John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, is widely recognized as one of the most charismatic and highly respected hatha yoga teachers in the world. Blending a life-affirming Tantric yoga philosophy with Universal Principles of Alignment and a delightful sense of humor, John’s teaching style guides each student to live every moment fully from the heart. Students often comment in amazement that they can perform their yoga poses under John’s guidance with a level of creative freedom and inner power that they have never experienced before. Above all, John respects and honors his students with a great deal of loving-kindness and inspires them to see their own unique beauty and divine goodness.
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (BKS) Iyengar was born on December 14, 1918. His father Sri Krishnamachar was a school teacher and therefore Guruji has all his father’s qualities even at this age. Guruji was a victim of malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis in his childhood .
At the age of 16, he was introduced to yoga by his Guru Sri T. Krishnamacharya. At the age of 18, he was sent to Pune, Maharashtra by his guru to teach and preach yoga as he knew a little of English. This missed his opportunity to learn a lot about yoga directly from his guru.
Guruji was a sincere and committed practitioner. His own practice helped him to explore and achieve perfection in yoga asanas. This is reflected in his teachings all over these years.
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Sri Dharma Mittra
Sri Dharma Mittra has spent most of his life in service to humanity, disseminating the ancient knowledge of how to achieve radiant health and spiritual development. Dharma was born in the late 1930’s, and has studied Yoga since 1958. After meeting his teacher guru, Sri Swami Kailashananda, he immersed himself in intense study and practice of the classical eight limbs of Yoga, and nine years of dedicated full time practice of Karma Yoga. He was accepted and initiated as a sannyasi (one who renounces the world in order to realize God). During these years Dharma had the esteemed honor of being the personal assistant to the Guru attending to all his needs. Sri Swami Kailashananda is known as the first Guru to bring the practice of Hatha Yoga to the west in the early 1950’s.
Dharma taught only for his Guru with selfless expectation, after years as a full-time yogi and brahmachari, a celibate religious student who lives with his teacher and devotes himself to the practice of spiritual disciplines. He was the main demonstrator for the Yoga asanas at the many lectures the Guru gave to the public in the 60’s and 70’s. After being a celebrated teacher for many years at his guru’s Ashram, he left in 1974 and founded the Yoga Asana Center, currently known as Dharma Mittra Yoga New York Center.
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Sri Pattabhi Jois
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois was born on the full moon day of July, 1915, Guru Purnima day. His ancestral village, Kowshika, near Hassan in Karnataka State, is inhabited by maybe 500 people and has one main street. At one end of the street is a Vishnu temple, just next to Pattabhi Jois’ home. At the far end of the street, just 100 yards away, lies a small Ganapati temple, and just opposite, a Siva temple. Both are several hundreds years old, and are the focus of the village.
Pattabhi Jois’s father was an astrologer and a priest, who acted as the pujari for many of the families in the village. From an early age, as most brahmin boys, Pattabhi Jois was taught the Vedas and Hindu rituals. When Guruji was 12 years old, he attended a yoga demonstration at his middle school in Hassan. The next day he went to meet the great yogi who had given the demonstration, a man by the name of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who had learned yoga for nearly eight years from his Guru, Rama Mohan Brahmachari in a cave in Tibet. For the next two years, Guruji learned from his Guru every day. When Guruji turned 14, he had his brahmin thread ceremony. Krishnamacharya left Hassan to travel and teach, and Guruji left his village to go to Mysore.
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“maintain the state of undistractedness, and distractions will fly away. dwell alone, and you shall find the friend. take the lowest place, and you shall reach the highest. hasten slowly, and you shall soon arrive. renounce all worldly goals, and you shall reach the highest goal. if you follow this unfrequented path, you will find the shortest way. If you realize sunyata (the absolute emptiness), compassion will arise within your hearts; and when you lose all differentiation between yourself and others, then you will be fit to serve others.”
Jetsun Milarepa, (1052 – 1135 CE) is generally considered one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets, a student of Marpa Lotsawa, and a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
The essence of Milarepa lies in his writings rather than the legends that have grown up around him. The writings, often referred to as the Songs of Milarepa, are canonical Mahayana Buddhist texts and in particular emphasize the temporary nature of the physical body and the need for non-attachment.
“It took a devastating car accident, paralysis from the chest down, and dependence on a wheelchair before I truly realized the importance of waking both my mind and my body.”
Matthew Sanford has inspired and enhanced the lives of thousands by sharing the fundamental importance of the mind-body relationship. For him, connecting mind and body is not just a health strategy; it is a movement of consciousness that can change the world. He works on a variety of fronts to spread his message.
In 2001, Matthew founded Mind Body Solutions, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body.
Matthew teaches at national yoga conferences, studios and institutions around the country. He teaches traditional students and is a pioneer in adapting yoga for people living with disabilities. The fact that he teaches people in both demographics tells you something not only about Matthew, but also about yoga. “We all live on a continuum of abilities and disabilities,” he says. “The principles of yoga apply to all people, to all bodies.”
click here to read more at www.matthewsanford.com
All Tantric and spiritual worship in the Hindu tradition begins with the invocation of Ganesha (or Ganesh), the elephant-headed god.
Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Gana) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikay. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha did not start the race like Kartikay did, but simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother as the source of all existence (more about this story here).
Many stories describe how Ganesha got the elepant head. One tells how Parvati created Ganesha in absence of Shiva to guard her quarters. When Shiva wanted to see her Ganesha forbid it, at which point Shiva cut of his head. Later Shiva restored Ganesha to life and provided him with the head of an elephant, because no other was available. In another story, Ganesha’s head is burned to ashes when Saturn is forced by Parvati to look at her child and bless him.
