Pain From Nowhere

June Stein was happily married with a busy career. Then suddenly she was hit with a “Pain from nowhere”. A Rheumatologist diagnosed her with a condition known as “Ankylosing Spondylitis”. This is an inflammatory disease that can cause vertebrae in the spine to fuse. This is a progressive disease with no known cure. When June heard this she was devastated. But soon she began her own research and felt increasingly confident that yoga could help her. She turned out to be correct and has now completely reversed her disease and is completely pain free! Her story is incredibly inspiring and worth watching. Please feel free to share it with those who might be helped by learning about this.

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The Incredible Sai Baba

Incredible Sai Baba

Sai Baba

In 1872 a 16-year-old lad wandered into the remote village of Shirdi in India. He sat under a Neem tree and slept on the bare floor, not mixing with anybody or saying much. Most days he sat quietly under the tree and ate food provided by few kind villagers. He stayed around for a few weeks and then wandered away.

After some time he reappeared. This time he went to the local temple with the intention to stay there, but was shooed away by the priest. Since his mannerisms resembled a Muslim, the priest asked him to go to the mosque, which he did. Besides food the only other thing he needed was oil for a lamp. He would visit the local stores to beg for oil.

“Here comes the crazy fakir!” The shopkeepers said when they saw him coming towards them. “Lets have some fun with him today. Lets all refuse him oil today and see what he does!”

When the lad appeared all the shopkeepers refused him oil. Without much complaining the lad turned around and returned to the mosque. The shopkeepers decided to follow him out of curiosity. To their amazement he proceeded to fill his lamp with water and light it up as if it had oil!

The sight of water burning as oil wiped away the smirks from the faces of the shopkeepers. They begged him for forgiveness and never again refused him the oil he needed for his lamps!

This was the beginning of the legend of Sai Baba. Nobody knew who this lad was and what his name was, but from now on he would be known as Sai Baba. The word “Sai” is a term of Persian origin and means “Saint” and “Baba” is a term of endearment and respect that means “Father”.

Sai Baba rarely spoke about himself. But slowly it emerged that he had been born to a Hindu Brahmin family in a southern state of India. He was orphaned at an early age and adopted by a Muslim fakir. This is where he picked up his mannerisms. After a few years the fakir died and he joined a Hindu Guru. Sai Baba spoke highly about this Guru, but all we know about him is that he went by the name of “Venkusa”. It later became clear why he had chosen Shirdi to be the place of his residence. One day he asked one of his devotees to dig near the Neem tree where he used to sit when he first came to Shirdi. A grave was found there, and Sai Baba claimed that it was the grave of his guru in his previous life!

When Sai Baba appeared in Shirdi he was already a highly realized saint. But even by standards of Indian saints where eccentricity is normal, Sai Baba was far out there. He spoke cryptically and metaphorically. He did not espouse any metaphysical theories or methods to follow. He was the rare saint who attracted both Hindus and Muslims but insisted that each follow their own religion and there was no need for anybody to convert from one religion to another. He had quite a temper and was not averse to show it.

There are two more unique things about Sai Baba. One was that unlike most realized saints, he asked money from his disciples. Though this was largely symbolic his asking of money was very unusual. Most saints in India stay away from money. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa would not even touch money as he felt a burning sensation when he touched it. However Sai Baba had no such qualms. He viewed the giving of money by his disciples to him as a symbol of submission. Sai Baba never kept the money he collected. By sunset most of the money would be distributed to the needy. Sai Baba himself never changed and he begged daily for his food. When he died he had just enough money to cover the cost of his funeral expenses although by then vast sums of money were being sent to him by his rich devotees from big cities like Mumbai.

The other unusual thing about Sai Baba was that he was not shy about performing miracles. From ancient times Indian saints have been prohibited from demonstrating miracles arising from Yogic Siddhi powers. Lord Buddha went so far as to de-frock a monk who had a habit of performing showy miracles. But this was not the case with Sai Baba. He performed miracles with the exuberance of a child. With Sai Baba the extraordinary was the ordinary. The flow of miracles that started the day Sai Baba lit the lamp with water instead of oil, have never stopped since. Even his passing in 1918 has done nothing to stem the flow of extraordinary stories of miracles from his devotees. This has made Sai Baba into an extraordinary spiritual figure in India. His fame has spread and you will find his devotees in remote villages and big cities in all corners of the country.

