the psychonaut.
Melanie, a first-time retreatant at Arunachala, expressed the impact of her experience in this way: “As I rise before dawn my heart sings and is quiet, it is pure and gentle and loving. Life in the material world challenges my soul. I wish and search for the next moment knowing that the next moment is within, silence is within, purity is within. During the ‘Purity of the Heart’ retreat at Arunachala, I felt such perfect peace. Powerful emotions would come in trickles and in waves and yet through these emotions I felt absolutely blissful, it was the most natural and perfect feeling in the world. Blissful and strong, peaceful, serene and absolutely magical. It is so very true that words cannot really describe what one feels during retreat. It must simply be experienced. My deepest gratitude to everyone at Sat Yoga for creating such a magical place!”
The degree of transformation and purification that took place in just five days at the Sat Yoga “Purity of Heart” retreat was astounding. Participants left feeling a renewed sense of peace, and, in many cases, a feeling of innocence that had not been experienced since childhood. They reached the invulnerable state by exploring the depths of their apparent vulnerability. After recharging their batteries in the virginal vestibule of the heart, they were ready to enter the sun door and open the third eye…
Imagine yourself in an ancient alchemical laboratory…
You’ve spent your entire life trying to create the most challenging of all alchemical endeavors, the envy and glory of all true alchemists, the illustrious “philosopher’s stone.” Now, you’ve finally discovered the secret. In your early years, you mastered the mystery of transmuting lead into gold, but you realized that all the gold in the world could not buy you the philosopher’s stone. One lone flask remains before you, heating in the fire of the alchemical oven. You do not hesitate. You place all of the gold that you have accumulated from years of transformational work into the flask. There is only one thing left for the experiment to be complete. You place yourself into the furnace and close the door behind you. You feel the fires of purification burn away everything that is mortal within you. The experiment is a success: you have become the philosopher’s stone.
Sat Yoga’s June retreat, “Alchemy of the Atman,” was an experience faithful to the metaphors contained within the alchemical literature: it was a sublimatio, a transformation of the lead of the infantile ego into the gold of the soul; it was a purificatio, a melting away of the lower chakra sanskaras in the fire of Divine Love; and it was a liberatio, a complete transcendence of the ego-consciousness. The retreat allowed participants to experience both the alchemy of the ego, referred to in alchemical literature as the transmutation of lead into gold, and the alchemy of the atman, the realization of the philosopher’s stone, the True Self that one already and always is.
Amrita recalled from her own alchemical experience, “This retreat experience produced an alchemical reaction that has ignited my transformation to a new level. I learned that my ego is just an actress replaying a role that is obsolete.”
“Alchemy of the Atman,” was replete with transformational exercises, designed to fuel the fire of the purificatio, the purification of the soul. The exercises and thought experiments allowed the retreatants to revisit the past, to see what obstacles haunted their consciousness in their personal transformational practice. They also allowed participants the opportunity to reveal and alter the egoic narrative that hindered them from abiding in an open state of joy in the present moment. These transformational exercises, combined with guided visualizations which gave the alchemical apprentices a chance to rewrite the scripts of their present and future lives, engendered an environment of higher vibratory consciousness, a kind of feedback loop in which each person aided the transformation of the others; the individual insights augmented the transformation of the whole.
Ajata reflected on his experience of the retreat: “It was an empowering and life-changing experience to systematically throw one’s ego to the alchemical flame. Held by a protective energy field of love, each exercise flushed out and burned away deeply repressed narratives that have falsely governed my attitude and approach to life, revealing a glimpse of freedom and perfection that will never again fade.”
Along with the thought exercises, Shunyamurti revealed to the group the original Sat Yoga mudras, a series of hand movements that tell the story of consciousness from the Absolute beginning to the fall into egoic identification. The mudras, practiced before and after meditations, gave the retreatants the opportunity to kinesthetically internalize higher chakra knowledge while luring the mind into one-pointedness. Many participants found these mudras particularly helpful in remaining in a state of constant remembrance, without having to put words to the truth of the Self.
“The mudras revealed their power throughout the day when my mind would slip into confusion, chaos, or mood-offs (negative moods) and immediately this maya (delusion) would be contextualized within the fabric of this eternal myth—and dissolved—the alchemical process could resume and deepen again and again,” shared Saraswati.
Retreatants at this retreat were exceptionally vocal about the changes they were experiencing: the emotional ups and downs, the deep personal insights that begged to be put to words, and all of the internal revelations that were taking place within the “hermetically sealed vessel” of the human soul.
Grettel revealed, “I haven’t finished the retreat… still on the rollercoaster! It was amazing, a life changing experience, a quantum leap, truly transforming. It is taking me to the depths of pain/darkness/hatred and bringing me out renewed, more powerful and fearless. It helped to point where I need to keep working (there is still so much to work on!). The support Shunyamurti has given us after the retreat with his teachings at noon has been priceless. He seems to be reading my mind every time, and I find power in his words and by surrendering to God. I won’t let him down, I won’t let myself down—but most importantly I won’t let God down!”
Many retreatants commented on their uncanny experiences, subtle insights, and all the jewels of wisdom gained from an intensive week at the Arunachala Alchemy lab:
“‘Alchemy of the Atman’ left me utterly amazed, and the transfiguration of the ego structure remains heavily underway. What had the most profound effect on me was the alchemical approach Shunyamurti applied in surfacing our childhood based traumas—a soothing guided meditation that generated an immense transmission of Divine Love,” offered Nirmala.
Chaitanya added, “The retreat was a sobering experience in navigating the white waters of the psycho-spiritual rapids. I feel lucky to have Shunyamurti as a guide.”
“The last retreat gave me an opportunity to release chains that have until now been invisible to me,” resolved Bhuma.
“This retreat has been a life changing experience. I’ve always wanted to be free: free from myself and free from society, but I wasn’t sure what that meant—until I ended up in Arunachala. Being free has become a goal with meaning, and although I know this is the beginning, I can say that I experienced being free like the river, and I’ve felt the love, peace, and joy flowing strong and unstoppable like its current, and I’ve felt the cleansing power of love and wisdom. At the retreat I felt the most confused ever, and also the clearest ever; the weakest ever, and the strongest ever; the most scared ever and also the most peaceful ever. A light was lit and it will remain. I am very thankful to Sat Yoga for allowing this experience (and imperience!),” smiled Diana.
The alchemical experiments that took place in the hermitically sealed vessel of Arunachala were well worth their weight in gold, costing only the sacrifice of the negative, rigidified, leaden ego-mind. But that experience is open to everyone who visits the Arunachala “avatar factory.” Unveil your true potential, and discover the priceless gems of wisdom that lie within. Become the philosopher’s stone.
Check out the video below to see one of Shunyamurti’s teachings on “The Alchemical Process” (or click here to view it on our video page):
Paradox is an impossible concept, or at least a concept impossible to conceive. It is the pulsating heart of all our problems, and it smiles sardonically like Schrödinger’s cat at us in every conscious moment of our lives. In it, we find both joy and anxiety. It is the spirit of the spiritual journey, the warp and the woof of wu-wei. As it turns out, paradox is also the soul of true seva (service). The discovery of this paradox was the essential theme of Sat Yoga’s recent community retreat: “Seva Saves: The Path of Karma Yoga.”
