Reclaiming My Power
One evening, chatting with my husband on the phone before going to sleep in our apartment across town (where I spend a night a week babysitting our cat who lives with our stepson and enjoying some retreat time) I paused for a long moment when he asked me about my day. Finally I responded, “Oh, I had a really nice day!” “Yes,” he said, “it was a nice day today.” “No, I don’t mean it was nice. I had a nice day. The world and I did well today.” “Okay,” he replied, amused, “then I’ll leave you and the world and go to sleep. Love you and good night!”
Yes, I had had a really nice day. It was so rich in my mind. For the last few weeks, I had been pondering Acharya Shunya’s current teachings on bhakti yoga and the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, in addition to reviewing her prior discourses on the Vedānta primer Tattvabodha and sādhana chatushtayam (introduction to Tattvabodha which prepares a student for the path of Self-enquiry) on the intranet. Together, they were shifting my paradigm of my relationship with myself, the world and God.
What is significant right now is that I am emerging from what I call my “unconscious period” of about 10 years, during which I had mostly surrendered my power and authority to others, in the belief that I could not maintain relationships otherwise; as a result, I had experienced a great deal of rage and helplessness stemming from a belief that I was limited and powerless. Yet, before this period, I had experienced more of my power. I had chosen to surrender it. And now I was choosing to reclaim it.
In her classes on Tattvabodha, Acharya Shunya states that Vedānta begins with the premise that we are unlimited powerful beings, and the living teacher translates the words of the rishis through these ancient texts to evoke our hidden power and have us reclaim it. What a blessing to be in the presence of such a living guru!
Bhakti yoga addresses our relationship with God, whether we call it Brahman (the Biggest) or Tat (That), the pure substratum of all that exists, or Ishwara, this same pure Intelligence combining with Maya to become the universe. Here are the three definitions of bhakti:
1) Bhāgāt bhaktih, I belong to (am a portion of) Ishwara/Brahman.
2) Bhaja sevāya bhaktih, As part of Ishwara, I want to serve Ishwara (this world and beings).
3) Bhanjanāt bhaktih, Worshipping Ishwara reminds me of my divinity and destroys the erroneous notion that I am limited.
First, just as my hand is a vital part of my body, I am an essential part of Ishwara. Then, just as my hand takes care of things other than itself, I am here to serve Ishwara in the form of the universe. Finally, just as my hand has an unseen power or energy and is not just flesh and bone, as I purify my mind and remember the divine, I become more in touch with the divine principle within me.
In our Gita studies, we are contemplating on God as the Self within: aham (I am) nitya (without beginning or end), satyam (changeless), avināshi (indestructible), sarvagatah/vyāptam (all-pervading), aprameya (unknowable to the senses), akarta/abhokta (neither doer nor experiencer), nirvikārah (without modification). Having initially depended on the world, I am discovering how to depend on God as a principle all around of which I am a part, and ultimately on God as the Self within. I am all I need; I am enough.
These definitions of bhakti yoga shine light in my understanding that if I am a portion of Ishwara, so is everything around me. Until now, believing in my own limitation compared to that of the world, my choices have been to find some area in which I have more power and control the outcome, or to feel a lack of power and resort to inner rage.
Now a third option was emerging. If I am Ishwara, and everything around me is Ishwara, then together the world and I are acting in unison. Everything happening is for the benefit of all, no matter how it seems to my jiva (ego-based actor self). Far from feeling a lack of power, I reclaim all of my power, for my power lies in being present to and responding creatively to how Ishwara manifests in each moment.
This is why I had had such a nice day. On the surface, it had been an ordinary day, just like ones that I’d had for over 10 years, working as a mathematics instructor at a small junior college. Driving to work that day, I’d decided I would continue playing with this idea that Ishwara was in everything and everyone around me and see how it felt. I noticed that my sense of Time seemed to shift: in one way it disappeared, since I felt a deeper and yet less entangled connection with each student or colleague; in another way, it became clear markers of my dinacharya (daily Ayurvedic routine), such as mid-morning snack. Seeing each interaction as Ishwara relating to Itself allowed me to maintain healthy boundaries and disengage appropriately, such as being able to remind a student that I was more interested in helping him gain clarity from within himself rather than spoon-feed him an answer. And when my colleague commented on how jealous she is that I always bring in healthy food, my response was, “Yes, I do!” without feeling apologetic. When leaving for the day, I passed a healthy-looking cat watching a mouse and marveled at how Nature is simultaneously moving in so many directions at once without any need for my intervention. All of these seemed to be living examples of prakāsh (light) and prasād (grace) manifesting from increased sattva (the natural clarity of the mind when rajas, or agitation, and tamas, or inertia, are reduced), a topic Shunyaji recently covered in our year-long Ayurveda course.
A particular moment revealed Ishwara’s power to me. Glancing at my smartphone app, I saw an EV charging station free, which was rare for that time of day. I told my assistant that I was stepping out for a moment and headed to my car. While walking, I remembered that I had forgotten to put my parking permit on my dashboard – unusual for me! Thanking Ishwara for this reminder – for from whom else had it come? – I also resolved to see any resulting parking ticket as a blessing. No such blessing was there, and since the smartphone app no longer showed the charging station to be available, I felt immense gratitude that the power of my intention (sankalpa shakti) to see Ishwara everywhere enabled me to experience the protection Ishwara provides, even from myself.
The author Niramaya Nalini Ramji is a student of Acharya Shunya in the Vedic Spiritual Studies Program. She volunteers in support to the organization with the AV team.
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