Who is Sanatkumara?

Kumara is a word that approximates the english "heir," or "groom," it also signifies a river, or a kind of bird (a type of parrot). Sanat is a word that signifies "from always/forever ago," and is a nickname for Brahma. Sanat-kumara is the heir of Brahma, and in the Puranas is both the son of Brahma (heir) and the one who presents Brahma (as a "groom" would) to our humanity (not species, nor world, but the human state of being). When Narada is speaking to Sanatkumara, it is intended as a double-meaning, double entendre: it is both a literary tool to convey Brahma (something which cannot be directly comprehended from human limitations of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and thought) through an indirect intermediary, and also instructive of an abstract concept of intermediate and indirect observation, a system of logical deduction, reduction and inference.

We must approach what is unknown through what is known. Even if all we have studied is dance, we have learned the scientific methods required to understand other things. It is the method of logic which yields knowledge, not experience. However, experience is an expedient means: the ancients practiced, besides logic, a system of belief. Belief is founded in experience. Krishna and Gotama both instructed in a system of letting go of these beliefs (through Sannyasa) by a ritual of sacrificing (letting go/sannyasa) to the directions (as Sanatkumara does here), but there are differences in both purpose and method in how a Brahmin (a student of Brahma's various manifestations/children) and a Vishneva (a student of Vishnu's various manifestations/avatara) practices these same sacrifices.

Sanatkumara advocates a system of spirituality (not in the western sense, but in terms of spirit teachers, i.e. veneration of the spirits through Bhakti Yoga), a taking up of Spirits, to manifest Brahma - whereas a Vishneva would practice letting go of spirits to manifest Vishnu.

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Sannyasa is possible

No one dies from tobacco, but this does not make it safe. Though tobacco is expensive, people spend more than they can afford to use tobacco, because it makes them feel good, calm, secure and aware.

Tobacco makes people feel good, though they do get sick from tobacco: cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other disease are indirect results from using tobacco. But because these sicknesses result indirectly from tobacco, it is difficult for people to understand the diseases that kill them slowly have resulted from tobacco. Such a slow, painful death is in many ways regrettable, and also financially expensive. To the user, and those they love.

And even when such an indirect relationship is understood between tobacco and disease, no one wants to be told to quit smoking. And even upon being convinced to quit smoking, giving up smoking is difficult.

No one dies from eating meat, either - though it is quite as dangerous as tobacco. Nor does anyone die from using marijuana, or alcohol - though these are equally dangerous. And it is true, no gun has ever killed anyone. Nor does our pollution of air or water cause us harm.

No one wants to be told that what makes them feel good, calm, secure and aware results in harm to themselves, their family, or neighbors. Any more than anyone wants to hurt themselves, their family, or neighbors. Or be hurt by those they love. Giving up what makes us feel good is difficult. But possible.

Khandogya 4 - Self Sacrifice, Spirit Veneration

Narada asked Sanatkumara, "teach me about Brahma!" Sanatkumara said, "tell me what you know, and I will tell you what lies beyond."

Narada said, I have studied the Vedas, the Mahabharata, grammar, the rituals of sacrifice for ancestors, mathematics, prognostication, science, logic, ethics, etymology, speech, ceremony, prose, rhetoric, engineering, fighting and weapons, astronomy, medicine, illusion, the performance arts of dancing and singing and play-acting, and the fine arts. I know the mantras, I know the sacred books. But I do not know the self. I have heard that whoever knows the self can be free of grief, and regret. I know grief and regret. I am suffering and distressed by both grief and regret. Please help me?"

Sanatkumara said,

you have studied etymology. And logic. You understand that all these things are names only, that all words are abstractions, all knowledge is an abstraction. You are studying abstractions, not reality. Meditate upon that which is real, that which is being abstracted.

You have studied speech. Speeches are better than names, as they less abstractly describe the reality. Speech makes us understand reality. Speech about air, or fire, or men, or birds, or plants - these are better than simply saying "air," "fire," "men," "birds," "plants." You have studied the sciences. You know even the tiny gnat insect is not adequately described by its name. You have studied ethics, and understand the names "right" and "wrong" are inadequate. You have studied logic, and know that the names "true" and "false" are inadequate. Speech makes us understand what is pleasant, or painful. Speech lets us understand what is beyond pleasure, and pain. And all these other names.

