Category Archives: Ashram News

The Gift We Can Give to Gurudevi

By Pat (Sumati) Morrison, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney`

I went up for Gurudevi’s darshan.  My mouth was flapping around but nothing came out.  Gurudevi came close and said, “Use your words.”  I said, “I don’t know what to say, what to give you.”  Gurudevi said, “For you to know the Self, that is the gift you could give me.”

Besides the Ashram buildings, we have the virtual Ashram with freebies and online programs.  Then there’s the essence of the Ashram, which is Grace.  It permeates everything. 

During the pandemic, I couldn’t visit the Ashram.  But I didn’t feel the need to be physically there.  I did lots of Zoom programs and felt very supported by the virtual Ashram.  I enjoyed the wonderful sense of community with other yogis.  It felt like the Ashram was here whether or not I was doing programs.  I felt it while doing mundane things.  Even so, it’s important to have a physical place for Gurudevi to be.  She has planted the Shakti there. 

I know that Grace is always present, not just in certain places.  It’s not only in Gurudevi’s presence.  That knowing comes from beyond my mind.  Though I’ve never felt Shakti the way others speak of it, I’m more aware of the effect.  Thus I know that the Shakti is really strong at the Ashram.  But whether I’m physically at the Ashram or at home, the most important thing is Gurudevi.  Being in her presence and seeing her in the flesh — whether on-site or online — that is the most important. 

I’ve known Gurudevi for a long time.  When she was Rama Berch, she was an awesome asana teacher.  As she deepened, she brought me and everybody else along with her.  I know her energy and everything she has created for us.  There is her love for us, her caring and her interest in us. That’s what she exists for, to bring us all along.

Yet there’s something beyond all that.  It’s what she is.  It’s like Self meeting Self with her.  It’s like seeing your Self reflected back to you.  And it’s the best version of yourself that is possible.  She models that for us.  Her conviction that this is possible for us is incredibly powerful.

I was doing every Yoga Wednesday on Zoom.  I really yearned for that connection to the Ashram.  It was important to be with Gurudevi and the swamis online, mornings and evenings.  Then I went to the Ashram for a retreat last August.  It was so wonderful that when I went home, I was full.  Though I still feel I don’t need anything, I realize that I can’t consistently sustain the depths.  I know I need more practice.  I’m staying with it.  I’m staying in the flow of Grace. 

My Discovery of Self

By Julia (Chintamani) Wallis
Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

The discovery of my Self began 15 years ago as a Svaroopa® yoga student.  My journey has been evolving ever since.  Six months after starting yoga classes, I was propelled into YTT (Yoga Teacher Training). The changes happening were powerful, on all levels of my being.  I knew I wanted more.  At that time, Gurudevi had not yet taken her vows, and urged us to “get a Guru.”  So I attended satsangs at a local meditation center, three times a week. There I discovered the power of chanting and meditation. Layers of “stuff” that wasn’t me started peeling off. I was getting the experience of that something “more” I longed for. 

Then life took a new turn. I got married, moved away and started having children. While focusing on my family, I turned away from yoga. This made me very miserable inside.  Yet Grace intervened. A friend drove me to a Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation satsang in Portland OR.  While attending, I realized how much I was missing my Self.  I came home inspired to make a space in my home for the Svaroopa® Sciences practices. I dove in.  Even just the poses shifted my state. I started more YTT and teaching classes. But I still wasn’t meditating daily. My family’s needs felt more important. Then I attended a Shaktipat retreat and everything changed.

Gurudevi Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

Going deeper, while sitting upright in meditation, had always been challenging. Yet in the second Shaktipat initiation, I became still and steady in my seat. I completely dropped in. My thoughts became the scenery inside my mind. I kept looking for my Self within. Then I heard Gurudevi’s voice, inside: “Who is looking?” Suddenly I realized:  That’s me! How could I have not known this before?  It’s a feeling of familiarity. I am being and feeling my Self, while being “That”.

I continued practicing and deepening into Self. Yet I began to question, “Where I am going from here?”  A swami suggested that I consider applying for Vratin vows. Yet I wasn’t sure. I did vichara sessions (guided self-inquiry). I wanted to rid my system of the limitations that were holding me back.  In sessions, I experienced profound “aha” moments.  I felt the fire in my spine burning my karmic seeds. During the pandemic, I even joined the online Vichara Club and  completed four rounds of ten sessions each.  They created a deep and irreversible shift for me. 

Taking the Vows Prep course, I kept deepening into Self and took the Vratin vow in July 2021. The Shaktipat retreat that followed confirmed that my goal in life is service.  Being vowed, I feel supported in my goal. It’s so clear. And if I get entangled in worldly activities, I read a Vowed Member Facebook post. I come back to the knowing of my Self. 

