AGNI YOGA WEB TV
„THE 10 PILLARS OF THE PRACTICE OF AGNI YOGA“
2nd Pillar: Rhythm of the Day
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you again to our program.
Today we are talking about the second pillar of the practice of Agni Yoga: The rhythm of the day - and of the week, and of the year.
The purpose of the practice of Agni Yoga is to strengthen your spirit so that you can establish the rule of the spirit over yourself and over the circumstances. In order to achieve this goal, it is one of the first, oldest and most important spiritual exercises to force the chaotic waves of events into a certain order and not to be driven by them back and forth.
You must assign to everything its appropriate place. You need to give the essential and important matters priority over the insignificant ones
In these words is contained the tragedy of our times. We find time without limit for all kinds of petty activities, but we do not find an hour for the most vital. (Agni Yoga 451)
It is important that you shape your life according to the inner necessity of things and of the world-wide evolution. You must not make yourself a slave of the ever-changing, fortuitous external conditions.
1. The Significance of Rhythm
Agni Yoga often speaks about the importance of giving our life a harmonious rhythm: Life and death, sleeping and being awake, sowing and harvesting, activity and contemplation, thinking and acting, spiritual and physical work – again and again we see: A healthy life requires that we give all aspects of our existence equal weight.
Some examples: If you are working incessantly for hours and hours on the production line or on the computer; if you are focussing one-sidedly on the physical side of existence while neglecting its spiritual aspect; if you shorten your sleep for the benefit of the waking hours; if you jump to and fro from one project to the other; if you are filling your time with irrelevant matters, while losing sight of the essential, the really important ones; if you give in to all requests and temptations that family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and club mates impose on you; if you are once in a hurry and later sunk in idleness - then you are living unhealthily in the long run.
Beware of those who have no time. Being falsely busy indicates first of all inability to make use of the treasure of time and space. Now let us speak about paltry idlers and dullards, who clutter up the path of life. They are busy as a pepper-box; they always have a bitterness against labor; they are as puffed up as turkey-cocks. They think up a hundred pretexts to fill in the cracks of rotten work. They cannot find an hour for the most urgent. In their stupidity they are ready to become arrogant and to deny that which is most essential for them. They are as unproductive as are the thieves of another's time. They must be excluded from the new construction. For them can remain the carrying of bricks. (Community 216)
The best work results you achieve, your health you save, and all your abilities you develop evenly if you enforce the harmony of a natural, healthy rhythm in your life.
2. Necessity of the Rhythm of the Day
There are mainly three reasons which make it indispensable to set up a firm order of the day:
1. The material life with its real or apparent commitments and distractions keeps you busy from dawn to dusk. The life of your true eternal, spiritual individuality - the soul - cannot unfold unless you reserve for it fixed times during the course of the day.
This is a millennia-old experience that you, too, will make when you tread the spiritual path. Without a certain order, you run the risk of granting too much room to the transitory matters and too little to the eternal ones.
Toward what shall we strive, to the finite or the infinite? (Fiery World I, 157)
2. We had spoken in the introductory Broadcasting about the four spheres of life. Do you remember? Once you are on your way to practice Agni Yoga, you will see yourself: You will not succeed to establish, in the course of a day, a balanced relationship between meditation, serving the Common Good and training by the teacher, unless you establish and maintain a specific rhythm of the day.
There can be no question of a spiritual life, as long as no specific times are being fixed and respected for retreat, meditation and prayer, for the study of the Holy Scriptures, for the communion with the higher world and the dialogue with the teacher, for self-education through physical and spiritual exercises and for serving the Common Good and your neighbour.
Allow to melt in your mouth one of the most beautiful and most important paragraphs of Agni Yoga:
Friends, you find ample time for everything, but for the Highest you have only a few moments. If you had dedicated only the time you waste at banquets to the Highest, you would have become teachers by now! (Supermundane, 156)
3. Finally, we had already addressed and will mention again and again: You cannot start and let end the day with the mundane hustle and bustle. If your new, higher, spiritual life is to become a reality, you must schedule in the morning, at noon and in the evening at least a quarter of an hour, in which you put yourself into the higher state of an immortal, invulnerable, powerful and joyful spiritual being - or more broadly, in which you transform yourself into a spiritual disciple.
