Working with manipura chakra, the energy centre located behind the navel, is the beginning of developing spiritual values. The powers of manipura are separate from the earthly realm. When manipura awakens, one can rise above habits and is free to decide and act at a higher level, through willpower. Manipura is the crossroads from where personal power and spiritual potential begin to unfold.
In Manipura Chakra, Rishi Nityabodhananda discusses the many facets of this chakra, including its place in kundalini yoga, its influence on the personality, its symbology, and practices to awaken and transcend manipura. Written in an easy style full of wit and humour, the book draws from traditional and modern texts on yoga and tantra, and provides a foundational understanding of this essential energy centre in the scheme of human life.
The meaning of manipura is based on two Sanskrit words: mani, meaning jewel and pura, meaning city, just as 'pur' is used in the names of Indian cities such as Nagpur, Puri, Bilaspur, and so on. Therefore, manipura can be translated to mean 'a city of jewels'. The experience of manipura is the experience of a dazzling array of sparkling jewels, as thousands of nadis come to manipura, many more than in the other chakras. This is the reason for the dazzling array of lights. According to the Gautamiya Tantra, it is 'lustrous like a gem'.
In 1970, there were just fifteen or so swamis living in the old ashram of Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, India, and Sri Swami Satyananda lived with us. He would queue up in the food lines and wait for his meal, he would clean alongside us while we washed up after lunch, he scrubbed all the toilets while we cleared the gardens and paths, and he would enthral us with spiritual tales during mealtimes. He was one of us. We were all aspirants struggling for a spiritual life and he included himself in that identity.
We always knew he was special because of his insights, his unflagging energy, his ability to bring cheer to anyone who needed it, and his amazing ability to attract people who just loved him. One day he said to everyone over a cup of morning dahlia, sweet porridge, "There's no difference between you and me. I've just got more willpower, that's all."
This left me with some questions. What is willpower? Where is it? How can it be developed? What can be done with it?
Manipura is the centre of will. We don't have to know anything about manipura in order to develop willpower, however, we do have to know something about trying to achieve. We all know it from those situations where we are trying for something but it is not happening, and we fail over and over again until the day comes when we decide, "I will do it! Nothing is going to stop me." Then the decision to persist predominates, and we try and try and try until we get it done, one way or the other. This applies to personal efforts such as sadhana, it applies to social effort such as getting your way, and it applies in karma yoga to achieve for others.
A couple of years later I was in another ashram, the Dhanbad School of Yoga, and was teaching the coal miners of the region when Sri Swamiji called me to meet him in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He had arrived from the Munger ashram with about ten swamis who were all en route to Bombay (now Mumbai), to preside over a yoga convention in Thane. I met him in the morning and he told me, "This evening, we're going to Bombay for a yoga convention and you're coming. Go and get a ticket on the Bombay Mail."
I had some money, so I went to get a ticket on the Bombay Mail. In those days the Bombay Mail was the most prestigious train in India. Normally, one needed to book four or five months in advance to get a reservation on it and there were no unreserved seats. One couldn't just get on the train. First, I tried all the normal places where one would get tickets and they said "No, fully booked." Then I went to the foreigners' ticket office. I had a passport and said, "Look, I'm a foreigner! Please give me a ticket." They said, "No. You've beep. in India for years. You are not in the category of foreigner." Then I went to the commission agents, you know, the places where for a few extra rupees they manage to get a ticket from behind the counter, and still no success. Then I tried bribing, but no luck. With my guru's command on my mind, and the thought, 'I am going with him on the Bombay Mail train that night, I tried every possible way of getting a ticket and some impossible ways as well.
By the afternoon, I was worn out and had exhausted every possibility. I simply could not get the ticket. I went to Sri Swamiji who was in another place in Calcutta and I said, "Swamiji, I can't come; I can't get a reservation." He looked at me and said, "Nityabodh, you don't know the meaning of willpower." He said, "Okay, we're going to the station soon. Have a bath, have some food, and we'll go." Then we all went to the station and he instructed, "When you get into Howrah station, to the left there is an office called the TTC office. Go in there and say, 'I have to go to Bombay; I have to go to Bombay for darshan of a mahatma'." He told me, "You just say that."
The rest of the group went ahead to board the train and I went to the Travelling Ticket Collector's office. It's a small office, built for four or five people behind the counter, and it was packed. I was stuck in the back; I could not even see the counter. Suddenly, as if I was Moses leading the Jews across the Red Sea, all the people parted and left a path for me straight up to the counter and an invisible force pushed me there. Before I knew it, I was breasting the counter. One of the TTC officers looked up and said, "Yes?" I said, "I have to go to Bombay for the darshan of a mahatma." He looked over his shoulder and said, "Get an officer from that Bombay Mail." Along came the requested TTC officer. The man behind the counter said to him, "You put this man on the Mail." He said, "Don't worry, you're on it." I got a seat reservation; not a sleeper. I got a seat! It's a long journey, two nights, and I had a seat there. Then I ran up to Sri Swamiji; he was right up at the front of the train in the best class; he looked at me and said, "You're on the train?" I said, "Yes, Swamiji, I'm on the train." He said, "Go and occupy your seat."
I was on the train, an impossible achievement. How did he do it? He had just visualized it and said, "It will happen." He had the ability to visualize and manifest it. We can allvisualize. We can all visualize a hundred million dollars. Can we manifest it? We can all visualize a big yoga school. Can we manifest it? This is willpower. He demonstrated this ability again and again. In so many situations, his willpower prevailed. Sri Swamiji left his guru's ashram with two cloths, a mission to fulfil and willpower to turn an idea into a reality.
Sri Swamiji's accomplishments are a perfect example of the greatness that can be achieved through a developed manipura. Sri Swamiji started out with a briefcase embossed with the initials IYFM, 'International Yoga Fellowship Movement' and an instruction from his guru. He had no royal patronage, no government grant; he had only his own sankalpa and the support of his devotees in all of his endeavours. From Sri Swamiji's powerful will emerged four incredible achievements towards sharing the gift of yoga with the world: the International Yoga Fellowship, the Bihar School of Yoga, the Yoga Research Foundation and the Sivananda Math. The IYFM has the aim of creating a global fraternity of yoga through yoga training centers, dissemination of knowledge of yoga through publications, research, and the introduction of yoga into schools. The Bihar School of Yoga is the platform for imparting yogic training to all nationalities, householders and sannyasins alike, and to provide a focal point for the global revival of the ancient science of yoga. The Yoga Research Foundation aims to provide an accurate assessment of yogic practices within a scientific framework and to establish yoga as an essential science for human development. Finally, there is Sivananda Math, a philanthropic organization which aims to uplift the . neglected, underprivileged sections of society by following the precepts of his guru, Swami Sivananda: serve, love, give. All this and ,more came from one mind, one decision, one vision and wjllpower, We are going to explore this idea through manipura.
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