Facing Life’s Tests, Part 1

Part One audio–

Part Two audio–


Description: Failure creates magnificent opportunities to educate ourselves and not fail a second time.  Life giving actions and disciplines for the instinctive mind in accordance with spiritual laws, the yamas and niyamas, the foundation, evolve us to realization of life’s highest goals and purposes. Face our subconscious. Free ourselves from the impact of life’s experiences, concentrate the mind. First meditation and contemplation, then samadhi or Self Realization. An openness of mind occurs with the vision of the inner light and great peace comes as we purify the subconscious mind and maintain bliss consciousness. Master Course Trilogy “Merging with Siva”  Lessons 99-101. “Yoga’s Forgotten Foundation” Introduction.  


Text of talk:


mai śrī gurave namaḥ


Good morning everyone. Starting a new lesson today in “Merging with Siva” Chapter 15, titled “Facing Life’s Tests.”  


A description is: An early inspired talk drawn from The Master Course, 1967 edition, assembled by the monks at Gurudeva’s mountain desert monastery in Virginia City, Nevada along with “Changing Your Circumstances”, given in San Francisco in 1964.


And in terms of  the “Guru Chronicles” we ran out of material from 1967 so had quite a few chapters of “Merging with Siva” dated 1967 so we’re gonna have to skip the “Guru Chronicles” part  for a while.  It says when we get up to 1968 the material that Gurudeva wrote reflects the Shum language and other changes so we don’t want to be reading about that when it’s not in the chapters yet.


Lesson 99, “Restraints and Observances.”




“When we are children, we run freely, because we have no great subconscious burdens to carry. Very little has happened to us. Of course, our parents and religious institutions try to prepare us for life’s tests. But because the conscious mind of a child doesn’t know any better, it generally does not accept the preparation without experience, and life begins the waking up to the material world, creating situations about us—magnificent opportunities for failing these tests. If we do not fail, we know that we have at some prior time learned the lesson inherent in the experience. Experience gives us a bit of wisdom when we really face ourselves and discover the meaning of failure and success. Failure is just education. But you shouldn’t fail once you know the law.”


That’s a very important point there; what Gurudeva’s saying that we want to be lenient with ourself if we fail but strict with ourself to be sure not to fail it a second time.  So that’s the point. Sometimes individuals feel they should never fail.  And they fail and they feel bad about that their whole life. And then they accumulate another one of those and another one of those.  So that’s not helpful; it’s rather looking at the opportunity to not fail the second time.  So that’s being very observant.  


The text:


“Many… There have been many systems and principles of ethics and morality established by various world teachers down through the ages.  All of these have had only one common goal—to provide for man living on the planet Earth a guidepost for his thought and action so that his consciousness, his awareness, may evolve to the realization of life’s highest goals and purposes. The ancient yoga systems provided a few simple yamas and niyamas for religious observance, defining how all people should live. The yamas, or restraints, provided a basic system of discipline for the instinctive mind. The niyamas, or positive observances, are the affirming, life-giving actions and disciplines.


“From the holy Vedas we have assembled here ten yamas and ten niyamas, a simple statement of the ancient and beautiful laws of life.”


So my comment is:


Patanjali only lists five of each.  However, by the later Upanishads, such as the Varaha and the Sandilya, the list had expanded to ten yamas and niyamas which is the list we use.  So Gurudeva must have felt more is better.  They’re narrower.  Patanjali’s are very broad compared to the one’s we use which come from the “Sandilya Upanishad.”  


So this is a comment from me on the yamas and niyamas.   


One of the unfortunate aspects of how yoga is commonly taught today is that the first and second limbs of yama and niyama are skipped altogether, and the yoga practitioner begins with the third limb of asana. This is not so crucial for those who are pursuing yoga solely for health benefits. However, other practitioners pursue it in hopes of reaping the spiritual benefits it offers. They are spiritual seekers having higher consciousness as the goal of their yoga. And skipping the yamas and niyamas definitely impacts the amount of spiritual progress they can achieve and sustain.


Two points: achieving something once and sustaining it.   


In this regard, a modern exponent of hatha yoga B.K.S. Iyengar cautioned, “Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics. Yama and niyama control the yogi’s passions and emotions and keep him in harmony with his fellow man.”


Nicely said.


Then the lesson gives each of the yamas and the niyamas.  It gives it in the form of English name, Sanskrit name and then the one sentence definition.  So that would be rather tedious to read.  I’m just going to give the English name, quickly go through them.   


Yamas: noninjury, truthfulness, nonstealing, divine conduct, patience, steadfastness, compassion, honesty, moderate appetite, purity.


Niyamas: remorse, contentment, giving.


So making a comment after this third niyama:  


Should be noted that the first three niyamas have to do with general conduct.  Those are the ones we just read: remorse, contentment and giving.  Whereas, the remaining seven are of a religious nature. So the first three are different than the remaining seven.  


So doing the remaining seven: faith, worship of the Lord, scriptural listening, cognition, sacred vows, recitation and austerity.


Lesson 100: “Learning to Face Yourself”




“Life offers you an opportunity. As the Western theologian speaks of sins of omission as well as sins of commission, so we find that life offers us an opportunity to break the law as indicated by the yamas, as well as to omit the observances of the niyamas. If we take the opportunity to live out of tune with Hindu dharma, reaction is built in the subconscious mind. This reaction stays with us and recreates the physical and astral body accordingly.”


That’s an important point, how the physical body reflects the astral body, as the astral body changes so does the physical body. And the astral body reflects unresolved reactions.


