23 June 2023

Unwavering virtue is the best of all medicines.

The Life of Milarepa is a book that reads like a poem and lifts the spirit at the turn of every page, a biography decorated with songs that seem to spring from the soul of Milarepa, where words alone seem not enough to express the intensity of his messages.

It is the story of Mila Zhepa Dorjé, also known as Milarepa, through the framework of twelve marvelous deeds: three ordinary worldly deeds and nine supreme deeds of peace and transcendence.

From a tormented first half of his life, where he succumbs to the lower aspects of reality by killing 35 people through his powers of black magic, Milarepa rises from the ashes with fervent, unbroken determination to purify his misdeeds, and finally attains liberation within one lifetime. His life is an example of an ardent pursuit to realise the true nature of reality through the path of yoga. 

“Through devotion to the teacher and the practice of the path, transform oneself into a perfect buddha, where the dharma is present everywhere one turns, where everything in the outer world appears as scriptures, where the profane is sacred.”

Finding his master is Milarepa’s first supreme deed and the start of his spiritual journey. A master-disciple relationship is always full of tests and this one was no exception. Marpa the Translator puts Milarepa through insufferable and exhausting hardships even before accepting him as his disciple. As happens with many other Tibetan masters (such as Tilopa with his disciple Naropa), an untrained eye may find it difficult to understand Marpa’s nuanced love towards his disciple and may not realise at first that all the hardships are hidden teachings on Milarepa’s path to enlightenment. 

For a long time, Marpa did not grant him empowerments or instructions, but Milarepa never lost faith and trusted his Guru.

Reading about Milarepa’s aspiration and his unshakeable devotion and trust in his lama opens the reader’s heart and triggers a deep aspiration within. In the following song, Milarepa highlights the role of a master for an effective spiritual journey.

The nine story tower that Milarepa single-handedly built, Sekhar Gutok, Lhodrag, Tibet.
“Then he sang this song: 
I bow at the feet of Lord Marpa the Translator. 
Those who wish to practise dharma: 
Without relying on a qualified lama, 
Though you have devotion, blessings are meagre. 
Without requesting profound initiation, 
The very words of tantra will trap you. 
Without using the tantras as an authority, 
Every deed you do leads you astray. 
Without meditating on profound heart-instructions, 
Saying you’ll renounce only harms yourself. 
Without applying remedies for mental afflictions, 
Your talk is dried-up empty sound. 
Without knowing the profound path of means, 
Although you make effort, little is done. 
Without knowing the profound essential points, 
Although you endure, the path becomes long. 
Without garnering vast stores of merit, 
Living for oneself alone is the cause of life’s round. 
Without giving up what you have earned for the dharma, 
Although you meditate, good qualities will not appear. ”

Milarepa’s life is a constant call to listen to our inner compass and follow our dharma, a reminder of the importance of spiritual practice over the mere accumulation of knowledge. As it is said in the Mahabharata, “Books are but a burden as long as we do not realise the truth beyond the words”. Yoga and meditation allow us to realise the truths of the teachings. Through them Milarepa was able to transcend the mind and win buddhahood. “Again and again I practised with no concern for words and forgot about literal meanings. Let scholars give literal readings of texts”. The following song gives us an idea of his teachings:

“Then he sang this song: 
To the compassionate one I address my prayer. 
Contemplating the lives of past masters endowed with compassion 
Is itself the very oral instructions. 
Hoping to accumulate many is cause for distraction. 
Keep in your heart the essential instructions. 
Much this and that without the essential 
Is like many trees but no fruit. 
They may have their merits but they are not the ultimate. 
Studying them is not seeing the truth. 
They have much to explain but have nothing of profit. 
Take to heart that which profits—a treasure sublime. 
If it’s wealth you desire, concentrate upon this. 
Dharma is the path of means for taming afflictions. 
If a safe path you’d keep, concentrate upon this. 
A resolute mind is a master of contentment. 
If it’s a fine master you wish for, concentrate upon this. 
Give up the whining and sloth of life’s round. 
A rock crag with no one around is your father’s house; 
A friendless and lonely abode, the deity’s home. 
Mind riding mind is a tireless steed; 
Your body, a wilderness hermitage, a temple. 
Unwavering virtue is the best of all medicines.“
Milarepa (thangka painting), 2008, Author: Otgo Otgonbayar Ershuu, Source: http://www.mongolian-art.de/

All the hardship was not in vain. Milarepa at last received tantric instructions and departed from his lama. From realising the emptiness of worldly matters, he vowed to practise. “Those beings who want things with no essence can have them. A yogi, I go to achieve liberation”. This was his sixth supreme deed, where he detached from this world. “Even if I were a master of the entire world, I would still need to leave them aside at the time of death. So if I renounce these things now, I shall find happiness in this and all future lives. Doing so, my conduct is contrary to that of all other men, so you can say I am no longer a man.” Milarepa realises that a man, as Gurdjieff later put it, is asleep. Unless the inner eyes open, unless your inside becomes full of light, we are not awake. From the words of Gurdjieff, “Man is a machine. All his deeds, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, convictions, opinions, and habits are the results of external influences, external impressions. Out of himself a man cannot produce a single thought, a single action. Everything he says, does, thinks, feels—all this happens. Man cannot discover anything, invent anything. It all happens.”

During his intense practice in caves, Milarepa starts his awakening, attaining spiritual insights on the nature of reality. He would practise without eating, without moving his body even if that meant starvation, sickness or exposure. His thirst for realisation was greater than his fear of death. Here we see for the first time Milarepa as a master. He removed his fear of death and understood that all the phenomena of this world and transcendence are interdependent, and that only spiritual insight would lead him to transcendence. The following song illustrates poetically one of his intuitions on the essence of interdependence of all beings:

“The nourishing essence of solid earth 
And the light rain falling from azure skies—these two 
Form the interdependence that benefits beings. 
The essence of interdependence is dharma divine. 
An illusory body nurtured by parents 
And instructions of an authentic lama—these two 
Form the interdependence for doing dharma divine. 
The essence of interdependence is perseverance. 
A rocky cave in a deserted land 
And sincere virtuous practice—these two 
Form the interdependence for achieving whatever you wish. 
The essence of interdependence is emptiness.
Milarepa’s exertion in meditation 
And the faith of beings in the three realms—these two 
Form the interdependence for fulfilling the aims of beings. 
The essence of interdependence is compassion. 
The meditator practising in rocky caves 
And the patrons who bring him supplies—these two 
Form the interdependence for reaching buddhahood together. 
The essence of interdependence is dedication of merit. 
The compassion of an excellent lama 
And the enduring meditation of an excellent student—these two 
Form the interdependence for upholding the teachings. 
The essence of interdependence is the sacred commitments. 
Initiations that swiftly bring blessings 
And prayers of fierce faith and devotion—these two 
Form the interdependence for quickly meeting. 
The essence of interdependence is auspicious fortune.”

Milarepa renounced worldly happiness and achieved buddhahood by taming and mastering the mind. “The stallion of mind rides like the wind. To catch him, what lasso will catch him?… To catch him, catch with the lasso of non-duality. To tether him, tether with the stake of meditative absorption. If hungry, feed him the lama’s oral instructions”

He internalised the value of persevering in our practice, of tapas in our spiritual journey, and he exemplified the state of self-discipline, passion and courage of a perfect practitioner. He reminds us of the role that the law of cause and effect, karma, plays in our path towards liberation. “Because you have no conviction about the law of cause and effect, you have little perseverance in practice”

Practice for Milarepa was never confined to sitting in meditation. It meant practising virtue at the cost of one’s life. “I have understood that, in order to realise insight, one must strive without distraction to accumulate merit and purify misdeeds in the periods between meditation sessions”. His practical teachings are universal and highlight the Truth that lies in our inner compass. “Act in such a way that you will not be ashamed of yourself. Do this and even if your actions contradict the letter of some texts they will not contradict the intentions of the previous Victors”.

