Monday, October 31, 2011


They've been doing a lot of Ram bhajans on Sunday nights when the swami is away, and this one is a favorite.

Ram, the ideal man, avatar of Vishnu, and hero of The Ramayana, is irresistible.

I cannot stop looking at Him.

(Don't tell Shiva).

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram (sometimes called Ram Dhun) is a popular bhajan that was a favorite of Mahatma Gandhi. The version that is most common was put to music by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar,[2] and was sung by Gandhi and his followers as they walked during the 241 mile Salt March to Dandi.

Raghupathi raghava rajaram
Pathithapaavana sitharam
Sundhara vigraha meghashyam
Ganga tulasi salagram
Bhadra girishwara sitharam
Bhakatha janapriya sitharam
Janaki ramana sitharam
Jaya jaya raghava sitharam

Chief of the house of Raghu, Lord Rama,
Uplifters of those who have fallen, Sita and Rama,
Sita and Rama, Sita and Rama,
O beloved, praise Sita and Rama,
God and Allah are your names.
Bless everyone with this wisdom, Lord.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


"To work, alone, you are entitled, never to its fruit. Neither let your motive be the fruit of action, nor let your attachment be to non-action.

"Being established in yoga, O Dhananjaya, perform your actions, casting off attachment and remaining even-minded both in success and in failure. This evenness is called yoga."

-Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita (II. 47-48)

Today marks the Hindu new year - an auspicious day to begin a new endeavor.

It is also the day on which little Krishna held up Govardhan Hill with his little finger like an umbrella, in order to protect the people of Brindavan from the torrential rain and wrath of Indra. (Indra was retaliating after the villagers, at little Krishna's urging, stopped performing sacrifices for him and instead began to worship the Hill. It's a long story. After he held up the hill, the villagers - and Indra - realized Krishna was more than just a talkative village boy). Tonight the local Krishna temple will celebrate with a Govardhan puja. Read more here. Some say this incident set up but it actually set up the basis of the karma path of yoga later detailed in the Bhagavad-Gita. More context here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


There are still a few spaces left in next weekend's awesome yoga and meditation retreat.

It's Nov. 5-6 at the beautiful Port for Prayer in Frankfort, IL

That's the weekend we turn back the clocks - so you'll get plenty of rest.

You'll also be immersed in the holy science of yoga, including postures, pranayama, concentration, meditation, relaxation and Psychic Development.

There are 50 acres of beautiful grounds with a sacred labyrinth, a forest, a creek, hiking trails, holy sites and more. Inside, the there is a chapel as well as numerous cozy nooks and comfortable chairs for reading and contemplation. The menu features tasty vegan comfort food.

Sign-up ends Monday!

More info here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It hasn't been seen here in seven years, and they say it will appear again tonight at midnight -
but not to city dwellers.

Video from here.

Monday, October 24, 2011


We are close to Diwali (Wednesday) and the Hindu New Year (Thursday). Today is Dhan Trayodashi (the 13th day after the new moon of Dasara) and is the day to perform a puja to Lakshmi (the goddess of spiritual and material wealth) and purchase metal items such as Lakshmi and Ganesh coins and murthis (statues) to insure wealth in the upcoming year.

Aarti is a ceremony in which light and bhajans (hymns) are offered to the deity.

This video is a virtual aarti.

And it kicks off this year's Diwali or Deepavali celebration.

While the story behind Deepavali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying Reality of all things (Brahman).

Jai Ma!

Om Namah Shivay!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


"Yoga is the science of Self-realization. It is much more than what is thought to be the physical postures, or even the breathing techniques or concentration. Yoga begins first with the moral and ethical precepts (Yama and Niyama). It is most important to be nice, be kind, don’t hurt anyone, and don’t participate in violence. Watch the thoughts, and remember it is just the body and the mind, it is not you. You are actionless. Whatever you do in life, whatever roles you put on, you must ultimately return to the real Self—so why not just abide in the real Self full time. Yoga provides a science of how to do this. Meditation is your true nature. You may say, 'I am going to practice meditation now,' because there are thoughts distracting you. When the thoughts are dispelled, you will remain alone. In this state—free from thoughts—that is your true nature. The techniques of Yoga help you to uncover this."

