A Man Who Loved Seagulls an excerpt from Osho’s Just Like That

A useful reflection about happiness, a short excerpt from Osho’s book Just Like That. I post this particularly because it speaks to the error in thinking that sadly permeates much of society, particularly North American society. There is an assumption of entitlement that pervades modern consciousness which misses the point of our existence – the very world itself is a jewel of wonder, if only we could stop our chasing and hurrying to reflect upon what is before us each and every day. Sufi philosophy is ecstatic, romantic and full of joy, as it apprehends that creation is a gift, our life here on this divine plane is a gift, and while we may suffer, and witness suffering, in each experience we have, however traumatizing, there is wisdom to be found – by us, or those who come after. Release and open to what life has to offer. You may be surprised at what you receive.

There was a man living by the seashore who loved seagulls. Every morning he went down to the sea to roam with the seagulls. More birds came to him than could be counted in hundreds.

His father said to him one day: “I hear the seagulls all come roaming with you – bring me some to play with.”

Next day, when he went to the sea, the seagulls danced above him and would not come down.

The greatest secret of life is – and remember it always – that life is a gift. You have not deserved it in the first place. It is not your right. It has been given to you, you have not earned it. Once you understand this, many things will become clear.

If life is a gift, then all that belongs to life is going to be a gift. Happiness, love, meditation – all that is beautiful is going to be a gift from the holy, from the whole. You cannot deserve it in any way and you cannot force existence to make you happy, or to make you loving, or to make you meditative. That very effort is of the ego. That very effort creates misery. That very effort goes against you. That very effort has destroyed you – it is suicidal.

In the American constitution, they have given a right, a basic right – and they call it the basic fundamental right – to pursue happiness. It is impossible to pursue happiness. Nobody has ever pursued it. One has to wait for it. And it is not a right at all. No law court can force you to be happy or force happiness to be with you. No government violence is capable of making you happy. No power can make you happy…Because the very idea that you can pursue happiness, that you can deserve it, that you can demand it, that you have the right to be happy, is foolish. Nobody has the right to be happy. You can be happy, but there is nothing like a right about it. And if you think that it is your right you will go on missing, because you have started to look in the wrong direction from the very beginning.

Why is it so? If life is a gift, all that belongs to and is intrinsic to life is going to be a gift. You can wait for it, you can be receptive to it, you can remain in a surrendered mood, waiting, patient, but you cannot demand, and you cannot force.

In life, only on the surface, in the marketplace, rights exist. As you move deeper. As you move deeper, gifts appear. This is one of the most basic things to remember always: you have not deserved life, and life is there! Absolutely undeserved, you are alive, with tremendous energy – alive!

How does it happen? And if life can happen without deserving it, without any right to it, why not happiness? why not love? why not ecstasy? They can all happen, but you have to understand the law. The law is: don’t try directly. Happiness cannot be pursued. It can be persuaded. Persuasion is indirect. It is not an attack. You move, but not directly, because when you are direct, you are aggressive. Nothing is as direct as violence. And nothing is as violent as directness.

I used to know an old man who was always complaining, always grumpy. Everything was wrong – he was a born critic. And of course, as critics suffer, he suffered, because sometimes it was too hot, and sometimes it was too cold, and sometimes it rained too much, and sometimes it didn’t rain at all. All seasons, all the year round, he was suffering. A negative mind, a negative attitude – and he was continuously making every effort to be contented and satisfied. But I have not seen a more discontented man than him; he was the very personification of suffering, dissatisfaction, discontent. In his eyes there was nothing but discontent. On his face many wrinkles of tension and discontent, all the grumblings of his whole life were written there.

But suddenly one day he changed. He had become sixty and the next day was his birthday; people came to greet him, and they could not believe their eyes – he had changed so suddenly, in the night. Somebody told me about it also, so I walked down to his house to inquire, because this was a revolution! The Russian Revolution, was nothing compared to it, The Chinese Revolution, nothing compared to it. A revolution! For sixty years this man had trained himself for discontent. How, suddenly…? What had happened, what miracle? I could not believe that even Jesus could have done such a miracle, it was not possible, because you never hear in the Bible…Jesus cured blind men, he cured the deaf and dumb, he even cured the dead, but you don’t hear a single story of Jesus curing anybody of discontent. It is not possible.

I asked the old man – he was really happy, bubbling with happiness – I said, “What has happened to you?”

He said, “Enough is enough! For sixty years I tried to be happy and could not, so last night I decided: Now forget about it; don’t bother about happiness, just live. And here I am, happy.”

