Retreat 2011: Dharma, Svadharma, & Beyond Dharma

The American River Retreat 2011
At this year’s annual summer retreat, Babaji presented a sadhaka’s toolbox of cautions, warnings, signs, maps, and methods for the aspiring yogi and yogini.  The retreat outline is given below.  It is interesting to note that it begins with what we should never allow to happen from the outset – Negligence of remaining aware of Brahman, our true Self, that is all-pervasive through all realms of existence.  After the outline, one of our retreat students has provided a few notes from each day’s lessons and charts.

MeditateRetreat Outline:
The Goal
The Path

Why look at the Goal (Moksha) first?  Because it is what we already epitomize.  After this we can then take a look at the Path to aid in realization.

The best way to eliminate suffering is to know that the true Self, Atman, is already eternally perfect, and strive to realize That.

Saturday Class
Chart: The Seven Descending Steps of Negligence of Brahman

“For the knower, there is no more greater danger than the neglect of remaining in Brahman.  To be always in Brahman should not be neglected, for that neglect is death.”  Vivekachudamani

The bouncing ball of the mind rolls down the steps into the basement of forgetfulness of Self:
Brooding on sense objects
               Thirst for enjoyment
                               Desire to possess
                                               Appearance of delusion
                                                               Supremacy of ego
                                                                               Advent of bondage

Maya – is neither real nor unreal, but eternal so long as name and form are present.   

One must raise one’s consciousness to its zenith so that the ego cannot continue to cast shadows.

“If the mind forgets its own object (Atman) it goes out and out, just like a ball when it falls down the stairs and does not stop until it reaches the lowest step.”

Chart: The Five Ways to Perfection
This chart describes the different ways that beings realize their inherent perfection.

1-The Nityasiddha – the Ever-free (e.g. Swami Vivekananda)

This actually applies to all beings because Atman is eternally free.  However, realization of this fact is lacking in the embodied soul (mind)

We can never actually separate ourselves from our True Self.

Nityasiddhas practice disciplines even after realization in order to act as an example of how to be free.

2-Perfect by Disciplines

Perform sadhana, spiritual disciplines.

Sadhana is not practiced for gain (i.e. name, wealth, or power).

3-Perfect through Grace (Grace and self-effort are the two wings of the bird.)

Grace is like a lamp brought into a previously dark room – the room is illumined all at once, not little by little.

Divine Mother gives one the desire to do sadhana; therefore, self-effort IS Grace!

4-Perfect in a Dream

Some persons receive a profound vision of God in a dream.

5-Perfect Suddenly

For no apparent reason, one suddenly becomes enlightened.

However, these great souls did disciplines in a previous lifetime.

Not Perfected, Even by Accident

The consciousness of these souls remains asleep in Ignorance, and is like a stone wall into which a nail cannot be driven or a crocodile’s back which a sword cannot penetrate.

It is necessary to renounce [transcend] the sense objects to realize God.

Sunday Class — Requisites, continued

“A man is born to no purpose, who, having received the priceless boon of a human life, is unable to realize God in this lifetime.”  Sri Ramakrishna

Requisites – these are what the sadhaka is going to need for spiritual life.
The human mind has created everything via sankalpa.  To think that some outside agency has created it is a form of projection out of ignorance.

Chart: The Four Boons & Four Fruits
This chart explains the traditional three boons required for Self-Realization, plus the fourth boon, added by Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi, and also the four fruits of life granted by the Divine Mother.

1. A Human Birth
A human birth via the mental complex.  This lifetime is conceived of before birth, but there is a collective consciousness influencing it.  This life is a chance to work out karma.

2. Holy Company
One must seek holy company early in life, recognize it, and get initiated.

3. Desire for Freedom
People say they want to be free, but when they hear what it will take (spiritual self-effort) they balk.  So let it dawn in stages, as preparation ensues.

4. A Pure Mind
This fourth boon was added by Holy Mother, and it became popular.  It has the other boons inherent within it: a human birth, a guru, and a desire for freedom.  If one is not born with a pure mind, one should use the boons to achieve it.

The Four Fruits

1. Spiritual Life – Dharma: Dharma, if observed properly, is a divine life, and a step beyond morality.

2. Right Livelihood – Artha: Wealth legitimately gained for higher purposes.

3. Legitimate Desire – Kama: Desire for higher things as long as they do not run counter to Dharma.

4. Liberation – Moksha: This is the most important, and it is the thing already at hand.  It is the summation of all practices.

Monday Class — Requisites, continued
(Review of Yamas and Niyamas…)

Aparigraha: Non-indulgence in material objects. Custodianship rather than ownership.

