There is a particular mantra (word or phrase used during meditation) of which I am very fond: Baba Nam Kevalam. It is written in the sanskrit language and I have heard it translated into English many ways over the years. “God’s name only” is a very simple, direct and useful one, but I tend to translate it differently for my yoga students. “Everything is an expression of God” or “Everything is an expression of the supreme consciousness.” Whether that is the best translation or not, I can not say, but it works for me, and I believe the statement to be the truth and furthermore that the realization of that truth by a person will result in a dramatic transformation in him/her. A transformation from the “normal” to the sublime, from the tortured to the blissful, from the ignorant to the wise, from the harmful to the benevolent, from the unconscious to the conscious.
Sometimes when I simply reflect on the word “conscious,” I become euphoric. It is so simple, yet so liberating to be truly conscious of something, anything. No big mystery. To be “aware” of something is another way of saying it. If I notify my kids that it is snowing outside, they will immediately run to the window to verify the story, and assuming I have told the truth, they will soon become “conscious” of the snow. They run to the window, not because they don’t trust me, but because they are hungry for that experience of awareness of the snow. Snow is something they have seen before but only rarely in the rainy area we live in. Yet, it is something they love for many reasons. Snow gives them great joy and they drink in the “vision” from the window. What a blessing it is that holds their attention (another word for consciousness I believe) so firmly. The snow is so white and pure, and it floats so gracefully to the Earth seemingly from Heaven. Ten minutes ago they might have been bickering over a toy they don’t even want to play with, but now they are sharing a window as they both witness snow. Their minds are focused, joyful, one with the snow. For my kids, snow is fulfilling the purpose of art, lifting their minds up from their normal existence to a more lofty state.
But what is consciousness? It is something we all have to some extent, some people seem to have more of it than others, and if we get hit on the head too hard, we lose if for a while. But is it something we can cultivate and grow? Can we expand or somehow strengthen our consciousness? I am not talking about the intellect. That is something completely different. That is the computer, the information manipulator, the little puzzle solver. I am talking about consciousness. The consciousness that tells us “I am breathing”, “I am cold”, “The sun just came up”, “I am hungry”, “I exist” “You exist” “I have a blissful feeling in my heart.”
I propose that we consider consciousness a valuable commodity that can be expanded/developed, and something that can be used to an extent we would never have dreamed possible. Furthermore, I am going to go very far out on a limb now and tell you I believe we can use this “super-consciousness” to revolutionize our personal existence and give us undreamed of powers. Next, I would like to introduce the concept of “intuition”. Here is a word we are all familiar with, but not generally in terms of religion. Sadly intuition is thought of as not much more than a lucky hunch here and there, but I think it is a natural albeit undeveloped personal ability, which is both reliable and nothing more than an extension of that day to day “consciousness” that I mentioned above.
So what’s the problem? Why aren’t we all brimming over with the power of intuition? Because:
A. We are drowning in a sea of mental noise
B. There is no “B”
OK, hold on to your hat; this is the way I see it…. Our primary existence is consciousness. Essentially, we are nothing more or less than a pinpoint of pure consciousness. That pinpoint is surrounded by the rest of the cosmos, which I will call “reality.” We are the subject, “reality” is the object (signal) we are trying to be “conscious” of, but (for better or worse) in between we have a layer of noise, which I will call the “ego”, a fictitious sense of self, a misunderstanding of who we are, and that persistent belief that we are this absurd dream identity is the only thing preventing us from experiencing heaven right here on Earth.
So, how do we get rid of the noise and attain this super consciousness? For want of a better word, let’s call it “yoga.” Yoga directly translated means “union,” similar to the translation of the word “religion” by the way. Yoga promises to unite us with our true nature known in yoga circles as “the Self.” The full nature of yoga practice goes way beyond the scope of this short essay, but for the benefit of the novice who may hold the misunderstanding that yoga is merely a set of stretching exercises, I will briefly run over the 8 “limbs” of yoga as originally presented by the great yogi Pantanjali:
1. Yama (a group of 5 morel rules of the road)
2. Niyama; some additional guidelines for day to day behavior (study, helping others etc)
3. Asanas; the physical exercises that have become popular in the West
4. Pranayama; best known as breathing exercises
5. Pratyahara; withdrawal from the senses (preliminary to mediation)
6. Dharana; concentration exercises (meditation)
7. Dhyana; Attention to spiritual phenomena (contemplation)
8. Samadhii; Complete absorption in spiritual experience
I highly encourage anyone interested to seek instruction from a qualified instructor. For more information on yoga and the Baba Nam Kevalam mantra, please visit www.babanam.com.
Baba Nam Kevalam