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






SUNRISE PRACTICE AT THE LAKE
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 dlshq.org/teachings/ 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 meatfreemondays.com or vrg.org).

-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 volunteermatch.org 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 freecycle.org.
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

Ham-sa






“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





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

Satchidananda





One of the words for the Self is "Satchidananda"
Sat-chid-ananda

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, swamij.com.

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






I.


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).


II.

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. 


III.

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!












Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Few Photos



The WiFi is working!

Below:
Krishna-Radha temple grounds
Front of ashram
Meditation dome on terrace of Sharanam House (Day 1 in Jaipur)


Friday, March 29, 2019

Stranded at the Gate’




Hanuman Pt. III



We finally got to the exit, which was largely deserted. It was hot!


We saw a couple of rickshaws standing around, but no sign of Vijay. I thought I’d asked him to meet us at this entrance, but apparently I had not. 


I tried texting him via WhatsApp, but there was no response. 


Not sure what to do, I started asking the other rickshaw drivers if they could take us to Jal Mahal (the famous Water Palace, near our hotel). The response was.... Nothing. No sign of recognition. Nada. Apparently my pronunciation is off. It was getting hotter, there were a lot of flies,and I was getting a little concerned (and more than ready to go home).


I figured I’d call Vijay via WhatsApp. I placed the call, but nothing happened.  Then I noticed “No Service” on the upper left of the phone.*


Next, I started asking devotees leaving the temple grounds if they spoke English as they streamed past. Nada.


A temple attendant in a white dhoti saw this and came over. He asked me in English if he could help. I explained I was trying to call our rickshaw driver, who was at the other gate. “But phone is not working.” He pulled out his mobile and offered to place the call for me.


Suddenly, my phone started to work, and Vijay picked up. He said he’d come in 20 minutes.


We went back inside the temple grounds, used the bathroom, and took a seat on a shady bench under a tree. Then we shared some water and enjoyed the fact of our own existence.


Eighteen minutes later we heard the distinctive “tuk-tuk” sound of the rickshaw. We heard Vijay-the-rickshaw-deejay before we saw him. We got in and marveled at his navigation skills as he wove through a herd of goats and a herd of cows that were taking up the entire road. His skill and patience are incredible (I’ve never seen him blow a red light even though every other driver is doing so. Or lose his cool when he is cut off, etc... or use his horn unless absolutely necessary).


On the way home, I asked him to stop to get fruit. He wouldn’t let us get out of the rickshaw (that way the prices would be fair) and used his own money to get what we wanted. 


When it came time to pay, we handed him a large wad of rupees.


He gave some back.


“That is too much,” he said.



Gate’ Gate’ Paragate’


Jai Guru!




——-



*In general, my new TMobile plan — actually Shambo’s TMobile plan, which he put me on the day before I left, so far has been great here. Unlimited texting and data (albeit only 3G) and 25 cents per minute for calls.... all for no addition to the regular monthly fee. This is compared to my old service,AT&T, which is an extra 60/month (on top of your regular bill) for limited data and 35 cents per minute for calls in India. Jai Guru!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Extortion at the Altar


Hanuman Pt. II



Vijay dropped us at the base of Hanuman Hill.  There were already other people making their way up the cobblestone path to the top of the hill.  There were also lots of animals — mainly monkeys and goats. A man who looked like Shiva, dressed entirely in red, was feeding the animals from a packet of biscuits. He handed the packet to us and gestured that we should take it and also feed the animals - which we did. He asked for nothing in return. 


The air was fresh, and the walk was stunningly beautiful,  with many breathtaking views of Jaipur nestled in a valley between a couple of mountain ranges. 


As promised, there were many monkeys all the way up the hill.  They are both adorable and menacing; we tried to keep our distance. One of them attacked a child who was in front of us and got too close. He screamed, and  his father scooped him up and carried him. 


The monkeys really have human qualities (or is it that we humans have monkey qualities?). Their wizened faces express emotions; plus  we saw them grooming each other, fighting, playing, begging for food and — best of all - swimming in the water holy tank next to a Shiva temple. An older one sat on the platform above, dunking their heads under water as they swam by.  


At the top of the hill we came to a temple dedicated to Surya, the sun, and his wife, Renuka (Hanuman worships Lord Ram, who is said to be the king of the solar race). A woman ushered us inside, and told us about the temple and how her family lives there and tends it. After darshan, she gave us holy water and marked our foreheads with a Tilak. Then we each placed 10 rupee notes on the altar. But she shook her head and told us it wasn’t enough and that we should each leave 100 because many people come and only leave 10 rupees. Not wanting to cause trouble (or be cursed by a Brahmin), we did so. 


