Light of the Spirit Blog

See Our New Book on Reincarnation at Amazon.com

by:
October 21, 2014

In our ongoing effort to provide the content of OCOY.org in printed form, this week we launched Abbot George Burke’s May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation? in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.com.

A quick synopsis of the book is found on the back cover:

“May a Christian believe in reincarnation? The answer may surprise you. Reincarnation–also known as the transmigration of souls–is not just some exotic idea of non-Christian mysticism. Nor is it an exclusively Hindu-Buddhist teaching.

“In orthodox Jewish and early Christian writings, as well as the Holy Scriptures, we find reincarnation as a fully developed belief, although today it is commonly ignored. But from the beginning it has been an integral part of Orthodox Judaism, and therefore as Orthodox Jews, Jesus and his Apostles would have believed in rebirth.

“This historical study of reincarnation in both Judaism and Christianity cites many authorities of both traditions, including many Christian saints and Fathers of the Church, as well as both Old and New Testaments. In our opinion the testimony of orthodox Judaism, ancient Christianity, and the Bible is sufficient to answer the question: May a Christian believe in reincarnation?”

The book is getting good reviews so far, and we would love to have your reviews added to the Amazon page also. It is a short booklet, at 48 pages in 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ format, with valuable information for those seeking

“a complete compilation and investigation of the ‘evidence’ available in ancient Christian/Judaic writings on the subject of reincarnation….Highly recommended for anyone struggling with seemingly contradictory beliefs or simply wanting further insight into the foundational beliefs of early Christians,”

as one reviewer put it.

Get it now at Amazon.com
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The Thrilling Narrative of Shanti Devi and Her Past Life.

by:
October 12, 2014

Shanti Devi face“Truly there was never a time when I was not, nor you, nor these lords of men. And neither will there be a time when we shall cease to be from this time onward” (Sri Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita 2:12).

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to hear the unique songs of the great Swami Sivananda of Divine Life Society in Rishikesh are familiar with the name of Shanti Devi, who Sivananda commemorated in these verses:

“Here’s a challenge to the disbelievers
in the Hindu theory of transmigration.

Have you not heard the thrilling narrative
of Shanti Devi and her past life?”

For those who have not heard the thrilling narrative, we offer this short video documentary on Shanti Devi at the end of this post, which includes interviews with her brother, and her sister and son in her previous life.

I Have Lived Before coverAnd for those who wish to go to the heart of her amazing story, we recommend the book “I Have Lived Before,” the official biography of Shanti Devi written by Swedish journalist Sture Lonnerstrand who met and became good friends with her in India in the late 1950’s, and visited her again thirty years later.

An amazing story of past life recall

Her story is one of the most amazing and best documented cases of past life recall in modern times, at one time attracting the attention of all of India and Mahatma Gandhi himself.

Born in Delhi in the 1930’s, Shanti Devi spoke very little during the first four years of her life, until one day she declared to her family that “This is not my real home! I have a husband a son in Mathura! I must return to them!”

At first her family paid little attention to this, but Shanti persisted. When one of her teachers sent a letter to the address Shanti Devi gave as her real home, he received a reply from Kedar Nath, the husband of her previous life, verifying his wife Lugdi Devi had died while giving birth to their son about fourteen months before Shanti Devi’s birth.

When Kedar Nath visited Shanti Devi and her parents in Delhi under a false name, she immediately identified him as the husband of her previous life. This eventually let to her visit to Mathura, where she demonstrated knowledge of the smallest details of her life as Lugdi Devi, leading others to her old home, accurately describing what the neighborhood looked like in earlier years, and even identifying her sister and her son from her past life.

The investigation which captured India’s attention

News of this spread throughout India and eventually led to Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Shanti Devi, and his appointment of a commission to carefully investigate the case. The Committee of Inquiry’s conclusion: this is a genuine case of reincarnation.