Tapas: Austerity. Resorting to such an intense form of practice both solves inner problems which are not removed by conventional means, and prevents others from arising.

Svadhyaya: Study and recitation of scripture. Svadhyaya instantly connects the mind to the internal world of devotees, saints, sages, seers, and eternal wisdom.

Chart: The Seer, The Seen, The Unseen, and The Obscene

Do not build your house on sand (subatomic particles).
Stand on the bedrock of Spirit!  It is unchanging!

Monday Afternoon Class

Kapila did his homework and delineated the 24 Cosmic Principles of manifest Prakriti, Nature – all that is changing and insentient –  from Mahat, Cosmic Mind to the element earth.  The manifest is just the tip of the iceberg, and even then, the West is solely occupied with only the grossest five principles: ether, air, fire, water and earth.

Unmanifested Prakriti – The Unseen bulk of the iceberg (formless matter).
It rises up out of the ocean of Consciousness, to be projected by the mind into manifestation.

Mahat – The Great Mind – the “Creator” (projection).
Some call Mahat OM, and use it, via meditation, for getting off the wheel of projection and dissolution.

Nature and Maya provide all the materials for one to work the magic of projection (God, Divine Reality, has nothing to do with it).  The practitioner can dissolve the mind stream in order to reverse the transformation of evolutes.

Chart: Vedanta, Theology and Science
This chart outlines essential differences in perspective between Vedanta, western science, and fundamentalist Christian theology with regard to the origin of Consciousness, human beings, and the world.

Non-origination – (the view of Vedanta)

The Soul is Acreate, origin-less.

Consciousness cannot be added to or taken away.

Non-Awareness is a contradiction in terms [because there must be a conscious perceiver of this non-awareness to cite its existence].

Evolution is a manifestation of an eternal Principle that never changes.

Both manifested and unmanifested nature are transitory, while Reality transcends them both.



This retreat has definitely been a very enlightening experience for me.  I’ve never experienced anything like it before.  The removal of society, no electronics (a big thing for me since it’s the field I work in…) no noises of city life going on around me all day and the “hurry” feeling of being in such an environment; having that gone really allowed me to “retreat” into myself and do some deep self inquiry.  I had learned some things here and there about Vedanta but hadn’t really gotten the gist of it as a whole.  From the retreat, though, I now feel like I understand enough to get the basics of it, a foundation so to speak.

The fact that everything in this world is in constant change and nothing lasts forever coincides with science, in regards to quantum biology finding that the smallest elements are constantly vibrating at extremely high speeds.  It leads me to believe from what we were taught in the classes that everything we see is in a constant state of flux and to deduce from that that we are seeing something that is constantly changing ALL the time.  This easily helps me realize that this all is not “real” or at least not the true “Truth” of our life.  When thinking of life in this context then I started to realize from the teachings that our world as we know it has many more “planes” and levels that we can perceive. With our gross senses, the basic senses of touch, sight, hearing, smelling, and taste, we experience air, fire, earth, ether and water — the majority of people experience first hand the world only in this “plane.”  When we move beyond these senses to the subtle senses and even further to the cosmic senses, we can start to link into the next “stages” of this world (or even world “realizations” if that makes sense…) and start to see things for what they really are, not what we’ve deceived ourselves or have been deceived by Maya to believe is real.  This goes further to realizing that there could be a point of non-duality, where there isn’t a back and forth, a black and white, a good and bad etc., — this point where ignorance has been stripped away and there is nothing to realize except the Truth.

I come from a Catholic upbringing and have always been taught that I have inherited sin that I was born with and that from day one I should start saying sorry for it and begin repenting.  I’ve been taught that God is a judging God that doesn’t accept those who do not bow down and give all of their belief in “Him.”  This is not what I have seen MY God as being, ever.  It’s never made real sense to me because some people are born into this world at such a disadvantage, right out the gate.  While others in this world are born “walking out of the womb” or however you want to put it, born with a lot of the world already given to them.  It was explained to me through Catholicism that this is God “testing” those people in different ways….  This made absolutely NO sense to me growing up and even now.

When Babaji showed the chart comparing Vedanta / to evolution / to the 7 day creation theory, things started to click real fast to the idea that there is an all-loving God that we can find, we can realize.  The problem is only that we have simply gone further from this God through our own belief in deceptions and false notions of the world around us.  By stripping away these deceptions we can come closer and closer to the Truth, and the Truth will set you free (right from the Bible!) which in Vedanta is Samadhi, Moksha, etc.

