Monday, July 16, 2012

We’re continuing our focus on Patanjali Book III, but adding Laksmi Work to the mix. Something about summer, the abundance of greenery, produce, heat and humidity has me contemplating the force of Laksmi in all its complexity, wonder, and power… Here are the sutras we read this evening:
III,6. Perfect discipline is mastered in stages.
III, 7. These three components – concentration, absorption, and integration – are more interiorized than the preceding five.
III, 8. Even these three are external to integration that bears no seeds.
III, 9. The transformation towards total stillness occurs as new latent impressions fostering cessation arise to prevent
the activation of distractive stored one, and moments of stillness begin to permeate consciousness.
III, 10. These latent impressions help consciousness flow from one tranquil moment to the next.
III, 11. Consciousness is transformed toward integration as distractions dwindle and focus arises.
III, 12. In other words, consciousness is transformed toward focus as continuity develops between arising and
subsiding perceptions.
Readers of this blog who attend class with some regularity, or are conversant with these teachings, will find the above sutras fairly straightforward. If, on the other hand, this language is less than familiar, it may seem undecipherable. So let me say that Patanjali is breaking the movement of mind and breath into carefully delineated categories. And in these sutras, he’s giving us a clue about how to live with an internal sense of freedom and ease. Otherwise known as mastery…
Which is how the Laksmi Work comes into my mind…

I’ll be weaving these two, Patanjali Book III and the Laksmi Work together over the next few weeks. For now I want to get this week’s dharma talk, readings, and chanting clips posted, so will keep this brief.

Here’s a clip of this week’s chanting the yoga sutras:

This is a clip of my dharma talk. It runs long, around 27 minutes.  No big surprise as we read so many sutras this evening. I was particularly focused on III, 8, where Patanjali brings in the notion of seeds of karma. But along with that, this talk, while free-wheeling as my talks often are, begins to tie together threads of Patanjali Book III and the Laksmi Work:
Here are the poems, from Rumi and Mary Oliver, that I read at the close of my talk:
Two from Rumi:

There’s a hidden sweetness
in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes
out of the fire. The fog clears, and a new energy
makes you run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it
to some illusion and lose your power.
But even if you’ve lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.


Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.

This is a clip of chanting the mantra Om Namah Shivaya:
This is a clip of the closing meditation:

Monday, July 9, 2012

This week’s class focused on one sutra. I thought the dawning of wisdom deserved an evening unto itself.

III, 5
Once the perfect discipline of consciousness is mastered,
wisdom dawns.
Just to reiterate, Patanjali’s Book III concerns itself with the final three limbs of classical yoga:  concentration (dharana), meditation/absorption (dhyana) and integration (samadhi). These three limbs form the perfect discipline of consciousness, aka samyama, referred to in the above sutra.
If you imagine the mind/body system as myriad layers of consciousness, some clear, some dense, some hard, some soft, some open, some closed, some sticky, some slippery — you get where I’m going with this — you can see why it’s so hard to get the whole mess integrated. All this to say the practice of samyama  does not come easily. We have to work at it. The mind is a slippery instrument, more often attuned to the kleshas, than its innate wisdom. [Should you want to review the kleshas, go to the May 2011 archive]. Yet wisdom, like the sun, is always blazing. We may be oblivious to its light. That doesn’t mean it’s not here. Which is why taking a moment to turn within can evoke a profound sense of clarity, calm, insight, or wisdom. Of course, Patanjali’s technology for yoking the mind/body system is designed so those moments of clarity, calm, insight, and wisdom stretch into the norm.
This week’s dharma talk attempts to unpack some of the above:
For reasons that will become clear over the next few weeks, I’m feeling a connection between the teachings and practices I’ve come to call the Laksmi Work and our current immersion in Patanjali Book III. More on that as it unfolds. For now, suffice to say we opened class chanting the Laksmi-Murti-Mantra combined with the Dhumavati Bija. I’ll write these mantras out for those unfamiliar with them and also include a clip of the actual chanting:
Here are the mantras:
Here’s an audio clip of the chanting:
Contemplating wisdom inspired me to go down the rabbit hole of parallel teachings:
From the Laksmi Tantra:
I am recognized by the wise as the bliss and tranquility inherent in each state of being. Though that is my true nature, [the individual] does not experience me spontaneously. However, after receiving a mere particle of my anugrahashakti [grace], she discovers me instantaneously…Then after propitiating me by various means [i.e. samyama], the jiva [individual soul] washes away all the kleshas and blows away the dust of impressions; whereby the jiva that has already severed its fetters through meditation, fuses with true knowledge [aka wisdom] and attains me, who am Laksmi and whose nature is supreme bliss.
From the Jneshwari:

 What is action? What is inaction? Thus, even the wise are confused in this matter. This action, I shall explain to you, having known which, you shall be released from evil [i.e. the lack of wisdom].

 One must know the nature of action, the nature of wrong action, and also the nature of inaction. The way of action is profound.

 He who perceives inaction in action, and action is inaction is wise among men; he is is a yogi and performs all actions.