What is seva? Seva is facilely defined as spiritual service. But, as Shunyamurti reminded us, there can be no true service as long as there is an “I” that believes it is doing service. But how does one reach the state of no-I? It has to be through an act of surrender. But the surrender itself cannot be made by a false I, but must be a divine act of grace! Consciousness can wander despairingly or happily through this mesmerizing strange loop. “In principle, we are already there. But we’re there when we are not there,” smiled Shunyamurti.
Gambhira expressed his appreciation for the subtle teachings in the retreat: “Even though the real effect of this retreat is hard to grasp by the mind, there is perception of the increase of understanding real Divine Service: a quantum leap on the pathless path of liberation from apparent bounded consciousness. From the voice of true gurus we listen to what our Heart is telling us deep within: that everything in the phenomenal plane is interconnected, empowered by the underlying eternal Presence of the One Supreme Self, and the ignorance of this is the illusion of being in bounded consciousness. Seva, or wu wei, as explained by Shunyamurti, is of great aid in the dissolving of the fragmented soul into trans-conceptual emptiness which leaves nothing behind.”
During the “Seva Saves” retreat, Shunyamurti explored the Taoist theory of wu-wei (effortless action) in depth, citing the Tao Te Ching, the teachings of Lao Tzu, the insights of the other great Taoist masters, along with commentaries by Confucius and the later Mohists. Wu-wei is the state in which the dancer becomes the dance, or when the music plays the band. And in this sense, it is identical to the yogic practice of Karma Yoga: action without the sense of being a doer, or having any desire for a particular outcome.
“Every retreat has the magical effect of taking us deeper into our relationship with the Self through the lens of different practices (like alchemy or seva) and attitudes (gratitude, empowerment), shedding light where there has been darkness. For me, the focus of this retreat in particular went to the heart of the ego’s resistances to giving and serving which, as it turns out, are the key practices for dissolution of the false narcissistic persona. Shunyamurti’s mahavakyas (spiritual teachings) about the purifying nature of effortless action, wu wei, washed away any painful narratives often projected onto the act of service: ‘I should be doing a more important task. I am being taken advantage of. I am not important. I don’t know how to do it,’ revealing a natural tranquility of mind, fullness of heart, and clarity of connection to the Self—salvation through true seva,” remarked Saraswati.
Shunyamurti delineated three distinct types of seva: blood seva, water seva, and honey seva. The blood seva is a form of action that is done grudgingly. It is not viewed as an opportunity to restore the kingdom of heaven on earth, but as mere drudgery. “The moment seva becomes work,” said Shunyamurti, “we are lost.” Water seva is service done in a flowing way, but it does not contain the sweetness and the joy of the ultimate seva, the honey seva.
This concept of seva, of joyous union with God while the body is in action, has been at the heart of spiritual communities both in times of old, as well as recent times. In fact, the Shakers, a Christian sect that had a network of spiritual communities that sustained the soul of the culture of the United States for 200 years, had a saying that reflected their own view on seva: “Hands to work, hearts to God.”
“I cherished having the chance to both learn about and participate in seva at the Sat Yoga retreat. It was a virtuous circle in the sense that I could perform karma yoga duties, then hear a teaching reminding me of the exalted state that I must be in to engage in true seva, and then apply that during my next karma yoga opportunity. Contemplating the paradox of wu-wei, my mind was silent and joyful,” recalled one retreatant.
Yogiraj appraised the gems of wisdom that he discovered in his week at Arunachala: “The Seva Saves retreat was an inspiring reminder that the miraculous is indeed happening at Arunachala. I felt a great resonance with what Shunyamurti shared in the first morning’s teaching when he said that ‘we are never more active then when we are doing absolutely nothing.’ The extraordinary potential that lies dormant within each of us—if we can constantly renew the stillness and channel that energy into the present moment—is something to be ever mindful of. The ego-less service of the community, and the extraordinary results that divine love is yielding, need to be seen to be believed. This short but sweet time together reinforced the need for humility in service and was an excellent opportunity to remain vigilant in the surrender of the ego to the flow of the Lila. What has stuck with me most post-retreat is the importance of not being fragile and the incredible gift that we can give to ourselves through our openness to be corrected and to remain aligned with the Logos.”
The teachings and lessons learned from the retreat impacted the participants greatly:
“Through this retreat I have been blessed to come to a much deeper recognition of the supreme importance of seva in and as my spiritual practice. I have been forced to face the difficulties and obstacles to performing true service, and I have arrived at an understanding of how facing these challenges with detachment, wisdom, and love will be invaluable tools in my quest to growing into a perfect instrument of the Absolute,” commented Santosha.
Pilar revealed, “For me, this retreat was a wholesome experience, showing me how life can be when you are connected to God. Giving, receiving, and loving at every moment raises your frequency and makes you feel you are part of everything. That nourishes and makes you grow. Thanks for the experience. I would not change a bit of it.”
“This retreat impacted me on every level that I can perceive—and certainly beyond. It completely exceeded my expectations (I’m sure because I literally left all expectations at the entrance gate). We learned many useful things about being content while being of service. And I’m making use of what I learned at the ashram “out here.” I felt that I had returned home,” recalled Ashley from her encounter at Arunachala.
Grettel remarked, “I feel that I have grown a lot from this retreat. You can’t hear these teachings and stay indifferent—there’s just no way! The most remarkable aspects of the retreat were the teachings (and how they answered my questions without me even asking), the sangha working together, and the unconditional love that Shunyamurti transmits.”
For all of us who have been shipwrecked in the sea of egocentricity, egoless service may be our only “life-seva”! Through selfless service, the winds of false pride are taken out of the ego’s sails, and we learn to paddle our way out of the whirlpool that our lives had been caught in. After that, we realize that no paddling is necessary, only the surrender to the flow of life, drifting buoyantly above the waves of the petty concerns, unaffected by the ego’s tempest in a “me”-cup. The water itself transforms into divine honey. Then, upon reaching the yonder shore, we can finally finish the process of alchemy with the master awaiting us there.
The winds of change are in the air. Come and complete your transformational process at our next retreat, “Alchemy of the Atman.” We’ll see you there.
The Sat Yoga Community participated in the Third Intentional Community Gathering of Costa Rica 2012. The gathering was held during the week of April 29 and May 6, in the sustainable farm Jadines Termales de Gaia, located in the El Salitre town of North San Cristobal in the province of San José.
Termales Gaia is an ecological center and community based in the principles of permaculture. One of its many diverse projects that its co-owner and founder Mr. Silvio Bonomell has underway is to produce organic food through bio-intensive agriculture during a one year period to feed up to 12 people. He is documenting every step of this process, and once it has been proven that this agriculture system, which is completely free of agro-chemicals and is based on ancient, innovating, and environmental friendly techniques, is efficient and applicable, Silvio wishes to train the indigenous reserves of Talamanca so they can become empowered with this knowledge and live once again as communities with healthy and self-sustainable agriculture practices.
The organizers of the Costa Rican intentional community gathering proposed the following objectives for the event: a) reflect on the current situation of sustainable human settlements of Costa Rica; b) exchange experiences related to sustainable community living, as well as initiatives which are aligned with the movement´s values; and c) form vision counsels for the planning and strategic action of the works of the intentional community network of Costa Rica.