Why did Sai Baba perform his miracles? His answer was simple, “I give people what they want, in the hope that they will begin to want what I want to give them.” For Sai Baba the demonstration of miraculous power to a devotee was a way to open the door that would lead to the movement away from the material towards the spiritual. He told his devotees, “Stay still and I will do the rest.” He wanted his devotees to lead a pure and humble life so that he could slowly work on them from the inside and lift them up spiritually. Working the miracles and asking for money was his way of making sure that his devotees had full faith in him and were able to receive his grace.

A lady by the name Radnabai Deshmukhin was an ardent devotee of Sai Baba. She repeatedly asked him for a method or mantra by which she could make spiritual progress, but Sai Baba refused. One day she started a hunger strike to force Sai Baba. On the fourth day of her fast Sai Baba sent for her. He told her that this was not his method and he worked silently on his disciples to foster an inner awakening. This was what his guru had taught him and he was continuing the same.

Y. J. Galwankar reports, “Sai Baba once placed his hands over my head and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I forgot my surroundings and myself and passed into an ecstatic condition. After this experience I began to pay more attention to the spiritual side of my life. Then in 1932 (14 years after passing away of Sai Baba) Baba appeared in my dream and asked what I wanted. I replied that I wanted Divine Love. Baba blessed me and disappeared. Ever since I have had spells of Divine Love gush through me when I meditate or sometimes even when I am reading or doing something else.”

Sai Baba discouraged his devotees from renouncing the world and going forth as mendicants or monks. He wanted his devotees to develop inwardly through the medium of family life.

Much what Sai Baba did was symbolic. Once he asked a devotee for four Rupees. On receiving it he told him that he got only one. The devotee confessed that he did not understand, and Sai Baba assured him he would later. Some time later when the same man was traveling by train a young fakir approached and begged for alms. He gave him one coin but the fakir asked him for four. When he gave him four coins the fakir told him that he got only one and went away. The same theme repeated many days later with another wandering ascetic. The ascetic asked him for four coins and when given these he told him that he got only one. Finally the symbolism dawned on him. Sai Baba was appearing to him in various forms and asking him to submit his four aspects of consciousness to him: Manas (Mind), Buddhi (Intuitive Intellect), Chitta (Awareness), and Ahmkara (Ego). But his surrender was not complete, it was at the superficial mental level only.

Christ once said, “In as much as you do it to one of the least of these, you also do it to me.” Sai Baba did not say the same words but he did so by actions. A lady one day invited him for food and he consented. She prepared special dishes with love, devotion, and skill. But when everything was ready a dog appeared and seemed to make his way towards the food. The lady immediately shooed him away. It so happened that Sai Baba was approaching at the same time and the lady invited him in. Sai Baba immediately said, “No, you drove me away when I wanted it. Now I don’t want it.” He then turned and walked away.

Sai Baba begged for his food. The food he collected would be kept in pots that he kept outside the mosque where he lived. The low caste sweeper lady would help herself and so would other hungry and poor people. It was not unusual for stray dogs to feed themselves from these pots. Once everybody had their fill, only then Sai Baba would eat.

One day when Madhava Bua was sitting with Sai Baba a question occurred to him. Even before he had a chance to verbalize the question Sai Baba sent him to Dixit who happened to be reading scripture. At the very moment Madhava Bua appeared he was reading a passage that contained the explanation he sought. Many others repeated this story. When they had a question that was troubling them, Sai Baba would send them off to meet somebody. They would arrive just at the moment when the other person was either reading or discussing the answer to this question.

