It’s a technique for achieving balance, joy and a higher awareness in one’s life through meditation. Fundamental to this practice is the experience of “self realisation”. While many techniques and yogas have promised this, few have actually given it, especially for free. Self realisation enables a person to know themselves much more deeply through meditation, to become their own teacher without having to pay or seek advice from others.
What is self realisation?
The experience of one’s higher self is the goal of most ancient meditative practices and religions. Although many have written about it and tried to describe it, the way to know it is to experience it. For example you can say you know about a place from reading about it, or perhaps going there through Google Earth. But to really know it you have to go there. So self realisation is an experience you come to know through meditation, it’s where you experience this higher awareness, a higher dimension of oneself that exists beyond the mental conceps. Ancient philosophical or spiritual texts call this the “self” or “atman”. When the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree and achieved his enlightenment, that is the same thing as “self realisation”.
What is this higher self?
Ātman, or the “self” is a philosophical term used to identify the soul in collective or universal sense but also within individuals. It’s something that links us to each other and everything else that’s alive. The awareness of this “self” is different than our normal thinking, it’s like a silence, a merging into something more pure and eternal than just our body and our mind. Through meditation this connection becomes stronger and so the experience of the “self” becomes part of our everyday life. It’s not that we “think” we are higher because of it, it’s just that begin to understand how everyone has this capacity and it can be a tangible and feasible experience. Some philosophies say that the individual self and the universal self are one and the same. Connecting to this “self” is very joygiving, and the benefits are very real. Our mental and physical health improves because we become more balanced and able to see the joy in small things. Also it helps us see what takes us out of balance, which makes it much easier for a person to correct themselves.
What is kundalini?
Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning coils or coiled energy. Like the “self” it is a very subtle energy, normally dormant, at the base of our spines in a bone the Greeks called as sacrum (sacred) perhaps because it was the last to burn. When the kundalini energy rises it pierces the fontanel (means “fountain” in French) bone on the very top of our heads, connecting us to the higher self, within and without. After this occurs you can say “self realisation” or enlightenment has occurred. It’s not like fireworks however, it’s very subtle. Things in nature don’t explode if you think about it, all living processes are very subtle and grow in a natural and gentle way.
How is Sahaja Yoga meditation different?
Many spiritual and yogic practices promise the awakening of the kundalini and the piercing of the fontanel bone, especially after you pay some money or sit on a mountaintop fasting and chanting for twenty years. In reality these practices may or may not actually deliver the goods.
Sahaja Yoga is different because it begins with the awakening of the kundalini which is given for free. Shri Mataji realised that if a small amount of energy pierces the fontanel bone, a person can experience a taste of what real meditation feels like, which makes meditation much easier for them afterwards. It’s kind of like setting out on a journey to a place you’ve been before, or one you don’t know how to get to, when the kundalini rises and pierces the top, it’s like the door has been opened for you. This is an amazing breakthrough because not many people have a spare twenty years to sit on that mountaintop trying to work it out. In this way Sahaja Yoga meditation is open to everyone and anyone genuinely seeking this connection. It enables anyone who wants to to experience and experiment with this thing called “enlightenment” through meditation. Once you learn more about it, you can also help others get it too. In that way we all share can all share in the benefits.
In the past the experience of self realisation was passed on from one guru to one disciple, and not everyone actually achieved it.
Why do some say that kundalini awakening can be dangerous?
Because maybe they have never really genuinely experienced it. Maybe they have tried to raise the energy using methods that do not work or have had some negative experiences which they attribute to kundalini awakening. The kundalini is actually a gentle and healing energy which helps, rather than hinders, a person and feels as natural as breathing. It’s like the sap, or the life force, in the trees. This never hurts the trees but rather nurtures it.
What about yoga exercises?
The Sanskrit word “yoga” comes from the word “yuj” which means to unite or to yoke (connect) the individual consciousness with the source of universal energy, the pure consciousness. In the tradition there are different forms of yoga, or paths to the divine destination. There was the physical path (hatha yoga), the philosophical path of learning and knowledge (jnana) or the path of devotion (bhakti). So the purpose of all these yogas was to prepare, balance and cleanse the body so achieving union would be possible.
But as normal people our physical state and our mental state these days is often anything but balanced, so it’s hard, especially at first, to sustain a strong experience of “self realisation”. Through practicing the meditation however this changes, as one balances and cleanses themselves through meditation.
What is the best way to meditate?
Twenty minutes a day is more effective than sitting for two hours once a week. Many people find meditation easier first thing in the morning, especially at sunrise (or just before) when the sun is rising and the birds are singing. Others find it helpful to meditate after work or before sleeping to clear their minds of the day’s stress or worries.
As with anything, it is important you have a little discipline and a sincere motivation when starting this practice, although you should not be ritualistic or overly rigid about it. The best time to meditate is when you have that desire to connect with yourself. One thing we begin to understand in meditation is how important the power of our desire is. When we really want something we usually act on it, and the same applies to us wanting to experience something higher within ourselves. It’s a very sincere and heartfelt feeling, a pure desire not like the ones we have for material or other more tangible things. Our desires arise from the emotional side of our selves, the left channel, whereas the energy for our actions come from the right channel. So if you have the desire and then do the action these two forces are working together.
Alternatively, If you sit down to meditate but really don’t want to, there is no desire and so it doesn’t work very well. Meditation is actually effortless, but the challenge is learning to relax and let it happen. The techniques, music and guided meditations are also there to help you.
Who is Shri Mataji?
Shri Mataji (Nirmala Shivastava) was born to a Christian family in 1923 in India. Her parents were freedom fighters and as a child she spent time in the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. Later she married Sir CP Shivastava who went on to become one of 7 secretary generals in the United Nations. In 1970, after raising and marrying her two daughters, Shri Mataji began her life’s work of teaching Sahaja Yoga meditation, first in India and then in England, where her husband was based with the United Nations.
Sahaja Yoga started with a small number of people and has grown to being practiced worldwide in almost every country. Typically it is registered with each government as a not for profit charity or new religion, as appropriate to the policies of that country. Shri Mataji has consistantly beein recognised worldwide for her work with two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Although Shri Mataji used to teach it personally, it is now taught entirely by volunteers for the purpose of sharing the benefits with others. Shri Mataji died peacefully at the age of 87 in 2011.
Why do we have photographs of Shri Mataji?
Some people like meditating using a photograph of Shri Mataji because it helps them reach a deeper state of meditation. Some people also feel a strong emotional or devotional connection to Shri Mataji, who refers to herself as a Mother. People are free to do what feels right for them, for example some like playing music when they meditate, and some don’t. The important thing to remember is that your experience of self realisation belongs to you and how you manage it is up to you. Self realization should give us more freedom (genuine freedom), not less.