Monday, June 25, 2012

Let Wisdom Ride the Swan
Mayumi Oda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, December 5, 2011, Part II

I brought in three short readings to complement tonight’s sutras. Each offers a counterpoint to the sutra. The first, from Lalla goes beautifully with II, 43:  As intense discipline burns up impurities, the body and its senses become supremely purified.

The steed called mind roams space,
covering one hundred thousand miles
in the blink of an eye.
He who does not know how to tether it
is apt to be battered to death
by the inbreath and the outbreath.

The second, from Swami Vivekananda has an interesting resonance with              II, 44:   Self-study deepens communion with one’s personal deity.

If there is any road to Heaven, it is through Hell. Through Hell to Heaven is always the way. When the soul has wrestled with circumstance and has met death, a thousand times death on the way, but nothing daunted has struggled forward again and again and yet again — then the soul comes out as a giant and laughs at the ideal he has been struggling for, because he finds how much greater is he than the ideal. 
-Swami Vivekananda

The third pairs nicely with II, 45:  Through orientation toward the ideal of pure awareness, one can achieve integration.

What stands in the way of course is always the vital ego with its ignorance and the pride of its ignorance and the physical consciousness with its inertia which resents and resists any call to change and its indolence which does not like to take the trouble — finds it more comfortable to go on its own way repeating always the same old movements and, at best, expecting everything to be done for it in some way or at some time.
-Sri Aurobindo

Here’s the sound clip of these readings:

Monday, December 5, 2011

We’ve circled back to Patanjali, returning to where we left off during the summer, Book II, 43-45. These sutras elaborate the last three niyamas–which Patanjali classifies as kriya-yoga (aka, the Yoga of Action.) Remember, the niyamas, which we can think of as internal disciplines are considered  the second limb of Yoga. The yamas or external disciplines are the first. Here are the sutras:

[Chip Hartranft’s version]

II, 43
As intense discipline burns up impurities, the body and its senses become supremely purified.
II,  44.
Self-study deepens communion with one’s personal deity.
II, 45
Through orientation toward the ideal of pure awareness, one can achieve integration.

Since many at class asked me to post this talk asap, I’ve done minimal editing. I usually remove extraneous laughter, asides, etc. This clip leaves most of that in. Since the talk was composed of three sections, I’ve divided the clips accordingly.

Here’s the main Dharma Talk on Sutras II 43-45, aka Kriya-Yoga:

Here’s the clip citing Nischala Joy Devi’s translation and connecting of Gayatri Mantra with these three sutras:

The third clip contains quotes I read at the end of my talk.  I’ll post that clip along with the text in a few days.

Finally, here’s a lovely quote to inspire your week…

It is not meaning that we need but sight…    
-Lawrence Durrell

October 16, 2012

The impulse to chant the Gayatri mantra 2 weeks ago was just that — a strong sense that this was the correct practice for that evening. It was all about infusing ourselves with light as we move into the new fall season. As Gayatri is to Light, Navarna is to Truth. So it seemed only right to add Navarna to the mix. And now, as Navarna is to Truth, Laksmi/Dhumavati-Bija is to infinite possibility. So layering these three mantras over these three weeks strikes me as a triadic blessing invoked during this sacred (which really means powerful) time of year.

This week’s Chant: The Sublime Laksmi Murti & Dhumavati Bija mantras.

Here’s this week’s dharma talk, inspired by the Tarika-Dhumavati bija mantras. It also touches on the Mangalam and quotes these lines from the Katha Upanishad…

Beyond the senses are the objects,
Beyond the objects is the mind,
Beyond the mind, the intellect,
Beyond the intellect, the ātman,
Beyond the ātman, the non-manifest,
Beyond the non-manifest, the spirit,
Beyond the spirit, there is nothing.
This is the end, pure awareness.

September 26, 2011

We will return to Patanjali, I promise. For the time being though, we’re luxuriating in mantra practice inspired by the fall season. This cycle of practice/teachings constellates around a family of mantras beloved to long-time Monday Nighters: Gayatri, Navarna, and Tarika Bija. I’ll likely add a handful of others to the mix, but want to underline the potency and power of these three as catalysts for illuminating and strengthening the inner being (Gayatri and Navarna) and infusing that interior essence with majesty, generosity, and grace (Tarika Bija).

Here’s a sound clip from the Navarna class on 9/26. I tried using a microphone I thought would give a better recording. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. You’ll have to listen carefully to hear DanJ’s tabla. And while I was able to salvage the dharana I gave at the end of class, the volumeof my commentary is too low. So, that bit of dharma talk  remains only in the memories of those who were there. If you want to chant or listen to the Navarna mantra however, this clip will be just fine…

In closing, here are the excerpts from the Ramprasad poem I read at the end of class. This is from Lex Hixon’s book, Mother of the Universe, his ecstatic collection of Ramprasad’s poetry. This one’s on page 180:

Kali is naked reality.
She is the feminine principle, unifying wisdom.
This simpleminded lover of truth
calls her my mother, my mother,
because she is the inexhaustible affection
who never neglects her children….

This poet urges every human heart:
“If you wish to be liberated from oppression,
abandon whatever limits you cling to
and meditate on the limitless one
who wears limitation as a garland of heads
severed by her sword of nondual wisdom.”

For readers who’ve found this blog online and may not be familiar with the Navarna mantra or Goddess Kali, let me simply suggest you can think of Kali an an archetype of Truth–and think of the Navarna mantra as the lifeblood of that truth. So chanting this mantra nourishes, strengthens, and vitalizes your connection to, you guessed it, your innate sense of truth.

September 19, 2011, Part II

For those who want a Gayatri track to chant along with, here’s class recitation from 9/19. This is ***not*** the 108 reps we did later that evening. This is the Walk-In Open Chant from 7:30-8 pm. Sound quality is not great which is why I didn’t include it in the earlier post. It just occurred to me however that not-so-great audio not withstanding, some people might like the “good company” — and there’s definitely  shakti in the track!

Monday Night Class Chanting the Gayatri Mantra