Full Moon vol 23: Set A Sacred Intention

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Śubh Pūrṇimā! (May you have an auspicious and beneficial Full Moon!) If you are a lover of dharma, today’s Full Moon is for you. It is an auspicious day to invoke the power and presence of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, who embodies dharma.

Tonight, we will deepen our understanding of the core practice for pūrṇimā, full moon. Pūrṇimā comes from the Sanskrit word pūrṇa, which means perfect, full, whole. The energy of today is, like the light of the moon, also full and perfect. We understand it to be the most auspicious, powerful, and grace-filled day of the month.

As we shared in our last issue, amāvasyā is a time for resting in being. Pūṛṇimā, on the other hand, is the perfect day for doing stuff! Whether it’s new beginnings, ritual activity, spiritual practices, or any other kind of joyful action – the full presence of grace creates a river of support and flow for any good actions we perform today. It’s the experience of the wind at our backs, or of being carried much higher and much further than we might be able to go on our own.

Normally, we might be motivated to do things from a sense of lack. But haven’t you noticed how taking decisions from that place only makes you feel more empty? For example, what kinds of food do you crave when you’re starving and don’t know when or what you’ll eat next? In this situation, many of us choose food with empty sugar calories, which ironically leaves the body even hungrier in the end!

On the other hand, what kind of food do you eat when you know you have enough and always will? Again, for most of us, we tend to choose whole and balanced foods that then leave us feeling even more whole.

It’s the same with most things in life. When we feel happy, content, and perfect, we take very different choices than when we feel empty, inadequate, or lacking. When the moon is full and whole, and we are aware of our own perfection, that’s the time to act.

Traditionally, before we embark on any kind of activity, we set a saṃkalpa. Full Moon days are the most auspicious times to set (or renew) a saṃkalpa. What’s a saṃkalpa?

It can loosely be translated as a sacred intention or resolution. Basically, we get clear on what we resolve to do, let our mind-body energies align with it, and surrender the whole thing to a timeless space where no other outcome is possible other than the fulfillment of that resolution.

If it sounds kind of mystical, well… it is! A saṃkalpa is different from a regular intention, because it doesn’t arise from the mind or any kind of analytic strategy. It doesn’t arise from a place of “Oh, I really should…” Its origin is the deep wisdom and creative flow of the heart.

For a saṃkalpa to really work, it must be aligned with dharma – so even though it might feel similar to a deep desire or longing, it is way bigger and purer than our mundane desires and wishes. For example, we may set a saṃkalpa for greater freedom and energetic movement in our life – and one partial outcome of it might be that we end up getting a car – but we don’t want to set a saṃkalpa for getting a car. Not only are you wasting the power of saṃkalpa when you use it to chase after mundane desires (one of our Core Teachers, Ekabhumi Ellik describes this habit as – “it’s like using a cannon as a flyswatter”), you might not be so happy with what you get later on. Make sense?

Also, remember that unlike a normal desire, there’s no urgency, desperation, or grasping energy with a saṃkalpa. It is spacious, timeless, and very pure. Like the full moon, it is whole and complete by itself. Just how a seed contains the entire oak tree, the saṃkalpa contains the full energy of its final manifestation. A saṃkalpa shines with effulgence and beauty. It delights and inspires.

And, a saṃkalpa is not a goal. Even though we have clear resolve with goals, we also have desired outcomes and also deadlines for when they will happen. We can set a saṃkalpa, but we can not know or control what the outcome will be, and when it will fully manifest.

One way to think of saṃkalpa is that it’s a physical container for transcendent energies. Resolve is associated with earth energy, so it takes what could otherwise just be an idea (air energy) or a mystical longing (space energy) and brings it to earth. The saṃkalpa paves the way for what is in the heart to become tangible and real.

Another benefit of creating a saṃkalpa in your spiritual practice is that it brings focus and directionality. For example, reciting mantras, doing asana, offering selfless service, performing pūjā, and sitting for meditation will totally infuse your mind-body with a tremendous amount of power and vitality.

Having a saṃkalpa will channel all of that śakti somewhere rather than having it just come and sit on you like a tidal wave. The intention grounds and directs your practice. A common saṃkalpa most of us as followers of yoga and dharma already share is – “May I be fully awakened and live in service to all beings” – which then sends the energy of our practices there. It also protects all that beautiful energy by making sure it is going in a dharmic and uplifting direction.

Finally, note that a saṃkalpa is much more powerful than an ordinary resolution because it has grace in it. Once we’ve set a saṃkalpa, we offer it to the divine and in some sense, let it go. We trust that if we keep doing our best, it has already been received by the divine and will unfold as per the will, vision, and timing of the divine.

It’s a huge relief. We can trust that because there is grace, even if on any given day we feel lost or tired, it is still protected and WILL manifest, no matter how long or challenging the path. We can engage it like an actor playing a part – we already know how the story ends, and then we just surrender to the adventure of getting there.

Practice: Set A Saṃkalpa

Saṃkalpa is often the most neglected or rushed part of sacred practice, but is in many ways the most important. Without a clear resolution/intention, our efforts and energies can easily get tangled and hijacked by subconscious fears and desires. A strong saṃkalpa, on the other hand, ensures that our practice – and life – flows smoothly.

On the full moon day, when the light of grace is shining brightest, we take time to reflect and renew our saṃkalpas, as well as set new ones:

Engage in reflection and/or journaling. Let the mind become quiet, and then consider the following: What saṃkalpas have you already set in your life? Which saṃkalpas are you being called to set? What does your heart long for you and your life? Where do you already feel your clear resolve, and where is it needed?

You can offer your saṃkalpa verbally or energetically to a deity, guru, or your own ātmā (soul). This can also be done at a physical altar. You can also write your saṃkalpa and place it on your altar.

You can offer your saṃkalpa to the full moon itself. At the end, remember to give thanks for the grace in your life, and to the full moon for embodying it!

-A traditional way to set a saṃkalpa is through water. When we do pūjā, we pour water over our hand and let it flow into the earth (or a small vessel) as we repeat our saṃkalpa. Not only does water pick up the vibrations of our words, but it carries them forth into the interconnected flow of life.

If you are inspired, take a small cup or spoon of water, and set your saṃkalpa into motion by speaking it verbally or energetically as you pour water over your right hand. As the water falls, breathe and know that it has been set into motion and belongs to the universe. Offer your gratitude to water, the earth, and the divine for receiving your saṃkalpa.

Lastly, remember that the pūrṇimā is a day of fullness and perfection. Eat full meals, engage with life, wear beautiful colors, and let your love and light shine!

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