Swami Nishchalananda’s regular online satsangs.

Every two weeks or so, Swamiji gives an hour of discourse, guided meditation and answers questions online.
These Zoom transmissions used to be found as individual posts on this blog, but they are now to be found on a new system that the ashram is beginning to use. This post is a link to that system.
All Swamiji’s previous satsangs plus the latest ones can be found here.

Please click on the link HERE

Swami SatyaDaya talks of his role as new Director.

Where next? 

By Swami SatyaDaya

Swamiji has now invited me to become Ashram Director, a role which I have taken on. This is not a decision I took lightly yet I’m inspired and excited to play my part in keeping Mandala Yoga Ashram as a place where the process of Awakening is both supported and nurtured.

Swami SatyaDaya

In 2002 I had the great fortune to meet Swami Nishchalananda on my first visit to Mandala Yoga Ashram. From this moment on, his teachings and what he embodies began to have a profound impact on me. By 20051 I was living in the Ashram. This was the beginning of an extraordinary period in my life, a time of profound insight and transformation2 – nearly all of which was entirely unexpected. Even though this was far from easy at times I look back on these times with great reverence and gratitude – it was everything that I could have ever asked for and more. Swamiji has now invited me to become Ashram Director, a role which I have taken on. This is not a decision I took lightly yet I’m inspired and excited to play my part in keeping Mandala Yoga Ashram as a place where the process of Awakening is both supported and nurtured. A place where that which can barely be imagined can be realised in our own being as the ground of our very existence.

As it has for so many, the last year and a half has forced the Ashram to look at what it does and how we do it. This has been an invaluable process since it has encouraged us to reassess what is important and what is not. 

As part of this process, we have been looking at our mission statement. This may sound rather corporate, but it defines our ‘why’ – why we are here and why we do what we do. 

Since I have been back at the Ashram one thing has felt crucial. And that is that we remain true to the quality and authenticity of what we teach. There are many places that people can go for a spa/yoga holiday experience. That is not Mandala Yoga Ashram. First and foremost, we will remain a place for those that are truly seeking deeper understanding about themselves and about the world in which they live. This has led to the formulation of the first line of our ‘mission’ statement: 

“Mandala Yoga Ashram exists to inspire and nourish those on the journey to
remembering their own sacredness and the sacredness of all that exists.”

There is always the risk of words such as ‘sacredness’ being construed as ‘woolly’ or fanciful. Far from it. An integral part of Swamiji Nishchalananda’s vision in establishing the Ashram is that the place would serve as a place where those who seek may have insight or realisation of the hidden depths of their Being – and in turn, the Being of all. We will continue to be a place where the aspiration for such insight is considered normal, part of our birth right.

The path, however, to deeper understanding is not always easy. 

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The later procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”

Jung is referring to an aspect of the spiritual path that, whilst not always easy, is essential. The facing and releasing of blockages and unmet emotions within the subconscious is indispensable if we are to go deeper in our understanding. The Ashram will remain a place of compassion and understanding where people can explore this aspect of their lives and their spiritual path. This means that time spent here is not always easy in fact, it can be downright challenging. However, it has extraordinary value. 

So much spiritual practice is offered these days as a chill out and way to feel good. As such, there is nothing wrong with this and there is no doubt that this is a by-product of our practice. However, the essence of Yoga is to bring the realisation of that which brings a lasting joy during the ups and downs of daily life, not a quick fix. 

So much spiritual practice is offered these days as a chill out and way to feel good. As such, there is nothing wrong with this and there is no doubt that this is a by-product of our practice. However, the essence of Yoga is to bring the realisation of that which brings a lasting joy during the ups and downs of daily life, not a quick fix. 

 There’s a fabulous book by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse called ‘Not for Happiness’ where the foreword states “Do you practice meditation because you want to feel good? Or to help you relax and be “happy”? Then frankly, according to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, you are far better off having a full-body massage than trying to practice the Dharma.”