Shanti Devi group photoIn her interviews with Lonnerstrand, Shanti Devi shared an openness about her experiences that allows us to understand the uniqueness of her situation. Many of us have intuitions about previous births, an unexplained familiarity with a new place or person, or even more vivid memories in dreams or meditation. By their nature these are short-lived experiences, from which we stand apart.

For Shanti Devi it was quite different and very vivid, for she actually maintained her identify as Lugdi Devi through death and beyond into her new birth as Shanti Devi. “My earlier life was still with me and had never really come to an end. It was my Real life, the other was like a dream.”

In effect, she experienced herself as an adult woman growing up in a child’s body with a name, parents, and a location that were not her own, all the while retaining memories of her adult life that became more and more detailed as she grew older– quite distressing and confusing, to say the least!

The secret of Shanti Devi’s experience

How could this happen? As far as we know, Lonnerstrand is the only person with whom Shanti Devi shared the secret of this continuity of identity. As Lugdi Devi she was a great devotee of Lord Krishna, and his divine Name was ever on her lips and in her mind, so much so that it became one with her breath and heart throughout the day and night. She explained that as she passed into the darkness of death she continued the repetition of the Divine Name and it became the center of her experience in the next world.

“I had almost reached a state of eternal bliss and salvation…but I made a mistake. I was far too eager to come back to earth again, longing to see my son and yearning for my husband Kedar Nath.

“My love was egoistical, greedy and demanding. I still loved myself even when I was dead. Therefore I had to experience death’s next stage, reincarnation.”

As Swami Sivananda sang, this is a “thrilling narrative,” and we recommend to all who wish to understand the mystery and reality of reincarnation.

More posts related to India:

How to Enter the Kingdom

kingdom cloudsA Commentary on the Gospel of Thomas

Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom. They said to him, Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?

Jesus said to them, When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom. (Gospel of Thomas 22)

  • When you make the two one.

There never has been anything–or any state–but the One. But through that mirage-power we call Maya we are immersed in the experience of duality, and from that springs all our troubles. Only when the experience of irrevocable unity is established in us will we know freedom from fear and suffering.

We are seeing and living defectively, constantly agitated by subject-object. All the philosophy in the world cannot remove an atom of our dilemma.

However, it can help us to disbelieve in the duality and learn from dual experience, like someone watching a training film or doing creative visualization. For our present state of dual consciousness is not a curse or even an obstacle. It is our mistaken reaction to it that causes the problems.

I said philosophy would not help, and it will not. We must have the means to “make the two one.” Believing in unity and affirming it over and over gets us nowhere.

We must turn our perception of two into the perception of One. Since our experience of duality is an inner condition, we must employ inner correction. Going within we must remove the cataracts of misperception and clear our spirit vision.

Meditation is the sole way to accomplish this, for an interior remedy is needed for an interior malady. Once the mistaken “two” has disappeared and the true One appeared, we are cured of our age-long delusion and the ignorance accruing from it.

  • When you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below.

Part of our present trouble is inconsistency and conflict within our own complex being. “Inside” and “outside” must also be turned into a single thing along with “above” and “below,” for these distinctions are fundamentally erroneous.

Like Humpty Dumpty we are fragmented (or seem to be), but unlike him the forces of the King can put us back together. We need only cooperate and apply. Again, none of this is philosophical but eminently practical. Those who do not know the way to reintegration assume it is impossible, but those who learn the way and apply it succeed, however others may doubt.

  • When you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female.

Brill translates this: “When you make the male and the female into a single one, that the male be not male and the female female.” And Brown: “If you establish the male with the female as a single unity so that the man will not be masculine and the woman not be feminine.”

This has two basic meanings. First, we must become like the angels, transcending the condition of “man” and “woman.”

When Sri Ramakrishna said that the entire world was caught in the net of “woman and gold” he was speaking to men. But when speaking to women he said: “man and gold.” That is, to think that we are one thing and someone else another, is a delusion.