This higher standpoint - as on a mountain top high above the earthly life - you need to establish and defend constantly throughout the day. You will see for yourself: If you do not manage to realize this, you will sink into the waves of the material chaos.
To establish and to comply with a rhythm of the day against all the odds means a first victory of the spirit over the circumstances!
3. The Path of the Inner Monastery
We had already spoken of the need to look for a teacher, if you want to make progress on the spiritual path (Broadcasting 5 "The Hierarchy" of the Series "Introduction to Agni Yoga"). Today we are going a step further and say:
If you want to be the - spiritual - disciple of a - not incarnated - teacher, then your true home - the place, the community in the spiritual world to which you belong – is the Ashram of your teacher. There you have lived before you were born. There your eternal individuality wants to return after the death of the physical body.
In the Subtle World there are also ashrams of the White Brotherhood. Just as on Earth, they are not numerous, for there also great discipline and tense labor are demanded; and where are those who are willing to give themselves to greater labor instead of the promised "rest"? (Helena Roerich, letter of 19.03.1936)
We had also already said (Broadcasting 10 "The Supermundane World" of the Series "Introduction to Agni Yoga"): If you want to belong to this "heaven", if you wish to live already now in your personal paradise, then you must even here on earth adhere to the rules and practices which are in force there - otherwise you actually are not yet a true member of this illustrious community.
Among the rules that apply in this Ashram, is a fixed order of the day; as in all communities led by great teachers, from the Egyptian mysteries over the communities of the Pythagoreans, the Academy of Plato, the Ashram of Buddha and the monasteries of the Middle Ages to the community ideals of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi.
One should learn to acknowledge all the higher laws and to construct life upon them. (Hier 143)
As long as no physical Ashrams of Agni Yoga exist on earth, you must live in a virtual Ashram, in an inner monastery. This means: You can visit the community, to which you belong, for the time being only in spirit. You subject yourself to the discipline in force there, without the need to particularly let this become apparent in the outside material world.
He who has determined to master Agni Yoga must transform through it his entire life. This most synthesizing Yoga exacts an obligation to construct one's entire life in accordance with a discipline that is externally imperceptible. (Agni Yoga 163)
You live your life in such a way that you are not physically, but in spirit a member of the Ashram of your teacher. As such, not different from the situation when the Ashram would actually physically exist, you are sent out into the world with various tasks and jobs during the day.
We shall discuss this ancient, fundamental spiritual exercise "The Path of the Inner Monastery" in a later Broadcasting in more detail.
4. Three Pillars
The spiritual day rests firmly on three pillars: The times of the stay on the mountain top, in the Higher World, in the home of your soul, in the Ashram of your teacher in the morning, at noon and in the evening. This anchoring on the spiritual level provides a firm basis for your material life. From this safe harbour, the next refuge already in sight, you can venture to sail for a short, manageable distance on the raging sea of the earthly life.
Nothing can confuse the traveller who already has caught sight of his home. (Fiery World I, 523)
In order to cope with the adversities of everyday life, Salomon gave a wise advice: Always keep in mind:
And this too will pass! (Fiery World I, 371)
This sage counsel you can best follow if you remember: The run through hostile terrain takes only a few hours, then you can return back to your paradise.
About a certain Japanese tea master, who was also a Samurai, it is said:
Throughout the day, he is fighting on the battlefield. After that, he devotes himself to the tea ceremony. Nevertheless, he does not practice the tea ceremony between the fights, but he fights between the tea ceremonies. So he takes at any moment the path of a tea master. (Y. Inoue)
According to this model we, too, have to change our way of thinking: The old attitude was: We are living and working in the world and try to withdraw from time to time for refuge to some lonely, holy place.
The new attitude is: We are living on the spiritual plane, in the Ashram of our teacher. We visit only briefly and temporarily the physical sphere and return as soon as possible to our home – in fact not only after the death of the body, but already now, on each single day. So, without leaving the earth, we are leading a supermundane existence and are walking at any moment the eternal path of the soul.
5. In the Morning
How does the day of a disciple look like? It begins at 5 o’ clock in the morning. You visit - obviously in spirit - your teacher in his Ashram. There, three hours of physical exercises outdoors, prayer, meditation, worship, studying of the Scriptures and training are on the curriculum.