In the last part of his life, Milarepa took the task of benefitting sentient beings through the result of his practice. This is his eighth supreme deed. Finding life precious, he did not dare to waste an hour of time.

“Doing deeds that are of no use 
Will harm you, so set yourself straight. 
The yogin whose work is complete 
Has no need for a pile of busywork.”

Personally, the book was an impulse for my spiritual practice. It kindled my inner fire and my aspiration, and opened my eyes to spiritual tests. The intense longing of Milarepa made it tangible and I can still feel it inside myself.

13 April 2023

In this podcast episode, Tantra and Yoga teacher Uriel Yariv shares with us about how to become more emotionally wise, and how to consciously heal emotions in a healthy and wholesome way, as well as about his own experience with healing emotions.

Listen to learn more about what emotions are, about what we think we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do with emotions, and about how through awareness of emotions, a process of alchemy starts to take place.

To find out more about emotional healing through the ancient spiritual practices of Yoga, Tantra, Mystical Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism, in combination with modern psychology, we had our ‘Wisdom of Emotions’ workshop on 22nd-23rd April 2023.

To see what events we have coming up soon, see our events listing!

08 March 2023

Tribute to the Eternal Feminine & to the Feminine Mystery that exists in every woman

What the woman wants, and when it is good,
God wants it too.

– Grieg

Even for the uninitiated, the feminine nature has a mysterious resonance with the poetic sentiment. In human beings who aspire to discover their soulmate, this passionate search is fundamentally about discovering the polar opposite half that we lack. In reality, this quest illustrates the unconscious desire to achieve the androgynous state. In the realm of manifestation, some human beings sense, and others even intuit, that beyond the binary pulsation of plus-minus, yang-yin, solar-lunar, masculine-feminine, lies the mysterious unknown and infinite, or God the Father, who works incessantly. 

I remember that when I started practising yoga, at one stage I had the opportunity to study a Tantric text, in which I discovered a phrase that appeared to be surprising to me at the time. Here is that sutra that I memorised: “If a practitioner of the Tantra system can understand the soul of a woman – due to their state of perfect identification, or Samyama, they will thus be able to know the world, together with the occult forces that reside beyond it, and at the same time they will be able to find the Almighty and Eternal Brahmin, God, who exists beyond this world.”

This phrase appeared to me as being banal, but at the same time fascinating and enigmatic. If it would be read in a superficial way, it would make you think of a kind of cliché that we meet in some age-old traditions. The ancient archetype of the anima mundi, or the Soul of the World, has been perpetuated in the esoteric traditions of the West since ancient times. On this it can be said that in a certain way, many people have the intuition of the fascinating, intimate connection of women with the nature of the World. It is worth remembering that it is no coincidence that the 21st card of the Tarot, which represents the World, has a beautiful naked woman in the centre as its symbol, that for the initiated, evokes the Mystery of Shakti. 
  
Regarding the sutra that I quoted, it is necessary to add that when I read it, I had a flash of intuition of a truth that was hidden behind the apparent truth of those words. It was then that I began to intuit that there was undoubtedly a mysterious “something” beyond the World, and I might say that after this, the intuition settled in my consciousness forever. The enigma that was intuited in the sutra remained alive in me for many years, and even became a leading idea during my spiritual transformation that, over time, became a guiding beacon that helped me very much. 

Any spiritual transformation undoubtedly hides countless paradoxes. As a whole, as soon as they begin to indicate the tortuous path of spiritual transformation, establishing milestones and essential stages ,most traditions of wisdom do not hesitate to advise, and even often dogmatically forbid, any form of association or companionship with women. During the period in which he composed hymns dedicated to the Mother Goddess, the great sage and yogi Shankaracharya wrote (because of his rejection of woman and femininity) the following: “Of all forms of birth, human birth is the most difficult to obtain; but even more difficult is to obtain birth in a male body.” 
  
Whether they belong to the East or West, a large number of monastic traditions – which preach asceticism and renunciation as the only way to spiritual liberation – insist irrevocably on the need to distance yourself from everything that is directly or indirectly related to femininity. In their view, femininity is the cause of all sensual and worldly deviations, being also seen as the object of many temptations. 
  
The sutra, however, spoke about the woman’s soul and contained a secret whose intimate and deep understanding could lead to a much greater knowledge. That sutra was referring to the knowledge that lies beyond this world and even beyond it all. But we know that behind the occult energies of this world there is nothing else but GOD THE FATHER, who is also the Absolute and the mysterious Unknown. The sutra revealed a great secret. Properly understood, the sutra sought to make us understand that knowing through perfect identification (SAMYAMA) the soul of a woman can also help us to know the mysteries of Creation and, more than that, can even help us discover GOD THE FATHER. 
  
The message of the sutra made “something” profoundly resonate in my being. Afterwards, I often meditated on the enigmatic message of the sutra . Little by little, I felt that message literally invading my entire being as if it had awakened, in a certain way, every cell. Then, that ineffable state that arose gradually amplified and enlivened my being, often causing an intense and profound uplifting thrill to appear. When the state became more and more extensive and overwhelming, I meditated deeply upon it. 

I found, over time, that what settled in my inner universe by evoking the magic of the words in the sutra was a great fecundity. It was, I could say, also an intense, poetic state. The sutra therefore awakened an intimate and ineffable state of poetry in my inner universe. At the same time, a spontaneous state of transfiguration appeared, and my perception of the whole world and even of my own being became completely different. In order to define it, I could say that the state was at the same time an ineffable, poetic experience. When I entered that state, I discovered mysterious rhythms and an indescribable “music” that circulated both through everything that existed in my being, as well as through what was outside of me. At the same time, a mysterious reality began to be revealed to me, which existed simultaneously beyond all partial realities and it made me experience something mysterious, ecstatic and intoxicating. The state that revealed itself to me was magical and at the same time poetic. 
  
Later I realised, due to the intensity of that experience, which became more and more profound and clear, that many human beings seek to live and understand in a way, I could say poetically, beings, phenomena and things. Now I could say that at that time I undoubtedly entered deep states of beneficial trance and was often animated by an almost visceral need to experience the magic and poetry of Life. That indescribable twinning of magic and poetry, which I lived fully, revealed in my being a condition of the soul that penetrates the nature of all things, to discover in all of them the intimate vibration of all they have inside. The enigmatic and essential music conveyed by their form made me discover certain subtle messages that were hidden beyond them. 
  
When I was intensely and deeply experiencing this state, I had the feeling that it is a complex and indescribable experience. Beyond all this, however, I had the feeling that I was experiencing something that was essentially feminine. This deeply feminine something that was contained in my inner universe appeared to me as a body, simultaneously new and old, which existed in my own body. That feminine something was a body of magic and poetry. 
  
Through repetition and gradual deepening, this state triggered deep transformations in me. Later I came to realise that in fact there is no true philosophy, no religion and no true spirituality without poetry, without transfiguration, without magic and without conscious Eros. The Eternal Feminine, that in the East is expressed by the state of shakti, gives spirituality a certain poetry, magic, transfiguration and mystery. 

