Penance

Posted: 29/06/2013 in Routine
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Vasana is divided into two, the pure and the impure. If thou art led by the pure vasanas, thou shalt thereby soon reach by degrees My Seat. But should the old, impure vasanas land thee in danger, they should be overcome through various efforts.

Means of Atonement

Vitalized by bhakti’s grace, a devotee’s conscience is aroused, bringing the desire to confess, repent and make up for misdeeds. Through divine sight, the soul perceives unwise actions, performed when in the lower nature, as a hindrance to spiritual progress. Tantras are many to release the soul from these burdensome bonds. Penance well performed propels the soul into its natural state of bliss.

Chakras look like lotus flowers. There are four petals on the muladhara chakra, which is situated at the base of the spine. These petals unfold one after another as a person’s consciousness emerges upward from jealousy, anger and fear into memory, reason and willpower. Only then awakens the consciousness of religiousness and the ability to admit the existence of God and angelic beings. This new humility causes the devotee to admit that grace is needed to progress on the spiritual path and resolve unwholesome karmas of the past, to admit that wisdom is needed to avoid making new unwholesome karmas in the future. The four petals of the muladhara can be described as unrestrained remorse, confession, repentance and reconciliation.

All help is given by the divine devas to those who admit their mistakes and are seen performing a sincere penance. These devas that oversee those in a penitent state of mind are similar to doctors and nurses gathered to help their patient become well again. The angelic helpers surround their “patient,” assisting in the relief of mental and emotional illness caused by transgression of dharma and the guilt that follows. When the penitent is undergoing penance, it is a form of tapas, described by some as psychic surgery performed by the devas working together to bring the soul from darkness into light. It truly is a happy event, but only long after it is over.

When penance is given, it must be fulfilled, especially when requested. Otherwise, the life of the penitent is vulnerable to the company of asuras. Penance is given after a certain degree of remorse is shown and the urgency is felt by the devotee to rid his mind of the plaguing matter. Admitting a transgression, I have discovered, is often preceded by one of three forms of denial: casual denial, soft denial or hard denial. Say a boy steals some candy from a store. Casual denial is making little of the matter, “Big deal! Why is everyone so upset?” Soft denial is rationalizing, “Yes, I took the candy, so what? It was only two dollars’ worth!” Hard denial is to say, “I didn’t do it. They have me mixed up with another boy!”

We all know the refined, uplifting feeling of bhakti. Every religious person in the world has experienced this at one time or another. It is the total surrendering of oneself to God and the Gods. As the soul emerges out of the lower aspects of the instinctive mind, the muladhara chakra begins to unfold because of the bhakti that has been awakened through daily worship and sadhana. Admission and honest confession then bring up repentant feelings through the subsuperconscious mind quite unbidden. When this happens within the devotee, it is truly a boon, marking progress on the spiritual path. Confession, the voice of the soul, can now be heard. As the intellect clears, the honest truths of experience, formerly hidden to oneself as well as to others, are revealed. The soul, the conscience, emerges in all honesty and remorsefully confesses the burdens it has been carrying. Yes, confession is truly the voice of the soul. Nothing is hidden to oneself when dharma supersedes adharma.

Confession And Penance

As a mature being in the higher nature, above the muladhara chakra, ever seeking higher plateaus through sadhana, the Saivite seeks peace whenever the mind is troubled. How does such a Saivite confess? How does one tell of the reactions to misdeeds performed in all innocence when but a child in the lower consciousness, living in the lower nature, below the muladhara chakra? How and whom does one tell of misdeeds performed during a lapse of conscience, even when living a life of dharma? A Saivite confesses to God Siva, the Gods or his guru. To confess to God Siva, go to His temple and mentally, psychically place your burden at the holy feet of the murti in the sanctum sanctorum. To confess to Gods Murugan or Ganesha, go to their temple and place your confession at their holy feet. Or go to your satguru and tell him of your inner plight, holding nothing back. This is how a Saivite confesses inner burdens as he emerges out of the instinctive mind of the lower nature into the purified intellect of the higher nature.

Yes, reconciliation is food for the soul. After the soul has unburdened itself of the dross of the lower mind through honest confession, a resolution must be made not to reenter the lower states or rekindle the flames of the chakras below the muladhara. To achieve reconciliation by apology for hurts caused another, or to atone by performing acts of penance if a long time has passed since the apology could have been made and received, is truly food for the soul.

