THE SECRET TO RELEASING YOUR KARMA LA POSADA Holy Night Procession
Karma & Compassion We Are All Connected ANGELIC MESSAGES OF LOVE, FORGIVENESS & ACCEPTANCE VEDANTIC METHODS In a Contemporary Classroom DAKINI POWER Shaping Tibetan Buddhism in the West
WI NTE R 2013 VOL. 25 NO. 4
36 S AT S A N G 2
Karma and Compassion
The law of karma helps us understand our limitations and that we need to work upon ourselves as well as treat others with understanding and compassion.
BY SWAMI AMAR JYOTI.
F E AT U R E S
25 Contemplations of Hafiz
TRANSLATED BY DANIEL LADINSKY.
“We circle inside what we love,
what we fear, what we hope.”
26 The Soul of Light, Works of Illumination
Exquisite art that transmits messages of light, energy, our deeper Essence, and Being.
BY JOMA SIPE.
10 What Is Karma?
It is through the ego’s willful actions that karma accumulates. Once you recognize it, you can start to unravel it.
BY MA JAYA SATI BHAGAVATI.
14 Angelic Messages of Love, Forgiveness and Acceptance BY JOHN LERMA, M.D. A minister receives healing messages on fear, judgment and opening to unconditional love.
17 La Posada—Holy Night Procession
BY CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, PH.D. Making our heart into the “place of shelter” for the Light of the World to be born.
22 Releasing Your Karma
BY EKNATH EASWARAN. As spiritual awareness grows we begin to see the karmic patterns we have created, learn the lessons and become free.
32 Ancient Vedantic Methods in a Contemporary Classroom The earliest recognized scriptures inspire a refreshing approach to experiential learning.
BY WILLIAM Y. HAYASHI, PH.D.
36 The Holy Mother on Human and Spiritual Life
BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA. Sri Sarada Devi lived and taught by her selflessness, love, common sense and compassion.
42 The Dakini Principle
Drawing on great and ancient powers, women are shaping Buddhism in the West.
BY MICHAELA HAAS.
49 Param Para—Answers to Questions on the Spiritual Path We are subject to karmas due to our weaknesses. Three ways to overcome habits. Compassion, the subtlest possible energy.
BY SWAMI AMAR JYOTI.
64 “Meet every situation with love…” BY PEACE PILGRIM.
Words of wisdom from a contemporary saint.
R EVI EWS 45 Spiritual Cinema, Books, Mixed Media,
Children’s Mixed Media, Audio, Video
SEEKERS BAZAAR 51 Tools for Your Journey
64 COVER: Photograph by
Patrick | Fotolia.com
FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR DANIEL LADINSKY Sacred Mountain Ashram, around midnight Two of the world’s most belovedNear esteemed poets, onand September 11th, after three days of pouring rain,
HAFIZ & RUMI,
runoff from the mountains turned into avalanches of mud, boulders and trees rushing down two canyons, sweeping away power lines, cars, houses, propane tanks and everything imaginable. Particularly hard hit were the canyons where residents fought mudslides on the mountainsides as well as raging waters to rescue each other and their pets on a night they will never forget. In the days that followed, as we watched helicopters flying overhead to rescue the stranded and heard accounts of heroism, we couldn’t help but marvel at the “compassion in action” by residents, neighbors, emergency teams, government, volunteers and the National Guard. Since that time, stories emerged, miracles of survival, as well as heartaches from losses and uncertainties for the future. In our yoga classes, women share their own experiences, update us on the cleanup and recovery, and pass along information and encouragement for the displaced. Most of all, everyone has expressed gratitude for the sanctuary of the ashram and the yoga practice we share as a source of healing and unity. Karma binds us together in any relationship, Published by Truth Consciousness, a 501(c)(3) family, occupation or community, but it is compassion nonprofit organization, at Desert Ashram, 3403 that makes life worth living. As Swami Amar Jyoti W. Sweetwater Dr., Tucson, AZ 85745, USA and reveals in this issue’s Satsang: “Compassion is Sacred Mountain Ashram, 10668 Gold Hill Road, Boulder, CO 80302, USA. Published quarterly needed because we are not isolated islands. We all are for $19.99 per year. Periodicals postage paid at imperfect. We may expect certain things from others Tucson, AZ and Dallas, TX. Postmaster: Send address changes to LIGHT OF CONSCIOUSNESS, but it doesn’t happen that way. This is not yielding or 3403 W. Sweetwater Dr, Tucson, AZ 85745-9301. compromise, just being compassionate. And this is We are grateful to all those who have truly releasing.” contributed their work and to our subscribers, “When you can view yourself with a fair measure donors and advertisers. Responsibility for editorial content and opinion remains with of detachment and compassion,” writes Eknath authors; that of goods and services remains Easwaran, “you can watch the myriad little incidents with advertisers. Neither necessarily reflects the of daily life dovetail into a tightly fitting pattern. If views, claims and opinions of the publisher. you give joy, you will receive joy; if you inflict pain, Advertising: email@example.com, you will receive pain. The choice is ours.” 303-459-0616. As Clarissa Pinkola Estés exclaims in La Posada: Submissions: Light-of-consciousness.org, firstname.lastname@example.org. “We believe that no matter who tries to exile the genuinely holy, it will never work for long, for it is © 2013 by Truth Consciousness or copyright holders indicated. All rights reserved. No part Landscape labels Clear space seeded innately in the psyche, in the spirit, soul, and of this journal may be reproduced in any form body. The holy is not something placed into us. It is a 1. Full colour landscape positive Clear space is the non-print area without permission from the copyright holder. Please RECYCLE or better still, pass your copy radiant light that blossoms from us.” 2. Black and white landscape positive surrounding the label to ensure that the on to friends or your local library. May label peace remains and joy beuncluttered. with you now It and 3. Full colour landscape negative is calculated throughout this holy season, and may we 4. Black and white landscape negative by using twice the height ofall the FSC pray for grace and compassion to heal our world, wordmark. remembering always that we are all connected. In our Where possible, apply more clear space Spring Issue we will contemplate how to Free Your Mind/Free YourisSoul. than required.
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Satsang by Swami Amar Jyoti
The way we perceive is what we create. When you have fear, apprehensions or doubts of any kind, or when you want something in a certain way, you give shape to that creation. Right at that moment of inception you are creating karma.
veryone has Spirit within them, but all are not spiritual. Potentially you are omnipotent, but which part of your being are you using? You are using only a part in direct proportion to your interests and choices. And because we use our capacity partially, we are under the law of karma. If we were using our total Being we would be free of karmas. Since we are limited our capacity is limited. Therefore pains and pleasures are limited, especially pleasures, because pain just follows pleasure. If you could use your full Being, you would be utilizing your unlimited capacity. You would achieve totality, limitlessness, omnipotence.
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back to the truth from our own shifting attitudes, we find that truth has never changed. Beyond the law of karma we will see that the reality was always the same. We were experimenting, trying to see things differently, or to serve our own purposes. The law of karma brings us to understand the limitations of our ego trips, our perceptions, conceptions, wants, and ways of thinking. Anyone’s new discovery, understanding or thought is exhilarating to them— “I have something totally unique to tell you. I’ve never experienced this and I’m sure no one else has either!” Up to a point our interests, expectations, perceptions, wants and desires are not a problem, but when we see these as our whole life and understanding, and isolate any of these as “me,” we create separation, which is a sin. It causes pain, misery and grief. That exclusion or limiting your totality to what you have or want to have is where you are mistaking a part for the whole. And just as we are not using our total being, we also use very little of our brain. Yogis in ancient times said that the human body has 72,000 nerves, visible as well as invisible. We hardly use one third of our nervous system; therefore our power, strength and might are limited. And since we use only part of our power, then our valuations, interests and selfishness are tied up in that part only. Accordingly we live and receive in a limited way. You have to reach your totality of Being, which you already are. That is why holy people and Prophets tell us to be desireless. They simply mean that you are stuck in this minor segment of your being. You could be using the totality of your will but by these small desires you are isolating yourself, limiting yourself, limiting your wisdom. The way you are, the image you create, the way you want others to be, goes on and on, feeding further ignorance, darkness and unconsciousness. Yet even within this thickening of ignorance we still assume we are “okay”—“Whatever I am, accept me.” How can that be accepted? If you want the totality you have to include the minor parts of your being as well. If you are
The way we perceive is what we create. When you have fear, apprehensions or doubts of any kind, or when you want something in a certain way, you give shape to that creation. Right at the moment of inception you are creating karma, like it or not, even if you do not mean it. This karma may take time to realize—time and space in between take their own course—but even in that moment you cannot go back; you cannot erase what you have created. There are many stories in the Indian epics in which sages were wronged by someone, knowingly or unknowingly, or were treated outside of etiquette or social norms. In certain extreme situations a sage would curse the person who wronged them. The term “curse” seems strong today but at that time sages were known for giving both blessings and curses. When the wrongdoer heard the curse, knowing that this sage was infallible, they would come to their senses and apologize or repent. The sage would respond, “Once I have pronounced a curse it cannot be taken back.” But sometimes they would give a remedy to reduce the effects of the curse. It was their grace and compassion, karuna, to do this. The law of karma is infallible except for the mercy of the Almighty. Normally you cannot escape the karma you create; either you pay the price, modify it, or you are helped by someone who is capable, an adept. The law of karma is simply action and reaction. In a particular context or limited time span you may not be able to see this: “I did a little wrong; I received more punishment.” “I did so much good; I didn’t receive that kind of recognition.” We judge in a particular situation, forgetting that it is tied up with so many other correlated situations. If the law of karma was shifting and fluctuating— one thing now and something else tomorrow—it would be incomprehensible to us. If the truth went on shifting its own valuation, how could it be tangible for us? It has to be stable, eternal and changeless. When we come
When we come back to the truth from our own shifting attitudes, we will find that truth has never changed; the reality was always the same. The law of karma makes us understand the limitations of our ego trips, our perceptions, conceptions, wants, and ways of thinking.
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When you are fully open you will know abandonment into the Unlimited, a full use of your Being. Then you will see that you are not under the spell of karmas. You will not have to desire anything; it will be at your command. not accepted in your unconscious behaviors you feel you are rejected. Sages use polite words: detachment, dispassion. When you are fully open you will know abandonment into the Unlimited, a full use of your Being: heart, mind, might, body and soul. Then you will see that you are not under the spell of karmas. You will not have to desire anything; it will be at your command. You will have peace and joy. When you get stuck with only part of your life, it forms its own valuation. In this, you become so clinging or stubborn that you create habitual resistance for the rest of your being. In this unconsciousness or ignorance we form our interests, desires, ways and patterns, which we have freedom to do, but this partial freedom is still in ignorance; it will only make us suffer. It creates misunderstandings, misconceptions and wrong desires. We feel that it is natural because we are identified with it. Whatever does not fit is not for us. It is an automatic reflex of rejection, resisting the very truth and benevolence that we ultimately need. Many times you do not know what you are doing, but one who truly sees, who witnesses properly, knows. Such beings can forgive but the law of karma takes its own course. You cannot avoid that. When you create karma it is bound to produce results. Whatever does not fit your pattern, your way of being, your desires or your image is what you reject, whether it is good for you or not. You think, “I’m okay. My partner needs to change.” Are you perfect? If not then naturally you have some wrongs too. You cannot say you are imperfect as well as right in everything. Our expectations, therefore, have gone in the wrong direction in many situations when we are demanding or claiming from others. If we just see the portion of our lives known to us, is that not enough to work upon and correct? We avoid our part and expect others—partners, friends, roommates, employers and employees, our government—to improve, as if in no time. If we were to correct even one wrong of ours, how much time would it take? And when we expect others to change overnight so we can be satisfied, are we not asking the
impossible, or at least the improbable? Are we failing to be compassionate or humane? Everyone needs to have freedom and time and space in which to grow. If I cannot be perfect overnight, neither can my partner. What if someone expects me to change? I have to either assume that there is nothing to correct in me, or live with that person’s expectations. Compassion is needed because we are not isolated islands. We have to work upon each other but not without working on ourselves. Modifications may be necessary. Sometimes you need to work hard on yourself but other times you need to relax. You cannot meditate the whole day. You have to give time and understanding to others as well. After all, we are all human beings. We may expect certain things from others but it doesn’t happen that way. This is not yielding or compromise, just being compassionate. And this is truly releasing. Why should I get angry? If they want to take time, let them take time. There should be compassion between husband and wife, brothers and sisters, roommates, friends, countrymen and even those who are hostile. Compassion has been practiced by holy ones since ages, but I feel it should be practiced by everyone. How otherwise can we live peacefully together? How else can we enjoy each other’s company? How can we have success in marriage or any other relationship without applying compassion, without there being give and take? Life is not one-way traffic. There is always reaction to action, loss and gain. We have to join the head with the heart. Normally the intellect thinks, it does not feel. But when the head and heart are joined, we see things differently, even in the same situation. Compassion is not lethargy or weakness. We all are imperfect. We all have shortcomings to some degree. We need to understand this point because otherwise it is hard to find satisfaction in life. If we do not treat others with compassion and understanding, we will have to realize our mistakes after losing those we love. When we are ungrateful and do not appreciate the things God gives, or we receive through our destiny, we will have to learn that lesson with the next person who comes into Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 7
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rights in the guru disciple relationship. If you are seeking rights, be in politics. You cannot come on a spiritual path and ask for rights. There are no rights. It is all loss! It is all unlearning, humility, unassumingness, non-expectation and yielding. These values of the spiritual path should be our way of living in the world, the way of divine life, new age consciousness. When the spiritual values among realized souls and disciples become the way of life for the majority, it will be the golden age. When humility is a common virtue, when devotion is a way of life, then life will have higher meaning. When forgiveness, letting go and compassion are not only the virtues of holy people but of all, we will understand how well they work. What Prophets and Enlightened ones impart to us is not just for disciples and devotees; it is for
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our life, whether it is a guru, a husband, a wife, relative, friend, sibling or co-worker. We lack compassion and understanding for each other. In any hostile situation with loved ones, friends, bosses and others, our expectations, ingratitude and not getting what we want eventually percolate into pessimism, depression, negativity or suicidal thoughts. Self-condemnation walks in and with it stagnation. To come out of this, the process is quite different: We have to forgive othersâ€™ shortcomings. You have to try hard to help yourself and others, but there needs to be a point to relax, to modify, to yield, to be compassionate and just allow growth. These virtues are the same on the spiritual path. The guru knows how to deal with you. There are no equal
Compassion is needed because we are not isolated islands. We have to work upon each other but not without working on ourselves. We have to give time and understanding to others as well. After all, we are all human beings. everyone. If we have not achieved that wisdom in our collective living, that is our problem, but it is a workable hypothesis for all of us. If you think you can be selfish at home and not selfish when you come to the temple or ashram, you have not understood. If you are truly selfless at the temple you will be selfless everywhere. If you are genuinely devotional here you will be loving everywhere, not only with those in whom you are interested. We blind ourselves to believe that our dear ones are the most special. That is another form of selfishness. We value what we like and what we want. God does not punish us, nor do gurus. We punish ourselves—by our resistance and incorrigibility, by isolating ourselves. And the more we resist and get negative, the more we tight corner ourselves. You may avoid seeing this but the law of karma is perfect. I think something is wrong with us if we cannot live peacefully together. Our tolerance has diminished to such a degree that we are intolerant in no time. We have become so private and individualistic that we can hardly get help in times of need. If pride or arrogance does not work on the spiritual path, it does not work in everyday life either. Seekers and disciples are supposed to be more humble, more devotional, more understanding and accepting of others. They are supposed to be more dutiful, truthful and honest, not claiming or demanding from others. The gurus are powerful and wise enough to ride over the tide, as they say, but if the gurus stand apart you lose. According to the Vedas, God and the creation are inseparable. The Vedas also say that God can live without creation but creation cannot live without God. Since the creation has manifested from God or Divine Mother, He or She can live without it because the whole creation is within Him or Her. The whole creation is called Virat Swarupa in Sanskrit, the universal form of God. That form is within Him. He will never leave it and be somewhere else. If you are separating the Creator and the creation, you are making the first fallacy; truth will not come to you. The sense of separation is ignorance. God can live without manifesting, without creating, but once He creates, it is within Him.