In the Ashram, we will also remain wary of dogma and any sense of spiritual superiority. If we’re truly honest, we will admit that we may have been caught up in polarised viewpoints and positions over the last few years where those who have a different opinion or viewpoint are somehow consider less than us because of that difference. 

As the old Chinese proverb states “He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey. He who blames himself is halfway there. He who blames no one has arrived.” Contained within these words is a profound truth that opens the door to compassion for all, not just those that we agree with.

Yet the Ashram, and what it offers, can be an invaluable respite for all of us living in this fraught and troubled world. This is an integral part of the Ashram’s role – relaxation and letting go are such important aspects of the spiritual path. However, letting go often involves being confronted with that which needs to be released. From this can come true change and healing – we realise what we are fundamentally and that our current sense of identity is limited at best if not downright illusory. 

The times we live in also call for tried and tested tools and techniques which can keep us centred, resilient and vital. Yoga gives us these tools, and this is another facet of ‘why’ the Ashram exists – which is to be able to share these simple yet profound techniques that equip us all to be able to meet the challenges of life head on and with an open heart. 

This our ‘why’. Now we explore the ‘how’. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns forced the Ashram to begin offering online courses. This possibility had been something we’d been discussing for years. In 2020, we were forced to make it happen. 

Offering the teachings online is going to become an integral part of how Mandala Yoga Ashram reaches seekers and students around the world. We aim to have regular live teachings offered throughout the year and a library of pre-recorded online content that you can practise at home wherever you are. Like us, many of you who have practised or taught online will have been surprised at the power of connection possible through the practices even at a distance.

Residential courses will remain a mainstay of what the Ashram offers – ranging from our 2-night Ashram Life Taster to 10-day immersions into subjects such as Facing Death and PranaVidya. As always, we will also offer even longer programs that allow the exploration of subjects such as Kriya Yoga, the Chakras, and other profound subjects.

Another form of support that we will begin to offer will be the opportunity for already qualified yoga teachers to further their understanding and experience of the science of Yoga. In this way they will not only come to greater understanding of their own Being, but will also be able to offer a greater depth in their teaching. 

Through these different avenues we aim to continue to support seekers, teachers and those looking for meaning in their lives and a deepening of their understanding. The Ashram will continue to make the timeless essence of the teachings of yoga, meditation, Advaita and tantra accessible to the modern world by fostering an environment, both physically and online, that truly encourages genuine spiritual growth.

 1 I lived here until 2010 and then returned in 2015

2 Of course, the process of change and transformation continues to unfold throughout our lifetime

 3 Carl Jung, The Philosophical Tree (1945)

4 I know I’ve quoted this before in an article however I need to be reminded of this from time to time so I thought I’d share it with you. 

Return of Teacher Training Live

With the return of people to the Ashram, we are also able to restart residential sessions of the Yoga Teacher Training Course. We have had two courses in September, now Teacher Training has finally returned live. For the last year or more, the course has continued through online teaching via Zoom. We’ve been scattered around the planet and just logging in once a month.

People arrived as the Autumn sun shone on the turning leaves… Old friendships renewed in person. There’s a closeness develops between people going through two years (almost three) of Yoga Teacher Training. We grow together, share, watch each other making the same mistakes.

Also watch each other turning into quality Yoga teachers. This course rests on the foundation of the experience of Swami Nishchalananda, who was himself a student of Swami Satyananda Saraswati of Bihar for fourteen years. Swamiji founded this ashram, established the training course and now has passed on the running of it to the hands of Swami Krishnapremananda, Swami SatyaDaya, and Tulsi, with this year guest lectures from Debbie Farrer and Rambha. The course evolves continuously as new approaches are sometimes incorporated into the the traditional Teaching.

The last session with Rambha (centre, in red), teaching us to use the practice of Yoga Nidra (profound relaxation).