When Sai Baba did answer questions his replies would be either symbolic or cryptic. One day a photographer approached him with a request to take a picture. The answer? “No he may not take a photograph. It is enough that he knocks the walls down!” The bewildered photographer did not know what to make of this till somebody explained: The wall was the idea that “I am the body”. Sai Baba was asking him to give up the notion that the external form was important. Once he tore down this false idea, the inner Spirit would be visible and he would be able to see the true likeness of Sai Baba and take a worthy picture.

Sai Baba passed away in 1918 but in 1886 he had a practice run. He told Mahalsapathy, an early devotee, “I am going to Allah. Take care of this body for three days. If I return I will take care of it myself. If not bury it in the open space over there and put up two posts to mark the place.” Soon his breathing and circulation stopped and his heart stopped beating. The word spread and an inquest was held by Civil authorities and he was pronounced dead. Mahalsapathy was ordered to either cremate or bury the body in accordance with the law that a body not be kept longer than 24 hours. But he refused. On the third day breathing was seen to resume and the abdomen was seen to move. Then Sai Baba opened his eyes and returned to life.

By 1900 his fame had begun to spread and there was an endless stream of visitors. From 1910 onwards the stream turned into a torrent and his health began to deteriorate. He suffered from Asthma and other ailments. It is said that he frequently took on his devotee’s illness or bad karma and suffered as a result. Then in 1918 he knew the end was near and he sent word to another Muslim saint, “The light that Allah lit, he is taking away.” When the saint heard these words he had tears in his eyes.

A few months later Sai Baba became very sick but few realized that this would be his final illness. He sent most of his devotees away and then he asked to be propped up. As he leaned against one devotee he told him the final words, “I am going. Please carry me to the courtyard.” With these words he breathed his last. He was buried in the courtyard that he had asked to be carried to. The flame that Sai Baba had always kept lit in the mosque is still kept burning to this day.

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah. This is based on the book “The Incredible Sai Baba” by Arthur Osborne. Arthur Osborne was a disciple of the sage Ramana Maharshi and he wrote a biography on the life of the sage that made Ramana Maharshi world famous.

You may also like: The Story Of Ramana Maharshi: Reaching Home

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All Is Well!

Robert Adams

Robert Adams

Robert Adams was one of the leading American saints of the previous century. He was born Jan 21 1928 in Bronx to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. As a child he was naturally rebellious and liked to question everything. His earliest memory was of a two feet dwarf with white hair and white beard who appeared near his crib and jabbered away gibberish that he did not understand. The dwarf stayed with him till he was seven.

Shortly after the little man disappeared Robert developed miraculous powers. Whatever he wished would come true when he repeated God’s name three times! Once he thought that he would enjoy taking violin lessons so he repeated God’s name three times. Shortly thereafter his uncle showed up with a violin saying that he thought Robert might enjoy learning.

Like any other child would do Robert too misused his gift. He would study very little and when the test would come he repeated God’s name thrice and the answer would come! When he was 14 his algebra teacher asked him a math problem. But when he repeated God’s name thrice he was stunned to find that the entire enlightenment experience was revealed to him!

He was thoroughly changed by this experience. The world no longer seemed real to him. He could see that only his Self was real. The external world seemed like something that was superimposed on the Unchangeable Self, and by itself did not seem to have much significance. He changed so much by this experience that his mother thought he was going mad.

One day in the library he found the book “Who Am I?” by Ramana Maharshi. Seeing Ramana Maharshi’s photograph the hair on his head stood up straight. This was the same man who came to him as a dwarf and stood next to his crib talking gibberish! On the same day he also found the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Yogananda and he immediately felt that he should be with Yogananda. When he was sixteen he left home and moved to the Self Realization Fellowship campus of Yogananda in Encintas, California. He became a close companion and friend of Yogananda. But after two years when he asked to be initiated as a monk Yogananda gently told him that his destiny lay elsewhere and that he should go to his real guru Ramana Maharshi. Robert immediately began making arrangements to go to India.