He pursued happiness for sixty years. If you pursue, you will become more and more unhappy. You are going direct, like an arrow, and god doesn’t believe in shortcuts. You will attain to your target, but happiness will not be there.

Millions of people attain their targets: they wanted to be successful, they are successful – but unhappy. The richer they get, the unhappier they become, because now even the hope is lost. They were thinking that when they became rich they would be happy; now they are rich, and happiness – they cannot see any sign of it anywhere. Now, with unhappiness hopelessness also settles.

A poor man is never hopeless, a rich man always is. And if you find a rich man who is not yet hopeless it is certain he is not yet rich. Hopelessness is the symbol of being rich. A poor man can hope. Millions of things are there which he has not got. He can dream, he can hope that when these things are there he will have attained the target. Then everything will be okay, he will be happy.

In the very search you create unhappiness. When you don’t search, happiness searches for you. When you search, you search alone and you will not find. Where will you seek? How will you search? Mind can never be happy. Mind is your accumulated discontent. Mind is your accumulated unhappy past, the whole suffering that you have passed through: it is a wound in your being. And the mind tries to seek, to pursue, and you miss.

When you forget about happiness, suddenly you are happy. When you forget about contentment, suddenly it is there. It has always been there around you, but you were not there. You were thinking: Somewhere in the future a target has to be achieved, happiness earned, contentment practices. You were in the future and happiness was just around you like the fragrance of a flower.

Yes, god is a loafer. He is always loitering somewhere around. And you have gone too far, seeking. Come back home! And just be. Dont bother about happiness. Life is there as a gift; happiness is also going to be there as a gift – a gift from the whole, a holy gift.

OSHO International Foundation, Just Like That, 2008 pp. 165-173.

On Psychic Grooves, Balance and Free Will

Sri Dharma Mittra of Dharma Yoga Center, New York, NY in Niralamba Sirsasana (hands-free head stand pose), an expression of perfect balance.

Balance is ultimately a matter of Self-control, a refinement of how we exert our free will through careful consideration of proportion and scale in our behavior and action. Most people live in a well-worn habitual mode of action, using that mode as their regular vehicle as they move through life. Think of all the times you hear people say self-defining things like “I’m so stupid. I’m a pot-stirrer. I’m just lazy. I’m a bull in a china shop. I’m this or I’m that…” and you will understand what this means. In yoga we call these self-defining, habitual modes of thinking and being samskaras. These samskaras can be regarded as psychic grooves, much like the grooves on a vinyl record.  No matter how many times a record is played, we experience the same song over and over again, maybe with a few scratches here and there as the record gets older. As we move through our days, each of us is playing our own record, and our psychic grooves cause us to respond to the world in a habitual way.  We tend to think the same thoughts repetitively, feel the same feelings, and react to circumstances, no matter how novel, in ways based on pre-established memory and presupposition.  We seek recollection of previous experience for ways to comprehend what we have before us, whether the response proves to be balanced or not.

Samskaras are the result of years of conditioning and in cases of particularly unmovable patterns, likely previous karmas that we carry into this life which create preconceived notions that we rely upon to navigate the world. We often find ourselves stuck in repetitive thoughts regardless of our intentions, and recurring memories affect how we proceed with our relationships, often hindering us from seeking better ways of doing things. These are samskaras in action making it difficult to separate what we believe we know from what is there to be known. We all live in our samskaras, and while they are fundamental to consciousness and it is impossible to exist without them, our goal is to change our limiting grooves, realizing where we may go wrong as a result of acting through habit or misconception.  This is why so much attention is paid in spiritual development practices on learning how to disconnect from patterns that may not be to our benefit to follow. Consider yourself as a vehicle with the tires on one side stuck in a rut. Sitting in the vehicle, you find yourself unbalanced, and it is your goal to remove yourself from that rut and set yourself back on a balanced path. This takes a concentrated effort, but is not impossible by any means.

What we spend most of our time thinking about eventually overtakes our personas, and we come to embody our habitual thoughts – a self-fulfilling prophecy is enacted.  This is the principle behind what is commonly known as “The Law of Attraction,” which, while a deceptively simple idea, is usually only half-considered.  One believes that to focus on prosperity and wealth will attract such benefits in our lives, and yet, the psychic hygiene required to maintain positive focus typically falls away through ennui, lack of sufficient evidence of efficacy, or simple distraction, and people resume their immersion in negativity once again.  Habitual thinking leads to habitual behavior, and if the habits are inherently negative and Self-denying, life force, happiness and personal effectiveness are curtailed. To manifest positivity, we must live our lives positively, on a continual basis.  Positivity is not something that we schedule as a point of focus for 15 minutes here or there throughout the day after which we resume bad habits.  A positive, productive and prosperous life is built on establishing a positive overall outlook, and that outlook must be maintained with passion and commitment.   This is a matter of free will and choice.