Acceptance of the somewhat funny looking elephant man Ganesha as the divine force stills the rational mind and it’s doubts, forcing one to look beyond outer appearances. Thus Ganesha creates the faith to remove all obstacles.
Meditation on the Ganesha Yantra creates internal balance.
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Nicholas Black Elk
“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”
Black Elk (1863-1950), whose Indian name was Hehaka Sapa, was a renowned Oglala Sioux spiritual leader and medicine man. He was the second cousin of Crazy Horse. Black Elk participated, at about the age of twelve, in the Battle of Little Big Horn of 1876, and was wounded in the massacre that occurred at Wounded Knee in 1890. He left the reservation in 1886 and toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Europe, returning in 1889.
Black Elk married his first wife, Katie War Bonnett, in 1892. She became a Catholic, and all three of their children were baptized as Catholic. After her death in 1903, he too became baptized, taking the name Nicholas Black Elk, and continued to serve as a spiritual leader among his people, seeing no contradiction in embracing what he found valid in both his tribal traditions concerning Wakan Tanka (The Great Spirit), and those of Christianity.
Black Elk met the poet John Neihardt in 1930, a meeting that resulted in the book Black Elk Speaks (1932). Black Elk dictated his autobiography to Neihardt and recounted Lakota history and traditions in an effort to preserve them. In 1947, Joseph Epes Brown met Black Elk in Nebraska. Brown spent the next winter with the elderly spiritual teacher in Manderson, South Dakota. Through that contact and their conversations, Black Elk provided the details of seven traditional rituals of the Oglala people which Brown published as The Sacred Pipe. The rites described included the purification ceremony (the sweat lodge), crying for a vision, female puberty, marriage, soul-keeping, throwing the ball, and the greatest medicine of all traditional Plains people, the Sun Dance.
Wallace Black Elk
In our Lakota language we are makowla sha sha–we are earth people and iktewe sha sha, common people. That’s the language they use. So that is the way were recognized.The spirit never said we’re “American Indians.” They never used that. We know America, this land we call Turtle Island, is named after Amerigo Vespucci. My middle name-Vespucci-is gone. I don’t. know what happened to “Vespucci” but, drop my middle name or last name, then they call me “American Indian.”
The word “Indian” itself doesn’t mean anything. It’s, another fictitious, name. Just because Columbus said so. It’s a lost word. He got lost and used a misplaced word and applied it to us. So today (When-someone asks] “Are you American Indian?” we say “Yea!” ‘
Now there is another label on top of that. They call me “Sioux.” The word “Sioux” is a French word. It means “‘cut ,throat, or “cunning.” So some people say “I’m a Sioux,” “I’m proud Sioux, or ” I’m proud to be Indian.” But thats all fictitious.
So all these things confuse people. And the Way history is written, it’s only for them. So Columbus told the Queen of Spain that he was going to India by way around the world, because the world was round. So he was going to go around, coming through the back door, so to speak. Get all the gold, and spices,come back,swing around the other way through the front door, Because going through the Mediterranean there’s a lot of ripoffs going on. So, that was the intention.
But see, going,off in the water, he went totally off course. And he didn’t know where he was or where he went. So we found him [laughter]. So we had to send him back to where he came from. But that is not in the history. Well, Indians have the navigation-the stars.
Shiva is the destroyer of the world, following Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver, after which Brahma again creates the world and so on. Shiva is responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction and in the positive sense of the shedding of old habits. In Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram or Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Shiva also represents the most essential goodness.
Shiva is the god of the yogis, self-controlled and celibate, while at the same time a lover of his spouse (shakti). Shiva’s first wife was Sati and his second wife was Parvati, also known as Uma, Gauri, Durga, Kali and Shakti. His sons are Ganesha and Kartikeya. Shiva lives on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas.
Shiva’s main attributes are the trident that represents the three gunas and the snakes that show he is beyond the power of death and poison and also stand for the Kundalini energy. The vehicle of Shiva is the white bull called Nandi (the joyful). He is often seated on a tiger skin or wears a tiger skin, with the tiger representing the mind.
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David began practicing yoga at the age of 13 in 1969. His older brother Doug was his first teacher. They practiced hatha yoga from whatever books they could find.
David’s introduction to Ashtanga came in 1973 when he met David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff in Encinitas, California. In 1975 David and Nancy brought K. Pattabhi Jois to the U.S. for the first time and Swenson was fortunate enough to be there. He then initiated studies directly with the master. Swenson made his first trip to Mysore in 1977 and learned the full Ashtanga system as it was originally taught by K. Pattabhi Jois.
David Swenson is recognized today as one of the worlds foremost practitioners and instructors of Ashtanga Yoga.
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Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
In 1928, when Tirumalai Krishnamacharya left the Himalayas after a long, eight-year apprenticeship with his teacher, Yoga was a dying art practiced by a handful of ascetics living on the fringes of society. But this was soon to change. For the next sixty-one years, Krishnamacharya shared his knowledge of Yoga as a holistic healing discipline with thousands in his own country and with many others who came to study with him from Europe and America. He started a quiet revolution that revitalized Yoga for the modern age and produced some of the most influential Yoga masters of our time, all of whom were his students: Indra Devi, TKV Desikachar, BKS Iyengar, and Pattabhi Jois.