-Chandra Om

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Music
New Order: Blue Monday

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Navrang Raas Garba with Hemant Chauhan, or I haven't been up this late since Shivaratri!

Last night TiaS pinged me around 7:30 to ask if I had any interest dancing the Dandiya (a Gujarati dance with sticks celebrating the end of Navratri or the nine nights of the Divine Mother).

The dance started at 8. In Palatine.

And I was already halfway to dreamland, having taught 19 classes this week.

I tried to beg off, until I noticed that famous Gujarati folk singer Hemant Chauhan would be performing and that TiaS was offering to drive.

We put on outfits, bindis, bangles, spangles, makeup and ankle bracelets.

We felt like drag queens.

We went.

The massive college gymnasium was filled with Indian people of all ages, shapes and sizes.

All were dressed to the nines - some of the men even in the traditional Gujarati costume, and most of the women in ghagra cholis.

The majority of them were dancing.

We got some food, sat down in the bleachers, and watched for awhile.

The musicians were at one end of the gym, the food at the other. Hundreds of people were dancing the garba in between. A shrine was set up near us, featuring images of the goddess and candles (the event was sponsored by a local temple).

During a break, they started handing out the sticks ("Dandiya" comes from the same Sanskrit root as the first seated pose in the ashtanga primary series, "Dandasana" or stick/staff pose).

They ran out of sticks before we could get any.

The music started up, and everyone started dancing.

So we watched for awhile as Hemant and his party performed.

Everyone seemed to be having such fun. TiaS inquired about getting some sticks for us.

We were directed us towards the stage, where we watched the musicians - who were utterly amazing. Hemant, who has an amazing voice and is called the Pride of Gujarat, had an indescribable look of humility, sweetness, contentment and devotion on his face. And the drum crew (including dhol, tablas and an electronic drum) was spot-on, kicking out a rollicking, infectious beat that never let up. At one point, TiaS told me Hemant was singing his thanks to God in the form of Krisha, for coming down to earth. Not only was it devotional, but it had a good beat and you could dance to it!

We also watched the people dancing. The entire gym floor was filled with people.

Most were in lines, facing each other, hitting each others' sticks three times, and moving on to the next person.

Some of the teenagers had fashioned their own variations of the dance. Others were doing more of a line dance. One tiny little girl was really working it, doing spins and voguing. A man in full mirrored costume effortlessly twirled his sticks between taps. Some ladies were doing a graceful Garba dance (without sticks). A few older women were busting out traditional Bollywood moves, their faces lighting up so that they looked like young girls.

Finally, someone scored sticks for us.

TiaS gave me a quick lesson, and we played a bit.

After some time it finally clicked - I can be an incredibly slow learner, hence the obsession with yoga sequences - and we started doing it for real.

It was fun; hitting the sticks, hearing the sharp snap they made, feeling the vibration move through the hands and arms, watching TiaS' smiles and looks of delight. It became hypnotic. I smiled, too. It was fun *and* devotional, and it did not involve shutting out the rest of the world. Plus it was good exercise. Imagine!

We stayed on the floor for some time, dancing in our own circle in front of the stage (I was not quite ready to join the others just yet).

Meanwhile, the musicians moved seamlessly from one well-known Garba song to the next, as if it were one long, joyous, high-energy song. The singers would switch off. Each time, the drums would pick up speed and the song would be little faster. Everyone would whoop and dance a little faster. It reminded me of the seamless dance mixes they used to do late-night on B96. Only so much better. I was transported with joy.

The dance ended sometime around 12:30 or so. Prizes were awarded for the best dancers and costumes.

And then they did aarti (a light ceremony devoted to the goddess), led by Hemant.

Jai Ma!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Milarepa replied, "I am Milarepa, the yogi from Tibet. There is a great purpose to not having possessions." He then explained this in a spiritual song: "I have no desire for wealth or possessions, and so I have nothing. I do not experience the initial suffering of having to accumulate possessions, the intermediate suffering of having to guard and keep up possessions, nor the final suffering of loosing the possessions. This is a wonderful thing. I have no desire for friends or relations. I do not experience the initial suffering of forming an attachment, the intermediate suffering of having disagreements with friends and family, nor the final suffering of parting with them. Therefore it is good to be without friends and relations. I have no desire for pleasant conversation. I do not experience the initial suffering of beginning conversation, the intermediate suffering of wondering whether to continue the conversation, nor the final suffering of the conversation deteriorating. Therefore I do not delight in pleasant conversation. I have no desire for a home land and have no fixed residence. I do not experience the initial suffering of partiality of thinking that 'this is my land and that place isn't.' I do not experience the intermediate suffering of yearning for my land. And I do not experience the final suffering of having to protect my land. Therefore I do not have a fixed abode."