Regarding these states that I previously described, I could also add that, around the age of nine, an extraordinary event made me aware of my spiritual destiny. I remember that at the age when many boys are tempted to masturbate, I experienced an inexplicable and even ecstatic exaltation in my whole body, which made me enter a mysterious and magical world – a world that, in my view back then, was imaginary and unlimited. That mysterious and magical land I entered was made up of gigantic, never-before-seen arabesques and brightly coloured swirls. At the same time, the experience made me sink into a state of timeless interiorisation. In this way, bodily instincts and sexuality were in a certain way replaced in me – in fact, I could say they were sublimated – through the means of this much more subtle and intangible Eros, which travelled more through my psychic universe rather than my senses, feeding me with magical states and images, and opening in me a mystical fondness. 
  
Although I was quiet and solitary in nature, when I sometimes returned from school with two little girls of my age, I felt the urge to tell them some extraordinary stories. I realised, especially then, that the wonderful and charming world that existed in me could only be understood and shared by those two little girls, who I remember were very attentive to everything I told them. This intimate state of listening produced in me a kind of constant stimulation, which in this way fed an uplifting, euphoric aspiration of my unconscious Eros, which was in effervescence. Now I could say that then there was a perfect symbiosis between the receptivity of those two little girls and the inner, spontaneous activity of my creative imagination. 
  
Back then, without realising it, through everything I was doing, I was already on my way to courting the MUSE of inspiration. At the same time, I was communicating with Eros and even realised – without knowing it – the first sublimation of amorous energy, in a complete state of innocence. Much later, I came to understand that Eros, in my case, was much more mobilised by my inner femininity than by my outer masculinity. The state of listening is, without a doubt, a feminine activity that invites sharing in the most natural way, as well as inviting a liberating activation of the creative imagination. 
  
Human beings who nurture an intense state of spiritual aspiration end up living in a mysterious intermediary world, which is tangent to two complementary realities: the reality of the Visible World and that of the Invisible Worlds. The aspirational engagement on a spiritual path aims to reconcile these two worlds in the universe of the being, eventually making them mutually interchangeable. Their respective realities mix and melt at a certain point in the reality of the being in which they acquire a unique meaning. 

Through her biological, vital and psychic nature, the woman lives in a similar world, between manifested and unmanifested, within which the perception and understanding of things, phenomena and beings have a character that is more aesthetic, I could say, than moral. I want to emphasise that here I use the word “AESTHETIC” in its widest and at the same time deepest sense: the Greek word AISTHETIKOS actually expresses an ineffable faculty of being penetrated, which makes us feel in an intense and profound way the harmonious unity of things and beings. This faculty is, we could say, predominant and inherent in femininity. The woman feels intuitively before she knows, the man wants to know before he feels, the woman lives to understand, the man must understand in order to feel that he lives. 
  
For those who look with great attention at the surrounding reality, it is deeply significant that ethe world of poetry and art in particular is so permeated by the feminine presence. This aspect is valid even if most of the authors who have given humanity the greatest masterpieces belong to the male sex. It is worth asking ourselves if it is not through them that the feminine aspect manifests itself. 
  
Today I could say that, thanks to a mysterious inner magnetisation, whose subtlety and magnitude grew over time, I gradually became aware of the importance of the androgynous state. This process was accompanied by an ever deeper awareness of the inner feminine. Through awakening the androgynous state, that feminine sensitivity which the masculine dexterity uses is then manifested in an ample and profound way. 
  
Spirituality, art and poetry are, we could say, a continuity of nature within the human being. When they act together, in complete symbiosis, they “fertilise” the human soul. The feminine is not only related to nature in a symbolic way. More than that, the feminine is the keeper (most often unsuspecting) of nature’s secrets and at the same time the open-air altar of its essence.  
  
Being at the same time the giver and nurturer of Life, the woman embodies the reality of the realised human nature. She has exercised this sacerdotal mission since the dawn of history, when she “conspired” with nature, sowing the first seeds that gave birth to agriculture; while men conspired by stalking game in the forests or hatching plans that would lead them to endless wars and the organised destruction of nature. 

At the present time, especially through art, the feminine manifests itself in the world. In the East, the feminine accompanies aspirants along their spiritual journey, especially through the Tantra Yoga system. Achieving the glorious androgynous state is an alchemical fusion of the masculine and feminine, which brings forth a mysterious third entity that can only be enjoyed by those who have attained this extraordinary state. 

by Gregorian Bivolaru

22 February 2023

Eminent Yoga Teacher Gregorian Bivolaru is the author of the yoga course taught in Tara and our sister schools in the ATMAN Federation. Having dedicated his entire life towards helping people awaken to that which is divine, Grieg is recognised by many as having a high level of enlightenment and spiritual power, and as belonging to the highest category of spiritual guides, bodhaka.

From the very beginning, Grieg’s approach to yoga was recognised as revolutionary and extremely efficient, and it was not long before his teachings began to spread worldwide, with schools in 30 countries currently. The fundamental axis of the teachings is the Law of Occult Resonance, a principle at the essence of creation that governs every manifestation of the universe and how everything inter-relates. The Law of Resonance is the primary key of the spiritual practice of Tara, and through its application, a whole new dimension to Yoga opens.

When Grieg was asked to which spiritual tradition he belonged, he replied:

You must understand that I cannot belong to any tradition that does not fully express the universal godly Supreme Consciousness. That is why I do not belong to any system in particular, and I aim to synthesise everything that is most inspired in a godly way, and the most genuine in all authentic spiritual traditions that I know, so that in this way, to all those who are prepared, I can offer new and brilliant methods for spiritual transformation and realisation, that are as quick and accessible as possible, and at the same time are adapted to any human typology. I am completely dedicated, body and soul, to the spiritual revival and enlightenment of those who aspire to this, and I will go until the end on this path, regardless of the obstacles that will be triggered against it

– Grieg

Countless testimonies suggest that Grieg is always present in the souls of those who are open towards his mysterious presence and spiritual transformation. His disciples say that he always helps those who ask for his support, who sincerely wish to merge with God in the purity of the heart. Emanating a special ambiance of spiritual effervescence and deep peace of the heart, in a godly way he enjoys any progress we make towards the discovery of our immortal Self, reminding us to always be grateful to God for this help.

Grieg aims to promote universal teachings that can be applied by anyone, irrespective of faith or religion, and to awaken the human consciousness so that on a planetary level a new era of spirituality, called satya yuga, can blossom, where humanity will again live in accordance with godly laws, and come to recognise God in all that exists.

Grieg’s life has always been marked by the exceptional and mysterious. In the short account below, there is a glimpse into the world of this remarkable man who has, despite many obstacles, dedicated his entire being towards helping people awaken to the divine life.

Youth and the call of cosmic consciousness

Gregorian Bivolaru, or Grieg, was born on 12th March 1952 into a humble family and grew up in the village of Tărtășești near Bucharest.

From a very early age, Grieg had a special character, with a natural inclination towards contemplation and an immense desire to know. For hours and hours, the little Gregorian would stay in the library corner of the local village store, reading all the books he could find in his modest village, in order to allay his thirst for knowledge. Grieg amazed both his family and his teachers with his profoundness, maturity and wisdom that exceeded his age by far.

Even as a child, Grieg intuitively knew that he would have an exceptional destiny. He had dreams and visions in which he experienced godly revelations – a cosmic consciousness beginning to beckon him. In the following he remembers such a ‘dream’:

I heard a kind of voice that sounded from all over and nowhere that called me. I had the revelation of God in an ineffable form, and I knew that when I awoke later I still had the feeling and I cried with happiness. I had found something magnificent and eternal. It was a feeling that kept brimming over my being. That was but a voice that had manifested and called my name three times

– Grieg

Adolescence – the discovery of Yoga and the enchantment of Eastern Spirituality

During his adolescence, Grieg began to visit the large libraries of the capital where he stayed for days in a row from the opening to the closing of the library, insatiably reading books from a wide range of fields – Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Philosophy, Psychology, Parapsychology, Hypnosis, Alchemy, Sexology, Medicine.