Especially in the morning, the susceptibility to higher energies, to the receipt of comfort, strength, knowledge, teaching and joy, is particularly great.
The decisive test is whether you manage to summon the discipline to get up early and start the day in the Higher World. The teacher offers you the benefit of his presence and his teachings - you will not want to keep him waiting!?
The advantage of early rising is immeasurable. The proverb rightly says:
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
It costs some effort and willpower to leave the world of dreams and to return to the level of action and the earth's load. The spirit needs some time to overcome the sadness that afflicts him after returning to the stifling physical body. But whoever stays in bed for too long, steals the time that is due to the Hierarchy.
It is imperative that you, before the earthly day begins, first restore the consciousness of your immortality, your discipleship and your higher mission; that you kindle again the inner fire of enthusiasm, get in touch with your superiors and fill yourself with joy at the coming day and its challenges. It is crucial for your mental balance that you start the day in the sanctuary in the mountains and not in the chaos of the valleys.
Each morning man is filled with fear for the future, instead of joy. (Supermundane 799)
At the beginning of the day, the disciple appears before his teacher and reports for training and serving the Common Good. He takes instructions and orders for the day. The teacher is pleased with everyone who rallies around the flag, and sad about him who became lax or even deserted.
In these hours at the feet of the teacher you lay the foundation for the transfiguration of the earthly day. You sharpen your will and gather the energy that will be required to defy the world and take the higher path for another day. You assimilate the spirit of the Ashram on which you will have to draw in the next few hours. You put on your spiritual armour that will protect and carry you in the world.
In order to bear the entire burden of the awesome responsibility and ever-growing difficulties, I affirm myself every day in joy and readiness to face the most difficult. Great tempering of spirit and heart is necessary, for each day brings us all sorts of trials. (Helena Roerich, letter of 22.07.1935)
You should not go into the world before having rediscovered the joy at your path and the enthusiasm for your confirmed task. If the course is not set correctly in the morning, you will, according to experience, barely manage, during the day, to find the way back into the right track.
6. In the World
Thus fortified, you descent - as Adam and Eve from Paradise - from the mountain peaks down to the valleys. Now it goes joyfully into battle!
It is impossible to remain forever even in the best spheres of the Subtle World. Some sorrow, not wanting new tests, but others, like good warriors, aspire to new victories. (Br II, 265)
You must execute your orders, defend your higher existence, further the growth of your spirit and struggle with opposing forces.
The world forms a gigantic training ground for you to learn to reveal only the divine side of your nature. Only there, among other human beings, in the middle of material life, you can test and confirm what you have learned in the temple. Only there, not in the protected refuge of the Ashram, you acquire the abilities of a master.
To accomplish your task, you have to leave your heaven and descend down to hell. However, you return back to the Higher World in the evening, and you are acting on the lower level exclusively in the name and upon the orders of the Hierarchy.
Earthly life is a duel with chaos. A lone, courageous warrior dons his heavy armor and sets out in search of the dragon of chaos. The warrior has to leave the Supermundane Fortress to seek out the most hidden monsters, in the most distant mountain passes. The more difficult the achievement, the more luminous will it be, and the more victorious the warrior on his return to the Stronghold. Man should remember that his true Stronghold is not on Earth, and that all his earthly labors should be performed for return to the Supermundane Stronghold. (Supermundane 803)
May your mantram be:
Joyfully off to battle - victorious back home!
7. Control of Thoughts
And now an important practical exercise:
When you are in the world, it is advisable, following the tradition of the Liturgy of the Hours, regularly, best at every hour, to control your thoughts in order to make sure that you are preserving the higher consciousness of your supermundane existence.
Not for a single hour should one extinguish within oneself this flame of lofty thinking. It is beautiful if someone can always carry within himself a lofty thought. (Supermundane 651)
You can briefly connect in spirit with your teacher and read a sentence of Agni Yoga from a piece of paper carried with you for this purpose.
The affirmation of the Teacher should be repeated each hour. (Hierarchy 372)
You leave for a moment - in spirit - the low level of this world and visit your home, your heaven, the Ashram of your teacher. The recourse to this holy place, to the solemn atmosphere prevailing there, is the best means to purify yourself, to rise again above the material circumstances and to overcome doubts, wavering or depression.
