The Doors of Yoga

Sannyasi Maitridharana, 67 years, Sofia, Bulgaria

Whoever has said that 'when one door closes in life another opens' has been right. I know it from personal experience.

Seven years ago when I retired I closed the door of my forty years' work service behind. Several months of fear, insomnia and stress passed before I opened the next door. It felt as if I was in a narrow dark corridor with many doors but when I opened them there was nothing there – just darkness. I didn't know where I was and what to do. I was in despair.

Luckily a door half opened and I saw some light coming out from there. On it was written 'YOGA'. I showed the door to some friends too. Together we boldly stepped through the threshold met by the teacher. I thought that the contact with yoga would be temporary. But, no! It is said: there is nothing more constant than the temporary. It was the same in my case. Luck continued to smile at me. I had my teacher who with time took me on a road with many doors. After each door that I opened it was becoming more and more light and bright.

As a result of opening the many doors of yoga I started changing. Depending on the type of people who were noticing the changes in me I would classify them in two groups. The first: the significant changes noticed only by those for whom yoga was a way of life. The second: changes noticed by all who approve them knowing that I have achieved them thanks to yoga but not accepting yoga itself. Very strange!

No smoking and no cheating

My first visit to the Greek ashram. Not knowing anyone except my teacher and with no idea about havan, chakras, kirtan, shatkarmas, I entered through the door of the ashram for a ten-day seminar with a shameful quantity of cigarettes. I was still smoking more than twenty cigarettes a day.

On the third day of my stay something happened. Some-thing that I had wanted but had no idea how it actually happened. During a meditation session I imagined that I did not smoke. That was it, it happened, I stopped smoking. I was so impressed from my experience in the ashram that I took an important decision to visit the ashram again next year with the money saved from the cigarettes, and the sum was not at all small.

This way with the money saved I have visited the Greek ashram every year for the last six years. I have even followers to the initiative 'Quit cigarettes, come to the ashram'.

The memory of my first visit to the ashram makes me smile at the mental picture – I had to remember 108 people during the havan on the first evening. Each Mahamrityunjaya mantra had to be chanted for the health and prosperity of one person. This way I remembered all my close people, relatives, friends, neighbours and acquaintances. To reach number 108 I added the sellers from the shops I went to and people whom I met without knowing their names. It was nice. I do the same sometimes when I am at a havan with my Guru in India and I think of those who would have also liked to be there at the havan but couldn't.

Then in the ashram I heard and sang for the first time kirtans. I liked this practice so much that right after the seminar I joined the kirtan and Mahamrityunjaya havan program at the centre in Sofia. Since then I have attended it nearly every Saturday. Everyone around me knows that Saturdays are my yoga days. The door of the yoga centre became the open door to yoga. I opened it myself. How many things started from there!

Another example of the visible change in me is that I quit the bad, unworthy habit of travelling gratis by city transport. The insight came when one Saturday evening I was coming back from the yoga centre. I realized that I cannot chant kirtan, apply yoga (I already knew about the yamas and niyamas) and at the same time cheat and travel gratis. I said to myself, enough! I will travel only with a ticket and if I do not have money I will walk. That way the city transport won one more regular passenger and I won peace and health by walking more.

The game 'Apply Me!'

When I attended a satsang for the first time, Swami Sivamurti kindled my interest towards the science of yoga. For all the last seven years I did not miss a single seminar organized by the Bulgarian Yoga Association. My knowledge broadened but the amount of the unknown also increased. Exactly this unknown took me to India. I visited several times the ashrams in Munger and Rikhia. I met my Guru, got initiations and am a karma sannyasin now.

My new pleasant duty now is to work in the name of yoga and learn. This is the reason to start studying English at 65, so that I could read the books of our Satyananda Yoga tradition in the original language. I have read several already. In them our Guru and the masters of the tradition reveal the spiritual way of life to me – how to live and experience the material and spiritual life together.

I make an effort to manage without tension with the help of my natural resources and skills. Using the new spiritual knowledge I play the game 'Apply Me!' I discover time and space where to apply what I have learnt and become aware of. This game requires attention and often the help of a friend, and these are my teachers, the friends from the yoga centre, the experiences in the ashrams.

I ponder, what makes me practise yoga and walk this path. My humble experience tells me – everything – Guru, the teachers, the spiritual knowledge, the experience in the ashrams. I think it is the doors which I open on the way of yoga. When I open a door everything becomes clear, but after a while I have to open another door, then another and another so that it becomes clearer and brighter each time. I don't lose interest, I do not get tired, I am happy that there are doors to open. I do not know what is there behind each door and what will happen, but I continue.

I mention so many times the word door. Maybe because in one of my favourite photos of Swami Niranjan he stands in front of a door with his wonderful smile. I know he is smiling at me!