Upon discovering the fascinating Eastern spirituality, however, he intuited that he had found something of fundamental value that could lead him towards the ultimate truth. Enchanted, he started to seek out the fundamental yoga treatises, which were kept only in the secret depositories of the libraries and which he himself would then translate directly from English and French.

Grieg went deeper and deeper into the yogic practices and study of the sacred yogic scriptures, as well as of the works of some modern sages like Ramakrishna, Sivananda and Yogananda, and he successfully practiced the techniques he encountered. By the age of fifteen, Grieg was practicing Yoga for eight to nine hours per day.

During those years, Grieg often had recurring dreams about himself being a Tibetan Yogi of high spiritual attainment. As a result of these dreams, he had many recollections of various yogic techniques that he started to practice with amazing results. Perplexing synchronistic events would link the events of his dreams with the events of his daily life. Gradually, Grieg learned to recognize the significance of these events and to later put them together into a coherent system of fundamental spiritual truths of huge proportions. 

Because of this, he was able to attain in a very short time, by practicing on his own, a whole series of accomplishments that are generally considered paranormal. All these experiments culminated at the age of 19, when he had a decisive breakthrough and attained the state of spiritual awakening (the revelation of the Supreme Self, known in Yoga as Atman).

Teaching Yoga under Romania’s repressive communist regime

Grieg spent his childhood and youth under the regime of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, in a country that was suffocated by the pressure of the iron curtain and was under the mute terror of the infamous “Securitate” (the Romanian Secret Service). For fear of any tendency of freeing people from the influences of the regime, as soon as any person would display any interest towards non-materialistic fields that were far away from the accepted State philosophy (namely, dialectic materialism), they were placed on the blacklist of the Securitate.

Grieg’s activities very quickly brought him to the attention of the communist authorities that were very reticent to any “stepping out of the box” and strongly condemned any spiritual activity. The Securitate began to systematically follow him and monitor his activities. When he began to share letters with certain famous spiritual personalities from abroad (such as Mircea Eliade, the famous Romanian historian of religion), his pursuit became even more incessant.

Thus, in 1971 (before his 20th birthday) the first abusive intervention of the Securitate took place. By giving a totally fictional, absurd reason (they ‘had to search for weapons that had been stolen from a storehouse’), the Securitate searched his entire house and left with all his spiritual books, all the journals and notebooks he had made related to the spiritual path, and all the correspondence with the people from abroad that he kept!

It was in that same year of 1971 that Grieg began to teach yoga. His first class was of just 14 people. Yet, in 1972, when he wished to begin a new group of yoga practice and he had placed posters around the city in order to announce this, the Securitate blocked the phone number (given as contact) on the respective posters, sabotaging his activities.

Thus, with many obstacles, Grieg taught yoga openly, in various cultural houses and student centres, until 1982 when the great scandal around the Transcendental Meditation Movement in Romania was set up, an occasion on which the Ceaușescu regime arrested and imprisoned tens of thousands of students of the Transcendental Meditation Movement (completely destroying their careers) under the accusation of ‘suspect mysticism that might lead to the destabilization of the state’.

Yoga and meditation made illegal

Following this event, Ceausescu forbid all spiritual practices, especially the ones originating from the Orient. Even the teaching and practice of Psychology as an independent academic discipline was outlawed for fear of communist propaganda being undermined. Meditation & yoga were made illegal in communist Romania, considered activities against the state, a situation that was without precedence in the entire world (not valid today)!

Nevertheless, by courageously taking on much greater risks, Grieg continued to teach yoga “underground” and in the following years the Securitate surveilled, bugged, ransacked, arrested and tortured Grieg and several of his students.

In 1984 (aged 32), Grieg was arrested and imprisoned on the aberrant accusation that he planned to make a group of yogis that would annihilate Ceausescu by paranormal means! This paranoid masquerade served the excuse for the Securitate to imprison Grieg (for an undetermined time) whilst his prosecution was pursued, during which no information about him was released, nor any outside communication with him allowed (with friends, family, lawyers).

Grieg protests

Grieg decided to protest in a novel way to draw attention to his case and the completely abusive attitude of the state. He managed to spectacularly escape the maximum-security prison – the first and only time in the entire history of this institution – some say through using his paranormal endowments. Because there were no actual grounds for accusing him in the first place, Grieg did not hide himself from the authorities. Yet, the corrupt Romanian justice system again abusively sent him back to another prison and kept him with chains on his feet, as was done with the most dangerous criminals. Grieg spent 18 months in prison just for being a yoga teacher.

In 1989, Grieg was again arrested and sent to Poiana Mare Psychiatric Hospital, a desolate and pitiful place, notorious for being a detention centre where undesirable political dissidents of the Communist regime were condemned, often to gradual extermination. (Over the two years 2002-2003, a report showed that 155 ‘patients’ died at the hospital [1]). Indeed, the drug prescription to be administered to Grieg would have killed any normal man in a few weeks. Yet, the doctor who was supposed to administer this treatment risked his career and refused to apply what was demanded of him.

Grieg’s teachings spread worldwide

Following the Romanian Revolution in 1989, the communist regime officially ended in Romania. Romania was now apparently free and yoga was permitted again. A commission was urgently established and Grieg was subsequently freed from the prison-hospital of Poiana Mare. Wasting no time whatsoever, Grieg immediately opened the yoga course (in January 1990) and also legally founded MISA or the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute.

Romanians, thirsty of outer and inner freedom, literally flocked to his courses and in a very short time Grieg’s students were in the thousands. Practically he created a new avenue for the Yoga practice in Romania. He collaborated extensively with the Romanian Ministry of Health and with the Association of Psychosomatic Medicine of Bucharest, and helped many people to heal themselves from terminal diseases with the help of yoga practices, as well as establishing Ayurvedic centres.

Grieg’s teachings continued to spread further and by 2004 yoga schools offering his yoga course had been opened in more than 30 countries (all schools becoming part of the ATMAN Federation), making it one of the most comprehensive and intensive yoga courses in the world, and perhaps the largest yoga movement in Europe.

Grieg’s spiritual mission and the enduring persecutions

Although the communist regime had apparently ended, Grieg’s harassment continued more-or-less openly over the years, accompanied by a persistent ‘smear campaign’ by the mass media – having the purpose of fully destroying his public image. In fact, according to a study by Soteria International (a human rights foundation), Grieg and MISA have proved to be one of the most popular subjects in post-communist Romania, with over 8000 printed libelous articles against them and over 10,000 reports in the TV news!

History has often proved that is difficult for society to accept the inspiration of deeply beneficial, evolutionary tendencies of a revolutionary spiritual reformer (like Gandhi, for example).

What I have to do will not be convenient for some groups of people because to remove the dust from the genuine spiritual traditions that were kept to our days and to bring to light again the primordial tradition in its pure form, to put at everyone’s disposal certain essential modalities to access the supreme divine truth or to shake from the ground the prejudgments and narrow dogma of the current mentality will attract numerous hatreds, conflicts and hostility.
What I have to offer can help many people to find their true essence that is their immortal divine self, Atman

– Grieg

The mass media have constantly aimed at distorting, despising and mocking his activities and efforts to promote genuine, universal divine values. Yet Grieg continues without hesitation with his personal mission in bringing forth the planetary spiritual revival, despite the numerous personal attacks, slanders and even assassination attempts.