You have studied much, but even before you studied, you could hold in your hand fruit, and understand - without names, without speech - that these are fruits. You could see someone else holding fruit, and understand these fruits. You could share in those fruits without a word. Could you share in those fruits without tasting them? This taste remains in your mind, and gives you names and speech. This taste teaches you words. And knowing it is sweet, you would desire fruit. If you desired fruit, you would ask for that fruit; if you desired children, or wealth, you would ask for them. The pleasure of some fruit impels you by instinct to seek that sweetness because it is your nature to seek pleasure. The bitterness of other fruits impels you by instinct to avoid them because it is your nature to avoid pain. Your senses fill your mind with experience of pleasure and pain, and forms the conditions for self - shaping your will, your intention, your desire - shaping your hopes and fears, your identity. You have studied ritual and ceremony, you have studied many things - this "you" is your "self." The self is the origin of all words, all speech, even the hymns of the Vedas. The self is what performs the sacrifices. The self dances, and sings, and makes fine art, takes sweet fruit - because of the impulses of instinct, of nature.

But you do not eat every fruit you see. You have the willpower to choose which impulses you follow. You can choose to breathe or hold your breath, you can choose to sleep or wake. This choice, this freedom, is strengthened or weakened by exercise - as your body is strengthened by exercise, or your mind strengthened by training. You, your "self," is only as strong as your willpower - you are not your instincts or nature. "You" can change your nature by applying your willpower against one instinct or another.

But what determines whether willpower is applied against one instinct or another? Consideration is the means by which willpower is applied. One considers that he should speak, then wills it against the overwhelming instinct to remain silent, then thinks of the thing in his mind, then finds the words and speech required, then calls out a name. "oh, Brahma!"

But consideration is impossible without contemplation (dhyana). After many generations, a land or house begins to take upon the character of the people living there - this is the land and house contemplating its people. So too do we all take upon the character of our choices. Yet we may make new habits of choices by considering them. Habits are taken up, and given up easily - through consideration. Have you considered your self?

When you considered your self, what did you understand? You have studied ethics. This understanding is the basis of right and wrong, regrettable and commendable. This understanding is the source of your grief. For you do understand. But you lack the strength, the power, to alter your self. What is this power (bala)? A man might tame a dog, or a horse - so too, might a man tame other men, and become a great King. A King might tame other Kings and become an emperor. So too, might a man tame himself. Commanding his self to consider one thing right, or another thing wrong. Commanding him to speak one name or another. Are you in command of yourself, Narada?

Power - and all force - must be sustained (anna) against counterforce. Thus, all things that begin must end, for it is impossible to permanently sustain force. The self is begun, sustained for a time, and ends. A person who is starved for food 10 days, though he might live, would not be the master of himself. So too, a man would do unthinkable things if thirsty. The man who cannot command water or food for his self is not the master of himself. A man needs not only food and water, though: a man requires heat, and shelter, and space, and many things. A man must be able to receive these things, and to command them, if he would be empowered.

But what is the basis for sustenance? Memory: a man might forget he must eat, and must sustain himself. A man might forget his home, his loved ones. A man might forget all he has learned - how then can he consider his habits right or wrong? If a man forgot the one he grieves for, how then could he know grief? A man cannot forget his hopes, for they are conditioned not upon power or sustenance - but upon his spirits (prana, or the six-directions). He was shaped to these hopes by his parents, his siblings, his family, his teachers, his colleagues and friends, his servants and clients. Even after he has forgotten them, these spirits still shape him.

But do you not yet know what these spirits were shaped by? You seek Brahma, yet Brahma shaped these spirits, and you are the shape of Brahma. Do you know your self? If you are such an Ativadin, you would know this Sayta. A Satya has faith, and believes. You have studied logic, and science, and know belief is nothing more than the inferred truth - for some things cannot be directly observed, or even indirectly observed. This belief is obtained by Bhakti Yoga - serve to your spiritual guide, a guide through your six directions, through Brahmacharya. Only by exceeding your teacher can you understand that you are yourself a teacher. You are yourself a spirit to others.

Understanding you are yourself a spirit, you can perform the duties of Brahma. You can take up or put down your self, or another self. You can understand your duty. Understanding your duties, you will perform them, contentedly. Can you perform your duties contentedly? Do you understand you are a spirit, and a guide, to others?

Then you will understand what is beyond the directions, beyond spirit. You are a part of this infinitude, and it empowers you.

The names of Kartikeya, the Unifier

The union of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Brahmanism results in athleticism, Kartikeya. And his unlimited ability to improve, and his athletic inclination to always be improving, means that he is strengthened by whatever challenges he faces. He never weakens, but always is growing stronger.

