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August 2022

August
Nature in Shree Muktananda Ashram I

Nature in Shree Muktananda Ashram

by Pamela Roberts

The scriptures of India often describe the ashram of a spiritual Master as flourishing with vibrant gardens, abundant wildlife, and the entrancing beauty of nature. It seems that all of life celebrates the presence of a great being in its midst. Why is this so? The scriptures reveal that the grounds of an ashram are infused with the presence of the Guru’s shakti, the benevolent, divine power of grace and spiritual awakening that is beneficial to all living creatures.

The photographs of nature in this series all originate from Shree Muktananda Ashram, the abode of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the Siddha Yoga Guru. Month after month, year in and year out, we are given an opportunity to witness the movement of the shakti that continuously arises and flows through the seasons, manifesting as the majestic natural world of infinite variety, perfection, and mystery. By engaging with these images, we may discover the transformative power they can have on our inner state and awareness.

When I looked at these photographs for the first time, I felt a gentle, blissful energy stirring within me. After viewing the last image, I sat motionless, in silence and in a deeply peaceful state. Gradually, a thought arose, and I realized I had been in meditation. I had always loved nature, but being with nature had never drawn me inside in this way.

Contemplating this experience, I realized that I had connected with the shakti that pervades the grounds of Shree Muktananda Ashram. I understood that these photographs had provided me with a way to experience the play of supreme creative energy as it manifests in nature. Inspired by this understanding, I began a regular exploration of the natural world through the exquisite purity and perspective of these images.

Any one of these photographs can take us within, where we can experience our oneness with nature—and our own divinity. Each time we prepare to view the photographs, it is good to set an intention—for example, the intention of connecting with the shakti. As we center ourselves, our approach might be like entering a temple, the sacred temple of nature. Before looking at the photographs, we might begin our meditation by focusing on the breath and repeating the mantra. Then, as we press “play” or scroll one-by-one through the images, we can coordinate our breath and the mantra with the movement of nature before us. When we are drawn to a specific image, we can pause the image to contemplate it, asking ourselves, “What do I learn from this photograph that I can apply to my life?” In this way, we are engaging with the images as a spiritual practice.

By viewing the photographs regularly, we can observe the harmony and balance that sustain the natural world. And because we are an intrinsic part of nature, we can contemplate how our own lives can benefit from nature’s peerless example. Over time, by learning to immerse ourselves in the divinity of nature through these images from Shree Muktananda Ashram, we can transform our experience of nature wherever we live and wherever we go on this planet.

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The photos of the night and predawn sky with an abundance of stars capture the magnificent presence of God everywhere. Beholding such beauty stirs me in the deepest and best of ways. Just as there are no known boundaries to the universe, there is no end to my sense of wonder when I look at these photos. Such visuals are medicine capable of soothing and inspiring the beholder.
 
I am so grateful for the photos that make the peace inherent in the grand, star-filled, wonder-filled sky so available to us.
 

New York, United States

When I look at the photograph of that peaceful courtyard, I am reminded of the saying, “As above, so below.” The play of colors in the flower bed and the sky above is not unlike the composition of a classical painting—the gold and rosy hues above the landscape mirror the yellow and vermillion flowers at the foreground of the photograph; similarly, the gray and white colors of the rooftop subtly accord with the clouds above.
 
The Shiva Sutra also declares: Yatha tatra tatha’nyatra, or, “As here, so elsewhere.”
 
As I study the nuances of this scene in nature while reflecting on the meaning of this sutra, what I glean is that heaven’s effulgence can be found in every particle of earth; and that when I cultivate virtues and good actions, like a steadfast gardener, heaven on earth is possible.
 

New York, United States

In one of the images I saw a cloud angel with outstretched wings over the kailash of the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple. My entire being understood that the Guru’s protection is everywhere.
 

Maine, United States

I usually find myself looking at the nature galleries on the Siddha Yoga path website when I am in my office, in the midst of a hectic environment around me.
Every time, without fail, as I take in the first image, I can feel my muscles relax, and I take in a long, deep breath. When I let it out, something inside me releases. The feeling of being in nature, of being on the grounds at Shree Muktananda Ashram, of being embraced by the Self, overtakes me.

Afterwards, I speak a little more slowly, sit a little taller, become a little quieter. I smile and laugh more frequently, and I feel the space around me change too. I have created my very own yogic bubble, and it expands outwards! I can see it affect my coworkers.

To me, this is the true testament of the power of the Self. Once I find it in myself, I become a conduit to help others access it themselves.
 

New York, United States