Monday, December 23, 2019

Do Not Be in Conflict with Anyone or Anything

(Robert Adams)

"You come to sit with me, you can always sit with me wherever you are. I am trying to tell you, do not look for reasons why you do something. When you start giving up all reasoning, all ambition, when you start surrendering all of your so-called power, your human power that you think you have, this is when the mind begins to slow down. The mind will never slow down by trying to make it slow down. I do not care what method you use. When you are using Vipassana Meditation or you’re using breathing, whatever method you are using you are using your mind. It is your mind that you are still using. That is why you can never get anywhere. You must use your mind, no matter what you do. Therefore stop doing anything. I know many of you have been practicing sadhana for twenty-five to forty years. Practicing many forms of meditation. Going to teachers, reading many books. And what becomes of you? You may get a good feeling, then it goes away and you are back where you started from. The only thing that you should do or must do, is not to be in conflict with anything.

"Do not be in conflict with anyone or anything. When you are not in conflict with anything, the mind begins to surrender itself and goes back into the heart, and you become your Self. This is the easiest thing that you ever had to do, it is simplicity itself. It is simplicity itself, because there is nothing you have to do. There is nothing you have to become. Here is no one you have to change. You are That. Do not analyze what I am saying. Do not even agree with what I am saying. Just be open. Open you heart by remaining still, silent."

-Robert Adams

Monday, December 16, 2019

Real Yoga (No BS)

In this in-depth 'Yoga is Vegan' podcast, Sri Dharma Mittra discusses his first encounter with yoga, ahimsa, yogic diet, karma yoga, reincarnation and the meaning of life, meditation and more. Click here to hear him in his own words.

(He left Brazil and came to NYC to meet and commit to his guru the year I was born). Jai Guru!

Read another recent interview, with my gurubhai Adam Frei, here.

Monday, December 09, 2019


Q&A with Ramana Maharshi

QUESTION : While sitting near you, what sort of mental state should I have so as to receive the transmission from the Self?

Ramana: Keep your mind still. That is enough. You will get spiritual help sitting in this hall if you keep yourself still. The aim of all practices is to give up all practices. When the mind becomes still, the power of the Self will be experienced. The waves of the Self are pervading everywhere. If the mind is in peace, one begins to experience them.

Question: Which is better for me, to gaze at your eyes or your face? Or should I sit with closed eyes and concentrate my mind on a particular thing?

Ramana: Gaze at your own real nature. It is immaterial whether the eyes are open or closed. Everywhere there is only the one, so it is all the same whether you keep your eyes open or closed. If you wish to meditate, do so on the "I" that is within you. It is the Self. Because it has no eyes, there is no need either to open or close the eyes. When you attain Self-knowledge, there will no longer be any ideas about the world. When you are sitting in a room, whether the windows are open or closed, you are the same person, in the same state. In the same way, if you abide in the Reality, it is all the same whether the eyes are open or closed. It matters little whether external activities go on or not.

Question: In my present state, is there sufficient faith, humility and surrender in me? If not, how to make them complete?

Ramana: You are perfect and complete, so abandon the idea of incompleteness. There is nothing to be destroyed. Ahankara, the individual "I", is not a real thing. It is the mind that makes the effort and the mind is not real. Just as it is not necessary to kill a rope that one imagines to be a snake, so also there is no need to kill the mind. Knowing the form of the mind makes the mind disappear. That which is forever non-existent is already removed.

Question: What books should I read for personal study?

Ramana: The Self is the real book. You can glance anywhere in that book; nobody can take it away from you. Whenever you are free, turn towards the Self. Thereafter you may read whatever you like.

Question: How to uproot the weariness, fear and anxiety that arise during meditation?

Ramana: Find out to whom these questions occur. By conducting this enquiry these things will disappear. These things are impermanent. Do not pay attention to them. When there is knowledge of duality, fear arises. Fear only comes when you think that there are others apart from you. If you direct your mind towards the Self, fear and anxiety will go away. In your present state, when your mind is agitated, if you remove one kind of fear, another will rise up and there will be no end of them. It is a laborious task to pluck the leaves off a tree one by one. The "I" feeling is the root of all thoughts. If you destroy the root, the leaves and branches will wither away. Instead of forming bad habits and taking medicine for them, it is better to see that such bad habits are not formed.

Question: During and after meditation, I get many thoughts about the unhappy people of the world. What will happen to the world?

Ramana: First find out whether there is an "I" in you or not. It is this ego "I" that gets these thoughts and, as a result, you feel weakness. Therefore find out how identification with the body takes place. Body consciousness is the cause of all misery. When you conduct the enquiry into the ego "I", you will find out its Source and you will be able to remove it. After that there will be no more questions of the type you are asking.

The body itself is a disease. To wish for a long stay of that disease is not the aim of the jnani [one who has realised the Self]. Anyhow, one has to give up identification with the body. Just as the "I am the body" consciousness prevents one from attaining Self-knowledge, in the same way, one who has got the conviction that he is not the body will become liberated even if he doesn't desire it.

From; more here.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Rupert Spira on Self-Inquiry and Suffering

This is a paraphrase:

The only thing suffering cannot stand is being seen clearly. The reason for that is that it is an illusion. You can’t do anything to an illusion because it isn’t there, like the water in a mirage. The very best you can do is to see that it is not there. That alleviates the desire to collect it, alleviate it. You can’t do anything to a nonexistent self. There is nothing there to do anything to. Clear seeing, experiential understanding, is the best you can do. As a result or byproduct of that clear seeing, that suffering dissolves or vanishes in time. In order to remain present, suffering requires the illusion of a separate self; it revolves around this illusion. Without it, it cannot stand. There may be old habits in the mind and body, but they cannot stand when they are no longer supported by a belief in a separate self. They disappear as a by-product of this exploration -- not as its goal. Suffering vanishes in the same way a headache vanishes. You wake up in the morning with a headache. By evening it’s gone, and you don’t know when it disappeared or why or how. It’s just not there anymore. That’s how suffering disappears. Its disappearance is a byproduct, not a goal. If you make it a goal you perpetuate suffering. That’s how suffering perpetuates itself, sometimes for decades, by trying to get rid of itself.

Suffering is to the mind what pain is to the body. Pain is not a mistake, when you put your hand in the fire. It’s the intelligence of the body telling you to take the hand out of the fire. It is pain working on behalf of your well-being. Similarly, suffering is cooperating with your desire for happiness. It is telling you that you have mistaken yourself for a limited self and to have another look.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Relative vs. Absolute Knowledge

"All this book learning and capacity to repeat the scriptures by memory is absolutely no use. To know the Truth, you need not undergo all this torture of learning. Not by reading do you get the Truth. BE QUIET, that is Truth, BE STILL, that is God."

