Shum.tyam , welcome to Shum Sanctuary. I am the webmaster of this site and my name is Guhanatha Swami. Since my childhood I have been interested in mysticism. The desire to meditate came naturally to me and when I met my guru in my teens that desire blossomed into a discipleship with him. It was my guru who introduced me to the Shum language when I was studying and living with him in his monastery. This is my journey of discovering Shum.
Do you know what ESP is? When I was a kid in the late 70’s I used to be intrigued by mind-powers like extrasensory perception (ESP) and telekinesis–anything to do with paranormal abilities. At the time I knew nothing of meditation or Hindu mysticism, it was all Uri Geller and his spoon-bending exploits.
Then I got a hold of Ramayana in comic form by Amar Chitra Katha and got to know of gurus and their disciples. Sage Vishwamitra was Lord Rama’s guru in the Ramayana. He was wise and full of mystical abilities. As I dove deeper into Hindu myths I learned that we could commune with God through meditation. In the myths God would appear to austere meditators and grant them boons. This captured my imagination and interest.
Amar Chitra Katha is a publisher of comic books about Indian myths and history.
The Hindu myths showed me the path–find an enlightened guru and learn from him. At the time I was 11 years old and obviously my conviction was tempered by me being, well…a kid. However that didn’t stop me trying to meditate on my own. I learned how to sit in the lotus posture and from a different story I learned that Lord Vishnu would appear to his devotees if they incessantly chanted His mantra 'Om Govinda Hari-Hari'. Being prone to sleepless nights, one night I sat in lotus posture and started chanting 'Om Govinda Hari-Hari' until I fell asleep hoping something special might happen. Lo and Behold! Something did happen the next morning next morning–I woke up with a terrible bellyache! I figured I swallowed too much air into my belly while chanting the mantra. Anyway my father had to take me to see a doctor to quell that problem. It wasn't a fruitless endeavour though because I learned my first lesson–I need a guru to teach me meditation.
A year later in an effort to find a guru and learn meditation I took up a Korean martial art–Tang So Do. This path was influenced by the 70’s tv series Kung Fu which was about a Shaolin monk, Caine, travelling the US West in the 1800’s. Each show featured Caine’s spiritual training in China with his Kung Fu master who would call Caine ‘Grasshopper.’ I thought I might have a similar relationship with my Tang So Do master as Grasshopper did and gain some mystic powers, but that was not to be. All I ever learned were kicks and punches and I gave up the practice altogether after my master told me that I was not getting angry enough when I fought. He wanted me to have the fighting spirit when all I wanted to master was the 'spirit', spirit. That ended that search for a guru who might teach me meditation.
You would think that being a Hindu finding a guru would be easy but that was not the case in Malaysia as I was growing up. My parents were not connected to any gurus, nor were gurus part of my religious life as a child. It was not until a seminar on Hinduism held in my school that a clear path to a guru came to pass. The seminar and subsequent classes on Hinduism that followed were enlightening as they gave philosophical perspective to the Hindu culture I was living and showed how the practice of meditation was essential to achieving life's ultimate spiritual goals. In time I would meet the master who provided these teachings–a charismatic American man who was a Hindu guru.
Gurudeva poses with Lord Nataraja, a deity of Lord Shiva.
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami or Gurudeva was the founder of Saiva Siddhanta Church, a Hindu church based in America. His mission in Malaysia was headed by a group of youth he had inspired to teach Hindu philosophy across the country based on his book Hindu Cathecism. I took steps to be a member of the Church so I would have the opportunity to become his disciple and learn meditation. The first ever meeting I had with Gurudeva was when I was 17 as part of a group of youth aspiring to become members of his Church. In that first up close meeting I was too shy to ask him questions so I just sat in silence basking in his spiritual presence. After the session and in a less formal setting I got the courage to talk to Gurudeva personally as he was waiting to leave. I told Gurudeva that I was working on controlling my anger and if he had any advise for me. He asked my name and told me to just keep at it, that it will become easier if I persisted. He said that in the beginning I would still lose to anger but at least I would be aware that I lost. If I didn’t give up on the effort I will certainly win. Then he instructed his swami travelling with him, Muruganathaswami, to give me a book–The Clear White Light and asked for my name again so he would remember me. I was elated after the meeting and when I returned home that night I read The Clear White Light cover to cover. It was the perfect book for me and it surfaced my deepest mystic desires and convinced me that I had found my guru.