There are many forms of penance, prayashchitta, such as 1,008 prostrations before Gods Ganesha, Murugan or Supreme God Siva, apologizing and showing shame for misdeeds; performing japa slowly 1,008 times on the holy rudraksha beads; giving of 108 handmade gifts to the temple; performing manual chores at the temple for 108 hours, such as cleaning, making garlands or arranging flowers; bringing offerings of cooked food; performing kavadi with miniature spears inserted in the flesh; making a pilgrimage by prostrating the body’s length again and again, or rolling around a temple. All these and more are major means of atonement after each individual confession has been made.

The keynote in serious cases is asking one’s satguru to give a specific penance once the problem has been revealed. Once the satguru is asked for penance, the penance must be performed exactly according to his instruction. It should be done with full energy and without delay. Deliberate delay or refusal to perform the penance shows the devotee has rejected the assistance of the satguru. Further advice and guidance will not be forthcoming until the instruction has been fulfilled. Therefore, a devotee in such a condition does not approach the satguru. He may, however, beseech the guru’s assistance and continued guidance if he is in the process of fulfilling the penance over a period of time.

The Esoterics Of Penance

The inner process of relieving unwanted karmic burdens occurs in this order: remorse and shame; confession (of which apology is one form); repentance; and finally reconciliation, which is making the situation right, so that good feelings abide all around. Therefore, each individual admission of a subconscious burden too heavy to carry must have its own reconciliation to clear the inner aura of negative samskaras and vasanas and replenish the inner bodies for the struggle the devotee will have to endure in unwinding from the coils of the lower, instinctive mind which block the intellect and obscure spiritual values. When no longer protected by its ignorance, the soul longs for release and cries out for solace. Prayashchitta, penance, is then the solution to dissolve the agony and bring shanti.

The guru has to know the devotee and his family karma over a long period of time before prayashchitta is given. Otherwise, it may have the wrong effect. Penance is for religious people, people who practice daily, know the philosophy and have a spiritual head of their family, people who genuinely want to reach a state of purity and grace. It is not for nonreligious people. Just as in the Catholic Church, penance, to be most effective, is given to you by the spiritual preceptor. It is not a “do-it-yourself,” New-Age kind of thing. Those who try to do it alone may overdo it. It takes a certain amount of talking and counseling to gain an understanding of what is involved. Before undertaking any of the physical prayashchittas, I have devotees do the maha vasana daha tantra — “great purification of the subconscious by fire” — writing down and then burning ten pages of memories, called samskaras, good and bad, for each year of their life to the present day.

Anything can be written down that concerns you: friends, home, family, relatives, sports, TV shows, vacations, work, pastimes, indulgences, anything that is in your mind. This may automatically clear up events of the past. The idea is to remove the emotions from the experience and bring yourself to the eternal now. Forgetting the past, concern yourself with the now, move with life day to day and create a glorious future for yourself and others. Also, I’ve experienced that sometimes just making the confession to the satguru is a sufficient prayashchitta and nothing else is necessary. What the troubled conscience thought was bad may not have been bad at all, just normal happenings, but the conscience suffers until that fact is known.

It is important to note that the vasana daha tantra must be done by hand, with pen and paper. Various devotees have tried it on the computer and found it not effective. Writing is uniquely effective because in the process the prana from the memory flows from your subconscious through your hand, through the pen and is embedded in the paper, bringing the memory out in the open to be understood, defused and released when the paper is burned. Some devotees have also tried sitting and pondering the past, meditating on it and even visualizing themselves writing down their recollections and burning them. This often does more harm than good, as it only stirs up the past.

Suitable Prescriptions

Anger, I have observed, is the most difficult fault for people to overcome, because it comes in so many different forms: pouting, long silences, shouting, yelling, swearing and more. Psychotherapist Ron Potter-Efron says in his book, Angry All the Time, that there are eight rungs of anger on the “violence ladder:” sneaky anger, the cold shoulder, blaming and shaming, swearing, screaming and yelling, demands and threats, chasing and holding, partly controlled violence, and blind rage. Some people are just angry all the time because they live in the lower nature, constantly engaged in mental criticism and arguments. Anger can eventually be controlled by putting a sum of money — five dollars, for example — in a jar each time one becomes angry and then donating that money to an orphanage. It soon gets too expensive to get angry. However, for devotees who are wealthy, that doesn’t work. For them, I’ve found the penance of fasting for the next meal after they get angry works.

