October 15, 2017: Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be liberated?

NicholasRoerich

OCTOBER 2, 2017

Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame. 

Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.

This week’s verse from the Tao Te Ching offers an exquisite teaching on the ripple effects of blame. If you pay attention to your own blame response, you’ll discover a many-headed demon masquerading as self-righteousness and truth. Insidious really. And hiding in the unconscious.

The blame response goes deep. And its ripple effect always ends in pain. It often starts with expectation. Which then morphs into blame. Blaming gives rise to shame, hurt, and anger. This separates the blamer and the blamed, creating a sense of isolation and alienation so that connection and the possibility of empathy are destroyed. And since underneath the dramas of daily life, a sense of connection and empathy are what we most long for, one can see how the blame project takes us nowhere we really want to go.

And then of course, there is self-blame. Which is often at the bottom of the whole mess. When we really examine our blaming response, we discover it is fueled by projection. I blame you for what I refuse to see in myself. My own laziness, indulgence, self-absorption, bad habits, arrogance, bullying, forgetfulness, etc.

79.
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.

Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.

The answer of course is simple: fulfill our obligations, correct our own mistakes, do what we need to do and demand nothing of others. This doesn’t mean we roll over and play dead. This verse is telling us to wake up, to pay attention, to live in the space beyond right and wrong. Do we want to be right? Or do we want to be liberated…

Here’s my dharma talk from 10.2:

 

Here are the two poems I read.
From Mary Oliver’s, A Thousand Mornings.

POET OF THE ONE WORLD

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to 

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

GOOD-BYE FOX

He was lying under a tree, licking up the shade.
Hello again, Fox, I said. 

And hello to you too, said Fox, looking up and
not bounding away. 

You’re not running away? I said. 

Well, I’ve heard of your conversations about us. News
travels even among foxes, as you might know or not know.

What conversations do you mean? 

Some lady said to you, “The hunt is good for the fox.”
And you said, “Which fox?”

Yes, I remember. She was huffed.

So you’re okay in my book. 

Your book! That was in my book, that’s the difference
between us.

Yes, I agree. You fuss over life with your clever
words, mulling and chewing on its meaning while
we just live it.

Oh! 

Could anyone figure it out, to a finality. So
why spend so much time trying. You fuss, we live.

And he stood, slowly, for he was old now, and
ambled away.

We chanted the Gayatri Mantra to open this class. There’s no audio of the chanting, but here’s the short dharana I gave on the mantra.

 

Finally, class chanting of Om Namah Shivaya with closing dharana.

October 5, 2017: When we practice contentment, we experience that which we truly are…

Abstract shiva

October 2, 2017

While a literal reading of this week’s verse from the Tao Te Ching offers a potent packet of wisdom, I find it more interesting to read with the awareness that the “country” is our own individual self and “wise governance” comes when we live from and of the Self…

Tao Te Ching
Verse 80

If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing
labor-saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs
barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.

I found this verse such a beautiful evocation of the yogic practice of contentment, aka santosha, I also brought in Edwin Bryant, Chip Hartranft and Mukunda Stiles’ versions of Patanjali-Yoga-Sutra, II:42. I didn’t have time to read EB in class but will include that here.

II, 42.

Contentment brings unsurpassed joy.   (CH)

From contentment one gains supreme happiness.   (MS)

From contentment, the highest happiness is attained.   (EB)

[santoshad anuttamaha sukha-laabhaha]

 

Here’s this week’s dharma talk which unpacks all of the above. Ordinarily I would write more but am feeling under the weather so will let my dharma talk do the talking for this post…

 

I’ll leave the final word to Mary Oliver…

 

TODAY

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. 

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance. 

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple. 

VARANASI

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,
where fires were still smoldering,
and gazed with our Western minds, into the Ganges.
A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;
she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it
over her body, slowly and many times,
as if until there came some moment
of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.
Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her
and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,
no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,
for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker
of the world, and this is his river.
I can’t say much more, except that it all happened
in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt
like the bliss of a certainty and a life lived
in accordance with that certainty.
I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back
to America.
Pray God I remember this.

