By Janaki Murray
I can still see myself listening to Swami Nirmalananda (Rama) teaching about the 36 Tattvas. It was Level 1 of my Yoga Teacher Training in La Jolla CA, way back in 2001. Yet such was the effect that the memory is still with me.
It was an astounding revelation. I had previously been studying yoga at a fairly superficial level and was thoroughly confused. That 36 Tattvas talk made all the puzzle pieces of life fall into place. As Swamiji and Vidyadevi say in our July Contemplation article, that Ultimate Map “explains the universe, its source, your life and the purpose of your life.” Here it all was in one map! It was hard at the time to grasp the whole meaning. But it felt right and complete. It was something I knew, not just with my mind, but my whole being. Since then, I have heard the same talk many times and love it still. Each time I hear it or read it, my understanding deepens.
When I was in my late teens, I abandoned my Christian roots because they made no sense to me. I spent some twenty years in a spiritual wilderness searching for meaning and understanding about myself, the world around me and my place in it. Suddenly, here it was explained in a form I could understand and relate to. More importantly, it showed to me why I had no “feeling” for God. I was looking for God in the wrong place. That is, outside rather than inside.
When I came upon Svaroopa® yoga, I had already been practicing yoga for more than twenty years. I had gone to many classes, even in different countries and cities. Yet I did not recognize it as a spiritual practice. It was not really taught to me as such, though I enjoyed many other benefits. As the article says, “Every yogic system shares this exalted purpose [to recognize who you really are], even when their practices are misunderstood as mere exercise or stress relief.” I was doing some kind of yoga and Grace was at work. Twenty five years later in YTT 1, I was ripe for the download, after “the twenty or more years of poses, hoping for an inner revelation.” I now realize I received spontaneous Shaktipat during YTT 1. No doubt that helped me absorb the download of the 36 tattvas.
It led to me experiencing the tattvas at many levels of my being. When meditating, I frequently experience timelessness, piercing kaala, so that I have no idea how long I have been there. Time does not exist. Also, I recognize the Divine in all things without my mind being caught up in anything at all. Complete freedom.
The 36 tattvas talk was a turning point for me. It gave me both the understanding and the help I needed to go deeper within my own Self. The 36 tattvas have unfolded for me, becoming much more than merely a map on paper and more than merely grappling with them in my mind. It is gradually becoming a consistent inner experience. I continue to contemplate the 36 tattvas in the context of my life, both inside and outside.
All has been given to me through the Grace of my Guru. That help continues too, without conditions, without pause and with steadfastness and love. For that I am eternally grateful to Swamiji and her lineage.