Category Archives: About Gurudevi

Why I Need a Guru

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Though my professional career was in banking, I’ve trained to teach yoga as a Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher.  Born in Sri Lanka, I was brought up in a yogic culture.  I have always been interested in spirituality.  While growing up, I studied the Hindu scriptures in school.  On my own, I read many books on these ancient yogic teachings.  I learned that they advise us repeatedly on the importance of the Guru on the spiritual path:

aachaaryavaan puru.so veda.h. — Chhaandogya Upani.sad 6.14.2 [v30]

Only through a Guru can you understand the Vedas.  [translated by Swami Mukundananda in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita 4.34]

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna states the importance of the Guru:

tad viddhi praṇipaatena paripra”snena sevayaa
upadek.syanti te j~naanaṁ j~naaninas tattva-dar”sina.h. — Bhagavadgita 4.34

Learn the Truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him with reverence and render service unto him. Such an enlightened Saint can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the Truth.  [translated by Swami Mukundananda, Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God]

Yet even though the scriptures talk about finding a Guru, I wasn’t interested in finding one.  Then everything changed the first time I met Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  I knew that I was in the presence of someone who had an extraordinary understanding of the teachings of yoga.  Her skill at explaining these deep and profound teachings was exceptional.  I realized I had been engaged in a “do it to yourself” spiritual process.  Just reading about the great yogic teachings couldn’t give me experiential knowing.

After meeting Swami Nirmalananda, whom we affectionately call Gurudevi, I didn’t just want to teach yoga.  I wanted to live yoga.  I am forever grateful.  It was truly transforming.  That’s when I realized that having a Guru is more than important.  This relationship is essential.

If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest and make it to the top, would you do it on your own?  No, you would need a guide.  You would need to be with someone who knows the way and would guide you.  Gurudevi is my guide for the spiritual journey inside.  Every step of the way, she is supporting me in scaling the heights.  Yes, that is why I became a disciple of my Guru.  God’s greatest gift has been bringing me to the feet of my Gurudeviji.

Having a Guru is essential because the human soul is clouded by ignorance from countless lifetimes.  We don’t know the truth of who we are.  We don’t know our Divine Essence.  We need to receive this experiential knowing from a Self-Realized being who embodies the Absolute Truth.  One cannot overcome their ignorance simply by their own effort.  A person’s self-effort is essential.  But without Guru’s Grace, individual effort is like a bird with one wing.

I was captivated by Gurudeviji’s unique capacity for teaching.  She enables us laymen to understand the high philosophies of the ancient teachings.  Her delivery of these great teachings suits the century that we live in. As I grew up, I felt one attained Self-Realization — liberation — only after living righteously for many more lifetimes.  It seemed unattainable in my current life.

When I heard Gurudevi say that you can realize the Self in this lifetime, she certainly got my attention.  Not only does she say it, she also leads us by being a living example.  I am grateful to Gurudeviji for being the light dispelling the darkness,  For that, I bow again and again!

The Qualities of My Satguru

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi

All ancient yogic texts speak of the importance of a good Guru.  In our modern times, experts in many different fields are called gurus.  Yet the ancient yogic texts speak of a spiritual Guru.  While there are many spiritual Gurus out there, a truly qualified, living spiritual master is a rare and precious find.  Allow me to share with you the qualities of my Guru.

She is a Satguru, the most masterful and rare kind of spiritual Guru.  She is a blessing beyond compare.  Ancient teachings from the Advaya Taraka Upanishad explain:

aacaarya-lak.saṇam aacaaryo veda-sa.mpanno vi.s.nu-bhakto vimatsarah

yogaj~no yog-ani.s.tha”sca sadaa yog-aatmaka.h “suci.h. (14)

guru-bhakti-samaayukta.h puru.sj~no vi”se.sata.h

eva.m lak.sa.na-sa.mpanno guru-rityabhidhiiyate. (15)

A qualified Guru is knowledgeable in the Vedas, a devotee of God, free from jealousy, an expert in yoga, does yoga practices, is always in a pure yogic state.  He is devoted to his own Guru and is a knower of the Self.  Only one with these qualifications may properly serve as Guru.