I guess to sum up all of what I’m trying to say, this retreat has taken my perception of what I see as God in this world and given it a “180” in terms of how we are to pursue liberating our minds from the suffering of the world around us and using God as our guide.  Instead of having to endure and accept the suffering I’ve been given, I can instead learn how to detach from it, find the answer to the “question” the pain is there to help me realize, and this can allow me to move further and further to the True bliss, the True meaning of this life and away from the deceptions that do nothing but make the road harder towards finding God realization.  You don’t get extra points for doing it the hard way.  In finding with knowledge how to strip away the ignorance of this world I will find God, because God is always there, we start out “Always free, never bound.”           

To sum it up real short: The retreat helped me break down the old misconceptions I’ve had of a judgmental and vengeful God and instead open my mind towards a God that is always there and always available, I just need to realize how to see It and ultimately become one with It.  It was a wonderful experience and I thank everyone that put it on so much for allowing me to be a part of it!  The food was AMAZINGLY good and the conversations with people and classes were awesome and the nature that we were surrounded in was beautiful.  All around a GREAT experience and I will remember it for the rest of my life as such Peace.

-Tim Gillen Jr.



Tuesday Class
The Goal – Moksha

Chart:  The True Meaning of Moksha/Mukti

Is not liberation from bondage (because the Soul is already free)

Is not freedom which is produced or generated

Is not a result of evolution, development, or transformation

Is not something to be attained

Is not something to be realized via purification

Freedom is already at hand!
Freedom/Moksha is the eternal condition of the Self, which is nothing other than Brahman.
What stands in the way?  Thoughts of objects – name and form.
What is enlightenment?  It is the recognition that all this is Brahman.
Therefore, why not recognize this Truth and live in It?
Moksha is Samadhi

AUMThe Free Soul:

Lives in the mortal physical frame as Brahman

Sports in the world as the playground of Shakti

Sees the Universe as transcendental Consciousness

Views all objects as representations of AUM

Why is it that when people pray to the Kalpataru Tree [legendary wish-fulfilling tree, i.e. God], their prayers do not get answered?  Because they do not get close enough to the tree (meditation) so it cannot hear them.  One is to get closer via profound meditation, not selfish prayer, and find this tree within oneself.

The Path
Chart:  The Supreme Pathway to the Eternal Moksha (from Babaji’s book, A Quintessential Yoga Vasishtha)

  • The Sincere Seeker:  He/she reads the revealed scriptures that teach the union of man & God.
  • Pure Desires: One cultivates desires that lead to dispassion and lead to the Brahman state.
  • The Four Fruits of Life: These are used to purify the mind. [see above notes on chart The Four Great Boons & Four Fruits of Life
  • Jnana Guru & Guru-Viveka: One is to take refuge in an authentic, qualified guru of jnana, wisdom and avoid spurious or questionable gurus devoid of wisdom and pure intention.
  • The Four Qualifications:  Attain discrimination, detachment, shatsampatti (inner peace, self-control, forbearance, self-settledness, concentration, faith), and yearning for Freedom.
  • Take initiation into the Path of Brahman.
  • The Three Great Sources: Transmission from a wise Guru, Knowledge of scriptures, and Direct spiritual experience.
  • The Three Prerequisites for Atmajnan: Destroy all Illusory thoughts, Gain extreme quiescence of mind, and Merge in Brahman.
  • Retain the Four Sentinels – Peace, Self-Inquiry, Contentedness, Holy Company (If one sentinel is attained, the other three will take up vigil in due course).

Wednesday Class
Chart: The Eight Strata of Attainment of Spirituality by Shankara
From the Vivekachudamani – first 50 slokas

1. Human Birth
2. Strength of Body
3. Purity of Mind
4. Will to Live a Spiritual Life
5. Comprehension of the Scriptures
6. Discrimination of the Real & Unreal
7. Direct Perception of Atman
8. Union with Brahman

Qualification is of utmost importance.  Recently, one of the world’s top violinist participated in a University study.  The day after a sold-out concert, he donned worn clothing and a baseball cap and played his violin inside a crowded train station in a major U.S. city, his violin case open for the donations of passers by.  He played flawlessly, but no one recognized him or recognized the quality of his art.  This is due to a lack of qualification around fine music.  The point here, for our purposes, is that one has to be qualified via spiritual practices to hear and comprehend higher truth.  Acquiring an illumined teacher will aid in qualifying the aspirant for recognizing quality content.  Otherwise, even Jesus could appear, in rags or a fine suit, and speak the highest Truth on the streets to Christians walking by, and nobody would recognise Him.

