Category Archives: sadhana

Indaba Recap

by Adam Frei

It has been four days since we returned from London and somehow it seems to have taken place a few months ago. Sri Dharma said to me at the start of our trip that in a moment it would be over. On our way back to the airport, he said: “You see? Already finished – like a dream.” It was, for all of us that went, a very pleasant dream.

Sri Dharma travels less these days than a few years ago, but he still travels quite a bit and his teaching takes him around the world. For the last couple of years, he has been saying that he really wanted to take the Dharma Yoga Kirtan Band along with him. As the London workshops seemed like they were going to be large and some of the band members had the dates available, we were able to make it happen. Although my position at the Center means that I get to work closely with Sri Dharma, it has been a while since I’ve been able to travel with him. It was, for me, a very special opportunity.

The venue was part of the Lords Cricket Ground in North London. It easily accommodated the 250 plus people that were part of each session. The presenters, Indaba Yoga, did a great job managing every aspect of the weekend. Most of the classes were two hours long. Somehow, Sri Dharma managed to include a full practice of Asana as part of each one, a brief, but focused spiritual discourse, an introduction to basic Pranayama techniques, recitation of mantra, Kirtan with the band and a full experience of Yoga Nidra. The classes never felt rushed, yet he managed to include so much. Spiritual discourse treated such topics as compassion, the Kleshas and the Koshas. What particularly impressed me was how Sri Dharma gave us a full experience of Yoga Nidra, sometimes in as little as twelve minutes, but that included complete relaxation of the body, visualization and autosuggestions. Truly extraordinary. The enthusiasm of the students was wonderful to observe.

Some highlights from Sri Dharma’s teaching as part of and outside of the workshops:

Indicating a small, cube refrigerator: “You see, that’s the perfect size for a Yogi.”

“I’m going to add some extra sugar to all the sessions this weekend.”

“We are doing Rabbit (Pose) here now. I bet if I look around the room, I see many Camels. If I catch any Camels, I throw them out.”

“If G-d come here right now and catch you not singing, that would be a catastrophe!”

“The action of compassion is to see yourself in others.”

“The orchestra is going to come and play now, so leave your mats and come close.”

“Move together like in a parade. Then we share all the knowledge psychically and become one.”

“I have an old car (body). The brakes don’t work so well anymore and some of the systems are starting to shut down. That’s why I always try and put the best quality fuel in. In about 10 or 20 years, I’ll be back with a new car.”

“We’re going to do Spiritual Breathing now so you feel spiritually inspired.”

“If you are interested to go deeper into yoga, you should read The Yoga-Sutras and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. For those just interested in living a more ethical life, there’s The Dammapada.”

“From the Hubble Space Telescope, we know that there are millions of blue planets. Some are ahead of us. Some, still with dinosaurs. The reason the aliens never come here, is because when they look through their telescope and zoom, zoom in on McDonalds, they see us eating animals, and then they never come here. They are soft and their limbs are tender. They are afraid that if they come here, they get eaten.”

“In one generation, it is predicted that there will be harmony among all the people of the earth. Then no need for the first step of yoga – the Ethical Rules – what for?”

“Do you know about the Koshas? These are the sheathes that cover Atman. It's good to know about them so you can negate them.”

“You become one with G-D at this moment. One with the Supreme Self.”

Special thanks to Kenny Steele, owner of Idaba Yoga, Olga Asmini, Indaba Yoga’s exceptional manager, her wonderful team, Mark Kan, our main Dharma Yoga teacher in London who really established Dharma Yoga there, Andrew Jones who did much work behind the scenes in advance of these workshops, Pam Leung and Yoshio Hama for beautiful demoing throughout the weekend, to Andrew and Yoshio for playing until their fingers bled, for the dedicated students who came from all over Europe and America to be part of this weekend and to Sri Dharma Mittra who somehow seemed fresher, funnier and more energized by Sunday night than he had at the start and who at almost 77 years of age continues to devote his life to sharing what he knows with all of us that are fortunate enough to learn from him.

 

Adam Frei is the director of the Life of a Yogi Teacher Training programs at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.

Effort as Offering: Changing the way we approach our practice

headstand

by Eileen Lorraine

My life has gone upside down many times; in my yoga life though, inverting has always eluded me. I came up with many viable reasons for this, blaming my gymnastics teacher who denied me my beloved balance beam until I learned to do multiple backward summersaults on the mat. Yawn. I blamed my thick thighs which I felt were far too heavy to lift higher than my hips. Gravity’s got me like. I blamed my unwarranted fear that kept me rooted to the ground no matter how many people kindly attempted to show me their way of going upside down on their heads. Feeling somewhat defeated, I eventually came to accept it as fact. I cannot do a headstand. There, I said it. Let others do it, let others teach it. It just won’t be me.