“Do not grieve over your present state and do not worry. If you refuse to worry, you will remain calm and you will surely find a way of reaching your goal. Remember that every time you worry, you put on a mental brake; and in struggling against that resistance, you place strain on your heart and mind. You wouldn’t try to drive off in your car with the brake on, because you know it would severely damage the mechanism. Worry is the brake on the wheels of your efforts; it brings you to a dead stop. Nothing is impossible, unless you think it is. Worry can convince you that it is impossible to do what you want to do. Worrying wastes time and energy. Use your mind instead to try to make some positive effort.”

Paramahansa Yogananda, The Divine Romance

What about people who have been traumatized, who have suffered terrible violence, are immersed in depression, anxiety, limited circumstances or otherwise compromised?  Do these people have a choice to be positive, or are their negative experiences going to define their lives? Unfortunately, it is true that societal forces have resulted in the destruction of capacities to live good lives for huge swaths of the human population. Ultimately though, the choice with what to do with one’s life, and how to best live that life, is up to the individual.  One only has to reflect on survivors of trauma, of horrors such as war, cultural genocide, Holocaust, slavery, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse and look to the inspiration of stories told by those who overcame their traumas to understand the potential of the human spirit.  We see that positive mental outlook and choice are the forces behind successfully overcoming traumatic pasts.  The human spirit can be unbelievably strong, and it is possible to summon that strength to overcome anything, even when it does not seem immediately possible. Don’t ever let anyone or any circumstance lead you to believe you cannot overcome what you want to overcome. This power is available to every single member of humankind. Have faith in your abilities to find balance and live the life you want to live

Currently we find the world gripped in great tension, with large-scale exertions of individual and collective power, extreme expressions of violent tribalism, and delusive ideological bludgeoning causing mass confusion and uncertainty. Sadly, for many people, this all proves to be too onerous, and we have a burgeoning population of those who suffer, unable to find their way free of the burdens that they bear. But we must remember this: nobody needs to give us permission to choose to live a balanced, positive life. It is within the power of each individual to take the steps forward to find harmony for themselves. When we become imbalanced, we easily succumb to negative states of mind which spiral outward, affecting everything around us, but even one step on the path to balance leads to a sense of inner encouragement, and a person can see their accomplishment and build new foundations. The grooves that we travel in life do not have to be negative, and we do not need to remain stuck in them. We have the power to make new tracks, create new songs, and to seek out positive, creative ways of being. Only in focusing on maintaining balance in our own Self will we find any semblance of balance in the world around us. The more people choose to maintain balance in themselves, the more balanced we will all become, something which is sorely needed in this world today.

“The material and the spiritual are but two parts of one universe and one truth. By overstressing one part or the other, we fail to achieve the balance necessary for harmonious development. Life is expressed in a threefold way: through thoughts, desires and actions. Rightly guide all three forms of expression and they will lead you to a higher state of consciousness. In your activities you are the creator, the preserver, the transformer; your will is the director. Practice the art of living in this world without losing your inner peace of mind. Follow the path of balance to reach the inner wondrous garden of Self-realization.”

Paramahansa Yogananda was a Kriya Yogi and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship

The Divine Light Invocation by Swami Sivananda Radha

Swami Sivananda Radha Saraswati, 1911-1995

Swami Sivananda Radha (born in Germany in 1911 as Sylvia Demitz) was a student of Swami Sivananda Saraswati, and her dedication to promoting the well-being of people everywhere led her to create Yasodhara Ashram in Kootenay Bay, British Columbia, a spiritual center which still thrives to this day. Her establishment of a woman-focused lineage, The Saraswati Order, resulted in the ashram largely run by woman, with special attention to women’s issues and the understanding of the Divine Feminine. Swami Radha’s approach was to bring Westerners the teachings of yoga in a manner that was relatable and which cut away much of the complicated philosophy, terminology and practice that Indian yogis adhered to, allowing greater apprehension and benefit for a wider group of seekers.