The “flower penance” has proven useful especially to young people who have been beaten and abused by their parents. They put up a picture of the person who beat them — father, mother or teacher — and every day for thirty-one days place a flower in front of the picture. While doing so, they sincerely forgive the person in heart and mind. Some are able to see the experience as their own karma. They forgive their parents and experience a great deal of freedom. Others have so much hatred and resentment toward their parents that they can’t do it at all. This penance has also worked for those who have a mental conflict with their employer. There is a severe penance, too, for one who beats his children. It involves private self-punishment and giving public lectures against corporal punishment, as well as teaching classes on Positive Discipline to the public many times throughout the years.

For wife-beating, adultery and various collections of smaller transgressions, I advise the traditional, age-old penance of kavadi, putting small spears in the body, at least fifteen, and circumambulating the temple many times during a temple festival with the supervision of trained priests. Wife-beating and adultery are very serious matters; they break up homes astrally and often physically and create for the perpetrators a rotten birth in the next life. To atone for all that is very difficult.

Without resolve and remorse, no penance will work. People have an internal ego and an external ego, and for many, one is quite different from the other. For instance, someone may be smiling and joking all the time, but inside himself be angry and critical of those around him, though he lets no one see that he is. There are also those who are smiling and sociable on the outside but crying on the inside over hurts and memories of things that have happened in the past. The maha vasana daha tantra — writing down and burning all the emotion out of the memories of the past, the hurts of the past, the good things and the bad things that have happened to us since birth — harmonizes the internal and external ego so that we are the same person on the inside as on the outside. When we write down our hurts and fears and misunderstandings, as well as all the happy times, our loves and losses, our joys and sorrows — and then crumple up the paper, light it with a flame and watch it burn, thinking of it as the garbage of yesterday — we detach the emotion from the memories. Almost magically, the emotion that had held the memory vibrating within the subconscious mind, perhaps for years, goes away in the flame. There is nothing left but the quiet memory. As a result, finally the soul begins to shine forth within the person as the memory patterns of the deep past no longer bind awareness. The inner and outer become one and the same.

It is very easy to read the external personality of an individual by listening to what he says, looking at what he does and observing his various forms of communication. The internal personality of the person can be read by observing body language, facial expressions, movements of the eyes, movements of the feet and hands, the way a person walks, the hesitancy before he answers a question. All of this shows the workings of the internal ego, which generally blocks the natural joyousness of the soul. So, the first step in spiritual unfoldment is for the individual to harmonize the internal and the external ego so that he is a complete, integrated person twenty-four hours a day, and nothing is hidden, even to himself.

Releasing The Past

The older we get, the more memories we have, and those memories contain emotion — both positive emotion and negative emotion. Emotion takes many forms. We can have happy emotions, we can have sad emotions, we can have emotions of depression, we can have emotions of elation, we can have emotions of discouragement, we can have emotions of encouragement. As you go over your life, reliving it year by year, writing it all down from year one to the present, ten pages per year, you are the author of your own script. You are the star upon the stage of your own life. You may run into happy emotion, discouraging emotion, encouraging emotion. It’s good to get rid of it all. If you uncover a period of your life that makes you depressed, then you have been carrying that depression around with you for many, many years. Reliving the depression and the unhappy feelings as you write about the experiences in detail and burn the paper unwinds and releases the pranic emotional energy from each memory. You especially want to deal with the traumatic areas of the inner mind and release the discouragement, the regret, the depression, the loss of faith in humanity, the loss of faith in yourself and all those negative emotions that you’ve been carrying for so many years. They will go away like paper dragons. They will disappear.