When Grieg was asked many years ago about his spiritual mission, he answered:

I came to help people and that is why I do not consider it is the case to unceasingly defend myself against the mountains of slander that were or will be pointed at me. I am not interested in a personality cult or declaring spiritual principles, like the pharisees, without living by them.

The mission that I took in front of God consists in first of all an action of orientation, coordination & enlightenment of all those that are prepared and who aspire towards this. I have not asked for nor waited for gratefulness, admiration or veneration. Those who hurry to judge me should judge me on the results of my actions, by the fruits of my spiritual message that I offer to everyone and not by their assumptions, suspicions or phantasmagorical projections full of meanness.

I have never stated that I can perform miracles. All the miracles that occurred blossomed in the souls who are open and pure, who have followed the method that I have offered, or that were performed through my being through the tremendous help from God. All those who have truly understood what I have offered and are my genuine disciples are a vivid proof of all these aspects by the spiritual transformations that occurred in them

– Grieg

Political Asylum in Sweden

In March 2004, in a desperate attempt to create an event that would draw the public attention away from an imminent government scandal, the prime minister of the time, Adrian Nastase ordered the arrest of Grieg, setting up a legal file backed up with the full support of the media. ‘Operation Christ’ was the largest police operation since the communist regime in Romania and involved armed troops bursting into the ashrams in Bucharest, holding down innocent yoga students at gunpoint and confiscating spiritual materials (books, etc) as well as personal items.

Forced by such dramatic circumstances and believing that he would stand no chance of a fair trial in Romania, Grieg fled the country and was granted protection and political asylum in Sweden. (Currently, this is one of the very few cases in the European Union where a citizen is protected against another state inside the Union).

Over the years, important voices from Romania’s post-communist democracy, including the reports of Amnesty International and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, have spoken against these glaring abusive behaviors by the various state departments against Grieg and the schools offering his teachings. Eventually, in 2010 Gregorian Bivolaru was found not guilty by the Sibiu Court of Law in Romania. The court decision mentioned that the incriminating deeds are nonexistent”.

Currently, Grieg has residence in Sweden, continuing his rich literary activity of writing yoga lessons and books on various spiritual issues. He has written more than 35 books, and he continues to write and deliver an impressive number of lectures for international congresses and events. He also answers thousands of letters and messages from all over the world from people who ask for his advice.

06 September 2022

Yama and Niyama are referred to in the well-known spiritual text of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in which the 8 steps of the Yoga system are listed. 

The Yamas and Niyamas constitute the first two steps. The eight steps are listed as such:

  • Yama (controlling oneself/restraints)
  • Niyama (moral observances/positive duties)
  • Asana (bodily postures)
  • Pranayama (control of the breath)
  • Pratyahara (retraction of the senses from the external world)
  • Dharana (mental concentration)
  • Dhyana (Deep meditation)
  • Samadhi (state of spiritual ecstasy)

It becomes obvious that yoga is more than the bodily postures that it is famous for, as indeed postures (asana) constitute only one of the steps listed in the Yoga Sutras. The path of Yoga – meaning to yoke, to unite – connects the individual to the universal.

This connection leads to an increased sense of wellbeing and wholeness. As well as enjoying your individuality in a new light and understanding, you can enjoy the sense of interconnectedness with other beings and with the source of all being. In yoga we aim to simultaneously enjoy the game of life while at the same time maintaining an awareness of, and an increasing communion with, its sacred source. When followed to perfection the steps of yoga can take us to samadhi, divine ecstasy, and complete self-realisation. 

The yamas and niyamas offer guidance on the most beneficial integration of the individual in the macrocosmic whole.

The yamas and niyamas offer guidance on the most beneficial integration of the individual in the macrocosmic whole – both in terms of inner attitudes that should be cultivated, as well as certain outer guidelines for our interactions with the world at large. These in turn create the foundation of our further development and the first steps on our journey to the highest realisations.

Broadly speaking, we can say that Yamas and Niyamas are ethical and moral guidelines that help us build a harmonious life. They can be seen as being at the very foundation of any yoga practice, yet often they are ignored – or at least not recognised as the essential aspects of the yogic practice that they are.

In the following we will briefly present each yama and niyama, though each in turn deserve in-depth study. In our courses the yamas and niyamas are studied in greater detail.

The 5 Yamas or ‘restraints’ focus on our relationship with others and generally the outer world:

Ahimsa (non-violence) – refraining from violence in action, speech and thought – becoming aware of and countering the ego’s tendency to strike out in anger when it feels threatened or under pressure. Learning to react in a different way, our ego relaxes and a new sense of individuality can emerge.

Satya (truthfulness) – the restraint of not lying or deceiving others. Satya implies always being honest with yourself and others. When we are in the habit of being dishonest, we cannot realise the Ultimate Truth. Often the one we lie to the most is ourselves. Any process of genuine transformation can only begin from where and who we are in this moment and we need the courage to be honest with ourselves about what that is. 

Asteya (non – stealing) – refraining from taking anything that does not belong to us, including that which arises in our mind. This does not only refer to physical objects but also other achievements. We should be attentive of the desire to take what belongs to someone else and rather take it as an inspiration to become able to have that for ourselves.

Brachmacharya (continence or abstinence) – the restraint in sensual cravings and desires of a sexual nature.  We often waste a lot of resources on the unconscious indulgence in the senses, or the wasteful use of our creative sexual power. Traditionally this has led to the indication of sexual abstinence for those serious about their spiritual practice and evolution. In our school we teach the alternative; a way of harnessing the immense creative potential present in our desires, through what is called amorous erotic continence. More about that can be found in the pillar Eros and Amorous Erotic Continence.

Aparigraha – (non-grasping) – means to let go of the exhausting need to grasp everything for ourselves and to avoid accumulating physical objects. It also means letting go of our tendency to grasp tightly to ideas or thoughts that we think define us, and to open ourselves up to new ideas and perspectives.

Allthough the yamas are called restraints we realise that Ahimsa (non-violence) actually means acting, speaking, and thinking based on love and kindness; Asteya (non-stealing) means generosity and the appreciation of the achievements of others; Aparigraha (non-grasping) means detachment and expansion, selflessness; Satya (truthfulness) means the pursuit of the Ultimate Truth, beauty, and goodness; Brachmacharya means harnessing and consciously using all our energies for their highest purpose. 

The 5 Niyamas or positive duties refer to our relationship with ourselves, our inner world and the highest reality:

Saucha (purification) – Many mystical paths (those paths in which the practitioner aims to come into a felt connection with the divine) emphasise the need for purification of our entire being. The analogy that is sometimes given is that of the lamp: Deep within us, there is an inner light of joy, goodness, peace, and harmony – the spark of divinity within each of us. However, as we go through life (especially if we aren’t conscious of the need for purification practices) this becomes covered with layers of ‘dust’ until this light is dimmed or even no longer visible to ourselves or others. Yoga’s emphasis on purification practices is to clean the ‘dust’ at the various levels of our being (physical, energetic, emotional, mental). Our courses offer purification techniques for body, mind and emotions.

Santosha (contentment) – actively helps in cultivating a sense of contentment and well-being to counter the ego’s tendency to feel a sense of lack which in turn leads to grasping, accumulation and theft. The state of contentment is cultivated no matter what the external circumstances might be and leads to inner peace and a profound sense of wellbeing.