-Ramana Maharshi

More here and here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Cooperation vs. Competition


“Regarding cooperation: it’s good for you to try and lose yourself a little—to move beyond the personal self and try and cooperate with others. This really helps us understand that we are all one—all part of the same great whole. The action of compassion is to see yourself in others. If I see myself in you, how can I hurt you, steal from you, or lie to you? Impossible! Learn to see yourself in others and strive always to make every offering an act of adoration to the Supreme Self or the forces behind everything. Then we are all practicing yoga.”

—Sri Dharma Mittra, March 2017 issue of Yoga Journal

'Yoga means union, or to yoke or join. To cooperate means to “work jointly towards the same end,” or to “assist someone or comply with their requests,” according to The Oxford Living English Dictionary. Cooperation has its roots in love and compassion—or, as Sri Dharma says, putting oneself in the place of others.

'To compete means “to strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others,” according to the same source. Competition has its roots in the feeling of separateness, which the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali cites as one of the main kleshas, or causes of pain and suffering. Competing can actually reinforce and strengthen this sense of isolation.

'But practicing cooperation can sometimes feel like swimming upstream, especially when mainstream society often appears to divide the world into “us” and “them” and reward unbridled competition.

'We can learn to cooperate in yoga class by respecting the body’s limits on a given day, rather than competing with how our body was a decade or a week ago, or comparing our practice with that of the person next to us or someone on Instagram. My first teacher, Suddha Weixler, used to remind us regularly in class that “It’s not a competition.”

'In yoga practice, when we compete, we end up either beating ourselves up mentally or forcing ourselves into a variation of a pose that causes pain—both of which are violations of yoga’s golden rule, ahimsa (non-harming). Sri Dharma equates ahimsa to the Bible’s First Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” explaining that it doesn’t just apply to taking a life, but means, “Thou shalt not kill the comfort of others.”

'We can cooperate in class by moving together as a group rather than doing our own thing and distracting the rest of the people trying to follow along. (I’ve noticed lately that the latter has been happening a lot in the classes I teach.) One potential consequence is that new practitioners in class become confused and start following the person who’s doing his or her own thing, which can result in injury. For some reason these lone wolves tend to put their mats in the front of the room, and, as a result, everyone else ends up having a diminished experience.

'Sri Dharma often reminds us in class to “move together like a school of fish” in order to create a collective consciousness. “When you are doing things together, you are inside the collective mind, and share psychic knowledge with each other. That is how you become one.”

'When we move in and out of poses as he describes, the effect is incredibly powerful; everyone ends up benefiting more from their practice. (Sri Dharma also reminds us that the fish who goes off on her own is usually the one that is eaten by a bigger fish.)'

Read the rest of this excerpt from my Beyond the Mat book here.


"Recognizing our responsibilities as industrialists, we will devote ourselves to the progress and development of society and the well-being of people through our business activities, thereby enhancing the quality of life throughout the world."

-Konosuke Matsushita

'While I was CEO, I came across a book that gave me newfound confidence that maybe I wasn’t so broken after all,' writes Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler in his new book, This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World. 'Called Not for Bread Alone, it was a series of essays from the long career of a Japanese businessman named Konosuke Matsushita.

'Matsushita led an extraordinary life. In 1918, he started one of the first electrical companies in Japan, which he ran for more than 40 years. That company continues to operate today under the name Panasonic. Not for Bread Alone shares philosophies and lessons from Matsushita’s long career, which is remarkable not just for its longevity but for its broader idea of prosperity.

'In 1932, he told his employees, “The mission of a manufacturer is to overcome poverty, to relieve society as a whole from the misery of poverty, and bring it wealth.” At this same time Matsushita declared the company’s 250-year goal: “the elimination of poverty from this world.”

'He meant it. In 1936, Matsushita decided to give his employees one day off a week at a time when Japanese workers got two days off a month. It wasn’t until 1947 that one day off a week was standardized by Japanese Labor Standards Law. In 1960, Matsushita went further, announcing that the company would offer Japan’s first five-day workweek. “We need a dramatic increase in productivity if we want to compete with foreign companies,” he said.

'“Having two days off every week will help us to achieve this by giving us ample time to refresh mind and body, and greater opportunities to enrich our lives.” To produce more and to produce better, Matsushita counterintuitively proposed people work less. It took until 1980 for most big Japanese firms to follow, and until 1992 for Japanese government workers to have five-day workweeks.

'Matsushita was also a proud capitalist. “Only by making a reasonable profit — neither too much nor too little — can an enterprise expand and be of greater service to more people,” he wrote. “Moreover, the enterprise contributes to society by paying a large portion of its profits in the form of taxes. In that sense, it is a businessperson’s duty, as a citizen, to make a reasonable profit.”

'The contrast between Matsushita’s way of seeing the world and the “disrupt yourself” tone of my present day couldn’t have been bigger. The words of this 89-year-old Japanese man were transformative for me. I had a leadership role model for the first time.'

Read the rest of this piece in Medium.

Read more about Konosuke Matsushita here.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monday, November 04, 2019

Dakshinamurthy Stotram

Eighth Century saint Adi Sankaracharya wrote many great stotras (prayers) but this is a unique prayer, which is not only a prayer but the summary of all the philosophy that he taught.

Learn more here.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Simultaneous Creation

Ramana Maharshi On Simultaneous Creation
from this website

When Adi Sankara wanted to explain the process of simultaneous creation, He gave the example of a city which is seen reflected, in a mirror: ˜"isvam darpana drisyamana nagariâ"(the opening words of Dakshinamurti Stotram). In his time no better example than that was available. But if he were living nowdays,he would certainly have given the very apt example of a cinema projector.

Let us therefore see how Sri Bhagavan used to explain the creation of the world
with the example of a cinema projector.

In a cinema projector there is a bright arc-lamp,in front of which passes a film, and in front of that there is a lens. The rays of the light which comes from the arc-lamp pass through the film, are enlarged by the lens and create a large picture on the distant screen. The arc-lamp in the projector is similar to Self, which shines within our body.

The film which is close to the arc-lamp is similar to the very subtle tendencies or vasanas accumulated within us.

The lenses by which these tendencies are enlarged and made gross are the five sense organs.When the tendencies, which are thoughts in their very subtle seed-form, are projected out through the five senses by the light of Self, they are made gross and are seen as the picture of this outside world consisting of so many different names and forms,which are merely the five sense-knowledges.

That is,the multitude of very subtle tendencies which exist within us is seen by us as the vast universe outside.Therefore everything which is seen outside is in truth only what was already existing inside.

Know clearly that everything which is perceived having come (out) through the mind (and the five senses), was already existing as tendencies (vasanas) in the heart, like a hidden treasure, and (therefore merely) an old story which has come out to be seen.

Source: Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 84.

If there were no arc-lamp in the cinema projector,the picture show could not appear on the screen.Similarly, if the light of self were not present, the creation, sustenance of this world could not take place. The light of Self is that which is commonly known by the name God.