Intellect might ask, “Did God feel lonely and therefore He created?” If He felt lonely, then He would not be God. The word used in Sanskrit is leela—play. Because God was so perfectly full in Himself, He said, “Let me create.” He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent in such a way that He did not want anything. He said, “Out of me, let me be many.” That was the joy of His creation. When God said, “Go and multiply,” He meant to multiply virtue. He did not mean to create stagnation and miseries as mankind has done. He meant to multiply dharma, to not forsake the path of righteousness. These spiritual values need to be imbibed by everyone, not only initiated ones. That is our aim and dream. When Buddha attained Enlightenment he continued to meditate for forty days under the bodhi tree. So many mysteries of the cosmos were revealed to him; there was no secret unknown to him. Even then, after forty days, Buddha got up, though very weak in body. His compassion compelled him to go forward into the world to teach the Dharma, to show the way to Enlightenment. Spirituality is not a monopoly of the few. It has to permeate into all. Then only can humanity achieve awakened consciousness, life divine. If you invite this wisdom into your life you will be working on yourself rather than expecting from others, and you will see the results. © 2013 by Truth Consciousness. Teaching from the basis of eternal Truth, the message of Swami Amar Jyoti’s Satsangs (Sanskrit: communion with Truth) is one of deep spiritual unity. His way is not to espouse a particular creed but to impart a spiritual way of life. During His work for four decades (1961-2001), He awakened and uplifted countless souls around the world to God Consciousness, disseminating the timeless Truth underlying all traditions and faiths. Swami Amar Jyoti is the author of several books. These and over 700 audio Wisdom Teachings illuminating the classical path for modern times are available on compact disc and MP3. This Satsang was edited from Karma and Compassion (F-16), given in October 1988. A catalog of Satsangs by Swami Amar Jyoti, recorded live, is available at truthconsciousness.org, or call 520-743-8821 for a free copy by mail. Please see page 52 of this issue for further information. Photo on Page 3: Swami Amar Jyoti at Peaceful Meadows Ashram, Penngrove, CA, 1979.
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 9
What is Karma?
o you ever wonder why you make the same mistakes over and over? Do you feel that you could be more than you are now? Do you yearn to become your true Self? This yearning means you have forgotten something that is waiting to be awakened, and it tells you that you are more than you think you are. You long to know and become your true Self. From
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your misunderstanding of that yearning, you may start looking for something or someone to grab onto, something to fill the emptiness within you. When that fails, as it usually does, you look for someone to blame and, in the end, you blame yourself, which leads to self-hatred or acting out. Then it all starts againâ€”pain, seeking, attachment, blame, self-doubtâ€”and you are right back where you started: trapped. Over and over
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Our natural state is to be one with God, or in tune with the Ultimate Spirit, and all karma suppresses this oneness as it creates separation. The goal is to become empty of karma, positive as well as negative. by ma jaya sati bhagavati
again, you degrade yourself by being attached to a drama that has no reality. This is karma: the thoughts, emotions and actions that have become a pattern within your being. Karma is a word in general use today, yet few truly understand its real significance. A word originating in Sanskrit and used in Hinduism and Buddhism, karma has been translated to mean the universal law of cause and effect. Like gravity and magnetism, karma is just how the world works. Actions have consequences. Karma is reflected in common sayings: “As you sow, so shall you reap” and “What goes around comes around.” Because it is a universal law, karma affects all of human life and is involved in every single thing we do or feel or think. However, “bad” karma is not punishment or retribution, nor is “good” karma a system of rewards
and prizes. Karma itself is neutral, a balancing out of the scales of universal law. We’re all born, we all die, we all make choices, and we all carry with us the consequences of our choices. In other words, we all have karma. In its failure to remember anything greater than itself, the ego acts out of its own willfulness. It is through the ego’s willful actions that karma is birthed. Day to day, lifetime to lifetime, karma accumulates. With this accumulation, patterns emerge as the ego makes the same mistakes over and over. Then karma solidifies. Ego is the aspect of the individual self that keeps us limited, confused, and out of touch with the universal Self. Ego and karma are closely linked: The greater the karma, the bigger the ego. The bigger the ego, the more karma clings to it. That’s why the goal of many spiritual practices is to loosen our habit of identifying ourselves with the ego. We are all given glimpses of a higher reality, whether we choose to act on them or not. There are times when we are reminded of the primal bliss, times when we sometimes dare to believe that freedom and wholeness are possible. By then, most of us have gotten used to our karmically conditioned life and we’ve become comfortable. We settle into this place of comfort because it is familiar. Perhaps you’ve moved a little closer to your heart’s goal—to Christ, to Universal Spirit, to the gods and goddesses of any tradition—or maybe you’ve just grown closer to love, to kindness, to beauty, to whatever it is that will awaken you to the very truth of who you are. And then you back away. We are torn between fear and longing. Meanwhile, the karmic ties keep tightening.
Karmic Patterns We create new karma through our own actions. The rule is simple: If you hurt someone, you will have to pay for it. If you cause pain, you will have pain. As the ego carries out its projects, its plans for getting what it wants in the world, new karma is laid down over the old and becomes intricately entwined with it. We become ever more tangled up in karma. The Rig Veda, an ancient sacred text from India, calls these patterns samskaras. They are not ordinary habits, but habits you do over and over and over again until they feel like part of your psyche, part of your being, something you have had with you always, because indeed you have. At the base of them, further back than the pains of childhood, and Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 11
beyond the reach of psychotherapy, there is a karmic root. So to give up a root feels like you’re giving up a part of yourself. No matter what words we use to describe the process, our ego minds use our karmic patterns to trap us in a small life. We are well and truly stuck! We are conditioned by our childhood and our culture, we find ourselves in a world where most events are beyond our control, and when we seek freedom, fear grabs us. Is freedom even possible? As long as we bounce along in the world of action and reaction, the answer is no, we are not free. We will need to look at a hidden dimension of our lives, where karma has no power. That dimension is the soul.
Destiny and the Soul The scriptures of every religion tell us we have free choice, but if everything is conditioned by previous actions, who or what can stand apart from destiny long enough to choose, or to lay claim to, our freedom? The answer is the soul. In its perfection, the soul has no characteristics, it conceives of no time, and it perceives no duality between heaven and earth, the physical and the spiritual, itself and its maker. It is simply what it is and was always: perfection. Hindus call it the Jivaatman, the individual soul, because they know it to be part of the great Atman, the Universal Soul. While the soul, in its perfection, can’t be touched by darkness, its radiance can become darkened by clouds of karma. Our deeds add to, or subtract from, these clouds. However, this is not the same as sin, and karma is not punishment; it is just the way the universe works. God loves you, and the universe embraces you, just as you are right now, in your soul’s perfection. If you live well, if you try not to hurt anyone, you will burn off past karma in a natural process; it’s all very fluid. But you can make it solid by denying or forgetting the karmic lessons you already learned and repeating the same actions again and again. If you relive parts of your life by blindly repeating old patterns without awareness, you will suffer the same consequences and you will pay over and over for the same mistakes. You will become imbalanced. Paying again for that which you have already paid compounds the karma or the negative tension. The karma that is fluid then becomes solidified, and from that solid material you build stepping stones for yourself that make it easy to follow what’s familiar, 12 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
Is freedom even possible? As long as we bounce along in the world of action and reaction, the answer is no, we are not free. We will need to look at a hidden dimension of our lives, where karma has no power. That dimension is the soul. easy to walk along the path of your predetermined destiny, easy to forget free will.
No Excuses, No Blame Sometimes we try to hide behind karma because it’s comforting to think, It must be my karma so there’s nothing I can do about it. This is illusion. You are responsible for your life now, karma or no karma. Everyone will experience pain at some point. How you deal with it is your responsibility. Hiding behind karma takes you out of your own life. Gradually, through awareness, it is possible to develop a feel for your own karma and how it acts in your life. Once you can recognize it, you can start to unravel it. However, you can never know or understand anyone else’s karma. Many people make the mistake of judging others who are suffering. Believing that you understand the karma of others makes it easy to judge them. To think you know the mind of God or the mind of the universe becomes an excuse to not help the suffering. Yes, there is cause and effect, and perhaps, in the big picture, lifetime after lifetime, time beyond comprehension, there has been a specific karmic root of every bad and good thing that happens, but so what? Does it really help you to know? It doesn’t; it just distracts you from what you need to do.
Good Karma, Bad Karma, No Karma Karma accumulates, both the positive and the negative. Our natural state is to be one with God, or in tune with the Ultimate Spirit, and all karma suppresses this oneness as it creates separation. The goal is to become empty of karma, positive as well as negative. Find karmic balance by doing what is new to you, even if it might be challenging. Try not to travel the same old road; welcome the movement of change. Develop new gifts, or add to the old, and, above all, be sure to share your talents. Take care that you don’t
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become stuck running along the same old track, positive or negative. You can free yourself from good karma, not through self-denial but through gratitude for the gifts given you, by sharing your good fortune, and by finding ways to grow in new directions. In this way, you will move towards freedom from karma of all kinds and toward the emptiness and contentment that is your birthright. We are comfortable repeating familiar patterns, and after many years we become so exhausted that we’re not even walking the path anymore. Instead, the path is walking us. Nothing changes. There’s a flatness to everything you do. That’s karmic boredom. So what happens when you have the choice to do something new in your life? This is when you can choose freedom. This is when you can let your intuition speak to you, if you’ve learned to quiet your mind: I’ve been here before. I won’t do the same thing again.
Find Your Soul There is a gap in the universal order, there is a gap in karma, and that gap allows you to change your destiny. It is the Now. Awareness is not past, it is not future, it is
not some after-death state. Awareness is now. The gap, the moment, is outside of time. It is the key to freedom. The ego keeps us trapped in our karmas. But you can learn to listen to your soul instead of your ego. The first step is to develop your awareness so that you recognize the karmic gaps when they arise. Your mind, a creature of karma, chatters along missing chance after chance. Start by quieting the chatter of the mind through meditation. The goal of meditation is to open a space within your being that is outside your mind. Through meditation, awareness will grow, the gaps will become clear, and you will begin to unravel your karma. As you grow in awareness, you will hear the voice of the soul speaking to you of compassion, of courage, and of kindness to yourself and others. Listen to it. Imagine that all your lifetimes together make up one great puzzle. To find the pieces of your life’s puzzle, the real questions you must ask are these: Am I focused on what I want instead of what I need? What shall I do with this life that has been given to me? How will I develop my intuition to recognize the right choices when they come to me? How can I refrain from causing harm? How will I sustain the ability to be kind to others? Who can I serve? How can I develop the quiet within myself so that I can find the answers to my questions? As you begin to recognize karma around you, it can feel as if you stepped into a different universe. The old rules don’t apply, you see your problems with new eyes, and nothing is quite what you thought it was. It’s almost like seeing double—the eyes of the ego see the world one way, the eyes of the soul see something quite different. All that exists is inside you. All that you seek is available. There is a life, a death, and a resurrection in every moment, in every molecule, in every breath. © 2012 by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, a beloved American-born Guru, humanitarian and visionary. Since her passing in 2012, Ma Jaya’s life of love and selfless service continues to nourish and inspire. Ma founded Kashi Ashram, an interfaith spiritual community in Florida, in 1976. Visit www.kashi.org. This article is excerpted by permission from Ma Jaya’s book, The 11 Karmic Spaces, Choosing Freedom From the Patterns that Bind You, from Kashi Publishing, Sebastian, FL., www.karmicspaces.com.