I suppose all along there was something deeper inside me that wasn’t fully buying such a definitive statement, and what didn’t come as a surprise to those who know my rebellious spirit, I applied to do the Life of a Yogi 500 hour teacher training with the man who dubbed the headstand, the “King of Poses”. In August 2015, I took a micro-sabbatical from my corporate gig and teaching classes in Las Vegas to join 65 other yogis from all over the world in New York’s Dharma Yoga Center (DYC). Feeling much like my first day at a brand new school, I entered the temple thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?” During our first practice together as a group, Sri Dharma Mittra called sirsasana ten minutes into class. Ten minutes into class?! So I sat while the rest of the room went upside down, all the while trying to fake a look of serenity and confidence in my “watchasana”, when inside I was crumbling. “I want to do that,” I thought. “I should be able to do that! I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be a teacher. What am I doing here?” And on and on and on the internal dialog went until sweet relief came when I heard Dharma-ji say, “Ok. Now break the pose.” (Holding self-chastising-asana is remarkably exhausting.)

Soon after, we were paired off into small groups of six. These were to be my peers for the two contact modules during our training, led by my first of two mentors, Andrew Jones. Being paired with Andrew, a senior teacher at DYC, was a gentle gift from the Universe. His soft British accent and kind demeanor invited me to share my dark confession with the group, “I can’t do headstand. And I want to. I really, really want to.” I expected to be met with instructions to go into a headstand and then feel the familiar shame of not being able to go any further than a deep version of dolphin pose. But that’s not what happened. Instead he simply said, “So you can’t do headstand. Its ok, you don’t have to.”

Wait, what?

Four words were all it took. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO,” and I was suddenly set free. Andrew continued, asking if I could consider removing the goal of conquering the pose, to take if off of my to-do list and to remember that asana is not the yoga I was after. That it wasn’t what pulled me away from my life in Las Vegas and called me to spend this time with Dharma-ji. He reminded me that our practice is an offering, and in that sense no matter how little or how much I invert myself, it is enough. For God, it has always been enough. And it was then that I gave myself permission to release the white knuckle grip I had on this pose, to slow down, to open my mind in a way that could finally absorb the technical hints my mentor and peers lovingly shared with me. And little by little over the course of the next eight days, my legs began to go up. It wasn’t until I returned to the security of my home did I fully invert away from the wall, but let me just say, it was an amazing feeling. I’m up, I’m up! I had a huge sense of pride, not for conquering the pose but for being able to let go of my ego enough to make my all my efforts an offering. And let that offering be enough.

Self-realization happens in subtle moments when we witness ourselves for whom we truly are, made of our strengths and our limitations. It happens in the moments when we release what is outside of us and instead go quietly inside, gently encouraging ourselves (with a sweet English accent if possible, it bloody helps!) to experience the moment, not the result. Without bringing compassion to our practice, there is no yoga.

shirshasana1 Shirshasana2 Shirshasana3 Shirshasana4 Shirshasana5 Shirshasana6 Shirshasana7 headstand

Shanti Shanti Shanti Om.

To Understand “Dharma” as Duty

By Diana Scime-Sayegh

We are a society obsessed with “fulfilling our dreams.” However, those dreams are usually ego based—ones of fame, fortune and “having it all.”  Yet many of these dreams cause great suffering when they are not achieved—feelings of failure, FOMO and not being good enough. This then impedes our ability to move forward in our lives and can result in depression and anxiety.

What if instead of fulfilling our dreams, we grew up excited and present with the idea of fulfilling our dharma?

Dharma is defined as duty, but it is not that simple to fully digest.

Dharma is what we were put on this earth to do for our soul’s evolution, to reach self-actualization, and perhaps most importantly to serve the rest of our community and Lord Shiva.

Beloved Sri Dharma will sometimes (lovingly and joyfully) say during class, “I don’t wanna be here! I wanna go home.”  But he understands his Dharma, and so he shows up and practices with us, teaches us, stays with us.

He left Brazil to follow Yogi Gupta, left India to come to NYC and fulfill his purpose handed to him by Shiva and his Guru, to teach and spread true yoga to as many people as possible.

Sri Dharma has been in the army and worked as a janitor, never feeling any job was beneath him, always willing to work hard, shed karmas, and offer all of himself to something much greater.

He opened one of the first yoga schools in NYC, and at his first class he watched as the one person who showed up left before he could even finish the Om. Regardless, with ego non-existent and no attachment to the outcome of his labor, he kept on going.  He understood it was not about “him,” but rather that this was his offering to the Lord and the purpose of his soul.