Her chosen name “Radha” is in praise of Radha, the goddess of love, the main consort and devotee of Krishna. Radha existence was dedicated to love, compassion and undying devotion to the Divine, and she is never separated from her lover, their bonds of love are so strong. The virtues of the Divine Feminine , devotion to tenderness, nurturing, love and compassion are sorely lacking in our world today and it is a blessing that such teachings are available at Swami Radha’s ashram.

Radha (Bani Thani) , attributed to Nihâl Chand, Kishangarh, 1750. Wikipedia.

One of the most beloved of Swami Radha’s teachings was The Divine Light Invocation. It is simple, easily remembered and highly beneficial, particularly in times of darkness, doubt, fear or anxiety. Some people like to incorporate this into their Hatha yoga practice, but it is equally powerful for those who wish to recite the words at any time of need. You needn’t be a yoga practitioner to benefit from this healing invocation.

I am created by Divine Light

I am sustained by Divine Light

I am protected by Divine Light

I am surrounded by Divine Light

I am ever growing into Divine Light.

For more of Swami Radha’s teachings, I suggest the following books, both written by her, and which allow for greater understanding of her approach. She is an inspiration to women’s seekership everywhere, an advocate of wholesome, healthy living and the will to thrive.

Radha: Diary of a Woman’s Search

Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language

Also visit the website of Yasodhara Ashram for more information about the opportunities for spiritual development, study and retreat.

Yasodhara Ashram’s Temple of Light, Kootenay Bay, British Columbia.

Yoga: Three Bodies, Three Gunas

Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, encompassing both the creation and destruction of the world. His rhythm and fire burn away the dross that conceals true reality. Chola Dynasty Bronze, Tamil Nadu, India. 950-1000 CE.

Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, defined a precise methodology for psychological self-development that if followed astutely, would lead the seeker to a state of release, or moksha, freedom from the constraints of this world. This path, known as Raja Yoga, is an eight-fold approach, and involves the following elements: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, loosely translated as personal self-cultivation, various observance of lifestyle rules, achieving stability in bodily posture, breath control, sense withdrawal, concentration and withdrawal of the mind, diffusion of personal Ego, and finally merger of self with Self, and complete release from the strictures of earthly entrapment.

Yoga ideology defines our earthly existence as being composed of three levels of experience.  While most people understand their consciousness and identity in terms of the physical body, in actuality, we have not one, but three bodies, or layers to our individual existence, once we take birth.  These three layers are what define our reality. These three bodies are considered as the physical, subtle and causal bodies, or the sthula sharira, the sukshma sharira and the karana sharira.  We are an interconnection of energetic functioning, and these three bodies operate in tandem, as well as separately from one another.  While we have a conscious understanding of our physical body, a conscious apprehension of our subtle and causal bodies is often more difficult to gain, until we begin to look at existence in a broader perspective.

Working in tandem with the three bodies of human existence are three basic levels of energetic frequency or vibration, which animate everything we see in existence.  It is understood that this phenomenal world is activated and informed by these three energy frequencies, which can be defined as sattwa, rajas, and tamas.  Sattwa is a peaceful, fine and even energy.  It is the creative force, and it unifies and connects.  It is the beauty of a flower, the evenness of our breathing, and the sense of calm, steady energy that is health and well-being.  Rajas is energetic, volatile, active and moving.  It is like fire and lightening, digestion and aggression, it is the energy that pushes things and impels us to create change and activity in our lives.  Tamas is receding, collapsing, stagnation, dormancy, and passing away. It is the period of decay and lassitude, it is like the mud in the pond that sits and stews, slow and dull. 

Everything that we see, experience, touch, feel or know is comprised of these three energies of sattwa, rajas and tamas, and it is very rare to find anything that expresses only one of these qualities exclusively.  Prakriti, or creation, expresses herself uniformly and always using the combination of these three qualities.  Sattwa can be found in times of harmony, rajas in times of sustaining an action, and tamas in the period of loss, confusion or inertia that follows the extinction of an active phase.  Sattwa and tamas will often appear to be very similar, as stillness and calmness is inherent in both qualities, but upon deeper investigation, we see that the quality of the calmness or stillness has a very different tone.  The stillness of sattwa has clarity and lightness, whereas the stillness of tamas is dull and inert, almost lifeless and heavy. 

The three qualities express themselves in time as creation, preservation and destruction.  These qualities also correspond to the primal energetic deities of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva – again, respectively, creation, preservation and destruction, expressed through Prakriti, life force.  The cycle of connectivity that combines and entwines these three energies can be called the cycle of change, or time, as Prakriti or creation implies change and time both.  Neither can be considered in existence without the other.