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 13
Angelic Messages of Love, Forgiveness and Acceptance
As inpatient medical director for the TMC Hospice at the Medical Center of Houston, Dr. Lerma spent a decade caring for and teaching compassionate care of the terminally ill. In his ground-breaking book, Into the Light, he shared visions and angelic conversations that dying patients had confided to him, conveying how knowledge of death can ease the pain and fear as we prepare to enter into the light. —Ed.
eon was a 78-year-old minister with stage-four colon cancer. When he arrived at the inpatient unit, he was in dire need of pain management and hydration. As his functional status declined, so did his ability to eat or drink. Despite his fading physical strength, though, his spiritual vigor intensified, allowing him to impart varying religious and spiritual messages. Two days after his admission, I noted that he was focusing at the corner of the room, where earlier patients had alleged to see angels. Curious, I asked him what he was concentrating on. He scanned me
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suspiciously and said, “What do you want to know?” I asked if he was seeing anything unusual. “Like angels?” he replied. “Yes,” I answered. “Totally. Do you want to know more about that?” “Absolutely.” “Well, let’s just see if I’ll be around long enough to tell you what I’m seeing and learning. As far as quality time, I don’t think that will be a problem.” “I’m not sure what you mean,” I explained. With tears in his eyes, Leon responded, “You see, my family is very busy and the time they spend with me is infrequent and, when they do visit, it’s swift. So, why don’t you come back when you’re done visiting your patients, and I’ll tell you more. I suppose this can be a time of expansion for both of us.” Later that afternoon, I returned as promised, and Leon began to share his wisdom. He had lived his life with many prejudices and judgments against what he called the misguided and the heathens. He truly
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Leon had lived his life with many prejudices and judgments against what he called the misguided and the heathens. Now, at the end, he couldn’t explain everything that was happening, but it was changing him profoundly. BY JOHN LERMA , M . D .
believed he was doing God’s work and pursued it with a vengeance. He had lived most of his life around this philosophy. Now, at the end, he couldn’t explain everything that was happening, but it was changing him profoundly. Although he was a devout Christian and recalled reading stories of angels appearing to people, he didn’t really believe that angels appeared to people in this day and age. When the first angel came, Leon felt it was Satan coming to tempt him. But as the experiences continued, he came to recognize and accept the loving presence of God in everything that was happening. “I was allowed to talk to angels and to other people with knowledge of life and the afterlife, and I was allowed to talk with God,” Leon told me. I was awestruck. I had heard many stories, but I had not heard many people say they had been allowed to talk directly with God. “One of my first conversations with the angels was about women, and how important Mother Mary is.” The angels showed him that Mary was an incredible
woman, full of love, and, as Jesus did, she ascended into the heavens. They told him that he should have loved and honored his wife as if she were Mary, the mother of Jesus. They said, “Every woman and every mother is just as important and sacred as Mary.” He shook his head and said, “I felt remorse for the coldness my wife had to put up with and understood why my wife’s visits were infrequent. I never had much fun with my children. I raised my children with discipline but not much affection. When I allowed the angels to guide me during my life review, I cried inconsolably. I knew I could have been blissful if I had just listened to my heart and released my flawed ideas about what God wanted from me. My life would have been so much more fulfilling.” He continued, “They showed me what a powerful ministry I would have fashioned, if only I had opened my heart and poured love on my congregation instead of condemnation. They reminded me that God is love and His love transcended all boundaries. I felt like a failure, but they assured me I wasn’t. The angelic messengers revealed how my family had indoctrinated me into duty over love, especially my father, who had passed it on to me through his behavior. I can remember wanting my father to play with me, but he was too busy earning a living. The little boy in me cried out in pain when I remembered this longrepressed desire, and the angels held me in their arms and let me cry until I was able to understand the message. The intensity of their love was overwhelming.” Leon continued his angelic messages: “All of us on earth reached our last intellectual enlightenment more than fifty years ago, which resulted in our current life in technology and science. This critical mass, as well as others in the past and future, has provided and will provide us with the necessary knowledge to free ourselves from our basic survival issues and expand us towards peace and love. God is currently gracing us with another enlightenment period. This time it will only involve love and spirituality, because man failed to factor in spirituality to the technological and scientific knowledge given during the last period. It will be a daunting effort to stop the destruction of humanity and knowledge by the raw power of technology and science that man’s irresponsibility has unleashed. The ability to overcome our adversity can only be attained by invoking His grace and believing in the power of prayer first, then action. This will assure our continued growth and survival as children of God.” Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 15
I felt a strong wave of resonance with what he was saying and asked for further insight into prayer and action on evading our destruction. He said, “It’s simple, but not easy to accomplish in this day and age. We can avert it through joy, prayer, and knowledge, and just by being joyful and showing love to everyone in our lives. Just remember that God will continue granting us countless chances to correct our wrongs so all souls will have the opportunity to experience His Son’s teachings of unconditional love and peace.” There was another very important lesson Leon wanted me to share. His angelic teachers showered him with the infinite knowledge and true power of the Bible, and for the first time he understood all the lessons and knowledge that were being missed because of our willful and narrow perspective on creation. He said the information we have extracted from the Bible to date is just the tip of the iceberg. The amount of lessons, knowledge, and prophecies the Bible holds is similar to DNA’s potential information. Leon noted, “When mankind awakens spiritually, the total knowledge and understanding of God’s Word will be revealed. The key is being spiritual and not solely religious.” He sighed deeply and shook his head. “We get over-invested in our beliefs and find ways to enforce them through the Word. We don’t have broad enough knowledge and wisdom to understand what God is really telling us. For instance, I was so prejudiced against gays, and so adamant that God would condemn them, but the angels showed me a different way of looking at that issue. The angels said that God never makes mistakes. Every human being desires love, and it’s not for us to determine who they are going to love. If someone can love them back, then that’s perfection.” He also talked about the dangers of using the allor-none mentality to interpret principles taught in the Bible, Qur’an, or Torah. “For instance,” he said, “the biblical parable that articulates if you have the faith of a grain of mustard seed, you can command that mountain to move, and it will move. Some people may take that to mean that if it does not happen, we don’t have enough faith. That was how I operated: through guilt. I told people, ‘You can heal yourself, and if you can’t you’re doing something wrong, or God is punishing you, or He is trying to teach you a lesson.’ I was shown how much harm that does to people and how destructive guilt is. I was also shown how much good encouragement does.” 16 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
He paused a moment, as if listening to the other side, and then said, “Just think: If we were only using ten percent of our brain, that would be almost three times what most people are using. Even Einstein used less than ten percent. So, we are interpreting the Bible using about three percent of our brain. Imagine that.” He laughed. “How can we interpret God’s Word through such a small filter? One must allow the Holy Spirit to enable that process.” Leon continued, “The judgment days are over. There are more people in this world now that want to forgive and live in peace, but the judgers have had the money, the power, and the fortitude to make things happen. It’s changing now. God is not going to allow that to continue. In the next five hundred to one thousand years, the Word of God will be interpreted very differently.” Leon said, “I love you, Dr. Lerma. I will always be with you, my friend. By the way, the angels are going to give me what I asked for: time to apologize to my wife and children and to show them the unconditional love I should have had for them. The angels told me that, through my suffering and desire to learn about God’s love, my wife and children will obtain an inheritance of generational blessings.” He said, “Love is the basic truth of God, and peace will come to us in the end.” That is a great comfort for both the dying and the living. Also that “the sooner we learn to love and forgive others and ourselves, the easier our transition to next world. Our angels are always present, and eager to lead us toward paradise and protect us along the way, however, most of our judgments and fears block that connection. It is our intense, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual suffering at the end of our lives that allows us to be free from our judgments. It is at this point that our primordial fears come crashing down, allowing us to see what has always been on the other side: unconditional love.” Leon’s last piece of loving advice spoke of the importance of tearing down the metaphorical walls that keep us from loving others and ourselves. Working on it “now,” instead of tomorrow, assures us of at least twice as much love, peace, and blessings in this world and the next. It is at this point that immeasurable blessings occur. Reprinted with permission of the publisher from Into the Light © 2007 by John Lerma, published by New Page Books, a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ, www.careerpress.com, Phone: 800-2273371. All rights reserved.
Holy Night Procession La Posada literally means making one’s own heart into the inn or “place of shelter” for the Light of the World, for the God of Love, to be born. BY CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS , PH . D .
ho has not been locked out, sent away, or heard someone in charge say, “There’s no room for you here”? We creep or crawl or walk away hopefully in dignity, keep going, trying again and again, taking the next chance, and the next, until we discover a way that meets the need—often a surprising way comes to us, and it is a blessed one. Some would try to quash this determination of the soul who keeps going, keeps going, no matter who said what, no matter who did what, no matter what twist of fate befell us, no matter what doors are closed to us. This is how La Posada acts as a candle in the dark. La Posada is a ritual that asserts, despite all blather and disheartening from self or others, “I will find a way through; there will be a place, a person, a shelter. I will keep going.”
We believe that no matter who tries to exile the genuinely holy, it will never work for long, for it is seeded innately in the psyche, in the spirit, soul, and body. The holy is not something placed into us. It is a radiant light that blossoms from us. Sacred Posada ritual is based on an ancient story about the night the Holy Family tried to find shelter at a wayside inn. The natividad story of La María, the Great Woman, goes like this: She who was pregnant with the brilliant little Light of the World, desperately needed a resting place. She was in her ninth month of pregnancy, and she had bumped for miles over rough terrain. But, there was no room at any hostel where María and her spouse, Santo José, begged for shelter. La Posada literally means making one’s own heart into the inn or “place of shelter” for the Light of the World, for the God of Love, to be born. There are practices for each soul to become a shelter for the Divine Child and his Mother and mortal father, for ways of seeing with the soul rather than the ego, that will better Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 17
cleanse our own fed-up minds and half-poisoned bodies, our fatigued souls and disheartened spirits, bringing them into vibrant, receptive, welcoming, sheltering refugios, again. Not just once a year. Rather, a daily practice of remembering to grant first place to Love without barriers. The idea underlying Posada is to re-enter the rapture of and with Love again — to unlock our ways of love based on examples set by the miracle Child, the Mother and the mortal, loyal father. That is, we act as close as possible like this little family who are affectionately called “First Family,” they who see through the eyes and heart of Love alone; the Ones who have few armed fortifications; the Ones who understand sacrifice and determination; those who protect others; who know the healing touch and those who teach the ignorant with patience; who know how to breathe as perfect rest. Those who keep going.
The Ritual Night Procession to Find Shelter for Love In Posadas I’ve been part of, the intent is to travel with José y María y El Bebe, to not be separate from their travails and desperation in searching for safe haven for the birth of the Gift of Love. The sense of being los exilios y los destierros, the exiled, the banished, is not play-acted in Posada. Each Posada pilgrim, in some way, truly is an exilio seeking to find shelter from the world for the Child of Love they carry in their hearts. The underlying elements of the ancient story—being reviled, looked down upon, being told, “There is no place for you here”—are still too often very real for many souls in our time. The procession of souls proceeds through the dark winter night, not in the hope for, but rather in the fierce belief that somehow, somewhere, an abiding shelter for The Gift will be found. It must be found. It most assuredly must. As with all other rituals, Posadas are practiced somewhat differently depending on locale, the families or the parish, the country of origin, the venerable and cranky old women’s say-so. There can be nine nights to La Posada ritual and so, beforehand, it is arranged at nine pre-chosen homes that when the pilgrims dressed up as the Holy Family come to their doors, they will be sent away. No room for you here. Myriad people will refuse to give shelter to María and her family. The ritual commences then, at night, with a procession often 18 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
beginning at the parish church, often accompanied by singing the “Litany of La Virgen.” Then, with the lassos of rosaries swinging, and handheld candles lit, the procession of souls walks into the night toward the first of the homes that will turn away those bearing the Christ Child. In some Posadas, different people are chosen to portray María and José each successive night. Sometimes a different child is chosen each night to portray the coming Child, or else a beautiful little muñeca, a doll or doll-like marionette of the Christ Child, the exact size of a newborn baby, is swaddled and held close by people of various ages. I still smile in my heart to remember during one Posada, when I lived in Albuquerque in the 1960s, a sweet staggering toddler carried the Cristocito with his mami and papi and abuelita waddling behind, crouching over the child to make sure the little Christ Child would not be dropped accidentally. And I remember one old one’s hands, which were like end-sawn lumber from his years of labor. Those old hands had touched and learned so much about life and death—and they now held the little Christ Child muñeca, doll, so tightly against his barrel chest, as though he alone had sole responsibility for protecting all that could ever matter—that if he didn’t carry and hold on tight to the radiant little Child, the entire world would somehow disappear into the dark forever. Thus, the traveling procession proceeds from house to house. When I lived in Taos, La Posada is in dead of winter. Can you imagine a cloud of dark overcoats singing? So covered over were people in their scarves and mufflers. The eyes of so many of our tired, worn-down people filled with hope and happiness in the candlelight. At each of the nine houses: loud— knock, knock, knock. Silencio till the door creaked open. A gaggle of dimly lit people behind the door—uncles and aunts, abuelos y abuelitas, other elders, the neighbors, kidlettes. Whoever answered the door would take one look at us, and in some form of “high dungeon” theater, or snarl, or bellow, “No, no, go away.” Some pretended harshness: “No, no room here for the likes of you!” Some answering sadly, “We’re full already. No vacancy. I have no room for you.” Some acted brittle and bitter: “No! Go away! Don’t let me catch you here again!”
The sense of being los exilios y los destierros, the exiled, the banished, is not play-acted in Posada. Each Posada pilgrim, in some way, truly is an exilio seeking to find shelter from the world for the Child of Love they carry in their hearts. And we would all hang our heads, but go away singing and waving our rosaries and holding up our candles, for we knew. We knew we ourselves were carrying the ultimate room at the inn inside ourselves. That no matter what anyone said, we knew there would be room for the Child of Love, for we were the inn itself, the exact chamber needed.
Love Ever Unlocks the Heart’s Locked Door So Posada goes. We are supposed to be turned away from homes eight times. But often Love intervenes early, and the ritual tilts, goes haywire (only according to the rigid minds, though), and the planned order veers all awry instead . . . or as most of us think, goes completely right after all. On one occasion, one of the grandfathers of the house where we were to be rejected, had a bit too much to drink early in the evening, and instead of being able to hold the
harsh stance of “Get out of here, we have no room for you,” he was in his love heart. He forgot his role was supposed to be to refuse the weary travelers a room at the inn. Instead, he disrupted Posada by bellowing from the kitchen table through the front door open to us in the snow: “Ah mio Dio, yes! Come in!” A woman’s voice was heard from the kitchen, “No you old fool, we’re supposed to say ‘No! Go away!’” The grandfather bellowed again: “Come on, come one and all. We got plenty of room, what the hell you talking about? Come. Come.” A child’s voice was heard in the kitchen, “No, Abuelo, we’re supposed to say ‘No.’’’ “Oh, hell with no. Say yes! Say, ‘Sí, se puede.’ Say, ‘Yes, it can be done.’ Come in, we got a cot, we got the Stratolounger, we got a floor! What’s keeping you!?” We, out in the cold then, felt what María y José y Cristocito might have felt too—at the inn, the innkeeper Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 19
and the wife arguing “Yes/no, yes/no, let them in, no don’t, yes do, no no no.” Another time, another year at Posada, the bearded man who answered the door tentatively said, “Noooo, I ummm don’t think so. I don’t, no, no room . . . well . . . ” He had Down syndrome, and he and his mother had rehearsed his Posada speech for days. Now, he spoke his part as planned, and his dear mami patted him and pulled him away from the door frame. We, the troop of once-again rejected Posada celebrants turned to fade back into the night. But the young man suddenly ran out onto the porch stoop in the snow, crying out from his heart of love, “No no! Come back, come back! You can have my bed!” The unlocked heart will ever let love in. Ever, ever. Some might say this young man was “broken,” because he blurted out “the wrong thing.” But, in fact, this young soul was radiant-whole: Love ever finds shelter in the heart of one who is so permanently unlocked.
Posada Goes On Even though some of us had called to the young man, “Yes, oh thank you and your big heart, we will be back, thank you so much,” we had to continue being rejected. 20 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
So, we trudged back into the dark, searching for the place for María and her family, searching while remembering our own exiles, merging them in some measure with those of the Holy People. To remember what was most important to shelter, that unity of us all with ancient María y José y Jesus in a real way in the real cold and ice, the real snow and wet, rather than to somehow divorce ourselves from the root instead, loving in ways I suppose might look to a modern audience as though we were stumbling through an ancient stage play. But, regardless of how others might see us, time and again the people who vowed to protect the Light, the Child of Love, knocked at doors, and sang the songs asking for shelter. And were turned away. It is amazing
M. DAVID NELSON
Finally, we come to the last house, where at the very end of the long search, those cast to be “the compassionate people” welcome the weary travelers in out of the cold. And in all this last house on the road is a place of honor—no matter how humble. A place has been prepared for the Child of Light to be born.
what emotions, memories, thoughts, and feelings come up for souls when their egos think they are, in one sense, only participating in a pageant. We never know if it’s the story or the longing for the story that causes us to remember where we came from, and how dearly beloved is the Light that makes so many weep. And you can hear the tears in the dark then; the tears come through the singing voices that suddenly go wavering, in the loss of timing, in the dropping out of half the singing voices down into the whisper range. And it’s alright. We’re together. It’s all alright. We hold onto each other, we comfort each other, we hand Kleenex all around, hold candles for others while they dry their faces. Arms over shoulders now, arms around waists. A tribe of heart-wounded sailors, we act as crutches and bandages for each other as we row on to the next house, the next.
Since time out of mind, forces rise up from the dark spewing black sand everywhere trying to douse The Light of the World . . . trying to destroy the sons and the daughters of the Light. Sometimes, begging from door to door is the only way to find shelter for the Holy. Even when doors slam shut, one will open eventually, And the firelight inside Will jump through the dark, So that light meets Light, Like steel sharpens Steel.
Finally Until finally, the search is ended. Finally, we come to the last house, where at the very end of the long search, those cast to be “the compassionate people” welcome the weary travelers in out of the cold. In this last house there will be las servietas, special snowy linens folded just for this moment, and cakes and sweets and often a piñata, and there will be much rejoicing that at last there is a place for the soul to rest who is pregnant with New Life. And for José, the often-bewildered protector, he will be congratulated and given some fiery tequila to numb his anxiety about his wife and the little Child. His arms will be pumped in congratulations, mustaches will bob up and down with, “I was waiting for my first hijo, son, to be born and I thought I would grow wings.” They will give Joseph the big strong recliner, and faces will soon be red from laughing and drinking hot tea with chiles in it. And in all this last house on the road is a place of honor—no matter how humble. A place has been prepared for the Child of Light to be born. Again. Right there in each person’s weeping, happy, exhausted, frozen, but warming-up-now heart. And we are changed. We have gone through the dark desert, and we’ve been whipped around by memory— ancestral and common, personal and momentous. We are not separate from María, we are not separate from José, we are not separate from the Cristocito. We are together in all this. No one will be left stranded, for we are the new innkeepers.
Yet, even if no one comes, Even if no one opens the door, no one human, that is . . . Hold tight, for angels will come then . . . and using the key of Love, all doors will fall open or else be locked securely protecting all within . . . all this for you, rather than against you, for you who persisted, you yourself now, and every day being born as the i at the beginning of the word miracle . . . In this way, you yourself, in your own human and soulful ways, are forever Mary’s miracle child.
© 2011, 2013 by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., internationally acclaimed author, scholar, psychoanalyst, and post-trauma specialist, www.clarissapinkolaestes.com and http://tinyurl.com/o5kecev. This excerpted article is from her outstanding book: Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul, published by Sounds True, receiving a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, and now available in paperback. www.soundstrue.com.
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 21
Releasing Your Karma When you can view yourself with a fair measure of detachment and compassion, you can watch the myriad little incidents of daily life dovetail into a tightly fitting pattern. Once you begin to see this pattern you will understand why you are in a particular situation. by ek nath ea swar an
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to you. You understand, and the turmoil quiets down; you can calmly take the lesson to heart. This law of cause and effect is accepted as a fact of life by Hindus and Buddhists, as natural as the law of gravitation. In this law it is not somebody else that makes you suffer; it is you yourself. Nobody can be cruel to you except yourself, and nobody can be kind to you except yourself. When you take this to heart, you will become acutely vigilant about not getting resentful or bitter or cruel, because you will know that no one will suffer from these things more than you.
Our Karmic Debts If God is all, he is suffering as well as joy. As Rudra, (which comes from the root rud, “to cry”) he personifies the unavoidable fact that most of us learn from our mistakes only because they bring us sorrow. Suffering is not the Lord inflicting punishment on us. Our ignorance in making choices is responsible for most of the sorrow we bring upon ourselves. A certain amount of suffering in life is not only inescapable but even necessary for growth. It took me a long time to understand this, though my spiritual teacher tried to teach me very early in life. When I made a mistake and suffered for it, she would not be very sympathetic. She didn’t gloat over my suffering or withdraw her support of me either; but in wordless ways, she helped me to learn not to make that mistake
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ecause the Lord is the eternal witness, moving to another town or a warmer climate to solve personal problems is not very practical. The video camera is always there within us. The lights are always illuminating the stage, and the tape is endless; it never misses a thing. So the idea that we can really “get away with it” is preposterous. This is the ancient law of karma, which Jesus stated succinctly: “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” You may not be able to see the connections of cause and effect that operate in your life, but as spiritual awareness grows you will begin to make out a pattern. When you can view yourself with a fair measure of detachment and compassion, you can watch the myriad little incidents of daily life dovetail into a tightly fitting pattern. Until then we cannot see this pattern, because it would throw us into utter turmoil. In his love, the Lord draws a curtain over karmic connections until we have developed the detachment to deal with them. Once you begin to see this pattern, however, you will understand why you are in a particular situation. If you find yourself being raked over the coals, you will know that it is because you have done a good share of raking yourself. Twenty years ago in Kansas you may have said certain angry words; now you are here in California listening to the same angry words being said
again. At the time I didn’t understand what seemed a strange lack of sympathy. Today I know that if someone has been behaving selfishly, it is much better for that person to suffer the consequences and learn to change than it is to remain blind and fail to grow, which just means letting problems grow instead. Every day I see the verification of the law of karma. Ill health is often an instance: if we do not take care of our body and maintain our peace of mind, our health is bound to suffer. That is Rudra making us cry. When our breathing is labored, when our digestion is upset, when our equanimity is destroyed, we do cry—and this crying is a signal, a red warning from body and mind, reminding us that something fundamental in our life is wrong. Pain, illness, insecurity, and mental turmoil are all loving signals from the Lord, who is telling us, “It’s time you gave yourself a checkup. It is time you learned to change your ways.” Sometimes we manage to delay payment in the operation of karma, but then often it hits us with heavy interest. I prefer the idea of cash karma, where if you make a mistake, you pay for it immediately. However painful this may be for the moment, there is no interest hanging over your head. You give out six dollars worth of inconsiderateness, and on the spot you get six dollars worth in return. The debt is canceled. When you make a mistake, in other words, it is much better to take the consequences on the chin than to try to put them off, for
consequences tend to compound, making the karma load bigger and bigger. When I was growing up, it was considered imprudent in my village to have any kind of debt. No one would borrow unless they absolutely had to; the consequences of debt were just too serious. If you borrowed a small amount and paid it back quickly, the penalty wasn’t bad. But there are certain moneylending practices in India whereby the interest on the loan ends up greater than the principal, so that the longer the loan is drawn out, the more you owe. You can borrow a thousand rupees, pay interest every month, and find out after three years that you owe not one thousand rupees but fifteen hundred. Similarly, in the spiritual realm, the weight of unpaid karma can be a tangible liability. When you accumulate karmic debts, therefore, pay them back right away, before the interest builds up. Don’t be tempted to reschedule your karmic debt, and don’t wait for interest rates to go down; it doesn’t happen. In India we have a peculiar phrase, “to file the yellow paper.” It means to declare insolvency, and it is looked upon—especially by creditors—as being less than fully honest. When you go to ask for a loan, the lender always asks you to declare that you have no intentions of filing the yellow paper. One of the perennial paradoxes of the human condition is that if you want to avoid filing the yellow Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 23
paper in life, the only way is to give. By giving you can never go bankrupt, because the more you give of yourself, the more you receive. In fact, it is only by giving that you can avoid going bankrupt. When you go through life refusing to give, the yellow paper comes and sticks to your forehead. Most people who are insecure, for example, have difficulty giving of themselves. Insecurity is a warning from the bank within that you are getting low on funds. But such people needn’t go on to the point that they become actually bankrupt in love. They can make themselves solvent again, even rich, by learning to give. As Saint Francis de Sales says, we learn to give by trying to give; we learn to give more by giving more. Instead of dwelling on ourselves and asking what we can expect from others, we should start looking for ways to give our time, energy, and resources to causes more important than ourselves.
Winning Happiness Each of us has the responsibility of spreading love and increasing others’ happiness. There was an emperor in ancient India with a similar name, which I like very much: Harshavardhana, “he whose joy lies in increasing the joy of his people.” To me, it is an axiom by now that nobody can win happiness by inflicting pain on others. No matter how much satisfaction you think you can get by being discourteous to somebody who has wronged you, I assure you it will never happen, because that is the law of karma. If you give joy, you will receive joy; if you inflict pain, you will receive pain. The choice is ours. When I see people fishing, for example, I cannot understand how anybody can get pleasure out of inflicting pain on those poor creatures. It goes without saying that I feel the same about hunting, whatever justification is offered. “Deer season” to me doesn’t mean it is time to kill deer. For me it means a time to show films about deer, to write stories about deer, to make people sensitive to our kinship with these gentle creatures in every possible way. The deer in our ashram are so trustful now that if we come across one grazing, we have to walk around; the creature won’t bother to move. I have even thought of carrying a little brush in my pocket to give their fur a brushing. That is my deer season. The other day, as we were driving over the creek on our way into town, I spotted a turtle having a snooze near the edge of the pavement. People may not see him 24 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
there, I said to myself, and they might run over him by accident. So I asked the driver to stop while we picked him up and found a safer spot for his siesta. We have to spread love everywhere through our personal contact with people and creatures. You will come to feel toward every girl or boy exactly as you would toward your own children. This doesn’t take away from your love for your children; it means you gain the same love for other children as well. And they all respond to it, too.
Dissolving Karma As the Compassionate Buddha says succinctly, we get in life what we work for. If we ride roughshod over other people’s feelings, for example, we are bound to alienate those we live and work with, which means that after a while they are likely to start riding roughshod over us. There is nothing unfair about the law of karma, and no outside agent is required. We reap just what we sow. Help comes when we ask the Lord—our real Self— from the bottom of our heart, “I am a victim of my own habits; I want to change, but I’ve been conditioned to act this way all my life. What can I do to save myself from the bad karma I have been accumulating?” The answer the Bhagavad Gita gives is that our selfish conditioning begins to fall away when we learn to put others first and to return sympathy for resentment and love for hatred. Putting others first quickly dissolves the conditioning of selfish habits, even if they have been entrenched for many years. When we can do this, it means we are learning the lesson which our bad karma had to teach. The purpose of karma is not punitive; it is educational. When we forget ourselves completely in love of the Lord, the nexus with karma is cut. That is why Sri Krishna assures us in the Gita: Be aware of me always, adore me, Make every act an offering to me, And you shall come to me. This I promise, For you are dear to me. Abandon all supports, and look to me alone For protection. I will purify you Of the sins of the past; do not grieve. © 1987 by The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, Inc. Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) was a spiritual teacher, a professor, the author of over two dozen books, and the founder of The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in northern California. This article is reprinted by permission from his book, Thousand Names of Vishnu, published by Nilgiri Press, Tomales, Califonia, www.easwaran.org.
Contemplations of Hafiz
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
About Being More Secure They touch us, don’t they? So many things in different ways. And then those feelings can last for years in varying degrees. Are not our days and hours in response to what we have felt? We circle inside what we love, what we fear, what we hope. The mind is like a falcon, ever ready with its sight on its choice prey—beauty. For nothing satisfies like Her taste. A holy infant, taken from God’s womb, is each creature.
I Wish I Could Speak Like Music I wish I could speak like music. I wish I could put the swaying splendor of fields into words so that you could hold Truth against your body and dance. I am trying the best I can with this crude brush, the tongue, to cover you with light. I wish I could speak like divine music. I want to give you the
What happened to your royal attendant? Who allowed you to crawl to places that can give you the feeling, at times, of dread?
sublime rhythms of this earth and the sky’s limbs as they joyously spin and surrender, surrender
This poem was longer by some 20 lines, but I let them go back to where they came from, some shop in the ethers.
against God’s luminous breath. Hafiz wants you to hold me against your precious body and dance, dance.
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There’s enough here to contemplate, as is. My humming is winding down. My favorite season of love has approached… quiet. Most live before dawn and become overwhelmed with the frightening noises, ideas, in your house and mind. You know what I mean, about being more secure with the light on.
From the Penguin publication, A Year With Hafiz, Daily Contemplations, copyright © 2011 Daniel Ladinsky and used with his permission.
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 25
The Soul of Light
Works of Illumination Art and text by Joma Sipe 26 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
he intricate and elaborate process of creating each work includes the purpose of transmitting a message, although sometimes that message cannot be understood immediately. Each work disperses and concentrates the light that emanates from each above: Sepher Yetzirah line in the painting. This light (Book of Creation) represents Being and our deeper Essence, the deep heart of the opposite: Angels Hands
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 27
28 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
energy from life that inhabits everything that exists. This energy seeks to break the barrier of the physical dimension to meld with the universal Energy that condenses, materializes, and takes form in each canvas. My principal goal is to opposite: Lux Perpetua transmit, through the lines and (Eternal Light) crystals, an inner spiritual image or sacred feeling that I have. The above: Chakra 4 various mystical schools, rituals, (Anahata) religions, and ways of thought I
have studiedâ€”Theosophy, Gnosticism, the Kabbalah, Hinduism, and so onâ€”only help me to process what I see inside and to transmit that vision to the paper or the canvas, using very simple materials and processes. Usually I start with a blank canvas or piece of black paper without having any idea of what I am going to draw. I sit waiting for inspiration, and it surely comes within some minutes. As if on their own, the very thin silver or gold ink pens start working until no more lines, circles, or other forms that make part of the work can Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 29
be drawn. right: Portal Some of the of the Spirit 6: drawings Buddhi and figures are very opposite: To Love strange to and To Be Loved me, but somehow something inside of me understands it all completely. The second phase has to do with locating the points in the painting to enhance with crystals. I use both simple crystals that do not reflect any color and shine only in a white, silver way as well as aurora boreal crystals that reflect every color that exists. At this stage, I must call on all my sensibility, intuition, and inner vision in order to know which points to energize. This process produces an energetic rebirth at the specific points of the painting, as new life is breathed inside the work that fills it with spiritual intensity. When I finish the black canvas or paper work with the gold or silver pens and crystals—which I call the “original work”—I start on the third phase of the process, or what I call the “illuminated work.” At this stage I add light and soft-color computer effects, which give the paintings their ethereal quality. The lighting may vary from simple glowing drops to a radiance that infuses the entire piece. Fortunately, this inspiration simply appears to me, so that I always know the exact effect and color to apply. Such elements add energy and luminosity to the original painting, reinforcing and completing the deeper connection between the work of art and what I see in my inner world.