In the fall of 1946 at the age of 18 he arrived at Tiruvannamalai. This was where the sage Ramana Maharshi stayed. The next day as he was walking along a path he saw the sage walking towards him. An electrifying energy coursed through him. He felt as if the last vestiges of his ego had left him. He felt completely surrendered and open. As Ramana approached he stripped off his shirt and dropped to the guru’s feet. Ramana reached down and grabbed Robert by his shoulders and lifted him up and said as he looked into his eyes, “I have been waiting for you. Get up! Get up!”

The moment was so transformative and emotional for Robert that years later when he recounted the story he could not stop tears from flowing. The power of this moment can be understood by the fact that Robert was usually emotionally detached and could hardly shed a tear during his mother’s funeral.

In those days visitors were not allowed to stay for long in the Ashram so Robert lived in caves in the hill near the Ashram. He stayed with Ramana Maharshi for three years till his passing.

He then began a period of wandering. He spent the next 17 years wandering all over India meeting different saints and sages. He wanted to make sure that his own enlightenment experience was complete and that his interpretation of his experience was correct. When he moved back to the US he continued his wandering. Somewhere along the way he got married in 1954 and had two daughters. His daughters were raised in his absence as he was given to a wanderlust that kept him moving from place to place. Wherever he went a band of devotees would collect around him, but he grew uncomfortable of this and moved on. He preferred solitude and silence.

Eventually he got a vision that he interpreted to mean that he should stop wandering. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with Parkinson. He later said that the disease was a gift as it compelled him to end his period of wandering and settle down. In the last few years of his life as the disease progressed he was barely audible. He died on March 2 1997 in Sedona Arizona.

Robert loved his dog Dimitri and he had predicted that when the dog would pass away so would he. Robert died a few months after the passing of Dimitri. Two nights before he passed away devotees took him outside to view the nearby mountain called Capital Butte. Over and over again he repeated the word “Snow”. Devotees were unable to understand what he meant, till two days later when it began to snow. The fury of the snow was such that it trapped everybody in the house. This was a blessing because they were able to witness his passing that was so peaceful and beautiful. He was fully conscious till the end and always smiling. Next day morning the snow that had trapped everyone in the house and melted. His body was kept for two more days for viewing before being cremated. Everyone who saw him was overwhelmed by his beauty. His face was radiant, and his skin soft and unwrinkled as a baby’s. A gentle smile lay on his lips, and the house was bathed in his peaceful energy. Parts of his body remained warm for days, especially his feet and his chest.

His core teachings can be summarized in his following words:

“All is well, and everything is unfolding as it should. There are no mistakes. None have ever been made, none are being made, and none will ever be made. It’s all perception. It’s how you perceive things….

“The world has it’s own collective karma. It’s going through a phase. Your job is to save yourself. If you find yourself in a burning building, you do not stop to admire the pictures on the wall, you get out of the building as fast as you can. So, when you know you have a short time in this existence you do not stop to play the games of life, you try to find yourself and become free as fast as you can.”

Related: The Story Of Ramana Maharshi: Reaching Home

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Breathe To Change

Ellen Fein

Ellen Fein

Life was progressing pretty normally for Ellen Fein. She was married to a loving husband, had a wonderful daughter, and a great career as a behavioral health care professional. Then in 1997 everything changed. After a brief 8-month illness her 49 year old husband, Michael, died of bone-marrow cancer. Ellen had been practicing yoga on and off, for several decades, and she continued to practice it all through her husband’s illness, death, and after that. She says that yoga felt like an anchor for her during those very difficult years.

Three years later even as she was learning to adjust to life without her husband and caring for her young daughter on her own, she too was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. What followed was two months of intensive chemotherapy followed by a seemingly long period of medical challenges and uncertainty. Once again yoga helped her get through these very difficult times. She also added a meditation practice to help calm and center herself down. Eventually a match was found for a stem cell transplant and she was asked to fly to Seattle from Vermont. But she was not hopeful, and when she left Vermont she was sure that she would never ever fly back home again.