Now 76 years old,  he has taught all over the world and is an endless source of compassion and giving.  He is tired, but he knows he has a duty to fulfill (to such an extent his Guru gave him the name Dharma!) and he keeps going.

I have finally come to understand that “Dharma” and our dreams are not to be confused, and that a person must be fully established in a release of ego in order to truly hear their Dharma. I once thought my dharma was to be a world famous yoga teacher, a household name who was being asked to teach at Wanderlust and Bhakti Fest, leading Gwyneth Paltrow through practice.

How wrong I was, how wrapped up my ego was in these ideas! That was my DREAM, not my “dharma”.  As Sri Dharma says, “you might think you are very right, but really you are very wrong.”

As I sat in the garden this summer watching the bees tend to their work day after day I finally understood “dharma” and releasing the fruit of our actions. The bees show up to the flowers every day, busily working and ego-free, with no need for accolades, awards, or notoriety. They show up to the flowers because they must, because it is their dharma to the rest of the community—to nature, to us.  They fulfill their role joyfully, dutifully and with great discipline.

How much the bees have taught me about “dharma”.

I now understand in order to teach yoga in the way it is meant to be taught I must simply get a full time job like everyone else. In that way I can serve without a business mind, without the need to prove myself, without attachment to the workshops and the classes. But rather with the freedom and the joy of understanding that all of my work is actually done by Shiva anyway, and that all I do when I teach yoga and show up to my job are my offerings back to the cosmic consciousness.

All work is spiritual and all work is yoga when we understand all work is an offering.  Meditate, come to know yourself and the supreme teacher within, and be freed from the ego’s constant need for gratification, praise and attention.

Our purpose as yogis is to serve, and we cannot do this fully if we are serving our egos before our brothers and sisters, if we are more concerned with fulfilling our dreams than our dharmas.

 

DianaDiana Scime-Sayegh is the owner of Happy Heart Yoga Shala where she leads bespoke yoga for vibrant living, creating custom private practices to help release people of the blocks that keep them from living their most effervescent, joyful lives.  She received her 500-Hr from Sri Dharma Mittra and regularly practices with him. She is humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to teach yoga and is committed to serving, sharing her spiritual knowledge and transforming lives through yoga the same way she transformed her own.

 

Removing Desires and Rising to Raja Yoga

By Jerome Burdi

Of all the yamas, brahmacharya is the greatest struggle for me. It is, however, possibly the most important to really taste true freedom –freedom from desires. Even the gods admire the one who is free from desires.

Swami Sivananda mentions the importance of brahmacharya time and again in his book, Raja Yoga, detailing the Yoga Sutras. I read the book in preparation for the 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Training in August.

The other yamas — non-violence, not stealing, non-greed, and truthfulness –are much easier practices for me and many other yogis. Curbing desires is the toughest and if it’s not done successfully, all the other yamas can be tainted.

Only when desires are quieted can one progress along the spiritual path.

This is also the essence of Lord Buddha’s teachings: Desire and ignorance are the root of all suffering.

I enjoy Sivananda’s technique of destroying the evil vrittis, or thought patterns. It’s a sort of meditation, an awareness that one must maintain to have success on the path of yoga.

When an evil thought arises, think of its opposite and all the benefits of the good vrittis. When the thought of lust arises, think of brahmacharya; when anger rises, think of love; when pride shows its ugly head, chop it down with humility.

Desires will keep you in a rajasic, overactive state of mind, always unsettled. One must work properly, from a calm, sattvic state of mind.

“When sattva increases, the mind becomes steady like the flame of a lamp in a windless place,” Sivananda wrote. “He who is sattvic can do real concentration and meditation, and can enter into samadhi easily.”

The difficulty is how to find that sattvic mind and finally concentrate.

“Have perfect trust in God and be steady in your sadhana,” is the advice Sivananda gives. “Faith sustains the yogi like a kind, affectionate mother.”

Faith is a crucial component as one moves along the path. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere in my practice, but then come those moments of holding a difficult asana or having a steady stream of concentration. And that’s it! There’s the bliss! It may not last long, but it’s enough to get me through to the next episode. There’s falling along the way, but the faith gets us back up again and back on the path. We can’t beat ourselves up over the past. We get up and keep moving forward.

“Everything is present for the yogi,” Sivananda wrote. “Everything is here. Everything is now only.”

When the mind is filled with passions and desires, you cannot sit still to do your sadhana. The mind is always moving. The asana comes easily for many, but we must remember this is only a preparation so we can sit and work on the higher limbs of yoga that lead to the goal, samadhi, complete union with all of creation.