If the film-reel were not in the projector, the picture-show consisting of names and forms would not appear on the screen. Instead only a bright light would be seen there.

Similarly, what shines in the outlook of the Jnani, in whom all the tendencies have been destroyed, is not this world picture consisting of names and forms; what the Jnani experiences is only Himself, the unlimited light of Selfconsciousness.

Source: The Path Of Sri Ramana Part Two By Sri Sadhu Om

Monday, October 21, 2019

Stop Wasting Time

Get up! Wake up! Seek the guidance of an
Illumined teacher and realize the Self.
Sharp like a razor's edge, the sages say,
Is the path, difficult to traverse.

-Katha Upanishad

See Kali's column on the path of the razor's edge here.

Image of Lord Yama and Nachiketa available here

Monday, October 14, 2019

Chogyam Trungpa on Concentration

"Meditation practice is not an attempt to enter into a trance-like state of mind nor is it an attempt to become preoccupied with a particular object. There has developed, both in India and Tibet, a so-called system of meditation which might be called 'concentration.' That is to say that this practice of meditation is based on focusing the mind on a particular point so as to be better able to control the mind and concentrate. in such practice the student chooses an object to look at, think about, or visualize and then focuses his entire attention upon it. In so doing, he tends to develop by force a certain kind of mental calm. I call this kind of practice 'mental gymnastics' because it does not attempt to deal with the totality of any given life-situation. It is based entirely on this or that, subject and object, rather than transcending the dualistic view of life.

"The practice of samadhi on the other hand does not involve concentration. This is very important to realize. Concentration practices are largely ego-reinforcing, although not purposely intended as such. Still, concentration is practiced with a particular aim and object in mind, so we tend to become centralized in the 'heart.' We set out to concentrate upon a flower, stone or flame, and we gaze fixedly at the object, but mentally we are going into the heart as much as possible. We are trying to intensify the solid aspect of form, the qualities of stability and stillness. In the long run such a practice could be dangerous. Depending upon the intensity of the meditator's will-power, we might become introverted in a way which is too solemn, fixed and rigid. This sort of practice is not conducive to openness and energy nor to a sense of humor. It is too heavy and could easily become dogmatic, in the sense that those who become involved in such practices think in terms of imposing discipline upon themselves. We think it necessary to be very serious and solemn. This produces a competitive attitude in our thinking -- the more we can render our minds captive, the more successful we are -- which is a rather dogmatic, authoritarian approach. This way of thinking, always focused on the future, is habitual with ego: 'I would like to see such and such results. I have an idealized theory or dream which I would like to put into effect.' We tend to live in the future, our view of life colored by the expectation of achieving an ideal goal. Because of this expectation we miss the precision and openness and intelligence of the present. We are fascinated, blinded and overwhelmed by the idealized goal"

from Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Monday, October 07, 2019

Ramana Maharshi on Concentration

Question: Is concentration one of the spiritual practices?

Ramana: Concentration is not thinking of one thing only. Rather, it is the putting off of all other thoughts which obstruct the vision of our true nature. All our efforts are only directed towards lifting the veil of ignorance. Now it appears difficult to quell the thoughts, but in the regenerated state, it will be found more difficult to activate them! Why should we think of these things? There is the Self alone. Thoughts can function only if there are objects – but there are no objects, so how can thoughts arise at all? Habit makes us believe that it is difficult to cease thinking. If this error were discovered, one would not be so foolish as to exert oneself unnecessarily.

When attention is directed towards objects and intellect, the mind is aware only of these things. That is our present state. But when we attend to the Self within, we become conscious of It alone. It is therefore all a matter of attention. Our mind has been attending to external things for so long, that the latter have enslaved it and drag it hither and thither. If the mind wanders, we must at once realize we are not the body and enquire, "Who am I?" and the mind must be brought back to realize the Self. Thus all evils are destroyed and happiness is realized.

The Self is like a powerful magnet hidden within us. It draws us gradually to Itself, though we imagine we are going to It of our own accord. When we are near enough, It puts an end to our other activities, makes us still, and then swallows up our own personal current, thus killing our personality. It overwhelms the intellect and floods the whole being. We think we are meditating upon It and developing towards It, whereas the truth is that we are like iron-filings and It is the Self-magnet that is pulling us towards Itself. Thus the process of finding Self is a form of divine magnetism.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sufi Proverb

"Trust in God But Tether Your Camel"

-Sufi Proverb

This is the essence of the Bhagavad Gita.

Beautiful exposition on the proverb from this site:

A Master was traveling with one of his disciples. The disciple was in charge of taking care of the camel. They came in the night, tired, to a caravanserai. It was the disciple’s duty to tether the camel; he didn’t bother about it, he left the camel outside. Instead of that he simply prayed. He said to God, “Take care of the camel,” and fell asleep.

In the morning the camel was gone — stolen or moved away, or whatsoever happened. The Master asked, “What happened to the camel? Where is the camel?”

And the disciple said, “I don’t know. You ask God, because I had told Allah to take care of the camel, and I was too tired, so I don’t know. And I am not responsible either, because I had told Him, and very clearly! There was no missing the point. Not only once in fact, I told Him thrice. And you go on teaching ‘Trust Allah’, so I trusted. Now don’t look at me with anger.”

The Master said, “Trust in Allah but tether your camel first — because Allah has no other hands than yours.”

If He wants to tether the camel He will have to use somebody’s hands; He has no other hands. And it is your camel! The best way and the easiest and the shortest, the most short, is to use your hands. Trust Allah. Don’t trust only your hands, otherwise you will become tense. Tether the camel and then trust Allah.You will ask, “Then why trust Allah if you are tethering the camel?” — because a tethered camel can also be stolen. You do whatsoever you can do: that does not make the result certain, there is no guarantee.

So you do whatsoever you can, and then whatsoever happens, accept it. This is the meaning of tether the camel: do whatever is possible for you to do, don’t shirk your responsibility, and then if nothing happens or something goes wrong, trust Allah. Then He knows best. Then maybe it is right for us to travel without the camel.

It is very easy to trust Allah and be lazy. It is very easy not to trust Allah and be a doer. The third type of man is difficult — to trust Allah and yet remain a doer. But now you are only instrumental; God is the real doer, you are just instruments in His hands.

Artwork available here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Sri Lalitha Sahasranama

Navratri (9 Nights of the Divine Mother) is September 29 to October 8, and is celebrated locally and beautifully at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center.

More on the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama here.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Fear = Ego

Our path on this Earth has ups and downs,
Sometimes the road is barricaded by all kinds of challenges;
Sometimes, at a crossroads in our life, there are no signs.
Here comes the question, beloved travel companion:

Where to go? Which is the right direction?
We do not know! There are many hazards and the path is dark!
We don’t have intuition and courage is lacking!
But we cannot stop — Life itself rushes us!