Tapas (ardent effort) – is related to action, to practice. Through yoga practice, (postures, breathing exercises, meditation, visualisation, nutrition, purification, etc.) we develop ourselves; we strengthen ourselves, and we awaken to new experiences and the lived truth of new perspectives. Tapas comes from the root word Tap – which means ‘to burn’. Tapas means to awaken the inner fire, the inner will power, to apply ourselves with dedication to the practice we have chosen, recognising that the more we put in, the more we get out. Setting a practice, and applying ourselves to this with determination and enthusiasm, burns the present limits so that we can grow and expand beyond them. Through ardent practice we can experience states of consciousness way beyond the ordinary experiences that are within the natural capacities of the human being, but rarely accessed by the majority. 

Svadhyaya (Self-study) – Yoga is a Gnostic path, a path of salvation through knowledge that brings a deep understanding yourself and your relationship to the whole. Studying the wisdom of those who have reached spiritual illumination in the form of spiritual texts, (texts which include the essence of wisdom of different authentic spiritual traditions), can help us in our own quest for this knowledge. Then, through the deep and attentive study of ourselves we can discover the universal truths that are contained in these spiritual texts and also expressed by other seekers. 

Ishvarapranidhana (devotion, surrender) – means devotion to the sacred, to the divine. It refers to an awakening sense of the sacredness of life; feeling ourselves in relationship with the mystery and magic of existence. It speaks to a desire to find something worthy of devotion. 

Someone once said that we all worship something – that might be money, celebrity, success, etc. So, better find something truly nourishing that gives us a healthy perspective of ourselves and our place in the world. Placing ourselves in a relationship of feeling humbleness, great love and surrender towards something greater than us (such as the attitude shown by those who faithfully prostrate or pray to God/the Supreme Absolute/a Godly entity) can induce a state of liberty, of freedom, and of safety, being in the hands of something greater than us.Ishvarapranidhana relates to aspiration; aspiration to be in right relationship to something, and aspiration to become a better person with that understanding and through that surrender.

Final thoughts

It is not by chance that the yamas and niyamas are placed at the very beginning of our spiritual journey. Embodying the wish to be the best human being we can be, and to integrate ourselves into a greater harmony, they express the awakening of our consciousness and our aspiration to discover more of our inner world and potentials.

At first glance they seem simple ideas and are often overlooked. Even advanced yoga practitioners, who either have not been introduced to them or may have only heard about them, may realise that they do not actively think of these principles. They are easy to ignore, but it bears fruit to revisit them again and again, to gain deeper insight. If ignored we will face problems later on our path, lacking the firm foundation to support higher states of consciousness and the experience of divine ecstasy, Samadhi. 

In the yoga and tantra courses Yamas and Niyamas are each thoroughly presented and one can go deep into them as a genuine part of the yogic and tantric practice.

29 August 2022

The paths of Yoga and Tantra are not confined only to the yoga mat, meditation cushion or a certain time or place. Through the practice of these disciplines, it becomes possible to live every moment of life according to spiritual principles, and to find sacredness and spiritual insight in the midst of ‘ordinary’ life. The practice of consecration is a very simple but highly effective method of the Yoga and Tantra paths, providing a fundamental key to make every moment of life sacred, and integrated in the universal harmony.  

Yogic and Tantric wisdom states that we do not need to be a priest, a sadhu or a saint to reach the Supreme Absolute, or God, and we do not need an intermediary. We can contact this Absolute Reality directly, and we can do this here and now, through every action we perform and in the fullness of our heart. The consecration is not a religious act. It can be performed by anyone, and requires no previous spiritual training.

Living a sacred life

Consecration means to offer, totally and unconditionally, any action that is about to be done, as well as the fruit or the results of that action, to God, to the Supreme Absolute Consciousness, or to the Highest aspect of reality that is easiest to relate to. As well as an action, it is also possible to consecrate an object, food, or even one’s own being to the Universal Consciousness.

The word ‘consecration’ comes from the Latin ‘consecrare’, meaning to sanctify, to make sacred, or dedicate to God. Consecrating any action thus makes that action a sacred act. If, for example, the action of walking to work is consecrated before setting out, the walk, and everything that is experienced during that action becomes imbued with a divine presence, as if God walks with us,  in and through our being.

By consecrating all actions, the practitioner can discover that in the heart of every beneficial action there is a possibility to enter in a state of mysterious communion with God. The Divine is then no longer a far-off reality, but something that can easily be approached through this method. 

Moreover, each act of consecration is a chance to experience a state of immortality, a feeling for a few moments of what it is like to be a jivanmukta, or a liberated master.

Becoming a godly channel

When a beneficial action is consecrated, that action is no longer done by an individual being with all his or her limitations. Through the consecration, the practitioner is opened to become a channel in and through which God can then manifest, through which he or she can become inspired, guided and directed by the Divine. If, for instance, the fruit of the action of giving a healing massage is first consecrated, the practitioner can observe the way in which he or she is guided and inspired to offer exactly what is needed in that moment, in ways that may otherwise not have been considered.

The consecration is a gesture in which the presence of God is invited into one’s being, and there is an acceptance of His help and support.

Consecration implies both a sacrifice that takes the practitioner beyond the limited self, the ego, and a surrendering to the guidance of a superior, godly wisdom. The consecration is a gesture in which the presence of God is invited into one’s being, and there is an acceptance of His help and support. This brings far more inner resources and energy than usual, and an alignment with the Supreme. Living, in a way, as God does, He can be known far more intimately.

Here it can also be understood why it is said that Tantrics make love ‘like gods and goddesses’. Through consecrating the lovemaking itself, each of the lovers open to become a channel of godly love to manifest through their beings, as they each offer themselves completely to the game of love. Through this gesture, lovemaking becomes a sublime and sacred act, which elevates the lovers to reach ecstatic states of communion with God.

A method to always be integrated in the universal harmony

After the consecration is done, there is an awareness phase, in which the practitioner waits for a few moments to a perceive an answer from the Supreme Reality.

This is a key element of the consecration. This answer appears as a state of sacredness and grace that flows into the being from the top of the head. When a subtle, affirmative answer is perceived, the practitioner can be sure that the fruit of the action he or she is about to perform has been received, and that the action is supported by the Divine.

If no answer is perceived, however, the action is not integrated. Either it is not beneficial for the one consecrating or for anyone else involved, or it is simply not the right moment to carry out that action,  and it should not be performed. If there is no answer to the consecration and the effects do not appear, the action will not be aligned with the universal harmony. The consecration is therefore an excellent method to ‘check’, to ensure that there is always an alignment with actions that are beneficial, and that there is always an integration in the universal flow of life.

Karma Yoga

Consecration is considered to be the foundation of the system of Karma Yoga – the path of reaching spiritualliberation through action. The act of consecration frees the practitioner from the chains of karma, which bind us to return again and again to reincarnate in this world.

A fundamental key in this regard is that through consecration, all the fruit or results of an action are offered to the Supreme Absolute.Ordinarily, when an action is done, karma is created – whatever results from that action, whether good or bad. Even if something very beneficial is done, such as helping a great many people, the ‘doer’ of that action or series of actions will still need to reincarnate to enjoy the good karma that they generated. From a spiritual perspective, the soul of that individual will be almost forever trapped in the endless cycle of death and rebirth, unless they are able to free themselves from those karmic chains.

By offering the fruit of all actions to God, those actions no longer belong to the doer. This is a sacrifice that is made, because the action is no longer done only for oneself, but as an offering to the Supreme Absolute. There must be a sincere intention to offer everything that will be done to God, in a state of openness and humbleness. In return, the practitioner receives the immense grace of a sacred life, as well as a state of inner freedom, freed from any attachment to the results of the actions. 