An important group of community representatives, farms, and eco-villages of all over the country, as well as international visitors, kept the flame lit which offered light and warmth during the event. Following some of the participating communities: Tacotal (San Mateo de Alajuela), Indígenas Cabecar (Chirripó), La Flor (Paraíso, Cartago), Finca Fruición (San Agustín, Pérez Zeledón), Finca Amanecer (Quepos, Puntarenas), y Siris (San Ramón, Alajuela). There was also the presence of visitors from Italy, Brazil, Guatemala, México, and Nicaragua.
The gathering offered an agenda filled with collective and varied activities with the purpose of uniting participants and strengthening the relationship between groups. Several workshops and talks were offered on the importance of spirituality within community development, as well as vision counsels, Temazcales, vegetarian lunches using produce from “La Huerta” of Termales Gaia, dance and prayer circles for universal peace, seed exchange, water ceremonies, and group meditations.
The seed exchange was of great importance for everyone involved, since all agreed that the true wealth is not money, but the wisdom of knowing how to grow healthy organic seeds, protect our soils, and take good care of Gaia, our Mother Earth.
The seed exchange was led by the permaculture specialist, Felix Antonio Archila, who has 22 years of experience in this field and has been helping Termales Gaia with its sustainable agriculture projects for the last three months and already has established a seed bank of 75 varieties. Felix comes from the Mayan culture and his participation, motivation, and wisdom was one of the great inspirations of this gathering. One of the projects that Felix is implementing is educating children from local community schools on the importance of the practice and principles of permaculture.
After the seed exchange, participants gathered to listen to a talk on the value of spirituality as a pillar for community development, offered by Sat Yogis Sat and Shivani.
Sat, who is a student and member of the spiritual community of Costa Rica, began his talk by sharing information about the two headquarters of Sat Yoga in Costa Rica. He mentioned about the Sat Yoga Institute, which specializes in the practice and study of the most important spiritual traditions, philosophies and sciences of the human consciousness, as well as the processing of psycho-emotional obstacles which inevitably rise within a spiritual path, through the method of individual sessions with an adept spiritual guide specialized in the arts of decoding the unconscious egoic complexes and in the healing, transformation, and sublimation of the soul.
The group also learned about the great experience and mastery that Shunyamurti, the founder and leader of the Sat Yoga Community, has gathered from a life-long spiritual practice and absolute dedication to the service of Shiva, of God, the Supreme Truth and Grace. And how under his spiritual guidance and protection the Sat Yoga community has been able to blossom now for 10 years in Costa Rica and currently has a core group of students, postulants, and disciples that add to more than 30 members.
Sat spoke about Shunyamurti´s vision and Sat Yoga´s methodology to build an authentic, successful, and stable spiritual community. How it is of utmost importance that the efforts to build sustainable communities are based on the pillars of an authentic and real spiritual practice. Such practice must be formed by a commitment from each member to maintain the universal yogic spiritual values known as the Yamas and Niyamas, and there must also be a commitment for the incessant processing of what is known in yoga as Maya – the negativity, ignorance, darkness, greed, lust, narcissism, aggression, rivalry, fantasies, and delusions of the ego – which is the primordial cause of the fall of the majority of intentional community and projects.
All the great teachers and leaders of the most meaningful communities of human history have offered a wise path to purify and transcend the ego and attain community harmony. The Sat Yoga community and school offer a solid, healthy, strong, and joyful path to attain such a goal.
Shivani, also a student and member of the Sat Yoga community, who is co-leading the community projects on sustainable agriculture, spoke about the Sat Yogic concept of “Premaculture.” Prema is translated from Sanskrit as divine love. Premaculture is a culture based on divine love. Shivani shared with the members of other communities that the most important seed to rescue is the seed of seeing and relating with each other as divine beings, as a universal conscience and intelligence, and not as objects and isolated egos. The seed of divine love is the first seed to be planted and harvested within a community, so it can rely on the necessary spiritual sustenance and wisdom to face and overcome the great challenges and impossibilities, as well as benefit and have the courage to act upon the many windows of opportunity that will also open, in the process of dreaming up an intentional community.
In Premaculture it is recognized that the negativity that usually spreads within a community comes from the traumas and wounds that the human being carries within from infancy and the past, and how these are then projected onto the world. Shivani explained the analogy that a community is like a house of mirrors, in which anything that has not been purified in one´s unconscious will be projected onto the other group members. Therefore it is of vital importance to remember this ego mechanism and recognize when our own mind is colonized by fantasies and false dark narratives. At the same time, being immersed in a strong and healthy spiritual community permits the ego projections not to be returned in an aggressive and reactive manner, but rather the advanced yogic members of a community can alchemically transform such negative projections into wisdom and with great compassion return to that spiritual sister or brother the energy of light, higher knowledge, humility, strength, and divine joy.
The message of Sat Yoga was openly received by those present. After the talk many different visions and opinions were interchanged on this same topic, listening to the ideas and feelings of all participants, and concluding the session with a guided meditation facilitated by Sat, and a space contained by a healing silence and stillness.
We then proceeded to lunch for another great communal celebration, and neared the conclusion of the gathering, where the following question and discussion arose: What is the next step for the network of intentional communities of Costa Rica?
The answer is that the intentional community network of the country has officially transformed itself within this gathering into the Consejo de Asentamientos Sustentables de las Américas (C.A.S.A.) de Costa Rica. It is a birth and valuable effort inspired by the “Llamado de la Montaña” Iberoamerican Ecovillage Gathering held in Colombia on January of 2012, which was attended by several of the present intentional community members. This new phase of the community network is being guided by several members of Costa Rican communities. One of its leaders of CASA CR is Rosa Elena Blanco from the Tacotal community of San Mateo. Rosa summarizes the experience and conclusions of this third gathering with the following words:
“Gathered in a circle under the guidance of the staff of speech, we listened to each other and express which were our necessities and offerings, from which we obtained a clearer panorama of where we should focus our attention.
It was concluded from the experience and results of the Second Community Gathering that developing once again a Vision Counsel was something that we were not truly ready as a network, but we should instead take smaller but firmer steps towards the stability of our connection. So we decided to apply Rudolf Steiner´s phrase, “we will get to know each other through our sweat, working together,” inspired by this principle we will apply the inter-communitary work approach of MINGA to become more acquainted with each other, recognize our strengths and weaknesses, as individuals and as a network and once we achieve a certain stability we can continue designing-dreaming the work and team engine of the Costa Rican Network, which ideally will be formed by committed and trustworthy people, belonging to different sustainable projects, with age diversity, gender and skills.
It was agreed that we should commit through word here and now and so it was done by those who felt called to, and we respected as well the silence of those also present. We made a call to solidarity in the coordination of the upcoming projects and also in the participation of these “mingas,” workshops, and small gatherings where we will also begin coordinating the next national community gathering [programmed for the end of 2012].”
For the Sat Yoga Community it was a great honor to participate in this community gathering, and recognize the effort, will, and love that all participating souls offered to Gaia and the universal family.
Sat Yoga wishes to continue participating in these local and international gatherings and be able to offer and disseminate a living “soul bank” of healthy, functional, and joyful spiritual community members, so we can thus serve as guides and inspiration for many other groups and seekers of Supreme Truth and Love.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.
