I was excited when Swamiji announced the first Nav Durga event. I had never done a Yajna before and was eager to participate in this Vedic tradition.
I carefully read Swamiji’s instructions and zeroed in on the ingredients needed for the yajna. I wanted it to be perfect, so I searched for an authentic online source where I could buy a Havan Kund, Havan Samagri, and the other necessary ingredients to complete the ceremony. I placed my order, and when the big box came, I excitedly opened it and checked that everything was there. It all looked good, and in my mind, I envisioned where I would do the yajna and how effortless it would all be.
Soon, the night arrived. I decided my tiled outdoor deck was the best venue for the ceremony, so I arranged everything there carefully. When it came time to light the fire, I tried to do so with the unique wood I had ordered online. Unfortunately, instead of burning, my wood only smoked profusely. Looking closely, I could see the wood had been packed with too much moisture content and was moldy. The condition of the wood prevented it from lighting on fire, and I had to abandon my physical yajna and opt for a mental one instead.
Putting away all my ingredients, I completed the yajna and all subsequent ones in my mind (Manasika). Despite not being able to conduct the yajna physically, it was still a powerful experience.
I see now that I let perfect be the enemy of good. I could have used a different kind of locally available wood that would have been appropriately dried and thus created fire instead of just smoke. But instead, I had ordered unique wood online in hopes of a perfect setup, only to be forced to abandon it altogether. I had forgotten the 80/20 rule. That experience made me nervous about performing other Vedic rituals that call for unique ingredients.
A few months ago, the Sadhana app arrived, giving us all the opportunity to perform yajna and other rituals virtually. But, like many others, I’m sure I had reservations about whether doing these spiritual practices on a phone or tablet could yield the same results as doing them physically.
Putting aside my doubts, I followed the instructions in the app. After doing various Pujas, Abhishekams and yajnas, I decided to sink my teeth into the sadhana portion of the app. So first, I did a Ganesh sadhana of 40 days, then commenced a 40-day sadhana of Ma Gayatri sadhana. About 30 days into that sadhana, I had a beautiful experience.
When doing some sadhanas or practicing meditation, kriyas, or pranayamas, I often wish for some energy that does not come from within me to manifest itself. For instance, practicing pranayama has some physical benefits. You can do Bhastrika, huffing, and puffing like an asthmatic dragon, and you will flood your body with oxygen. Over time, this benefits your health; sometimes, you get tingly sensations in your extremities as the oxygen saturates your system. But, to get and sustain these benefits, you must keep doing and usually intensify your practice. Meditation is no different – you must put in many hours of grueling training to yield significant benefits from this practice. And that’s not saying anything new; the same is true of learning any new skill. Practice makes perfect; keeping this in mind is essential, especially initially, when practicing can be tedious and repetitive.
I kept this in mind as I focused on the Gayatri sadhana I was doing. In this regard, I must mention some things I have observed about the app that makes doing sadhana easier. First, you do not have to worry about pronouncing any of the mantras. These are all chanted for us ideally by Om Swami. All you have to do is listen and concentrate with a sense of devotion, surrender, or another divine sentiment. Second, the environment of the online temple is sublime. The physics and lighting engines are very realistic, from how the offerings spill into the sacred fire to how the lights from the candles reflect on the idol. Even the tiled floors and walls, the architectural columns, and other seemingly minor trimmings add to the grandeur of the temples with exquisite and realistic details.
Lastly, the idols, rendered in black stone with gold implements and embellishments, create a visual juxtaposition making it very easy to slip into a trance-like state when gazing at your screen. It is something about how geometric shapes pop out of the deep blacks and bright gold that let the mind settle and quiet down.
Each temple was designed with careful attention to detail, and it is a great privilege to be able to visit them and the consecrated deities that live there. In addition, you also get as long of darshan as desired and without any lines!
Now, onto that beautiful experience. Around 30 days into my 40-day Gayatri sadhana, I had a surreal experience using the app. I was gazing at the idol while not fixating on any one spot in particular. Suddenly, I felt a sort of magnetic power arising. Something outside my consciousness or emotional state had joined me in that temple. A hush overcame my whole being, and you could feel that power. To quote a famous monk: ” To receive Grace, you cannot be talking; to receive information, you need to ask; to receive knowledge, you need to hear; to receive wisdom, you need to listen, but to receive insight, you need to be quiet.”
The experience lasted a few minutes and brought tears to my eyes. Anyone who has invested effort and time into sadhana knows that when the moment comes, you see that the payoff was worth all the heartache, troubles, pains, and whatnot. It’s not even close. The highest goals we strive for in the spiritual realm are the most precious gifts the universe is hiding; that’s what makes the path worth walking.
This experience gave me a peek into the universal consciousness and energy that permeates and links everything in the cosmos.
This magnetic power which came unannounced occurred because of Grace alone. I believe my consistency of effort in sadhana, conducted with the right mindset, created the conditions for this Grace to descend.
I do this sadhana at night, lying in my son’s bed while he falls asleep. I mention this to show that there is a lot of flexibility regarding the rules of these rituals. I replaced some Netflix time with some sadhana time; it was as simple as that. The Sadhana app has stripped so many excuses away and made it so easy to get started with spiritual progress. Perhaps as we progress, we can worry more about the rules and scriptural injunctions that dictate how our worship should be performed. But, for now, we can just get started. Grace will not be far off if sadhana is approached regularly with reverence and devotion.
If you haven’t started using the app already, I implore you to do so as it can jumpstart or supercharge your sadhana taking it to new heights.