At the transplant center in Seattle they offered a yoga class and she was glad to join. However this was Viniyoga and completely different form of yoga from what she was doing. After the treatment she felt horrible and drugged, but for an hour of this class she could shake herself free from these feelings and feel whole again. It was only yoga that bought her to this state, and nothing else, not even powerful drugs, could do this for her.

She promised herself then that if she lived through this, then she would find out more about this yoga and use it to help others. Miraculously her treatment was successful and in spite of a very rough period of post-treatment recovery she was able to make it back home to Vermont. Since Viniyoga resonated so deeply with her, she sought out Gary Kraftsow, founder of American Viniyoga Institute who was himself recovering from a treatment of brain tumor. She was introduced to Yoga Therapy for the first time when she flew to California for one week of few hours daily session of Yoga Therapy with Gary Kraftsow. Each day she got a yoga practice to do at home that was drawn out for her. The next day the practice would be reviewed again and suitable changes made. Finally at the end of five days she had a practice that she carried back with her to Vermont. She now calls these Yoga Therapy sessions the most important thing she had done for herself. She believes it has powerfully helped her recovery and healing.

As she got through her own health challenges Ellen began to help other cancer patients through cancer coaching sessions. She decided to add Yoga Therapy to what she was offering as she felt that it would greatly assist them as it had done for her. She began learning under the guidance of Gary Kraftsow and eventually became a Yoga Therapist.

Ellen says that Yoga Therapy has given her a personalized practice geared toward her very own needs: structural, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. She notices this immediately when she falls off her practice and sees the difference it makes in her life. She believes that Yoga has also helped her find her place in the greater scheme of things so that she is not viewing the world just from the perspective of her own troubles and her story but from a much broader perspective.

Breathe To Change Web site where you can contact Ellen
American Viniyoga Institute

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah based on an account we found here.

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The Life Of Swami Shriyukteshwar: A Miraculous End

Swami Shriyukteshwar

Swami Shriyukteshwar

The year 1910 was momentous for Swami Shriyukteshwar. While visiting the city of Kashi he ran into a young lad by the name of Mukunda. The meeting between the two was joyous, as if the two had known each other for ages. Mukunda immediately knew that his search for a guru had ended. He had found his master. Very soon it was decided that Mukunda would become Swami Shriyukteshwar’s disciple and would meet him next at Serampore. Mukunda was reluctant to leave Kashi at that point but Swami Shriyukteshwar was firm in his directive and Mukunda relented.

Within 10 short years Swami Shriyukteshwar whipped the impetuous boy Mukunda into shape. He became a realized master and an initiated monk who was given the name Swami Yogananda. In 1920 Swami Yogananda set out on a historic journey west when he set sail to attend a seminar of world religions in Boston.

In 1932 at the age of 77 Shri Yukteshwar met his youngest prominent disciple. This is how the disciple described the encounter: “Standing at the door of his room I slowly looked in, and what a sight I saw! In a lotus posture this mahayogi was seated in a clam and peaceful state. With unblinking wide-open eyes but not looking at any thing. It was a vacant gaze full of divinity. I could not fathom where he was merged. His deep gaze full of divinity greatly attracted me. I have not come across such a divine personality until then.” This meeting was to transform the life of the young textile engineer called Rabindranath and would set him on the course to become the enlightened guru and teacher later known as Paramahamsa Hariharananda.

In 1935 Swami Yogananda returned to India after spending 15 years in US. He did so because he received a direct telepathic communication from Swami Shriyukteshwar to come immediately without any further delay. The meeting of the two was extremely joyous and tearful where the guru and disciple embraced each other. Soon Swami Shriyukteshwar gave the title “Paramahamsa” to Swami Yogananda and from that point on he would be known as Paramahamsa Yogananda.

Swami Shriyukteshwar was clearly making arrangements for his departure. He handed over the title and the administrative responsibilities of the entire organization he had built throughout his life to Paramahamsa Yogananda. By 1936 all this was done and during March of that year he directed Paramahamsa Yogananda to arrive in Puri where he was situated. But sadly Paramahamsa Yogananda had other plans. He had decided to attend the Kumbhmela that was taking place that year. When Shri Yukteshwar learnt about Paramahamsa Yogananda’s plans he was extremely distressed. Those around him had never seen him so despondent, but nobody could understand the cause of this.