When I read about the states of mind a yogi can reach, I am reminded of how much work I have to do to reach the goal. The distractions are always coming like hurricane rains, like waves in the sea, or wind atop a mountain. But with practice, the yogi finds stillness. That’s why we do our practice, why we have our faith, why we stay on the path despite the digressions.

Stillness.

In those blissful moments we are mountains. Desire cannot touch us. We are truly free.

 

 

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

Washington D.C. – A Dharma Yoga Mecca

By Brando Lee Lundberg

With 24 certified Dharma Yoga teachers, including four studio owners, over 50 Dharma Yoga classes offered per week, and a packed house at the convention center last year for Sri Dharma’s visit to Washington, the D.C. area has quickly become a mecca for Dharma Yoga– second only to New York City, where Sri Dharma lives and shares his practice at the Dharma Yoga Center.

What has led to this phenomenon?  The close proximity of D.C. to New York City – a four to five hour car ride or three to four hour train ride – has certainly helped by making weekend or even daily trips possible for D.C. area Dharma Yoga practitioners. But this is true for other metropolitan areas of a similar size and demographic. While understanding the reasons behind the growth of Dharma Yoga in D.C. may elude linear or even rational explanation, one of the most significant factors lies in the service of two now-senior Dharma yoga teachers who first started sharing the practice: Justin Blazejewski and Hannah Allerdice.  Justin participated the Life of a Yogi teacher training in 2008 and Hannah in 2009.

They offered the following thoughts about their experience of sharing the Dharma Yoga practice.

How did you first come into contact with Dharma Yoga?  How long had you been practicing yoga before then?

Justin: I was practicing yoga for about six months before I went on my first yoga retreat in Bali. Once I returned I was inspired to look for a teacher training to help deepen my practice.  I came across Dharma’s website and saw the 200-hour teacher training intensive and my curiosity was piqued. When I arrived to Dharma’s old studio in NYC, I walked up the stairs and Dharma was in the middle of the studio fixing some electrical wires and said, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.” And then walked away. I knew in my heart I had found my guru.

Hannah: I came into contact with Dharma Yoga in 2007 through Saraswati Lorie Om, who has the beautiful Dharma Yoga Syracuse center. Before then, I had practiced on and off for about six or seven years.

When you returned to D.C. after your first training in 2009, how did you go about sharing the teachings of Sri Dharma?

Justin: I returned from teacher training on a Sunday and boarded a plane the following day for Afghanistan for a three-month work trip. While I was overseas I gathered local military personnel and contractors on the base every day and taught them the Level I Shiva Namahskara sequence, pranayama and meditation. My group grew from one to three people to about 10 people before I left to come home.

Once I was back in D.C. I began organizing free yoga classes in Meridian Hill Park every week. I encountered a similar pattern that I had overseas, with only a few students at the beginning, but after a few weeks the group grew. After a few months of teaching, a beautiful soul walked into one of my classes. She had just returned to D.C. after her 200-hour teacher training with Dharma. That beautiful soul was Hannah.  I remember a feeling of love and joy knowing that I was no longer alone in sharing Dharma’s teachings and knew deep down in my heart that something special was about to grow and expand in this city.

Hannah: I started in our little apartment with three to six friends, teaching them Dharma 1 and Dharma 2, according to our internship requirements. About a month after that I met Jasmine (the owner of Yoga District) and started helping out with Yoga Activist.  She then asked me to teach a class at Yoga District.  And then I started to teach more and more classes.

What is it about Dharma Yoga?

Justin: After over six years practicing with Sri Dharma, my heart truly sings and feels the love for my guru every time I see him or bring him into my awareness. He is always with me in my heart no matter where I am in the world, and anytime I feel my energy drained, I take a bus to NYC and plug into the source for a recharge.

Hannah: Everything. Particularly the love that radiates from our beloved guru. It is infinite and through him takes so many forms, according to the student he is teaching. And, through his example, I learn how to love more and more.

What do you attribute to the success of Dharma Yoga in D.C.?

Justin: It was hard in the beginning, as I was the only Dharma Yoga teacher in D.C. Not many people had heard about him and I was a new teacher so it was hard to get exposure. I began by writing to all the yoga studios in the D.C. area, asking them if they wanted Dharma Yoga at their studio and nine out of 10 of them turned me down or didn’t reply. In the end I attribute “angry determination” and “doing the work because it has to get done,” as Sri Dharma Mittra often says.

Hannah: The teachers here are so dedicated, and are fully committed to living a life established in ahimsa.  Just like Sri Dharma says, “everything comes from there [ahimsa].” And it is contagious, the love and deep truth of living life like this. Students can feel it. And, we are all so committed to updating our learning from Sri Dharma. We are all practicing with him regularly and sharing his love, his lightness, his simplicity, his humor. The students feel this too.

