THE LALITA TRISHATI PUJA

By Susan Marshall

Five years ago, Swami Chetanananda gave a group of Movement Center students the Sanskrit chant known as the Sri Lalita Trishati Stotram, or the chant of the 300 names of the goddess Lalita. We studied a rough English translation of the Sanskrit and chanted along with a recording of a silver voiced Indian woman. We learned to perform the puja, making the offerings to the goddess and distributing prasad (blessed food) at the conclusion of the puja.

Swami Chetanananda performing abishek

At the July 2013 Meditation Retreat, Swamiji installed the Sri Chakra, a three-dimensional geometric representation of the goddess, on an altar in the meditation room by performing the pranapatishta (installation of the spirit) and the abhishek (ritual cleansing) on the Sri Chakra. He served as pujari as all the retreat participants chanted the Sri Lalita Trishati Stotram. Since then, the Lalita chant and puja have become a daily practice after morning meditation at The Movement Center, taking about fifteen minutes to perform. 

At our request, Professor Alexis Sanderson has provided a new and vastly improved English translation of the Trishati.  This has made the Lalita so much more accessible to those wanting to learn the chant and perform the puja on their own. Copies of the new translation are available from Rudra Press

Most people are struck by the sheer beauty of the sound of the chanted Sanskrit words. For me chanting is an effective way to regulate my breathing, focus my mind and lighten my heart. Chanting the Lalita, as a Guru given chant and puja practice, is even more special.  The vibration created during the chant inspires gratitude and a sense of awe and wonder of the universe. The heart chakra opens so easily—a great way to enhance a meditation practice!

The words of the chant capture the aspects of the goddess Lalita, who represents and is the entire universe. There is no part of the universe that is not the goddess.

Some examples of the 300 phrases: 

“She whose mere look enlivens the worlds.” 

“She who does everything and who bears everything.”

“She who destroys everything and who is ancient.”

“She who is the repository of ten million desires and who grants the objects of desire.”

The pujari (the person who prepares the offerings and performs the puja) is not thought to be separate from the goddess.  He or she is one with the goddess.  The offerings are items that already belong to the goddess. They are aspects of the universe we experience with our human senses: flowers (touch), sweets of the earth (taste), the aroma of incense and sandalwood powder (smell), the arati of lighted candles (sight), and mantras, spoken and silent (hearing).  During the puja the circle of life and death is celebrated.  All is offered in a world where pain, suffering, beauty, equanimity, laughter, sadness, sickness, vibrancy, all exist simultaneously and unending.

Any time you come to Portland, please join us for this extraordinarily beautiful puja. Feel the blessings of the goddess.  At the conclusion sit and bask from your open heart chakra in the sweetness of simply being. Thank your Guru for sharing the practice with you.

YOGA PRACTICE AND THE FIVE ELEMENTS: SUMMER

By Laura Santi

Watching a butterfly on a summer’s day, taking in its dizzy, giddy, crazy up and down pathway going-no place-in-particular will give you a feeling for one aspect of the fire energy.  But Fire is also the rhythmic mesmerizing beat of your favorite drum, your heart.  Fire/summertime starts May 5th, according to the way in which Chinese medicine observes the changes in nature.  Life-force energy is in full expansion phase.  At the summer solstice, June 21, the energy shifts back to contraction phase and fire ends.

Fire is a little different than the other elements in that there are 4 aspects to it and therefore 4 meridian paths, all on the arms. There is the heart, rhythmic and steady, guarded by the Small Intestine meridian, and the protecting and regulating needs of the heart, overseen by the other two meridians, the Pericardium and Triple Heater.  In health, fire gives joy, propriety of speech – knowing just the right thing to say to set people at ease or make good conversation, freedom of self-expression, and healthy sex life.  In poor health symptoms can range from shoulder problems, upper back problems, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, sadness, mental confusion, lack of sexual fire or too much fire.  But mostly fire is about love. Love is an energetic state, not a physical thing, and it isn’t so much a part of our physiology as a flow through us from the heavens - if we are open - hence the focus in summer yoga is on a state of mind as well as the physical body.

In Spring, wood-time, yoga is a practice focused on stretching, strength building and doing many different poses.  Summer’s practice is more about fun.  A practice to imbibe the qualities of the season and live according to its wisdom might focus on the spirit level - have fun with your practice, play.   Some poses that will work the fire energy include Sun Salutes.  It has all the Fire qualities in one vinyasa:  there is the rhythm of repetition of a varied set of poses, and then the play aspect - possibly holding one of the poses longer - or doing it twice if you feel like it, or stopping in mid stride to work something else that appeals at the moment, and of course wearing pink leggings.  That’s optional.  But I had to include a joke here because fire energy is about joy and love.

flames dancing in fire pit

What other poses cultivate summer energy? Anything that stretches and uses the arms, like Cow-face, would be fire cultivating. Anjali mudra, keeping attention on the heart area itself, working the upper back and neck, is another way.  Cobra pose, where you are opening and stretching the heart area up to meet the sun, would cultivate fire energy.  Using voice in some way, maybe with chanting or mantra with your yoga practice will cultivate fire.  The tongue is the root of the heart; so using voice will vibrate that chakra and shake up its energy.  Poses that stretch and tone the arms and shoulders, where the four meridians of fire flow, like Crow pose, will help balance and propagate fire energy. 