Message Your lives do not matter anymore, Neither what you were nor what you will be. 30 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
It only matters what you are now, The moment you have now is given to you at all times. There are memories in you, memories that you Did not forget, Many lives have passed, but this is the only one In which you are alive. Be who you are, a light torch and an awakened heart, An illuminated Force inside and all around you. © 2013 by Joma Sipe, a visionary artist and poet who lives and works in Vila Nova de Gaia, near Porto, Portugal. The art and text for this article was reproduced by permission of Quest Books, the imprint of The Theosophical Publishing House (www.questbooks.net) from Soul of Light: Works of Illumination © 2012 by Joma Sipe. To see and read more about his art visit www.jomasipe.com.
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 31
Ancient Vedantic Methods in a Contemporary Classroom by William y. HayasHi, PH.D.
The Vedas are probably the earliest recognized and recorded scriptures of humankind. They originated over 4,000 years ago and were studied in the forest ashrams of India. A method of investigation was developed and used by Vedic masters to instruct their disciples. Three distinct steps were included: shravana—to listen or hear; manana—to contemplate or reflect upon; and nididhyasana—to use or imbibe. Becoming established in full Enlightenment was the ultimate goal and actualization of the teachings. 32 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
I have adapted this ancient method of study to a modern college classroom. With certain changes, it can provide a powerful approach to experiential learning. Since the context is now a college class and not a forest ashram, the goal is not necessarily Enlightenment but
rather a deep and fully imbibed understanding of the course materials. In all my classes, I tell the students on the first day that the subject matter is the (S)self, both individual and universal; the method is Vedantic; and the goal is personal and collective transformation. The three steps of the original method are included: to read or hear a text, to contemplate and take in an experiential understanding of the main ideas, and to actually imbibe or apply these ideas in daily life. Since we are able to include written texts as a source of study, students work with and return to a fixed text to deepen their understanding, a possibility that was not originally available to the forest mendicants. Some of the courses I teach that naturally adapt to the method are Spirituality and Empowerment, Mystical Consciousness: East and West, Philosophy of Love, and Spirit on Film. I can readily see how certain social science courses such as psychology or sociology can incorporate this Vedantic approach.
STYLE-pHOTOGrApHS | ISTOCKpHOTO.COM
The First Step: Shravana To incorporate the first step, shravana, to really hear and read a text, I write weekly study questions to guide and focus on the main ideas of the week’s readings. In-class discussion begins by focusing on these study questions. To insure that the students have actually encountered the text at this first level, I employ a discussion method that I call Let the Universe Decide. Students write their names on index cards, which I shuffle and then draw a name randomly from the pile. That student begins the discussion of the first study question. This encourages a close initial reading of the text and adds an element of suspense to the process. After the first student has been chosen and responds, anyone who wishes may then address the same question. In this way, we often have a variety of viewpoints and approaches. Students are also invited to pose a “real” question, one that is genuine and of importance to the questioner, relevant to the initial study question or any of the student responses. This also encourages close listening in class to the initial questions and to peer responses. In the creation of weekly study questions, I first include those that relate to the texts themselves. For example, in teaching Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha I might ask: why does Siddhartha choose to leave his family and way of life to follow the ascetics, the samanas, into the forests, or, what does he learn from his shadow teachers, the courtesan Kamala, and the merchant,
Kawaswami? Siddhartha is an example of a literary text. For a more expository or non-literary text such as Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, I create questions that focus on the main points or terms of the text: what are some ways that Tolle reveals how we avoid or deny the present moment, or, what does Tolle mean by the “pain body”? Since this is the first stage of the Vedantic method, shravana, or simply hearing or reading a text, these questions deal primarily with the texts themselves and the author’s ideas. This is the level at which most college humanities courses approach their material, primarily informational and impersonal.
The Second Step: Manana To move to the second stage of the method, manana or personal experience, I include a different type of questioning that invites the students to contemplate their own personal experience of the terms or ideas. I frequently refer to the science fiction novel by Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, in this context. There, the main character, a Martian named Michael Valentine Smith tells an earthling acquaintance that the problem with earthlings is that you don’t “grok.” When the earthling asks Michael, “What does it mean to grok?” he says, “When you’re really thirsty and want a drink and someone gives you one and you say, ‘Ah, water!’ you really grok water. But so often you all say one week, ‘I love you, I love you,’ and then a few weeks later, ‘Get away from me, I can’t stand you!’ You don’t grok love, you just use words.” I try to get the students to really grok the main ideas or terms of a text, in other words, to incorporate the second stage of the Vedantic method, direct experience. In teaching Siddhartha, for example, I may ask them what has been their experience of leaving home, or is it yet to happen? What was the experience like and what did they learn from it? Or, with Tolle, how and/or when do they experience their pain body and how do they work with it? In this way, the students have a direct experiential understanding of the main terms and ideas of the texts and course.
Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation and mindfulness (total awareness and absorption in the object or activity of the moment) are included in all of my courses; we experience mantra, visualization, silent and bodily focused meditation in class. I ask them to meditate, using any form they prefer for at least ten minutes four times a week, and to briefly Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 33
Meditation and mindfulness are included in all of my courses; we experience mantra, visualization, silent and bodily focused meditation in class. I ask them to meditate, using any form they prefer for at least ten minutes four times a week, and to briefly describe their meditations in a meditation log.
34 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
lifestyle and not simply a class exercise.” By the end of the semester, students know whether or not they have had a successful meditation and/or experienced a truly mindful activity. In this way they have come to really grok meditation and mindfulness and not just internalized a verbal description of them.
Direct Experience To support this inclusion of direct experience in their learning process, I also have the students turn in a Weekly Inquiry Sheet, which always includes the same two questions: “What passage from this time’s reading really stood out or struck home for you, and how does it relate to your own life experience?” I ask them to include specific examples or stories. Since Columbia College Chicago is a liberal arts school focusing on the arts and media professions, the students are often quite creative and expressive. I have two students each week present their responses to the entire class in the form of a creative project: poetry, music, movement, or performance. This usually elicits a very deep and authentic personal response. In order to help them focus on content, I suggest that they work with a medium they are not so familiar with so that they will find a more simple, direct mode of expression. I have gotten some remarkable strong movement pieces
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describe their meditations in a meditation log. They turn in their logs each week and receive comments and suggestions from me at the next class. They also turn in their experience of three chosen mindful activities for each of the other days of the week. These may include varied experiences such as meals, showers, walking from place to place, or even closely reading a course text. This exercise quickly reveals to them that they are not always fully present, and that for many of them their days are simply a “blur.” They are amazed at what it is like to really taste and enjoy every part of a meal. They also see how frequently they “space out” during many course lectures and discussions. They record and turn in descriptions and learning from these mindful activities. They also choose one day a week to be their designated Day of Mindfulness, when they try to stay as fully present as possible throughout the entire day. They are often quite shocked, especially at the start of the semester, by how long they can go on “automatic pilot” without really taking in and differentiating their experience. Again, they write up their experiences and learning in a Weekly Day of Mindfulness Report. Quite frequently I get the question, “Dr. Hayashi, is it ok if we have more than one day of mindfulness?” I tell them, “Yes, definitely,” and that “being mindful is actually a
from non-dance majors, for example. In addition, final papers center around the four most important learnings students have received from the course, with three concrete personal examples/stories from their own experience, and how they plan on using each teaching in their actual lives in the future.
The Third Step: Nididhyasana This brings us to the third step of the Vedantic method: nididhyasana or imbibing. I believe what the Vedantic masters meant by imbibing is that the teachings become such an internalized, embodied part of the students’ inner lives that they naturally express them in lived experience. In order to encourage imbibing or using the ideas, I begin each class with every student sharing one idea from the week’s readings that they have actually used, and what they learned from doing so. In all my classes, to make this and later sharing more personal and direct, we sit in a circle so eye contact can be made with everyone. I also encourage them to address each other in raising questions or responding in discussion. We also play the notorious “name-game” the first day of each class where each student shares what they would like to be called and a rhyme that could apply. I, for example, am usually “Bill has will,” or, “Bill won’t kill.” Each student in the circle then has to remember the name and rhyme for every previous student before sharing their own. Occasionally students will have a name that is hard to find a rhyme for. Then it’s up to the class to come up with one. I recall a shy girl named Sheila who was having a hard time coming up with her rhyme. One ingenious student suggested, “Sheila likes to feela,” which elicited quite a laugh. When it is the last student’s turn, they often have twenty or more names and rhymes to remember. I encourage them to address each other directly by name from then on in class discussions. They often say this is the first class in college where they know everybody’s name and use them. Also, at the end of each class, we do a closing circle where each student will share something from class that really stood out and how they might actually apply it in their own lives. Often times, the fruit of this application comes up in the opening circle the following week where again, they share what they have used from the class and what they learned from doing so. All of this greatly adds to a feeling of closeness and shared experience. By the end of the semester, we have all groked what the
term learning community really means and how we have actually applied the term and created the felt experience.
Relevance These are some of the ways I have incorporated the ancient Vedantic method in my contemporary humanities classrooms. There are several distinct educational advantages to doing so. It makes immediately clear to the students how the course is relevant to their own lives and direct experience. Students often report that the course has actually changed their lives or ways that they experience and process them. Many vow to continue meditating and being mindful as often as they can. It also encourages a very authentic and open connection between students throughout the semester. Students often say they have never had a class where they’ve felt so close to and open with their peers. Students also learn how these teachings, even from ancient writers such as Plato, Augustine, LaoTzu, the Buddha, Christ and Mohammed are immediately relevant to their own lives and times and can serve as sources not only of inspiration but also immediate implementation. For example, in Spirituality and Empowerment, when they study Patanjali and the proper methods and uses for breathing, they are amazed at how much they can learn about and better utilize something they have been doing their entire lives. I can see them doing this when they take long and slow breaths during the writing of their final exams. In the opposite direction, it makes experiential learning not just a “touchy/feely” experience but one directly connected to important ideas from ancient masters and contemporary thinkers. Most relevant to me, it makes learning not simply immediate but also appealing and fun. My courses, which are all structured around this ancient Vedantic method, are consistently among the first to fill at registration and have received generous commentary on school evaluation sheets and the Internet Rate Your Professor surveys. And finally, it gives me the opportunity to really know and value the lives of my students and that I have touched and affected those lives in positive ways. What could be more fulfilling and rewarding for a teacher than that! © 2013 by William Y. Hayashi, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Humanities, History and Social Science at Columbia College, Chicago. He also teaches workshops on “Meditation and Mindfulness” throughout the country.
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 35
The Holy Mother
on Human and Spiritual Life
After Ramakrishna’s passing away the Mother conducted his ministry for thirty-four years. She was a village woman without formal education; but she helped and solved problems of innumerable people through her love and compassion. by swami chetanananda
nce I asked Swami Ishanananda, a disciple and attendant of the Holy Mother: “Swami, you lived with the Mother almost eleven years. Could you tell me the difference between her and other women whom we see in our families?” The swami thought a while and then replied: “Have you seen any woman in your life who is devoid of desire? The Mother was completely desireless. You see, human beings have desires and only God is desireless. She was a goddess.” When a divine being is born as human, he or she acts like a human being. A woman’s life passes through four stages: The Holy Mother was an ideal daughter, ideal sister, ideal wife, and ideal mother. Truly, she was an ideal of Indian womanhood. Sometimes some American women come for interviews with their problems. I tell them: “How many problems do you have? Read the life of the Holy Mother and you will find how many problems she had and how she tackled them. I am sure that compared to her problems your problem is negligible. You are facing the problem of your single family and she encountered innumerable problems of hundreds of families. She suffered from poverty, disease, and bereavements; got ill treatment from some relatives and some devotees. It is really amazing how she dealt with those problems calmly with love and compassion, patience and perseverance. We must learn from her how to solve human problems.”
Problem of Adjustment
We have so much friction and misunderstanding among ourselves that we lose peace of mind, and suffer 36 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
from fear and anxiety. Most of our problems develop due to lack of communication and faith. We can solve many of our problems through frankness, humility, and adjustment. Sri Ramakrishna taught the Holy Mother: “Please adjust according to time, place, and person.” Her tiny room in the nahabat—the music building at the Temple where she lived—was octagonal: its length and breadth were 7’9” and height 9’3”; its door was 2’2” and height 4’2”. It seems the Mother was 5’6” tall and she had to pass through the door that was 4’2”. She recalled: “The door of the nahabat was so low that at first I would knock my head against its upper frame. One day I got a cut on the head. Then I became accustomed to it. The head bent of itself as soon as I approached the door.” There were no bathing or toilet facilities in the nahabat, and moreover the temple garden was a public place and there was no privacy for women. The Holy Mother was extremely bashful and modest. No unknown people could see her face as she always kept a veil over it. During the dark hours in the morning, she would go to the jungle on the bank of the Ganges to answer the call of nature and then would take her bath in the Ganges. Once in darkness she was about to step on a crocodile. Later she recalled her sad plight: “I suffered terribly by suppressing the urge for the call of nature and thus developed a physical problem. Only at dark hours of night I could go out.” Later, Yogin-ma (a woman devotee of the Master) realized her predicament and arranged to build a toilet near the nahabat. Sarada Devi underwent all these troubles for serving the Master. Sometimes we visualize the Mother traveling from her village alone in the evening. She was then about
Holy Mother, A painting by Frank Dvorak, collected by Swami Abhedananda
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 37
twenty-four years old. When she was Sri Ramakrishna said to his nephew attacked by a robber it was not possible for Hriday: “You must bear with me and I must her to run away, or to shout for help, or to bear with you; then everything will fight with him, or to bribe him. Fearlessly go well.” The Mother learned this beautiful and tactfully she immediately established trait from the Master. Her unselfishness, a relationship with him, saying: “Father, I am your daughter Sarada. My companions love, sweetness and modesty would have left me behind. Perhaps I am going in conquer people’s minds immediately. the wrong direction. Your son-in-law lives at the Kali temple at Dakshineswar. I am going to him. Please accompany me there. He will certainly appreciate your kindness and show you proper courtesy.” How wonderfully she food you have arranged for us today. Please eat it now adjusted with the robber and made him her own! quickly while it is warm.” About interpersonal relationships, Sri Ramakrishna Observing the Mother’s unconventional behavior, said to his nephew Hriday: “You must bear with me we began to laugh. The Mother then told us: “Look, and I must bear with you; then everything will go well. one should act and adjust according to time. Now all of Otherwise we shall have to summon the manager to you sit down; I shall serve food.” The Mother’s women make up our differences.” The Mother learned this companions and we sat on the ground. She scooped beautiful trait from the Master. Her unselfishness, love, rice with a wooden ladle from the top and put it on sweetness, and modesty would conquer people’s minds our leaf plates and then added other dishes. She also immediately. took food in the same way and began to eat. She made Swami Ishanananda told us this marvelous story of a comment: “Food is delicious.” We hurriedly finished the Mother’s presence of mind, strong common sense, our lunch, packed the luggage, and started our journey. and power of adjustment according to time and situation. We reached Koalpara Ashrama at 11:00 p.m.