How did you contribute to building the Dharma Yoga community in D.C.?

Justin: I was the first Dharma Yoga teacher in Washington D.C. that shared the teachings in a yoga class environment. I continued to teach and sub in Virginia and D.C. as much as I could to expose as many people as possible to Dharma’s teachings. The first year was pretty slow but I started getting more and more students in my classes. By then Hannah and I were teaching at Yoga District and we started to get a lot more students coming to the Dharma Yoga classes. After a while the students began to be inspired by Dharma’s teachings and eventually decided to head up to NYC to do the LOAY teacher trainings. Once there were a few Dharma teachers in D.C., the roots of the sangha took form, and the tree of Dharma Yoga in D.C. just kept growing.

Hannah: I don’t really know. I helped water some plants I think, through Sri Dharma. There were a lot of yoga teachers here in D.C. when I moved here, and many of them hadn’t found a real, living master. When they came to the classes, and we all got to know each other, something was sparked. So, they all started to go to the trainings too.  And then it blossomed. Now we all just love on each other and support each others continued growth, and keep welcoming new people in the community.

Any advice or words of encouragement for Dharma yogis seeking to build Dharma Yoga community where they live?

Justin: Angry Determination! Do the work with love and compassion, staying true to Dharma’s teachings no matter what! And the rest will come!

Hannah: Yes, serve just as Sri Dharma serves; embody his teachings, his way. Remember, we have been given the highest teachings, from a realized Yogi, stand supreme in that knowledge. And, keep charging up by staying connected to Sri Dharma physically, mentally and psychically.

 

Brando Blog

 

Brando first came across some yoga postures in 2002 as part of a six month get into shape program presented in Outside magazine.  For the next 10 years, yoga served the same purpose – strength and flexibility.  In February 2013, this changed upon meeting Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu.

With An Open Heart, The Path Unfolds With Ease

By Steve Fazzari

I was introduced to Sri Dharma’s teachings by my brother and disciple of the Guru, Reno Muenz, but the first time I met Sri Dharma – in this lifetime, at least – wasn’t in the waking state, it was in a dream.

Awakening from my dream, I was immediately enveloped by Sri Dharma’s love, and right away I knew there was something bigger at play. Even though I was on the other side of a continent, in a different country, I knew Dharmaji was calling to me; I was ready. Without a plan, and with seemingly none of the necessary parts in place, I set the intention that I would make my way to NYC to be with Sri Dharma. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know when; but twice weekly, during the Psychic Development techniques, I set the sankalpa, or intention, that I would somehow make it to the temple to study with the living master himself.

They say when you are living your dharma, or path, everything becomes easy. Sure enough, bit by bit, every piece of the puzzle began to fall into place. They say a true master is only concerned with intention. Sometimes we get too caught up in the minor details and forget the big picture. Where will I get the money? How will I get the time off work and school? Then we concern ourselves with those minor details that seem insurmountable, and they consume us. Instead, I opened myself up to the infinite potential of the universe. When I did, it was almost like I dove into the river of life and it was carrying me towards my destination.

For my work in developing and implementing Food For Thought — a vegetarian-based nutrition education program for youth in Vancouver’s marginalized Downtown Eastside — I was nominated by a faculty member at the University of British Columbia for the Edward JC Hossie Leadership award. This prestigious award is presented to a student who displays outstanding leadership within both the UBC and Vancouver community as a whole.

The money I received for winning the award, while not enough to cover the entire cost of the training, represented a significant portion of the necessary funds. If I had been too focused on getting the money, I may have stopped offering my programs to youth to work somewhere else. Then I wouldn’t have been nominated for the award, and likely wouldn’t have had enough money. By staying true to my intentions, maintaining a strong root in service, and being open to infinite possibilities, all those things that seemed like big obstacles at first turned out to be inconsequential. Before I knew it, I was registered for the 2014 Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in NYC.

Being in Sri Dharma’s physical presence for the first time, you immediately sense his humble, open nature. When Sri Dharma looks at you, his pure, unconditional love is clearly apparent. I knew he was seeing me — not my physical appearance, but truly seeing me, with all my faults and flaws — and loving me unconditionally. Sri Dharma doesn’t only love you if you’re clean, or respectful, or only if you act how he thinks you should. He loves you regardless. This is how Sri Dharma feels for all living beings.

I don’t study with Sri Dharma for physical health, or to have the ability to do cool looking poses. Those things don’t really matter, and aren’t permanent anyway. I study with Sri Dharma because I want to learn how to see the Self in all beings. I want to tap into the source, and live in a place of unconditional love like he does.

