*******Over 3,000 students are enrolled in this course*******
In this course, over 25 core principles and practices of traditional Yoga are presented as described by the 20th century Yogi, Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Along with each of the 25 presentations, there are 25 (1 each) brief guided meditations/contemplations from Swami Jnaneshvara that bring added life and personal experience to the presentations.
This course is for those who already have some exposure to Yoga, and wish to explore the subtler principles. If you have ever heard of, or are interested in Yoga as expounded in the traditions of the Himalayas, you may quite enjoy this overview of the essence of Yoga through the eyes of Swami Rama of the Himalayas (1925-1996). Yet, the information and practices of this tradition are universal, and applicable to all people. My most endearing memories are of walks and talks with Swami Rama along the River Ganges, in the foothills of the Himalayas. He held my hand and guided me in the subtler principles and practices of Yoga as practiced by our Himalayan meditation tradition. For over 20 years I have been helping to pass on these principles and practices, which are being highlighted here in this course. It has been widely said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Putting this together is—for me—an act of gratitude and love for Swami Rama, the one who showed up in my life, as well as a gift to you.
We hope this course gives you lots of 'food for thought' about Yoga and spiritual life. Please use these readings as contemplations, reflecting on the principles in your own words. Then, allow the insights to lead you to silent, wordless inner contemplative meditations. May your meditations bring you peace, happiness, and bliss.
We had a lot of fun putting this together for you. For those of you who will enjoy this offering, I am…
In loving service,
(Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati)
Introduction to the instructors.
Listen gently, but attentively. When something catches your attention, pause and reflect on it internally, in your own language and words. Ponder what it means to you personally, to your life, and your spiritual practices of meditation, contemplation, prayer, and mantra. Allow that reflection to draw you deeply into silence. There is also a 1-page map of the functioning of the mind, which Swami Rama talks about a lot, and also an article on the 'circle chart' which was designed by Swami Rama.
These questions are based on the What is Yoga? reading.
A Personal Philosophy of Life from Conscious Living
Knowing Yourself from Art of Joyful Living
Death and Transition from Path of Fire and Light
Emotions from A Practical Guide to Holistic Health
Ego from The Essence of Spiritual Life
States of Consciousness from Inspired Thoughts of Swami Rama
What is Love? from Love Whispers
Samskaras from Freedom from the Bondage of Karma
The Four Functions of Mind 119 from Inspired Thoughts of Swami Rama
The Rope of Karma from Freedom from the Bondage of Karma
Kleshas from Sadhana, the Path to Enlightenment
Sin and Obstacles from Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita
Meditation is not Religion from Inspired Thoughts of Swami Rama
Meditation in Christianity from Meditation in Christianity
What God Is from Enlightenment Without God
The Profound Teachings of the Ancient Sages from Wisdom of the Ancient Sages
A Program for Progress in Meditation from Meditation and Its Practice
Sadhana from A Call to Humanity
Internal Dialogue from Path of Fire and Light
What is Atman? from Life Here and Hereafter
Divine Grace from Sacred Journey, Living Purposefully and Dying Gracefully
Book of Life from Book of Wisdom, Ishopanishad
Abhyasa Ashram is a monastery and yoga meditation center which practices universal meditation as taught by the ancient tradition of yogis of the cave monasteries of the Himalayas, especially as transmitted through the lineage of Swami Rama. The tradition has no name, and is not affiliated with any of the institutions or religions of the plains of India or other countries surrounding the Himalayas, although individual meditators may personally align themselves with a wide variety of religions or institutions. We may refer to the tradition as "the tradition of the Himalayan masters" or "the Himalayan tradition", but that is for the sake of convenience, and is not a style or brand name as is popular these days.
Our methods of meditation and contemplation involve systematic awareness of all levels of our being, including actions/senses, body, breath, mind, finally resting in the awareness of the Self (atman) which is one with the universal Self (brahman). At Abhyasa Ashram we have aspirant training, not teacher training. Our approach to training is mostly individual or group coaching, as Yoga meditation and contemplation has been traditionally taught for thousands of years. Aspirants with various degrees of experience naturally teach others within the context of their own lives and modes of service.
