March 11, 2019 Monday Night Class: Disappearing into the Everything-ness That is You

 

Winter_Light_Burst_by_AngelzTears

I’m writing at 7:24 pm on Thursday, March 14. We are at this moment five days, 35minutes, and ten seconds from the Vernal Equinox. Cosmic rhythms not withstanding,  today sure feels like Spring. I opened all the windows in my house. Which felt amazing. And reminded me of those sublime lines from the Kabir/Bly poem:

Open the window to the west and disappear into the air inside you….

Which is really what Monday Night Class is about. Disappearing into the air inside us where we find the everything-ness that is us…

This week’s class begins a new cycle of disappearing into that everything-ness, articulated so beautifully in Thomas Byrom’s gorgeous translation of the Ashtavakra Gita. 

This text comes down through the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, a beautiful philosophical system that has a non-dual view of Reality. Advaita means one, not two, and in this paradigm, there is no mind/body, spirit/matter split. There is only Brahman, pure consciousness, i.e. the everything-ness…

This is a very different view from the Sankhya tradition, which, fyi, contains the philosophy of Yoga, where spirit and matter are considered separate. Dualistic though it is, there’s great beauty in Sankhya. One just has to read between the lines. And while I’m adding caveats, let me also say, full disclosure, that while there’s a lot I like in the Advaita Vedanta paradigm, my preference is still Shaktism/Shaivism.

This however, is a conversation for another time…

This week’s dharma talk gathers much of the above, soaring around in the sublimity of it all, while, I hope, grounding it in something relevant and helpful to living our lives. One can endlessly philosophize, but really, if we’re not embodying, it’s just a lot of blather…

Here are audio clips from this week’s class:

OPENING MANTRA (OM NAMAH SHIVAYA) AND DHARANA

DHARMA TALK

CLASS CHANTING OM NAMAH SHIVAYA 

CLOSE OF CLASS

Here’s the text we read this week:

[from Thomas Byrom’s translation of the Ashtavakra Gita]
1. The Self
1.
O Master,
Tell me how to find
Detachment, wisdom, and freedom!
2.
Child,
If you wish to be free,
Shun the poison of the senses.
Seek the nectar of truth,
Of love and forgiveness,
Simplicity and happiness.
3.
Earth, fire and water,
The wind and the sky —
You are none of these.
If you wish to be free,
Know you are the Self,
The witness of all these,
The heart of awareness.
4.
Set your body aside,
Sit in your own awareness.
You will at once be happy,
Forever still,
Forever free.
5.
You have no caste.
No duties bind you.
Formless and free,
Beyond the reach of the senses,
The witness of all things.
So be happy.
6.
Right or wrong,
Joy or sorrow,
These are of the mind only.
They are not yours.
It is not really you
Who acts or enjoys.
You are everywhere,
Forever free.
7.
Forever and truly free,
The single witness of all things.
But if you see yourself as separate,
Then you are bound.

 

This final poem never made it into the recording, but here’s the Mary Oliver I read at the end of class. This is from her collection, Blue Horses.

I’M NOT THE RIVER 

I’m not the river
that powerful presence.
And I’m not the black oak tree
which is patience personified.
And I’m not redbird
who is a brief life heartily enjoyed.
Nor am I mud nor rock nor sand
which is holding everything together.
No, I am none of these meaningful things, not yet.

 

This poem is glorious on its own. In the context of this week’s class, it takes on even more meaning. One of the key inquires of Vedanta is to discover what one is by naming what one is not, i.e. I am not this body, I am not this mind, etc. etc.

They call it neti neti, not this, not this…

I’ve no idea if Oliver is purposely riffing on this, or simply airing her wide spacious mind. Either way, the poem is a gorgeous flip of the whole notion of neti neti…

And she manages to do this with two simply words, “not yet.”

March 4, 2019: Mahashivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, aka the Night of Supreme Stillness….

Abstract shiva

I’ve been thinking a lot about inner stillness, and about inner silence. How these two are so connected, perhaps even one and the same. What are they really? Inner Stillness. Inner Silence. Can they be described at all? Or are they so beyond beneath all encompassing that words can only hint at them? And is the hinting more than enough?

I don’t have answers to these questions.

But I do like sitting with them…

Last night was Mahashivatatri, the Great Night of Shiva, the Great Stillness. So at class, we mostly chanted om namah shivaya. It’s such a beloved practice. Even for people who don’t like it 😉  Such a practice of the Heart. My teacher Muktananda called it “the great redeeming mantra.” It is that and more. It’s both a portal into, a vehicle of, and a sonic embodiment of the great stillness, the great silence.

Here’s audio from this week’s class:

This is the opening dharana, first round of chanting ONS, my dharma talk which includes a poem from Mary Oliver, and more chanting ONS. 

This is a reading from the Asthavakra Gita, a bit more mantra, and the close of class

For those who can’t get enough, this is me singing solo before class. 

Finally, here’s text of this week’s readings.

Varanasi
from A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver

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

 

19. 
My Own Splendor
 
1.
 With the pincers of truth I have plucked
From the dark corners of my heart
The thorn of many judgments.
 
2.
I sit in my own splendor.
 
Wealth of pleasure,
Duty or discrimination,
Duality or nonduality,
What are they to me?
 
3.
What is yesterday,
Tomorrow,
or today?
 
What is space,
Or eternity?
 
I sit in my own radiance.
 
4.
What is the Self,
Or the not-Self?
What is thinking,
Or not thinking?
 
What is good or evil?
 
I sit in my own splendor.
 
5.
I sit in my own radiance,
And I have no fear.
 
Waking,
Dreaming,
Sleeping,
What are they to me?
 
Or even ecstasy?
 