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings

And close with class chanting of Om Namah Shivaya and final dharana...

August 5, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump, Part II

NicholasRoerich
JUNE 26, 2017: BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #17
CHAPTER SIX: THE YOGA OF MEDITATION

“When he sees all beings are equal
in suffering or in joy
because they are like himself,
that man has grown perfect in yoga. [6.32]

This will be the final post re Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump. The above-quoted verse truly encapsulates the wisdom of Chapter Six, the wisdom, in fact, of all the wisdom traditions. When we see all beings as equal in suffering or in joy because they are like ourselves, we have become fully human… 

It’s over a month since our last June class. And what a month in the Age of Trump. With each passing day our ill-equipped president becomes more like the Game of Thrones‘ Mad King. How this all plays out is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, good to do whatever we can to help our political leaders understand how important it is to make policy from the awareness that all beings are equal in suffering and in joy, because they are like ourselves…

And speaking of politics, a small aside:

I recently saw Michael Moore’s new Broadway show, The Terms of My Surrender.  It’s a wonderful piece of political theater that along with being tremendously entertaining, demolishes the notion that one person’s action can’t make a difference. We may not all have his courage and fortitude. On the other hand, the story he tells about a librarian from Englewood, NJ is an astonishing example of what one individual can do…

 

Here’s my dharma talk from June 26. Which will more than likely be my final talk on the Bhagavad Gita. Enjoy…

 

Here are the poems. The first is from Mary Oliver, Blue Horses
The second is from Robert Bly’s versions of Kabir.

1.
FORGIVE ME

Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.
It’s what I sense in the mud and the roots of the
trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with
its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and
makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some
spirit, some small god, who abides there. 

If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing
continuously.
I’m not, though I pause wherever I feel this
holiness, which is why I’m often so late coming
back from wherever I went.

Forgive me.

2.
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!

Think…and think…while you are alive.

What you call “salvations” belongs to the time before
death.

If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after? 

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten—
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will end up with an apartment in the City
of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will have the face of satisfied desire. 

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that
does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

I also re-read some favorite lines from Stephen Mitchell’s Introduction to the Gita.

The Gita is usually thought of as a great philosophical poem. It is that, of course. It is also an instruction manual for spiritual practice and a guide to peace of heart. But essentially, it is, as the title implies, a love song to God. However powerful its thinking, its intention is not to be a treatise but a psalm. The Gita is a love song to reality, a hymn in praise of everything excellent and beautiful and brave. It is a love song to both the darkness and the light, to our own true Self in the depths of being, the core from which all the glories and horrors of the universe unfold…..

The healthiest way to begin reading and absorbing a text like the Bhagavad Gita is to understand that ultimately it has nothing to teach. Everything essential that it points to—what we call wisdom or radiance or peace—is already present inside us. Once we have practiced meditation sincerely and seen layer after layer of the inauthentic fall away, we come to a place where dualities such as sacred and profane, spiritual and unspiritual, fall away as well…

In that place, God is the ground we walk on, the food we eat, and the gratitude we express to no one in particular, as natural as breathing.

And here are audio clips of chanting. The first two clips each end with a dharana. The great Daniel Johnson was at this class so you’ll hear his superb tabla accompanying the chanting. A small caveat to new visitors to this blog. These are very basic low tech recordings. Please listen with gentle ears…

Opening Mantras and Closing Dharana

Om Namah Shivaya with a closing dharana

Sri Krsna Chaitana 

This quote from my May 22 dharma talk seems a perfect ending to this teaching cycle of Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump. 

Let all these teachings from the Gita keep entering into you and awaken what you already know. That’s all the Gita is doing. It’s telling us what we already know when we really stop to listen. Rest in your own experience. Rest in the experience of the Self, of your own presence, of that in you which sees, of that in you which knows, of that in you which has always been looking out through your eyes, listening through your ears. If the mind wanders, remind it to rest in the Self, which is the source of the mind. Allow your mind to dissolve into this infinite presence so very alive within us. This is all we need to do.