Each Shaktipat experience deepens this knowing of my Self and purpose. I see that Guru/Self/God and the mantra received from Gurudevi are the exact same thing. My worldly life is not a distraction from my yoga. Yes, meditation takes me to my Self. Yet whatever I do in life — yoga, farming, family — takes me to my Self as well!  I offer it all to Gurudevi Nirmalananda.

Selfless service is the direct route to Guru/God and Self. Swami Muktananda, the Guru of Gurudevi, said, “Seva is a sublime form of meditation, study and yoga. Understand its mystery!” I am ever indebted to my Gurudevi for showing me this path to Self-discovery.

It’s Not the Same

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I’ve been delighted to lead group meditations online for the last year.  But it’s simply not the same as being together in person.  It’s clear that it supports others.  The energetic connection is tangible, providing a deeper meditation.  But it’s not the same.

I’ve been teaching via technology since 2010.  Back then, we were on phone conference calls, but we made it work.  I really amped it up last year, with students zooming in from multiple continents.  But it’s really not the same as when I can be in the room with them.

I’ve enjoyed staff lunches where we had food delivered to everyone.  While we were all eating the same food and chatting onscreen, it wasn’t the same as when we’re all together.  I’ve talked with people who have attended weddings and funerals online.  Understandably, online was the only option, and how great to be able to connect at such an important time.  Yet you already know what I’m going to say – it’s not the same.

What is it?  What is the difference when we get together in person?  Welcome hugs included, something else is happening.  It is important.  It touches your heart.  It makes all of us more real somehow.  Yoga calls it “embodied consciousness.”  This is what is unique about the human being:  that our being is both physical and mystical.

Yoga says Consciousness has manifested this universe, becoming everything that exists.  But only the human being has the capacity to know both their physical reality as well as the Consciousness of which they are made.  This is what mystical means, that there is a mystery hidden in the mundane reality.  The mystical quest is an inner quest.  This is yoga’s specialty.

However, something mystical happens when we get together.  It’s intangible yet incredibly beneficial.  Researchers proves that time spent together lowers anxiety and depression.  It can help with emotions, leading to higher self-esteem and empathy.  And a timely additional benefit is that it improves our immune systems.  

This is a precious time right now.  In Pennsylvania, we had a sweet time free from masks and social distancing.  We didn’t know how long it would last, and here we are, masking again.  Still, we can get together! Another variant or surge might put us back in isolation at any time. 

A friend told me this morning that she’s going to visit her sister for the first time in more than 18 months.  I was fortunate to spend the last 10 days with 28 other yogis in two back-to-back retreats.  It was glorious!  It’s time to get together.  Isn’t there a song about this?

What Have You Learned?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

After more than a year of pandemic precautions, what have you learned?  You probably learned to stay home more, to spend less money and how to use technology to connect with others.  Hopefully you also learned how you feel when you do more yoga.

Your priorities have been rearranged.  You didn’t choose to do this.  It was thrust on you and it’s affected you.  What is that difference?  Notice what you’ve lost and what you’ve gained.  The way you put yourself together has changed. 

What you do, where you go, who you spend time with, what you care about – these are all vital aspects of who you are in the world.  As you reassemble your mosaic, choose your colors and patterns wisely.  You are recreating what yoga calls your “self,” who you are in the world.

Yet something has not changed.  Your deeper essence is the same.  Your own is-ness, your own beingness, what yoga calls your own “Self” is steady, always present, what we could call pure presence.  When you abide in your own Self, you can handle anything, even a pandemic.  Even reentry.

Hopefully you’ve learned how to abide in your Self more fully.  You’ve learned how to lean into your own Divine Essence for the inner support and clarity that makes your life work.  As you make decisions about how your life will look now, lean inward and find the inner answers.  What will bring you closer to your own Self?  What will bring you closer to God, inside? 

This is yoga’s specialty.  This is yoga’s goal and purpose.  This is the union that the Sanskrit word “yoga” is often translated as.  To live in the union of your own self and Self is the most meaningful and blissful way to live.  To bring your Self with you and share from your deeper essence is a way of serving the world.  To get there, do more yoga.

Ashram Profile

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

Ashram is a Sanskrit word that names the place where the Guru lives.  Ashram also names the place where the fatigue of worldly concerns (shrama)  is cleared.  A-shrama means without shrama.

Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram lives up to its name.  This is the place where the clouds of shrama are lifted. They’re lifted by the enlightened Guru who resides there.  They’re lifted so that you may understand and reside in the knowledge of your own Self.

How does this happen?  It starts with our Guru, Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  We call her Gurudevi, which means Divine Teacher. She is a Kundalini master and internationally renowned teacher.  The Ashram houses her physical being.  It also houses the divine energy of Grace that flows through her.  It’s contagious!  You can feel it.  In a program with Gurudevi or by reading one of her articles, you palpably feel the Grace.