Shiva had been inspired by Kama (Vishnu), after Kama had instructed Parvati how to manifest Uma. Uma-Parvati is the mother of Kartikeya, Shiva the father, Kama the inspiration. But it was Brahma, who raised Kartikeya. Kartikeya was then trained by Agni, and the other Devas. And instructed by every other kind of being and non-being. Transcending these differences, being composed of all life, Kartikeya embodies the unifying theme of living beings: an athleticism, of body, mind and heart. Thus, every being can name Kartikeya "Murugan," their youth, their progeny, their heir. And is strong, like a youth.

He is also known as "Murugan," a name that suggests "boy," in the same way that it is used in English when a person acknowledges a youth: "that's my boy!" It is also identical to the connotation of ancient English, boy, "knight," a capable and loyal servant, able to act as an agent in war or peace, or in any purpose at all. As a lawyer would represent their client, in business negotiations or in lawsuit, or an officer-soldier would represent their commander-in-chief in administration or in execution of orders. As a trusted servant would be left in charge of their master's home, and as is much a part of their master's home as an extension of their master - so is a Murugan an embodiment of a totality of service.

Like his father Shiva and mother Parvati-Uma, Kartikeya is both male and female. His female aspect is divided in two: Devasena, the daughter of Indra, and Valli, the daughter of the Deer. Together, they represent both the exhaustion of exertion, and the second-wind the athlete discovers through willpower in forcing past the exhaustion of exertion. And in combination with the masculine servant Murugan, connote the Yogi's ability to transform both mind and body into a vehicle, and by self-control master their form: the Yogi can control their heart as well as their emotions, as easily as they would stretch an arm, or balance on a leg. The Yogi can become any caste, assume any duty, can transform themselves to become what is needed of them.

Kartikeya, by the instruction of his mother, became also known as Skanda - an abstract concept of sensory perception. As the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin relay information reliably to the mind for interpretation, Skanda is the ultimate Vehicle, Vahana. As the senses become a vehicle for the mind, merged with this mental understanding of interpreted perception, so too does Skanda act. Anticipating the needs of his masters, he is able and ready to serve even before his service is needed.

Kartikeya is the commander in war, of war, the embodiment of war. Subrahmanya is a name that suggests all the goodness of Brahma. As his brother, Ganesh, is the Ganapataye, the leader of the Ganas, so is Kartikeya a commander. The sense of commander, though, should be moderated in the understanding of a democratically elected military, policing and judicial authority: a Sheriff or President in American democracy would be an adequate analogy. But it should also be enhanced to include the sense of an occupying authority: a conqueror who acts as a kind of governor. All the good living things of all the worlds are led by Kartikeya. But especially the Devas - s/he is the heir to King Indra. And also especially the animals, whose heir s/he is also. And the snakes are most loyal to Subrahmanya. This loyalty is understood in the same context by which animals willingly obey their masters - as vehicles, and extensions of their master's will.

Subrahmanya is the most unusual name of Kartikeya, for Hinduism does not understand a difference between good and evil, except that which we make. As Brahma has the power to separate with his spoon what food is preferred from what is unpreferred, so does Kartikeya teach the necessary logic of moderated intolerance.

The athlete will discern that their current state not good enough, or unfavorably. And then improve. Where then is the athlete's satisfaction? How does the athlete discover Svaha? Svaha taught Kartikeya to find satisfaction in continual improvement and growth, the athlete is only satisfied with their own sustained effort and growth.

This brought Kartikeya in direct conflict with Tarakasura. Though able with every weapon, especially the bow, for this battle His mother, Parvati-Uma, gave him the Vel, a kind of spear which has a flat head, able to split targets into two (representing the ability to discern between good and bad, or more accurately, favorable and unfavorable - like a weaponized spoon of Brahma). In this war, he destroyed his opponents by absorbing their strength, or transforming them into vehicles: whatever challenge he faced made him stronger, and more able. His mother, Parvati-Uma was new-born at the time, and did not have a vehicle, and he gave her the Tiger. He took for himself two vehicles: the peacock and the rooster.

Kartikeya's abode is the battle camp, office, or other place of service. He loves to see the differences that separate beings, especially people, broken down through union. We can all become willing vehicles for each other, loyal servants, through selfless service. We can all improve through athleticism.

Kamadeva, the Invincible

The Shiva Purana explains that after Kamadeva is born, in every re-creation, Kamadeva stands before Brahma and asks, “Kam darpayani?” “whom shall I please?” Brahma is not one to give a plain answer, but rather the means for you to discover the answer for yourself. So, Brahma says: “if you but arm yourself, even should your arrows be made of flowers, you will find no one – not even I – will able to be victorious against you. Yet you will not be undefeated.” Om Kamadevaya. Vidmahe! Kamadeva followed the advice of Brahma, and quarreling with everyone, eventually came to say, Vidmahe, “I can understand.” For having remained undefeated in every world, in every time, he then conquered himself.