July 20, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump, Part I

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JUNE 19, 2017: BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #16
CHAPTER SIX: THE YOGA OF MEDITATION
“ADMIRING IS EASY, BUT AFFINITY, THAT DOES TAKE SOME TIME.”

When he sees all beings are equal
in suffering or in joy
because they are like himself,
that man has grown perfect in yoga. [6.32]

I was out walking the other day when I encountered a snake and a stick. Lying just so on the ground. They reminded me of the old Vedanta teaching story about the snake and the rope. This was a snake and a stick but you get the point.  A snake is a snake. A rope is a rope. A stick is a stick. We need to see life as it is.

Monday Night Class broke for the summer at the end of June. I’ll post June 19 here. June 26 will follow. And with these two posts, we close out this blog season I’ve titled, “Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump…”

Ironically, today is the six-month mark of the Trump presidency. Where ropes are snakes and snakes are sticks. Dizzying, devastating, dangerous, and exhausting. And what can we do but keep standing up for the truth.

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, I’m sure you exulted in Sunday night’s new season premiere when Arya Stark turned to the young woman whose life she spared and said, “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers.” Yes. The North remembers. It’s a fitting metaphor for our time.

Here’s my dharma talk from June 19:

Here are the readings:

From the Gita:

Sitting down, having chosen
a spot that is neither too high
nor too low, that is clean and covered
with a grass mat, a deerskin, and a cloth,

he should concentrate, with his whole
mind, on a single object:
if he practices in this way,
his mind will soon become pure.

With torso and head held straight,
with posture steady and unmoving,
gazing at the tip of his nose,
not letting his eyes look elsewhere,

he should sit there calm, fearless,
firm in his vow to be chaste,
his whole mind controlled, directed,
focused, absorbed in me.   [6. 11-14]

Mature in yoga, impartial
everywhere that he looks,
he sees himself in all beings
and all beings in himself. 

The man who sees me in everything
and everything within me
will not be lost to me, nor
will I ever be lost to him.

He who is rooted in oneness
realizes that I am
in every being: wherever
he goes, he remains in me.

When he sees all beings are equal
in suffering or in joy
because they are like himself,
that man has grown perfect in yoga.  [6.29-32]

From Mary Oliver’s Blue Horses:

ON MEDITATION, SORT OF

Meditation, so I’ve heard, is best accomplished
if you entertain a certain strict posture.
Frankly, I prefer just to lounge under a tree.
So why should I think I could ever be successful?

Some days I fall asleep, or land in that
even better place—half asleep—where the world,
spring, summer, autumn, winter—
flies through my mind in its
hardy ascent and its uncompromising descent.

So I just lie like that, while distance and time
reveal their true attitudes: they never
heard of me, and never will, or ever need to.

Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints—
all that glorious, temporary stuff.

THE MANGROVES

As I said before, I am living now
in a warm place, surrounded by
mangroves. Mostly I walk beside
them, they discourage entrance.
The black oaks and the pines
of my northern home are in my heart,
even as I hear them whisper, “Listen,
we are trees too.” Okay, I’m trying. They
certainly put on an endless performance
of leaves. Admiring is easy, but affinity,
that does take some time. So many
and so leggy and all of them rising as if
attempting to escape this world which, don’t
they know it, can’t be done. “Are you
trying to fly or what?” I ask, and they
answer back, “We are what we are, you
are what you are, love us if you can.”

Here’s audio of class chanting. Daniel Johnson joined us for these last two classes so you will hear his tabla in the music.

Om Tara Tuttare Ture Swaha

 

Om Namah Shivaya

 

Shivaya Namah Om Fast Chant

 

June 23, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

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JUNE 12, 2017: BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #15

CHAPTER SIX: THE YOGA OF MEDITATION

“WHEN WE LIVE IN THE QUESTION EVERYTHING WE SAY IS MUSIC.”

Attaining this state, he knows
that there is no higher attainment,
he is rooted there unshaken
even by the deepest sorrow.