Krishnamacharya was the only master in the modern era to have been trained in the complete art of Yoga Cikitsa. Helping people to heal through Yoga was his life’s work, and he devoted himself to this work for seventy years. His work is now carried on through the efforts of TKV Desikachar and the KYM, a renowned center for Yoga Therapy practice, education, and research for thirty years. If Yoga Therapy is the future of Yoga, then the future has been here for a long time, waiting for us to be ready to learn. The legacy of Krishnamacharya – our legacy as students and teachers of Yoga – is not a style of Yoga, it is Yoga – past, present, and future.
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo was raised in London and whilst in her teens she became a Buddhist. In 1964, at the age of twenty, she decided to go to India to pursue her spiritual path.
There she met her Guru, His Eminence the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, a great Drukpa Kagyu lama, and became one of the first Westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She remained with Khamtrul Rinpoche and his community in Himachal Pradesh, northern India, for six years and then he directed her to the Himalayan valley of Lahaul in order to undertake more intensive practice. Tenzin Palmo stayed in a small monastery there for several years, remaining in retreat during the long winter months. Then, seeking more seclusion and better conditions for practice, she found a nearby cave where she remained for another 12 years, the last 3 years in strict retreat. She left India in 1988 and went to stay in Italy where she taught at various Dharma centres.
Before H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche passed away in 1980, he had on several occasions requested Tenzin Palmo to start a nunnery. She understood the importance of this and remembers when in 1993, the Lamas of the Khampagar monastery in Himachal Pradesh India again made the request. This time Tenzin Palmo was ready to take on the formidable task and she began slowly raising interest worldwide.
In January 2000 the first nuns arrived and in 2001 the construction of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery began and is now, with the ongoing construction of the traditional Temple, nearing completion.
In February 2008 Tenzin Palmo was given the rare title of Jetsunma, which means Venerable Master, by His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, Head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in recognition of her spiritual achievements as a nun and her efforts in promoting the status of female practitioners in Tibetan Buddhism.
Shirdi Sai Baba
Sai Baba of Shirdi (Unknown – October 15, 1918), also known as Shirdi Sai Baba, was an Indian guru and yogi, regarded by his followers as an incarnation of God. Some of his Hindu devotees believe that he was an incarnation of Shiva or Dattatreya. Many devotees believe that he was a Sadguru. There are many stories and eyewitness accounts of miracles he performed. He is a well-known figure in many parts of the world, but especially in India, where he is much revered.
The name ‘Sai Baba’ is a combination of Persian and Indian origin; S?? (Sa’ih) is the Persian term for “well learned” or “knowledgeable”, usually attributed to Islamic ascetics, whereas Baba (honorific) is a word meaning “father; grandfather; old man; sir” used in Indo-Aryan languages. The appellative thus refers to Sai Baba as being a “holy father” or “saintly father”. His parentage, birth details, and life before the age of sixteen are obscure, which has led to a variety of speculations and theories attempting to explain Sai Baba’s origins. In his life and teachings he tried to reconcile Hinduism and Islam: Sai Baba lived in a mosque which he called Dwarakamayi, practised Hindu and Muslim rituals, taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions and was buried in a Hindu temple in Shirdi. One of his well known epigrams says of God: “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”) which traces its root to the Bhagavad-Gita and Islam in general, and Sufism, in particular. He always uttered “Allah Malik” – Lord is the sole protector. He had no love for perishable things, and was always engrossed in self-realization, which was his sole concern.
Sri Shivarudra Balayogi
Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj (24 January 1935 – 28 March 1994) is a Self realized master of meditation in the tradition of the ancient and modern yogis of India. He attained Self realization through twelve years of arduous tapas, meditating in Samadhi (state of total thoughtlessness) for an average of twenty hours a day. Tapas is the most advanced stage of meditation in which one remains absorbed for long periods in the non-dualistic state of consciousness known as Samadhi.
After he completed tapas, he assumed the name Shivabalayogi, which some devotees had already begun to use for him. The name means “Yogi devoted to Shiva and Parvati.” Shiva is God in the form of a yogi. Bala is one of the many names for Parvati, God in the form of a yogini. The name reflects that Shivabalayogi is a manifestation of both the male and female aspects of the divine (Ardhanarishwara). The female aspect represents the invisible energy of the Divine through which the entire creation operates, while the male aspect represents the pure consciousness of existence beyond all imaginations. Generally, devotees called him simply “Swamiji” meaning “respected Master”.
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Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje*, Macedonia, on August 26**, 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. She knew she had to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. After a few months’ training in Dublin she was sent to India, where on May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun.
From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Although she had no funds, she depended on Divine Providence, and started an open-air school for slum children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was also forthcoming. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work.
The 14th Dalai Lama
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the age of two the child, who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a man of peace. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.
Since 1959 His Holiness has received over 84 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes, etc., in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. His Holiness has also authored more than 72 books.
His Holiness describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.
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Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798) is regarded as one of the most important figures in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Also known as ‘Khyentsé Özer’, ‘Rays of Compassion and Wisdom’, he was a great terton (treasure revealer), scholar, and visionary. He discovered the Longchen Nyingtik cycle of teachings and practice through a series of visions from the great fourteenth century master, Longchenpa. With the patronage of the Dergé royal family, Jikmé Lingpa published the compilation of Nyingma tantras known as the Nyingma Gyübum and composed a catalogue to accompany it.
Jikmé Lingpa discovered the Longchen Nyingtik teachings as a mind terma (spiritual treasure) at the age of twenty-eight. Tulku Thondup writes:
In the evening of the twenty-fifth day of the tenth month of the Fire Ox year of the thirteenth Rabjung cycle (1757), Jikmé Lingpa went to bed with an unbearable devotion to Guru Rinpoche in his heart; a stream of tears of sadness continuously wet his face because he was not in Guru Rinpoche’s presence, and unceasing words of prayers kept singing in his breath.