Life provides us these wonderful opportunities all over the place. We just have to be more receptive to the possibilities, and often get out of our own way. We are capable of so much. We just have to harness our true potential and unleash it in a directed and purposeful way.

Be receptive to the infinite potential within.

 

Stephen FazzariSteve Fazzari (Shankara Deva) is a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His dedication to the path of Yoga, as well as his drive to serve, make him a committed and inspiring teacher. He aims to preserve and share the classical teachings of Hatha Raja Yoga, as taught by Shiva, and since passed down from Guru to student, through Yogi Gupta, Dharma, and then to himself. His classes are playful and fun, but grounded in the goal of developing compassion for all living beings and gaining Self Realization.
He shares his offerings at Dharma Yoga Vancouver (www.dharmayogavancouver.com). You can contact him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stevefazzari, by emailing him at stevefazzari@gmail.com, or on instagram @stevefazzari.

The Real Guru is Within You

By Jerome Burdi

Yiannis Andritsos attended every class Sri Dharma Mittra offered for nearly a decade. His connection to the teacher was great, beyond words, but then came one of the most difficult times in Yiannis’ life. His time to leave the side of his guru.

“The teacher is one of the deepest attachments,” Yiannis said, while visiting the Dharma YiannisYoga Center recently. “It was very difficult to leave, but I felt deep inside that I needed to take all that Dharma gave me, digest it, and share with others.”

He moved back to his native Greece in 2013 and began spreading the teachings of Sri Dharma throughout Europe. Yiannis now lives in Barcelona.

“The real master wants you to become a master,” he said. “Before I left, he said to me, ‘The real guru is within you. You have to find it within you.’”

Yiannis felt a calling to move to New York City in 2002. He knew nothing about yoga and didn’t speak English. He worked in restaurants and learned the language of his new home. About a year and a half later, he grew weary of the restaurant world and began to search for something to dedicate his life. One day, a friend brought him to a yoga class. He felt a connection to the practice.

About a month into it, he saw Sri Dharma’s Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures.

Yiannis’ friend told him Sri Dharma is in the city and they could go to his class.

“I took the class and I felt my spirit knew this person for many lifetimes,” Yiannis said. “For me, it was like meeting God. Just how Dharma expresses himself when meeting his guru. Many times when he talks, I have goosebumps. My spirit is recognizing something.”

Ever since Yiannis’ first class, he dedicated his life to the teachings and practicing with Sri Dharma.

“For me it was very important to spend time with a realized master.”

Sri Dharma is always transmitting knowledge psychically during class to those who are channeled to receive it.

“I spent many years observing him. Not just to learn the poses, but to open the heart,” 10440832_10152345954234690_5539064583894131425_nYiannis said. “I am very grateful to use this body and mind to the best of my abilities to transmit whatever he teaches.”

He said it is difficult being physically far from his guru, but when times are tough, he recalls Sri Dharma’s wise words. No matter how far, through the yoga practice, Yiannis communicates with the master:

“I always come back to his words. I took everything he told me in my heart. All of his kindness is within me; it’s in my blood. I remember he said to me, ‘See everything as a fancy dream.’ I always go back to that. It’s very difficult because everything looks so real.”

Whenever Yiannis crosses the ocean to see his master, it’s as if he never left.

“As soon I see him, it just opens my heart. Time stops. Everything stops in his eternal presence so it’s like I never left. It’s wonderful.”

The yogi’s path is long. One must be patient.

“Spiritual progress happens gradually,” Yiannis said. “You have to have discipline, faith and concentration…The journey never stops. The realization keeps growing and growing as the practice reveals what we need to know and what we need to learn.”

 

 

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionistJerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

The Spiritual Impulse

By Alan C. Haras

“Fire exists in the firewood, coal and charcoal, but without ignition from a spark of fire from without it cannot burn.  So the forces Divine within you do not grow without the impulse from the Preceptor.”

~Yogi Gupta (Sri Swami Kailashananda), from Yoga & Yogic Powers, p.46

There is an ancient tradition practiced by some yogis to continually tend a sacred fire.  This dhuni fire represents the fire of self-knowledge and it reduces all apparent phenomenon into a single, irreducible essence.  This sacred ash, or vibhuti, is often given to others seekers as prasad – a blessed and healing substance.  It is the duty of such yogis to keep this sacred fire going, offering the benefits of their dedicated practice as a healing remedy to all beings.