These ancient verses from the Advaya Taraka Upanishad are around 2,000 years old.  Yet they describe our own Gurudevi perfectly.  In the same way, they describe her own Guru and his own Guru.  These Upanishadic descriptions hold true for the spiritual masters in an unbroken lineage of thousands of years.

These verses describe a “qualified Guru” as one who is knowledgeable in the Vedas, the ancient texts.  Gurudevi always amazes me with her depth of ancient knowledge.  She has a deep experiential understanding of yoga’s ancient mystical teachings.  She lives them.  She brilliantly brings yoga’s teachings to life for us in a modern way.  Thus, we can live them as well. 

The verses also describe a qualified Guru as one who is “a devotee of God.”  When I met Gurudevi, I had an experience of my own Divinity and the Divinity of all.  It took me years to understand that my experience was propelled by Gurudevi’s own inner state.  She is truly a devotee of God.  Yet just being a devotee of God does not make one a Guru.  It was Gurudevi’s pure yogic state, being established in the knowing of her own Self.  Her own Divine Essence propelled me into the experience of my own Divine Essence. 

A qualified Guru must also be devoted to their own Guru.  Gurudevi models her devotion to her Guru, so beautifully.  She shows me every day how to live in the world in gratitude and in service.  She lives to serve her Guru, honoring and serving him with every breath.  Why?  Because he gave her the ultimate gift, the knowing of her own Self.  Every day, she gives us the same gift.

But the notable and sublime qualities of Gurudevi transcend the words of these ancient verses.  Yes, she is everything these verses describe.  True, she propelled me into the experience of my own Self.  However, I was not ready to live in that pure yogic state all the time.  I needed, and still need, her guidance.  To attain and maintain the pure yogic state of Self-realization, her continuing example is essential.  Being in relationship with her — a living Guru — is crucial.  She provides a constant, living example of yoga’s highest attainment.

She leaves no stone unturned in rooting out the things that block me from my Self.  With just a word, Gurudevi can dispel my feelings of jealousy, anger, sadness, anxiety, and smallness.  She burns up my feelings of “not good enough” with a simple loving glance.  In her presence, my mind gets peaceful and quiet.  I remember who I am.  In her presence, I remember my own Self.  Thank you Gurudevi, again and again.

Why I Need a Guru

By Frances (Jñani) Amery, interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Taking Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga, then YTT 1, became a launching point to learn yoga philosophy.  Like a sponge, I soaked up teachings such as the 36 tattvas (Kashmiri Shaivism levels of reality).  Rather than studying the poses, I soon realized I wanted to focus more on the sutras (philosophy aphorisms).  Then, not long after completing YTT 1, I fell and broke both legs.  While recuperating, I took Gurudevi’s “Yogify Your Life” phone course.  It gave me access to the teachings I was longing for. 

A few years later, I tripped and broke my foot.  This “fortunate fall” was pivotal.  Once again, as I convalesced in bed, I was able to study yoga philosophy with Gurudevi.  I listened to the Shiva Sutras online.  I felt totally supported by the sound of Gurudevi’s voice delivering these profound truths.  Even though I do not recall many details, the sutras got layered into me somewhere.  It was amazingly fantastic! 

Conversing with other yogis about the Guru, I had a sudden and clear inner knowing that Gurudevi is indeed my Guru.  I realized I had had this inner knowing from the moment I first met her.  Being in her presence, I feel drawn inward with a strong force like the tractor beam in the old “Star Trek” shows.  This force is called Guru’s Grace.  Guru’s Grace shines through her words and teachings.

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They help me in my daily life, in every way.  By having a Guru, I feel my thinking process and behaviors are being restructured.  For instance, I was always an ethical person.  In grade school, I was the first to fess up about any mischief!  Yet practicing the yamasand niyamas with Gurudevi’s guidance has brought me deeper.  My understanding of myself and my world is clearer.  As time goes by, ever deepening insights unfold.  The inner lnowing was always there; I just couldn’t yet perceive it.

