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Bhaktananda: Practicing the Presence

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Steve Hydonus
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« on: Mar 16, 2016 05:47 pm »

A Devotee's Notes from Bhaktananda Video

From Bhaktananda Video

Those of us who have met Brother Bhaktananda admired him greatly. He was not just a saint, but to many of us, a great saint. Great saints, having already made most of the necessary effort to ensure their own spiritual attainment, often play an important role for God's work, such as being a spiritual leader or giving some kind of dispensation. Brother's dispensation was to teach Master's disciples about Japa Yoga, or practicing the presence of God. Master's teachings instruct on practicing the presence, but Brother "wrote the book" for SRF on the subject, and that "book" was his life and his continual reminders for us to practice mental chanting with devotion. Brother made it clear that practicing the presence is a powerful way to approach God and to attune with the Guru. The techniques can scientifically get us 90% of the way to God, but the final 10% is closed only with devotion. The techniques can light a spiritual fire in the devotee, but the world of Maya can encroach and stamp out that fire in many devotees' lives. Practicing the presence constantly with devotion can fill the gaps between meditations and keep the bellows blowing onto the fire of spiritual growth every twenty-four hours. This can prevent Maya and bad habits from having their way with us, dragging down our consciousness.

If a devotee practices Japa constantly with sincere devotion, God will find that soul's love irresistible. It is a matter of, little by little, building up that new habit that will replace the usual daily worldly wandering thoughts. He also says to practice with intensity; he would only mentally chant casually on occasion. (Brother Bimalanandaji once said he would sometimes almost shout his mental chants.) A beginner's weak mental chant will be pinned down while wrestling with Maya and bad habits. So intensity is needed, and the chant must also be done with devotion from the heart, for God can ignore words from the mind.

Begin Notes:

Part I of III


God is a state of consciousness we have to attain.

Why are people not aware of God? Because they are in tune with the body, the senses, with material things of life, forgetful of God. That forgetfulness causes separation from God which leads to all kinds of problems. We are cut off from the peace and harmony of life.

We cannot forget the body; and we must do our part for the family and for society. But we can do all our duties while never forgetting God.

The techniques are the most important thing for awakening the chakras and awakening love for God. But Master said, "You cannot be redeemed by techniques alone." They can get us 90% of the way to God; the last 10% requires devotion, love for God; only love reaches Him.

We must approach God with science and law (the techniques) and with devotion (prayer, chanting, continual thought of love for Him).

"Forgetfulness of God is the greatest sin," said Master.

Our usual habit is to have the mind busy with worldly thoughts. We must change that habit.

Master says to simplify our lives. We have things we don't need that take up our time. Socrates used to like to go to the market and "see so many things that he could do without."

Purify the mind. Get rid of negative thoughts and emotions. (Japa is perfect for this!)

We can all attain God-consciousness in time. It takes striving.

The 3 Ways to Practice the Presence of God


1. Keep attention gently at the spiritual eye throughout the day (don't need to turn eyes upward); in time a magnetism builds up there.

2. Read from the Lessons every day--a couple of pages--it will keep one in attunement with Master. Those words are infused with Spirit; we are "sitting at the Guru's feet" when we are reading the Lessons. Master: "The Lessons will be your guru." Everything you need to know to find God are in those Lessons.

3. Repeat a devotional thought all day long. (Examples: Om, Tat, Sat; I love Thee, Lord; God, Christ, Gurus; Thou and I are one; reveal Thyself.) Taking one phrase and repeating it over and over again--from the heart, not from the mind.

Words, God does not have to respond to. But He has to respond to the heart. The words have to be permeated with love, with devotion. Prayers from the mind will receive no response from God, even though he knows what is being said.

Love is the law. We have to follow God's laws whether we want to or not, otherwise we are hitting our heads against a wall. And sometimes that is the only way someone wakes up!

As we go on repeating with devotion, the qualities of love, peace, and joy will manifest in our consciousness; sometimes one quality or all three.

The ecstasy of human love (which often fizzles out later) is similar to the beginning of feeling God's love. Keep on practicing that love. When we stop practicing, we feel like an empty barrel.

Swami Shankara once met a boy under a tree who was repeating a poem in order to memorize it. The avatar told the lad that no lasting benefit would come from such effort, but that if he would repeat the name of the Lord with such earnestness, he would obtain Salvation and Bliss.