The Clear White Light is an essay on nascent mysticism for aspiring meditators that Gurudeva had written when he was beginning his spiritual mission in America. It inspired me deeply and is still a joy to read. You can read The Clear White Light by clicking this link. It is published on Himalayancacademy.com. Following are some of my favourite excerpts.
The Clear White Light, a booklet that anchored me to a
mystic goal in my early attempts at meditation.
“Whenever darkness comes into the material world, this centered man is light. He sees light within his head and body as clearly as he did in former states of materialistic consciousness when looking at a glowing light bulb. While involved in innersearching some hidden laws of existence or unraveling the solution to a problem of the outer mind, he sits viewing the inner light, and the light shines through the knitted law of existence, clearly showing it in all its ramifications, as well as shining out upon the snarled problem, burning it back into proportionate component parts.”
“Occasionally, in a cross-section of the inner mind, when light merges into transcendental form, the young aspirant may view the golden actinic face of a master peering into his, kindly and all-knowing. He is looking at his own great potential. As the clear white light becomes more of a friend to his external mind than an experience or vision and can be basked in during contemplative periods of the day, the nourishment to the entirety of the nerve system, as ambrosia, bursts forth from the crown chakra. This is identified inadequately as “the peace that passeth understanding,” for he who reaches this state can never seem to explain it.”
“Remember, when the seal is broken and clear white light has flooded the mind, there is no gap between the inner and the outer. Even uncomplimentary states of consciousness can be dissolved through meditation and seeking again the light.”
“The uninitiated might ask: “What is it like to be in the clear white light?” The young aspirant may reply, “It is as simple as sitting in a darkened room, closing the eyes in deep concentration and finding the entire inside of the cranium turning into light.” At first it may be only a dim, moon-like glow, a pale flicker of several different colours, but then it becomes as bright and intense as the radiance of the noonday sun, then crystal clear and white.”
Looking up at the Sun through the shadows of the forest,
an abstract of The Clear White Light. (Photo by Guhanatha Swami on FutureofFutures.com)
The Clear White Light was my first introduction to Gurudeva as a mystic and it inspired me greatly. It revealed an astute master of meditation and it gave me my first ever goal of meditation–to see the clear white light in my mind.
After reading The Clear White Light and having met Gurudeva in the exuberance of my youth I thought somehow his spiritual power might propel me into the clear white light. All I had to do was to persist in my effort. So I set a schedule for myself to meditate every night before sleep. I believed surely one day soon I will enjoy basking in God’s Light. It seemed so simple, so I created a routine of worship and meditation before sleep that lasted more than an hour each night.
In the first weeks just sitting in lotus posture for more than 20 minutes was painful but my body was able to adjust. After that there was a major gap in steps–what was I to do in my mind with my eyes closed. It was dark, pitch black with just the sound of the fan whooshing away so I started chanting Lord Shiva’s mantra, Aum Namasivaya, hoping that at anytime I might dramatically experience a burst of the clear white light. However within seconds of mantra chanting and no sooner my mind would float away from the quest for The Light to irrelavant thoughts. I tried for months to no avail. It was frustrating, as if I reached a dead-end in my meditations but I realised that meditation was no child’s play–that I needed more than inspiration to meditate successfully. However the effort did produce results for my studies, ease of concentration and better memory helped with my grades in my final year of high school but the prize of real mystical revelation eluded me. Nevertheless I didn't lose hope. I knew that Gurudeva had given the book for a reason and that it would bear out in the future.
Guhanatha Swami. Founder of ShumSanctuary.com.
Becoming a Monk
My guru or Gurudeva as we called him would say that he discovered the Shum language instead of saying he created the language since the Shum language was mystically revealed to him. This revelation first occurred to him in 1968 while he was with a group of young followers in a travel-study program he called Innersearch in Ascona, Switzerland. At the time Gurudeva was looking to find a solution to teach meditation more effectively. The Story of Shum–How Gurudeva discovered Shum is a fascinating story and instead of retelling it here in Shum Sanctuary I will direct you to this link in Himalayan Academy to download the free book, Twelve Shum Meditations. On page 4 is The Story of Shum. This story underscores the rare quality of a human being with unbridled passion for mysticism who was Gurudeva, a guru that I was fortunate to have had the privilege of serve and learn from and whose passion for the mystical rubbed off on me.
