Monday, June 25, 2012

Let Wisdom Ride the Swan
Mayumi Oda

I’ve been a fan of  Buddhist artist Mayumi Oda for years and was delighted to discover the above painting. I suspect it’s at least partly inspired by the Hindu goddess Saraswati.  And since I drew parallels between Patanjali III and Saraswati at class last week, I thought it fitting to include this image with today’s  post. We’re staying with Patanjali III, 1-3, awhile longer. Here they are in phonetic Sanskrit with English translation. If you’d like a PDF of the class handout with correctly transliterated Sanskrit, please email me:

Desha bandash cittasya dhaaranaa 
Concentration locks consciousness on a single area.

Tatra pratyaya ekataanataa dhyaanam
In meditative absorption, the entire perceptual flow is aligned with that object.

Tadeva artha maatra nirbhaasam svaruupa shunyam iva samaadi
When only the essential nature of the object shines forth, as if formless, integration has arisen.

Last week’s (6/18) talk runs 16 minutes.

I opened with this quote from Lawrence Durrell: “It is not meaning that we need but sight.” He could have been talking about III,3:  

Tadeva artha maatra nirbhaasam svaruupa shunyam iva samaadi
When only the essential nature of the object shines forth, as if formless, integration has arisen.

When only the essential nature of the object shines forth, then, sight becomes possible. The sight that moves us beyond meaning.  Meaning can only take us so far. When we seek it as the goal, we’re attempting to order the Mystery.  And that is never gonna happen. What we want is sight. Sight breaks everything open. And in that opening, we see.

I highly recommend chanting these three sutras. And while you’re chanting, use your focus to merge with the sound. Let meaning dissolve.  And see what happens…

Here’s a clip of last week’s chanting:

And the poems: I’m reveling in Mary Oliver’s new collection, Swan. Some critique her work as simplistic. If one seeks meaning, perhaps it is. If it’s sight however, it’s shining forth, nirbhaasa, from every word.

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns are destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes,
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the  instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty.  Joy is not made to be a crumb.


Finally, here’s an audio clip of the above poem and closing thoughts for the evening:

Monday, June 18, 2012

We’re back to Patanjali, making our way through Book 3, The Extraordinary Powers [Vibhuti Pada] of the Yoga-Sutra. This pada concerns itself with the final three limbs of  classical Yoga: concentration [dharana], meditation [dhyana], and integration [samdhi] – and devotes a major portion of the text to the powers [siddhi] that accrue as meditation stabilizes into pure awareness.  While acquiring siddhis is a motivating force for many seekers, the harsh truth is the pursuit of power is a slippery slope. The challenge – what some would call the test – is to touch those siddhis and keep on walking. Although vibhuti is often translated as “extraordinary” or “supernatural powers,” I prefer the literal meaning: “that which extends far.”  More on that in the dharma talk excerpted below.

Here are the sutras we read last week:

III, 1
Concentration locks consciousness on a single area

III, 2
In meditative absorption, the entire perceptual flow is aligned with that object

III, 3
When only the essential nature of the object shines forth, as if formless, integration has arisen.

Here’s an excerpt from my talk:

Here’s a clip of chanting the new sutras:

Here’s the dharana I gave before meditation:


Finally,  here are the Mary Oliver poems I read at class. This first one strikes me as a near perfect articulation of vibhuti….. The second, well read it and see what you think. From where I sit, it’s all about living the non-dual life, what some circles refer to sahaj samadhi, samadhi with open eyes!!!


I wanted to speak at length about
the happiness of my body and the
delight of my mind for it was
April, night, a
full moon and —

but something in myself or maybe
from somewhere other said: not too
many words, please, in the
muddy shallows the

frogs are singing.


For Example

Okay, the broken gull let me lift it
from the sand.
Let me fumble it into a box, with the
lid open.
Okay, I put the box into my car and started
up the highway
to the place where sometimes, sometimes not,
such things can be mended.

The gull at first was quiet.
How everything turns out one way or another, I
won’t call it good or bad, just
one way or another.

Then the gull lurched from the box and onto
the back of the front seat and
punched me.
Okay, a little blood slid down.

But we all know, don’t we, how sometimes
things have to feel anger, so as not
to be defeated?

I love this world, even in its hard places.
A bird too must love this world,
even in its hard places.
So, even if the effort may come to nothing,
you have to do something.

It was, generally speaking, a perfectly beautiful
summer morning.
The gull beat the air with its good wing.
I kept my eyes on the road.