-- Jetsün Milarepa, from Ten Teachings from the Songs of Milarepa

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The humble and great velvet-voiced ghazal singer Jagit Singh passed yesterday in Mumbai at the age of 70.

From today's NYT Tribute:

Writing for Mint, Rahul Pandita said:

Delhi “turned some of us lonelier by the day. We fell in love, suffered in love, lost our near and dear ones, made careers, or what is perceived to be a career. Our hair went gray. Emotions lost their edge.

But on some balmy night, when there was no one else to go to, we would seek refuge in Jagjit Singh’s voice. Long ago, he sang these lines of Ghalib’s: “Maut se pehle aadmi, gam se nijaat paaye kyun…” (Before death, why does man want relief from sorrow). Sitting in a metro train, when I learnt about his death, I hoped that in death my friend would be rid of life’s sorrows.”

aum tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭi-vardhanam
urvārukam iva bandhanān mṛtyor mukṣīya māmṛtāt

Monday, October 10, 2011


Written by Ravi Shankar.

Prabhujee Dayaa Karo,
Maname Aana Baso.

Tuma Bina Laage soonaa,
Khaali Ghatame Prema Bharo.

Tantra Mantra Poojaa Nahi Jaanu,
Mai To Kevala Tumako Hi Maanu.

Sare Jaga Me Dhundaa Tumako,
Aba To Aakara Baahan Dharo.

Oh Master,show some compassion on me,
Please come and dwell in my heart.

Because without you, it is painfully lonely,
Fill this empty pot with the nectar of love.

I do not know any Tantra, Mantra or ritualistic
worship I know and believe only in you.

I have been searching for you all over all the world,
please come and hold my hand now.


"He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all living entities as His living parts and parcels, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything never hates anything or any being."

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Natya Dance Theatre's The Flowering Tree

I saw many classical dance performances during my 12 months in India.

But rarely did I understand what was happening onstage: the myriad complicated mudras, facial expressions and other gestures used to convey the story meant very little to my untrained western mind. (I remember my traveling companion Bob-the-dancer being flummoxed by what he called "the shit-eating grins on their faces.").

Last night I accompanied my editor and some other long-time local yoga teachers to the one-night-only performance of Natya Dance Theatre's The Flowering Tree.

Natya Dance specializes in classical Bharatnarayan dance from South India. It is sometimes considered to be a form of yoga (as in union, not asana).

The performance was framed by a narrator (Natya Dance Theatre founder Hema Rajagopalan's daughter, Krithika). So it was easy to understand the storyline - based on a Kannada folk tale. (UC Hinduism scholar Wendy Doniger served as a consultant and wrote the program notes).

The piece focused on a poor woman who has two sisters and a very difficult life. A voice instructs the sisters to use a special mantra and water to transform her into a flowering tree, whose flowers they may gather and sell so that they have enough food to eat. They transformer her into a tree against her wishes, and make a killing selling the unusually beautiful and fragrant flowers at the local temple. A young prince buys the last one and becomes enthralled with the lead sister. Long story short, he marries her and forces her to become the tree on their wedding night. His sister watches through the window, and later forces her to do the same, out of greed. She fails to revive her properly, and the lead sister is left as a crippled stump with a face - a metaphor for man's treatment of Nature or Prakriti.

It. was. amazing. The story. The choreography. The music. The costumes. The set. The performers.

(There were no "grins")

And it was a one-night-only show.

My favorite gesture, though, occurred during the curtain call, when Krithika exited and returned with a bouquet of flowers. She handed them to her mother, Hema, and then rejoined the other performers.

With incredible grace, Hema walked over and handed the flowers back to her.

Jai Ma!

Click here to learn more about Natya Dance.