Once, someone told us that within us is hidden
All the recorded knowing of Life on Earth;
If we knew how to access it, there would be no problems,
The wise solution would dissolve any dilemma.

Any man has access to this vast library,
For the key is within us, as well as in every human being;
There is one condition: to banish all fear,
Right now, in this moment, without delay!

Fear is an emotional state, closely connected to the “ego”.
This fiction — a bizarre construction,
Fearful by nature, in all its endeavors,
Which create its structure and its frail universe.

Fear and “ego” are one — there is no duality,
Here we are, therefore, confronted with this figment of imagination;
As “ego”, we are fear as well — this is our structure,
Each time we function in this state.

When either fear or the “ego” are encountered in a real way,
Without any motivations — only as a simple meeting,
It dissipates in a flash — in its place, an absolute “void” appears;
We spontaneously become immense, without beliefs or acts of will.

The inactivity of the mind — the personal mind,
Leads us to experience the Universal Mind;
Through it, the Wise man finds the path of Love,
These facts create our journey, through spontaneous action.

Only in peace, harmony, in the revelation of our being,
We will know, from experience, which is the right path.
Living on Earth — the right direction will spring from
The beauty of Love and Sacred Integrity.

—Ilie Cioara

Monday, September 09, 2019

Ramana Grace

"That even ‘lower’ life forms such as birds and beasts can attain the supreme state through the grace of the great ones [mahapurushas] was explicitly demonstrated by Bhagavan through the following incident. Bhagavan [Ramana Maharshi], ever shedding grace by remaining in the meditative state of Self-abidance, once externalised his attention, turned towards his devotees with a smile, and suddenly asked the following question.

"‘Do you know what state Lakshmi is in now?’

"Having never witnessed such a scene before, the devotees were puzzled by this unusual question. There was a cow standing in front of him with a motionless and fixed expression on her face.

"The ever-cheerful Bhagavan said, to the astonishment of the devotees, ‘She is in nirvikalpa samadhi,’ revealing by this brief comment the extraordinary power of his grace.

"The cow, affectionately called Lakshmi, was closely associated with the ashram. When she came, as usual, for Bhagavan’s darshan and stood in his presence, Bhagavan looked at her with great affection and started stroking her head. As a consequence of receiving this hasta diksha [initiation in which the Guru places his hands on the disciple’s head] she experienced immediately the state nirvikalpa samadhi.

"Although it is common to come across many human beings with bestial natures, it is extremely rare to see an animal with human nature.

"Bhagavan himself once pointed out the sanctity of Lakshmi by saying, ‘We don’t know what austerities she has performed in her previous births. It may be that she is in our midst only to complete her unfinished tapas!’

"After her nirvana, her body was entombed within the ashram premises in the presence of Bhagavan. It was done in the traditional manner, and a memorial was built on top. Among all those who took refuge in Bhagavan, only Lakshmi had the good fortune of having an epitaph written by Bhagavan himself confirming her liberation. This is what Bhagavan wrote on that occasion: ‘Lakshmi the cow was liberated under the star of visaka on Friday, the twelfth day of the bright half jyesta in the year sarvadhari [18th June 1948].’

"Among the fortunate animals that were the recipients of Bhagavan’s grace, there were others such as dogs, peacocks, squirrels and crows. Indeed, the life history of each one of them is wonderful. When it is seen that even animals attained mental quiescence by the extraordinary power of Bhagavan’s presence, will it not be superfluous to say that human beings attained the same? During the half century of his manifestation as grace divine at Arunachala, innumerable were the instances and infinite were the ways in which Bhagavan showered his grace on all those who approached him." 🕉

from Timeless in Time, by A.R. Natarajan

Monday, September 02, 2019

The Heart of It

'All the philosophies, world-views, ethical systems, practices, and rituals have only one intention: to wake us up from the sleep in which we dream that we are separate from what we experience.'

-Ken McLeod


Monday, August 26, 2019

Nuestras vidas son los rios.....

The flow of a river always changes, but its substance never disappears.
Likewise, the names and forms of experience are always moving and changing,
but its reality is ever-present and without limits.

-Rupert Spira

Monday, August 19, 2019

Q&A with Ramana Maharshi

from Timeless in Time

Q1. What are the marks of a real teacher, sadguru?

A. Steady abidance in the Self, looking at all with an equal eye, unshakable courage at all times, in all places and circumstances, etc.

Q2. What are the marks of an earnest disciple?

A. An intense longing for the removal of sorrow and attainment of joy.

Q3. What are the marks of the guru’s grace?

A. It is beyond words or thoughts.

Q4. Is the state of “being still” a state involving effort or is it effortless?

A. it is not an efiortless state. All mundane activities which are ordinarily called effort are performed with the aid of a portion of the mind and with frequent breaks. But the act of communion with the Self, or remaining still inwardly, is intense activity which is performed with the entire mind and without break.

Q5. What is meditation?

A. It is abiding as one’s Self without swerving in any way from one’s real nature and without feeling that one is meditating.

Q6. What are the rules of conduct which an aspirant (sadhaka) should follow?

A. Moderation in food, moderation in sleep, and moderation in speech.

Q7. How long should one practice?

A. Until the mind attains, efiortlessly, its natural state of freedom from concepts. That is, till the sense of “I” and “mine” no longer exist.

Q8. If everything happens according to karma, how is one to overcome the obstacles to meditation?

A. Karma concerns only the out-turned mind and not the in-turned mind.

more here


Monday, August 12, 2019

The Secret to Happiness

"Renounce your mind. Stop believing its stories."

-Jim Gilman

Read more here.


Monday, August 05, 2019

The Eternal Witness

Meditation without Seed by Sri Dharma Mittra

You remain unconcerned. Don’t try to stop your mind. Just keep observing your thoughts; coming, staying, and going. Noises outside – ignore it. It is just the ears busy with the objects of the senses. Keep your eyes almost closed, the gaze at the tip of the nose. Leave the breath by itself. Leave the mind now, by itself.

Imagine that you are established in the Eternal Now. So everything is passing away. Everything is subject to time, passing away. Except for you – this Eternal Witness.
We are the witness of the body and mind’s activities………………………

That is the highest kind of meditation. You remain unconcerned. Thoughts enter your mind.; they may change your feelings. Your breath may change. But you still remain unconcerned. I forgot to mention; you feel your breath change, you feel the rest. But that’s the body and mind and the senses. Who is watching all that? If you keep doing this every day very soon you will observe this peaceful being behind all this noise, not affected by noise or thoughts or feeling. Then you are so happy. You realize something.

But you have to practice. And watch your diet. If you eat meat and all this stuff you’re never going to get there. You may keep the mozzarella in moderation. Once a week a little bit. Then your mind becomes clear.

After then after you realize that, you start watching your body, moving here moving there, angry, going to work, going to yoga class, doing meditation. You will begin to notice this witness, always not participating. That’s the goal. That is always established in this eternal present. That’s the goal. To remain in this moment. Only this moment exists. If you start to worry about Knowledge now, you start getting depressed – maybe you’re trying to see something else happening. Be always in this eternal moment. The future do not exist yet. The past? It don’t exist. You can use this only to remember a few days back (laughs) and rest. You are always there – this eternal…and then constant practice you have no notions of day and night any more. They disappear. It’s just like a shadow passing. Then you lose the notions of time.

Well, in order to do that you have to practice and practice and practice.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Q & A with Annamalai Swami

Excerpted from Annamalai Swami: Final Talks

Annamalai Swami: "Bhagavan [Ramana Maharshi] watched me very closely in the years that I served him in the ashram. One time I went to the Mother’s temple where many people were talking about worldly matters.

"Bhagavan called me back, saying, ‘Why should you go to that crowd? Don’t go to crowded places. If you move with the crowd, their vasanas will infect you.’

"Bhagavan always encouraged me to live a solitary life and not mix with other people. That was the path he picked for me. Other people got different advice that was equally good for them. But while he actively discouraged me from socializing, he also discouraged me from sitting quietly and meditating during the years that I was working in the ashram. In this period of my life, if Bhagavan saw me sitting with my eyes closed he would call out to me and give me some work to do.

"On one of these occasions he told me, ‘Don’t sit and meditate. It will be enough if you don’t forget that you are the Self. Keep this in your mind all the time while you are working. This sadhana will be enough for you. The real sadhana is not to forget the Self. It is not sitting quietly with one’s eyes closed. You are always the Self. Just don’t forget it.’

"Bhagavan’s way does not create a war between the mind and the body. He does not make people sit down and fight the mind with closed eyes. Usually, when you sit in meditation, you are struggling to achieve something, fighting to gain control over the mind. Bhagavan did not advise us to engage in this kind of fight. He told us that there is no need to engage in a war against the mind, because mind does not have any real, fundamental existence. This mind, he said, is nothing but a shadow. He advised me to be continuously aware of the Self while I did the ordinary things of everyday life, and in my case, this was enough.

"If you understand the Self and be that Self, everything will appear to you as your own Self. No problems will ever come to you while you have this vision. Because you are all and all is the Self, choices about liking or disliking will not arise. If you put on green-tinted glasses, everything you see will appear to be green. If you adopt the vision of the Self, everything that is seen will be Self and Self alone.

"So these were Bhagavan’s teachings for me: ‘If you want to understand the Self, no formal sadhana is required. You are always the Self. Be aware of the Self while you are working. Convince yourself that you are the Self, and not the body or the mind, and always avoid the thought, "I am not the Self”.

"'Avoid thoughts that limit you, thoughts that make you believe that you are not the Self.'

"I once asked Bhagavan: ‘You are at the top of the hill. You have reached the summit of spiritual life, whereas I am still at the bottom of the hill. Please help me to reach the summit.’

"Bhagavan answered, ‘It will be enough if you give up the thought, "I am at the bottom of the hill”. If you can do this, there will be no difference between us. It is just your thoughts that are convincing you that I am at the top and you are at the bottom. If you can give up this difference, you will be fine.’

"'Don‘t adopt attitudes such as these that automatically assume that you are limited or inferior in any way.'

"On another occasion I asked Bhagavan: ‘Nowadays, many people are crossing big oceans by plane in very short periods of time. I would like Bhagavan to find us a good device, a jnana airplane that can speedily transport us all to moksha.’

"This time Bhagavan replied, ‘We are both travelling in a jnana airplane, but you don’t understand this.’

"In his answers to me Bhagavan would never let me fall into the false belief that I was separate or different from him, or that I was a person with a mind and a body who needed to do something to reach some exalted spiritual state. Whenever I asked him questions that were based on assumptions such as these, he would show me the error that was implicit in the question and gently point me back to the truth, the Self. He would never allow me to entertain wrong ideas."

Question: "What other questions did Swamiji ask during his early days at Ramanasramam?"

Annamalai Swami: "When I first came to Bhagavan I used to ask questions about liberation. What is bondage? What is freedom? And so on.

"Muruganar, who was sitting next to me on one of these occasions, laughed and said, ‘This boy doesn’t even know what liberation is and what bondage is’.

"I think he was amused by the innocence of my enquiries. After I began serving Bhagavan, I listened very attentively to all the philosophical explanations that he gave. I also talked to Chadwick and other devotees about various aspects of Vedanta. I gradually absorbed the teachings until a point came where I could say that I had a good working knowledge of Bhagavan’s teachings and the various other systems that were being discussed in his presence.

"In one of his later songs Muruganar wrote about Bhagavan, ‘You make wise people of those who come to you in an ignorant state. This is the grace of Ramana.’

"I always felt that this was a reference to me.

"It wasn’t easy in the beginning. When I first came to the ashram, I was so forgetful I rarely remembered anything that Bhagavan said. Because I was so forgetful, I used to keep a paper and pencil and write down whatever Bhagavan was saying. I felt that my forgetfulness was a hindrance to absorbing Bhagavan’s teachings, so one day I approached him and said, ‘Bhagavan, my memory is very bad. Could you please bless me with a good one.’ Bhagavan looked into my eyes for a few minutes without saying anything. From that day on my memory became very clear and sharp, so much so, I gave up carrying my pencil and paper."


Monday, July 22, 2019

Lal Ded

I was passionate,
filled with longing,
I searched
far and wide.

But the day
that the Truthful One
found me,
I was at home.

-Lal Ded

More here

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sunrise Practice at the Lakefront Sat 8/17

Saturday, August 17, 5:30-7am

27 Sun Salutations + Sunrise Meditation + Gayatri Mantra + Vegan Treat
Lake Michigan at Lawrence Avenue (4800N)
$20 or pay-what-you-can

We'll meet before 5 a.m. at the lakefront near a grove of trees just north (left) of Lawrence Avenue – where there is free parking and easy access via bicycle and public transport. We'll do sun salutations on grass (not sand) and chant the Gayatri Mantra as the sun rises; then we'll finish our asana practice. All levels; rest as needed. Please bring your own mat and plan to arrive 10 minutes early so you can get settled before we begin at 5am sharp. Please note that there is no bathroom facility at this site. Details and registration here.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Time for Tapas: Make a Commitment for Guru Purnima (Tuesday, 7/16)

excerpted from Kali's book.

“People become depressed when they neglect their spiritual practice.”
–Sri Dharma Mittra

What are you putting off that would deepen your yoga practice?

Is it to clean up your diet? To devote 20 minutes a day to meditation? To stop bed-texting and devote time to reflecting upon the day’s events? To work on a certain pose on a regular basis?