He remained in the depths of that meditation experience of clear luminosity for a long time. While being absorbed in that luminous clarity, he experienced flying a long distance through the sky while riding a white lion. He finally reached a circular path, which he thought to be the circumambulation path of Jarung Khashor, now known as Boudhanath Stupa, an important Buddhist monument of giant structure in Nepal.
In this vision, the wisdom dakinis gave Jikmé Lingpa a casket containing five yellow scrolls and seven crystal beads. One of the scrolls contained the prophetic guide of Longchen Nyingtik, called Nechang Thukkyi Drombu. At the instruction of a dakini, he ate the yellow scrolls and crystal beads, and all the words and meaning of the Longchen Nyingtik terma were awakened in his mind.
Jikmé Lingpa kept this terma secret for years, and he did not even transcribe the terma until he entered another retreat in which he had a series of visions of Longchen Rabjam. Tulku Thondup explains:
In the earth-hare year (1759) he started another three-year retreat, at Chimpu near Samye monastery. During that retreat, because he was inspired by three successive pure visions of Longchen Rabjam, and he was urged by repeated requests of dakinis, he transcribed his terma as the cycle of Longchen Nyingtik. On the tenth day of the sixth month (monkey month) of the monkey year (1764) he made his terma public for the first time by conferring the transmission of empowerment and the instructions upon fifteen disciples
Bodhidharma is credited with bringing Zen Buddhism to China and he is the First Patriarch of Chinese Zen Lineage. He was born on Oct. 5th. (Chinese Lunar Calendar) in Southern India, and was the third son of an Indian King; the royal family belonged to the Bhramin caste. Bodhidharma’s Buddhist Master, Prajnatara, was the 27th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism, taught Bodhidharma for many years, gave him Mind Transmission, made him the 28th Patriarch, and gave him the name Bodhidharma. Following the instruction of his Master to transmit Dharma to China, Bodhidharma traveled east to Southern China in 526 A.D. When he arrived in Kwang Chou, he was ceremoniously welcomed and greatly honored by the local military official named Shao Yang. The same year, he was invited to the Capitol, Nanjing, to meet Emperor Wu Di of the Liang dynasty. Because the communication between the Emperor and Bodhidharma was mutually unsatisfactory, Bodhidharma left the palace, crossed the Yangtzu River, and continued north until he arrived at the Shaolin Temple in Ho Nan Province. It was here that Bodhidharma became famous for meditating 9 years facing a wall.
After he gave his disciple, Hui K’o, the Robe, Begging Bowl, Lankavatara Sutra, and Mind Transmission, Bodhidharma went to Chen Sung (One Thousand Saints) Temple to propagate the Dharma. He passed into Nirvana in 536 A.D., was buried in Shon Er Shan (Bear Ear Mountain) in Ho Nan, and a stupa was built for him in Pao Lin Temple. Later, the Tang dynasty Emperor, Dai Dzong, bestowed on Bodhidharma the name Yuen Che Grand Zen Master, and renamed his stupa as Kong Kwan (Empty Visualization).
Yeshe Tsogyal (757–817), was the consort of the great Indian tantric teacher Padmasambhava, the founder-figure of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyingma tradition considers her equal in realization to Padmasambhava himself. The meditational practices related to her, stress her enlightened aspect, and are similar in form to tantric deity practices in general. She is variously equated with Vajravarahi, Tārā or Sarasvatī.
Both the Nyingma and Karma Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism recognize Yeshe Tsogyal as a female Buddha. The translators of Lady of the Lotus-Born, the namthar or spiritual biography that Yeshe Tsogyal left as a terma observe:
As Dodrup Tenpai Nyima makes clear, beings able to reveal Termas must have at least the realization of the Perfection Stage practices. On the other hand, the one who originates the Treasures must have the supreme attainment of Buddhahood. Lady of the Lotus-Born is thus a testimony of Yeshe Tsogyal’s enlightenment.
According to legend she was born in the same manner as the Buddha, a Sanskrit mantra sounding as her mother gave birth painlessly, and she is considered a reincarnation of the Buddha’s own mother, Maya Devi. Her name (“Primordial (ye) Wisdom (shes) Queen (rgyal mo) of the Lake (tso)”) derives from her birth causing a nearby lake to double in size.
As a young girl, she is said to have prayed for the happiness of all sentient beings. At the age of sixteen, she was initiated into Buddhism by Guru Padmasambhava. Although she was originally one of the Queen consorts of Trisong Detsen, she was given to Padmasambhava and became his main spiritual consort. After many years of diligent study she achieved a level of enlightenment equal to his. Yeshe Tsogyal was the main compiler of Padmasambhava’s teachings, and it was she who concealed most of the termas.
Tsogyel, though fairly obviously a transformation of an older Bön figure, Bönmo Tso (female Bön practitioner of the lake), whom she debates in her “autobiography”, also preserves the Great Completeness traditions shared by Bön with Tibet’s earliest Buddhist tradition. As the wife of Tri-song-day-tsen and the consort of Padmasambhava, given to him at her request by the king, she also stands historically at the beginning of Buddhism’s eclipse of Bön in Tibet. She is also considered a manifestation of Sarasvati and sometimes identified with the Bodhisattva Tara.
In the ‘“Life of Yeshe Tsogyel,” Padma Sambhava predicted that Yeshe Tsogyel would be reborn as Machig Lapdron; her consort, Atsara Sale, would become Topabhadra, Machig’s husband; her assistant and Padma Sambhava’s secondary consort, Tashi Khyidren, would be reborn as Machig’s only daughter, and so on. All of the important figures in Tsogyel’s life were to be reborn in the life of Machig Lapdron, including Padma Sambhava himself, who would become Phadampa Sangye.
According to Karmapa lineage Tsogyel had attained Buddhahood in that very life. On the Gyalwa Karmapa website it is said that she -some thirty years before transcending worldly existence- finally emerged from an isolated Meditation Retreat (796-805) as “a fully Enlightened Buddha”
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Born Harbhajan Singh in what is now Pakistan to a family of healers and community leaders, Yogi Bhajan studied comparative religion and Vedic philosophy in his undergraduate years, going onto receive his Masters in Economics with honors from Punjab University. Years later, he earned his Ph.D. in communications psychology from the University of Humanistic Studies in San Francisco.
He emerged as a religious, community and business leader with a distinguished reputation as a man of peace, world-vision, wisdom, and compassion. He has authored and published more than 30 books on topics ranging from spirituality and consciousness to communication and psychology. He has founded several foods companies that manufacture and distribute natural products based on these teachings. He has fostered economic development in every community in which he participates, annually conducts business seminars, and has authored several books that provide guidance to both the aspiring entrepreneur and seasoned business executive alike. As the Siri Singh Sahib, or the Sikh leader in the Western Hemisphere, he has met with Pope John Paul II to discuss inter-religious dialogue and worked side-by-side with the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury to foster world peace.
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Patanjali, undoubtedly the greatest expounder of Yoga, lived sometime between 500 and 200 B.C. The life of Patanjali is an enigma to modern historians, and almost nothing is known about this great Master who epitomizes Yoga. It is only with the help of legends that one can draw inferences about him. Undoubtedly he was a great Yoga adept and was perhaps the head of a school in which “Swadhyaya”, study of the Self, was regarded as an important aspect of spiritual practice.
Indian history is presumptive of several individuals by the name of Patanjali. Three of them were well-known; the first one being the famous grammarian who wrote the commentary on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi (the Mahabhashya) and compiled the Yoga Sutras, the classical text on Raja Yoga. The Mahabhashya symbolises the perfection of the discipline in grammar. The object of grammar is to supply rules for control of current speech (laukika) for the preservation of the integrity of the Vedas and the comprehension of proper meaning. The second person named Patanjali wrote the Nidana-Sutras, considered indispensable for the study of the Vedic ritual literature; while the third was a well-known teacher of Samkhya Philosophy. The above three people, in the historian’s view, happen to come from different time periods and are considered to be different personalities. The Indian Tradition however, differs in opinion strongly and advocates that the above different treatises were done by a single person and even further, attributes various medical treatises to him.
“The Syllable by Syllable Commentary Explaining the Benefits of the Vajra Guru Mantra.”
By the great tertön Karma Lingpa (14th century)
The Vajra Guru Mantra is the mantra associated with Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava. This is a draft translation of a treasure text (terma) which explains the Vajra Guru Mantra. It was originally concealed during the time of Padmasambhava in Tibet and later rediscovered by Karma Lingpa (14th century) who brought it forth from its place of concealment and copied it down on reams of gold. It is simply known as “The Syllable by Syllable Commentary Explaining the Benefits of the Vajra Guru Mantra.” It begins with an invocation and then goes into a dialogue between Yeshe Tsogyal, the spiritual consort of Padmasambhava, and Padmasambhava himself.
And so, Yeshe Tsogyal begins:
I, the woman Yeshe Tsogyal, having offered to you the inner and outer mandala on a vast scale, have the following request. Oh great teacher, Pema Jungne, you have been extremely kind to us, the Tibetan people, leaving for us a legacy that will benefit us now and in future lives. Your kindness is so great that we have never experienced anything like this before, nor will we ever experience anything like this in the future. In particular, so that now even though I am a humble person, I have no doubt that I will attain enlightenment.
In the future, sentient beings will have very short attention spans and a great many things will clutter and occupy their minds. Their characters will be rough and difficult to tame. They will develop many wrong views towards the sacred Dharma. In particular, a time will come when people will cast dispersions on the Secret Mantra teaching of the unsurpassable levels of tantra. At that time, all sentient beings will suffer heavily from disease, famine, and war. Because of the spread of these three calamities, in particular, China, Tibet and Mongolia will experience the same kind of turmoil as an ant’s nest when it is destroyed, and the time will come for the people of Tibet to suffer greatly. Though you have spoken at length of many skillful means to salvage what is possible from that situation, sentient beings in the future will not have the time to practice. Even though they may have some slight inclination to practice, they will encounter many great obstacles. Sentient beings will experience a great deal of disharmony. They won’t be able to get along or reach any kind of accord, and in the wake of this, their behavior will become very impure. Bad times such as this will be very difficult to avert. That being the case, what kinds of benefits and advantages would there be for those beings in the future were they to rely solely upon the Vajra Guru Mantra as their practice? I ask you to relate this for the benefit of individuals in the future who are not able to perceive this and therefore have to have it explained to them.
Then the great master, Pema Jungne replied:
Oh faithful lady, what you have said is so very true. In the future, such times will befall sentient beings and both in a temporary and in a long term sense, the benefits of the Vajra Guru mantra can be definitely be felt. Since my spiritual instructions and the methods of practice that I offer are immeasurable, I have hidden a great number of treasure teachings in the water, rocks, the sky and so forth. In these evil times, even individuals with fortunate karma will find it difficult to encounter these teachings. It will be difficult to bring together the necessary circumstances for these teachings to be revealed. This is a sign that the collective merit of beings is on the wane.