 Such a person seems like other people, but he is not affected by human nature like the sun which cannot be drowned in water.

 He sees the world without seeing it, does everything without doing it, and enjoys all pleasures without being involved in them.

 Though he is seated in one place, he travels everywhere, for even while in the body he has become the universe.

From the Ashtavakra Gita:

The wise man knows the Self,
And he plays the game of life.
But the fool lives in the world
Like a beast of burden.

The true seeker feels no elation,
Even in that exalted state
Which Indra and all the gods
Unhappily long for.

He understands the nature of things.
His heart is not smudged
By right or wrong,
As the sky is not smudged by smoke.

He is pure of heart,
He knows the whole world is only the Self…

Of the four kinds of being…
Only the wise man is strong enough
To give up desire and aversion.

From Lalleshwari , tr. by Coleman Barks

The soul, like the moon,
is new, and always new again.

And I have seen the ocean
continuously creating.

Since I scoured my mind
and my body, I too, Lalla,
am new, each moment, new.

My teacher told me one thing,
Live in the soul.

When that was so,
I began to go naked,
and dance.

Trying to be Thoughtful in the First Brights of Dawn
-Mary Oliver

I am thinking, or trying to think, about all the
imponderables for which we have
no answers, yet endless interest all the
range of our lives, and it’s

good for the head no doubt to undertake such
meditation; Mystery, after all,
is God’s other name, and deserves our

considerations surely. But, but —
excuse me now, please; it’s morning, heavenly bright,
and my irrepressible heart begs me to hurry on
into the next exquisite moment.

[w/ humble apologies to MO for this blog template’s refusal to format her poem as written…] 

Sunday, July 8, 2012, Part II

Here are notes from July 2, last week’s class. The sutra for the evening was:

III, 4
Concentration, absorption, and integration regarding a single object
compose the perfect discipline of consciousness.
For as long as Monday Night Class has gathered in Princeton, which is well over ten years now, we’ve chanted the mantra Om Namah Shivaya as a vehicle for meditation. In the spirit of this sutra however, I thought it would be interesting to work with the mantra, less as a vehicle, more as that single object Patanjali is referring to. For a group of chanting  bhaktas, this is a more difficult practice. And in that way I think, very fruitful.
Here’s my dharma talk for this class:
 And here are the parallel readings. The first is from Thomas Byrom’s gorgeous translation of the Ashtavakra Gita, a text that pulsates with the life force of samadhi:

You are pure.
Nothing touches you.
What is there to renounce?
Let it all go,
The body and the mind.
Let yourself dissolve.

Like bubbles in the sea,
All the worlds arise in you.
Know you are the Self.
Know you are one.
Let yourself dissolve.

You see the world.
But like the snake in the rope,
It is not really there.
You are pure.
Let yourself dissolve.

You are one and the same
In joy and sorrow,
Hope and despair,
Life and death.
You are already fulfilled.
Let yourself dissolve.

And as often happens, I give the final word to Mary Oliver, whose poetry pulsates with the life force of waking up:

The Poet is Told to Fill Up More Pages
Mary Oliver

But, where are the words?
Not in my pocket.
Not in the refrigerator.
Not in my savings account.
So I sit, harassed, with my notebook.
It’s a joke, really, and not a good one.
For fun I try a few commands myself.
I say to the rain, stop raining.
I say to the sun, that isn’t anywhere nearby,
Come back, and come fast.

Nothing happens.
So this is all I can give you,
not being the maker of what I do,
but only the one that holds the pencil.

Make of it what you will.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I’m a couple of weeks behind here, posting notes from June 25th. That class continued our focus on Patanjali III, 1-3. I think one could stay with these sutras for a long time and only begin to penetrate the depth of the teaching. They do, after all, articulate the final limbs of classical Yoga: concentration, meditation, and samadhi. It’s really all here in these three.

For many years, I was caught up in a notion of samadhi as the final limb of Yoga, and as that “final limb,” a mostly unattainable state. We might have moments, even hours, in samadhi, but sooner or later, consciousness would shift back into something more normal and the elusive samadhi would once again be just outside our grasp.

It’s only now, studying Chip Hartranft’s brilliant version of the Yoga-Sutra, that I begin to understand samadhi, not as a state, but as a practice, not as a noun, but as a verb. He chooses to translate the word samadhi as “integration.” And integration is something we can practice every moment. Integration is waking up to the truth of who and what we are. When we wake up in the moment, when we re-member ourself to the Self, we  integrate into integration.

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

Yes, when only the essential nature of the object (the Self) shines forth, integration has arisen. Conversely, practicing integration, re-membering ourSelf, creates the fertile ground wherein the essential nature of the object, aka our essential nature, can shine forth. When the mind breaks open, when we shift into the shining forth, nirbhaasam,  integration, aka samadhi is happening. And that possibility is available to us in any moment. It’s not something to strive for or hope to attain. It’s another form of breathing.

Here’s my dharma talk on this topic:

Here’s the dharana I gave:

And this is a very short clip on the practice of swadhaya (concentration) before chanting: