Light of the Spirit Blog

7 Ways to Purify the Mind, Part 1

Purify the MindSutras 33 through 35 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Sutra 1:33. The mind becomes clarified by cultivating attitudes of friendliness [maitri], compassion [karuna], gladness [mudita] and indifference [upekshanam] respectively towards happiness [sukha], misery [dukha], virtue [punya] and vice [apunya].

Maitri is friendliness; friendship; love. Karuna is mercy; compassion; kindness. Mudita is complacency; joy; happiness, and implies optimism and cheerfulness. Upeksha[nam] is indifference; equanimity resulting from disinterestedness.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of Western New Thought or New Age philosophy is the idea that the mind is improved by an inturned “me” kind of cultivation of what the individual wants to see in his mind. But Patanjali tells us that what is needed is a range of positive reactions to others. Further, a positive attitude is to be maintained toward situations as well as people. Of course, these same attitudes should be cultivated toward ourselves.

Both Vyasa and Shankara insist that indifference must be cultivated toward those they call “habitually unvirtuous”–not an ignoring of them as people, but not being affected by their negativity. That does not mean we should accept their wrongdoing as all right, but that we should not allow ourselves to have any emotional reaction to their deeds and habitual character. This also implies that we should not be pestering them and meddling in their lives, trying to “save” or reform them. We should be ready to help them in any way we can, especially by kindness and good will, but basically we must go our way and let them go their way. Sitting around fuming over the foolishness and evil of others will only create an affinity between us and them and eventually make us like them. As Jesus said: “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (Matthew 8:22). This includes letting the world-involved stew and bubble about the world. As the Sanatkumars said at the beginning of this creation cycle: What have we to do with all this–we who are intent on knowing the Self?”

(Also known as the Four Kumaras, the Sanatkumars were those advanced souls–Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara and Sanatsujata–who at the beginning of this creation cycle refused to engage in worldly life despite the command of Brahma. They were then taught by Lord Shiva, in the form of Dakshinamurti, the mysteries of Brahmajnana and attained liberation.)

Sutra 1:34. Or by the expiration and retention of breath.

This is one of the sutras that is so simple we are almost sure to miss its meaning–the way Gandalf mistakes “Say ‘Friend’ and Enter” for “Speak, Friend, and Enter.”

The first step is to remember that these Sutras begin with a definition of Yoga that involves the chitta and the waves of the chitta. Just as the breeze disturbs the surface of water, in the same way the chitta is disturbed by various things, the simplest of which is breath–and that is why pranayama occupies such an important place in yoga practice. Specifically, the chitta is ruffled by inhalation. Slow inhalation produces the least effect and rapid inhalation produces the most, but there is no form of inhalation that does not produce any effect on the chitta. One the other hand, exhalation does not make waves in the chitta, nor does the suspension of breath–either holding it in or holding it out. Patanjali tells us this to give a complete picture. At this point he is not advocating any particular practice, just giving us information which will help us later on in understanding the nature and effects of pranayama.

Nevertheless, Jnaneshvara Bharati’s comment is certainly relevant: “The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice.”

Sutra 1:35. Coming into activity of (higher) senses also becomes helpful in establishing steadiness of the mind.

Translators are divided in their understanding of this sutra. Some consider it to mean that concentrating on any type of sense impression–usually in the form of the memory of such impression, such as visualization–will steady the mind. Other think it means that the arising of the subtle inner senses–especially in meditation–is an aid to steadying the mind. That is why Jnaneshwar says: “The inner concentration on the process of sensory experiencing, done in a way that leads towards higher subtle sense perception: this also leads to stability and tranquility of the mind.”

Vyasa and Shankara consider this second view to be the meaning of the sutra. Vyasa says that the yogi must experience inward realities before he can possess full faith in the words of scriptures and teachers: “Therefore some one definite thing has to be directly experienced in confirmation” at least. Shankara says: “For the yogi who is practicing yoga which is to give face-to-face experience, the perception is the first direct awareness, and it give him confidence, creating enthusiasm for the practice of yoga. It is like the appearance of smoke when wood is being rubbed together to create fire. Such a perception fills him with joy because the confidence it creates, and brings his mind to steadiness.”

Next: 7 Ways to Purify the Mind, Part 2

Previously: The Simple Yoga Method of Removing Mental Pain and Depression


The Simple Yoga Method of Removing Mental Pain and Depression

depressionSutras 31 and 32 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Sutra 1:31. (Mental) pain [dukha], despair [daurmanasya], nervousness [angamejayatva] and hard breathing [shvasa-prashvasa] are the symptoms of a distracted condition of mind [vikshepa-sahabhuvah].

Dukha is pain; suffering; misery; sorrow; grief; unhappiness; stress; that which is unsatisfactory. Daurmanasya is despair, depression etc., caused by mental sickness; feeling of wretchedness and miserableness. Angamejayatva is shaking of the body; lack of control over the body. Shvasa-prashvasa is hard breathing; inspiration and expiration.

These are the symptoms of a mental state that is outward-turned and impelled toward–and absorbed in–externalities.

Sutra 1:32. For removing these obstacles there (should be) constant practice of one truth or principle.

The meaning of this is so simple that most commentators miss it.

Yet both Vyasa and Shankara comment that it means the practice of meditation on the One, and continual awareness of the One outside of meditation. This will unify the mind which is the producer of the problems listed in the previous sutra when it becomes fragmented or scattered by being divided by sensory experience. The only cure for this is unifying the mind by means of meditation.

When practiced for a sufficient amount of time, the state of unity can be maintained in the mind even when dealing with the multiplicities of ordinary existence.

Need more specifics? Read these articles:

Next in the Commentary on the Yoga Sutras: 7 Ways to Purify the Mind, Part 1

Previously: Om, the God-Word


See Our New Book on Reincarnation at

October 21, 2014

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

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
Get It Now!

The Thrilling Narrative of Shanti Devi and Her Past Life.

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

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 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 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!