Leave your discourses behind, something calls for you
Forget the death, you’ve left; it will not follow you
The infant who is rapping at your door
Is standing in clothes that you once wore
Bliss is here at last, go start anew
And it’s all over now, ego blues
“Ego Death and Divine Rebirth,” was a retreat far beyond the grasp of the ordinary rational mind. It was an event that transcended the univocal narratives of the ego, the self-alienated consciousness that maintains the prison of emotional bipolarity and the nightmare of repeating karmic patterns of futile suffering. The retreat, held appropriately on Holy Week, punched holes in the “Master’s Discourse” of egoic consciousness, and, yet, left the participants feeling truly awakened and whole. The retreat exposed the lack at the center of the ego-structure and revealed it as the portal to Shunyata, the paradoxical Emptiness, from which the entire cosmos emanates.
Nirmala, recounting her non-ordinary experience at Arunachala, said she encountered the illusory ego façade and was able to be “totally okay with this game we are playing, it was a peak experience in tears and smiles for the ‘me’ in hearing God’s laughter as a recognition of non-duality. This retreat has been a shedding of obstacles, doubts, judgments, fantasies, agendas, roles, longings, and fears, that all stood in the way of simply resting in the Heart of Universal Oneness. Living in the flow of paradox has been the theme….”
Perhaps the only adequate way to describe the retreat is in terms of music. The gathering conveyed a tonality that was uncannily resonant with higher dimensions of Being. It was delivered in a cadence, a flow, in which one had to stop fighting the currents of resistance, and just let go. Music expresses a playfulness that is trans-linguistic, buoyantly opposing the mind’s obsession toward concretization and categorization, and yet displays an immediate familiarity that seems more intimate and capable of penetrating the walls of egoic defenses than any other form of art. Just as in music, the silence and the notes become one inextricable whole, each accentuating and deepening the expressiveness and meaning of the other, the “Ego Death and Divine Rebirth” retreat reminded everyone that upon the silence of the ego, and the dissolution of the ego-mind, the True Self is forever realized as “the fundamental sruti note, that underlies and blends with all the other notes,” as Sri Ramana Maharshi once described it.
Bhuma recalled, “Arriving at Arunachala, I felt excited and was looking forward to a retreat like the previous one. Even though the earth had been torn to give birth to the new agricultural project, I felt secure in the fact that retreat week was here and silence would be restored. Holding onto this ridiculous thought of homeostasis, I soon found myself on the floor laughing wildly at the absurdity of the ego mind. The ice world of Kali Yuga is truly melting!”
After Shunyamurti’s first teaching on Saturday, the participants introduced themselves and decided how they were going to sing their (ego’s) swan song. They began to compose their own unique number within the cosmic opera. Shunyamurti reminded the retreatants that they had been brought to Arunachala: carefully delivered as the divine instruments in Shiva’s orchestra, each one expressing a different timbre, a nuanced melodic color with which to perform a specific solo act—as well as to harmonize with other beings to create a communal song whose overtones invoke the Oversoul.
“Quantum collapse: when you think you know someone, when you name something, when you materialize something—this stops the flow. Like in music—you cannot hold on to a note,” gleaned Durga from her experience at the retreat.
For many, the most remarkable thing about the week-long concert of consciousness was the overwhelming humor that no one could have anticipated. Shunyamurti’s preferred instruments for the week were the cymbals, which, in his comedic clashing together of the ego’s rigid, bipolar belief systems, gave birth to new, higher symbols. And the way in which this was accomplished was something akin to an operatic comedy: the sacrificing of the trite and stultified persona in an upsurge of transcendent laughter. An alternative name for the retreat could have been: The Assassination of the Puerile Ego as Performed by the Yogis of the Asylum of Arunachala Under the Direction of Shunyamurti.
“We learned that all the thoughts in the mind have been imposed on us from outside. This insight has helped me in my meditations and allowed me to have more peace of mind. After all, ‘there is no I’; ‘there nothing to do, and no one to do it.’ Like the words from an old song I know: ‘The lights are on, but no-body’s home.’ The ego is an illusion, as is the idea that there is a difference between life and death,” roared Jim in boundless laughter.
The composition of the retreat left everyone in a sattvic state of peaceful composure. There were meditative hikes through the jungle to Varanasi and the Gangaji, then the famous Arunachala “Land Loop,” and of course participation in the ashram’s ambitious prema-culture projects, each act with its own rhythm, its own unique beat and feel.
One retreatant observed, “It seems I say this about each retreat, but I truly believe that this retreat has built upon the previous retreats to take us that much deeper into the depths and lightness of our One spirit. Each retreat is unique and empowers us in different ways, and it has become increasingly clear to me that the energy field of Arunachala continues to evolve, to offer safe haven to our hearts and souls as we weather the sometimes tumultuous course into the unconscious to emerge as Beings aware of our true essence and purpose, free of illusion. And the absolute unwavering peace that is created by the collective generosity of Spirit of the community is a blessing that contains me as I face my own inner demons (delusions) and transform. I am infinitely grateful for the gift God has given us all, through the sangha and the seva, the Divine in us all. It is unparalleled.”
On Tuesday there was a communal cabaret show featuring the “Five Sisters” of Sat Yoga. Revealing the prema-cultural musical score under which Arunachala is currently being directed, the agricultural “master plan,” Tamara, Marjiva, Durga, Heidi, and Shivani briefly described all of the different melodic compositions that are being planned, planted, and played out in the Sat Yoga gardens now known as Hirdaya (the Heart).
One of the most interesting aspects of permaculture that the sisters explained was the holistic/symbiotic approach that the agricultural committee is interweaving into this design. What they described of the plans for the land was nothing less than an agricultural orchestration: each group of plants playing its specific part on time, augmenting the overall melody of the performance, emphasizing specific tonal colors, and then letting another group take the lead. The strings, the brass, the woodwind, and the percussion all have organic equivalents in this grand symbiotic symphony!
The Nada Yoga classes took a different approach during this retreat: one with a teaching of the Soy Dog, a new twist on the well-known Yo Soy-Burger, led by Radha, and the other with a live bhajan concert led by Shivani, featuring Sat Yoga’s new harmonium. The melodious tunes produced in the Nada Yoga classes provided the perfect venue for a majestic mind-dissolution, with a bass line of sublime, sacred devotion, replete with melodies that led the listener back to the Source, and a harmonization that provided final release within an atmosphere of boundless, heart-melting love.
“In this retreat we weaved a new meaning as we came together in love for Divine Rebirth. The tapestry was woven with love, songs, and delight,” smiled Amrita injoy.
On the eve of the creative writing class, a powerful thunderstorm was brewing. As the retreatants read aloud their poetry, prose, and the priceless expressions issued forth from their hearts, the thunder rolled, creating an uncanny coniunctio of microcosm and macrocosm, a beautiful duet between soul and world, through which one could witness lyrical roses blossom, and, like the story of the Buddha, one could hear Gaia’s booming sign of approval. Sat’s performance of Parsifal showed the false hubris of the egoic armor as nothing more than baby pajamas, and Ashoka delivered an unforgettable Yo! Soy Burger rap-attack. These were but a few of the priceless diamonds that were mined from deep within the soul of each yogi.