We are not bodies, the seat of “gender,” but spirits without body, without form. At no time are we male or female, however our present costume may be put together as we muddle through the drama of one more life on the revolving stage of this world.

Plants, insects, animals and unevolved human beings “must have their mate,” but it is not so with those who have set their sights on God-realization.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-36).

Strange, I never heard a sermon or read a commentary on these words!!! They are true, nevertheless. Male-female interaction must be abandoned by those who seek union with God. The deluded and the enslaved may not like what I am writing, but it is not written for them.

The second meaning is that the polarities of positive (male) and female (negative) within our own makeup must be transcended, and we must move beyond that duality as well, because it ties us into constant rebirth. No matter how religious or spiritual we think we are, until the state of Unity is gained we will keep circling on the wheel of birth and death–even in the higher worlds beyond this one.

Taoism speaks of how we sometimes act “feminine” and sometimes “masculine” according to the situation and our personal conditionings. There is even a skillful way of doing so–but only while living in duality. Before we can enter Unity that dualism must be erased permanently.

Otherwise we get what I heard Ma Anandamayi call (in English) “a roundtrip ticket” when she spoke to two university students about the wisdom of avoiding marriage and taking up the monastic life.

  • When you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.

Brill: “When you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then shall you enter [the kingdom].”

This either means supplying what is lacking in our inner and outer being and makeup, or replacing what is defective or deficient with better, spiritual faculties and powers, becoming no longer “flesh” but spirit. This is reflected in the ordination prayers of the Byzantine Orthodox Church in which the bishop says: “The grace divine, which always healeth that which is infirm, and completeth (supplieth) that which is wanting, elevateth through the laying-on of hands” him who is thus ordained.

So Jesus is saying that we will enter the kingdom when we have the power to renew or supply that which we need for entry into Christhood and “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10; see II Corinthians 4:16 and Ephesians 4:23). As Saint Paul further said: “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind ([nous or buddhi], that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

The word anakainoo means to bring to maturity and thus make new; to impart new strength and capacity; to be changed from one mode of life (consciousness) to another. It is a total recreation. The most significant thing about this is that Jesus says we are to effect the renewal-recreation ourselves. Otherwise the kingdom will remained closed to us.

This is a call to a higher life which is undreamed of by most religion. But that does not hinder Christ from calling us toward it.

More from the Gospel of Thomas Commentary:

A Brief Sanskrit Glossary Now Available in Print at Amazon.com

by:
September 24, 2014

We are happy to announce that we have another book available in print through Light of the Spirit Press:  A Brief Sanskrit Glossary—A Spiritual Student’s Guide to Essential Sanskrit Terms, compiled by Abbot George Burke.

As it says in the Preface of the Glossary:

“It is very beneficial for students of Indian thought, of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and other Indian scriptures and philosophical works to expand their vocabularies to include the sanskrit terms included in them. English books about these works often contain many untranslated sanskrit words because there are no concise English equivalents.”

This glossary contains 142 pages of full translations and explanations of many of the most commonly used sanskrit terms, and will help students of these spiritual treatises gain a fuller understanding in their studies.

Here is an example of some of the definitions:

Dasya: The attitude of being a servant of God.

Dasyu: Slave; a name for non-Aryans in the Rig Veda.

Dattatreya: A famous sage, son of the Rishi Atri and Anasuya. His birth was a divine boon, hence his name: Datta–“given”–and atreya–“son of Atri.” Considered a divine incarnation and known as the Lord of Avadhutas, he is often revered as the embodiment of the Supreme Guru. He is credited with the authorship of the Avadhuta Gita, the Jivanmukti Gita, and the Tripura Rahashya.

Daya: Mercy; compassion; grace; empathy.

Dayananda (Maharishi Swami): A leading reformer within Hinduism in the nineteenth century and the founder of the Arya Samaj.