We habitually repeat profitless thoughts. Let's dwell on God all of the time, talking to Him from our hearts. As St. Paul said: "Pray without ceasing."

Master said that God takes care of His own. All people are His own, but those who want God and think about him are really His own. God will take care of us.

"So try to get into that habit, little by little, until, as Master used to say, 'You'll be singing His name all day long.'"

When worldly habits came into my mind, I would say, "Get out! Get out! It's better to think of Master!" We have to use some psychology on ourselves. "It's all habit," Master used to say.

Part II of III


If we would think of God and Master as often as we think of other people during the day, we would have God-consciousness; His presence, guidance, protection, everything.

While we are bathing, dressing, eating--think of God--those are easy times. These duties are done automatically without much thinking, so give a little thought to Divine Mother. Get into the habit.

Once you have the good habit of mentally chanting, you will continue even while conversing with others.

Once while Master was scolding him, he was still chanting, "Om Guru. Om Guru," and feeling bliss all the while (Brother smiles widely; audience laughs.) Brother thought maybe Master was testing him to see if he would feel dislike for the Master for scolding him. (Did he pass the test?)

Therese Neumann was paralyzed in bed for years. Instead of becoming negative and depressed, she prayed daily and went into ecstasy for five years. God healed her, and she became a great saint. If Therese had bemoaned her fate she would have remained paralyzed. But she chose to use her time wisely, and this is an example for us all.

When we have a problem we should think of how to solve it. But worry will do nothing. Chant to Divine Mother all the time. She will help us or lead us to someone who can help us. She will open the way for us. But if we remain out of tune with Her, She cannot help us. We must want Her.

Love is the highest quality of life.

God does not take our love for granted. Some individuals say, "Oh, God knows I love Him." And then they don't think about Him for a whole year. God wants to hear the words from us, permeated with devotion: "I love Thee, Lord. I love Thee, Lord." In time He responds, first as peace, love, joy.

He is not holding back. We are.

First we have devotion, the act of loving God. Then comes love, actual feeling of union. With 100% love we merge with Him.

It is completely all right to love the Guru as God.

"When you give me your love, I don't keep it for myself," said Master.

"I take your love, reinforce it with my divine love, and offer it to God as a bouquet from your heart." And we get the credit.

Master tries to stand up for us. He introduces us to God. It is God's law that we get to God through the Guru.

When we fulfill our spiritual requirements, it is through the Guru that we receive God-consciousness.

Rajasi and Brother would walk together. Rajasi hardly ever spoke, but whispered to Brother: "What Master has done for me. What Master has done for me."

Master treated each disciple differently, according to one's karma and level of spiritual understanding.


Brother had been a monk for about a year. He was being tormented by doubts: doubting Master, doubting himself, doubting the teachings,everything. He knew the doubts were wrong and tried to get rid of them,but they wouldn't go away.

One time Master walked up to him in the main hall at Mother Center and said, "I see you spend your nights doubting." Brother thought, "Wow, how did he know that?" He still didn't know Master very well, and "didn't have a list of his powers."

Brother still tried to dislodge the doubts but they wouldn't leave. (He said he was not yet practicing the presence). Master once again walked up to him in the hall and said, "I see you spend your nights doubting."

Brother thought, "Now I have got to make a real big effort, because he is after me." (Laughter.)

A few weeks went by. He was with a small group of devotees as a temple.

As Master approached, all the devotees scattered and disappeared. It was just him and Master now, and he thought, "What's going to happen now?"

Master came close and said, "I see you're still doubting. The devil's out of you!"

And he thought, "What'd he do that for?" He didn't feel anything, but ever since then the doubts disappeared. He never had that problem again.

The "devil" meant "bad habit."


Brother needed socks, he had only a few pair. He got busy with work and forgot about his need. Master called him in and tossed balls of socks to him. (The Guru knows our needs without our asking.)


Brother decided to plant a bed of pansies near the entrance gate at Mother Center during the holidays when almost all the other monastics were gone visiting family. He was almost alone on the grounds. Master appeared, looking over the landscaping, and slowly approached Brother, and said to him, "From time to time, while you're working, stop your work, look up into the spiritual eye, and say, 'For God and Guru, for God and Guru.'" Brother always practiced this and taught it to others. This mantra keeps us balanced and makes our work easier.