Ajata, reflecting deep within, commented, “When I’m confronted with Truth, there tends to be turbulence. The repressed rises, the ego’s fantasies mount their defenses, and I’m forced to see where the reality of my Being is resisted most. It’s quite a beautiful happening actually, for it is only in these moments that the narratives about who I am, and what life was, and is, can dissolve into the power and silent presence of the Absolute. That which seemed to be dies to what is. It is the most beautiful moment of Grace, to rest in the Self. And I am eternally grateful to God for every moment spent at this retreat, and for every opportunity to sit in front of Shunyamurti with the Sat Yoga family.”
On the final night of the retreat, at the Sat Yoga yagya, or sacrificial fire, the retreatants threw whatever remained of their egos into the fire. And, of course, the joy that was released in this act of liberation expressed itself in an enchanting series of musical masterpieces, including breathtaking songs, symbolic (and comedic) interpretive dances, instrumental pieces that became instant classics, kirtans—and even a comedic endeavor of trying to draw the moon.
Looking back on the week, Yogiraj remembered, “The ‘Ego Death and Divine Rebirth’ retreat was a precious opportunity to witness the subtle, and not so subtle, workings of the ego mind. Shunyamurti’s insistence on the unreality of ego consciousness was powerful and rattled my cage so that I may never be the same again. The intensive week-long retreat offered heartfelt music and performance, nutritious and delicious meals from Radha’s Kitchen, and the opportunity to create deeper relationships in the Sat Yoga community. The power of the gathering was evident in the transformation of those visiting Arunachala for the first time, yet equally humbling for those longing to be reunited with this sacred land. The wisdom and generosity of Shunyamurti reached deep into the soul, nurturing and provoking the awakening of the truth of our being. These retreats never fail to bring about an essential paradigm shift and the opening for accelerated expansion into the infinite.”
Several other retreatants shared their comments on the week’s events:
“This wonderful retreat helped me greatly to understand that what we think we are is like the foam of the wave of a cosmic intelligence and what we truly are is unseen to what we think we are. Stillness is the key for acceptance and relaxation in this wonderful ocean of bliss. I will cherish this in daily sadhana,” resolved Gambhira.
“I felt Shunyamurti’s teachings on this retreat were really directed to deconstruct all the fallacies that the ego creates about life itself and even about ‘spirituality.’ It was a wholesome opportunity to crumble maya’s edifice and be born again!” exclaimed Fadrique.
“This retreat really eased the weight on my shoulders. I learned to approach life in a new way, with less worry and more joy!” offered Surya.
Viviana shared, “For me the most amazing experience was to live out the values that Sat Yoga clearly define as the real values important in life. Related to this, I was able to clearly see and experience so many other values implied in the way we lived in the Ashram. The experience was so real, that it changed the way I am living now. For example: I am dedicating 30-45 minutes a day to meditate. I am getting up early in the morning to meditate and going to bed early at night. This is a huge, real change in my behavior and the most important thing for me is that I am not struggling to do it; I am really convinced and I have a sincere desire to do it. And this is possible only because of the experience I had in the retreat. It is one thing if someone tells you this is good, and another thing completely to experience it as truly good.”
Manuel shared, “It was quite an experience to realize that when you are walking in the right direction, your true Self starts emerging. It’s a similar feeling to being back home after a long journey abroad. A must-live retreat.”
“The retreat was not what I expected: most of the insights and realizations came days and weeks following the retreat. It might have had something to do with the guided meditations and the way teachings were given. As usual the community was amazing, the environment, the food, the gardens, the silence—everything was in perfect balance to help my ego die,” said Barrie with a smile on his face.
Nirmala concluded, “One of the infinite jewels I left this retreat with is that underneath all of the doing and non-doing, thinking and non-thinking, is the Untouched, Pure, Liberated Self. When the time comes for Grace to descend, it will happen outside of time and can happen at any moment, knowing Thy Self as the entire universe and cosmos, the dreamer and the dream and the screen upon which this all appears is what awaits as an inner reality—as stated in so many ways by numerous saints and sages throughout time. Now it’s time to put this to the test and rest in faith of the Perfection of all that is.”
The joyful performance of the ego death requiem brought with it a peace that will forever remain intimately near. Beneath the surface level, through all the tears and laughter, there remains a silent melody that everyone can subtly hear. With the death of death accomplished, there remains nothing to do and no one to fear. As all beings are manifestations of the Self, every soul is a peer, a great seer, a symbol from God that all beings are infinitely dear. If you listen closely, focusing all your attention on your third ear, you can clearly hear the music of the Hyperdimensional Sphere. Don’t look any further: Bliss is Now; Bliss is Here.
You must leave now, take nothing more, the past is past
Any karma left to reap, well just surrender fast
Yonder lies the ego; it is done
Resting like a fire in the sun
Look at how the Atman’s shining through
And it’s all over now, ego blues
(and thanks to Bob Dylan and of course to Baba Dilaram for the inspired lyrics reworked here)
“This past weekend’s Seminar One shook the foundations of my ego. It revealed to me all the ways in which I have been living in bad faith. It motivated me to make a serious change in the structure and intention of my life. It reminded me of the myopia of my own ego and the expansive divinity of my Real Self. Something awoke within me. I will not fall under the spell of false consciousness again,” resolved one participant from his experience at Sat Yoga’s famous, but rarely offered, and always ego-shattering Seminar One.
“Seminar One: Liberation from the Labyrinth,” began on March 10, 2012, and delivered an entire arsenal of spiritual weaponry with which to combat the infantile ego and its death-driving unconscious and the notorious Censor, the minotaur lurking behind-the-scenes in everyone’s internal labyrinth. Of course, information itself cannot take one all the way to the goal. But knowledge is power, and without the golden thread of Ariadne (the Atman), Theseus (consciousness) cannot find its way out of the labyrinth. Seminar One reminded everyone that that the golden thread has never been lost, but has been hiding in plain sight.
A common error made by those on a spiritual path is to reject every chakra (level of consciousness) except for the Supreme, Chakra Seven, and place a value judgment that everything other than the Absolute is of no worth. This, however, cheats us of the richness of reality and of the path itself, and by trying to short-circuit the transformational process, we actually enact a kind of greed that that ironically pushes us further away from the goal, since the Supreme State is eternally present as the path itself.
To borrow a quote from Alan Watts, “In music, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those that played fastest. And there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord, because that’s the end. . . . [But the point of the journey] was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or to dance, while the music was being played.” At Seminar One it was again made very clear that the entire journey is pure joy, pure growth, and pure learning, and to consider the end as being the sole source of meaning is actually an obstacle to one’s journey.
The weekend was absolutely packed full of teachings: the structure of the Sat Yoga approach to spirituality (including philosophy, practice, teachings, etc.), the reasons why it behooves one to free oneself from ego-consciousness (aka suffering), and the beauty of developing one’s higher capacities, were among a few of the topics discussed.
The seminar was also filled with wonderful surprises, including original, live music performed by Shivani. Her angelic voice transmitted authentic devotion, yearning, sonorous sweetness, and bliss. We also enjoyed a meditation walk in the Sacred Meditation Garden, led by Saraswati, in which everyone had the opportunity to reconnect with the beauty of nature while being immersed in a state of deep contemplative peace.