It was winter 1919. The Holy Mother came from Calcutta to Vishnupur by train and then by a sixbullock cart to Koalpara. On the way we stopped at Jaipur and began to cook by the roadside inn. The cook first began to prepare dal and the Mother was happy to see the arrangement of cooking. The Mother washed her hands and feet at the nearby pond and then helped cutting vegetables. Most of the cooking was done. Meanwhile the cook broke the earthen rice pot while removing the extra foamy water. That cooked rice was scattered on the ground. What to do? We were in a dilemma. We thought if we buy another pot and cook rice again, it would be too late to reach Koalpara, and moreover the road was not safe. We will have to cross another fourteen miles.
The Mother was not upset at all. She slowly removed the foamy part with a straw ladle and collected the rice from the top. She then washed her hands, took out the Master’s picture from her tin box and placed it on its corner. She took a sal leaf, put some rice, dal, and vegetable on it, and placed it in front of the Master. With folded hands she prayed: “Master, this 38 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
Problems in Spiritual Life
A monastic disciple of the Mother was passing through a dry spell, which is also called “the dark night of the soul.” He stopped visiting her although he was living a few blocks from the Mother’s Udbodhan house. Finally he wrote a letter to the Mother requesting her to take back the mantra. The Mother sent for him. When he came she said: “Look here, my child, the sun dwells high in the sky and water remains on the earth. Does the water have to shout at the sun and ask: ‘O Sun, please take me up?’ It is the very nature of the sun to take up the water in the form of vapor. Let me assure you that you will not have to practice any discipline.” What a reassurance! Our minds are restless; as a result we have no peace. This is a universal problem. A disciple complained to the Mother with great anguish: “Mother, either remove my inner restlessness or take back your mantra.” She was so moved that her eyes became filled with tears at the disciple’s suffering, and she said fervently: “All right, you will not have to repeat the mantra any more.” These words frightened him and he thought that his relationship with her was severed forever. He anxiously
prays to the Master wholeheartedly, he listens and arranges things accordingly.’”
Practicing Mind Control
said: “You have taken away everything from me! What shall I do now? Does it mean that I am going to hell?” The Holy Mother said in an animated voice: “What do you mean? You are my child; how can you go to hell? Those who are my children are already free. Even Providence cannot send them to hell.” Many aspirants suffer from doubt and confusion in their spiritual life. Swami Basudevananda had the same problem. He recalled: “I asked the Mother: ‘Sometimes I get confused and do not find anyone nearby to ask about my doubt. What shall I do then?’ “The Mother replied: ‘Keep a picture of the Master always with you, and think that he is with you and looking after you. If you have any question, pray to him; you will see that he will show the solution in your mind. He is always within you. Because the mind is extrovert, people do not see within and search for him outside. When you pray for something, you will find the answer arising within like a flash. If any person Holy Mother on porch of her house in Jayrambati, India, 1913
The difference between the sane and the insane is that the sane have control over emotions and the insane do not. It is easy to control the pure mind. The Mother suggested various methods to different disciples. She said: “My child, this mind is just like a wild elephant. It races with the wind. Therefore one should discriminate all the time. One should work hard for the realization of God.” Disciple: “I cannot concentrate my mind during meditation. My mind is fickle and unsteady.” Mother: “Don’t worry. Restlessness is the nature of the mind, as it is of the eyes and ears. Practice regularly. The Name of God is more powerful than the senses. Always think of the Master, who is looking after you. Don’t be troubled about your lapses.” Disciple: “However I may try to remove evil thoughts, I do not succeed.” Mother: “This is the result of what you have done in your past life. Can one get rid of it by force? Cultivate good company, try to be good, and in time you will succeed. Pray to the Master. I, too, am here. “Don’t be afraid. I tell you, in this Kaliyuga1 mental sin is no sin. Free your mind from all worries on this account. Can anyone altogether destroy lust? A little of it remains as long as one has the body. But it can be subdued.” Sometimes the Mother would inspire her disciples, telling how she had practiced sadhana. She said: “On moonlit nights I would look at the moon and pray, ‘May my mind be pure as the rays of the moon! O Lord, there are stains even on the moon, but let my mind be absolutely stainless.’ “When I was in Vrindaban, I used to visit Bankubihari (Krishna in a bent pose) and prayed to him: ‘Your form is bent, but your mind is straight. Lord, let there be no windings in my mind.’”
Spiritual Progress as a Householder
Some people ask this question: “Is married life antagonistic to spiritual life?” Many ancient rishis were married and also the avatars, such as Rama, Krishna, Chaitanya, and Ramakrishna. The Mahanirvana Tantra says: “The householders should connect their lives with Brahman, the Supreme Reality, and try to realize Him. And whatever actions they perform, their results should be offered to Brahman.” Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 39
had both monastic and householder Illumined souls have the power to solve disciples. They taught according to each human problems promptly and decisively. individual and demonstrated that each The Holy Mother was simple and pure, path ultimately will lead to the same goal. loving and caring, selfless and compassionate, When a young man, out of temporary dispassion, expressed unwillingness to forbearing and forgiving. As a result, everyone marry, Mother said: “How is that? God would feel safe and secure in her presence. has created things in pairs—two eyes, two ears, two legs—and likewise, man and woman.” To someone hesitant about marriage, Mother said: “Why can’t one lead a good life if one is married? The mind alone is “It is extremely bad for a monk to possess money. everything. Did not the Master marry me? There is nothing impossible for the round pieces [coins] to “The householders have no need of external do—even to the extent of endangering life. A monk must renunciation. They will spontaneously get internal sever all the chains of maya. Golden chains are as much of renunciation. The Master said, ‘One must practice selfa bond as iron chains. A monk must have no attachments.” control after the birth of one or two children.’ Spiritual progress becomes easier if husband and wife agree in Various Problems of Life their views regarding spiritual practices.” After Ramakrishna’s passing away the Mother Regarding earning money and accumulating it, the conducted his ministry for thirty-four years. She Mother said: “You have your wife and children. You was a village woman without formal education; but should lay by something for them. Besides, you will be able she helped and solved problems of innumerable to serve the holy men too. The household is the Lord’s, and people through her love and compassion, patience so in whatever work He has placed you, you should do and forbearance, divine wisdom and practicality. your best to perform it well. If sorrows and troubles assail The disciples of the Master accepted her suggestions you, call on the Master and he will show you the way.” without question. When Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna’s greatest disciple, was in a dilemma The Monastic Life about his journey to the West, he wrote to the Mother The Holy Mother, like Ramakrishna, always set the for her advice and she asked him to go. The disciples ideal of renunciation in front of the monks. Monastic knew that the Mother and the Master were the same. life is not an easy path. When the monks would come Those who could not adjust at other centers or had to the Mother with their problems, she cautioned them: some mental problems took shelter at Holy Mother’s “The Master said, ‘O sadhu, beware!’ Sadhus should house. It is really astounding how she dealt with those always be alert. The path of a sadhu is always slippery. people with diverse personalities through her love and When one is on slippery ground, one should walk on compassion. One day a woman devotee while taking 2 tiptoe. Is it a joke to become a sannyasin ? If one had leave of the Mother bit her big toe. The Mother cried aloud: so desired, one could have married and lived the life “Goodness gracious! What kind of devotion is this? If you of a householder. Now that you have given up such want to touch my feet, why not do so? Why this biting the intentions, the mind should not be allowed to think of toe?” The woman said, “I want you to remember me.” these things. What has once been spat out is not eaten “Indeed!” the Mother replied: “I never before saw such a again. The ochre robe of a sadhu protects him. All gates novel way of making me remember a devotee.” are open to a sadhu. He has access everywhere.” Dr. Kanjilal was the Mother’s disciple and Lust and gold are maya3. It is not easy to overcome physician. His wife one day prayed to the Mother: maya. As a loving mother, she told the monks “Mother, please give your blessings so that my emphatically: “A monk must not lower the ideal of husband’s income may increase.” The Mother replied renunciation. Even if a wooden image of a woman lies bluntly: “Do you want me to wish that people may be upside down in the road, he must not turn it the other sick and that they may suffer? Certainly I can never do way, even with his foot, to look at its face. that. I pray that all may be well, all may be happy.”
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Her selfless love was showered upon all who went to her for succor, irrespective of caste and creed, merit or demerit. She helped them with food, clothes or medicines according to their need. While she was in Koalpara monastery a low caste woman came to her and sought her help with tearful eyes. She had been discarded by her paramour, for whose sake she had left her own home, and now she was completely helpless. The Holy Mother sent for the man and said to him with gentle reproval: “Look here, she has renounced all for your sake. And you have accepted her service for a long time. It will be very sinful for you to reject her now; there will be no room for you even in hell.” The couple was reconciled. Many Muslims lived in Shiromanipur, a village near Jayrambati, Mother’s home village. They made their livelihood by cultivating silkworms, but their business failed because of foreign competition. Many people lost their jobs and began stealing and robbing. When the Mother’s new house in Jayrambati was under construction, the monks hired those Muslim laborers. The villagers were afraid at first, but later were amazed seeing their transformation. The Mother fed them and solved their economic problems to some extent. The villagers commented: “Look, these robbers have become devotees by the Mother’s grace.” A disciple of the Mother wrote: “The poor people suffer here if the Mother is not in Jayrambati. When she is here, she buys milk, vegetables, and fruits, which the villagers grow in their yards. Thus they earn a little money. But when the Mother goes to Calcutta, they cannot sell their things. For that reason, the Mother comes to Jayrambati.” She was a village girl, so she did not like too much sophisticated city life in Calcutta. She loved to move freely in her village, but there also she had to solve the family problems of her brothers. Some diseases are cured naturally in the human system, but a doctor’s prescribed medicine can cure them quickly. So the illumined souls have the power to solve human problems promptly and decisively. The Holy Mother was simple and pure, loving and caring, selfless and compassionate, forbearing and forgiving. As a result, everyone would feel safe and secure in her presence. Swami Ishanananda told us how the Holy Mother assuaged the grief of a poor woman who lost her young son. “I was then living with the Mother at Jayrambati. One day I hired an elderly woman porter to carry some groceries for the Mother and reached Jayrambati at
10:00 a.m. She took down the load from her head and bowed down to the Mother. The Mother knew her and asked: ‘Hello Majhi’s wife, I did not see you for a long time. What happened?’ She replied in a sad tone: ‘Mother, now I am passing through a very hard time. I move around here and there for livelihood. For that reason, your devotees do not find me to carry their goods and luggage. Some days ago my young son died, who was the earning member of our family.’ “At this the Mother said: ‘What a sad news, my dear!’ Immediately the Mother’s eyes became wet. Having sympathy from the Mother, the elderly lady cried out loudly. The Mother also sat on her veranda, pressed her head on a pole and began to cry loudly. Listening to their cry, other women of the household rushed there and watched this pathetic scene silently. Thus some time passed. Later, when their emotion cooled down, the Mother softly asked her woman attendant to bring some coconut oil. The Mother poured that oil on that woman’s dry and disheveled hair and rubbed it with her hand. The Mother also tied puffed rice and solid molasses in the corner of her cloth, and while bidding farewell she said with tearful eyes: ‘Please come again, my sweet child.’ I realized, observing the face of that woman, how much consolation she had derived from the Mother’s compassionate behavior.”
1 Iron or Machine Age. 2 Wandering mendicant or ascetic. 3 Illusory phenomena.
Teachings of Sri Sarada Devi: The Holy Mother, Ramakrishna Math (Chennai, 1985). Swami Ishanananda, Matri Sannidhey, Udbodhan Office (Calcutta, 1971). Swami Nikhilananda, Holy Mother, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center (New York, 1962). Swami Chetanananda, comp. Matridarshan, Udbodhan Office (Calcutta, 1987). Manadashankar Das Gupta, Sri Sri Ma Saradamani Devi, (Calcutta, 1956). Sri Sri Mayer Katha, Udbodhan Office (Calcutta, 1965) vol.2:224-25. © 2013 by Swami Chetanananda, a monk with the Ramakrishna Order since 1960 and presently the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri. Swami Chetanananda is the author of inspiring and widely acclaimed books on Sri Ramakrishna and the Holy Mother, as well as biographies of Swami Vivekananda, Girish Chandra Ghosh and Mahendranath Gupta. Photographs of Holy Mother courtesy of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis.
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 41
“Whether male or female, there is no great difference. But if a woman develops the mind of enlightenment, her potential is supreme.” —Padmasambhava, pioneer of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet
female embodiment of enlightenment is called a dakini in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit. But what exactly is a dakini? Dakinis are elusive and playful by nature; trying to nail them down with a neat definition means missing them, since defying narrow intellectual concepts is at the core of their wise game. “To me the special female quality (which of course many men have as well) is first of all a sharpness, a clarity,” says Tenzin Palmo, who has vowed to attain enlightenment in a female body. “It cuts through— especially intellectual ossification. It . . . gets to the point. To me the dakini principle stands for the intuitive force.” As [Tibetan teacher] Khandro Rinpoche, whose very name literally means “precious dakini,” points out: “Traditionally, the term dakini has been used for outstanding female practitioners, consorts of great masters, and to denote the enlightened female principle of nonduality which transcends gender.” Khandro Rinpoche defines the authentic dakini principle as “a very sharp, brilliant wisdom mind that is uncompromising, honest, with a little bit of wrath.” The dakini principle must not be oversimplified, as it carries many levels of meaning. On an outer level, accomplished female practitioners were called dakinis. But ultimately, though she appears in female form,
a dakini defies gender definitions. “To really meet the dakini, you have to go beyond duality,” Khandro Rinpoche teaches, referring to an essential understanding that the absolute reality cannot be grasped intellectually. The Tibetan word for dakini, khandro, means “sky-goer” or “space-dancer,” which indicates that these ethereal awakened ones have left the confinements of solid earth and have the vastness of open space to play in. Dakinis appear in many forms. “The dakinis are the most important elements of the enlightened feminine in Tibetan Buddhism,” says American teacher Tsultrim Allione. “They are the luminous, subtle, spiritual energy, the key, the gatekeeper, the guardian of the unconditioned state. If we are not willing to invite the dakini into our life, then we cannot enter these subtle states of mind. Sometimes the dakinis appear as messengers, sometimes as guides, and sometimes as protectors.”