6.
What is far or near,
Outside or inside,
Gross or subtle?
 
I sit in my own splendor.
 
7.
Dissolving the mind,
Or the highest meditation,
The world and all its works,
Life or death,
What are they to me?
 
8.
Why talk of wisdom,
The three ends of life,
Or onesness?
 
Why talk of these!
Now I live in my heart.

Monday, August 26, 2013: “And for what he has become, There is no name…”

Hummingbird logo

I’ve been in end of summer vacation mode which has been lovely for the soul but threw a wrench into my blogging schedule. Rather than stay in chronological order however, I’m posting last week’s class. Which focused on the topic of “Desire.” Desire gets everyone into all sorts of trouble. For those who walk a wisdom path, it’s very good to make friends with this powerful force. We want to get it working for rather than against us.

Here’s my dharma talk which opens with a short breath meditation and ends with a reading from Thomas Byrom’s wonderful translation of Ashtavakra Gita. I’ve titled this post with the final lines from this glorious text…

Here’s the Byrom text:
From The Heart of Awareness: A Translation of Ashtavakra Gita, Thomas Byrom, Shambhala Dragon Editions.

17. Beyond All
 
1.
The man who is happy and pure
And likes his own company
Gathers the fruit of his practice
And the fruit of wisdom.
 
2.
The man who knows the truth
is never unhappy in the world.
 
For he alone fills the universe.
 
3.
Just as the elephant loves
The leaves of the sallaki tree,
But not the neem tree,
So the man who loves himself
Always spurns the senses.
 
4.
It is hard to find
A man who has no desire
For what he has not tasted,
Or who tastes the world
And is untouched.
 
5.
Here in the world
Some crave pleasure,
Some seek freedom.
But it is hard to find
A man who wants neither.
 
He is a great soul.
 
6.
It is hard to find
A man who has an open mind,
Who neither seeks nor shuns
Wealth or pleasure,
Duty or liberation,
Life or death. . .
 
7.
He does not want the world to end.
He does not mind if it lasts.
 
Whatever befalls him,
He lives in happiness.
 
For he is truly blessed.
 
8.
Now that he understands,
He is fulfilled.
His mind is drawn within,
And he is fulfilled.
 
He sees and he hears,
He touches and smells and tastes,
And he is happy.
 
9.
What he does is without purpose.
His senses have been stilled.
His eyes are empty.
 
He is without desire or aversion.
 
For him the waters of the world
Have all dried up!
 
10.
He is not asleep.
He is not awake.
He  never closes his eyes.
Or opens them.
 
Wherever he is,
He is beyond everything.
He is free.
 
11.
And the man who is free
Always lives in his heart.
His heart is always pure.
 
Whatever happens,
He is free of all desires.
 
12.
Whatever he sees or hears or touches,
Whatever he smells or tastes,
Whatever he acquires,
He is free.
 
Free from striving,
And from stillness.
 
For he is indeed a great soul.
 
13.
Without blame or praise,
Anger or rejoicing.
 
He gives nothing.
He takes nothing.
 
He wants nothing,
Nothing at all.
 
14.
And whoever draws near him,
A woman full of passion
Or Death Himself,
He is not shaken.
 
He stays in his heart.
 
He is free indeed!
 
15.
It is all the same to him.
Man or woman,
Good fortune or bad,
Happiness or sorrow.
 
It makes no difference.
He is serene.
 
16.
The world no longer holds him.
He has gone beyond
The bounds of human nature.
 
Without compassion
Or the wish to harm,
Without pride or humility.
 
Nothing disturbs him.
Nothing surprises him.
 
17. Because he is free,
He neither craves nor disdains
The things of the world.
 
He takes them as they come.
 
His mind is always detached.
 
18.
His mind is empty.
He is not concerned with meditation,
Or the absence of it,
Or the struggle between good and evil.
 
He is beyond all,
Alone.
 
19.
No “I,”
No “mine.”
 
He knows there is nothing.
 
All his inner desires have melted away.
 
Whatever he does,
He does nothing.
 
20.
His mind has stopped working!
 
It has simply melted away . . .
 
And with it,
Dreams and delusions and dullness.
 
And for what he has become,
There is no name.

 

I tried a new microphone placement this week which alas did not work so well. I’m therefore not including opening chanting from this class. Here however is our final recitation of the Maha Mrtunjaya Mantra resolving into Om Namah Shivaya and a closing dharana. Enjoy…

Monday, July 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Ashtavakra Gita:

1.
The wise man knows the Self,
And he plays the game of life.
 
But the fool lives in the world
Like a beast of burden.
 

2.
The true seeker feels no elation,
Even in that exalted state
Which Indra and all the gods
Unhappily long for.
 

3.
He understands the nature of things.
 
His heart is not smudged
By right or wrong,
As the sky is not smudged by smoke.
 

4.
He is pure of heart,
He knows the whole world is only the Self…
 

5.
Of the four kinds of being…
Only the wise man is strong enough
To give up desire and aversion.

From Lalleshwari , tr. by Coleman Barks

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

And I have seen the ocean
continuously creating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 8, 2012, Part II

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

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

Dissolving
 
1
You are pure.
Nothing touches you.
What is there to renounce?
 
Let it all go,
The body and the mind.
 
Let yourself dissolve.
 

2
Like bubbles in the sea,
All the worlds arise in you.
 
Know you are the Self.
Know you are one.
 
Let yourself dissolve.
 

3
You see the world.
But like the snake in the rope,
It is not really there.
 
You are pure.
 
Let yourself dissolve.
 

4
You are one and the same
In joy and sorrow,
Hope and despair,
Life and death.
 
You are already fulfilled.
 
Let yourself dissolve.

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

The Poet is Told to Fill Up More Pages
Mary Oliver

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

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

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Make of it what you will.