This is the true yoga; the unbinding
of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
this yoga with determination
and with a courageous heart. [6.22-23]

This is the week of the Summer Solstice. For those who don’t pay attention to these cosmic moments, it occurred in our Northern Hemisphere at 12:24 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 21. And even the next day’s Senate healthcare debacle could not undermine the wonder of sunlight stretching into the evening. The Summer Solstice is a day I’ve always loved, revered even. But this year, I was strangely out of sorts, a mental state that knocked me from the ground I tend to move from, and, as bad luck would have it, sent me tumbling down a flight of stairs. Well, it wasn’t really bad luck. It was me not paying attention. I tripped on my cat Lily who was sleeping on the top step. I’d seen her there on the way up, but forgot she was there on the way down. And down I went. All the way down. 10 steps down to be exact. It’s a miracle I didn’t sprain, break, or concuss myself. Which is not to say I’m not feeling sore, bruised, and tender. I am. Quite.

Paying attention. One cannot take the practice deep enough. Had you seen me on Wednesday as I headed towards those stairs, you’d have seen a woman who appeared totally focused on what she was doing, who appeared to be paying attention. The problem was, what looked like focus was actually compulsion. Compulsion to complete a task. Compulsion that flung my awareness into a future event that never even happened.

What did happen is I got all banged up and will need at least a week to fully recuperate. But who cares about me. The poor cat was so freaked out, she hid under my bed for hours. My daughter had to sacrifice an evening to take care of me. And I had to cancel a long-planned visit with my niece. That’s a lot of inconvenience to others for my momentary lapse of attention.

Or as our charlatan in the White House would say, “not good.”

We spend so much time in our limited and limiting head space—and I’m not even talking about on our devices—that we miss what’s actually happening. We’re often not really here. Which is such a shame. Because here is so very precious.

Walking seems to help my bruised and battered body so I ambled over to the Farmer’s Market yesterday. Early summer abundance. Heads of lettuce, bags of spinach, boxes of sweet peas, bunches of arugula, turnips, beets, green onions, garlic scapes, herbs, buckets of blueberries, fresh eggs, local cheese. And the flowers. OMG. The flowers were amazing. Walking home I felt so simply happy. It didn’t matter that everything hurt, that I was tired, thirsty, hungry, and needing to lie down. None of that mattered. My joy in the preciousness of life was so much bigger than that temporary discomfort. So much bigger.

Which is what the Bhagavad Gita is all about.  Which is why we’ve been reading the Gita as we live through this Trumpian age. Because the awareness and call to right action articulated in this elegant text is the most potent medicine we have to counter the rampant destruction that will characterize this dark and chilling moment in our history.

Here’s the opening dharana and dharma talk from June 12. I usually edit out class banter but thought I’d leave it in for a change…

 

Here are the Mary Oliver poems we read:

THE MAN WHO HAS MANY ANSWERS 

The man who has many answers
is often found
in the theaters of information
where he offers, graciously,
his deep findings.

While the man who has only questions,
to comfort himself, makes music.

POEM OF THE ONE WORLD

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water 

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to 

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

 

Here are the Gita verses, [18-23]:

With a mind grown clear and peaceful,
freed from selfish desires,
absorbed in the Self alone
he is called a true man of yoga.

“A lamp sheltered from the wind
which does not flicker’ — to this
is compared the true man of yoga
whose mind has vanished in the Self.

When his mind has become serene
by the practice of meditation,
he sees the Self through the self
and rests in the Self, rejoicing.

He knows the infinite joy
that is reached by the understanding
beyond the senses; steadfast,
he does not fall back from the truth.

Attaining this state, he knows
that there is no higher attainment,
he is rooted there unshaken
even by the deepest sorrow.

This is the true yoga; the unbinding
of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
this yoga with determination
and with a courageous heart.

 

Here’s Om Namah Shivaya and closing words…

June 11, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

O'keefe rose for blog

JUNE 5, 2017: BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #14

CHAPTER SIX: THE YOGA OF MEDITATION

ANXIETY IS SUCH A WASTE OF VITAL ENERGY. 
WE NEED THE SELF. WE DON’T NEED ANXIETY. 