A Brief Sanskrit Glossary is available at Amazon.com as a 142 page paperback. It lists for $12.95, but Amazon normally sells it for 10% off. You can still access the Glossary online at OCOY.org from our left sidebar at any time. But having a print book on hand makes study much easier. We hope if you purchase this book, that you will consider giving it a review on Amazon.

Also available by Abbot George Burke on Amazon: The Dhammapada for Awakening—A Commentary on Buddha’s Practical Wisdom, a 320 page paperback regarding which one Amazon reviewer said,

“The writing is well crafted and stocked with anecdotes, humor, literary references and beautiful quotes from the Buddha. I found it to be entertaining as well as illuminating and have come to consider it a guide to daily living.”

Get it now at Amazon.com!

Om, the God-Word

Om the spoken form of GodSutras 27 through 30 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

27. His designator [vachaka] is ‘Om’ [Pranava].

Usually, vachaka means that which is denoted by speech, in this case meaning that Ishwara is designated by the Pranava–by the sacred syllable OM. But it can also mean the spoken form of something that has a very real connection with the object of which it is the vachaka–and sometimes is the same as the object. This is the case with mantras, and that is why it is often said that God and His Name are really the same thing. Om embodies Brahman.

Further, this sutra can legitimately be considered to mean that Ishwara projects the creation through the vibration (“utterance”) of Om, that Ishwara “speaks” or projects the creative Vibration that is Om, and in this way all things come into existence, Om being the seed of all things.

28. Its constant repetition and meditation on its meaning.

It is a mystery as to why this sutra is so terse. Does it mean that the japa and meditation of Om are to be done continually, or is it being recommended as a temporary or occasional practice only in relation to the following sutra?

[We have recently added a new book about meditation on Om which we recommend you read: Om Yoga: It's Theory and Practice.]

29. From it (result) the disappearance of obstacles and turning inward of consciousness.

This is quite clear. Now Patanjali enumerates the obstacles and their effects on us.

30. Disease [vyadhi], languor [styana], doubt [samshaya], carelessness [pramada], laziness [alasya], worldly-mindedness [avirati], delu­sion [bhranti-darshana], non-achievement of a stage [alabdhabhumikatva], instability [anavashtitatvani], these (nine) cause the distraction of the mind and they are the obstacles.

These are too important to not look at closely. After the definition of each I will give I. K. Taimni’s comments from The Science of Yoga.

Vyadhi: Disease of the body.

“This is obviously a hindrance in the path of the Yogi because it draws the mind again and again to the physical body and makes it difficult to keep it directed inwards. Perfect health is a necessity for treading the path of Yoga and that is, no doubt, one of the reasons why the author has included Asana and Pranayama, two practices of Hatha Yoga, in his system.”

Styana: Dullness; languor, debility; drooping state.

“Some people have an apparently healthy physical body but lack nerve power so that they always feel below par and disinclined to take up any work requiring prolonged exertion. This chronic fatigue is in many cases psychological in origin and due to the absence of any definite and dynamic purpose in life. In other cases it is due to some defect in the Pranamaya Kosha which results in an inadequate supply of vital force to the physical body. Whatever its cause it acts as an obstacle because it undermines all efforts to practice Sadhana.”

Samshaya: Doubt; suspicion.

“An unshakeable faith in the efficacy of Yoga and its methods is a sine qua non for its successful practice. Such faith is needed in achieving success in any line of endeavor but more so in this line because of the peculiar conditions under which the Yogi has to work. In the Divine adventure which he has undertaken the objective is unknown and there are no clearly defined standards by which he can judge and measure his progress.

“Doubts of various kinds are therefore liable to arise in his mind. Is there really any Reality to be realized or is he merely pursuing a mirage? Are the methods he is using really effective? Are those methods the right methods for him? Has he the capacity to go through all the obstacles and reach the goal? These and other doubts of a similar nature are liable to assail his mind from time to time especially when he is passing through the periods of depression which come inevitably in the path of every aspirant.