The 4 fire meridians are, not to burden you but its kind of nice to know:

1. Small Intestine - pinky finger along the arm across the shoulder blade up the neck to the ear.  It is the bouncer for the heart.  It sorts the pure from the impure to insure nothing enters the heart that will harm it or the love flowing through it.

2. Heart – from the heart it emerges at the armpit, zooms down the arm to the palm and your pinky: the place where love flows through us from the heavens, and where we keep memory.  Yes Chinese medicine understands physiology very differently than western medicine: the brain is called a “Curious organ” and doesn’t have many attributes assigned to it…. 

3.Triple Heater - ring finger up the outer arm and neck into the hypothalamus, the regulatory mechanism of the lower brain, then sidling up the cheek.  It controls things like the balance of hot and cold and fluid distribution. 

4. Pericardium: Begins next to the breast’s nipples, zooms up to go down the arm across the palm to the middle finger: the gatekeeper to the love flickering and sometimes flaming up and consuming us, inside the heart. 

Therapeutic yoga has a premise that yoga practice should be at 80% of what your body can do.  That allows for the mind to be conscious, present, and a part of what is going on. So, in summer yoga play not like a puppy plays - to the point of exhaustion - but play with awareness and intent.  Chinese medicine says too much joy scatters the “shen,” the spirit of the heart. But if you practice with a conscious mind your joy will ride shotgun with your spirit and you’ll be just fine.

This excerpt from the  poem Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay personifies fire, I think:

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.

Enjoy your summer and have fun with your practice!

GROW WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED

By Sadhvi Parānandā

Often people tell me of their troubles and struggles -- their woes.  In the past, my response has been “Life simply isn’t fair.”  Lately, however, I have reframed that my reply to something that I hope is more helpful.  The response now is “Grow where you are planted.”

How many times do we feel that we would be happy “IF?”  We would be happy if we had more money, a different partner, a different job…. a different LIFE!  It reminds me of the time when I had been practicing meditation for about 7 years.  I believed that to further my growth I had to go to Ganeshpuri to sit at Bhagavan Nityananda’s (Baba’s) Mahasamadhi shrine.

I made that trip to India in the early 1980s.  My first adventure happened when the visa rules changed while I was in mid-flight and consequently, was detained at the airport.  In the time before I was released my luggage had been stolen.  Like many first time travelers to India, I had been warned that I would experience culture shock.  I completely denied that would happen to me.  And, it didn’t…. until about day 10 when I had made my way up into Kashmir. 

Purple and orange pansies

I had some work to do in Srinagar.  It was my last stop before I could head to Ganeshpuri.  I arrived after driving through a snowstorm in the mountains.  I arrived at the hotel and there was a buffet.  I saw a very large pot of food that was about 30 inches deep and 20 inches wide.  In it was floating white masses in what appeared to be a red, thick soup.  I asked the waiter what the dish was and he replied with great pride, “PIZZA!”

I totally lost it.  I went to my room, took off my Indian garb, put on my blue jeans and read a Newsweek magazine that I had brought along.  I recovered from the experience and finally made my way to Ganeshpuri.  

I was completely ecstatic.  Now I could advance my practice.  I walked into the Mahasamadhi hall and promptly sat on the men’s side.  The very kind Indian women came up to me and ushered me to the women’s side.  As I sat there and began to meditate, waiting for Baba’s blessing, grace and direction, I heard his voice and saw his face as real as if her were physically present before me.

He said to me, "It is nice that you came, but your really didn’t need to do so.  You have everything that you need back home" (in Bloomington, Indiana).

REALLY!  Knock me over with a feather.  I was stunned…and a little disappointed.  But, it was a lifelong lesson for me:  “Grow where you are planted.”

Grow where you are planted.  Give it a try.  Happiness is a state, regardless of our external circumstance.  It is a CHOICE.  If we are happy today and not tomorrow, what happened to that happiness?  We forgot!

Try growing in the soil that is beneath you.  Water the soil.  Nourish it.  Sink your roots into it and rise toward the sky.  Now, it is true that sometimes replanting is necessary.  But replanting must be done with great care and consciousness.  It is very stressful to the plant.  So, you must be pretty sure that the new soil is beneficial and appropriate before you impulsively pull up those roots.

The analogy works for me.  I hope it is useful to you.  Try growing the love where you are planted.  Be grateful that you have the chance to grow at all!  Nourish this plant of a human life where you are and watch it reach into the heavens.