He looks impartially on all:
those who love him or hate him,
his kinsmen, his enemies, his friends,
the good, and also the wicked. [6.9]

Last week’s high drama was James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. An important inquiry for sure. The danger being that in the current media environment, it becomes a smokescreen for the really damaging stuff the Trump administration and their congressional allies are putting in motion.

Sam Stein’s June 1 piece on the Huffington Post, While You Obsessed Over Trump’s Scandals, He’s Fundamentally Changed The Country, is a chilling accounting of what’s going on beneath the radar.

This is a defining feature of the Trump administration: While scandal and squabble, palace intrigue and provocative tweets suck much of the oxygen out of the room ― and leave the impression of mass government disfunction ― a wide array of fundamentally Trump-minded reform is taking place.

“All of this smoke is missing the steady progress that the modern Republican Party is achieving,” said Grover Norquist, the longtime anti-tax advocate. “The idea that Trump isn’t getting anywhere is wrong. Those free market guys are picking up maybe not all the marbles in the world, but a large quantity of them. And we haven’t thrown away any marbles.”

Click here for the entire article, which as of this writing is nearly two weeks old. In the dizzying chaos of today’s politics, that’s almost obsolete, pre-dating, to name just three, Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, insulting London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, and undermining his own State Dept. with anti-Qatar bluster, while the Republicans in the House try to turn American into a weird hybrid of 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Hunger Games.

And then we have the Bhagavad Gita, this steadying, sobering articulation of what is required to become truly human, or, in the language of the Gita, to become “a man of yoga.”

From the Gita’s perspective, it’s actually quite simple. Get real. Get focused on what matters. Which has nothing to do with self-serving action. And everything to do with waking up, paying attention, seeing things as they are, becoming an island of stillness in the world.

In the world. 

We homo sapiens have been bumbling across earth’s surface for around 300,000 years. Probably making a mess of things from the very beginning. It’s just that in the early days our footprints were dwarfed by everything else. It’s astonishing really, when you think about it. How it never had to be this way. How we could have lived honorably, in sustaining partnership with the earth. But chose instead to strive blindly into the abyss of progress, belittling the cries of those who saw clearly…

June 5th’s Gita verses offer a mix of hands-on technique for the practice of meditation along with flashes of the insight for which we practice in the first place. At the end of the day it really is about opening into that.

Technique is just technique. And we want to be so very careful to never get stuck there. Lest we fall into a trap I’ve heard referred to as the “stench of enlightenment.” When I was coming up as a young artist woman, there was an astonishing pianist on the scene called Cecil Taylor. Asked about his technical abilities, he said, “technique is weapon to do what must be done.” Yes. This is why I adore Mary Oliver. Her poetry comes directly from that place. Her greatest poems (of which there are many) are portals into that luminous ineffable shimmering (what she calls in one of the following poems “the patience of patience”) that breaks the heart wide open and sets us down exactly where we are…

Here’s my June 5 Dharma Talk, Bhagavad Gita Talk #14:

 

Here are the Mary Oliver poems that so magnificently parallel the Gita teachings. These are from her 2006 book, Thirst. [Please note this blog template does not hold the proper formatting of the first poem which shapes the lines of each verse like petals.]

THE POET VISITS THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

For a long time
I was not even
in this world, yet
every summer

every rose
opened in perfect sweetness
and lived
in gracious repose,

in its own exotic fragrance,
in its huge willingness to give
something, from its small self,
to the entirety of the world.

I think of them, thousands upon thousands,
in may lands,
whenever summer came to them,
rising

out of the patience of patience
to leaf and bud and look up
into the blue sky
or, with thanks,

into the rain
that would feed
their thirsty roots
latched into the earth—

sandy or hard, Vermont or Arabia,
what did it matter,
the answer was simply to rise
in joyfulness, all their days.