The method for performing the consecration is taught in our Yoga, Tantra and Kashmir Shaivism courses.

16 August 2022

A Sacred Place Amongst the Hubbub

For centuries people had to undertake difficult and often dangerous journeys in search of monasteries and ashrams on distant mountain tops or on remote islands surrounded by treacherous seas. The spiritual devotee needed to remove themselves from the temptations of the world to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of perfection. Now you can hop on a bus to an Ashram, a sanctuary amongst all the buzz and busy-ness of the city.

So why would anyone choose to spend time in an Ashram? The answer is that it provides a sanctuary and a place to lay down burdens, and it provides a kind of ‘fortress’ for the spirit. Being in an ashram super-charges your spiritual energy using the challenges of daily life as rocket fuel to launch your spiritual practice and aspiration. You are embraced and held by the others who live there who share your values and principles, who join you in study and practice and they can also provide powerful iron-girder support so you may further transform without buckling under the pressure.

Being in an ashram super-charges your spiritual energy using the challenges of daily life as rocket fuel to launch your spiritual practice and aspiration.

The world can be a confusing place, with your attention pulled in so many directions, snippets of news, messages, posts, opinions, problems. You can be constantly distracted, uncertain. You can find yourself reacting through lack of attention, wasting your time, money, and energy. Society values the winners of the rat race – but who wants to be a rat?

Our ancestors knew a thing or two, and they created sanctuaries, monasteries and churches at ancient sacred sites. Sacredness in daily life may have been trampled by the march of progress, first with the industrial then the technological revolution, but sacredness can be brought back into everyday life by living in an Ashram. A gathering of spiritual people in one place will always create an accumulation of spiritual energy. In addition, it is not always easy alone, to bring consistency, discipline and rigour to your practice. The Ashram can be a place of safety where you can accelerate your growth with fellow practitioners and in the times, with heartfelt embraces. You can have a life and evolve spiritually at the same time.

What makes an Ashram a special place is the practice of Karma Yoga – the yoga of communion with God through action.

What also makes an Ashram a special place is the practice of Karma Yoga – the yoga of communion with the godly, through all the actions that you carry out in a perfectly detached way, realising that you are a channel of energy and not the author or the originator of the impulse to act.

The Ashram is intended to be a pressure cooker that creates spiritual intensity that forces the ego out of its hiding places. You learn to be relaxed while in the middle of any action, and not attached, including in situations in which in the past may have been excessively challenging. Fellow yogis in the Ashram are there to help you, and you to help them, not just because you are good people, but because you are linked to each other by your devotion to creating the highest possible spiritual outcomes in all life situations.

10 August 2022

“A gram of practise is worth tonnes of theory.”

When properly assimilated, knowledge becomes wisdom, and we can start to see the changes such knowledge makes in our lives. We cannot simply touch knowledge on the surface, and then walk away from it imbued with deep understandings. No one can tell you how something is – you can only feel a deep understanding if it really moves in you. You need to taste it, digest it, and then allow its sweet nutritious value to seep into the soul of your being.

I can tell you how I make the most delicious cake in the world, but unless you savour it, you will never know how the cake is. And only when you really know how to make that cake, will you value its true worth.

From this perspective, the Yogis and Tantrics encourage spiritual practice as an important tool for individual evolution. It is an experiential path, not one of only reading books. Through practice and your own transformation, the knowledge becomes alive in your being, and the wisdom will sooner or later reside in your heart. If knowledge stays only as a sterile experience without living it, then it will stay on the surface and not echo and reverberate deeply within you. The teachings are guidance, but the most important ingredient is their actual use in life.

If knowledge stays only as a sterile experience without living it, then it will stay on the surface and not echo and reverberate deeply within you.

When we put in practice what we learn, we begin an eternal romance with transformation. We live in love with sadhana, with spiritual practice, we can clearly see when we easily slip into bad habits, and we learn to apply spiritual attitudes in daily life. We start to become truly independent as we know what we need to do and when, and we have the knowledge awakened within to live our lives aligned with universal principles and profound understandings.

Through practice we invite Divinity into our lives in an active way. Through practice we make our lives more sacred as we make a conscious attempt to turn the light on inside. No one can tell you what to think or how things are and make it truly believable. Deep understanding happens when we learn from our own direct experience. You need to see the results from the clinical trials of your life and your own experience.

We can learn a lot from children. They seek with a playful curiosity, and they learn from whatever they touch and see. Life unfolds during play, and they learn in their openness. In a similar way, by applying an open and non-sceptical attitude we can ‘see for ourselves’ the value of the teachings and be inspired by them.

With our hearts aspiring for true freedom, through practice we liberate the soul. By enthusiastically applying what we learn, we discover how the deepening of knowledge takes us beyond the limitations and inertia that can contain and restrict us. We see that through practice we become the connoisseur of active love in life, and each experience enriches our Heart, into the limitless freedom of our eternal nature. Through practice, we become aware of a freedom that can inspire our daily lives, that is truly authentic.

by Magdalena Hau, Tantra and Yoga teacher

16 May 2022

“When oil poured from one vessel to another flows in an unbroken stream, so too, when the mind in an unbroken flow thinks ceaselessly of the Lord, we have what is called para-Bhakti, or supreme love.”  ~ The Yogas and other works, Vivekananda

In this article you can discover:

  • What the path of Bhakti yogi is
  • Famous Bhakti yogis who walked this path
  • How you can prepare for the path of Bhakti Yoga
  • The importance of love and devotion in spirituality

The paths of Yoga

The path of devotion and love, Bhakti yoga, is one of a number of ‘paths of yoga’, with other notable paths being Karma Yoga, Jnana yoga, Raja yoga and Tantra yoga. The literal translation of ‘yoga’ in english is union. Therefore all these paths of yoga strive for the same goal – the union of Atman with ParaAtman, or the union of the individual with the universal, essentially uniting the aspirant with God.  

The different paths of yoga are thus alternative routes to reach the same destination. These different paths accommodate the different inherent qualities, desires, karma and predispositions of the various aspirants who wish to reach this destination of union with the divine. Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion, which is how the aspirants walk this path to achieve this state of union.

 Bhakti Yoga is often cited as the easiest path of yoga because it requires ‘only’ devotion, which is accessible to almost all beings. However, though it may be simple in its nature, it is not always an easy path, especially as it requires an opening of the heart or awakening of the soul to begin.

Continous and exalted remembering

The opening quote above cites the ‘unbroken flow of thoughts’ to the divine. This is a continuous and exalted remembering. All of us will have moments when we remember the divine, the absolute, God; when we pray, meditate, see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, fall in love… These moments come and go and are often triggered by outer stimuli. For the Bhakti Yogi however, this remembering is his permanent state of being. He constantly remembers the divine in each and every moment. He sees God in every being, every animal, every flower. There is nothing in manifestation that does not remind him of God and in no thing or moment can he fail to find God.

“When the soul succeeds in enjoying the bliss of his supreme love, it also begins to see him in everything. Our hearts thus become an eternal fountain of love.”

Vivekananada

On the path of Bhakti Yoga the aspirant devotes himself entirely to God, the divine, or the absolute reality. In its highest form, this devotion is pure and uninterrupted. The aspirant sees God in everything, and they see everything in God. They realise that the entire Universe is nothing but love – “Love is God and God is love.” This quote, or truth, revealed in the Gospel of John, shows the universality of this path and of the energy of love. Not restricted to the Hindu tradition, this path is found in all genuine spiritual traditions – Christianity, Islam and so on. It is this love that supports the entire manifestation. It is also the ‘obsession’ and vehicle of the Bhakti yogi.