As sadhakas, we are all tending the sacred fire that we have received from our Guru at the time of initiation.  The Sanskrit word for “initiation” is diksha, which means “to ignite,” and interestingly enough, the English word “ignite” is related to the Sanskrit word agni – meaning “divine fire.”  A yogi who seeks initiation from a guru is seeking to be ignited by the sacred fire or “spiritual impulse” of the guru.  This invisible power is a “quickening” agent that speeds up the spiritual progress of the disciple.

We all contain within us great treasures of spiritual forces, but they typically remain asleep until awakened by the grace of the guru.  This grace cannot be received from any book.  In Yoga and Yogic Powers, Yogi Gupta says, “By reading the menu, your hunger cannot be satisfied.”  Similarly, any amount of reading about spiritual topics will not satisfy our spiritual hunger.  We must seek out a qualified Preceptor, and in receiving instructions from him or her, become receptive to the transmission of this spiritual impulse.

All genuine gurus have received this divine spark from their teacher.  Having received the blessing of the spiritual impulse, they continued to cultivate that sacred fire through their own sadhana, or spiritual practice.  It is not enough simply to “get” initiation – one must “give” themselves to their practice.  In this sense, initiation marks a new beginning.  One entrusted with the sacred fire becomes responsible for tending it and making it grow.  “Being initiated” means “becoming a disciple” and making the life-long commitment to the path of self-realization.

The word “disciple” comes from the Latin root discere which means “to learn.”  All are able to learn, but each individual learns at his or her own rate.  According to Swami Sivananda, an individual’s capacity is based upon their readiness to receive the divine spark of the guru’s instructions.  Some, he says, are like gunpowder – when the fire of knowledge is brought near to them, they are instantly ablaze with realization.  Others are like charcoal, who need only a little time in the presence of fire before they are completely consumed and transformed.  Still others are like dry firewood and need to stay in the fire a little while longer.  And then there are those who are like wet firewood – when they are in the presence of Truth, all they do is “smoke.”  This kind of disciple will need ample time to “dry out” before any real learning is possible.

If we approach a fire without proper respect, it is possible that we could get burned – not through any intention made by the fire, but simply through our own inattention. And yet, if we stay too far away, we won’t be able to enjoy the warmth that the fire provides.  Similarly, when a disciple approaches a guru with the divine qualities of reverence, humility and obedience, her or she is able to receive the spiritual impulse of the teacher.  Yogi Gupta says that this impulse is the “energized thought” of the teacher, and although it is invisible, it is “far more powerful than electricity.”

One receives the spiritual impulse through transmission.  The Guru received it from his or her Guru, and blesses the disciples with that same impulse upon their initiation.  It is like a lit candle passing the flame to an unlit candle – it is now up to the disciple to protect that flame, keep it burning brightly, and eventually, to pass on the living flame to a qualified disciple.  The flame does not belong to anyone, but is pure grace; the pure gift of the enlightened teachers to those who are sincerely seeking Self-Realization.  It is transmitted through the Guru’s presence and teachings, and is received only by those who have cultivated the necessary qualities of a disciple.

 

Alan Alan C. Haras (Bhaktadas Om) is the owner of Hamsa Yoga in Lake Orion Michigan, a commissioned Spiritual Director in the tradition of Ignatian Spirituality, and a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Religion Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy, and completing his 800-hour Advanced Dharma Yoga Teacher Certification.
www.hamsayogacenter.com

Karma Yoga

by Danielle Gray

As we have been told, karma yoga is the practice of selfless service – doing deeds with “no strings attached”, as Dharmaji would say. Karma yoga was a major part of Dharmaji’s path with Yogi Gupta, according to the LOAY teacher training manual. For me, the practice of karma yoga has begun to help me understand what “dharma” truly is, as well as to teach me how to interact with other people in the world in a better way.

Occasionally I find myself feeling unmotivated to do my sadhana for some period of days. Usually the cure for this lack of enthusiasm includes reading the section of the teacher training manual that talks about Dharmaji’s life when he was studying with Yogi Gupta. The fact that he was both paying for every class with the Master (meaning he had to work several paying jobs), as well as offering his services as a karma yogi is incredibly inspiring. Reading this  portion of Dharmaji’s story helps me realize that life is fairly simply if we allow it to be – just do what has to be done to move forward on your path, and forget the energetic charge that comes with complaining or creating stories about what it means to do the things you have to do! This is what it means to truly live your own dharma – to remove all resistance to what is happening or what must happen, and go forth with your best enthusiasm and your best efforts.

Keeping these things in mind helps me view each day differently. It helps me to remove the sense of self-entitlement that seems to permeate many of my peers’ lives. It helps me break the ego a little more, stay humble, and realize that no task is beneath me – no matter what I may have “accomplished” in this material plane.