Rather than putting it off indefinitely, consider committing to a new level of practice for a four-month period, starting on Guru Purnima, which this year falls on Tuesday, July 16.

Guru Purnima is a special full moon day in the Hindu month of Ashad in which yogis commit to deepening their practice in order to honor their spiritual preceptor and all spiritual preceptors dating back to the sage Vyasa, who edited the Vedas, Puranas, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Mahabharata.

The guru is considered to be a living example of yoga, a saintly person who shares the practices that can bring the dedicated disciple face-to-face with God. On Guru Purnima, devotees may get up early and spend the day fasting, praying, and singing their guru’s praises. Of course, the best way to honor the guru is to follow his or her teachings and achieve the goal of yoga–self-realization. Indeed, nothing pleases the guru more than seeing the disciple stand on his or her own two feet.

Whether you have a guru or not, Guru Purnima gives yogis a wonderful opportunity to recommit to their spiritual practice, knowing that others around the world are doing the same thing. This collective consciousness is a powerful aid.

On this day, yogis make a commitment called a sankalpa, or a sacred vow. This vow is traditionally kept for a chaturmas, or a four-month period.

A sankalpa made on Guru Purnima is not like a typical New Year’s resolution, where one makes a vague, lofty plan that is followed for a few days and is then jettisoned as old habits reappear. Instead, it is a specific goal with a detailed plan on how to attain it. It is written down, signed, and then given to a spiritual preceptor or teacher.

This practice is part of the yogic observance of tapas, or purifying austerities. Tapas falls into three categories: austerity, worship, and charity. It can include practices to be taken up or habits to be given up.

“That which purifies the impure mind is tapas,” said Swami Sivananda. “That which regenerates the lower animal nature and generates divine nature is tapas. That which cleanses the mind and destroys lust, anger, greed etc., is tapas. That which destroys tamas (dullness) and rajas (impurity) and increases satva (purity) is tapas.”

What you choose to do for Guru Purnima should be something that is reasonable given your particular circumstances. It should also be somewhat challenging. Usually, we have an idea floating around the back of our minds. If that is the case, write it down and visualize how it could be put into action. Remember, it should be appropriate for your particular stage of spiritual practice, and that yoga is, ultimately, about authentically wanting to clean up your act

Once you figure out what your commitment will be, write it down, sign it, and put it into practice–not just for the guru or teacher, but also for your own spiritual unfoldment.

Because ultimately, the real guru is right there, seated in your own heart as your inmost Self.

* * *

Choosing–and Keeping–Your Sankalpa

It is best to write down the vow that you wish to keep for Guru Purnima. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to follow through. Include the steps you will take to accomplish it. Sign it and give it to someone you believe in, or burn it. Then, keep quiet about it and do the work.

If you do not have any ideas, here are a few places to start:

-Give up a bad habit that is not serving you, such as bed-texting, having a glass of wine before bed, eating junk food, gossiping, or spending time with people who bring out the worst in you.

-Spend five minutes a day reading the Yoga Sutras or other scripture.

-Keep a daily spiritual diary, and write down your practices and how well you kept (or didn’t keep) yama, yoga’s ethical foundation. For more ideas, read Swami Radha’s 1996 book, Time To Be Holy.

-Repeat a certain number of rounds of mantra each day, using a mala (a 108-bead rosary used for meditation). “A rosary is a whip to goad the mind towards God,” said Swami Sivananda in his book Japa Yoga (available for free, at japayoga.htm ).

-Develop a home practice. Resolve to do 20 minutes of asana, 12 rounds of pranayama, asana, and/or 20 minutes meditation each day. Or promise yourself that you’ll go to class a certain number of times each week.

-Give up eating meat. If this seems too drastic, consider going vegetarian once a week (for more info, visit or

-If you are not yet ready to deepen your yoga practice, perhaps there is something in your life that needs to be resolved first. Consider diving into that project you’ve been avoiding, such as putting your finances or house in order, or clearing out a practice space in a bedroom or corner of the living room.

-Consider volunteering once a week or month through selfless service or Karma yoga, which should be performed without attachment to results. For example, resist the urge to brag about it or put it on your résumé. For ideas, visit and read Ram Dass’s 1985 book, How Can I Help?

-Take a weekly Internet and smartphone fast, or practice silence once a week. Or vow to eat a meal in silence–no TV, no talking, no texting or reading–once a day or once a week.

-Give away one object you no longer use each day or week. Give the items to charity, or post them on
If you have a tendency to run behind schedule (i.e., you are always late), vow to arrive five minutes early to each of your appointments.

-Put the Yoga Sutras into practice. Read Yogi Cameron Alborzian’s book The One Plan: A Week-by-Week Guide to Restoring Your Natural Health and Happiness. And do the exercises.

Learn more here.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Life of a Yogi Class of 2008

The graduating class of Sri Dharma Mittra's 2008 500-hour teacher training has been busy (that's us, above, in the old shala above the bagel shop at 23rd and 3rd).

Lily Cushman (above) is author of A Little Bit of Mantras.

Jeremy Frindel made the films One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das and The Doctor from India, about Vasant Lad.

Parvati Om is author of The Love Within and runs Love Yoga Shala in Patchogue, Long Island.

Saraswati Om and Durga Om continue to teach at their respective shalas in upstate New York.

Adam Frei is director of Sri Dharma's teacher training program and midwifed his books Yoga Wisdom and the Life of a Yogi Teacher's Manual.

Mark Kan is author of The Complete Yoga Tutor and teaches in London. We'll be using his book in our 200-hour teacher training, which starts October 5.

And last year I released Beyond the Mat: Don't Just Do Yoga - Live It.... and continue to teach full-time in Chicago and beyond. (My book will also be used in the training).

See more LOAY teacher training photos here.

Jai Guru!

Sunday, June 30, 2019


“Hamsa” in Sanskrit is an important motif in Advaita Vedanta, or nondualism. Ham-sa when inverted reads as sa-ham or so-hum, which in Sanskrit means the oneness of human and the divine. 

During pranayama, the inhalation is believed sound like ham, while the exhalation is believed to sound like sa. Thus, a hamsa came to epitomize the prana, the breath of life. It also means "I am That, That I am," referring to the individual's oneness with pure consciousness. The mantra "hamsa" is always with us, in the breath. It is for us to notice it and tune into it: "I am You, You are me." Ham-sa mantra is the mantra of Oneness and surrender.

Hamsa also means "swan" in Sanskrit. In Hindu mythology, it is said that the swan or hamsa can separate milk from water and drink only milk -- just as in Vedanta, we practice Viveka, or discrimination between the Real and unreal, the permanent and the always-changing, the Self and the not-self.