Master would give impromptu satsangas at Mother Center, urging the devotees to make more time for God and to meditate more deeply. Then one day he heard Master say, "Keep Divine Mother in the back of your consciousness all day long while you are working. Chant Her name."

Master would say it in different ways, and about the third time in sunk in for Brother: Master really wants us to practice this.Brother was used to philosophical thoughts, but he decided to give it a try: chant Divine Mother's name all day long. He thought it wouldn't be interesting, but he would try it for a week. He chanted, "Om Divine Mother, Om Divine Mother," every chance he could, with cards placed all around to help remind him. After a week he felt so much peace that he thought, "All right, I will keep on." Then bliss came later and he understood why Master wanted his followers to mentally chant.Once he stopped chanting for a whole day. He felt dull and empty like a barrel. He realized his error, started chanting again, and in two days the bliss was back.

Brother says we must continue on chanting, or we will lose it.

(Reminder: it must be done with intensity and devotion from the heart.)

For a full two years he chanted, "Om Divine Mother." (This is a key piece of info. It might be a good idea to stick to just one mantra for a long period of time so that it can attain permanence in the sub- and super-conscious minds. Continually switching mantras might not be such a good idea.)

Part III of III


Was chanting monotonous and boring? Not for Brother. One must have the right attitude of enthusiasm, interest, devotion. Above all, "Whatever spiritual thing we are doing at the time is the most important thing in the world to us." This applies to techniques as well as mental chanting. And it makes it easier to practice.

The chanting must come from the heart. Brother imagined his heart had a mouth, and the words were coming out of the mouth. This was to overcome hardness like a stone. "Om Divine Mother...." then the bliss came.

After two years he heard that in India they say, "Guru is God, and God is Guru." So he decided to start to chant to the Guru: "Om Guru. Om Guru..." When he woke up each morning he was still chanting, "Om Guru, Om Guru." It was impossible to think of worldly thoughts. (Brother

Dharmanandaji has said more than once that practicing the presence is the secret to overcoming sex delusion.) And all night long he was chanting. This stopped subconscious worldly thoughts in sleep too.

For four years Brother chanted "Om Guru" constantly. He enjoyed it,feeling bliss. If he quit, he felt empty.

Brother heard someone speak about the importance of love, and he decided to incorporate the word "love" in his next mantra: "I love thee, Master. I love thee, Master." (Here at minute 53:40 of the video he tells us we must be intense in our chanting.) Master said: "Sometimes you have to throw your body, mind, and soul into your chanting, into your devotion." Intensity is required; there needs to be some will power mixed in with the devotion.

Brother continued with, "I love thee, Master," for about 8 months, when Master walked up to him and said, "I love you."

This first outward response from Master concerning his mental chanting surprised Brother. He decided on a new mantra: "Master, I want to feel thy presence."

About a month went by. Master phoned Brother during lunch and asked him, "Bhaktanada, are you happy?"

Brother was surprised at this question because he had been walking on air for years with mental chanting, but replied, "Yes, sir, I am happy."

"Oh, that's fine," said Master. "God bless you. Good bye."

Brother was puzzled by this interaction with Guruji. That night he experienced greater bliss than ever. He meditated long and deeply, and went to sleep. He woke up feeling more bliss than ever. "Practically floating, I felt so light." He went to work in ecstasy.

At lunchtime he jumped over the back of a chair. It was impulsive. Later that day, he needed to get to a spot on another side of a fence, and he impulsively jumped over the fence.

Others were asking him that day, "Why are you so happy? I have never seen you so happy." He couldn't hide this higher voltage of bliss. In two or three days he was able to hide it.

We must remember that Master is always with us. A devotee opened her eyes at the back of a temple and saw Master in his astral body blessing each meditating devotee, forty years after he left his body.

Brother's closing remarks:

"No one who comes to me goes away empty-handed." --quote from Master

This teaching is the greatest thing in life. Try to get out of this material world in this life. If it takes another life, okay; but try.

Millions in this world do not understand. We feel in our hearts that God wants us to live the spiritual life. Master is calling us all back to the Kingdom of God, and we will all be there.

Master: "To those who will be loyal, I will reach down from Heaven and lift them up so that they will know the Father's love as I know it."

"So let us remember Master all the time, and we will see that he is with us all the time."

Jai Guru!
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