Gurudevi is my teacher.  She understands me in a way no one else does, which startles me at times.  During her Year-Long Programme discussions, I feel her speaking to me directly, no matter whom she is addressing.  It’s like the spiritual DNA of the lineage is in my very constitution.  This makes Gurudevi my spiritual mother.  She holds the promise of all that is yet to come — enlightenment in the midst of life.  And I love this promise: it excites me and keeps me focused on this inner path.  I am grateful for the great gift of a Guru!  I’m so blessed to have crossed paths with Gurudevi.

Realigning My Mirror

By Annie (Aanandi) Ross

In an early Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher Training, someone told me, “You might have to realign your rearview mirror when you depart.”  That image has stuck with me through many years of practicing and teaching yoga.  At the time, It was amazing to consider that yoga could make me taller. 

Little did I know that it could also fill me up.  Yet it fills me from the inside, not like a dear friend recently described: “Happiness is when I can fill up my calendar.”

In her June 2021 Teachings Article: Why Is My Mind So Crazy? Gurudevi says:

“When you feel empty, your mind goes crazy.
It tries to find something to fill you up.
It’s like trying to fill an empty reservoir with a teaspoon.
You need an underground stream to be filling it from the bottom up.”

She is referring to the stream of Guru’s Grace.  When I look to the external world to fill me up with activity, I’m sunk.  Yoga’s teachings explain the cause.  There will never be enough in the external world to satisfy me fully.  Yes, I may be momentarily satisfied, but then what?  The external world will not fully satisfy — ever.  The “More” that I yearn for is only found inside.  And when I simply allow that to happen, when I look inward, I’m settled.  I’m at home in my own Self. 

I remember one incident when my mind was clearly confused.  It was 1973.  I was returning from a stay overseas, passing through JFK International Airport.  I was jetlagged, tired and inexperienced at exploring the world.  I saw something my mind did not know how to interpret.  There were twenty or so people, dressed all in orange.  They were singing something, swirling and dancing around in a big circle.  This was right in the middle of the busy airport.  I was astonished.  I stopped to watch, as did many others.  I now recognize the people in orange were chanting Hare Krishna.

The interesting thing is that my mind was spellbound.  I felt transported to somewhere else.  I wanted to know who they were and what they were doing.  I stayed for a while.  I tried to grasp what I was seeing.  I felt something but had no idea what. 

Then, in a moment, my mind told me, “These people are crazy, really crazy.”  I scoffed to myself and left the crazy scene, shaking my head.  I headed back into the business of the external world.  I felt busy, important and arrogant. 

I couldn’t have figured out how life works on my own.  I needed a teacher — a Master who had already tread this yogic path.  I needed one who had grasped the teachings from her teacher, who got it from his teacher.

Finally, stumbling into Svaroopa® yoga and meditation, I began to understand the mind.  My mind can be tricky and crazy making.  Then I came to know what really fills me up from the inside.  It is the Self, described in the ancient texts.  And I came to understand how my mind can serve me better.  It takes practice.  I am forever grateful for this blessing.

My Guru’s Divine Qualities

By Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s other-worldly radiance is what drew me to her.  It emanated from her grounded and everyday countenance.  She was so relatable.  She had experienced the ups and down of raising a family as a single mom.  She knew life’s uncertainties like the rest of us.  Yet she changed the course of her life’s direction mid-stream, and never looked back.

By her Guru’s Grace, she discovered how to live in the complete freedom of her inner Self.  What makes Gurudevi special is that she didn’t hoard the keys to the inner kingdom.  Becoming enlightened, she could have chosen not to teach others.  Instead, she stays present to her students, and moves us through our process.  She models selfless service, by walking the walk, and talking the talk.  She is Grace personified, revealing this life, and ourselves, as divine.  And she empowers us to embody our Inner Greatness.

Gurudevi is a karma yogi.  Selfless service permeates the Svaroopa® yoga teacher training (YTT) and the Ashram she built.  She does all this to serve her Guru, Baba Muktananda.  He taught her that “Only one who obeys can command.”  She exemplifies this humility every day.  Gurudevi says, “My heart is ever resting at my Guru’s feet, while my mind does his work by serving you.”