We finished the course with a gentle, almost intuitive, asana class from Tulsi, then chanting which included a translated reading of each verse of ‘Nirvana Shatkam’. The translation (by Swamiji) is an astonishing exploration of the true nature of existence; an Advaitic text which could also be said to express the principle of ‘neti neti’ (negation of anything you may think that you are, which is ultimately transient).

Please enjoy that recording here (quality best we could get with Zoom transmission audio)……….

Listening to the Sun By Mantra Shakti

This poem was written over two years ago. I had always enjoyed working outside in the Ashram grounds but the spring of 2017 was when I first took the drum outdoors and played with the trees and the birds for company. I did have this sense that nature was encouraging me to let the music out. In 2019 I started writing songs and many of these tracks are celebrations of the natural world.

Prose, Prose, Prose

I cannot write that way to describe life here 

in the wet green hills in northern climes of planet earth

The sun is our nearby star and her light touches us 

as we work among brambles, ash and pine.

Our lungs gorge on oxygen, a precious gas 

which the Italians call ossigeno  

and that sounds like a bony genome.

Light is made of photons and photons are found inside our bodies*

science fact, but little reported and every photon tells a tale.

The sun shines white, the plants blaze green, 

 tree roots explore the soil and the mycelium spreads far and wide.

Here at the Ashram if you walk by the big pond when the sun is out,

our nearby star may call to you and she may say

“Darling little one, my love sweeps over the land 

Do you have eyes to see?

Darling little one, come out and drum and sing, 

sit on a rock and let the songbirds hear you play.

If you do I’ll tell you my stories:

I’ll speak of planets, moons and comets, of spiral galaxies and gassy filaments,

but I’ll also speak of the spinning earth 

and all thereon that responds to my radiant presence.

In my rays your hair glistens, you work and sweat and enjoy being flesh and blood

and my love coaxes out that voice of yours

SING SING SING, get out and do it boy 

SING

By Mantra Shakti

*See the work of Fritz-Albert Popp (his discoveries are mentioned at some length in the book ‘The Field’ by Lynne McTaggart)

 

Reflections on The Bhagavad Gita by Amanda Jameson

On the current Ashram Yoga Teacher Training Course, the student teachers have been guided in their study of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the core inspirational texts of the Yoga tradition. Their latest assignment was:

In a few paragraphs, give a summary of:

1. the core impact that the Gita study has had on you to date

2. the key verse, or teaching, that you have been practising in your daily life

3. in brief, how would you describe the Gita to your students? 

Following is the assignment of Amanda Jameson, from Lincolnshire, copied here with her permission:

The main impact that the Bhagavad Gita has had on me is not to be afraid and face things head on. It has given me the strength and courage to deal and accept what is going on in my life. I now trust that I have no influence really on events. I am just on this journey of life to observe and witness. It has helped me spiritually realise that to be truly happy in this life it to just accept and trust and live my life the best way possible to serve myself and others so we can inhabit this beautiful earth in harmony and peace. It has helped to clear any doubts that I have in my life and to trust.

I believe that one of the key purposes of the Gita is to help us not to fear death as it is inevitable. To remain happy and open to life’s possibilities.

The key verse for me right now is chapter 3 – verse 21 – by setting an example to others. If I live my life selflessly with compassion for myself and others, sharing my knowledge, taking joy from each moment and spreading that sense of joy ……… it is contagious. Living with positive energy that passes through me to my friends, family, students and even a stranger on the street. The happiness I am feeling right now helping people and sharing my knowledge of yoga has been profound. I know we do not have to be concerned with the outcome, it is the journey that matters, but it’s a beautiful journey and to share that feels wonderful.

I would explain the Bhagavad Gita to students as a book to gain spiritual awareness if that is their purpose. To digest it slowly and enjoy the message its conveying. It can be a book to turn to when you are in need of answers to life questions. It will help to clear your doubts and trust your instincts.

I must add that I now keep my copy of the Gita by my bed so it is there to read whenever I need it.