King Ashoka

King Ashoka said,
It is difficult to say certainly that what someone has done is good, or bad.  It is easier, and better, to understand "such actions and non-actions lead to contentment, or to regret." This results in the thinking, "let my actions and non-actions lead to contentment, and not to regret."

King Ashoka said,
All my subjects are like my children, and I love them all, and seek their welfare.  As a parent would entrust their child after their death to someone they might trust, so may all my subjects trust me with the welfare of the country their children will live in.

King Ashoka said,
I desire there be growth in the practice of every religion.  All religions teach self-control, and upon this all religions can co-exist by practicing restraint in speech: do not praise your own religion, or condemn the religion of others without good cause.  And if there is good cause, criticize in a gentle way.  It is best to honor what is admirable other religions.  Whoever practices their religion with excessive devotion only harms their own religion.  Contact between religions is good: one should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others.  I desire all should be well learned in the religions of others.

King Ashoka took pride in the number of wild animals he protected, the vast lands of wilderness he protected, the lives of prisoners condemned to death that he spared, the investment of prisoners with the rights of appeal after their judgement.  He took pride in providing rest stops along highways for people and animals, protecting animals from cruelty, providing free medical care and food to those who were in need.  This is what King Ashoka said: "As I desire non-violence, generosity and self-restraint in others, so must I myself first act."

King Ashoka said,
In war, I killed over 100,000 enemies.  I deported 150,000 more.  I feel great remorse for the manner of my victories.  The majority of those I hurt practiced religion, were obedient and loyal to their own government.  They undertook honest business.  They had families.  All this I destroyed.  But I have the greatest remorse for separating, injuring and killing so many beloved ones, through this war.  I am greatly pained by my regret.  I did not regret this until I heard the Dharma.  It is by speaking the Dharma one best defends themselves, or conquers another.  I have since practiced this and found even the forest people can be reasoned with to act properly, without harm to others.  Though I have the power to punish them, it is unnecessary to kill them.  Conquest by Dharma is the best conquest; indeed, I was conquered by the Dharma.  To share what I have learned, that no one else need regret war, I have sent envoys among the Greeks, where Antiochos, Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander are King, among the Cholas, Pandyas, and Tamraparni. To all who live beyond my borders, I say: war gives no joy.  My only intention is that my neighbors live without fear of me, and trust me to give them happiness - not sorrow.  I wish them to know I forgive easily, should they give me sorrow.  I say this, that I may discharge the debts I owe to those I harmed in war: my vow and promise will never be broken.

Do not pray or wish - work to obtain what is desired

The Buddha Gotama taught that the ignorance of truth creates a desire for belief. Belief requires an apprehension of truth, and this apprehension would require a valuation of that truth, that one belief is valuable, and another is worthless. That some beliefs are contrary to the belief which is apprehended and developed. Developing belief causes a hatred of what is contrary to that belief. As ignorance causes belief, beliefs cause suffering. But beliefs can be let go and uprooted. Knowledge is a belief, seeing is a belief, hearing is a belief, touching is a belief. (Anguttara Nikaya 10.96).

There is a practice by which we come to know, see, attain, realize and understand what was previously unknown, unseen, unattained, unrealized, and mystery. Thus do we come to understand such is suffering, such is the origination of suffering, such is the end of suffering, such is the path of practice leading to the end of suffering. It is to know this, to understand this, we undertake the practice. (Anguttara Nikaya 9.13).

Understanding the self is the source of all perception, that what is heard, seen, felt, touched, tasted and comprehended is merely the perception of truth - not truth itself - reveals the truth, and precipitates Brahma. Nothing was created for this world, it was the union of conditions which permitted things to arise as they have. By destroying ignorance, understanding of the logic of this conditional causation arises and permits control over the results, and an end to the cycle of suffering (Bhagavad Gita V).

Gotama said, what is desirable cannot be obtained by prayers or wishes. Long life and health is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, but hard to obtain. Beauty and comfort is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, but hard to obtain. Contentment and happiness is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, but hard to obtain. Power and status is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, but hard to obtain. A better life is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, but hard to obtain. If what was desirable could be obtained simply by prayers or wishes, who among us would lack what we desire? It is not fitting for one of my students to pray or wish for their desires. If something is desired, they will simply understand how to obtain it by understanding its nature and causes, and work to follow the path leading to what they desire.