The Ashram operates Lokananda, which means Bliss Place.  It also lives up to its name.  It’s a full-service retreat center in Downingtown PA.  There, we offer meditation and yoga healing retreats.  Gurudevi offers Shaktipat.  Many of these immersions are also available online.  

The Ashram offers professional training courses for yoga teachers, yoga therapists and meditation teachers.  Visit our online Calendar to see that the offerings go on and on.  There’s a course or program for everyone — from new yogis to experienced practitioners.

One of my favorite things about the Ashram is that so many of Gurudevi’s profound yet accessible teachings are free.  You have podcasts, written materials and free online meditation programs.  As a Svaroopa® yoga teacher, I look forward to Gurudevi’s monthly articles.  Along with the article, I receive pithy quotations pulled from it to share with my students.  I’m not teaching only poses.  I am teaching the profound promise of yoga.

For more than 30 years, Gurudevi has met the needs of seekers in so many ways.  She and our  Ashram staff are dedicated to delivering the teachings.  They’ve been passed down to her from her Guru, Swami Muktananda.  These ancient and yet so relevant teachings are delivered in a multitude of formats and price points.  

They meet us just where we are.  Then the Ashram clears the weight of the shrama we’ve been carrying.  Through expert and compassionate teachings, we come to understand who we are and where we’re going.  The Ashram indeed lives up to its name.

Last Day of Japa Club

By Matrikaa (Marlene) Gast

Japa Club comes to a close on June 21, International Day of Yoga.  When I heard the news, I felt scared and sad.  What will I do without Zooming into Gurudevi’s voice repeating mantra, and matching mine to it? 

This great gift has been given to us for more than a year.  Plagued by pandemic panic, many of us have relied on Japa Club as a desperately needed link to Gurudevi.  Japa with Gurudevi has been a steady place of sacred shelter.  And Japa Club has been a tangible conduit of Gurudevi’s blessings to the world.

I realize that I’d hoped Japa Club would go on forever.  Yet, besides feeling loss, I’m settling into inner “is-ness.”  How appropriate that we emerge from our yoga caves now that it’s safe.

Gurudevi Nirmalananda says, “It’s been a great honor and privilege to serve so many for so long.”  She initiated Japa Club within a couple of weeks of pandemic lockdown.  Since then, Gurudevi has led the traditional 108 repetitions of mantra in Zoom sessions twice daily.  Her Japa Club sessions have served the world at large and each of us individually.

In creating the Japa Club, Gurudevi’s goal was supporting us in getting over our pandemic panic.  She says, “Through Japa Club, I accomplished that goal —and more.  More people are abiding in the Self.”  Regular participants in Japa Club describe powerful experiences:

The Japa Club made a huge difference for me.  Gurudevi has said that the function of the Guru is to pierce through the veil of fear to the Self.  It is working of course!!” — Robin B.

During the Japa Club call, mantra reached down into the depths of my being and my form.  The mantra revealed itself, and I knew it to be the worship done by every human in every fire ceremony, yoga practice, synagogue, mosque, church and so on that has ever been.  I saw the priests and holy humans bowing to God.  A profound moment of Self.  Eternally grateful to the One who is giving so much.” — Lori K.

It has been a difficult year in so many ways.  Of course, we’ve been needy.  Recognizing our plight, Guru gave us Japa Club as a lifeline.  In truth, she is always here for us seekers, closer than the breath.  All we need do is turn our attention to her.  Plus, no longer locked down in our homes, we are free to travel.  We can sit at our Guru’s feet in person.  We can bask in her light, bathe in Guru’s Grace, and imbibe her teachings.

Now we can let go of the Japa Club lifeline.  Being infused with Guru’s Grace, we go forward with the self-effort of Disciple’s Grace.  We can diligently apply Gurudevi’s guidance to Do More Japa on our own in our own homes.  With mantra repetition 24/7, you are no longer using Gurudevi as a crutch.  Prevent understandable neediness from morphing into greediness!

Effective tools are available for practical support.  Set your smart phone timer for multiple japa pauses daily.  You get a structured rest and reset by sitting to repeat mantra out loud.  Be sure to follow it with silent repetition inside for a minute or so.

And rely on Gurudevi’s Meditation: Deep & Easy CD.  In the 2nd track she leads you in 108 repetitions of mantra.  Set that track to repeat for as long as you want.  Notice how your state deepens with the longer, frequent japa sessions structured for yourself.

As verse 9 of the Guru Gita says, Guru and Self are not distinct.  Being Self-Realized, Gurudevi is always there for us.  She is, by definition, within.  By repeating mantra 24/7 we come to know this truth, without a doubt.  The past is done.  The future is your choice.  You can walk on your own, run — and even fly. 

Gurudevi says, “Five minutes of japa twice a day will make you feel better, but it won’t get you enlightened.”  So heed her guidance: Do More Japa.

Joy! Jubilation! Trepidation?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I’m ready to rip off my mask and dance around the room in glee.  Fully vaccinated, no mask required and I can even sit and chat with people again – I’m ready to go.  But I’m seeing others move into it more slowly.  What’s going on?

Is your inner peace dependent on being isolated?  Is your world smaller than it was a year ago?  And what about the personal space you need – is sitting beside someone on a bench simply too close for you? 

The pandemic isn’t over, I agree.  At the Ashram, we continue to offer blessings five times daily to everyone worldwide.  But your personal safety is better than it’s been in over a year.  That’s something to celebrate!

But you’ve probably been celebrating special events all alone or online with others.  You have other options now.  Something wonderful happens when we get together in-person.  This is especially true in a yoga class.  Why?  Because yoga has you working on the outside and the inside at the same time.  As you move and breathe, your body changes – an outer change.  And your inner state changes – which is the more important benefit.  This is Svaroopa® yoga’s specialty.

When you do this with others, the synchronicity amplifies both benefits, outer and inner.  When your teacher moves you through the process and you get to laugh with others (or complain) after class, your heart is engaged in a whole new way.  It’s not yoga until you put your heart into it, says the sage Patanjali in sutra 1.14.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying sweet reunions in the meditation programs I lead.  And I’ve been meeting new people, some who say they’ve been waiting for the chance to come.  I’m sure your teacher and fellow yogis will enjoy reconnecting with you too, or getting to know you from scratch. 

What do you want your life to include now that the world is opening up again?  I hope you’ll do more yoga.

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!”

You’ve Changed!

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

Your experiences in the last year have changed you.  Whether you’d planned it or not, you were thrust into a hermetic lifestyle, like a hermit.  A quieter lifestyle is supposed to give you a more peaceful mind, right?  That’s why people move into a cabin in the woods or a mountain hideaway.  You did it where you live.  But what did you do?

While nothing much was happening on the outside, you were changing on the inside.  It reminds me of when my kids grew so much in the summers, but day by day it wasn’t noticeable.  Not until they tried on their school clothes from two months earlier.  Wow, what a difference!

Has the same happened for you?  You may not even know until you get back to the things you used to do.  We call it a “Marker Pose.”  In a Svaroopa® yoga class, you do a pose for self-assessment at the beginning of class.  After the series of spinal release poses that track from your tailbone up through your neck and head, you repeat the same pose.  This Marker Pose makes you able to say, “Wow, what a difference!”  That’s the power of spinal release, aka spinal decompression.

It’s an inner change, technically an inner opening.  You have more breathing space, more space for your organs, and it even feels like you have more space to live in.  It’s about getting present, actually living in your body.  That makes it easy to find out who you are — who is it that is living in your body?   That’s the whole point:  you discover a deeper dimension of your own Self.

Has the pandemic helped you with this?  Do you feel more like you? If not, now is the time to do more yoga.

Giving Blessings

Ellen (Lajja) Mitchell, SVA Board President

It is hard to believe that our Giving Blessings campaign is coming to an end. I thank all of you who support Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram during our fundraisers and throughout the year.

I know this has been a difficult time for many, and I appreciate your digging deep.  It truly makes a difference; you truly make a difference.  Since donations make up a major portion of our income, every dollar counts.

In my opening blog for this campaign, I spoke of how blessings go both ways.  In giving blessings, you also receive.  Swami Muktananda’s described giving and receiving:

You receive because you give.

If you do not give, how will you receive?

Muktananda, do not mislead others.

You cannot just receive.

— “Mukteshwari,” verse 139

Sunday is my day to “do more yoga.”  I start with meditation.  A few times a month, I try to join the New England GeoCenter’s offering of Guru Gita.  Then comes Swami Sunday online.  Lately, that is followed by yardwork.  In the late afternoon I take an online Ashram Yoga and Meditation class.  In the evening, I phone into Japa Club.

Truly, I experience a yoga-filled day that overflows with blessings.  So, although our spring fundraiser is over, the blessings and gratitude remain.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, I feel the Grace.  I give to the Ashram and Gurudevi, but I continue to receive so much more.

I am grateful for Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram and the Svaroopa® Vidya community.  Your gift helps Gurudevi and the Ashram to provide Yoga Teacher Training, Meditation Training, retreats, satsangs and more.  In return, we all benefit.  Much love and gratitude to you!

Donate on our website or on Facebook. You can call us at (610) 644-7555. Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335.