The cobblestone path then turned downward. We were ushered into a temple for Lord Shiva (some say Hanuman is an incarnation of Shiva).  After darshan we were each given a vessel of water to pour over the deities (this is sometimes called abishek) while the priest (and I) chanted the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra and “Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu...” (there was also a murthi of Dattatreya, who represents Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).  He tied a string on our wrists and ushered us into a second room with an even more sacred linga. Then he motioned to the offering plate. Again what we left wasn’t enough and we felt obliged to up the ante. On the way out there was a man dressed in traditional Rajasathani white with a red turban, sitting in front of some puja items (a priest?). He also placed a tilak on us and we each left a 100 note on his plate.


Finally we were ushered into a Hanuman temple, where we were shown the deity and given holy water. Then the priest (?) placed  Vaishnavite markings on our forehead (similar to Hari Krishna tilak) and showed us an eternal flame that has been going nonstop for 500 years. Then he ushered us into a smaller, more special temple, where he wanted to do another puja. No thank you, we said. It felt a little eerie. He motioned to the offering plate. We each put down 500. But it wasn’t enough. He wanted 1000 each and kept repeating “puja, puja!” And violently waving a sacred feather brush  over our heads.  We kept retreating. “Puja puja!” He kept repeating, waving harder and closer to our heads. Somehow we got away with 1500 for the both of us.


We got out of the temple as quickly as we could, emerging into the hot sun, and made our way to the exit.


But our rickshaw driver was nowhere to be found.


To be continued.....


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Jai Shri Hanuman

The other day the idea came to me to visit the famous Hanuman temple here. I wanted to go today, because Hanuman’s day is Tuesday. And I wanted to go early so we missed the heat, the pollution and the crowds. 

My primary thought was, “If I ever do a retreat here with students, I’ll know whether or not to recommend the temple.”

We arranged to have Vijay pick us up at 6am. He arrived exactly on time.

“Which Hanuman temple?” He asked.

“Hanuman-ji.”

He brought us downtown to a small temple that was closed.  (The early-morning drive made me nostalgic for all of those long walks, bike rides, and scooter rides to the shala in Mysore).

“Which Hanuman temple?” He asked again.

“Kale Hanuman-ji”

He brought us to a larger temple. It still didn’t look like the right one, but we bought some prasad (sweets, a flower garland and incense) to offfer the deity and went inside; there was a huge Hanuman and some priests (?) dressed in yellow. We handed them the prasad, and they garlanded the murthi and gave us some Prasad and garlands that we’re already there (he actually put the garlands on us). Like the other devotees, we put a 10-rupee note on the plate. Then we sat for awhile in the temple; it had a very high vibration.

When we came out I looked on my phone and showed the listing for “the monkey temple” to Vijay. 

To be continued.....


Monday, March 25, 2019

Shopping in the Dark



There was so much work going on at the Ashram yesterday evening (and there were so many fumes) that we left and sat for a little while at the nearby Shiva temple that was built around an ancient wishing tree. Then we headed across the street to a large Krishna-Radha temple complex. The main temple has a wonderful vibration.  The views from the complex are breathtaking (you can see for yourself on Facebook); at one point we even saw a peacock perched atop one of the minarets.


Jai Guru!



  • * * 


There was a simple joy to shopping in Mysore, whether you were looking for a pen, a coil-type (small plug-in water heater), a salwaar kameez, a rug made by inmates at the local prison, or a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita.  You always met new people, or made new friends — each and every time, you connected as humans as part of the transaction. It did the heart good.


Maybe it’s the heat - or the fact that we’re in “the north” but shopping in Jaipur has been a largely sterile, aggressive, and joyless experience.  Getting fruit requires a ride in a rickshaw and having the driver do the negotiations;  buying a dress requires trips to several shops where you are shown many beautiful things (except what you are looking for) and leaving emptyhanded, and so on. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we’re in a tourist area, I don’t know....Seemingly simple things just seem harder here (don’t get me started on the WiFi or the local SIM card that was supposed to arrive on Saturday).


So on the way home yesterday we walked down a road I’ve been curious about — and found a lively little mini-village of shops and vendors selling fruit and vegetables. The normalcy of it reminded me of Mysore. We chose a vendor and I started filling up a bag with big, fat green beans and the local carrots, which have a rough skin and are reddish in color (it is difficult NOT to eat in season here).  We also got some grapes to leave at Gurdev’s feet.  In both cases, the prices were fair.  We were thrilled to find a place we could go on foot, and get the basic things we need for a fair price - and have an experience that was not unpleasant. 


We got home, excited to cook our carrots and green beans for supper.


But then I saw what we’d bought up close, under the light,  and realized our mistake.


Instead of green beans, we’d bought pea pods and hot peppers — which look kind of like green beans in the dark.


Jai Guru!



  • * *



Shanti Mantra - Asato Ma Sadgamaya


Om Asato Ma Sadgamaya 

Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya 

Mrtyorma Amrtam Gamaya

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

 


Lead me from the unreal to the real.

Lead me from darkness to light. 

Lead me from death to immortality. 

Om Peace Peace Peace.