However, at such times, if this essence mantra, the Vajra Guru mantra, is repeated as much as possible, a hundred times, a thousand times, ten thousand times, a hundred thousand times, a million, ten million, a hundred million times and so forth, if it is repeated in holy places, in temples, next to great rivers, in areas where gods and demons abound, if it is recited in these places by tantric practitioners with pure samaya, by people with monastic ordination who maintain their vows purely, by men and women who possess faith in the teachings, if they give rise to bodhicitta on a grand scale and recite this mantra, then the benefits and advantages and energy of such practice are truly inconceivable. This will avert all of the negative forces of disease, famine, unrest, bad harvests and all bad omens and indications in all the countries of the world, such that the rain will fall in a timely manner for the crops so there will always be a plentiful supply of water for agriculture and for human and animal life, and all regions and areas will experience prosperity and auspicious conditions.
In this life, in future lives, and in the intermediate state between death and rebirth, these individuals who practice in this way will meet with me again and again. The very best of these individuals will actually meet me in their waking consciousness. Those of middling degree of attainment will meet with me again and again in their dreams. Gradually perfecting the different paths and levels of their practice, they will attain to the ranks of the masculine and feminine holders of intrinsic awareness in my pure land in the continent of Ngayab. Have no doubt of this.
If this mantra is recited a hundred times a day, merely a hundred times a day without interruption, one will become attractive to others and will effortlessly come by food and wealth and the necessities of life.
If one recites it a thousand or ten thousand times on a daily basis, one is able to literally overwhelm others with one’s brilliance, in the sense of becoming very charismatic and influential in exerting a positive influence over others, and one will gain unhindered force of blessings and spiritual power.
If one repeats it a hundred thousand or a million times on a regular basis one will become capable of effecting an immeasurably great benefit for beings, exactly as one would wish to.
If one recites the mantra three or seven million times, one is never separate from the buddhas of the three times and one becomes inseparable from me. All the gods and demons of existence will attend to one and offer their praises.
In the most excellent cases, individuals will attain the rainbow body, and the final level of attainment in this lifetime. On a more middling level, at the moment of death, the mother and child aspects of radiant luminosity will meet. At the very least, individuals will behold my face in the bardo state and all the appearances of the bardo state will be free in their own ground such that these individuals will be reborn on the continent of Ngayab and from that vantage point, be able to accomplish an immeasurable amount of benefit to beings. Thus the Guru replied to Yeshe Tsogyal.
She responded by saying:
Oh great master, it is extremely kind of you to have spoken of these vast and immeasurable advantages of the spiritual energy of this mantra. For the benefit of sentient beings in the future however, a detailed explanation would be of enormous benefit, and so I would ask you to speak in a brief way about the different syllables of this mantra.
To which the great master replied:
O daughter of good family, the Vajra Guru mantra is not just my single essence mantra, it is the very essence or life force of all the deities of the four classes of tantra, of all the nine yanas, and all of the 84,000 collections of dharma teachings. The essence of all of the buddhas of the three times, all of the gurus, yidams, dakas, and dakinis, dharma protectors, etc., the essence of all of these is contained and is complete within this mantra. How, you may ask, does this work? What is the reason for all these being complete with this mantra? Listen well and hold this in mind. Read it again and again. Write it out for the benefit of sentient beings, and teach
it or demonstrate it to beings in the future.
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG are the sublime, essence of the principles of enlightened body, speech, and mind
VAJRA is the sublime essence of the indestructible family
GURU is the sublime essence of the jewel family
PEMA is the sublime essence of the lotus family
SIDDHI is the sublime essence of the activity family
HUNG is the sublime essence of the transcendent family
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM is the perfect splendor and richness of sambhoghakaya
AH is the total unchanging perfection of dharmakaya, the manifest body of absolute reality
HUNG perfects the presence of Guru Padmasambhava as the nirmanakaya, the manifest body of emanation
VAJRA perfects all the heruka deities of the mandalas
GURU refers to the root and transmission gurus and the holders of intrinsic awareness
PEMA perfects the assembly of dakas and dakinis
SIDDHI is the life force of all the wealth deities and the guardians of the treasure teachings
HUNG is the life force of the dharmapalas, the protective deities
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG are the life force of the three classes of tantra
VAJRA is the life force of the monastic discipline and the sutra class of teachings
GURU is the life force of abhidharma and kriya (action) yoga, the first level of tantra
PEMA is the life force of the charya (conduct) yoga, the second class of tantra, and yoga (joining) tantra, the third class of tantra
SIDDHI is the life force of the mahayoga and anuyoga classes of teachings
HUNG is the life force of the ati yoga, the Natural Great Perfection (Dzogchen)
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG purify obscurations arising from the three mental poisons: desire/attachment, aversion, and ignorance
VAJRA purifies obscurations which stem from anger
GURU purifies obscurations which stem from pride
PEMA purifies obscurations which stem from desire/attachment
SIDDHI purifies obscurations which stem from envy/jealousy
HUNG in a general way purifies obscurations which stem from all emotional afflictions
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
Through OM AH HUNG one attains the three kayas
Through VAJRA one realizes mirror-like pristine awareness
Through GURU one realizes the pristine awareness of equalness
Through PEMA one realizes the pristine awareness of discernment
Through SIDDHI one realizes the all-accomplishing pristine awareness
Through HUNG one realizes the pristine awareness of basic space
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
Through OM AH HUNG gods, demons, and humans are subdued
Through VAJRA one gains power over malevolent forces of certain gods and demons