“It is at these times that he needs Sraddha–un­shakeable faith in his objective, in himself and in the methods which he has adopted. It may not be possible to avoid these periods of depression and doubt especially in the early stages but it is his behavior and reaction to them which show whether he has true faith or not. If he can ignore them even though he feels them, he comes out of the shade into the sunshine again and resumes his journey with renewed enthusiasm. If he allows these doubts and moods to interfere with his Sadhana and relaxes his efforts, they acquire an increasing hold on his mind until he is completely side-tracked and abandons the path altogether.”

Pramada: Carelessness; fault; guilt.

“This is another obstacle which besets the path of many aspirants for the Yogic life. It has the effect of relaxing the mind and thus undermines its concentration. Some people are careless by nature and when they come into the field of Yoga they bring their carelessness with them. Carelessness is a weakness which prevents a man from achieving eminence in any line of endeavor and condemns him to a mediocre life.

“But in the field of Yoga it is not only an obstacle but a great danger and the careless Yogi is like a child who is allowed to play with dynamite. He is bound to do himself serious injury sooner or later. No one should think of treading this path who has not conquered the habit of carelessness and learnt to pay careful attention not only to important things of life but also to those which are considered unimportant.”

Alasya: Laziness; idleness; apathy; sloth.

“This is another habit which results in a distracted condition of the mind. Although it results in the same kind of ineffectiveness in life as in the case of languor it is yet different. It is a bad mental habit acquired by continued yielding to the love of comfort and ease and tendency to avoid exertion. If we may say so, languor is a purely physical defect while laziness is generally a purely psychological condition. A restoration to health automatically cures the former but a prolonged discipline based on the execution of hard and difficult tasks is the only means of curing the latter.”

Avirati: Hankering after objects; non-dispassion; sensual indulgence; lack of control; non-restraint.

“The worldly man is so immersed in the interests pertaining to his outer life that he does not get time even to think about the real problems of life. And there are many people who pass through life without having ever given any serious thought to these problems. When a person takes to the path of Yoga as a result of the dawning of Viveka and of his becoming alive to the illusions of life the momentum of the past is still behind him and it is not so easy to shut out the interests of the worldly life suddenly and completely. These hankerings after the objects of the world still continue to trouble him and cause serious distraction in his mind.

“Of course, all depends upon the reality of the Viveka. If we really see the illusions which are inherent in the pursuit of worldly objects like wealth, honour, name etc. then we lose all attraction for them and naturally give up their pursuit. But if the Viveka is not real–is of the pseudo-variety–the result of mere ‘thinking’, then there is constant struggle between the desires which drag the mind outside and the will of the Yogi who tries to make the mind dive within. Thus, worldly-mindedness can be a serious cause of Vikshepa.”

Bhranti-darshana: Delusion; erroneous view.

“This means taking a thing for what it is not. It is due generally to lack of intelligence and discrimination. A Sadhaka may, for example, begin to see lights and hear sounds of various kinds during his early practices. These things are very spurious and do not mean much and yet there are many Sadhakas who get excited about these trivial experiences and begin to think they have made great progress. Some think that they have reached high states of consciousness or are even foolish enough to think that they have seen God.

“This incapacity to assess our supernormal experiences at their proper worth is basically due to immaturity of soul and those who cannot distinguish between the essential and non-essential things in spiritual unfoldment find their progress blocked at a very early stage. They tend to get entangled in these spurious experiences of a psychic nature and are soon side-tracked. It is easy to see that the unhealthy excitement which accompanies such undesirable conditions of the mind will cause great distraction and prevent it from diving inwards.”

Alabdhabhumikatva: Non-achievement of a stage; inability to find a footing.

“The essential technique of Yoga consists, in the earlier stages, in establishing the mind firmly in the stages of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, and after Samadhi has been attained, in pushing steadily, step by step, into the deeper levels of consciousness. In all these stages change from one state to another is involved and this is brought about by persistent effort of the will. Sometimes this passage is easy and comes after a reasonable amount of effort.

