20 May Agree with Her by Manohar
Agree with Her
by Manohar, May 2022
There’s no doubt that a great focus of my sadhana (spiritual practice), is on the ‘inner journey’. The movement towards the Self or as the mystic, G.I. Gurdjieff put it, Self-remembering.
Swamiji has taught me that this inner movement towards the Self, this inwardness in Kashmir Shaivism is called atma vyapti and that our inner journey is accompanied by the yoga of seeing God in the world or Shiva vyapti.
On a good day I take my good inner state into the world armed with practical wisdom and yogic life skills where I attempt to keep the feeling of the Self as the great Bhagawan Nityananda exhorted, Bhavana Rhako!
Of course, no matter how beautiful and intriguing the inner journey… no matter how many mantras repeated or meditations completed, my worldly karmas and life’s practicalities ensure I have to rise from my meditation chair and head out into the world. Retreating to a cave doesn’t seem to be on offer! Instead, like most yogi’s who live outside a monastic setting, I find my connection to the Self being tested through full participation with worldly life.
One of the ways I find spiritual support and solace is by reading spiritual books especially Swamiji’s. My favourite story is one taken from Swamiji’s very own spiritual memoir ‘Ganeshpuri Days‘, this book is rich with the techniques of Shiva Process and Swamiji’s practical wisdom and I love how he describes his own sadhana. In the chapter, Agree with Him, Swamiji relates a story from his early days with his Guru, Baba Muktananda in Ganeshpuri, India. Swamiji’s bohemian and adventurous parents possessing sufficient curiosity and missing their only child, decide to come for a visit to Ganeshpuri and stay in the Ashram. As the day of their arrival approaches Swamiji became increasingly anxious. He writes, “I knew that my mother would have an open attitude towards India and the yoga, but my father was another matter. He had his own view of things and once he took a position, however illogical I felt it was, it was impossible for him to change. His beliefs were formed emotionally and not rationally and therefore his responses were unpredictable. Or maybe they were all too predictable.” The night before his parents’ arrival Swamiji decided to take his concerns about their visit to Baba; Swamiji asked Baba, “I’m afraid my father won’t be able to see the spirituality here in India, that he’ll only see the poverty.” Baba considered this for a moment and then said simply, “Agree with him”. This suggestion astonished Swamiji. He writes, ‘in all the years of my Oedipal torment, that possibility had never occurred to me.” Swamiji resolved to follow Baba’s advice to “Agree with him” and his parents visit went on to be a huge success. Swamiji writes that Baba’s help with his father was the first lesson in externalising his inner process effectively into life.
I have benefited from Swamiji’s telling of this story in so many ways. Specifically, it has helped in the wonderful relationship I can now say I have with my mother, who I adore. Since learning the secrets of Swamiji’s teaching, the truth is I’m now a much better son. I now ‘Agree with her!’ Or if not, I use external considering, which is to listen and respectfully acknowledge her ideas and feelings without identifying with them. From my practice of this I can say, I agree with Swamiji when he says that external considering is not merely being polite or even tactful, It’s an act of love.
I now try to offer my own ideas in a way that they can be comfortably received (also known as speaking to someone’s listening) Or you know what, I keep them to myself.
In another great lesson from the chapter, I simply try to give priority to the ‘good feeling’ of our conversations more than the content. This usually requires me to get off my own agenda. Swamiji’s lesson handed down from Baba has broken the bondage of my own ‘positionality’ and the grace of that wisdom allows the love to flow naturally.
Swamiji writes that in the West it is held as a moral imperative to express or ‘stand up’ for what we think. Not to do so is seen as a betrayal or loss of authenticity. Certainly, my own intellectual, political and philosophical positions could have kept me stuck in mechanical responses that would have built higher and higher walls between my mother and me. What feels truly authentic to me, is that I love my mother.
Monahar, a devotee of Swami Shankarananda at satsang at The Ashram in Mount Eliza.