In her Ashram days with him, she did her daily sevas by thinking of herself as Baba’s hands and feet.  She took care of people for his sake.  She describes, “He moved me light years on my spiritual path.”  Similarly, when I do my sevas, I feel Gurudevi working through me.  Yet I am not helping her.  She gives us sevites each task to help us grow and expand.  She says, “Seva is about your inner fullness.”

Gurudevi is a Shaktipat Guru.  She transmits her spiritual energy into the individual.  This opens you to the deepest dimension of your Beingness.  This is the revelatory action of Grace, the whole purpose of her teaching.  With this opening, we can live from that place of knowing all the time. 

Sometimes her Grace feels like a cooling gel.  Sometimes, like a fire I wish I could flee!  But the truth is, she is always there for us students of her teachings and practices.  This “showing up” makes me feel I know her intimately, even unto lifetimes.

Gurudevi is a tantric teacher; she enjoys life robustly.  She gives the ancient teachings in her own words and enlivens them with personal stories.  For this world is divine, even when we don’t perceive it as such.  Therefore, she gives us a boost: repeat mantra.  She calls it “the easy path, from the inside outward.”

Gurudevi wants you to worship your own inner Self, not her.  She always sees us as pure Consciousness, even when we can’t see ourselves that way.  With infinite patience and compassion, she applies Grace to our limitations.  She’ll ask, “Have you been listening to what I’ve been saying?”  Then she explains the ancient teachings again, and then again.  Her willingness and capacity to support us on our path toward enlightenment are infinite.

Most importantly, Gurudevi empowers all of us to experience our own greatness.  I received my mantra and Shaktipat from her.  So I’m on “the easy path,” even when I make it hard.  And when I’m stuck, Guru’s Grace swoops in with a reminder: “The key is in your pocket when you’re locked out — take it out and use it.  Do more mantra!”

When the Guru Received Shaktipat by Priya Kenney

289When the Guru received shaktipat, my future changed dramatically. So did yours.

When the Guru received shaktipat, a spark was lit from a long line of sparks, and it’s sparking still.

When the Guru received shaktipat, her Baba gave her everything, just like she is giving us.

When the Guru received shaktipat, I was 20 years old. Maybe my heart jumped for joy. Maybe a shiver of recognition ran up my spine, Kundalini taking a brief practice run for what was to come many years later.

When the Guru received shaktipat, she wasn’t a Guru and she wasn’t even Rama yet. She was a lot like us. A lost soul getting found. It’s hard to imagine what she must have been like 38 years ago because she is so established in herSelf now. I think she just might have been a lot like us.  Look where she is now.

If you are lucky enough to be near Downingtown Yoga Meditation Center, you might have joined Swamiji to celebrate her Shaktipat Anniversary on Saturday, May 31. I spent my day in contemplation and gratitude for my Guru’s shaktipat and mine and yours. It’s because of her shaktipat that we are all in this together. We were always our big Self, but she is the one who is bringing us the light of that knowing, just like her Baba did for her. She went through it all, just as we are doing now. She can take us there because she walked the path, every step of the way. Jaya Guru OM.

The Mystical Teachings Have Changed the Way I Live by Rudrani (Rosemary) Nogue

Rudrani (Rosemary) Nogue

Rudrani (Rosemary) Nogue

A yoga student gave me a greeting card a few years back. It said, “The way you live your life has changed how I live my life.” The way Swamiji gives so generously of the mystical teachings, which she learned at the feet of her Guru Muktananda, has changed how I live my life. And, the way I live my life keeps evolving, the more yoga practices I do and the more I avail myself of Swamiji’s Grace. I couldn’t go back to how I used to be even if I wanted to — which I don’t.

The more I dive into practices and programs, the more I get bite-sized pieces of understanding that guide or push me along to my inner Self. These include practicing and teaching asana and leading group meditations, my own meditation and japa, chanting the Guru Gita and listening to Swamiji’s talks online, the year long course “Guru & Self,” offering seva and taking more training (I recently retook Meditation Teacher Training). Everything I do is designed by Swami Nirmalananda who, along with my own efforts, is birthing me into who I really am.