One of the most beautiful Buddhist mantrams and the best weapon against temptations says:
I take refuge with the teaching, with the teacher and with the community. (see also Community 201)
You should be asking yourself at this moment: Do I behave as befits a worthy disciple and in a way that is a credit to my teacher? Do I have in mind that the teacher is watching me constantly? Do I execute conscientiously his orders and instructions? When returning to the Ashram in the evening, will I still be able look him into the face? Did I express in the last hour my divine or my animal nature? Am I still on the path, or did I deviate? Have I further approached the higher spheres or did I move away from them?
Every hour repeat to yourself: "Nothing will hinder my race to the Teacher. I will not descend!" (Leaves of Morya’s Garden II, 266 [269; Part Three I 9], 42 [Part One VIII 12])
We had already said in the previous Broadcasting (1st pillar: The defence of the higher Consciousness): As soon as you lose control of your thoughts, you threaten to sink down to a mere mortal.
8. At Noon
At noon, the disciples gather again in the Ashram, if not physically, then at least in spirit. This column in the middle of the day is important to support the spiritual building within which you wish to securely dwell.
If you are in the midst of the world, you do not have to take a long time out. A few basic thoughts of connection, affirmation and elevation, of joy at the imminent return home are sufficient. Even during the worst strain of earthly business, a short withdrawal is always possible.
Take advantage of this short break to remember your true nature and mission, to recite one or the other mantram and to draw from the reservoir of good thoughts that you have stockpiled in quieter times for this occasion.
One should stockpile good thoughts; only they will make possible an easy ascent to the Heights. (Supermundane 808)
This short meditation will be primarily a purification from worldly radiations, bad thoughts, moods and desires. You will learn how helpful it is to throw off the burden of physical oppression and to rise, even for a brief moment, to a better world, your true home.
9. In the Evening
In the evening, teachers and disciples meet again for two hours of temple work. Now is the time to detach yourself from the world, to mend the battered spiritual armour, to meditate and to heal your wounded soul. You take in again the spirit of the Ashram, which threatened to be suffocated during the day in the world.
Prayer is good at any time, yet there are two periods of change of currents when turning to the Higher World is especially desirable — at sunrise and after sunset. Besides, upon going to sleep it is befitting to invoke the Higher World. It is necessary to purify one's consciousness before the entrance into the sacred Gates. (AUM 71)
Whatever happens to you during the day: It must carry you the certainty that you will return in the evening to the world of the soul; that you will be able to clean yourself in meditation and to find back to the divine peace. Just like in the morning, so in the evening as well you have to raise and consolidate your ideal, the guiding principle of your life - otherwise your spiritual Ego will not be able to survive in a material world.
Like at death, you appear before your master. Like at death, you will have to account for every thought, every word and every deed of the day; for everything that you undertook or failed to carry out in the name of the Hierarchy.
If people were able to give themselves an account of the quality of a day, they could avoid many difficulties. (Fiery World II, 115)
Did you comply with the rule of the disciple? Did you take advantage of the opportunities for ascent that were offered to you? Did you contribute another stone to the building of the New World? Did you come nearer by one step to the higher spheres? Did you execute their orders? Did you implement the plan which you yourself have formed in the morning? What can you do better tomorrow?
When we meet our highest Guides, we must find the strength to ask whether we have fulfilled our tasks. They will tell us where we have succeeded and where we have failed. (Br II, 195)
The idea that this day might be the last and that you might stand before your eternal judge tomorrow, will show you how much there is left to do, how you can better use the little time remaining for you, and how shameful it is to miss the opportunities for advancement provided by each new day.
The decisive test is, after the earthly day, not to indulge in distraction, but to shake off the secular spirit and return to contemplation and collection within the higher self. The spirit needs some time to purify itself from the hostile radiations to which it was subjected in the world - but then he can, after the toils and troubles of the day, enjoy the pleasures of meditation.
Hours of happiness — thus We call that step in the development of consciousness when, without turning away from life, Our co-workers are given the opportunity to join Us in Our Abode. (Agni Yoga 338)
The concept of the Inner Monastery allows you to return in the evening - as at death! –to the home of your soul. You can actually die for the world! You can leave all your burdens and worries behind and live in a higher sphere in which there are no material oppressions and restrictions.
You can reflect on each earthly day the salutary rhythm, the eternal alternation of life and death, of rebirth on the material plane and rest in the supermundane world.
