Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons.
June 16th, 2019
The Gayatri Mantra
I’ve spent the better part of my adult life searching for a spiritual home that could feel completely and authentically mine. But I’m coming to accept the fact that I’m not going to find one. I’m coming to realize that I’m destined to be a wanderer. And I want to encourage those of you who find yourself feeling spiritually homeless to take heart. Spiritual depth can be found in a multitude of ways.
But there’s a catch.
Spiritual depth will never come from religious consumerism or spiritual dabbling. By which I mean, we can’t simply surround ourselves with religious objects we don’t understand. And we can’t approach our spiritual search as tourists collecting odd tidbits for our scrapbooks. We have to fully dive in.
Spiritual depth, comfort, and transformation come from commitment and effort. They come from respect and reverence.
Fellow seeker Marabai Starr writes that in our American culture:
We are conditioned to treat the spiritual life as another commodity, rather than as a discipline of inner transformation with a corresponding commitment to alleviating suffering in the world.
The spiritual life is a discipline. Making a commitment to spiritual practice is making a commitment to move through life with awareness and intention. These aren’t just pretty words. They’re actions. Moving through life with awareness and intention means constantly being willing to look inward and honestly assess what’s real within us. Moving through life with awareness and intention means opening our eyes and hearts to the reality of suffering—ours and that of the world—and of finding ways to work toward healing.
Living with awareness and intention—with an inner honesty and eyes open to suffering—is often hard. Which is why we need deep resources. We may never find the perfect spiritual home, but we must take something to be the ground of our practice. We must find something that we can root ourselves into. Something that enlivens and inspires our spiritual heart. Something that unlocks our inner joy. Something that both challenges us and comforts us.
So here’s my question for you: What anchors your spiritual practice? What anchors your life? What action or prayer or idea or belief lives deep inside of you? Influencing you and supporting you day after day after day?
For me, it’s the Gayatri Mantra, which is an ancient, ancient prayer that’s been chanted for thousands of years by millions of people.
It originated in the lands we now call Pakistan and Northern India. I found it while studying with my teacher in the mountains of California. As the teachings on Gayatri were sinking into my mind and heart I felt as though I was being punched in the stomach. It might sound violent or dramatic. But it was such a forceful and physical sense of connection. It was recognition. It was realization. I had been searching. I had been struggling to find my own sense of religious belonging and tradition. And in that moment, I knew my teacher was giving me a gift. I was being taught a well worn prayer that could help me connect all the various strands of my spiritual experience. As soon as the practice was over I ran up the mountain to my tent and laid down in amazement. I felt utterly undone. I didn’t fully understand it yet, but the Gayatri Mantra had pushed me off the edge and deep into the well of the spiritual life.
The Gayatri Mantra says:
We recognize within ourselves and meditate upon
that wondrous Spirit of Divine Light
may this Light guide our inner vision.
For me this prayer does three things: It calls us to recognition and remembrance of our true identity and it gives us a very real, material symbol of energy, illumination, and compassion—the Divine Solar Being—and it helps us ask for guidance, discernment, and vision.
I’ve been chanting this mantra for almost 10-years now and it has become the spiritual food that sustains me. As I move through my life, doing my best to live with awareness and intention—sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding—this mantra is always close at hand re-centering my vision and calling me back to what matters most.
As you search for your own spiritual depth and sustenance, this mantra can provide direction. You can use it as a model to ask yourself big questions…
Who do you understand yourself to be?
What practices help you remain grounded in your true self?
What in this life is worthy of awe and devotion?
What helps you build the energy to act?
What calls your heart to act with compassion?
Where do you turn for support and guidance?
What inspires the vision of your life?
We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?