The most anandatse, the most blissful, of all days—the day of June 24— holds an inestimable and cherished place in our hearts and in the hearts of all Siddha Yogis. It is the birthday of our beloved Shri Guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda!
It’s in honor of Gurumayi’s Birthday that the whole month of June is celebrated as Birthday Bliss on the Siddha Yoga path. One of the main teachings we’ve learned from Gurumayi is that our true essence is nothing but pure bliss and that our mandate on this planet is to realize that. In the abhanga, or devotional song, Anandatse dohi, ananda taranga, the poet-saint Tukaram Maharaj says, “In the great flood of bliss waves are surging, and they too are nothing but bliss, for bliss is the nature of every particle of this body of bliss!”
As many of you are aware, throughout the month of June all Siddha Yogis and new seekers receive one virtue a day from Shri Gurumayi. Gurumayi began this tradition in 2013. We who know about this tradition look forward to it each June, finding that these same virtues take on new meaning as we continue to study and imbibe their essence. New seekers, meanwhile, make many amazing discoveries as they learn for the first time what these virtues mean on the Siddha Yoga path.
And then on June 24, every year, we receive from Gurumayi a birthday surprise. What’s a birthday celebration without a birthday surprise, right? Typically, when it’s someone’s birthday, everyone else gives them gifts. So it’s remarkable that on Gurumayi’s Birthday, year after year after year, she gives us the incredible gift of a teaching in the form of a virtue. It’s a beautiful illustration of what we have learned from Gurumayi: that the giving and receiving which takes place between Guru and disciple is multidimensional. It does not follow a linear path; instead, it happens in 360 degrees. As this giving and receiving continues to take place, its energy, its benefits expand out concentrically, filling the world with saundarya, beauty; with sādhutā, goodness; with prakāsh, light.
This gift from Gurumayi is invaluable for us, as her students, because studying and practicing her teaching leads us to the experience of divinity within. Continuing on our path, diligently and determinedly, in pursuit of the goal of sadhana, is a gift that we can then give back to the Guru. We may also be inspired to give in other forms, such as seva and dakshina—both a kind of giving that stems from a deep understanding and knowledge of the transformational power of the Guru’s teachings.
Anything we receive from the Guru is guru-prasad—a sacred gift from the Guru. The giving of prasad by Shri Guru is an act of unparalleled generosity and compassion. Prasad from the Guru is a form of the Guru’s grace bestowed upon the disciple. In fact, guru-prasad is synonymous with guru-kripa, the Guru’s grace.
Guru-prasad is not necessarily a material object. Prasad from the Guru, in whatever shape and form it takes, is metamorphic for a disciple in their sadhana. Think of the amazing transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Through the process of metamorphosis an earthbound insect that once crawled on the ground will grow wings and soar into the sky.
So, Shri Gurumayi is giving us a precious gift: a virtue that is significant at the moment we receive it and whose value increases exponentially over time. The significance that it holds and the blessings it bestows upon those who embrace, study, and imbibe it continue to bear fruit in their sadhana.
In the year 2022, the virtue that Shri Gurumayi has imparted to us in honor of her birthday is:
At this point, we wish to ask that you read this word, samānubhūti, aloud.
As you say it out loud, do focus on the long a vowel in samaa.
Also focus on the long u vowel in bhooti.
And the t at the end of the word is a soft t, like in the Spanish word tío, the French tout, and the Italian tu. It’s called a “dental” sound because the tip of your tongue touches the back of your upper front teeth in saying it.
And now repeat it silently—samānubhūti.
Thank you for lingering with this exquisite virtue. We imagine that many of you are wishing to take more time to admire its beauty; to appreciate its structure, maybe even mentally tracing your fingers around its contours; to listen to its sound again and again, paying close attention to the syllables and the short and long vowels. As you do so, you will become increasingly familiar with its character, relishing the rasa inherent in it.
In our own study thus far, we have discovered many dimensions of samānubhūti. However, this is not to suggest by any means that these are the only meanings you will find to be inherent in samānubhūti. The orb of samānubhūti is vast and mysterious in how it manifests. There are myriad ways in which to understand and experience it. We feel certain that in the course of your own study of the virtue, as you hold it in your awareness through your days and nights and let it reflect in the actions you take in your life, you will have revelations and come to insights of your own about the meaning and blessings of samānubhūti. In fact, this is still a journey for us too, and we are excited about continuing to discover more and more about this virtue through reading the shares on the Siddha Yoga path website, through having conversations with like-minded people, and through whatever our own engagement with this prasad will reveal to us in the coming days, weeks, and years.
So, what is the meaning of samānubhūti, a word which exists in both the Sanskrit and Hindi languages? In the broad sense, samānubhūti corresponds to the English word empathy, which the dictionary defines as our ability to share the feelings and emotions of other people as if they are our own. Its English synonyms include understanding, rapport, appreciation, and compassion. At the same time, samānubhūti has additional layers of meaning that lend it an extraordinary depth and richness, making it sparkle like an iridescent gem.
As we said just a short while ago, samānubhūti is a word in both Sanskrit and Hindi. It has similar meanings in both languages, and its origin is in Sanskrit.