Through GURU one gains control over the malevolent forces of the Lord of Death and the cannibal demons
Through PEMA one gains control over the malevolent influences of the water and wind elements
Through SIDDHI one gains control over the malevolent influences of non-human forces and spirits bringing harm and exerting negative control over one’s life
Through HUNG one gains control of the malevolent influences of planetary configurations and earth spirits
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG accomplishes the six spiritual virtues
VAJRA accomplishes pacifying activity
GURU accomplishes enriching activity
PEMA accomplishes magnetizing activity
SIDDHI accomplishes enlightened activity in general
HUNG accomplishes wrathful enlightened activity
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG avert all imprecations and curses
VAJRA averts the negative consequences of breaking one’s samaya with the deities of pristine awareness
GURU averts the negative influences of the eight classes of gods and demons in samsara
PEMA averts the negative influences of nagas and earth spirits
HUNG averts the negative influences of gods, demons, humans, samsaric gods
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG defeats the army of the five mental poisons
VAJRA defeats anger
GURU defeats pride
PEMA defeats desire/attachment
SIDDHI defeats envy and jealousy
HUNG defeats the armies of gods, demons and humans
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG brings about the spiritual accomplishments or siddhis
VAJRA brings about the siddhi of peaceful and wrathful deities
GURU brings about the siddhi of the awareness-holders and the lineage gurus
PEMA brings about the siddhi of the dakas and dakinis and dharma protectors
SIDDHI brings about the mundane and supreme siddhis
HUNG brings about the siddhi of accomplishing whatever one wishes
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG transfers consciousness to the pure realms of experience
VAJRA transfers consciousness to the eastern pure realm of Manifest Joy
GURU transfers consciousness to the southern pure realm of Glory & Splendor
PEMA transfers consciousness to the western pure realm of Great Bliss
SIDDHI transfers consciousness to the northern pure realm of Excellent Activity
HUNG transfers consciousness to the central pure realm of Unwavering
If a physical form could demonstrate the benefit of even one recitation of OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG, the entire earth would not be sufficient to contain the merit. All sentient beings who see, hear, or remember this mantra will definitely be established in the ranks of the masculine and feminine awareness-holders. If it is the case that these words of truth of the Vajra Guru mantra do not accomplish for sentient beings what they wish to accomplish just as I have promised, then I Pema Jungne, am truly deceiving sentient beings. But I have not deceived you, so you should practice according to my instructions.
Even if you are not able to recite the mantra for whatever reasons, you should mount it on the top of a victory banner, even when the wind touches it, and that wind touches sentient beings, it will free them without a doubt. Alternately, you may inscribe it in clay or carve it in stone. This will also guard the path upon which these syllables are placed and guard that region from malevolent effects. You may also write this mantra out in gold ink on dark blue paper and wear it as an amulet. When you die, if this amulet is burned with your corpse, rainbows will be seen and your consciousness will be transferred to the realms of Supreme Bliss. The benefits of writing out, reading or reciting this mantra defy any accurate measure and defy any standard measurement that could be applied. Having established this for the benefit of beings in the future, I am hiding this treasure. May it meet with a fortunate child of mine in the future who has good karma.
Samaya. Sealed. Sealed. Sealed.
click here to read more at www.rigpawiki.org
David Williams has been practicing Yoga daily, without interruption, since 1971. In 1972, David met K. P. Manju , the son of K. Pattabhi Jois, and saw him demonstrate the Ashtanga Yoga 1st series. This was at Dr. Swami Gitananda’s Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, South India, where David received his 6 month Yoga teachers training course certification.
In 1973, David began studying Ashtanga Yoga with K. Pattabhi Jois at his home in Mysore, India, and became the first non-Indian to be taught the complete Ashtanga Yoga system of asanas and pranayama directly from Jois. David introduced K. Pattabhi Jois and Manju to America and the western world when he, along with Nancy Gilgoff, organized and sponsored their first visit to Encinitas, California, in 1975.
David is responsible for teaching the Ashtanga Yoga system to many of today’s leading teachers and practitioners, including David Swenson, Doug Swenson, Danny Paradise, Bryan Kest, Jonny Kest, Tracy Rich, Chuck Miller, and Maty Ezraty.
click here to read more at www.ashtangayogi.com
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (February 18, 1836 – August 16, 1886), born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, was a famous mystic of 19th-century India. His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda – both were influential figures in the Bengali Renaissance as well as the Hindu renaissance during the 19th and 20th centuries. He was considered an avatar or incarnation of God by many of his disciples, and is considered as such by many of his devotees today.
Ramakrishna was born in a poor Brahmin Vaishnava family in rural Bengal. He became a priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali, which had the influence of the main strands of Bengali bhakti tradition. His first spiritual teacher was an ascetic woman skilled in Tantra and Vaishnava bhakti. Later an Advaita Vedantin ascetic taught him non-dual meditation, and according to Ramakrishna, he experienced nirvikalpa samadhi under his guidance. Ramakrishna also experimented with other religions, notably Islam and Christianity, and said that they all lead to the same God. Though conventionally uneducated, he attracted attention of the Bengali intelligentsia and middle class.
The Ramakrishna movement was brought to the West by Swami Vivekananda, and has been termed as one of the revitalization movements of India.
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Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh (called Thay by his students) has led an extraordinary life. Born in central Vietnam in 1926 he joined the monkshood at the age of sixteen. The Vietnam War confronted the monasteries with the question of whether to adhere to the contemplative life and remain meditating in the monasteries, or to help the villagers suffering under bombings and other devastation of the war. Nhat Hanh was one of those who chose to do both, helping to found the “engaged Buddhism” movement. His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.