When I am able to maintain this perspective with focus and clear intention, the world around me changes. Other people sense that I am receptive and deeply appreciate my openness and ability to listen. I accomplish every task that is given to me much more easily, and simultaneously, I create no attachment to any of this external feedback. Approaching everything in daily life as karma yoga simplifies my existence a great deal, and helps me reconnect with the act of giving constantly from a place of pure devotion. As Dharmaji says, “Devotion leads to the total surrender of ego,” and eventually to the goal: Self-Realization or God-Realization.

photo by Jeffrey Vock

photo by Jeffrey Vock

The practice of Dharma Yoga found Danielle in 2010, and after her very first class, she began to immerse herself in it, feeling a deep calling to share it with others. She participated in the 200-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training program in June 2011 (completing her certification the following May), and she completed her 500-hour certification in May 2013. Additionally, she has over 18 years of experience studying dance & movement, which greatly informs her yoga instruction, especially in the aspects of anatomy and alignment. She is currently living in Sedona, AZ, teaching Dharma Yoga at several local studios.

The Magic of Mantra, Japa and Kirtan

by Martin Scott

I didn’t know it at the time, but Sri Dharma was present at the beginnings of my practice.

I was very musical as a child, forming an extremely tight bond with music at a very young age.  My first piano lesson was the same day as my first day of first grade and I played my last recital my senior year of high school.  I joined the school band in fourth grade playing the tenor saxophone, then went through a bunch of different instruments – French horn, trumpet, flute, oboe, tuba, baritone – until I quit band my junior year in high school.

I would save my allowance and ask my dad to drive me to the store so I could spend hours perusing records before I finally made the decision as to which one of the many-coveted vinyl discs would end up living with the other beloveds I had so carefully chosen.  I would spend hours in my room memorizing every word to every song and commit to memory every melody.  This passion for all kinds of music grew with me all the way through adulthood.

With this deep-rooted love for music I’ve always loved chanting in yoga classes.  I was first introduced to this part of the practice by my teacher, Stephanie Snyder, and it quickly became my favorite part of the class.  She always began and ended her classes with different a chant every time.  At first I just loved the melodies, the smile that these lovely tunes always put on my face and the overwhelming sense of happiness that stayed with me with once they were done.  I listened very carefully to learn the words so that I could sing along, enunciating each word and working hard to be right on key, which was made a little easier since she plays the harmonium.  When I got home from class I would look up these chants online to learn the words and their meanings.  I was certain that knowing the translations would make me understand them even more.

One of my favorite chants that I learned, and the most mysterious of all, was the Purification Mantra.  Stephanie told us that she had learned it from her teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra.  She told us how this powerful mantra would purify anything that the sound touched, including the mind, the practice, everything.  I found myself chanting the Purification Mantra when I was washing dishes, when I was riding my scooter, out for a walk, settling in for my practice – all the time!  I asked Stephanie what it meant and she told me that she didn’t know and that I didn’t need to know and that it is more powerful when you don’t know the meaning.  This piqued my interest.

I started to realize that the effects of the mantras were what was making me feel so clear and grounded, not the happy tune or the words.  The repetition of the words were calming my mind, clearing things out and giving me that feeling of peace and calm.

“Many students of meditation and spiritual life complain of a noisy mind, out of control senses, and emotional challenges. One of the most significant, single suggestions of the ancient sages is the use of mantra japa, or sacred word to focus the mind. No amount of intellectualizing will convince you of this. It must be practiced for the benefits to be experienced.  Regardless of what mantra you use, one of the most important principles is the practice of constant remembrance. By cultivating such a steady awareness many benefits come.”(www.swamij.com)

When I sit with my mala and chant my mantra 108 times, I almost forget the words that I am saying.  The japa of the mantra calms the vrittis to the point that my own voice becomes a separate entity.  The cadence, rhythm, and repetition of the mantra are the simplest way to “nirodhah the vrittis.” Now I don’t try to figure out the words or what they mean when I learn a new mantra.  I just get into the groove of it and let the mantra work its magic.  These are some of my favorite times with Sri Dharma – comfortably sitting, chanting, responding incessantly what he calls out and feeling the amazing sense of clarity and calm that comes without really knowing what I’m saying.

 

Martin.Scott.HeadshotInspired and passionate, Martin Scott brings a light and humorous energy to every class he teaches; whether in Union Yoga, his own studio, or as messenger of yoga to other communities. Employing a distinct expression of devotion, tradition and levity, Martin teaches in a way that holistically inspires his students. Martin is committed to honoring his teachers, all of which who have led him to a life devoted to the study of yoga, as well as to teaching yoga to others. Most of all, Martin honors his guru, Sri Dharma Mittra