“At other times the Yogi seems to make no progress and a dead wall appears to be facing him. This failure to obtain a footing in the next stage can cause distraction and disturb the perfect equanimity of the mind unless the Yogi has developed inexhaustible patience and capacity for self-surrender.”

Anavashtitatvani: Unsteadiness; instability of mind; inability to find a footing; mental unsteadiness.

“Another kind of difficulty arises when the Yogi can get a foothold in the next stage but cannot retain it for long. The mind reverts to its previous stage and a considerable amount of effort has to be put forth in order to regain the foothold. Of course, in all such mental processes reversions of this nature are to a certain extent unavoidable. But it is one thing to lose one’s foothold in the next stage because only practice makes perfect and another thing to lose it because of the inherent fickleness of the mind. It is only when the instability is due to the inherent unsteadiness of the mind that Vikshepa can be said to be present and special treatment is called for.”

Previously: Who Is God According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?
Next:
How to Remove the Obstacles Which Cause Suffering

More on Om Meditation:

Reincarnating Backwards in Time, the Mother-God, and Other Questions

Reincarnating backwards

Q: Are our soul’s transmigrations limited to linear time? In other words, can, and is it natural, for a soul to reincarnate from, say, the 21st century, to the 13th?

It is never good to be dogmatic about anything, especially since language never encompasses reality fully or exactly. As Jesus said: “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Reincarnation usually takes place in a linear manner because as we move on from life to life we accumulate karma, which is always a forward-moving force. However much we would like to often go back and try to do better in a situation, or pick up something missed, it just does not work that way. Not doing so well in a life creates doing-better-in-a-future-life karma. As I say, karma moves us onward, even if situations are repeated in future lives.

The foregoing enquirer almost immediately sent this response:

Thank you for your prompt reply. I suppose it was just wishful thinking on my part, that it would be wonderful to sit even at the back of the crowd at the sermon on the mount.  It was a lost opportunity, I suppose. Again, thank you.

Not a lost opportunity at all! Kabbalistic tradition says that the Messiah will come twice: first as Son of Joseph and be rejected, and then as Son of David and be accepted. We are waiting for that appearance, and have a weekly Mass of petition requesting it.

So there is no reason why you and we should not be present at the second appearance. Whatever is the best for us will certainly occur.

Q: Tell me, please, where is the Mother God in Saint Thomas Christian Dharma?

Where She was originally, we have no idea because all the books from the time of Saint Thomas were burned by the Portuguese. (See The Apostle of India.) Jesus and the Virgin Mary certainly represent the divine masculine and divine feminine in God. It is sufficient for us that the basic scriptures of India present the concept of the Mother God. But to make up for what was destroyed we use The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. There we find:

“And Spirit breathed, and that which was not manifest became the Fire and Thought of Heaven, the Father-God, the Mother-God.” (Aquarian Gospel 9:16)

“And Jesus went into an ancient plaza and taught; he spoke of Father-Mother-God; he told about the brotherhood of life.” (Aquarian Gospel 34:3)

“And in the tomb I will remain three days in sweet communion with the Christ, and with my Father-God and Mother-God.” (Aquarian Gospel 127:28)

Q: One of the questions from a meditation practitioner mentioned uncontrollable movements when concentrating on the third [eye] chakra. This reminded me of what I’ve read about what happens during Latihan in Subud, though during Latihan vocalizations are also common.

In Latihan a person opens themselves and many phenomena can manifest.

Methodical meditation is quite different and produces completely different effects–especially when chakras are involved.

For over fifty years I have been observing the kind of movements described by the questioner, and they have been 100% pathological, requiring purification. But, being pathological types, they all claimed it was “kundalini” and were proud of them. Eventually they gave up yoga and stayed bent.

More questions and Answers:

 

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