Photo: Detail of  Ramakrishna Mission headquarters at Belur Math, Kolkata - taken on my 2017 India trip 

* * * 

"Realizing your innermost Self, as the Witness of the intellect, and its disturbances and ever maintaining the thought, 'That I am,' shed your identification with the not-Self."

-Vivekachudamani verse 269

"The Self within is to be known as the Witness of the intellect and its thoughts. Having known and understood Its nature, one should move towards it. To step towards the Self is to assert, "I am That" ---(Hamsa); "He alone am I" -- (Soham). Start living as a mere Witness of all the pulsations of the body, mind and intellect (BMI). By this practice, the idea 'I am the Self' becomes rooted in our understanding. At present we have this understanding rooted only in the BMI. This should be renounced and the feeling 'I am the be Self' should be cultivated."

-Swami Chinmayananda's commentary on above

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Self has No Gender, No Pronoun

“In the Grammar of God,
there is no Number but Singular,
no Gender but Common,
no Tense but Present,
and no Person but First.”

(C.S. Baci, read by Ramana Maharshi)

“That which arises as ‘I’ in this body is the mind. If one enquires as to where in the body the thought ‘I’ arises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. Of all thoughts that arise In the mind, the ‘I-thought’ is the first. It is only after the rise of this that other thoughts arise. Without the first person pronoun there will not be the second and third.”

-Ramana Maharshi

Thursday, June 20, 2019


So-hum means “I am that, that I am.”
The sound is in the breath, all the time.
On the inhale, hear the sound “so” in the breath.
On the exhale, hear the sound “hum.”
You can tune into this mantra anytime, anywhere: I, the individual self, am none other than Brahman, the Self that is the substratum of the universe.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Shiva Yajur Mantra

karpūragauraṁ karuṇāvatāraṁ
sansārsāram bhujagendrahāram |
sadāvasantaṁ hṛdayāravinde
bhavaṁ bhavānīsahitaṁ namāmi ||

We used to chant this one at the ashram, and it has been coming to mind lately. It is found in the Yajur Veda.

Meaning of Karpur Gauram Karunavtaram Mantra:

-karpūragauraṁ – The one who is as pure/white as a camphor (Karpur).
-karuṇāvatāraṁ – The personification of compassion.
-sansārsāram – The one who is the essence of the world.
-bhujagendrahāram – The one with the serpent king as his garland.
-sadāvasantaṁ hṛdayāravinde – Always residing in the lotus-like heart. Where, Hridaya aravinde means, ‘in the heart, that is (as pure as) lotus’. Lotus, though born in the muddy waters, is untouched by the mud around it. Similarly, Lord Shiva always (Sada) resides (Vasantham) in the hearts of beings which are not affected by worldly matters.
-bhavaṁ – To the Lord
-bhavānīsahitaṁ namāmi – Accompanied by the Goddess Bhavani (A form of Parvati, Shiva’s consort), I bow

Chanting by Dr. Robert Svoboda.
More info here.

Friday, June 14, 2019


One of the words for the Self is "Satchidananda"

Sat is truth or being
Chit is consciousness, awareness or sentience
Ananda is infinite bliss, or that which is free of sorrow

Satchidananda is also the triple factor of knower, knowing and known
Sat can be thought of as the knower
Chit is the knowing
Ananda is the known

The Self *is* the triple factor.

Ramana Maharshi said, "Even though we usually describe the Reality as Sat, existence, Chit, consciousness, Ananda, bliss; even that is not quite a correct description. It cannot really be described. By this description all that we endeavor to make plain is that it is not asat, not non-existent, that it is not jada, not insentient, and that it is free from all pain."

It is none other than the indisputable awareness of your own being, ever existent, ever free.

Tat tvam asi: thou art That.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Taming the Mind

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.”

—The Bhagavad-Gita

I recently got into an elevator with a baby, two young male toddlers, and their caretakers. Toddler 1 was crying because Toddler 2 had scratched him. “That is not how we act! Apologize to him,” Toddler 2’s caretaker said. He apologized, but Toddler 1 continued to cry; then, however, he stopped for a moment and appeared to be deep in thought. “This is like when SHE scratched me,” he whined, pointing an accusing finger at his baby sister. Then he started sobbing even more.

Watching the drama unfold, I thought, “Wow, this is how it starts.” An event occurs, and the mind has a knee-jerk reaction. Then memory digs up a samskara (mental impression) from the past and presents it to the intellect. The intellect makes a connection: “Oh, this again.” Suddenly, all of the dormant thoughts and emotions from the past are unleashed and applied to the present situation, and the individual starts to overreact. A feeling of contraction occurs in the mind, the ego thickens, and suffering increases.

It was fascinating to see the process play out and to realize how the same thing has happened to me, over and over again, throughout my life. That is, until I started studying yoga philosophy and learned about the mind and how it works.

The mind is not a solid construction but rather “a continuous flow of thought modifications (vrittis),” writes Swami Taponanda in his commentary on the Tattvahodha.

In Jnana yoga, or the path of wisdom, mental function is called antahkarana, or the inner instrument, and it has four parts.

“Just as you have four external limbs—two lower extremities and two upper extremities—so your antahkarana (your inner being) also has four limbs,” wrote Swami Rama in The Essence of Spiritual Life. “Antah means, ‘inside,’ and karana means, ‘that which functions.’ That which functions inside is the real person; that which functions outside is only a projection of the real person. You are a projection of that which you call mind.”

The first part of the inner instrument is manas, or the lower or perceiving mind, which involves the lower mental functions such as self-will, doubt, and craving. Emotion, reactivity, and jumping to conclusions are attributed to manas.

Next is the buddhi (intellect), through which the mind reasons, discriminates, and makes decisions (i.e., the higher mind); it’s the center of knowledge and creative ideas. “At the very subtle stages of meditation, buddhi is discovered to be the function that separated the individual from the true Self in the first place,” says Swami Jnaneshvara on his website,

Ahankara, sometimes called ego, is literally “the I-maker”—the self-asserting principle that identifies with the body, thinks it’s the doer, and is at the root of our sense of separation. “The ego does not mean pride,” Swami Tejomayananda explains. “It is the sense of individuality or the notion of doership…. The mind, intellect and memory (remembered thoughts) keep changing, but the ego is there with every thought. It owns them, as ‘I doubt,’ ‘I remember,’ ‘my ideas,’ ‘my anger,’ etc. It comes into being with each thought. The mind, intellect and memories of each one differs, but the ego remains the same.”

The fourth part, chitta (personal consciousness), can be like a blank screen upon which thoughts and emotions are projected. Yet impressions are also stored there, including samskaras (tendencies or impressions) and smriti (memory). “To meditate on chitta is to cultivate the stance of witnessing the stream of thought patterns rising from chitta and falling back into it,” says Swami Jnaneshvara.