On the afternoon of 9th March 1936, at the age of 81, Swami Shriyukteshwar summoned his most dedicated devotee Swami Narayan and told him that he was going to leave his body. He then summoned another devotee and asked him to send a telegram to Paramahamsa Yogananda to arrive to Puri immediately. In the evening he sat in lotus posture and began meditating and asked Swami Narayan to hold his chest and back. Soon he entered into deep meditative state and Swami Narayan felt a mild vibration passed from his heart to the fontanel but Swami Narayan did not notice anything amiss. It was only after some time that he realized that Swami Shriyukteshwar had passed away! A doctor was summoned and he confirmed that the great guru and yogi was no more. Next morning Paramahamsa Yogananda arrived and tearfully organized the last rites of his beloved guru.

Soon the miracles started. The day after his death an old lady came by to visit him. When she was informed that he had passed away the previous day she was shocked and exclaimed, “How can this be? I talked to him today morning as he passed by my house!” She was then taken to his burial place where she offered her prayers and returned home.

On June 1936 when Paramahamsa Yogananda sat meditating in his hotel in Bombay, as he waited for his ship, on his way back to the US. Swami Shriyukteshwar made another appearance. The two of them had a robust discussion that has been described in the Autobiography Of An Yogi.

These were not the only people who had the honor of meeting with the great yogi after his passing. Swami Satyananda had a similar experience and so also a few years later, Rabindranath and his friend were also able to see him.

Swami Shriyukteshwar has mentored some of the most prominent yogis of our times who made huge worldwide impact. The common message of all these great yogis is of unity. It is about the underlying unity of all major religions and spiritual traditions. It is of the underlying unity of the divinity in all of us. And it is a message to overcome our external differences and dedicate our lives in service of others.

Besides mentoring a large number of highly prominent disciples Shriyukteshwar made a big contribution to yogic cosmology. In due time his contribution will be recognized and he will be remembered more for this than his role in being the guru of some world famous yogis.

Yogic Cosmology holds that time is cyclic and that there are periods in this cycle where consciousness flows relatively unhindered, while there are other periods where this flow in impaired. The period of impairment is known as Kali Yuga or the “dark ages”. During this time it becomes difficult for yogis to attain realization. On the other hand the period where consciousness flows unimpaired is known as Satya Yuga. During this period realization can be achieved with relative ease and deeper yogic truths can be understood easily. Between Kali Yuga and Satya Yuga there are two additional periods known as Dwapara Yuga and Treta Yuga as per the cosmic calendar.

According to Shriyukteshwar the widely accepted cosmic calendar that demarcates these cosmic periods is flawed. He believes that the Kali Yuga is much shorter than is widely believed. Instead of being 432,000 years long as widely believed it is only 1200 years long. This means we are out of the Kali Yuga and are into Dwapara Yuga. This happened more than 300 years ago, and explains the world wide explosion of knowledge and science since then. According to Shriyukteshwar that half the cycle of the cosmic calendar takes 12,000 years and the full cycle is 24,000 years. This is different from the commonly accepted cosmic calendar that holds the entire cycle takes millions of years. If Shriyukteshwar is right then it means that since humans evolved around 200,000 years ago and dispersed out of Africa about 120,000 years ago, there have been many cosmic cycles. This would explain how ancient civilizations seemed to have gained advanced knowledge and lost it repeatedly. Though our progress has been cyclic, each cycle takes us progressively higher because the knowledge from the previous cycle is not entirely lost.

Swami Shriyukteshwar lived a simple and austere life that was dedicated in the pursuit of Truth. All his life he pursued honestly the deeper questions that came to him. He never hesitated in taking whatever action needed to get his answers. His life is a message of hope that deeper Truths can be realized if pursued honestly with dedicated effort.

Related: The first part of this story: The Life Of Swami Shriyukteshwar: The Tiger Awakens

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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