As is essential to any Sat Yoga experience, the delectable treats and gourmet meals of Radha’s Kitchen helped everyone digest all of the theoretical knowledge and profound teachings that were given throughout the weekend. Selecting recipes and motifs from all over Asia, the Radha’s Kitchen team incorporated surprise, beauty, health, flavor, and love in every meal.
Throughout the weekend, a wide variety of teachings were given, reflecting the richness and depth of this unique spiritual path. A few of the modules discussed were:
- Carl Jung’s Four Levels of Psyche, which explained the mask of the persona; the false identification with the ego; the fear of who one really is, the shadow; and Jung’s description of who one discovers oneself to be as the spiritual path deepens into the archetypal dimension, the identity Jung referred to as the Self.
- Ego Mind and Sat Mind explained the transfinite benefits of being one with Sat (the Ground of Being) and the neurotic nescience of being identified with the egoic mind;
- The “(Yo) Soy Burger,” which graphed the structure of the ego, including its repressed elements;
- The Seven Realms of Knowledge, which revealed all the socially acceptable—and unacceptable—levels of knowledge, as well as the superconscious shamanic and supreme levels of understanding;
- The Seven Bodies, which showed us how to unsheathe one’s True Being—and the layers of (mis)identification that can show up as symptoms of dis-ease;
- The Four Personality Strategies (and Three Soul Strategies), which revealed the conventional methods of defending oneself against phantasies of aggressive others;
- The Seven Planets of the Soul-er System showed us which egoic planets one has become shipwrecked on and what thoughts orbit one’s mind;
- The Seven Dimensions of Intelligence Development, which explored all of the areas in which Sat Yogis want to develop their capacity for higher intelligence;
- The Sat Yoga Kundalini Map, which revealed the full spectrum of human consciousness, how to locate oneself in psychic space, and how to reach the highest rungs of Jacob’s Ladder.
After every discussion, time was allotted to clear any doubts that the participants had. The discussion periods were both shocking and revealing—and filled with boundless laughter. Topics ranged from technical questions about the teachings, metaphysical questions regarding reincarnation and subtle realms, and practical questions about one’s own sadhana, or spiritual practice.
All in all, “Seminar One: Liberation from the Labyrinth” was an event of unforgettable insights, mind-blowing revelations, and joyful encounters with Truth: two days of realizations that the Censor cannot uproot. It was an experience in which all could empower their spiritual warrior within. It was a happening that produced profound internal changes for everyone. And most importantly, the knowledge and shakti gained from the seminar will keep the fortunate participants forever beyond the pull of the ego’s lethal downward death drive.
As a fine painter carefully examines and chooses only the finest of colors to manifest his or her magnum opus, the Sat Yoga “Divine Love is Real!” retreat was itself a masterpiece that drew out the deepest hues, the richest textures, the subtlest contrasts, and, perhaps most importantly, expressed that paradoxical element that eludes even the most affectively attuned and abstractly informed aesthetician: the form of the Formless.
To many, artistic expression is something that is reserved for a specialized elite, someone with a heightened intuitive capacity, or a vaunted prodigy, but the creation of beauty is a form of expression that flows naturally through all human beings when they are in resonance with God’s love. Manifesting beauty and sharing it with others need not be thought of as having to move through the conventional channels of visual art, music, literary art—or any of the myriad other forms of expression for that matter; when one is open to the flow of love that radiates from the Source, every thought, word, and deed becomes an outpouring of beauty that can be shared.
The Sat Yoga “Divine Love is Real!” retreat was a clear demonstration of spontaneous beauty, of Divine Love—of a living work of art. There is a saying that the artist draws out from the sensuous realm his work of art whereas the mystic transforms his entire life into a work of art. This retreat exemplified community itself as a work of art. On February 18th Shunyamurti gave everyone the task of realizing him- or herself as Divine Love. This intention was carefully followed through as the entire group received a week-long course in the aesthetics of Advaita, a decompression in the de-collapsing of the primal quantum wave, the spanda, of Ananda, and a benediction in the blossoming of Bliss.
After a week-long intensive in the sacred art of Liberation, Marjiva poured a profound libation from the subtle insights she distilled during a week’s worth of sublimation, in the incomparable fermentation of Divine Love’s rapturous exaltation: “Each retreat at the Sat Yoga Ashram acts as a propelling catalyst in the worth-shaping of the soul. One retreat builds on another, as a sculptor chiseling away a hard, undefined block of marble into a wondrous revelation of beauty and majesty… All is Divine Love… nothing else exists but That… and you are That, the mantra that plays over and over since the retreat, soothing, softness where before thought harshness. A creature of habits and fear transformed in ever greater Faith through the true Love displayed at the ‘Divine Love is Real!’ retreat, while the relationship to God, known not to creature but only to man, vastly strengthened. The days built on each other through Shunyamurti’s teachings, like a musical score that we repeatedly practiced, and played ever more eloquently through our words and actions. The retreat never ended, but continues to work its divine love potion, dissolving the fixated, hardened fragments of the ego into blissful serenity of heart-opening.”
As with all Sat Yoga retreats, the meditations started early, at 4:00am, in order to rendezvous with the Divine Lover, Shiva Himself. Beginning the day with the Brahma Muhurat, as it is called in India, or “the hour of Brahman,” allowed the retreatants to clear any noise occluding the silent awareness in which perfect peace and stillness could be tapped into.
Saraswati reflected on her favorite hour of the day: “The sweetness of this retreat was fermented in most pure time of the day, at 4 am, an hour in India known as the time of God, Brahma Muhurat. We gathered in silence, moving through the starry night into the heart center of the Mahatma (Great Soul) Lodge to sit, together, in solitude and encompassing stillness. The N.O.I.S.E of the Neighborhood was quieted, the world was still asleep. Even ticking clocks and refrigerator hums were hushed to further the experience—that was not “ex” (external) at all, but rather deeply inward.
Freed from the distractions of daily interruptions, I could hear clearly the generally obscured raucous of the O.I.S.E (organism, images, signifiers, emotions) and was forced to recognize the fragmentation and dis-ease of the ego’s ballad and all of its wasteful static. The silence, God’s song, persisted more palpably than the ego and soon washed away the din as the birdsong announced the rising sun. Then, mind clear, Shunyamurti’s daily A.M. wisdom dose could take root deeply and pierce through any remaining chatter leaving us all blanketed in peaceful, powerful silence for hours to come.”
Many connected with Divine Love through participation in karma yoga, the practice of selfless service. In karma yoga, life becomes a great dance: the performance of the practice empowers one to pirouette in a state of pure presence. Indeed, the goal of karma yoga itself is to bring one into the state of wu-wei (action in non-action) in which the chatter of the mind ceases, the body continues in its rhythms, and each movement becomes more refined, more graceful, until one has the uncanny realization that one is dancing through life—and the dancer becomes the dance. When one stays in the uninterrupted flow of Love, one blossoms into a flow-er—a flower, ready to be picked by Nataraja—and then devoured.
“The ‘Divine Love is Real!’ retreat filled me with profound teachings. It opened a sacred space for all the community to reflect upon what love really means and embody it through actions. It allowed me to bathe in Love melodies of God, to sing and resonate the essence of all that there is. With the teachings I was filled with enormous gratitude and joy of being able to share this majestic work of divine art with everybody resonating with us, and it opened a constant reminder to recognize that Divine Love is all that is Real, our pure essence that our hearts can rest in.