“Have you ever known a friend who reacted terribly to an experience in life and as a result became so changed mentally and physically that you hardly recognized him? Our external, conscious mind has a habit of not being able to take the meaning out of life’s most evident lessons.


“The basic laws of life are so simple that many people don’t heed them. Why? Generally because the opportunities afforded us to fail these tests are so plentiful that we generate very good reasons for not paying attention to our lessons. Shall we say it is normal to fail some of these tests? Yes, isn’t that like getting a failing grade on a report card in school, not passing some of the tests and having to take a course over again? We must learn from our experiences or find ourselves repeating them again and again.


“It is our teaching not to react to life’s experiences, but to understand them and in the understanding to free ourselves from the impact of these experiences, realizing the Self within. The true Self is only realized when you gain a subconscious control over your mind by ceasing to react to your experiences so that you can concentrate your mind fully, experience first meditation and contemplation, then samadhi, or Self Realization. First we must face our subconscious.


“There are many amusing ways in which people go about facing themselves. Some sit down to think things over, turning out the light of understanding. They let their minds wander, accomplishing nothing. Let me suggest to you a better way.


“In facing ourselves let us relate our actions, our thoughts and our feelings to the yamas and the niyamas, the wise restraints and observances of Hindu Dharma. In aligning ourselves with these universal laws, we can soon see how clear or muddy is our own subconscious. Fulfilling the restraints first allows us to take the next step on the spiritual path, which is the fulfillment of the observances. As long as we are evading our taxes, it is difficult to live up to the ideal of honesty. As long as we are beating our children, it is difficult to adhere to nonviolence. As long as we are swearing, using asura-invoking, profane words in the home, it will be difficult to cultivate patience. (Isn’t that a great image.  Asura-invoking. That has are definitely occurred to some of us as well.) Yes, it will be difficult to cultivate a contemplative nature. All these and more will require serious penance, prayaschitta, as it is known in Sanskrit, to change the nature and bring it into harmony with the profound ideals of the ancient Indian sages.”


Lesson 101 “Each Test is an Opportunity”


“We carry with us in our instinctive nature basic tendencies to break these divine laws, to undergo the experiences that will create reactive conditions until we sit ourselves down and start to unravel the mess. If we are still reacting to our experiences, we are only starting on the yoga path to enlightenment. As soon as we cease to react, we have for the first time the vision of the inner light.”


My comments:


“Many teachers of meditation do not present the important point that to reach the superconscious mind and experience inner light, you have to travel through the subconscious mind. If the subconscious is always in a reactive state to the experiences of life, you won’t be able to get through it to the superconscious. Therefore, the first step is to adjust your life to the yamas and not cause further reactions. The second step is to resolve in understanding the reactions that were previously created. Then the inner light is reachable.”


And as we all know Gurudeva gave us the Maha Vasana Daha Tantra to effectively resolve past actions.  


Back to the text:


“What do we mean by the word light? We mean light, literally, not metaphysically or symbolically, but light, just as you see the light of the sun or a light emitted by a bulb. Even in the Abrahamic scripture it is given, ‘When your eye becomes single, your whole body shall be filled with light.’ You will see light first at the top of the head, then throughout the body. An openness of mind occurs, and great peace. As a seeker gazes upon the inner light in contemplation, he continues the process of purifying the subconscious mind. As soon as the first yoga awakening comes to you, your whole nature begins to change. You have a foundation on which to continue. The yamas and the niyamas are the foundation.”


So, the word foundation reminded me of the story in introduction to “Yoga’s Forgotten Foundation.” So this is something I wrote, it says: “I remember years ago” but now we have to say: “I remember decades ago.” Long time ago.  


“I remember decades ago watching the Transamerica Building in San Francisco being erected. First the construction crew dug down quite a depth with huge equipment. Then massive steel pilings were driven, inches at a time, hundreds of feet into the earth. Then thousands of yards of concrete were poured. The long lineup of cement trucks created a traffic jam in the well-trafficked business district. From the concrete, the steel rose upward as a framework for the rest of the structure. This massive foundation was needed to keep this famous modern pyramid from toppling in an earthquake. In spiritual life, without a foundation of good character and discipline, success in yoga will not be lasting. Sooner or later, the earthquakes in our personal life, the times of great stress and difficulty, will bring outbursts of anger or periods of discouragement, causing our higher consciousness to fall back to Earth. To quote from Gurudeva: ‘It is true that bliss comes from meditation, and it is true that higher consciousness is the heritage of all mankind. However, the ten restraints and their corresponding practices are necessary to maintain bliss consciousness.’”


So this is using the word maintain.  Previously Gurudeva used the word sustain. So I stressed that word, this is what this is talking about that it’s one thing to attain the inner light, to attain higher consciousness, but to sustain or maintain it requires a lot more discipline.  And we need the foundation of the yamas and the niyamas in order to be able to sustain slash maintain it.  


And one final portion of the text:


“On the spiritual path to enlightenment, each of your decisions is going to be a basic decision, based on your knowledge of the laws of the mind. You must be aware that if you have not been tested by life through breaking its laws, you will in the future be so tested. You have to be aware that each test is an opportunity for either failure or success, and it is all up to you. Circumstances will always present opportunities for failure, and your reasoning mind will always be able to say, ‘I could have done nothing else under the circumstances.’


“Often, even under the circumstances, advanced souls are able to take the more difficult course through the natural exercise of humility.  Decisions of this nature direct the conscious mind to the recognition of natural inner security. When you fail one of life’s tests, all you can fail is yourself, the Self within you.”


Thank you very much.  Have a wonderful day.  


[End of transcript.]

File Type: mp3
Categories: Bodhinatha Talks
Author: Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
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