Have I found any better teaching?
Not ever, not yet.
Last week I saw my first Botticelli
and almost fainted,

and if I could I would paint like that
but am shelved somewhere below, with a few songs
about roses: teachers also, of the ways
towards thanks, and praise.

WHEN THE ROSES SPEAK, I PAY ATTENTION

“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully.”

And they went on. “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”

Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

I also read more of Baba Muktananda’s writings on the Self, (aka “patience of patience”) from his 1981 book, Where Are You Going?

The Self is our dearest friend. It exists inside us in its fullness, right within the heart. Though the Self is always with us, it is so subtle that most people cannot see or hear it. The Self is the formless substratum of everything, the foundation of our lives. We cannot see it through the eyes, nor can we attain it through speech. The tongue can speak about it, but the true description of its nature is silence. The Self cannot be attained through the mind or through the senses. Yet when the inner psychic instruments are purified through meditation, it reveals itself on its own. For this reason the sages of India place great emphasis on meditation; in the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord tells Arujuna, Dhyaanen aatmani pashyanti — “The Self is seen through meditation.” Just by meditating peacefully, we can make the Self manifest before us.

And here are the Gita verses, [6.9-15]…

He looks impartially on all:
those who love him or hate him,
his kinsmen, his enemies, his friends,
the good, and also the wicked.

The  man of yoga should practice
concentration alone,
mastering mind and body,
free of possessions and desires.

Sitting down, having chosen
a spot that is neither too high
nor too low, that is clean and covered
with a grass mat, a deerskin, and a cloth,

he should concentrate, with his whole
mind, on a single object;
if he practices in this way,
his mind will soon become pure.

With torso and head held straight,
with posture steady and unmoving,
gazing at the tip of his nose,
not letting his eyes look elsewhere, 

he should sit there calm, fearless,
firm in his vow to be chaste,
his whole mind controlled, directed,
focused, absorbed in me.

Constantly mastering his mind,
the man of yoga grows peaceful,
attains supreme liberation,
and vanishes into my bliss.

 

For those who can’t get enough, here are two more audio clips. The first opens with me chanting Om Namah Shivaya before class begins and slowly, as people begin arriving, you can hear their voices join in. The second is the opening dharana on ONS.

 

 

We continue chanting the Tara and Kuan Yin mantras as part of this Bhagavad Gita journey. If you’re new to the blog and want to hear audio of these, please scroll down to earlier posts. 

 

 

 

 

 

April 28, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

Eagle in mountains

APRIL 24, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #9. WHEN A MAN HAS LET GO OF ATTACHMENTS, WHEN HIS MIND IS ROOTED IN WISDOM, EVERYTHING HE DOES IS WORSHIP AND HIS ACTIONS ALL MELT AWAY. GOD IS THE OFFERING, GOD IS THE OFFERED, POURED OUT BY GOD; GOD IS ATTAINED BY ALL THOSE WHO SEE GOD IN EVERY ACTION.  [4.23-24]

I grew up without religious training or tradition. In our house, God was a strange word, rarely spoken, mostly disdained. So when I stumbled onto the yogic path and met Baba Muktananda, his core teaching, God dwells within you as you, struck me as the most radical thing I’d ever heard. It also struck me as absolutely true. So while the word itself is loaded and after all these many years still gives me a jolt, I do love the Gita verse I’ve quoted above: God is the offering, God is the offered, poured out by God; God is attained by all those who see God in every action. Yes!

Today we’re 99 days into the age of Trump. I keep thinking of the Upanishadic concept, neti neti, “not this, not this.” Anyone needing an example of everything that is not-God, need look no further than the Trump White House and Republican agenda, where neti neti, not-God, not-God, is on display day in day out…

Tomorrow is the People’s Climate March, happening on Trump’s hundredth day in office. If you’re on the fence about being part of this massive action, here’s a link to help you find a sister march.

I’ve lately been re-reading William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. On the profoundly connected subjects of the climate march and God, I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes:

When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head!

For every thing that lives is Holy.