Playful, Seductive and Wild Tibetan Buddhists were not the first to meet the dakinis. Like many elements of Vajrayana, the dakinis emerged first in the Indian tantras. When tantra originated in India, the dakini was seen as wrathful and often described as a blood-drinking flesh eater who lived in charnel grounds or cemeteries, challenging the yogis to explode their fears. After Buddhists adopted tantric ideas and tantric Buddhism migrated to Tibet in the eighth century, this image softened somewhat. A gentler, more sensual and accommodating female image emerged, one that nurtured and sustained the practitioners; though that enticing figure could still
Dakini Principle Women Shaping Tibetan Buddhism in the West
More and more women are now rising as teachers in their own right who understand their responsibility: to invigorate and bolster women to hold up half the sky as spiritual seekers and teachers. BY MICHAELA HA A S 42 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
instantly resort to more dramatic, wrathful means when the peaceful approach of seduction didn’t work. This enigma is embodied in Vajrayogini, who is often called the chief of dakinis. Usually depicted as an attractive teenage girl, naked except for a few bone ornaments, she glances invitingly while also swinging a curved knife, ready to cut through ego clinging without warning.
“Inferior Beings” in Tibet The Himalayas were always a nursery for highly accomplished female practitioners and to some extent still are. The yoginis might live in remote hermitages or nunneries as devoted practitioners, or as the wives, mothers, or daughters of famous teachers. Students often sought their advice informally, but women rarely wrote books, sat on high thrones or assumed lofty titles of their own. “There were certainly many great female practitioners in Tibet,” says Tenzin Palmo. “But because they lacked a background of philosophical training, they could not aspire to write books, gather disciples, go on Dharma tours, and give talks.” One of the reasons for the difference in support is that the Tibetan tradition does not know full ordination for women. In order to receive full ordination, Tibetan Buddhist nuns have to travel to countries where the Chinese ordination lineage is available. “But most Tibetan nuns can’t afford to travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Korea,” says Tenzin Palmo, “and even if they did, from the nuns’ point of view, they want to be ordained in their own tradition, in their own robes, by their own teachers or the Dalai Lama!” His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has stated publicly that he supports full ordination for Tibetan nuns, but that he cannot make the decision alone; the monks’ community would have to endorse such a move. To underline his stance, the Dalai Lama gave a group of senior Western bhikshunis 50,000 Swiss francs to research the complex task of bringing full ordination to Tibetan nuns. The Committee on Bhikshuni Ordination, with Tenzin Palmo and her friends Pema Chödrön, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, and Thubten Chodron, continues to present its findings and suggest solutions.
The First Female Professor The Dalai Lama acknowledges that many nuns are very sincere but have been given no chance to ascend
to the highest ordination level. The Tibetan leader has emphasized that conditions are improving with the same levels of studies now available to women. The Dalai Lama personally founded and supported the Institute for Buddhist Dialectics near his seat in exile in Dharamsala, North India, waiving some of the traditional requirements for female students. In April 2011, he awarded the geshe degree to a Western nun. This is a historical first in many ways: geshe degrees are traditionally conferred in the major monasteries on monks after twelve or more years of rigorous study in Buddhist philosophy. Despite not being fully ordained, German-born novice Kelsang Wangmo (formerly Kerstin Brummenbaum) was finally rewarded for mastering sixteen years of strenuous study in highest Buddhist philosophy. Kelsang Wangmo says, referring to a passage in the monastic code that does not allow nuns to teach monks: “All this is changing now, and my teachers have been very supportive. We must not give up. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
Queens, Nuns and Yoginis Traditionally, life stories of female Buddhist masters were rarely told. Apart from the biographies of a few noteworthy exceptions, we know little about the female adepts of Tibet. … from Padmasambhava’s five consorts, only one woman master is among those honored: Jetsun Shugseb Lochen Rinpoche (1852–1953). An outstanding practitioner and founder of a vibrant nunnery in Tibet, she is one of the very few female masters who initiated her own reincarnation lineage. Like many of her fellow nuns, even this exceptional master prayed to be reborn in a male body to find better circumstances for pursuing the path in the future. Of course, there must have been countless more realized female practitioners, meditating unflinchingly despite poverty and discrimination. As Tenzin Palmo points out, “One can only admire them; they were intrepid. They went to remote places, to caves up in the mountains, and they practiced and practiced. They were wonderful. But of course one never hears about them, because nobody wrote their biographies. Nobody considered it important to write the biography of some woman. It is not evident from the texts that there were many, but we know that there were.” Tsultrim Allione found the lack of biographies so pressing that she researched the stories of historic Tibetan yoginis in her book Women of Wisdom: “We Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 43
need to have models for enlightenment for women. We need to be able to see the female body as a vehicle for enlightenment. In the absence of these models, women often feel that they don’t have the capacity for full awakening in this very lifetime.”
Ancient Methods for the Modern World In most Buddhist countries throughout Asia, the task of spiritual realization is carried out by “professionals,” as Tenzin Palmo calls them. Monks and nuns devote themselves full time to study and practice, without the “distractions” of family, job, and mortgage. In some countries, it is considered a must that at least one of the children in a family opts for monastic life. Yet in the West, where Buddhism is now taking root, comparatively few wish to get ordained. Rather than isolating themselves in remote mountains, working moms, accountants, and CEOs are looking for ways to turn their everyday lives into a meaningful path. Tenzin Palmo has observed that traditional teachers sometimes make a distinction between “spiritual practice on the one hand and everyday life on the other.” She remembers how once a frustrated working mother complained she did not have much time for spiritual practice and asked the advice of a traditional Tibetan teacher, “What should I do?” The lama replied, “Never mind, when your children are grown up you can take early retirement and then you can start to practice.” I haven’t heard such a statement from the female teachers. Several of them are mothers; many have worked “ordinary” jobs as cleaners, schoolteachers, or translators before being recognized as outstanding Buddhist teachers. All of them are careful to acknowledge that practice means awareness in every moment, whether sitting on a meditation cushion, loading a washing machine, or coordinating an executive meeting. “Spiritual practice is everyday life, not just sitting on the cushion, meditating,” says Dagmola Sakya, a mother of five boys. “Every move, every word, every thought is practice. Dharma is in daily life.” And Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax emphasized at a recent TED conference, “Women have manifested, for thousands of years, the strength arising from compassion, in an unfiltered way, unmediated, in perceiving suffering, as it is. They have infused societies with kindness. They have actualized compassion through direct action.” 44 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
A Sea Change in the West Every time Buddhism migrated from its place of origin in India to other countries, whether Sri Lanka, Burma, Japan, China, or Tibet, the philosophy, customs, and rituals transformed as well. Not surprisingly, Buddhism’s relocation to the West comes with a sea change of emphasis and culture. In Tibet, practitioners holed up in caves, sometimes for decades. In the West, teachers reach thousands instantly by streaming their wisdom on podcasts. In the Himalayas, women rarely got equal access to education. In the West, women demand to be acknowledged in the many leadership roles they assume. In many Asian Buddhist communities, open dissent is unthinkable, while in academia, critical discourse is crucial. In the traditional monasteries, nobody would have dared to spar with a teacher who presents a literal interpretation of the mystical lore. In the West, fact-checking is deemed pivotal. “The Eastern pattern is more toward seeking harmony,” Roshi Joan Halifax has observed. “The Western pattern is to seek transparency.” Yet maybe of all these changes that we are watching Buddhism undergo in the West, the most momentous may be that women are insisting on playing an equal role. More and more women are now rising as teachers in their own right who understand their responsibility: to invigorate and bolster women to hold up half the sky as spiritual seekers and teachers. As feminist Buddhist scholar Rita Gross points out, “The single biggest difference between the practice of Buddhism in Asia and the practice of Buddhism in the West is the full and complete participation of women in Western Buddhism.” The Dalai Lama has acknowledged this by pointing out that his next incarnation could be a woman. Why not? What’s the big deal? “The lamas can’t ignore this any longer,” says Western nun Karma Lekshe Tsomo. “In most dharma centers, look into the kitchen—all women. Look into the offices, who does the administration? Mostly women. Who does the driving and organizing, the cleaning and the correspondence, the shopping and managing? Mostly women.” That women then also become teachers and abbesses is only a natural evolution. © 2013 by Michaela Haas, a reporter, lecturer and media consultant who has been studying and practicing Buddhism for almost twenty years. This article is excerpted from her book Dakini Power, Twelve Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Reprinted by arrangement with Snow Lion, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA, www.shambhala.com.
Spiritual Cinema Cloud Atlas
Written, Produced and Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
n C LOUD A TLAS the Wachowskis (producers/directors of The Matrix trilogy) along with Tom Twyker again take inspiration from Vedic wisdom in an epic film on karma and reincarnation. The story spans six time periods, each told in its own style and with its own cast of characters. Each is further cut into minute pieces and presented in a seemingly random sequence and timeline, such that within the first four minutes of the film, eight scenes are shown from 1849 a.d. to 2144 a.d. and beyond. What binds it all together are the lifetimes that repeat over and over, the relationships that develop and reappear, and the acts and motivations that advance or degrade each soul’s evolution. As one character observes, “These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and alter who we imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born and continue after we perish. Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment.” Thirteen actors, including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, David Gyasi and Jim Sturgess, take on multiple roles, appearing as major or minor cast members in each time period. Even the film score becomes a character as The Cloud Atlas Sextet, a hauntingly beautiful musical theme that pervades practically every scene. Themes also repeat: freedom and enslavement, goodness and evil, sacrifice and selfishness, courage and fear, kindness and violence, and the quantum truth that We are all connected.
As Sonmi~451, the Neo Seoul “replicant” who becomes mankind’s symbol of liberation, proclaims in one of the film’s climactic moments: “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” The ultimate message of Cloud Atlast is the power of compassion and love to overcome all obstacles and human imperfections in our quest for freedom and fulfillment. 172 minutes, © 2013 Warner Bros Films. DVD $14.98, Blu-Ray Disc $24.99. For more information visit cloudatlas.warnerbros.com.
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LIFE’S OPERATING MANUAL: With the Fear and Truth Dialogues by Tom Shadyac; Hardcover, 261 pp, 5.5x8.5, $19.95; Hay House 2013, www.hayhouse.com.
In his film, I Am, Tom Shadyac told his own story: a successful film director with all the trappings of wealth and fame (mansions, a private jet, etc.). After a lifethreatening illness he gives it all up, moves to a trailer park and begins asking “the big questions.” In this, his first book, he shares his answers through short essays, each followed by a dialogue between Fear and Truth. He proposes that life comes with a set of guidelines that we can follow. And although things are obviously not going well on our planet, there are built-in solutions to all the problems, solutions that share an underlying basis of love. Inspiring! KARMA: The Ancient Science of Cause and Effect by Jeffrey Armstrong; Hardcover, 95 pp, 5x7.25, $12.95; Mandala Publishing 2007, www.mandalapublishing.com.
Beautifully designed and illustrated, this small book reveals the inner workings of a perfect science. As described by David Frawley, it “unfolds the laws and mysteries of karma…[and] is one of the best introductions to this profound and often misunderstood topic.” Jeffrey Armstrong explains ritam, the universal law that governs all our actions, thoughts, feelings and intentions—and the “universal parcel system” that unfailingly delivers the results back to us. Within this framework, he discusses death and reincarnation, why we are here, how we got here, and how to get off the Wheel of Karma—birth and death, the alluring pleasures and the pains, disappointments and sufferings that accompany them. A book that can make a big difference in how we understand and conduct our lives. THE GIRL WHO SANG TO THE BUFFALO: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky by Kent Nerburn; Paperback, 408 pp, 5.5x8.5, $15.95; New World Library 2013, www.newworldlibray.com.
This is the third in a trilogy focused on Kent Nerburn’s unfolding relationship with Dan, a Lakota elder living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Dan is intent on finding out
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what happened to his little sister, Yellow Bird, forcibly taken to a white man’s boarding school and never returned to her family. Nerburn finds ample challenges within and without as he grows to know the people and circumstances in Dan’s life. While he continues the search for Yellow Bird, he is also drawn into a present day drama surrounding a young Lakota couple whose spiritually gifted daughter is receiving unwanted attention from white doctors and social workers. Each character is brought into focus with sensitivity, humor and a keen eye for a good story. This concluding volume opens wide the deep shamanic power of the Native American culture and its living reality in its oldest—and youngest—members. SPIRITUAL ECOLOGy: The Cry of the Earth edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee; Paperback, 266 pp, 8x5, $15.95, The Golden Sufi Center 2013, www.GoldenSufi.org.
The teachings and writings of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee on spirit-based ecology continue to be among the most inspirational we have found. In Spiritual Ecology he invites academics, scientists, teachers, authors and climate activists to give a spiritual response to the present ecological crisis. Among the twenty presenters are Thomas Berry, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vandana Shiva, Fr. Richard Rohr, Bill Plotkin, Susan Murphy Roshi, Pir Zia Inayat Khan, and others. In a noteworthy chapter, The Greening of the Self, Joanna Macy reveals: “The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars. Thus the greening of the self helps us to reinhabit time and own our story as life on earth.” A superb collection of thoughtful ideas and heartfelt wisdom that is crucial at this crossroads in human history. THE LAST LAUGH, A Novel by Arjuna Ardagh; Paperback, 249 pp, 6x9, $16.95; Hay House 2013, www.hayhouse.com.
Matt is a seeker down on his luck. When his guru, in the lineage of Ramana Maharshi, takes him on a roller-coaster ride of adventures, Matt allows the love, trust and power within to unfold. In a way, Arjuna Ardagh is sharing his own story, but the ups and downs of awakening that he depicts likely apply to most of us. The first five pages of this book contain enthusiastic endorsements. Here is one from Peter Russell: “At last…a spiritual novel with guts and depth.” We agree and would add excellent writing, a good story with interesting characters, honesty, humor and a big, open heart.
SOUL SPEAK: The Language of Your Body by Julia
Cannon; Paperback, 152 pp, 8x5, $16, Ozark Mountain Publishing 2013, www.OzarkMt.com.
According to Julia Cannon’s research, our bodies are speaking to us all the time. What’s more, each of us is equipped with our own private guidance system to navigate through life’s challenges. As the daughter of Dolores Cannon, researcher of “lost knowledge” through past-life regressions, Julia began receiving messages of her own about how we can heal ourselves by understanding our bodies’ messages and acting upon them. She shares examples from past-life regressions, information from higher realms, as well as easy to understand guidance on healing the emotions, the circulatory system, digestive system, nervous system and nine other body systems, as well as cancer, accidents, the chakras, and how to ask your body questions. A quick reference guide to your body’s messages and an index of conditions completes this excellent healing manual for awakening higher consciousness every moment of our lives.