Diwali

Unlike the spring Festival of New Leaves, Diwali, an autumn festival, has little traditional religious significance or ritual.  This is not ambiguity, but essentially a practice honoring Laxmi.  In the growing darkness, in our doubt, in times of danger, or in need, we might not even perform rituals we are accustomed to.  In the cold of the night, when every hour seems longer than it actually is because of our misery, we might forget how close the dawn actually is, how close our friends are. Yet, when deprived of the sun, we can ignite a flame, and we may utilize our experience to anticipate what might otherwise be unbelievable.  When we lack food, we remember friendship and share a meal.

It is a profound act of faith to prepare for the spring at the moment when summer fails - yet now is the time to plow and plant the spring crops.  For shopkeepers, fall is the time to plan for the spring's inventory.  A student learns not to accomplish the present test, but to lay a foundation for knowledge they cannot yet comprehend - or even imagine.  Now is the time to trust in Justice, and other things we cannot comprehend or imagine.

Whether we draw such inspiration from stories of Rama or the stories of the Mahabharata, or any of the other lilas Vishnu played in separating from Laxmi, that we might perceive Laxmi better - or from our own experience with Laxmi, our own stories, our own very practical practices of Artha Yoga, it matters little.  When Dharma is separated from Artha, we understand the value of Kama.

When things end, we can understand their beginning.  It is important this autumn, is important this Diwali to recognize that an ending is the natural consequence of beginning.  And beginnings are the natural consequence of ending.  Now is the time to trust to our own resourcefulness.

When we understand that the strength which sustains us derived both from experience and from teachers, the strength of our own understanding can light the way for those who would otherwise stumble in the night.  We may light the roads for travelers that we do not know, for things to come that we cannot comprehend or imagine.

Bhagavad Gita 14 and 15 - leaving the path

Krishna said that when contented with pleasure into non-action, one risks that Sattva prevails.  When one would seek pleasure by avoiding pain, one risks that Rajas prevails.  When overcome by the delusion that pleasure has been obtained and pain avoided, one risks that Tamas prevails.

When Sattva is dominant over Rajas and Tamas, wisdom will prevail: for wrong non-action is the means by which to understand what is wiser than wrong action.  When Rajas is dominant over Sattva and Tamas, wisdom will prevail, for by restlessness and energy one may develop and evolve.  When Tamas is dominant over Sattva and Rajas then one does not grow in their practice, yet wisdom will prevail, for there is discontent in such stagnation.

The fruit of Sattva is right action (and the wise understand non-action is action, and action is non-action, whether right or wrong).  The fruit of Rajas is pain - and by discontent one discovers non-action.  But the fruit of Tamas is the ignorance which births Tamas: Tamas is self-perpetuating, and this is the seed by which an understanding that there must be something more grows.

Thus, in the three Gunas, one finds the beginning, the sustaining and preservation, the ending of distress.  Grow even beyond the end of distress, and by discovering what is beyond these three Gunas, what is not-Guna, understand what I am.  Understanding there to be no difference between the Gunas, that they are one endless path, and what lies beyond the path, one may understand Me.  Leave the path, to the wilderness beyond, do not travel on and on, endlessly! Understanding Me, one manifests my Dharma, My nature, My duty.  Serving Me, performing My duty, manifesting Me, one improves their nature sufficiently to undertake the path of becoming a Brahmin.  For I am Dharma; I am every Dharma. 

Understand the subtle logic: whether you know what is right, or only what is wrong, both are Proofs, both are Truths: for falsehood is provable as much as truth.  As the three Gunas in their cycling form a single path, one which may be left to find Me, so do right and wrong form a single path, to Me.  Whether one comes forth as an enemy of the world for its destruction, or its preserver, in faithfully performing their Dharma they perform My duty, for I am Dharma itself.  The evil doer destroys their Self, as does the good doer, but in different ways. 

Thus, cycling from existence to existence, bound in Samasara, one never wanders endlessly, for eventually all come through Me to Me, through Time to the end of Time, the beginning of Time.  All existence ends and begins with Me, with Dharma.  As you understand what is greater than the Gunas, understand what is greater than existence.  What is greater from Dharma.  Liberate yourself from existence, from good and evil, understand the subtle logic, and do what is good for your Self.  Free yourself from Me.  Sacrifice your Self, sacrifice the Vedas, sacrifice all the scriptures, let them go - and discover true faith.  Discover Me when you sacrifice Me.  Let Me go.  Seek not happiness in your goals.  Understand what is beyond happiness.  The path to Me, to this wilderness of which I speak, is found by knowing what is said in the Ordinances, and letting them be an authority.  Follow the path if you would leave it, if you would renounce it, and sacrifice it.  Understand this subtle logic: what is let go of must first have been taken up, what is to be sacrificed must be first obtained. 

Karma Yoga (Bhagavad Gita III) - the Food Chain

It is not by non-action, but by action, that one performs their duty, their nature, their Dharma.  The Karma Yogi takes hold of their body and mind, and feeding them, strengthens themselves.  As the beings which serve as food sacrificed strengthened themselves to strengthen the Yogi, the Yogi strengthens themselves too for the strengthening of the world through self-sacrifice.  Whoever should feed their body without giving their body for the strengthening of others is a thief, taking without giving in return the price demanded. 

Thus, continually sacrificing themselves, the Yogi undertakes action without self, selfless action; this action always in the form of service, of sacrifice.  Such selfless sacrifice is Karma Yoga.  This cycle, of one being sacrificing themselves for another's food, for another's strength, this web of life, a chain of food, is an eternal and continuous sacrifice, it is the wheel of Dharma, it is Brahma!  Such a chain of food, chain of Dharma yokes all beings.  Even plants, without conscious intention, perform such Dharma; they strengthen themselves, and in doing so provide strength to others.  What better sacrifice can the Yogi make, understanding their duty, yoke their self to the sacrifice required of them?

Whoever rejoices in the self, and would withhold the self-sacrifice, attempts non-action, non-sacrifice.  This is senseless and futile: they cannot avoid performing the actions of their Dharma.  It is the nature of self, the Dharma of self, to be sacrificed.  Therefore, do the action which must be done without hesitation or doubt.  The sacrifice must be venerated before laid upon the fire: even the one who attempts non-action, to withhold self-sacrifice, is performing the rituals required of them and will, soon, complete that which is required of them.  The wise, understanding this, act without attachments, without self, and perform perfect sacrifice by venerating self understanding its Dharma.

Renounce in Sannyasa all your actions in the Dharma, in Me.  Free from hope of success or fear of failure, understand the endless nature of sacrifice, understand Brahma through your Dharma, through Me. 

Better is one's duty, one's Dharma, one's Nature, though devoid of merit, than another's well discharged.  Better is death in the performance of this duty than a long life performing the duties of another.  Better to die in such courage than live afraid: whoever is mastered by fear is not free, nor is any who does not freely achieve the purpose of their nature.  Yet, some are impelled against their Dharma by desire, aversion and hatred.  Yet understanding that these have power only over the self, the Yogi gladly performs the self-sacrifice, and is freed from desire, aversion and hatred. 

The warrior, in performing their duty, knows their true enemy, strengthens themselves sufficiently to slay their self.  So do the other castes similarly strengthen their selves to perform self-sacrifice, according to their Dharma. 

Anguttara Nikaya 9.64 - Nivarana, unfree

"Nivarana" is un-freedom, the result of hindering, binding, trapping, restraining.


The Buddha Gotama said, there are five such un-freedoms: sensual desire, ill will, weariness, restlessness and anxiety. To renounce these, remain focused on the body, the mind, and the will - as independent co-dependent conditions of the emergent property of the "self" which has become unfree. Understanding these, in and of themselves, the conditions by which the self is both unfree and free may be understood, and obtained: the cause of these unfreedoms being known, they may be brought to end through non-sustaining, and the conditioning of freedom.

Dharma from GVIN's Cliffton Clean Up

From one of Loka Hatha Yoga's Teachers participating at the GVIN Clean Up Cliffton:

It is amazing how even a little cleaning makes things much better.
Even cleaning up only the big things makes things much better.
By focusing on the big things, even a little, it is easy to make things much better.

Sitalsasthi

Today is Sitalsasthi. 

Shiva was so deeply grieved by the death of Sita that he forgot the basic nature of things, and who Sita really was.  When Parvati again manifested Shakti, Shiva was so grieved by the loss of his Ardhangini that he did not notice his Ardhangini was again standing before him.  After the death of Sita, Shiva undertook profound Sannyasa, and by Hatha misused renounced Kama.  In renouncing Kama, he renounced all his work, his Artha.  In renouncing his work, he renounced his duty, his nature, his Dharma.  And so Shiva slipped from meditation into sleep.

When Shiva renounced his work, terrible evil arose in the world.  Tarak the Asura prosecuted the ancient war between the Asuras and the Devas with vicious success, having obtained a blessing from Brahma that he would only be killed by a son of Shiva.  Tarakasura thought that since Shiva would bear no child except with his Ardhangani, and his Ardhangini was dead, and even if she was again manifested Shiva would not see her because of the delusion of his grief, that he would be safe forever.

When the Devas asked Vishnu for help against Tarakasura, Vishnu suggested that they awaken Shiva, and show him his Ardhangini was again by his side.  But while most of the Devas could not wake Shiva, those who did failed to help Shiva see that Parvati had manifested Shakti, and was his Ardhangini.  All the beings tried to wake Shiva, and show him - but none succeeded.  Vishnu knew, though, that one of the Devas had not tried.

Kamadeva is an Avatar of Vishnu.  Kamadeva had manifested Vishnu to become the most powerful being in any world.  He was victorious against even Brahma, and had defeated Shiva before.  But Shiva promised that the next time that Kamadeva attacked Shiva, Shiva would utterly destroy Kamadeva.  Knowing the importance of Kama to Artha, and ultimately to Dharma, for the sake of the universe, Kamadeva stayed well away from Shiva. 

Now, Kamadeva was the only one who could succeed, and was called upon for a suicide mission.  Rationalizing that there would be no use for Kama without Dharma, and that Tarakasura was destroying the Dharma, the Devas persuaded Kamadeva to sacrifice himself.  Kamadeva knew that he would be destroyed, so before he left on his mission, he said a goodbye to his wife, Rati.  Rati was also his vehicle, and he did not want her also hurt in the battle with Shiva.  Rati said she could not live without Kamadeva, for they were one and the same; Kamadeva said this would be the reason he could again return to her.  As Sita returned to Shiva, he promised so would he return to Rati.

Kamadeva began his work by first transforming Parvati into Uma, an irresistible beauty.  Instructing her to stand before Shiva, Kamadeva prepared himself for the moment of his ending.  Kamadeva did not have to sneak up to Shiva, he was so deeply asleep.  The instant that Kamadeva struck Shiva, he awoke, and saw Parvati, and loved her.  Kamadeva, fully understanding his mission, inspired sexual desire in Shiva, and he instantly copulated with Parvati.  Thus, Kartikeya was conceived (incidentally, so was Hanuman - but that is another story).  Kartikeya would come to defeat Tarakasura.

Shiva was so very happy that his Ardhangini had returned - and pleased beyond joy by his sons.  But when he understood that Kamadeva had attacked him, he remembered his promise with some regret.  Kamadeva knelt before Shiva in surrender, but not defeat.  To Shiva's surprise, Kamadeva encouraged Shiva to fulfill his promise to destroy him, and all his promises - but to be more careful in making promises in the future: for sometimes a friend is required to harm a friend, as Kamadeva had harmed Shiva to wake him.  Sometimes, even lovers fight, and hurt each other.  Even in the most intimate ways.  Kamadeva professed his love for Shiva, his brother, and called upon his brother to fulfill his promise.  Now, it was Shiva's turn to harm Kamadeva: Kamadeva was at the verge of being overcome by pride, and needed to be awakened too.  Shiva, ever more grateful to his brother, Kamadeva, was unable to refuse Kamadeva and burnt the brave Kamadeva with his third eye.  Shiva utterly incinerated Kamadeva.

There was nothing left of Kamadeva, and Rati grieved profoundly.  But Shiva reminded her of what Kamadeva had said to her.  Kamadeva would fulfill his promise.  Rati was confused - how was this possible?  And thus, by profound effort, she understood.  She manifested by her love of Kamadeva the Avatar of Kamadeva - in the womb of Krishna's wife Rukmini, as Pradyumma.  Vishnu, as Krishna, also missed Kamadeva, and had manifested the Avatar in the womb of Rukmini.  Rukmini, too, missed Kamadeva, and manifested Kamadeva in her womb.  Rukmini, the wife of Krishna, was also the Avatar of Laxmi; Laxmi is in the same way Rati, the wife of Kamadeva. 

But because Shiva had destroyed Kamadeva at Kamadeva's request, there remained some doubt for a long time whether this meant that Kamadeva was truly invincible.  Was Krishna a more powerful manifestation of Vishnu than Kamadeva?  Krisha had never nor would ever be destroyed.  Thus, Kamadeva and Krishna eventually tested their strength against each other in battle, and in mutual victory, completed the Self-Sacrifice.

You do not need your teacher anymore

Yoga is an act of Sacrifice. Bhakti Yoga, especially, is the Sacrifice by which we seek our teacher, whether that teacher is some god or another spiritual being, or some human, or knowledge itself. Brahmacharya - literally, the seeking of Brahma, is the means by which we are liberated from the Self, the Sat. That is why the sacrificial act is called Sattrayana (comes from satt-ra-yana, or sat-yana, both of which become roughly "self-sacrifice"). But Brahmacharya is the sacrifice by which we are liberated from our teacher.