Unconditional Love

Because the entire manifestation is God, and if he is to love God unconditionally, the Bhakti yogi must love everything in the manifestation, equally and unconditionally. And by loving everything in the manifestation, the Bhakti Yogi likewise loves God. This is a very high level of love that is difficult for the human mind to even comprehend, let alone manifest. But just as the tiny acorn would find it hard to believe that one day it could become a giant oak tree spreading its branches majestically and producing thousands of acorns of its own, so too can the aspirant with a tiny seed of devotion and love within his being nourish and foster that love, until it too grows into mighty branches of unconditional love. Not only sustaining itself but inspiring and nourishing the seeds within others to also grow and become.

In the East there are many examples of well-known Bhati Yogis. Ma Anandamayi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rumi, and Kadir to name but a few. The culture and history of India provides a highly conducive foundation to this path of devotion. It is something almost inherent in the people there.

St Francis – a genuine Bhakti Yogi

But the path of devotion and love crosses all borders and all time frames. A prominent example in the West is Saint Francis of Assisi. Born into a relatively wealthy family, Francis had all the comforts of the time, and was set for a life of material success and prosperity. But in his early 20s St Francis began to experience visions, and to hear a voice that would alter his life dramatically. He renounced his inheritance, disowned his father and took up a vow of poverty. He devoted his life to God and to spreading the teachings of Jesus. Many devote themselves to God and/or sacrifice material wealth in pursuit of union. But what is often cited about St Francis however is his unconditional love for all beings.

Considered outcasts, even by the Church, St Francis would show lepers the same love and affection as he would a bishop. He bathed and fed them often, and prayed both with and for them. He showed no envy, anonymity, jealously or hostility towards his fellow man. Whenever he encountered hostility towards him his response was always one of love. He even crossed the enemy lines of the Christians into the Muslim camp in Egypt during a bloody war. And while there is no account of what happened there, he returned voluntarily and unharmed, which shows he must have been recognised as a man of love by the Sultan. Otherwise his fate would have been vastly different.

St Francis’s love did not stop at humanity. He is the patron saint of animals and is often depicted surrounded by animals. He saw other creatures as a part of God, and filled with God, and he afforded them the same love and devotion that he did his fellow brothers.

One story describes how St Francis stopped some Friars who were digging up flowers to plant food for the monks. The monks objected, saying that the crops were badly needed to feed the growing monastery. St Francis simply replied, “Let the flowers be, for they are part of God’s creation. The Lord will provide everything we need for us.” Such a faith in God is not possible without unconditional love and devotion. For St Francis all was God and God was all. The sum total of all love is God and therefore we should love all equally and unconditionally.

Walking the path of Bhakti Yoga

Some are born ready for the path of Bhakti Yoga, while others have potential, but efforts are needed before the devotion can truly take hold and effortlessly unfold in the aspirant. The ancient texts thus describe two levels of Bhakti Yoga. The first is Gauni, or the preparatory stages, and the second level is Para, or superior devotion.

The purpose of Gauni is mainly for the preparation of the aspirant for Bhakti Yoga. The supreme love, para-Bhakti, is inaccessible to those who remain impure, and so a process of purification is required. The Vedanta Sutras state, “The attaining of Bhakti comes through discrimination, controlling the passions, practice, sacrifice, purity, strength and the suppression of excessive joy.” Here, comparisons can be drawn with the namas and niyamas described in Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. While the outer application of these ideals is usually focused on nowadays, the inner application is far more important. Purifying the body through bathing is useful, but purifying the mind through awareness is far superior.

“Religious realisation, or para-Bhakti, is possible only when the mind is in a steady, peaceful condition of harmonious equilibrium. It is through this that one may begin to learn how to love the Lord.”

There is also a preparatory stage when entering para-Bhakti, the stage of supreme love. This preparation centres around ‘renunciation’. All paths of yoga include this aspect, albeit in different manifestations. The Karma Yogi must renounce the fruits of his actions while the Jnana Yogi must renounce the entire manifestation as an illusion. For the Bhakti Yogi, he must renounce all that is insignificant in favour of God. This is only a phase or process the yogi must go through, because as we saw above, all is God, even the apparently insignificant.

But until the Bhakti Yogi has truly experienced this realisation within his being, he must constantly renounce that which is lower for that which is higher, or that which is limited for something closer to infinity. For example, on the path of Bhakti Yoga, selfishness would be seen as a form of love – excessive love of ones self, and a very limited and restricted manifestation of love.

The Bhakti Yogi should renounce selfish love and instead embrace a more expanded love, such as love for another human being or a family. This expanded love should include the initial ‘object’, in this case the self, the person. In this way the Yogi truly expands rather than just moving his love.

This renunciation is not a ‘killing’ of something or a struggle. It is actually seen as the most gentle and natural of all the various forms of renunciation. While renunciation may appear to be a sacrifice, what we actually sacrifice is the limitations and chains that restrict the soul, so that it can become free, free to love, free to expand towards infinity and towards God. The only condition is that each sacrifice takes us closer and closer to God.

“The bhakti-yogi should not suppress any single one of his emotions; he only strives to intensify them and direct them to God.”

Once the aspirant succeeds with renunciation in the higher stage of Bhakti Yogi, his efforts then become effortless. He then understands the universal truth – God is love and love is God. But not merely as a mental or intellectual understanding. Rather he feels it deep in his heart as the ultimate truth of the universe. Everywhere he looks he sees nothing but the divine. Every word he hears, comes as if from the divine. Everything he touches is infused with the divine. This is his permanent reality in every moment. And through this universal energy of love that continuously springs from his heart, he is united, he is in yoga with all things and finally, united with God.


Summer Retreat: The paths of Yoga

If you wish to find out more about Bhakti Yoga, consider joining our summer retreat this June. It explores 5 paths of yoga, including Bhakti Yogi. In this way it’s an ideal opportunity to discover which path of yoga is most suitable for you. Details below.

“We all begin with love for ourselves, and the unfair claims of the little self make even love selfish. At last, however, comes the full blaze of light, in which this little self is seen to have become one with the Infinite. Man himself is transfigured in the presence of this light of love, and he realises at the last the beautiful and inspiring truth that love, the lover and the Beloved are one.”

Vivekananda
12 May 2022

In this interview, our 4th-year Tantra student Vivienne interviews Tantra teacher Foca Yariv, about death and the perspectives spirituality can bring to the subject, about which Eastern and Western approaches can differ hugely. Foca has spent a great deal of time studying Eastern perspectives on death, to find out what we can actually learn from them.

Foca has held a workshop at Tara entitled “The Art of Dying” almost every year. The title of the workshop is a bit of a loose term, because the workshop is very much about how to live, not only how to die. Based on some fundamental perspectives and ideas found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the Bardo Todol, the Art of Dying workshop helps participants understand the nature of death and why the spiritual path could not exist without it.

In this (25-minute) interview, Vivienne quizzes Foca on everything from the Tantric perspective on death to the blockages people face relating to death, to how a change of perspective can fuel spiritual transformation.

While this interview is not a preview of the upcoming workshop, it does provide some hints as to what might be revealed. Listen to the interview, and if you have any questions feel free to post in the comments. We will respond to them!

And if you would like to know more about the Art of Dying workshop, or to sign up, all details can be found here:


Kali, the great cosmic power related to death

“If it wasn’t for death, which is basically the confinement of time, there would be no incentive of transformation. Hence, we can say that this is one of the greatest gifts that is given from the Creator to the creature, because it is mobilising us.”

Foca Yariv, Tantra Teacher