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. 

The door opens, people return at last.

We re-started residential courses a couple of weeks back, after being closed to visitors for 18 months …. Actual people walking through the gate, unpacking their bags, settling in, walking the hills, breathing mountain air. Welcome back.

We’ve been so geared up for online courses we all had to refresh our minds to what we had to do to be ready to welcome actual humans
rather than virtual humans

No no no….
…..that’s not the kind of ‘virtual’ human I meant…..
I meant real humans but on the other end of a Zoom transmission. Although ……..
this guy does have a certain …. familiarity….

Lisa in the front office actually set off the fire alarms, working so hard, fingers flying across the keyboard, until the computer started to go on fire…..
schedules,
timetables,
bookings,
cancellations,
queries, questions, quibbles…..

Sally, our new cook from Australia, prepares a delicious vegetarian lunch, from…er… plants.

No! sorry,
Sally looks after all the rooms and the housekeeping,
and the cleaning,
and sweeping, and mopping,
sweetly singing the whilst.

James, our new cook, gathers vegetation for some delicious vegetarian meals for our guests during their stay……

Nope… sorry… wrong again,
He is of course the gardener
making the place look super good, soaking up the hot hot sunshine of our lush semi-tropical climate.

Here they are at last!
The cooks!
Sangita, and Sahara
cooking a delicious
vegetarian meal
from vegetables.

finely crafted recipes
from the cuisine
of ashrams worldwide,
with spices from the orient
and delicate…. (contd. page 94)

Our friend here was entrusted
with the job of duplicating the tutors’ course notes
for the entire ten days.
Here he is tearing the ashram apart
in a desperate, and ultimately futile,
attempt to find out
where he might have lost them….

‘Well can’t you just….’?

‘No! just making stuff up is NOT an option!’

Here’s Swami Satyadaya
and Tulsi, ashram manager,
responding to my request for
…….a …… meaningful
role for myself
in the proceedings

I retreat to the creative hub of the ashram, my studio, to write this blog post, and plan my immediate return to Africa.

.

Welcome back everyone. Let’s hope this is a return to some kind of normality. The last two years have allowed us to develop our skills into online teaching, both real-time courses on Zoom, and also recorded course material for self study in your own time. But above all we try to be a centre of excellence in Yoga, Tantra and Advaita, with also the possibility of residential courses.
Please be welcome to enjoy what we have to offer.

Robot photo credit: Yuyeung Lau on Unsplash

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)

 

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.

Please help us grow Yoga…..

A post by Narada / Tony Sugden

‘Please help us grow Yoga in this Land of Ours’ – An appeal
from our Zambian Yoga Group.

We have lost the use of our Yoga Hall.
Those of you who read my previous post (Mandala branch in Africa) know that I established a Yoga group in Eastern Province, Zambia. Well the group is thriving; Swamiji refers to them as ‘our African Branch’. But the Lodge where they worked, and where we used to do our Yoga, is in great difficulty because of the lack of visitors due to Covid, so not only have my friends lost their meagre income, but they have lost the use of the hall where we practised.

Life in the Ashram: Raj interviewed.

An interview with Raj Soni, by Narada

The new header picture on the blog (not this post), taken just this morning down the track, shows the Autumnal foggy mornings we get here, up on top of our Welsh hilltop. Quite beautiful, spectrally still with sheep wraiths floating out of the mist; the mist which is really clouds come down around our ears like a damp winter muffler.

Dawn Chorus

This is one for those of you who like a reminder of the Ashram environment. Back in the days when we had people coming on courses (which will happen again), perhaps you remember getting up in the early morning just as dawn is breaking, and hearing the birds greeting the new day. It’s a magical time, and the purity of that sound was recorded back in May, when the birds are most vocal, by Swami SatyaDaya. Please enjoy.

Mandala Yoga Ashram gets a Branch in Africa

I’m Tony, recently given the name Narada by Swami Nishchalananda. The guy at the back in the green t-shirt in the pic above. Before I came to live in the ashram, I’d made contact with the delightful people who work at Tikondane Lodge, near Katete in Eastern Province, and founded a charity to raise funds for special school education for Ketty, a young deaf girl. This is a part of the world where people have very little indeed. But they have big hearts, and it’s a sharing culture. They’re my kind of people.