The self, however, does not exist, per se. It is an emergent property of numerous conditions, as a fire is the emergent property of fuel, air and spark - and does not exist; it is the evidence of the conditions, and nothing more. So how is this sacrifice accomplished? In the sacrifice, the fire is permitted to exhaust its fuel, or is suffocated. We undertake a similar process with our self: either by directing its effort toward the exhaustion of its fuel, its karma, or by cutting the bonds of karma. (Karma is merely the co-conditioned cycle of cause and effect: by action we create the causes that effect us, both immediately and subsequently).

The Yogi, then, must learn to control their self, so that they may sacrifice it. The skills gained in learning this sacrifice are gained by sacrificing other things and other beings: a plant's flower, a piece of gold, an animal's life, a human life. We eat, daily, the corpses (and sometimes the living bodies) of innumerable beings to fuel our internal fire of caloric burn, sustaining our self. You must become like Agni, and recognize that the sacrifice made is not yours: you merely complete their sacrifice. Complete this sacrifice correctly, and understand the reason they sacrificed their selves: your life's actions justify their faith, creating conditions for a success they will never see. This action is at the heart of Grihastha, of Artha Yoga, the effort of livelihood and work, of job and family.

In manifesting Agni, we develop greater hunger, and learn the limits of our ability. Understanding when the sacrifice is completed, when our efforts are sufficient - this sufficiency is Svaha, Agni's wife. We come to love Svaha. And thus learn to love the act of Vanaprastha, the balancing of work with life, of enjoyment (not pleasure) of what we have earned, of Kama. The practice of Kama permits successful Sannyasa. It is by Kama Yoga that we learn to merge - and separate.

The Shiva Puja, in fact, is performed by "merging" with loved ones through what we would describe as "quality time," and is especially performed at night and on weekends. Shiva taught yoga relating to the interaction between self and others, the merging and separation of self (moksha/samadhi). When undertaken as a practice of yoga, to strengthen the bonds of love through joy and friendship, to merge in separation, and separate in merging, the "weekend" is a beneficial practice. The practice is similar to what Vishnu taught, regarding the combination of Kama and Artha, the work of enjoyment: what is earned must be enjoyed.

The Yogi learns to manifest other selfs, and thus, by increasing skill, discovers how to manifest Shiva, Vishnu and even Brahma. Combining selves, the yogi understands the maturity of Shiva-Parvati (Kartikeya), Shiva-Gauri (Ganesh), and many others. This matures into the ability to not only master Karma, but Dharma itself: as the volunteer firefighter can, at will and at need, manifest a different Dharma to fight fire, and then return to their usual Dharma, their usual duties and nature, the yogi becomes "capable of anything." Of loving, of friendship - of hatred and lying.

A master of Dharma must eventually learn to counterfeit it. Counterfeit Dharma includes even those training rules by which a Brahmachari practices, it includes those white lies intended toward the safety and security of others, the ambition of athleticism. Gold is too rich and soft to be used as currency. But by alloying it with lesser metals, it becomes suitable for coinage. The Yogi, by understanding the nature of all things, all beings, can transmit, can convey, the Dharma to another. Though the Rockefeller fortune was given away in tremendous generosity and charity, it was also given out by dimes: a little bit of Dharma is often all that is required for simple transactions, and can inspire greater action. Like Indra, who ignites the fires of Agni, the Yogi becomes the catalyst, the spark, by which tremendous fires are lit and upon which great sacrifices may be made. The conditions for enjoyment can be produced, and an end to distress result.

The Yogi learns the "Snake," and by carefully examining the floor of their Ashram, they notice things which they had ignored or not seen while standing. Understanding that they must establish justice before truly practicing, the Yogi carefully examines their world, and considers how best to create the conditions for the success of their practice of yoga. By performing the snake, they look even internally, and understanding what they have done wrong, and what they have failed to do right, establish the conditions for their success internally as well as externally.

Their Ashram is not only a place for their effort, and practice, but the practice itself. Yoga is the method, not the result, of Dharma.

There are numerous other sacrifices and asanas besides these, and especially the sacrifice of directions and light are very important. But it is important to begin with basics, that the principles are obtained. If you find these are too challenging, begin merely with the sacrifice of food: consider the life of all the beings you have killed and use to sustain your life, and the reason they gave their lives: the reason for your life: your duty, your nature, your Dharma. And if you are achieving that Dharma.

Understand that all things which exist had a beginning, and therefore must have an ending; know how to study their causes, and understand the means for success. It is possible to end distress, in your own life and in the lives of others; know how to grow stronger and smarter - then you can achieve your purpose, even without a teacher.

This is the purpose of a Bhakti Yogi - to not need their teacher any more.  This is the manifestation of Parvati.