10. Example of an Order of the Day
To give an example, we cite the order of the day of the Tabenisi Ashram in Hamburg:
5:15 Gymnastics (Hatha Yoga)
5:45 Morning toilet
6:00 Communion with the Higher World (Meditation)
7:00 Study of Agni Yoga
8:00 Work for livelihood, if necessary outside the Ashram
11:00 Work for livelihood
13:45 Return to the Ashram, Meditation
14:00 Training and service in the Ashram
15:30 Evening meal
16:00 Training and service in the Ashram
18:45 Gymnastics (Hatha Yoga)
19:00 Evening toilet
19:45 Communion with the Higher World (Meditation)
20:30 Personal Time
22:00 Night's rest
Some topics (for example only two meals per day, only half-day professional work) we shall discuss in detail in later Broadcastings.
Of course, this is an ideal that may not be possible to be realized by everybody in every life situation. What is important is not necessarily that you exactly imitate this practice. However, it is crucial that you set up and maintain your own rhythm in accordance with your particular life situation.
Of course you may grant yourself easements or times out, for example on the weekend or on vacation. The important thing is that your higher self determines the rhythm which is necessary and wholesome for you, and that it is not the laziness of the body which rules your life.
To give a simple example: You should determine the night before the hour on which you will get up the next morning - and this according to the existing needs: Maintenance of the higher connection, training and service. You strengthen your spirit, you establish the rule of the spirit, if you actually carry out this intention. You weaken your spirit if you give in to your body and stay in bed longer than you yourself have determined the night before.
11. Rhythm of the Week
As the day, so the spiritual week rests firmly on three pillars: The disciple will fix on Sunday, on Wednesday afternoon and again on Sunday unalterable times, which are dedicated to the realization of a higher life. Between these oases of calm, peace, ascent and elevation, the roaring life is only a brief interlude, which can easily be mastered.
Even God has rested on the seventh day (1. Moses 2, 2). So we, too, should hold on to this healthy practice, preserve the Sunday rest and maintain a wholesome rhythm of active and contemplative life in the course of the week.
If you are prevented by the circumstances to find, in the course of each day, time for higher communion, training by the teacher and service to the Common Good, you should at least reserve room for these essentials during the course of the week.
12. Rhythm of the Year
Regarding the rhythm of the year, we need to rediscover and get used to the fact that everything has its time. Every hour of the day, every day of the week and every month of the year has a specific energy which can only be used at that particular time.
There are whole periods of waiting and grasping the right moment, of planning and execution, of seeking and finding, of destruction and construction, of sowing and harvesting. What success will you have if you begin to sow, when it is time to harvest?
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3, 1-4)
We need to explore – or to rediscover - the meaning of the seasons: Autumn as the time of harvest; Advent as the time of reflection on the spiritual foundations and of the forging of plans for a new beginning; spring as the time to proceed with fresh energy to the realization of our projects; St. Michael’s Day as the final battle before the harvest, and so forth.
You should use your vacation days at least in part for contemplation and spiritual progress. You might for example participate in a seminar or a retreat in Tabenisi. It is an extremely useful, age-old tradition that those who are clamped in work and family life, spend on a regular basis - rhythmically! - certain times in a holy place, a monastery or ashram, in order to lead the ideal life of a spiritual disciple at least for one or two weeks a year.
The religious feasts of the annual cycle and the days of the solstice are fixed points that give the course of the year spiritual order and rhythm.
Memorial days establish a useful rhythm. (Fiery World II, 148)
The remembrance days of the saints and heroes of faith of all peoples, all times and all religions are like beacons whose brilliance illuminate our everyday life. The community will celebrate them in a dignified way as times of elevation and of spirituality.
Solemnity is intensified during days commemorating Great Heroes. We send forth benevolent thoughts at each of humanity's holy days. (Supermundane 125)
Let us summarize at the end of this Broadcasting: Curb the waves of life through a salutary daily, weekly and annual rhythm. Imitate the great teachers of all times, by joining their everyday discipline in all the details. The concept of the Inner Monastery gives you the unique opportunity and the immense pleasure, really - in spirit - to participate in the everyday life of your teacher!
Only thus will "succession" turn from the abstract concept of a Sunday sermon to a living reality. Only thus you can strengthen your spirit and move forward on the path.