Witnessing the community share and protect our own solitude allowed us to resonate in a blissful note of divine being, a union of seekers to realize we are all one: pure blissful awareness. Every moment of this retreat was to rest in Love, enact blissful Love through cooperation, and share a sacred space in which everything manifested is recognized as a beautiful reflection of this silent bliss reminding us that Divine Love is all that is REAL,” shared Shivani, the Natarajani.
Shunyamurti made clear that true love can only be found at chakra seven, the summit of the spiritual journey, when there is no longer anyone separate to find it. Since Love is our true nature, we have no excuses not to be in a state of love at all times. In order to turn up the temperature on the spiritual pressure-cooker, Shunyamurti gave teachings that brought the students immediately back to their Source. He drew examples from a wide variety of sources, from the ancient teachings of Sat Yoga, to the more recent observations of Jean-Paul Sartre. He dispelled any residue of doubt in the seeker that he or she was not one with Shiva.
“The teachings of Shunyamurti were so powerful, so on point, that it is difficult to describe what it was like to have the honor of receiving them. If a book were to be compiled all of the teachings from this week-long retreat, there would be no more apt a title than “Nonduality Speaks”; but that still doesn’t give one the full impression of the artistry, the surrealism—the power—with which the teachings were delivered. I could say that it was like watching a masterpiece being painted while witnessing the performance of a spontaneous symphony, both being but a part of an uncontrived, impromptu theatrical work of art organized by someone who knew the story of my life and was speaking to me directly—but that wouldn’t even come close to the quality or the depth of the experience. It felt as if a knife had pierced through the façade of everyday life and went straight to the core of reality—something hidden and yet utterly intimate. I could never have imagined the amount of love that was awaiting me there,” exclaimed Purusha.
At Arunachala, the land itself calls one back to the recognition of the artistry of God through nature: the cut of the terrain, the form and flow of the river, the symbioses of the plant life, and the playfulness of the wildlife were all reminders that every being, living or nonliving, is a manifestation of the Divine.
Everyone who participated in the retreat noted the profound and gentle silence that enveloped the week’s events. As Shunyamurti has taught, all creativity springs spontaneously from the Emptiness, Itself being the hyperdimensional container and enabler of all beauty, from which all arises and to which all returns. Equally, Ramana Maharshi, viewed by many to be the embodiment of Silence Itself, has voiced that silence is not a blank, not a lack (as it is viewed by the ego) but rather “Silence is unceasing eloquence. . . . Those who have discovered great Truths have done so in the still depths of the Self.”
On this point, Santosha remarked, “The Divine Love retreat has, through profound silence, a vibrant communal energy-field, and illumined spiritual teachings, offered a space to become fully immersed in silent, blissful and all-encompassing Divine Love, and has brought forth the realization that the source of this Love is never external. Rather, it emanates from the very Heart of my being; accessible right here, right now, forever.”
“The loving energy field of the community had a deep impact on my soul that brought about the incredible depth of silence. This was truly a beautiful blessing to be a part of and be in Divine Love,” concurred Amrita.
The “Divine Love is Real!” retreat left an indelible mark on the soul of every participant, each one taking something meaningful and yet utterly unique from his or her experience. “The retreat provided an opportunity to both explore and become immersed in Divine Love. It is with great joy that I have returned from this retreat filled with deep stillness which touches into the roots of my Self. Divine Love is the only Real,” smiled Gita.
“The ‘Divine Love is Real!’ retreat was a powerful investigation into the false reign of the ego-mind in our lives and the sweet realization that no ego can know love. Love is not a word but a state of being and all that truly is,” proclaimed the king of the yogis, Yogiraj.
Barrie revealed, “The experience at the Divine Love retreat was something that really cannot be stated in words. The peace, the mystery, the love, the silence, the teachings; they all came together as one—and the sum total of that reality is beyond language. If I were to force it into language, which will capture only a fragment of the total, I’d say it has been witnessing of a truth: a truth that seems eternal.”
Throughout the week, retreatants had the chance to experience and express Divine Love in the multifold activities: experiencing Divine Love with Gaia in Prema-culture, stretching oneself beyond one’s own self-imposed limitations in the asana class, the meditative nature walks to Varanasi and Rishikesh, the incredible energetic experience of each Nada Yoga class, and the sharing of songs, stories, and silence at the Sat Yoga yajna (sacred sacrificial fire) were just some of the ways in which everyone’s beauty found expression in form. The participants had the chance to decide which of the multitudinous events to join, creating the perfect melodious harmony for his or her own experience.
It was evident to all that the powerful shakti which had been building throughout the week, augmented by the teachings, the silence, the inner process working itself through every individual, and the grace of God Herself, reached its zenith at the creative writing class. “Poetry and prose were performed with both seriousness and playfulness, penetrating the ego’s childish defenses to love, and opening the heart. The insight, the fruits of an intense week of processing, and the unique expression chosen by each reader reflected the gems of wisdom in each soul. Exposing ourselves through the use of language broke down the barriers we had erected to keep the other away; afterwards, we could truly commune and appreciate one another in joyous, innocent, and spontaneous play!” commented one retreatant.
Regardless of whether it was one’s first time or five-hundredth, everyone expressed delight and appreciation for the artistic creations coming from Radha’s Kitchen. The art of gourmet vegetarian cuisine was practiced by retreatants and perfected with the aid of Radha’s guiding presence. From the joy and playfulness of the chefs, to the look of contentment on the faces of those who enjoyed this priceless prasad, it was clear that God intervened in the preparation of this ashram haute cuisine.
“Throughout the week we enjoyed the justly famous Arunachala salads and were filled with divine bliss upon consumption of the love-filled prasad. From prana-packed pancakes to the highly praised pea pesto, I saw all beings in ecstatic bliss,” recollected Yogiraj
Those who were visiting Arunachala for the first time had overwhelmingly profound experiences. “I have seen many faces of God, looked beyond the eyes of man to realize that I Am that which is beyond what appears, and there is the Peace that passes all understanding, Love beyond words, and there rests the Freedom and that Is enough. Thank you All for sharing the Light of Love with Me,” offered Juhl in gratitude.
Adriana recalled, “It was a completely new experience for me where I found who I am, love in the purest form, reflected in everyone’s eyes and souls.”
The Sat Yoga Ashram has become a home for sincere seekers, transcending cultural or societal molds and providing a safe haven for all who yearn to experience Divine Love firsthand. “Before coming to Costa Rica and the Sat Yoga community I did not know what respect, fellowship, or Love was, even though I would have considered myself a stand-up citizen. There are many experiences and imperiences from the Divine Love retreat which I am hesitant to even try to share with the fear that words might distort the feeling of Love and bliss that was truly present during the week. The gourmet vegetarian cooking, the beauty of the land and the friendships strengthened in the silence of the community and of the mountain are only the fringe benefits of a week at Arunachala. My heart has had a longing, a longing for Truth and Love. I am no longer looking; my heart has found a home,” admitted Ashoka in profound contentment.