Back in 1999, when I started training with Swamiji (then Rama), I came to learn yoga poses to teach. But this path I have been given is so much more than what I originally came for, more than I even knew was possible. I have been given mystical teachings that, for centuries, were secret teachings. Having Swamiji as my Guru has put me in the flow of this living lineage, through which the teachings have been passed from teacher to disciple for thousands of years. Swamiji has been charged with bringing the yogic mystical teachings into the world. Mystical teachings are not mainstream; they are not popular and they are not for everybody. But they are for me, and my guess is that they are for you, because you are reading this.

How do I live my life now? I am more ME. I am more present, more aware, more at ease, more kind and more clear. I am more able to be aware when I am not Self and I know how to get back. I am more willing to risk. Recently, after Swamiji’s Shaktipat weekend that I hosted in Calgary, I had my first clear experience of speaking up louder when I was inner connected and teaching a yoga class. Clearly, more of my Self had been uncovered through the mystical mystery of our Shaktipat weekend. This allowed me to be Self-connected and speak out at the same time. It was time to speak up and be heard, and something had been cleared that allowed me to do that.

So now it is time for me to use my stronger and clearer voice to ask you to donate during our April Fundraiser, “Yoga in the World,” to support the continuing flow of the mystical yogic teachings into the world. Please join me and my husband with your donation to support the rare gift of a living, accessible Guru who imparts mystical teachings in an understandable way.  Because this path isn’t mainstream, we depend on donations for one third of the income needed to run SVA. From your deep gratitude and your deeper Self, please make an offering so the Ashram can flourish and continue to offer the secrets of yoga to you and to our community. Click here and make as meaningful a contribution as you are able, to support the generous way that Swamiji imparts the mystical teachings to us.

Most Influential by (Margie) Wilsman

swamiWhy did I enroll in the Guru and Self course starting next month?  Let me begin to answer by describing a personal inquiry practice that I have used for myself as well as my students in teacher education.

Years ago I picked up the practice of assessing who in my life has been most influential in my continued growth and adult learning.  This is an end-of-year review practice. When I first started it was fun to name an elementary or high school teacher, a family member, best friend, the priest who led the CYO group, a camp counselor, or a first employer.

In this practice, the next step is to write why — what about that person made them an influential “teacher”?  Why did I “learn” more readily from that person than others?

I also used this tool in my undergraduate teacher education classes to help perspective teachers realize that they have had many experiences with great teachers and many experiences with learning, which color their beliefs about teaching and learning — mostly experiences outside the school classroom.  When examining theories of teaching and learning and teaching, we continuously compared them with their learning experiences and most influential teachers.

Personally, I do this practice to see how my experiences with teachers and learning change.  It’s a dynamic process for all of us!

Why did I enroll in the Guru and Self course starting next month?  You guessed it!

The past few years, Swamiji has radically changed my experiences with learning from a most influential teacher; and she has continuously been on the top of my yearly list.  The monthly 8–12 page course readings from phone courses that I have taken with Swamiji are like receiving a gift wrapped in gold tissue and tied with silk threads.  In most fields of study, the “old” ideas are examined in history courses or tangentially in other courses.  Not so with the study of yoga’s “ancient” ideas from sages of old and our love-filled modern sage, Swamiji.

Each article is so filled with truth, with knowledge of who we are on the inside, deep inside, and how we come to experience this depth of knowing the truth.  Swamiji shares so many of her own experiences in the readings and even more in the audios.  Then in the monthly phone calls we share our experiences and hear from one another. I have first met many new yoga buddies through these calls, and then deepened our relationship at the final retreats in the year-long programme.

Teaching as clarity in delivering the ideas from ancient texts; using multiple texts for examining the same idea, providing multiple personal examples, as well as teaching as revelation — the flow of grace between student and teacher through the ideas and experiences.

Learning as experiencing the revelation again and again, experiencing the love that flows between Guru and students.  Experiential knowing as a deep level of knowledge and truth that transforms your life and view of what is most important and who is most influential.

All this and more are the reasons that I have enrolled in the Guru and Self course.  I hope you will join me for this year-long programme, whether it’s your first online, multi-media course with Swamiji, or you will be a returning yoga buddy.