The years of formal study organised by Gurudeva's fellowship in Malaysia centered on his rendering of Hindu philosophy called Saiva Siddhantha. Shum wasn't taught to lay followers. Even when senior monks from his monastery came on missions to Malaysia Shum wasn't taught. All that I knew of Shum at the time was that Gurudeva had created a language called Shum for meditation. However what the study inculcated in me was an even deeper mystical goal than the clear white light which Gurudeva caled The Self-God or simply The Self. The Self lied beyond the clear white light and it was the ultimate state of God-Realisation. A Self-Realised person is fully enlightened and this state leads to salvation or moksha. There was no spiritual councilling or talk that Gurudeva would give that did not impress on the need to realise The Self.
Artistic depiction of Gurudeva Realising The Self.
This was in the Jalani Caves, Sri Lanka in 1949. Art credit: Himalayan Academy
As I passed my 19th birthday my desire to realise The Self was a smouldering fantasy. At the time I was all prepped to go to medical school. My father who was a medical doctor had reserved a seat in a medical school for me. However before enrolling I had a few months to spare. Gurudeva lived on the Island of Kauai in Hawaii where he headed a Hindu monastery, Kauai Aadheenam. The monastery had a special training programme for male youth of his organisation called Task Force. Task Force was an opportunity for me to live a monk’s life for two to six months before going to varsity. The training was to further develop our spirituality and values that would guide us into adulthood. At the time it was to me a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn meditation directly from Gurudeva.
It was in the evening of January 12, 1991 that I arrived at Kauai Aadheenam. I was prepared for an austere 2 months of what I had imagined as a monk’s life. As soon as I arrived I was taken immediately to meet Gurudeva in his office. It was a cosy office beautifully designed, posh and plush with Gurudeva greeting me with open arms. With that greeting I knew the time I was going to have with Gurudeva would be nothing but transformational. Until then I only saw Gurudeva in groups and in functions which were stooped in traditional Hindu protocol. But here I was in a cosy and easy going atmosphere enjoying homemade mint icecream, chocolate chip cookies and tea. I wondered if I was going to experience austerity or have fun! I wanted to stay 2 months instead I stayed 6 months.
Gurudeva and I. When I first arrived in Kauai Aadheenam, 1991.
I learnt my first Shum words at Task Force. In the monastery instead of saying thank you, we say MooLingShum–it is Shum for thanks and the response to a thanks is TyayKaVum. These were my first two words of Shum. I also learnt my first Shum meditation. We woke up pre-dawn and attended a temple service before sitting before Gurudeva for a 45 minute group Shum meditation. The group meditation had a leader, a senior swami who would call out Shum words which were commands. It went like this:
LeShumNamBe: Sit in lotus posture or any posture with the
spine erect and head relaxed and balanced on the spine.
KaLeBaSa: Concentrate on your breath, inhale and exhale the same counts in and out
using odd numbers 5, 7 or 9.
LeOoNaSe: Feel the vital energy, prana, that generates the warmth of the body.
SimShumBeSee: Feel the power of the spine and perceive the flow of energy within it.
NeKaShum: Feel LeOoNaSe and SimShumBeSee simultaneously and command LeOoNaSe
to absorb into SimShumBeSee and move up into the cranial chamber.
Kaef: Be aware of awareness aware of only itself.
EeKaef: Concentrate on the high pitched ‘eee’ sound that can be heard within the cranial chamber.
Emkaef: The dissolution of awareness. The Self, the ultimate goal of Shum meditation.
To conclude the meditation Gurudeva would say NeKaShum and we would begin to gradually come out of meditation by following the steps in reverse–SimShumBeSee, LeOoNaSe, KaLeBaSa and LeShumNamBe and finally the meditation leader would say ShumNam RehTyamBa–to end the meditation.
What I enjoyed about this meditation was that it was dynamic, meaning, there was something to do when the commands were called out. This was a far cry from the way I was meditating before as there was this large gap filled with grappling to control wondering thoughts after chanting mantras. In contrast each step of Shum meditation lasted about three to five minutes and you had tasks to perform with each Shum call. Whether I felt what I should have felt in each step developed over time. Nothing in the Shum instructions were complicated and more importantly nothing ambiguous. Then within a couple of months of guided Shum meditation I had my first mystical breakthrough. It was a vision of the chakras along my spinal cord and cranium. It was but for a moment nevertheless awe inspiring and transformative. It was evidence for me of the reality of the chakra system which put the philosophy that Gurudeva taught–that the purpose of life is to Realise the Self in a new light of truth. Realising the Self became a goal I felt I could achieve with Gurudeva's help. My ambition of becoming a medical doctor which was motivated by a desire to serve humanity began to unravel. It dawned on me that if I am Self-Realised I could help others do the same and it also became clear to me that such a pursuit in life was rare among people. Somehow one less doctor in the world wouldn’t mean as much as one less mystic. It is this train of thought that lead me to apply to join Gurudeva’s monastery and become a monk.
I returned home to Malaysia with a mission to get the blessings of my parents to pursue my life as a monk in Gurudeva’s monastery. A year later I was back in Kauai Aadheenam, this time with the horizons of my future clear–I wanted to achieve the prize of meditation–to realise The Self.
The Shum Room
The first few years in the monastery was mainly focused on developing personal skill and emotional maturity, it was actually quite mundane. Gurudeva sussed out our disinclinations and put it right in front of us as a challenge, and for me that was managing the monastery’s kitchen, including cooking for 30 people a day. It was totally out of character for me and in the beginning a formidable challenge. Later I would come to realise that breaking barriers within the mind especially self-made and self-imposed ones was key to spiritual growth. Humility, perseverance, flexibility in mind and emotional maturity, including qualified faith are foundations for developing mysticism.
Becoming a Yogi Tapasvin. A important stage in my progress as a monk. I am right-most.
At this point I had already been in the monstery a few years but I hadn’t learned much more Shum than what I had learned when I came initially to the monastery for Task Force. I enjoyed Shum meditation but its specialness wasn’t yet clear to me. I reasoned that if the same Shum words had been couched in English it would still be effective; LeShumNamBe, could be ‘Step One’ KaLeBaSa–Step Two and so on or if not english, some other language like sanskrit. The language was secondary to the actual instruction that we learned in english anyway, that was until Gurudeva created the Shum Room in 1996 and gave his monks full access to it.
The Shum Room was a place where Gurudeva worked on Shum, organising all the Shum words he had created into the Shum Lexicon. It is an extensive library of all the Shum words that Gurudeva had discovered since its inception in the late sixties–an unparalleled geography of the mystical world. As I learned word after word of Shum I realised how necessary the language was to capture the breadth and depth of the mystical universe. It also became clear how effective Shum was for efficiently laying out and organising descriptions and techniques to explore and master the vast Innerverse of the mystical mind. Trying to replace Shum with a known language would be cumbersome and futile. One Shum word of seven syllables will easily expand into at least a page of descriptions and instructions in other languages. I was a frequent visitor to the Shum Room which became my otherworldly portal where I would chart mystical journeys into the Innerverse. It was a place of adventures for me where I would spend many hours in the room absorbing the details of many words and later speaking to Gurudeva about them. Gurudeva enjoyed elucidating and discussing Shum words and he recognised my deep interest in Shum and enjoined me to start my own Shum diary to record my discoveries and chart my progress. He also gave me Shum assignments and shared with me how to teach Shum.
My personal Shum diary, it is a joy to draw out a meditation map after meditating. Upon recall I will often stumble on mystical experiences that were new discoveries to me. Maintaining a Shum diary helps grow your innerverse and enrich your mystic life.
Keeping a Shum diary was an inspiring experience for me. My first ever entry was on August 12, 1999. At the time I couldn’t write in Shum script yet so I would write out Shum romanised. It would take me a month to pickup Shum calligraphy on my own and start writing in Shum.
While we used Shum in the monastery as part of the group guided meditation and peppered our monastery vocabulary with Shum words there was no in-depth or structured study of the language made available to the monks. Learning Shum or writing Shum was left to individual initiative, however Gurudeva encouraged it. Gurudeva was happiest discussing Shum with us and he gave us every opportunity to learn the words in the Shum Lexicon directly from Him. He would tell us to thumb through the lexicon during our free time and make a list of words that caught our interest and come see him whenever he was free. It was through maintaining my Shum diary and nuanced discussions of Shum words with Gurudeva that I discovered that I had realised The Self, Emkaef during one of our group meditations in 1996.
Gurudeva and I during our travels to the mystical Hopi Indian lands in the state of Arizona, US.
When meditating in Shum the perception of what I feel, see, hear and otherwise sense becomes more acute. It takes practice to achieve the goal of a word and whenever I did it was an exhilarating breakthrough. It is no different than achieving other sought after goals. After mastery of a word through the practice of immersion I would often stumble upon a new mystic experience. Then I would go back to the drawing board in the Shum Lexicon and investigate what that experience could be. Sometimes I would find the experience and take it to Gurudeva who would advise me on how to proceed. Sometimes I couldn’t find a word for the experience then Gurudeva would say that we have to create a new Shum word for that. Alas, before I could get into creating new words in Shum with Gurudeva his health got the better of him. He passed away on November 13, 2001.
The most exciting and wondrous part of my time with Gurudeva and life in the monastery was meditating in Shum and discussing my experiences and discoveries with Gurudeva; an entire universe, the Innerverse, was growing in me. Every time I close my eyes to meditate it is adventurous because of Shum to this day. There is always some mystical experience to strive for or that I might uncover from a smorgasbord of words and enjoy mysticism. If you are a mystic or even an aspiring mystic being driven by some mysterious yearning to open up the-world-of-the-shut-eye you will have a sense of the life I am describing here–a self contained world of subtle joys and wonders, a panacea for pilgrims of the spiritual.
Gurudeva and I after my initiation as a Swami in 1999
Shum and You
Before his passing on November 12, 2001 Gurudeva left me with an instruction, “After Self-Realisation you must help at least one other person Realise The Self.” That quest would lead me to leave my cherished monastery shortly after my guru passed on in May of 2002. 10 years later in the hallowed halls of the mystical Shiva temple in Chidambaram, India I achieved that instruction when I lead another mystic to Self Realisation using Shum meditation. I have crossed 50 years now and my love of Shum has only deepened. To me the Shum language is the most precious gift that Gurudeva had left humanity and I feel especially humbled to have been initiated into Shum by the direct purveyor of the language. Shum Sanctuary is an outgrowth of the mission that my guru had instructed me–to help others Realise The Self.
I am a Hindu and I studied Shum from a Hindu guru and you might wonder if you need to be Hindu to learn Shum. The answer is no and neither do you need to be a monk. Shum is an universal language and the vocabulary of Shum is a holistic geography of our spirituality that is common to all. If you are religious how you adapt Shum to your religion is up to you. Shum meditations spur spiritual evolution based on personal beliefs born of experiences instead of a creed or religious doctrine. In that vein there is no word in Shum for God, The Almighty or The Creator but it does label spiritual experiences of Divinity. For instance if you experience a Deity in your meditation and your experience can be repeated using a Shum map a Shum word naming the experience and the area of mind-space where others can experience that Deity can be created.
The Shum language itself is not a religion. The most basic advice I can give with regard to your beliefs and Shum is that if your beliefs encourages you to meditate and have mystical experiences to forge a direct relationship with Divinity you will find no conflict in adapting Shum meditation to your life. If you are agnostic or SBNR–Spritual But Not Religious–you will feel at home with Shum. The foundation of Shum meditations can be found in Shummef–The Shum Perspective. This perspective is unique to the Shum language and drives its effectiveness as a tool for meditation.
The meditative experiences described in Shum is within all of us as part of our nature. It is common to find people looking to meditation for some peace of mind or for health reasons and there is an entire world in Shum for just that. However if your mystical yearning is deeper, I will tell you from my experience of teaching meditation in as many years that your desire is not only rare it is precious and you will find an entire universe waiting for you in Shum Sanctuary.
Me personally, I am neither living in a monastery nor am I a monk anymore. I am married to an ardent meditator herself, my wife Jaya and we have a precocious seven year old daughter, Nandhini. Shum has always been a passion for me and my drive to create ShumSanctuary.com is part of my fulfilment as a disciple of Gurudeva. My personal ambition for Shum Sanctuary is for it to inspire you to explore the Innerverse and enrich your life with spirituality. Shum.tyam .
My Shum name is Reh;seeem Simvumbe~ and I created a dialect of Shum called Rehnadee Shum.