Thich Nhat Hanh continues to live in Plum Village in the meditation community he founded, where he teaches, writes, and gardens; and he leads retreats worldwide on “the art of mindful living.”
click here to read more at www.plumvillage.org
TKV Desikachar, son and student of T Krishnamacharya had the privilege of living and studying with T Krishnamacharya from 1960 until Krishnamacharya’s death in 1989. For over 45 years, TKV Desikachar has devoted himself to teaching yoga and making it relevant to people from all walks of life and with all kinds of abilities. His teaching method is based on Krishnamacharya’s fundamental principle that yoga must always be adapted to an individual’s changing needs in order to derive the maximum therapeutic bT Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikacharenefit.
In addition to the three decades of yoga training he received from his father, TKV Desikachar holds a degree in structural engineering. One of the world’s foremost teachers of yoga and a renowned authority on the therapeutic uses of yoga, TKV Desikachar continues to oversee KYM’s work in therapy as well as training and guiding the faculty of KYM.
click here to read more at www.kym.org
Gautama was born in northern India about 2500 years ago. The exact place of his birth is understood to be the Lumbini garden, which nowadays lies just inside the border of the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal.
Gautama’s father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the tiny kingdom of the Sakyas. Naturally, he was delighted to have an heir who could follow him on to the throne. Naturally he was not very pleased when a wise man predicted, upon seeing the new arrival, that if he did not become a great world ruler he would become a great religious teacher.
King Suddhodana knew that it would be experience of the hard, painful things of life that would turn Gautama’s mind in the direction of religion, so he did everything in his power to keep them out of the young prince’s life. Gautama was thus brought up in a sealed world of security and luxury. He lived in beautiful palaces, wore clothes of the most splendid materials, ate only the finest foods, and was generally entertained and waited upon in the best style.
Gautama grew up and eventually married a young princess, Yasodhara, who bore him a son, Rahula. One day, however, he persuaded his groom, Channa, to drive him down to the nearby town, where he had not been till then. In all, he was to make four trips to the town which were to totally change his life. On the first trip, he met an old man, on the second a sick man, and on the third he met a party of people carrying a corpse to the cremation ground. Not having seen old age, sickness and death before, he was naturally deeply shocked. In fact so shocked that palace life was no longer pleasant or even bearable for him. He became very concerned with the fact of suffering and with finding a way of ending it. On a fourth trip to the town, he came upon a possible way of finding an answer to his problem. He met an ascetic, a holy man: one who had given up everything to follow the religious life. Despite having nothing, this man radiated a calmness that suggested to Gautama that he had somehow come to terms with the unpleasant fact of suffering.
So Gautama decided to follow the example of the ascetic. He slipped out of the palace in the dead of night, exchanged his splendid silken robe for the simple orange one of a holy man, and cut off all his beautiful black hair. Then, carrying nothing but an alms bowl for people to put food in, he set off on his great search.
Gautama went to all the most famous religious teachers of his day and learned all they had to teach. In the process, he subjected his body to great hardship and torment. He lived in terrifying forests, burning in the heat of the midday sun and freezing at night; he slept on beds of thorns; sometimes he lived in cemeteries; he starved himself until he became so thin that if he touched his stomach he could feel his backbone. But still he could not find an answer to his fundamental problem and he realised that if he kept on that way he would probably die before finding one.
He therefore decided on a Middle Way between luxury and austerity. He took a little food much to the disgust of his fellow ascetics, who promptly left him. Then he sat himself on the immovable spot under a great Bo tree at a place nowadays called Bodh Gaya. He was determined to sit there until he found an answer or die trying.
During the night of the full moon of May, Gautama passed into deep meditation and gained various kinds of new knowledge. He saw into his past lives; he saw how karma works (karma means volitional action: action done by choice or conscious decision; it has inevitable effects – good actions produce good results, bad actions produce bad results); he also saw how to overcome desire, attachment to existence and clinging to false or fixed views. Finally, as the morning star rose, he awakened as from a dream and could declare: ‘It is liberated . . . birth is exhausted, the Holy Life has been lived out, what was to be done has been done, there is no more to come . . .’ He was Gautama no more but The Buddha The Awakened One. He had seen things as they really are. Sometimes he is spoken of as having attained Nirvana. Nirvana is – the extinction of greed, the extinction of hate, the extinction of delusion. Its true nature cannot be put into words; a person must know it for himself in his own heart.
At first the Buddha was reluctant to tell other people about what he had discovered. He felt they would not understand. He was persuaded, however, that there were some ‘with but a little dust in their eyes’ who might benefit from being told. He therefore went to Isipatana (modern Sarnath, near Benares) where he delivered his first sermon in a deer park. Thus began a forty-five year teaching career.
The Buddha taught all classes, conditions and types of men and women, and, indeed, all beings. The way that he taught is often called The Middle Way, because it teaches that we should try and keep to a middle path between all extremes. Soon the Buddha gathered around himself a following ready to give up everything to hear his teachings and put them into practice. Thus was born the Sangha: the community of Buddhist monks and nuns, which from the start was supported by a large lay community.
As a man, the Buddha’s life had eventually to end. He passed away when he was about 80 at Kushinara. Naturally, his followers were deeply grieved. His final words to them were: ‘Impermanent are all compounded things. Strive on heedfully.’ Afterwards, he passed into what Buddhists call his parinirvana or Full nirvana, a state that can no more be conveyed in words than his first Nirvana.
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