And here to read my 2000 Reader article about the founder and her daughter - proof that entertainment can also be Dharma.

Read my India diaries here.

Thank you to Sharon S. and Hema R. for the tickets!

NOTE: The photos (I think) are from The Flowering Tree. The video is not.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Occupy Chicago

The protesters are nestled between the Federal Reserve, Bank of America & the Board of trade. @ lunchtime some traders were engaging in conversation/taunting/flaming with some protesters. It was heartening to see real people engaged in face to face dialog, in person & in real time (& not online).

I told the man in the bottom photo that I'd seen his sign online & that it was my favorite.

He said, "it's my favorite, too!"

Jai Gil-Scott Heron!

- Posted using corporate tools. Jai Steve Jobs!

Sample Tweets:

This show was brought to you by the letter $ and the color GREEN.

Absolutely furious that 99% of the cookies are eaten by 1% of the monsters

Some of us are living in garbage cans. We have every right to be grouchy.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


A letter from Sri.K. Pattabhi Jois to Yoga Journal, Nov. 1995

"I was disappointed to find that so many novice students have taken Ashtanga yoga and have turned it into a circus for their own fame and profit (Power Yoga, Jan/Feb 1995). The title "Power Yoga" itself degrades the depth, purpose and method of the yoga system that I received from my guru, Sri. T. Krishnamacharya. Power is the property of God. It is not something to be collected for one's ego. Partial yoga methods out of line with their internal purpose can build up the "six enemies" (desire, anger, greed, illusion, infatuation and envy) around the heart. The full ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one's heart. The Yoga Sutra II.28 confirms this "Yogaanganusthanat asuddiksaye jnanadiptih avivekakhyateh", which means "practicing all the aspects of yoga destroys the impurities so that the light of knowledge and discrimination shines". It is unfortunate that students who have not yet matured in their own practice have changed the method and have cut out the essence of an ancient lineage to accommodate their own limitations.

"The Ashtanga yoga system should never be confused with "power yoga" or any whimsical creation which goes against the tradition of the many types of yoga shastras (scriptures). It would be a shame to lose the precious jewel of libiration in the mud of ignorant body building."

-K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Mysore, South India

Monday, October 03, 2011

Bhakti Hymn Composed by the Great Vedantist Adi Shankaracharya, around 810 AD

This song used to blast from the stalls at the top of Chamundi Hill in Mysore.

On my first trip, in 2002, I got hooked on the tune and bought the CD.

I've been playing it ever since.

The hymn is about the the slaying of the demon Mahishasura, from whom city of Mysore derives it name (there's also an elaborate dance that goes with it).

Mahishasura was the king of the Mysore area until he was slain by the goddess Chamundi. She is a variation of Durga - a fierce incarnation of Shakti or Parvati (the wife of Shiva), who rides a lion. The temple at the top of Chamundi Hill is devoted to Chamundeswari. (I keep a picture of her slaying the demon on the desk, next to the laptop. I love that her face is impassive, even though she's committing violence because it has to be done.).

Tonight the swami at the Sivananda Center read part of the Devi Mahatmya - the story of the fierce battle between the Goddesses and the various demons - as part of Devi Puja.

It is auspicious hear such stories, especially during Navratri (the Nine Nights of the Goddess).

(And it is especially wonderful to hear them read in an English accent).

Afterwords, to my surprise, we chanted the Sri Mahishasura Mardini Stotram.

It was amazing, to finally chant the song that has been rolling around in the head for the past nine years.

And they're doing it again tomorrow.

This version of the hymn includes an explanation of each lyric:

This more traditional version, by the Bellary Sisters, is similar to the way we did it last night and is by far my favorite (plus it's easy to chant along to it):

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Happy birthday!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Occupy Wall Street Movement Gains Momentum
despite minimal coverage by mainstream media

Yesterday the protesters tried to occupy the Brooklyn Bridge. Some 700 were arrested.

On Day 12 (above), Russell Simmons, et al participated in a "meditation flash mob."

Roseanne Barr and Keith Olbermann - surprise! - are also there.....

meanwhile some observers sipped champagne:

Get the latest here.

Read about the protest - and find a link it its great posters - here.

Click here for info on Occupy Chicago.

Thanks to Boodiba for the tip.