Renounce inwardly – External renunciation is mostly for monastic life, but internal renunciation (knowing the world to be unreal) is for all souls.

To seek earnestly to know one’s True Self/Real Nature is pure devotion.

Ensure progress.  Do your Sadhana!  Do not carp and cavil about the teachings or the practices.

Chart: The Fourteen Stages of Upper and Lower Knowledge
(For detailed notes on each stage, see also in this issue of Mundamala Student Notebook)

  • Most souls start out in a very base state of ignorance.
  • Then they progress to an awareness of individuation, but they see themselves as separate from all else.  They do not understand that the world has come out of them.
  • They become attached to objects and cycle on the wheel of birth and death.
  • Eventually they begin to examine life’s events, as in a dream.
  • Soon, they witness the world as a kind of dream projection, and perceive all worlds in maya, from waking life to dreaming life.
  • Indifference then arises.  They are essentially done with the world.  They cultivate jnana, knowledge, and study the wisdom scriptures.  
  • Next they contemplate the Atman, attain the sattvic state, transcend the mind, and merge in Atman (Samadhi).
  • Certitude of non-duality dawns, and they transcend the gunas and attain jivanmukti (liberation while in the body), and see Brahman in all, and abide in the Atman.

If lots of knowledge can be stored on a computer chip – how much more can be stored in the mind?  The mind is the supreme Chitta Chip!

Thursday Class

Shakti – the essence of dynamism
Siva – where all vibration is potential, static

Notes from Reclaiming Kundalini Yoga, Babaji’s new book:

It is time for humanity to meditate on the Goddess and let Shakti uncoil the Kundalini power and correct our relationship with God.

Food is the basis of all: Anne hidam sarvam prathistham.
Take food and use it for purification, on all levels.
It is the fire of Yoga that makes the difference in the purification process.

The seven Chakras – They are not located in the body, not really outside either (as in “astral projection”).  They are the kingdoms of heaven within.  When one ascends the chakras one is really going inward and getting closer to Divine Reality – termed Paramasiva.

Meditate on the heart chakra.  The heart is God’s drawing room.  Focus the energy there, then transcend the body through the heart (or higher centers).

The mantra renders pure food into Prasad.  Food then becomes mukhya prana, which gives good health and life force to the senses and organs.  Most people use it for good health and longevity alone.  But humans are potentially divine.  They must learn to use their energy for spiritual life.  When one uses mukhya-prana for sadhana, one beckons Mother Kundalini to rise.  Energy, rendered subtle via practice and mantra, then becomes Ojas, stored up spiritual power.  Then it can get utilized for continuing realization & transmission, known as Tejas, which can even be visably seen sometimes as a Light emanating from illumined beings.

Refined prana floods the nadis (subtle nerve channels).  Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna are the three most important, and these are what one focuses on to raise the  Kundalini.  They conduct Shakti energy.  The practitioner must keep them open via constant sadhana so She can pass through to the crown chakra.

The upward rising prana will rise when one gets the wisdom transmission from a seer and focuses on it.  Feeding that prana with teachings, svadhyaya, the aspirant can connect with his/her spirituality at any time.  This indicates early stages of mastery.

Udghata is sporadic flashes of spiritual energy, as if Mother Kundalini is testing the “system.”  The aspirant must keep going forward and not get attached to the tricks of prana, psychic phenomena, etc.  Moving the prana upward, and refining it, all cycles of transmigration end.

Holy Mother said, “Do not try to measure spiritual progress, as this is vanity.”

Intensification of Yogic Fire: One can meditate in the dark so that when Mother’s Light comes it will be more brilliant.  If the fire begins to dim, fan the flames, i.e., practice tapas.


Om Jaya Ganapati – A Retreat Reflection

Yes…. 3 weeks later and still singing! The retreat on the American river was a blissful combination of eating (blessed food), drinking (the nectar of the teachings), and the merriment (joy) of sacred song and river outings.

One thing sticks in my mind though, and that is the young people at the retreat. They were the “awe” in awesome. Their honesty, diligence and attentiveness (most of the time!), while absorbing many in-depth, lofty teachings was a joy to behold and a story to be told!

For me the retreat was a reflection back to the dawning of a birth day – a Guru Purnima years ago that signaled an inner birth of understanding – and so this year’s Guru Purnima at the River Retreat was an opportunity to share this time of gratitude for Guru and sangha with everyone, and offer a little service along the way!

And…… we had a quick departure at the end of the retreat, I’ll say “see ya” here, and ………Namaste      

love,     ss