It is a compound word made up of two parts: sama + anubhūti.
The Sanskrit word sama has multiple meanings: equal; same, identical; balanced, similar, resembling; constant, unchanging; impartial, fair; and full, complete, whole.
Anubhūti refers to perception, experience, realization, and knowledge.
When these two words are put together as the compound word samānubhūti, it denotes these multifaceted meanings:
- cognizance of equality, nondifference, and oneness with everything
- knowledge and perception of wholeness and completeness
- experience of balance and equipoise
- awareness of parity that leads to deep empathy, compassion, and understanding
- responding to others with gentleness and nonjudgment
Samānubhūti is the cognizance of equality and oneness.
Samānubhūti is a virtue that arises from the fundamental belief that everyone and everything come from the same essence and are therefore equal to, and not different from, everyone and everything else.
Speaking about this ultimate Truth, the Mandukya Upanishad says:
सर्वं ह्येतद् ब्रह्म अयमात्मा ब्रह्म
sarvaṁ hyetad brahma ayamātmā brahma
All this is Brahman, the Absolute, and this Self is that Brahman.1
This Self, which is Brahman, is the Self that pervades everything and everyone. Even though you may not always be conscious of this truth, if you think about it, you often have the experience of the oneness inherent in samānubhūti. For instance, you may hear that someone whom you once met briefly has received widespread recognition for their work or their other contributions to society. Your immediate response is “Awesome. How wonderful!” You hardly know this person, yet now their joy is your joy, their achievement is your achievement. You feel a sense of pride and connection. The Brahman in you is in resonance with the Brahman in that person. It is irrelevant how much or how little you may know the person—you’ve already felt the light of Brahman in them.
Let’s look at another example. On a bright sunny day, you are walking behind someone on a busy sidewalk. All is well, when suddenly, the person walking in front of you trips and falls down. Your immediate response is to help; you reach out and gently pull them up, ensuring that they are not hurt. You don’t think, “Should I help them? Should I not?” You lend your support without even thinking. The Brahman in you feels what the Brahman in the other person is experiencing.
Samānubhūti is the name given to the realization of the ability we have to connect with the world around us. It names what may otherwise seem to be an amorphous feeling for some of us, something we may find difficult to explain or define. Samānubhūti is this feeling.
Samānubhūti is the knowledge of wholeness.
From the sense of unity with the world, from the recognition of nothing being different from the supreme “I,” you begin to see how all beings on this planet are interconnected, forming a collective whole that is this universe. What happens in one part of the earth or to any one species sooner or later impacts the rest of the world and the lives of all species.
A theory in physics called “quantum entanglement” describes how two subatomic particles can be interconnected despite the fact that the distance between them could be measured in billions of light-years. Even while this gigantic expanse of space separates them, a change brought upon one affects the other.
Additionally, other theories of atomic physics have described the interconnectivity among subatomic particles, atoms, and molecules. For example, charged particles in an atom bind together and, in fact, atoms can’t even exist without this bond connecting the particles with each other. Here again, a change in one effects change in another.
Planetary scientists have also discovered that we can trace the origin of almost all chemical elements present in the human body—such as calcium, sodium, iron, copper, hydrogen, and oxygen—back to distant stars. Through several supernova explosions, and over eons and eons of time, these elements made their way into our solar system, onto the earth, and eventually into our own bodies. In this way, we are a part of the cosmos and the cosmos, quite literally, is a part of us.
Science describes everything as pulsating with energy—at the atomic level, at the molecular level, at the level of a living being. And everything pulsates with its own characteristic vibration. Two things exchange energy when they resonate with each other. This energy that pulsates through all of the universe—in every atom—creates a harmonious consonance.
The Sanskrit word for atom is aṇu. Aṇu is also a name for Lord Shiva, and a noun meaning “individual soul.” Supreme Shiva takes the form of each individual soul, both contracting and multiplying himself to become everything in this world. What a divine concept this is! Don’t you agree?
When you recognize and understand this cosmic interconnectedness, this global interdependence, and you gradually become established in this knowledge of oneness, then not only do you begin to live in a state of harmony within yourself, you also start to resonate with all beings in this universe.
On the other hand, when you see yourself as separate from others, the environment around you, and the world, this limited perspective brings discord and disharmony both within and without, leading to a disruption in the cosmic order.
This reminds us of a teaching by Baba Muktananda, Gurumayi’s Guru, who often used to say, in his endearing mix of the Hindi and Marathi languages:
उपकार नको मगर उपद्रव नहीं चाहिए
upakār nako magar upadrav nahīṃ cāhiye
It’s fine if you cannot help others, but at least don’t be a nuisance.
Baba often spoke in pithy, sutra-like statements that held a depth of meaning. In this statement, what he is saying is, “Don’t get in the way; don’t put obstacles in the path of those who are trying to help.” What these words of Baba’s also reveal to us is that we must endeavor to be the agents of harmony in the cosmic order.
Imbibing the wisdom of Baba’s words, how can you then restore harmony to your world and the world beyond you? One way to do this is by connecting to the virtue of samānubhūti and practicing it by looking at the world as one interwoven whole. Practicing samānubhūti requires conscious effort.
Click here to read Part II