You have three kinds of prana inside of you: spiritual, intellectual and instinctive. When you think, you make or cause a motion in that prana and create a form of prana. You speak, laugh, cry, think and interact with others; all this is the use and movement of one kind of prana or another, or a mixture of the three. In the inner mind, the subconscious pranic forms have a color and a corresponding sound when they vibrate with emotion, not unlike a Technicolor production. The purpose of this ancient tantra is to remove the color/sound from the memory pattern so that the memory would appear as a black-and-white silent movie when revisited, without the vivid, vibrating emotion. Your life, in moving and creating with the prana inside of you, can be like writing on water. An experience happens and it just goes away, without residue, without attachment, without lingering emotion. Or your life can be like carving in stone; each experience remains with you, embedded in memory by the impact of emotion. As you look back through the pages of your life, you want to melt the stone, break it up and make it go away. That’s the whole idea, regardless of what the motion is of the mind. The stones in your past are generally the surprise things that come along in life. Living a routine life — you go to work and you come home, and one day is pretty much the same as another — does not produce memories with emotions so much. But then you come to a major change, such as moving to a new home, or some new person coming into your life. That makes a big impact, and you have to deal with it. Like many people, you may deal with these things by packing them away: “I don’t want to think about that anymore.” “I don’t like that person” or, “I like that person,” but you are married so you can’t like him or her too much; so you just pack it away and try not to think about it anymore. Those are some of the things you want to dig up and discharge, to break up the patterns.

Each of us has a story. You are the major actor on the stage of your life, playing the script that you wrote. You are the director and you are the lighting engineer, the stage manager, costume designer and make-up artist. When a particular experience or pattern of experience is repeated over a long period, it creates in the sub of the subconscious mind a latent tendency or propensity in that same direction. This is a vasana, which may be positive, shubha, or negative, ashubha. A negative vasana is like a subconscious motor that makes you do things you later wish you had not done. A positive vasana brings success and good fortune. Through the vasana daha tantra, we withdraw the energy from the memories, and in so doing weaken, even destroy, the pathways or vasanas that led us to the experiences that created the negative memories and leave in place the pure, positive vasanas that will continue to create a positive future.

Spiritual Journaling

The maha vasana daha tantra, a once in a lifetime experience, is the practice of writing down ten pages of memories on lettersize lined paper (about ten words per line, twenty-eight lines, totaling 250-280 words per page) for each year of your life to date and burning them in an ordinary, nonauspicious fire. To begin, put together a collection of ten blank pages for each year of your life. Each page must be carefully marked with the page number, the year and your age at that time. Then set aside at least fifty pages for each of the other four parts of this tantra. As you proceed in your journaling, you will find it necessary from time to time to backtrack or jump ahead to a year when memories pop up related to a certain period. In other words, it’s okay to write about years out of order, especially when old memories arise naturally, but do so on the designated pages. This is the reason for numbering each page in the way suggested above. Each time a page on one of the years has been completed, it must be immediately burned.

After your journaling of ten pages per year is complete, there are five more steps, making six in all. Step two, the “spot check,” is to scan back through the years of your life and see if there are memories you missed in your previous journaling. These, of course, would be the happy and unhappy experiences, and anything else that comes to mind. The mere remembrance of an experience coming unbidden proves there is still color/sound emotion attached to it. Pay close attention to times when you did not apply the eternal laws of karma, reincarnation and the acknowledgment that Siva is everywhere and in all things. Note the times when you blamed others for what happened to you, when you did not acknowledge all happenings in life as your own creations accomplished in one life or another in the past. Be honest here. It is important to acknowledge when we do and do not put Sanatana Dharma into action in our lives. Be honest; no one is looking. You are the actor on the stage of your own experience, having written the script yourself. Write down those experiences and burn them up as garbage.

Step three is the “people check” — to write about each person who had an influence in your life, including family, friends, neighbors, teachers, co-workers and casual acquaintances. Write about your interaction with them, happy times, misunderstandings, upsets and apologies. Ask for forgiveness, forgive and give best wishes for a long life and positive future. Call each face before you and write a letter expressing appreciation, dismay, hatred, anguish, misunderstanding. Get it all out. Don’t hold anything back. No one will read it. It is a letter you do not mail, e-mail or leave lying around. Just burn it as garbage. The effect of the “people check” is to harmonize the pranas that flow from one to another. We are all connected, for we are a one human race. Those we know and whose faces and names we can remember are the closest, whether they be friends or enemies. Sometimes enemies are closer, because they are thought about more than friends. During the “people check,” bring up the love, the forgiveness, the acceptance that whatever happened in the relationship was part of the birth karmas, the prarabdha karmas, of each of you. Once the letter or series of letters has been written, the memories fade into the silent, colorless past. Then you should truly be able to bring up each face in your mind and mentally say the six magic words, the magic mantra, “I love you. You love me.”