The powerful energy field that was created in a week immersed in Divine Love is open for anyone who wishes to dive into the depths of one’s True Self and discover the incomparable sweetness of unconditional Love. It is an experience, or, perhaps more accurately, an imperience, in which one can retrieve from the depths of Being the priceless treasure that has long been forgotten and share it with the rest of the world. It is the most valuable piece of artwork—that is peace itself: the art of transcending work. There remains nothing left to create, as the masterpiece is already complete. And yet the process of casting off the false self is the participation in never-ending Beauty itself, which no-thing can beat. If you wish to partake of this precious treat, discard the chaff, and consume only the blissful, golden, immortal Wheat. And prepare yourself for the next retreat!
“We yogis are the keepers of the spiritual flame. And it is our function to keep that flame alight, and now to let it burst into a great bonfire of Love, of Divine Bliss, that will enable a new world to be born,” declared Shunyamurti to a room full of various kinds of yoga instructors from all parts of Costa Rica at a recent get-together in Orotina. His talk, a lightning bolt of gyana about the true nature of yoga, was the keynote event in a day-long gathering hosted by ASO Yoga, a growing group of yoga teachers who are dedicated to bringing yoga to all.
The wisdom transmitted through Shunyamurti that day was a call to all of us (yoga teacher or not) to responsibly embrace the impending global and psycho-spiritual changes with love and courage. It was a call to return to a non-egoic state of eternal bliss for the salvation of our sacred planet. Shunyamurti eloquently explained, “Yoga teachers [at this moment] are meant to be guides into Sat Yuga, nothing less. But first you must guide yourself there. The kingdom of heaven is within. It is Brahman, it is Shiva… you are That. Be it. Dissolve the ego obstructions and reach liberation in life. Then you are a true yogi.”
This special event was held in the beautiful tropical gazebo of ‘Yoga La Colina’, a yoga and meditation center, recently opened by Vanessa Cavellini. In the open-air studio, overlooking the lovely surrounding landscape of Orotina, an enthusiastic group of yoga teachers and practitioners joined to offer support of ASO Yoga’s mission of bringing yoga to diverse Costa Rican populations (at risk youth, pregnant women, children with cancer, etc.). The event also functioned to synergize the collective energies of local yogis towards a common aim of a rise in consciousness. Purusha commented, “Our trip to ‘La Colina’ was immensely inspiring. It was wonderful to see so many people whose lives are dedicated to yoga. There was a joyous confluence of myriad playful energies, all merging together to create a unique blend; a divine atmosphere of friendship and love.”
In a day largely devoted to the active practice of asanas and the planning of social service projects, the talk given by Shunyamurti brought the focus back to the essential goal of yoga: living in a state of bliss, united with the one true Self. “[His] teaching at the ASO yoga event went to the heart of yoga,” remarked Amrita. “The wisdom imparted by Sat Yoga’s spiritual guide enlightened listeners about the history of yoga and the essential nature of the yogic vows, the yamas and niyamas.”
As Yogiraj explained, “Shunyamurti gave a comprehensive yet concise record of yoga in which one was able to realize that yoga is not just a physical practice, but rather a physical, mental and spiritual discipline, which permeates, and in fact is, our existence.”
Many were deeply impacted by Shunyamurti’s compelling words and radiant presence. “The most mind-blowing event for me (literally) was Shunyamurti’s talk. It is was both humbling and gratifying to hear the entire history of yoga summed up in under an hour! In the meditation that followed, we had the chance to let all of the gyana received and shakti raised throughout the day penetrate into to the depths of our Being. I bow in gratitude to everyone—every manifestation of the One—involved. I left feeling as though I had directly participated in the Sermon on the Mount!” expressed Purusha about his experience.
The loving wisdom and shakti of the Sat Yoga Institute’s founder and spiritual guide added a level of power, depth, and urgency to the ASO Yoga gathering that will certainly be a catalyst for the transformation of many who were present. Satananda summarized the event accurately when he stated, “It was beautiful to share with our fellow yoga teachers from Asoyoga the great value of spiritual community and commitment. Shunyamurti imparted with great compassion the vitalness of taking the traditional spiritual vows, known in Yoga as the Yamas and Niyamas, in service of benevolence, truth, and divine love.”
He added that “Shunyamurti reminded us that the path of a yogi is one of blissful discipline, of higher love and law, and of achieving ultimate perfection and union with the Divine. This is the meaning of Yoga.”
Satananda offered a blessing as well: “May all our fellow yogis of Asoyoga truly achieve this Imperative. Thank you, Shunyamurti, for your tireless service and selflessness.”
Below you will find a video of the teaching that Shunyamurti’s gave during the Asoyoga event (click here for the video link):
As we climbed up the tierra blanca (white land) of the Irazú volcano, passing the district where solo rosas (only roses) grow, we approached the “Rinconcito Orgánico Irazú.” Going off the main road we looked for a black and white gate that marked our entryway into the first organic farm founded north of Cartago (the original capital of Costa Rica). We were greeted by the smiling faces of Don Rodolfo (aka Tigre) and his son Juan Pablo. Rodolfo, in his characteristically cheerful manner, welcomed us blithely, exclaiming, “¡Qué linda la vida!” If there was ever a phrase that summed up our visit, that would have to be it.
Rodolfo and his wife, Hannia, have been longtime friends of ours at “El Trueque,” the organic farmer’s market that we shop at weekly for our urban institute. We had been wanting to visit their finca (farm) for a long time, but because of schedule conflicts, we had never been able to. The visit was well worth the wait and was incredible inspiration.
Rodolfo and Hannia’s story was actually a very interesting one, a real life example of Joseph Campbell’s famous maxim, “Follow your bliss.” Rodolfo was employed as a financial analyst for one of Costa Rica’s national banks. As the days slowly and tediously passed by, he recalled his work in college, researching and interviewing organic farmers, and all the joy that it brought him. One day, tired of his work and the lack of satisfaction it brought him in life, he quit his job, declaring, “I want to live with the hummingbirds, the bees, the trees, and dedicate my life to agriculture!”
It was no easy start for them. When they acquired their farm, they had no water, no phone—no luxuries of any kind. They couldn’t even imagine one day acquiring the status of organic farming. But they made do with what they had, received a little help from some friends, and today they have an extensive organic farm, hold workshops on organic farming, and are a living inspiration for others interested in organic agriculture.
In addition to their organic agricultural practices, they also manage their own personal seed bank, as a means of preserving high-quality, organic seed strains for the benefit of farmers throughout Costa Rica. They also make seeds available to anyone who needs them and encourage people to try and propagate the seeds themselves. The impressive seed bank, managed by Hannia, had its humble beginnings in Hannia’s kitchen, but soon grew to be far too large to be contained inside the house. Now, Rodolfo and Hannia propogate 80% of the seeds themselves to continue the collection and to add to the variety of crops they can make available to the public.
As demonstrated in their selfless seed bank project, Rodolfo and Hannia make it a point to share their information with those who are interested in organic farming. Rodolfo commented that one can go to workshops for years and not really learn that much important information; that people are prone to keep their secrets because of competition. But Rodolfo saw it differently: we’re all in this together, and we have to teach each other so that we can regain the knowledge that our culture has lost, so that we can live in abundance.
Rodolfo showed us around every part of their farm, from the devices they use to measure sunlight, to their highly advanced greenhouses, their soil preparations—even preparing lunch for us and serving us homemade cheese made from the milk of their singing cows! It was a beautiful experience with beautiful people. ¡Qué linda la vida!