A Tale of Three Mantras By Mantra Shakti

In early December 2020 I was asked to do a voice and mantra session for Ashram team members.  I had not offered such a session for months.  I took the opportunity to use that class to introduce a long mantra addressing Saraswati, to some of the team.  Days later, I was in my room chanting a mantra to Shiva when I became aware of other presences around me and got a clear message in my mind, to start chanting a mantra to Kuan Yin.  The mind being incredibly complex; one can never know for sure what exactly is happening when one individual believes that they are being addressed by an archetypal energy; you could say that this person has simply retuned her receptive abilities and has thus opened herself up at the right time and place.  Doing any mantra can act as a broadening of one’s receptivity, and I was in the middle of chanting 108 rounds of the mrityunjaya mantra when I was stopped suddenly and ‘guided’ to begin a different mantra.  A moment of grace came my way at the end of the 108 rounds of the Kuan Yin mantra, following which I was inspired to write a song.  The track which names both Kuan Yin and the Roman Goddess Abundantia, is very uplifting and easy to sing.  When I come to record it I may well add cello, flute and a little percussion for the chorus, if I can find some kindred musicians.  Other Ashram team members really enjoy singing the song.  

I had not worked seriously with the Kuan Yin mantra before that evening in December last year.  I did not decide to chant the Kuan Yin mantra daily, despite my profound experiences on that fateful evening, yet I have on occasion done a thousand rounds in one go, on other days a few hundred rounds have felt right.  I am convinced that introducing the long Saraswati mantra to team members brought about a deepening of my connection with Kuan Yin, which in turn gave me the song.  When I came to do the first online voice and mantra session I chose the long Saraswati mantra and the short Kuan Yin mantra for the final part of that workshop.  I hope that among the many who attended that first session, some folk may have decided to adopt one or both of those mantras into their practice.  As I said in the session, it is my belief that any creative gifts a person might have will flower with the repetition of what Thomas Ashley-Farrand calls the Maha Vidya (Great Knowledge) mantra.  

Mantra One

EIM HRIM SRIM KLIM SAUH KLIM HRIM EIM

BLUM STRIM NILATARI SARASWATI

DRAM DRIM KLIM BLUM SAH

EIM HRIM SHRIM KLIM SAUH SAUH HRIM SWAHA

Anglicized pronunciation

I’M HREEM SHREEM KLEEM SAW KLEEM HREEM I’M

BLOOM STREEM NEE-LAH-TAH-REE SAH-RAH-SWAH-TEE

DRAHM DREEM KLEEM BLOOM SAW

I’M HREEM SHREEM KLEEM SAW SAW HREEM SWAHA

Mantra Two

 (the well known Mrityunjaya Mantra)

OM TRYAM BAKAM YAJAMAHE

SUGANDHIM PUSHTI VARDHANAM

URVARUKAMIVA BANDHANAN

MRITYOR MUKSHIYA MAMRITAT

Mantra Three

NAMO KUAN SHI YIN PU SA

Anglicized pronunciation

NAH-MOH KWAHN SHEE YIN POO SAH

Kuan Yin is regarded as a female Bodhisattwa in the Buddhist tradition and is popular in China, Japan and Taiwan.

Morning Meditations: Swami SatyaDaya 30 October

A meditation using the paradigm of the chakras to explore holding patterns within the ‘energetic space’ of the interior.

We often use the sense of interior Space, with reference to the areas related to specific chakras; the obvious example being the Heart Space, Hridayakasha, and the Anahata chakra. Holding of tension can be mental/emotional or even related to physical tension.

The Space of the Heart

A guided meditation given by Swami SatyaDaya to Ashram residents on the morning of July 30, 2020. The essence of the meditation is allowing the sense of self, the consciousness, to rest into the Heart space (the domain of Anahata Chakra) and from there, welcome all experiences whatever they may be. This process is very much reflected in the poem by Rumi ‘The Guest House’. All experience can be welcomed into the light of awareness.