Three More Steps to Clarity

Step four is “sex check” — to go over any past sexual experiences, including visual images such as pornography in adult movies, on the Internet, television or in magazines, dreams and fantasies. This is quite an obsession for some people, often called an addiction. Also be sure to write about youthful experimentation and, yes, masturbation and the thoughts before, during and afterwards. Include sexual repressions, regrets that you have had throughout your life up to the present day, especially any that are currently bothering you, then write them down and burn the emotion out of the memories as the garbage of the mind. This area is very important, as repeated experiences that have produced guilt or ended in sadness, and those that no one knows about but you and your partner — and happy, satisfying, longing-to-be-repeated experiences — do leave colorful memories. Some are brightly colored and sing happy songs in the memory patterns, while others are bathed in darkness and resound with dull tones. Both need to be reduced to black-and-white pictures. The modern notion of “Let’s put this behind us and go on with life” is held hostage here as color/sounds pile up in the inner aura and inhibit creativity, productivity, energy flows and even health. The “sex check” should be written in many pages of explicit detail, including letters to the partner or partners, which are not saved or mailed, of course, but immediately burned. Be open and honest with yourself; you may be writing the best porno novel of all times. Include on your last page of “sex check” some new resolves for the future in regard to sexual matters.

Step five, the “teacher check,” is to write about your relationship with your satguru, teachers, mentors or advisors, including your first meetings, initiations, encounters, instructions and any misunderstandings, large or small. Again, letters may be written, descriptions in detail, about whatever need be said. Of course, the person’s face and name should always be present in your mind when writing, as if a conversation were being held. Appreciation can be shown that was never shown, misunderstandings settled and hurts on both sides healed. As you complete each writing session, burn the pages as garbage.

The sixth stage is the “penance check.” Penance, prayashchitta, is of three kinds: mental, emotional and physical. In completing parts one through five of this tantra, you have completed the mental and emotional prayashchitta. Now we must deal with the physical in a different way. There will be a few emotional memories that writing will never cause to go away, such as not paying full taxes several years ago, stealing something, killing birds or animals for sport, or beating children, wives or husbands. These and other transgressions require resolution through actually physically doing something to mitigate these karmas made in this life. You can not write them away. Should there be in your life any of these kinds of experiences that require a physical prayashchitta, tell your spiritual teacher about them, and if ordained to do so, he or she will give you a penance to perform to put to rest those specific karmas. If I happen to be your satguru, write a letter of rededication and mail or e-mail it to me at prayas@hindu.org before beginning this sixth and final stage of the maha vasana daha tantra.

After these six steps of the maha vasana daha tantra have been completed, rejoice. Now you are ready to begin the serious practice of traditional meditation, as you dance with Siva, live with Siva and merge with Siva.

The maha vasana daha tantra is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thereafter, you continue your subconscious spiritual journaling, vasana daha tantra, when needed to maintain the clarity and inner freedom that you have achieved. I encourage everyone to write at least ten pages at the end of every year about the just-completed year in the same way, ten pages for the year, followed by the other steps, including the sixth one. This annual journaling is called the vatsarika vasana daha tantra.

Those who have performed and continue to perform this lifetime, yearly and when-needed sadhana have testified to remarkable transformations. They find that they are free of burdens, clear of mind, joyously alive in the eternal now, eager to serve and able to enjoy sublime, penetrating meditations. Unlike before, their past is now small and their future, once limited, looms large and inviting. They enjoy new-found harmony with family and friends. They find it easy and natural to fulfill the Hindu restraints and observances, the yamas and niyamas. Why? They are not burdened by vasanas created by past experiences that have not been understood, resolved and released.

Of course, at the time of death it is the memories of all the emotional happenings that pop up before one’s inner vision, and which have the power to bring you back in a future birth to be faced. Those that have been resolved and released in understanding are no longer strong in the mind. So, you are effecting a near-death experience, in a sense, upon yourself by doing this tantra, because you are putting to rest the memories of the past that you might not otherwise face until you actually die. This doesn’t mean that you forget your past. It just isn’t bothersome to you anymore. It seems almost as though it all happened to someone else.

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Comments
  1. “this is very interesting. thanks for that. we need more sites like this. i commend you on your great content and excellent topic choices.”

  2. kshal says:

    thank you very much Roma. It’s delightful to know that my write up inspires you, i will take your advice to write up more. thx again.

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