GANESH KIT: For Guidance, Protection and Blessings. Boxed Set, 10x7x2, $29.95; Mandala Publishing, www.mandala.org.
Ganesha has many titles, including God of Beginnings, Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Dharma and Keeper of the Gate to the Heavens. Add to this his loving and adorable sweetness and it’s clear why Ganesh’s guidance, protection and blessings are sought by countless devotees all across India, and now world-wide. Mandala Publishing has redesigned their Ganesh Kit since we first reviewed it in 2001. It comes in a beautifully decorated, sturdy box containing: seven illustrated cards with devotional prayers and mantras, a 96-page full-color mini-book, a packet of fragrant incense with a decorative burner, instructions for worship, and an artistically detailed Ganesha murti (statue). The murti is three and a half inches tall, richly painted in gold and other colors, and includes Ganesha’s trusty mount, a tiny Mushika (mouse). For your devotional practice or as a thoughtful, auspicious gift, you really need look no further.
SOUL SOOTHERS: Mini Meditations for Busy Lives by Cindy Griffith-Bennett—Twenty simple and easy strategies to bring moments of focus and mindfulness into our existing daily routines, almost anytime, anywhere. Choosing and employing those that fit for us can help create a more peaceful mind and usher us gently toward cultivating a meditative practice. (Paperback, 173 pp, $14.95, Findhorn Press 2013)
Children’s Mixed Media GREAT WOLF AND LITTLE MOUSE SISTER, Produced and directed by Hereditary Chief Phil Lane, Jr.; DVD, 90 min. Native Visions 2009. Available from Lotus Press, $15.95,
OCCUPY SPIRITUALITY: A Radical Vision for a New Generation by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox—An
activist/advocate for homeless youth and an Episcopal priest/theologian conduct a lively dialogue on the role of interfaith spirituality in the worldwide quest for peace and justice. A fresh breeze for all concerned with conscious, committed action. (Paperback, 248 pp, $17.95, North Atlantic Books 2013)
THE SYNCHRONICITY KEY: The Hidden Intelligence Guiding the Universe and You by David Wilcock—No matter how bad things look, says David Wilcock, we are going through grand cycles of events designed to promote our collective spiritual evolution. Drawing on classical karma theory, information packed and controversial, the book’s firm conclusion is that humanity is at the dawning of a new Golden Age. (Hardcover, 511 pp, $29.95; Dutton 2013)
Five children visit a forest camp where Grandfather, a wise and kind Native American, leads them on outdoor adventures and shares his knowledge. Around the campfire each evening he relates a legend drawn from the traditions of the indigenous peoples of North America. Five stories, presented through artistic animation, impart truths that are meaningful to the children’s lives. This award-winning program was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. BUDDHA AT BEDTIME and THE BUDDHA’S APPRENTICE AT BEDTIME by Dharmachari Nagaraja; Softcover, 144 and 127 pp respectively, 7.5x9.5, $16.95; Watkins Publishing 2008, 2013 respectively, available in the USA through Sterling Publishing, www.sterlingpublishing.com.
MY SON AND THE AFTERLIFE by Elisa Medhus, M.D.—A
troubled son who took his own life reaches across the veil to bring healing and wisdom to his family and friends, including glimpses of the afterlife, reincarnation, children’s souls, the nature of consciousness, matter and reality, the physics of death, and meeting God. (Softcover, 257 pp, $16, Beyond Words 2013)
Designed for reading to children at bedtime, both books are collections of lively, engaging and entertaining stories, along with introductory material on Buddhism, storytelling tips and meditation exercises. The stories are meant to be read, listened to and talked about together. They all impart lessons such as honesty, generosity,
Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 47
kindness, right intention and action, mindfulness and concentration. Vibrant, full-color artwork draws children into the action. Delightful! HOW ROLAND ROLLS by Jim Carrey; Hardcover, 56 pp, 9x11, $16.95; Some Kind of Garden Media 2013, skogardenmedia.com.
“In the middle of the deep blue sea” there’s a wave named Roland. With his true love, a wave named Shimmer, he shares many adventures. When they finally crash on the beach, they realize that they are one with the whole ocean and all water everywhere—just as we are all one with everything. Good story, great message, and zany, full-color illustrations throughout.
bass flutes and guitar. It reflects upon the journey each one of us must take to find our own transformation. Many of the pieces written by Sherry and Darin harken back to times when life was slower—childhood memories, cold and snowy winters, helping a friend, “my chemosabee,” through cancer. Sherry’s sustained flute notes create hauntingly beautiful sound images while Darin’s guitar, reminiscent of Will Ackerman, is richly reverberant. On one track they are joined on viola by Jane Merial Hilton, her warm string tones flowing like honey. Throughout this lovely album the earthiness of the acoustic guitar combined with the airy quality of the flute create an atmosphere of serenity, contemplation and healing. ECKHART TOLLE’S MUSIC TO qUIET THE
ONE VOICE by Cindy McKinley; Hardcover, 31
MIND & MUSIC FOR INNER STILLNESS by
pp, 11.25x9.25, $16.95; Illumination Arts 2013.
various artists, 67 & 63 min © 2008/2012;
Jacob is collecting donations to help create a Peace Pole Memorial for his town. When he gives up his seat on the bus, he sets off a series of kind and helpful acts that show how “everyone can make a difference and…even one small voice can change the world.” Empowering and encouraging, the book is sweetly illustrated in full color, with parent/teacher guidelines. Ages 4 and up.
Audio SONGS OF THE UNTETHERED SOUL by Michael A. Singer, performed by Kathy Zavada, 44 min © 2013; CD $16.98/MP3 $9.99, Sounds
CDs $12/MP3 $9 at www.soundstrue.com.
“Music, like nature, bypasses the conceptual mind,” explains Eckhart Tolle. In these two compilations by various artists he shares his handpicked playlists of vocal and instrumental music purposefully sequenced to center us in “the joy of being.” Artists on Music to Quiet the Mind include Deva Premal, Benjy Wertheimer, Nawang Khechog, Maneesh de Moor and Steve Roach. Featured on Music for Inner Stillness is the ensemble of Michael Hoppé, Martin Tilman and Tim Wheater, as well as Susan Lincoln, Patrick Bernard, Manose, Riley Lee on shakuhachi flute and others. Each recording comprises over an hour of highly recommended meditative and transformative music.
In this delightful album, Michael Singer’s inspirational compositions take flight through the voice of Kathy Zavada. As a teenager Kathy had attended teachings given by Michael, during which his songs were shared; over thirty years later she requested to record one of his songs, and the idea of this album was born. The soul’s journey from personal to Universal is reflected in eight songs to awaken consciousness, open the heart, and still the mind. Kathy’s vocals and harmonies express the inexpressible in compositions such as Who Lights the Stars, When My Mind Becomes Still, Going Home, If You Knew How Much I Love You and By What Name Shall I Call Thee. Piano, acoustic guitar, fretless bass, cello and drum accompaniments beautifully blend with the sincerity and devotion of this soulful offering, lifting you into a profound state of healing and peace. TRANSFORMATION by Sherry Finzer & Darin Mahoney, 47 min © 2013; CD $13.99/MP3 $9.99 Heart Dance Records/Finzer Publishing, www.sherryfinzer.com and at CD Baby: http://tinyurl.com/l63rdrn.
There is an immediate sense of peace and relaxation listening to this acoustic album of alto and
48 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
Video DEVON KE DEV MAHADEV (THE GREAT LORD SHIVA), Directed by Nikhil Sinha and Manish Singh, 30 hours on 10 DVDs, Ultra DVD Video/Life Okay, available on eBay and Amazon.com.
For over two decades India has been producing outstanding and phenomenally popular television series drawn from Hindu scriptures. The latest is Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, The Great Lord Shiva, based upon the Shiva Purana and scriptural mythology. Superbly acted, lavishly produced, with an outstanding score, each episode is replete with riveting drama and profound spiritual teachings. This award-winning series premiered in December 2011 and new episodes are still airing in India. A DVD version gaining popularity in the West presents the first thirty episodes, somewhat abridged, with well-written English subtitles, a superb treat for seekers young and old, and fans of Indian epics. The boxed set includes a picture booklet about the series in Hindi. Sample episodes are available on YouTube.
Answers to Questions on the Spiritual Path by Swami Amar Jyoti
Does each person have certain lessons to learn or goals to achieve in life?
GjohNsToNphoTo | IsToCkphoTo.CoM
e each have a mission: to finish karmas, to learn lessons, but this differs for each one and in each life. Normally we are dropped into a certain pattern for each life with our mission, accomplishments or lessons to learn. But with a little bit more will power or grace of God or a Master, our karmas can be changed. An adept astrologer can predict these indications whereby you can change your destiny. If this were not possible, life would be morose. You would lose all joy. The scope of spontaneity and ever-new creativity is always there. But when you get stuck with a certain person, place or thing, then you are tied up with that karma. Any moment you can still purify your mind and be a new person. If you do not, then you are subject to your karma. Each one does not have to go through the same experiences in the evolution of the soul. You only need to experience that in which you are deficient.
How did we become deficient to begin with? Through over-indulgence, recklessness, carelessness, thoughtlessness, greediness, negligence, et cetera. Deficiencies are weaknesses. You have to
Normally we are dropped into a certain pattern for each life with our mission, accomplishments or lessons to learn. But with a little bit more will power or grace of God or a Master, our karmas can be changed. Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 49
correct these weaknesses in your nature so that you become fresh and full. We have to go through this school of life to learn these lessons, the subjects in which we are weak. The subjects in which we are okay do not reappear in our exams.
Is it by habits or tendencies that we bring these weaknesses on ourselves? This is true, but the habit or tendency itself is a weakness. A creative force has no habits or tendencies; it is spontaneous. A tendency or habit happens when, out of weakness, you make something into a rut. There are good and bad habits. But any habit, which in Sanskrit is called a samskar— an impression, modification or imposition of the mind— makes you weaker and ties up your mind. You like something so you want to repeat it. You make it a habit. And the sum total of your habits creates your character. As long as you are forming habits for things that you like, you are doing the same for things that you dislike. That means you are creating a relativity or dualism within which you become entrapped. If you could be balanced, disciplined, dispassionate or detached, you would not be affected by likes and dislikes. Because you are involved in this way, you are not transcending. This is our whole mission on earth—how to get rid of clinging. There are several ways to do this: face it and be defeated; leave that person, place or thing; or renounce it. If you face it and are defeated by it, you will learn the lesson, though you may be in despair, disappointment, sadness or sorrow. If you go away from that person, place or thing, the samskar will become diluted or diminished, though it may not totally disappear. “Time is a great healer” and this is true in a yogic sense too. As time passes, your mind loses its grip on whatever habit was there. In the meantime, nature is so changing that you also come across new things such that the old habit is loosened. The third way of dealing with cravings is to renounce them. When you do this the desire that you carry begins to reduce its potency because you are not acting on it. In renunciation you are recovering your strength, though the karma remains in seed form. Our normal fear is that by renouncing things we are missing or losing them. But if your eye is upon balancing, you will achieve freedom from clinging one day. Sometimes 50 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
there are complex situations that you cannot avoid. So you have to face the situation or be defeated to pay back your karmas and be free. Start working first upon a few weaknesses: one, two or three. Day by day, as you go on being victorious over these tendencies, you will retain more power. When it is out of your reach or beyond your capacity, leave that situation for some time. Then as you become aware of your motives, you go deeper into the cause or root motive. Let’s say you are searching for the cause of your negativities or selfishness. Selfishness itself is not a habit; it is a basic tendency like greed, attachment or lust. These basic tendencies create habits. So if you touch the selfish root cause, you are overcoming that habit slowly. An intellectual solution is not a solution. That is just another way of avoiding. So go on pounding and harping upon that habit or tendency. Employ praying, austerities and invoking the grace of Guru until one day you shake your conscience. These methods—prayer, meditation, self-reflection or self-analysis—take time. Once your conscience is pricked or shaken, you begin to be a new person. Just be after that, day and night. Pray to God: “Release me.” Getting rid of basic tendencies is not a joyful event. You have to be ready for suffering, but ultimately the results will be joyful.
I was just reflecting on how we desire compassion but how difficult it is to stand in the light of compassion. To stand in the light of compassion there is one condition: if you are humble you will be able to stand in the light of compassion. If you are proud or arrogant you cannot do it. Normally we equate power with a more aggressive way. Very few know the subtlest possible energy, which is also the most powerful. It comes from being non-assuming. Soft things like compassion and humility are great energy. In other words, you cannot be compassionate unless you are really strong. A weak person cannot be compassionate—only very high souls who have this kind of energy can be compassionate. It is a sign of greatness. © 2013 by Truth Consciousness. Excerpted from the Satsangs: On Karmic Life Missions (F-3) and Sweet Resignation (M-81). For further information on the audio Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti please see page 52 or online at truthconsciousness.org.
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Winter 2013 Light of Consciousness 51
NEW MUSIC RELEASE FROM SOUNDS TRUE
Songs of the Untethered Soul Michael A. Singer
Performed by Kathy Zavada When your heart can hold the entire universe, the entire universe will hold your heart...
ongs of the Untethered Soul expresses our inner longing to be free and the journey toward the awakening of consciousness. Michael Singer, composer, and author of The Untethered Soul, is joined by vocalist Kathy Zavada to present eight inspirational selections meant to still the mind, open the heart, and welcome us into the arms of the Beloved. With vocals, piano, fretless bass, acoustic guitar, cello, and drums. 1 CD / 45 minutes total UPC: 600835399029 US $16.98
52 Light of Consciousness Winter 2013
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f you really understood everything, all your wrong reactions would turn into compassion. Those who evoke wrong reactions in you are out of harmony, and especially in need of love. Yes, it is most important to be loving. Meet every situation with love, and you will be able to handle it. If someone does the meanest thing to me, I feel the deepest compassion for that person and pray for that personâ€”I do not hurt myself by a wrong reaction of bitterness or anger. ÂŠ 1982, 1991 Friends of Peace Pilgrim, from Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work In Her Own Words. Peace Pilgrim (1908-1981) is an American saint whose twenty-eight year walk for peace and inspired teachings continue to uplift countless souls. Peace Pilgrim publications, audio cassettes and videos are offered free of charge at www.peacepilgrim.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations, mostly small, continue to make these offerings possible.
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LIGHT OF CONSCIOUSNESS Is known for its spiritual inspiration, its bold approach to the unity underlying all faiths and religions, and the...