When we have deep-rooted thought patterns or are experiencing strong emotions, it can be helpful to remember the four parts of the antahkarana and observe how they work. “Coordinating the four faculties requires real effort and makes the mind creative, useful, and productive,” wrote Swami Rama.

“Here, the aspirant has delved into the depths of the mind, not merely to meditate on the objects flowing in the stream, but to explore the mechanisms themselves by which the thought process occurs,” explains Swami Jnaneshvara. “It brings one right to the edge of Self-realization.”

Read more here.

And learn how to put these ideas into practice at our Saturday, May 18 Taming the Mind workshop.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Cuckoo for Chikoo

Uma reminded me the other day about chikoo - a sweet, juicy, local fruit that looks like a kiwi crossed with a potato and tastes like a  chocolatey apple — only better.

So I asked for some when we went to the small village market on the way home from the ashram.

“Adha kilo chikoo,” I said. 

The small crowd that had gathered had a good laugh. One of them repeated my words, complete with thick Chicago accent. We all laughed again.

Then I learned it’s pronounced chiKOO, not CHIkoo.

However you say it, it makes a great breakfast salad with grapes and papaya.

Jai Guru

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Big Day, Big City

Yesterday morning the ashram was blissfully quiet. After lunch we decided to go downtown to look for a harmonium for the guest house.  We ended up at Shri Kalyan Music Store, which has 11 rooms of instruments. We found a beautiful, full-size harmonium with a deep, resonant sound for 13,000 rupees (about $190).  Pranava also found a beautiful little red-and-black guitar.  Afterwards we waited and waited for the Uno (rideshare) driver to find us and then made our way back through rush-hour traffic to the guest house in air-conditioned comfort. 

The harmonium is wonderful, and sounds great in the meditation room (and makes it feel complete). This morning I chanted the Mahishasura Mardini Strotram, and tonight we did Ya Devi, the Maha Mantra, Shiva Shambo and more. Wow.

Jai Guru

* * * 

Shortly after arriving home with the harmonium and other instruments, Keval Kumar came to take me to revisit the doctor who saw me after my face-first middle-of-the-night crash. My nose still looks crooked, and I wanted him to have a second look. 

The first time I went to his office, which is on the other side of the city, it was Holi — a holiday — and it took about 30 minutes. This time there was major rush-hour traffic, *and* KK is a cautious driver (Vijay’s rickshaw is in the shop, so he sent Keval Kumar). The drive took about 40 minutes and took us straight through — and past — downtown. 

When I got to the office, it was packed with people waiting to be seen (last time it was empty) - people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Many of them were leaning with anticipation over the reception desk; the rest were seated on rows of benches. The TV was playing the previous day’s cricket match (I already knew that Chennai was going to beat the Rajasthan Royals — who wear beautiful pink uniforms).  I pushed my way to the reception desk and explained that I had an appointment. The assistant (all the assistants were young, good-looking men) looked at me blankly, so I showed him my WhatsApp communication with the doctor. He asked my name. I gave it to him and he wrote it on his appointment sheet. “Male or female?” He asked.  
Then “250 rupees” (less than $3.50) and “Have a seat.”

I found a spot next to a lady in traditional Rajasthani dress and spent the next hour watching cricket and the crowd come and go. Finally my name was called. 

The doctor did a quick exame of my nose, put some long metal rods up either side. “Septum is OK, nose is fine, no prescription and no treatment required.”

“Your nose is fine,” he said to me. “You are thinking about it too much. Stop thinking about it.”

Jai Guru

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Night and Day


The ashram has been blissfully quiet for a couple of days; very few people moving in and out, very few phone calls, and more time sitting quietly with Gurudev.

When we arrived today the shoe cubbies outside were nearly full. Inside, there was a large group conducting a class or discussion on the side, plus the spots near Gurudev were all full of people. After washing our hands, Shambho and I made our way upstairs to the big room, or what I call the Devi Temple, which has many images of the Devi (goddess) on the alter - including a picture of Dakshineshwar Kali with images of Ramakrisha and (his wife) Sarada Devi below. There are also pictures of saints and deities in this room, as well as Pahadi Baba. It has a clean, quiet energy  and feels far away from the hustle and bustle of downstairs, and we spent a couple of sessions there before being invited to lunch (rice, dal, subji/vegetable, chapatti and a deep-fried speciality-prasad, just for today).


When Shambo and I walk to 1.5 kilometers the ashram, we are usually bombarded by rickshaws seeking our business (we are in a tourist area, where foreigners are usually keen to see the sights). They make a beeline straight for us (it feels a lot like being a target in a video game, to see these three-wheelers careening straight towards you). The driver usually gestures and insists we get inside and suggests we go to Amer Fort or another popular tourist destination. We usually say decline (although in the intense heat we’ve been occasionally saying yes; by negotiating, we’ve managed to get the fee reduced from 150 rupees to just 20.... although our goal is 10). Sometimes locals will engage us in conversation, or try to get us to buy coconuts or sugar cane juice or dress up in traditional Rajasthani clothes for a photo. Others (usually young men) yell “HELLO” to us as they pass by on their two-wheelers 

Pranava decided to go to the ashram with us after he arrived on Saturday. No one bothered us once during the entire walk. He is a 6’5” South Indian from Mumbai. 


Once day Shambo and I decided to have lunch at Sree Suraj Restaurant, which had been recommended to us. We were ushered way, way, way into the bowels of the restaurant by a waiter who spoke English and encouraged us to eat in the AC room (which involves a 30-rupee per meal surcharge).  We said no and took a table in the corner, under the fan. The waiter recommended the Special Thali (meal) as being the least spicy, so we each ordered that and fresh lime soda - an old favorite from my time in Mysore. The meal came, and we ate. Shambo had some bread and pulao (rice) left and we asked them to pack it. Nothing happened. We asked for chai and were told “No — the restaurant is too busy.” We asked again to have the food packed. Nothing. The bill came and was for 590 rupees. “Pay 700” our waiter told us. Not understanding, but wanting change, I handed him a 2000-rupee note. He brought it and the bill to the cashier/manager and returned with change... for 590 rupees and stood there staring at me, waiting for his tip. “No tip until packing” I said, pointing to the leftovers. “You pack, I tip.” He left. I put the bread in my bag, and we got up. I walked around with a 50-rupee note, looking to give it to him. Finally a manager asked me if I was looking for my waiter, and offered to give him the tip. 

Last week there was a medical camp (free medical care) at the school next to the ashram, which meant the ashram had to feed lunch to over 100 doctors.  So we returned to Suraj for lunch. This time a manger ushered us to a front table, and explained that the “Regular Thali” was also not spicy. So we got a special and a regular, plus the fresh lime soda.  While we were eating, he asked us how the meal was (so good that Shambo almost finished his). When we were finished, he asked if we wanted chai or anything else (we didn’t). Then he gave us a bill for the proper amount and bid us a fond farewell when we left.

Jai Guru!