From the perspective of our meditation tradition, each person is perfect, pure consciousness (atman, purusha, shakti) at the core of her or his being. The entire process of yoga sadhana (meditation and contemplation practices) is to reduce the colorings of attractions, aversions, and fears that usually veil that realization (often called Self-realization). This is done by systematically receding inward through senses, body, breath, conscious and unconscious mind. The final barrier is removed through a transmission of grace, which is known as shaktipata, the bestowing of the pure consciousness of shakti. It is also known as guru kripa, grace of guru. In our tradition guru is a force field of consciousness, and is not any person, although that grace of guru can flow through a person.
At Abhyasa Ashram the word "Yoga" is used in its traditional meaning, rather than the revisionist meaning of Yoga as merely a gymnastic or physical fitness program. Yoga means “union" of the individual consciousness and universal consciousness, Atman and Brahman, Jivatman and Paramatman, as well as Shiva and Shakti. It is pure consciousness (Purusha) standing alone from primal manifestation (Prakriti).
Yoga is traditionally taught, practiced and learned through close relationships in a community of noble friends, known as kalyana-mitra. Guru is a stream of knowledge of direct experience which, though it may operate through a person, is itself not a person. While some participants in ashram activities have a theistic (god) orientation and others a non-theistic orientation, we virtually all intuit that there is only one, nondual (advaita), absolute reality even though it may appear to be dualistic.
Our purpose is to share with people who have an interest in the principles and practices of the Himalayan masters, including traditional Yoga Meditation, Vedanta, and internal, meditative Tantra. Our community of meditation and contemplation is devoted to serving those who deeply long for the direct experience of union with the eternal, pure center of consciousness, the bliss of being that is one with the absolute reality, as the wave who seeks to remember it is one with the ocean. One word for that union is "Yoga."
The word "Abhyasa" means "practices." Abhyasa is purposefully choosing to do that which leads to "sthitau," which is a stable, steady, undisturbed inner calmness or tranquility. Abhyasa is one of the twin foundations of Yoga, along with Vairagya, the mental stance of non-attachment (Yoga Sutras 1.12-1.16). The root of the word Ashram is "shrama," which means "effort" or "striving." The hermitage, home, or training center of a swami or other person serving people in their efforts towards inner peace and awakening of consciousness is often called an Ashram. Thus, our community of meditation, contemplation and learning is known as Abhyasa Ashram. More than any physical location, it is really a place of the heart, an inner sanctuary of silence.
In loving Service,
Swami Jnaneshvara (Swamiji, Swami J)
Swami Ma Tripurashakti (Ma Tri, Ma)
Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati was born in 1948 in Ohio, USA, spent most of his youth in Florida, and later lived in several other states, including California, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Texas. His education includes a BS in Management from Florida State University and an MA in Consciousness, with emphasis in Transpersonal Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, in California. He previously worked in advertising, retail store management, counseling and psychiatric social work. He was never married and has no children.
Spontaneously practicing meditation and other yogic practices from early childhood, Swami Jnaneshvara has been a student of the Himalayan Tradition of yoga meditation since 1986 when initiated in meditation by Swami Rama (10 years to the day prior to Swami Rama leaving the body). Several months later he met Pandit Usharbudh Arya, through whom supplemental training was given from time to time during the next few years. Swami Jnaneshvara was given novice monastic initiation in 1990, was ordained as a monk (swami) of the Himalayan tradition and the order of Shankaracharya in 1993 by Swami Rama, and was given one of the highest yogic initiations of direct experience in 1996, with final teachings and instructions being imparted shortly before Swami Rama left the body in November, 1996.
In 1998 and 1999 Swami Jnaneshvara received training, practices and grace from the venerated sage Naga Swami Hanuman Giri at the cave hermitages in the high Himalayas beyond Badrinath and Mana (He left the body in 2002). In 1999, initiation as Dandi Swami (a most honorific swami initiation in the Shankara tradition, in which a Danda, or staff is bestowed) was given at the bank of the Ganges in Haridwar, India by a highly revered Acharya (teacher) of Dandi Swamis, Acharya Dandi Swami Indradev Ashram. In 2000, the sage Vratti Baba of Kalimath, Himalayas passed on his initiatory transmissions at the time of his dropping the body (Vratti Baba was a long time friend and spiritual brother of Swami Rama). Swami Jnaneshvara has also been invited to be initiated as Mahamandaleshwar, said to be one of the highest leadership posts within the swami orders. The invitation has been respectfully declined so as to remain focused on the service work at hand.