We’re back to Monday Night Class after a two-week break, digging into the Bhagavad Gita: Chapter Four, The Yoga of Wisdom.  This is a very rich topic that lends itself to parallel readings. Here’s audio of my rather free-wheeling dharma talk. It begins with a lovely commentary connecting the Tara mantra to our readings of the Gita. I also brought in a lovely hasidic story and beautiful passage from a Mary Oliver essay on Walt Whitman. Enjoy.

Here are this week’s verses from the Gita:

Actions cannot defile me,
since I am indifferent to results;
all those who understand this
will not be bound by their actions.

This is how actions were done
by the ancient seekers of freedom;
follow their example: act,
surrendering the fruits of action.

What are action and inaction?
This matter confuses even
wise men; so I will teach you
and free you from any harm. 

You must realize what action is,
what wrong action and inaction are
as well. The true nature of action
is profound, and difficult to fathom. 

He who can see inaction
in the midst of action, and action
in the midst of inaction, is wise
and can act in the spirit of yoga. 

With no desire for success,
no anxiety about failure,
indifferent to results, he burns up
his actions in the fire of wisdom. 

Surrendering all thoughts of outcome,
unperturbed, self-reliant,
he does nothing at all, even
when fully engaged in actions. 

There is nothing that he expects,
nothing that he fears. Serene,
free from possessions, untainted,
acting with the body alone, 

content with whatever happens,
unattached to pleasure or pain,
success or failure, he acts
and is never bound by his action. 

When a man has let go of attachments,
when his mind is rooted in wisdom,
everything he does is worship
and his actions all melt away. 

God is the offering, God
is the offered, poured out by God;
God is attained by all those
who see God in every action.  [4.14-24]    

Here are the parallel readings:

 I  

As the power of deliverance Tara is related to the goddess Durga, who similarly takes us across all difficulties. Hence she is also called Durga-Tara. Whereas Durga represents the power that overcomes or destroys obstacles and difficulties, Tara is the power which takes us beyond them. While Durga is more appropriate to call on in extreme danger wherein we need help against negative forces assailing us, Tara has the additional power to lift us up in life generally. Tara is the power to transcend all things. She not only lifts us beyond dangers but allows us to rise beyond our achievements and accomplishments to higher levels of realization. As the ultimate obstacle we have to cross over is our own mind, Tara provides the power to take us beyond the turbulent waves of our thought currents….

 [David Frawley, Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses]

II

I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs
                  to you.
 
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease…observing a spear
                  of summer grass.

             In these lines the great work has begun, and the secret of success has been given. And what is that great labor? Out-circling interest, sympathy, empathy, transference of focus from the self to all else; the merging of the lonely single self with the wondrous, never-lonely entirety. This is all.

[Mary Oliver, Upstream]

 III

A man who lived in the same town as Rabbi Zusya saw that he was very poor. So each day he went to the house of prayer and left twenty pennies so that Zusya and his family might eat. From that time on, the man grew richer and richer. The more he had, the more he gave Zusya, and the more he gave Zusya, the more he had.

One day he recalled that Zusya was the disciple of the great master, Rabbi Baer of Mezritch—and it occurred to him that if what he gave the disciple was so lavishly rewarded, he might become even more prosperous if he made presents to the master himself. So he travelled to Mezritch and made a substantial gift to Baer. From this time on, his means shrank until he lost all the profits he had made during the more fortunate period.

Taking his troubles to Rabbi Zusya, he told him the whole story and asked what his present predicament was due to. For had not the rabbi himself told him that his master was immeasurably greater than he?

Zusya replied: “Look! As long as you gave and did not bother to whom, whether to Zusya or another, God gave to you and did not bother to whom. But when you began to seek out especially noble and distinguished recipients, God did exactly the same.”

[Jack Kornfield, Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart]

Finally, here’s audio of class chanting. This is the Tara mantra resolving into Om Namah Shivaya. This clip has a long slow fade-in so you may hear silence for the first 20 seconds. At around 3.40 minutes, I add a dharana on how these two mantras so beautifully complement and hold one another…