Portal to Consciousness (1)

Part one of a further series of seminars on
the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra
given to the Sheffield School of Yoga
by Swami Nishchalananda.

The session starts with Dharana number 72 from the text Vigyana Bhairava Tantra.

‘Maya, or cosmic delusion, deludes us by means of the five Kanchukas. Consider and reflect on these functions. In this way you will lose your sense of separation.’


What is Maya? It means that we are not able to see things as they are. What are the Kanchukas, the means by which Maya deludes us?

The first Kanchuka is Kala, which is the function in Maya that gives us a sense of division, a sense of separation. 

The second is Vidya, which means knowledge, but here it means being limited or bound by our intellectual understanding of things. 

The third is Raga which means attachment and desire.

The fourth is Kaala, which is Time.

And the fifth is Niyati, which is the dimension of Space, and also the binding of Karma or causality.

A meditation follows, reflecting on the five Kanchukas, then there is a return to the basic practice of Buchari mudra which is locating the dwadashanta, or pranamaya kosha; that space around the body where the ‘energy field’ is found. This practice was introduced in several of the seminars in the earlier series on the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra.

Swamiji reads out verse 138 from the text, the first of the verse after the dharanas (practices). With delightful simplicity this verse says

‘Oh beloved, when the four constituents of the personality, being the individual mind, ego, vital energy, and (sense of individual) Awareness are dissolved, one identifies with consciousness.’

Bhairava, v 138 from the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra

Please enjoy the satsang and guided meditation, below.

Ishavasya Upanishad

I have just received and listened to Rajesh David’s latest CD entitled ‘Isha’. I must say that it is, as ever, an absolute gem. Rajesh brings out the wisdom, sentiments and inspirations of the Ishavasya Upanishad in his incomparable style. Beautiful chanting of the Sanskrit text. May Rajesh continue to produce more priceless renditions of the ancient texts as well new chants and songs with a modern flavour, but always anchored in a Spiritual vision of existence and what we are.

Swami Nishchalananda

An Interview with Rajesh David.
Musician and Indian classical singer

Hear and download his music from:

Press play above to listen to an extract of the ‘Invocation’

Why Isha? What is the essence of this Upanishad and why did you want to do it?

I started reading and reflecting on the Upanishads from a very young age. My first entry into the world of Upanishads was through reading books by Swami Vivekananda and other monks of the Ramakrishna Mission. Since then I have been fascinated and inspired by these most amazing and profound texts. I believe them to represent the highest level of human thought! They are elegant and insightful, presenting their philosophy very logically. 

For me, the Upanishads are my teacher, friend, philosopher and guide!  They shine a light, illumining the inner realms of our being. Studying them is a life long journey; as we travel that journey, they reveal their truths.
The Upanishads encapsulate Advaita in Vedanta philosophy. They all express that idea of Advaita, non duality, in different ways. As Swami Vivekananda says “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.” 

The Divine essence in every one of us. Verses 15 of Isha Upanishad beautifully expresses this very important truth, ‘The sweetest emotions and even the lofty ideal of human life are but a golden disc covering the truth.

The first Hymn of the Upanishad “Purnamadah Purnamidam….”  Is a most elegant and lyrical mantra expressing the highest truth. It is like a Zen Koan. 

Rajesh David

The first Hymn of the Upanishad “Purnamadah Purnamidam….”  Is one of the most elegant and lyrical mantra expressing the highest truth. It is like a Zen Koan. This mantra pulled me to the Upanishad and then, I wanted to sing the Upanishad.
Isha Upanishad is among the 10 principal Upanishads and is also very short – 18 verses. I feel it is the Song of Advaita. In the past I have worked with the Mandukya Upanishad which has just 12 verses. I thought of that as the Song of AUM! 

How does the creative process happen with you? Do you start with the words and get a feel for the music for each verse, or section, or do you have an overall musical idea to start with?

Music is an expression of my love for these most beautiful texts. By setting them to music and singing them, these verses become a part of my being. I relate to them, and I’m able to reflect and meditate on them. My creative process is to allow the words to speak to me. I read the verses and try to get a sense of the metre. Sometimes an inspiration comes from deep within me and sets me off on a melody. Those are the best moments! At other times I try to think of a mode which would suit the words. It is hard to describe this one, but sometimes the words just sing out on their own. 
I think the bottom line is “ inspiration from the depth of our being” which in a way is the essence of the Upanishads   – the Divine essence in every one of us!

Hope this isn’t a pretentious question(!) but when I hear you sing, and play, it seems that it’s not so much that you make music, more like you are expressing music from a part of yourself. How does this happen? Are some naturally made to be musicians?

I’m not sure how to answer that one without sounding a bit pretentious myself !

Silence is the language
of the Soul, and Music
is its manifest form

When I sing, I try to become one with the song, allowing the song to flow naturally. As we say in Yoga, “get out of the way and let the song find its own flow”. Yes, it is like the river finding its own natural path, flowing toward the sea! The most beautiful experience is when you are singing or making music and you have the feeling  that the whole process is natural and effortlessly, as if you are the witness to the song and music. 

Silence is the language of the Soul (Atman) and music is it’s manifest form.  All musicians are blessed with the potential of delving deep into the Self through their music. 

Coming out from that…. is it possible to briefly describe your musical upbringing?

I was born into a family of musicians and singers. Both my parents were singers. I would have heard them sing in my mothers womb, but I do remember listening to their music from my childhood. Music was the most natural sound in my early years. One of my sweetest memories of my childhood is going to bed at night and listening to my father softly playing the harmonium and singing! 
I must have inherited the art of singing from my parents as it came naturally to me. I did learn music from my parents, just by listening to them. Later on I took formal training in Indian classical music. 

excerpts from the new album ‘Isha’, press ‘play’ above to listen

You can buy (download) this album by going to Rajesh’s page on Bandcamp

Interview conducted by Narada of Mandala Yoga Ashram:


This satsang was given in 2001
at Satyananda Ashram, Greece.
Sannyasa, dedication to the life
of spiritual pursuit, has changed
from the days of early ascetic ashram life
where the sannyasi was fairly much isolated
from the doings of the ‘outside world’….

Swamiji talks of both the external form of Sannyasa and the internal form. Externally, the Sannyasi may wear certain clothes such as the orange or geru of the Swami, robes, malas, and also carry names and titles. He tells us that on his return to the UK when he established Mandala Yoga Ashram, he was trying so hard to avoid any ego trip that can make the Sannyasi feel superior to others, that he dropped the title ‘Swami’ for a while. But it became hard to maintain that because people kept calling him Swamiji anyway!

What of the internal form? We live in a selfish world. But isn’t the pursuit of spirituality, self-knowledge, a selfish ego-driven goal? Then again, how else can one start out on such a path? Don’t we have to use the ego to map our goals and aims in life be they mundane or ‘spiritual’?

Egocentric life can get mellowed, balanced. If we are open to the present moment, allowing things to happen which are not defined by our ego, then this opens us up to things which we cannot expect through the ego.

Swami Nishchalananda

The recording below was given to sannyasis at the Satyananda Ashram in Greece, established in 1977 by Swami Sivamurti, pictured here with Swami Nishchalananda

‘Sannyasa gives certain guidelines and principles so that we don’t get too scattered. It helps us not to waste energy on things that take us nowhere.’

Please enjoy the recording

14th March 2021 Satsang with Swami Nishchalananda

In this satsang Swamiji introduces and highly recommends the Yoga Vasistha as an advaitic text full of startling wisdom. From this text he reads and illuminates two verses which, if pondered deeply upon, can revolutionise our understanding of the nature of cause and effect. There follows a meditation on the meaning of the Shanti Path – chanted at the end of each satsang and on many other occasions here at the Ashram and Q&A.

Letter from Africa

Guest post by Narada

A story of Yoga, love, laughter and determination

Surprisingly, I managed to squeeze through a window of opportunity to get to my charitable project in Africa, Ulingana.com, raising funds for my young deaf friend, Ketty, to get a schooling. And now also building a Yoga Hall on a friend’s bit of the Compound. That’s tribal land forming a maze of tracks and dwellings around the local town, Katete, here in Eastern Province, Zambia.

Continue reading “Letter from Africa”


Swami Nishchalananada made this movie down on the seashore. Please enjoy, and hopefully allow it to inspire you wherever you are, in nature, or in the middle of a busy town or city. It’s the same joy because it comes from within.

Continue reading “Joy”


A post by guest author, Narada.

I’ve been invited to put this post on here by Swami Nishchalananda. It’s an honour to me, as I mostly consider he is the one who has something to say! I’m the student, he’s the teacher. 

Continue reading “Firefly”