From 1996-2012 Swami Jnaneshvara fascilitated month-long retreats at Swami Rama's Rishikesh, India ashram. Currently he resides at his Abhyasa Ashram in Florida USA, with far less travel than previous years. He has a significant presence in spreading traditional Yoga practices through internet, while serving a small number of visitors to the ashram.
Many share a similar story, is it not new, nothing special, but probably recognizable… There is a hunger, a longing, experiences in early childhood. An itch that won't leave you alone. A intuition that leads you on your way to freedom that keeps bringing you closer to your ineffable goal if you just keep following it… Not always easy, but with every step you know you have to take it. These were my steps…
Within a week after meeting Dandi Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (March 2009) I knew that I had finally found the one person that understood what I was longing for my whole life, and who was able to guide me to realize my longing. A whole life searching had brought me to this moment, it was an incredible moment to realize someone understood me completely and could help me. I had met Swami Jnaneshvara in Rishikesh – India, in his three week intensive meditation retreat at Sadhana Mandir Ashram (founded by Swami Rama; Swami Jnaneshvara's teacher). The result was that after that week I told him I was going the leave everything behind to knock on his door in Florida as soon as possible. Within 6 weeks after returning from India I was on a plane to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, US to knock on the door of Abhyasa Ashram, founded by Swami Jnaneshvara.
Since early childhood I intuitively felt the presence of something beyond this manifested world; non-duality. Growing up in a world that didn't seem to acknowledge this, I hid the longing to understand this feeling in my heart, just waiting for the right time to be expressed and pursued. My inner journey started approximately at 17, with Art school (although it actually starting when I was a few years old; like many of us we cannot really pinpoint the exact moment as it has been always a part of life). Here the foundation was laid of many principles, later to be understood yogic and tantric principles. But this did not satisfy my longing, so I kept looking.
One of my most precious memory of that time was when I was 19 years old. I was sitting with friends. We were sharing with each other what we would say if we had a few minutes in which the whole world was listening. What would be our statement, passion, truth? That night I wrote myself a letter that I would give myself 7 years to find this out, as I did not know how to formulate my passion, my longing, as it was a intuition without words. It was in the same month 7 years later that I met Swami Jnaneshvara. I knew what I found most important in life; Self-realization, to be free! Free of all attachment that bind you to the temporary, so that I can play in the temporary while being constantly aware of the Eternal, the True Self, Pure Consciousness, Tripura! I still have this letter as a reminder that guidance is present even when we don't consciously experience it.
At 21 I “officially" encountered Meditation (Yoga) for the first time. Along the journey it became clear that throughout my life I had many meditative experiences but did not know at the time what they were. Which is nothing special as I have met several people with stories like this, which is wonderful! I knew at this time that I had found a better way to deepen the understanding of the longing that lived in my heart. After first learning and teaching the merely preliminary steps of Yoga, I got to know a teacher that introduced me to the non-dual teaching of Vedanta; the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita at the age of 23. This teacher was not able to provide me a way of living I longed for (without yet knowing it existed). Full of reverence and gratitude I still love this teacher, as the teachings were pure and formed a foundation from which I later could receive the teachings of Swamiji. Somehow at that time the mind did not yet know of the existence of the path of renunciation, of swamis. The mind was waiting for this introduction (to the phenomenon of renunciation) until I met Swamiji, which took another year. After meeting Swamiji everything became clear, and with joy I understood that the path of renunciation was the path I was longing for all those years…
On March 15 2009 I was initiated as a novice swami, and on November 13 2012 I took sannsaya at the banks of the Ganges, this diksha was given by Swami Jnaneshvara… from now I carry the name Swami Ma Tripurashakti Bharati (Ma Tri, pronounced as “Ma Tree“) Now, I travel around the world between different places that are all one Home, to practice, serve, and share the teaching I received from Swami Jnaneshvara, the teaching of the Himalayan Tradition that are given to us by Swami Rama, that embrace the teachings of Yoga, Vedanta and Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra.