Class resumes tonight after a long break. Back in December however, we were working with the deity field personified so beautifully in the Indian tradition as the goddess Laksmi.
One of the most beloved faces of the Sacred Feminine, it is said that when we remember Laksmi, great sins are overcome, good fortune ensues, and the great enemy ego is destroyed. On the inner plane, we experience Laksmi as a radiance that sweetens every aspect of life. This is an inner power that draws us into our full potential, enhances our innate beauty and gifts, and nurtures the possibility of our own magnificence. On the outer plane, we experience Laksmi as good fortune and grace.
What I find most interesting however, in the myths and teachings surrounding Laksmi, is often left out or glossed over. She is born from an alliance between the gods (think of the gods as your noble and/or divine possibility) and demons (the inner obstacles that cloud your way.) And it is through this alliance of opposing tendencies, and the great churning that ensues, that Laksmi comes into being. So for me, the creation myth of Laksmi has a lot to say about the process of inner transformation. It is not about discarding that which does not please us, or for that matter, that which seems to get in our way. It is about making an alliance with all the myriad aspects of ourselves and churning together, until something new and fine is created. Churning is an essential action of this mystery. If we want to realize the expansive possibility of Lasksmi within ourselves, we have to be willing to churn…
Here are audio clips from the Dec. 1 Class on Laksmi.
This is the opening dharana:
This is my dharma talk:
This is chanting of the laksmi-bija-mantra (om srim mahalaksmiyei namaha):
And the final dharana:
In closing, a beautiful poem from Gabriel Rosenstock’s Year of the Goddess:
From each and every pore look how the sun beams
On your eternal dance
The dark side of the moon is bright
If you open Your mouth
Stars will escape and chant their hymns for You
You are they
Swiftly swans fly backwards
How can I imagine Your embrace
Without exploding in Your galaxy?
And note from the poet on a literary device he uses which strikes me as extraordinarily mantric in the way sound and meaning are embedded deeper and deeper within the words… So that each word becomes like those Russian dolls, within and within and within…
Some words in this poem sequence are ‘shaded’ to allow for another reading of a line, or a faint echo, a game much cherished by Celtic poets of yore. Thus the reader sees the word as the world when written as world and encounters bhakti invocations such as ma (mother) hidden in the word mad!
This week’s class fell on Rosh Hashonah, the first day of the Jewish New Year. In Jewish tradition, the first ten days of the year are considered the High Holy Days, the Days of Awe. There’s a sense that over these first ten days we lay the blueprint for the rest of the year. So the suggestion is to spend this time in quiet contemplation, taking stock of how we’ve moved towards the light, and how we’ve moved away. Along with this intensive self-inquiry, it’s traditional to eat apples dipped in honey, a symbolic act for bringing sweetness into our lives.
So I thought it only right to offer this class to sweetness and light…
Hence, I added srim, the Laksmi bija mantra, to last week’s mix of Gayatri and Om Namah Shivaya — andbrought in a group of Hafiz/Landinsky poems and a reading from Lawrence Kushner’s kabbalistic musings, Honey From the Rock.
For visitors unfamiliar with the Laksmi bija mantra, let me say a few things about srim — which I can’t properly transliterate here — fyi, it’s pronounced “shreem.” Srim is a seed mantra meaning it contains the full potency of the deity field. In this case, Laksmi, aka the power of splendor, magnificence, expansiveness, abundance… you get the idea. So the teachings go that whatever Laksmi touches grows into its most magnificent form. And sweetness is one of the attributes of Laksmi. This is a perfect sweetness. Not so sweet as to be cloying or just plain too sweet. This is the perfection of sweetness. The sweetness that makes us feel, well, let me say it like it is, positively delicious. We might say we experience the sweetness of Laksmi as a kind of effervescent grace. When all is right with our lives and infinity is possible…
Before I go on, let me also say a few things about Monday Night Class. There is much I love about this class. Its longevity. The people who find their way there. The depth and power of the teachings and practice. The sense of welcome, safety, and community. Sometimes though, I think what I love best is the sweetness of the laughter. Here’s a clip from this week’s class:
Here’s this week’s dharma talk. Which begins with the below posted Hafiz. This small group of poems offers an excellent teaching on what gets in the way of our ability/intention to live in and of our sweetness and light [and delight!] I’ll post the Kushner quote which I also read in this talk, below Hafiz. Kushner is writing specifically about Light. The two together make an excellent counterpoint on the topic of sweetness and light. Add in the mantras and we have a fugue for the heart…
Here are the Hafiz poems, from Daniel Landinsky’s book, The Gift.
THE SAD GAME,
Blame Keeps the sad game going. It keeps stealing all your wealth – Giving it to an imbecile with No financial skills. Dear one, Wise Up.
TIRED OF SPEAKING SWEETLY
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, Break all our teacup talk of God. If you had the courage and Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights, He would just drag you around the room By your hair, Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world That bring you no joy. Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly And wants to rip to shreds All your erroneous notions of truth. That make you fight within yourself, dear one, And with others, Causing the world to weep On too many fine days. God wants to manhandle us, Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself And practice His dropkick. The Beloved sometimes wants To do us a great favor: Hold us upside down And shake all the nonsense out. But when we hear He is in such a “playful drunken mood” Most everyone I know Quickly packs their bags and hightails it Out of town.
The small man Builds cages for everyone He Knows. While the sage, Who has to duck his head When the moon is low, Keeps dropping keys all night long For the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners.
FIND A BETTER JOB
Now That All your worry Has proved such an Unlucrative Business, Why Not Find a better Job.
I WISH I COULD SPEAK LIKE MUSIC
I wish I could speak like music. I wish I could put the swaying splendor of the 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 sublime rhythms Of this earth and the sky’s limbs As they joyously spin and surrender, Surrender Against God’s luminous breath. Hafiz wants you to hold me Against your precious Body And dance, Dance.
Here’s the quote from Lawrence Kushner’s Honey from the Rock:
It is no accident that all the great creation tales begin with light. Of all the things that the Creator might have first formed – mountains, waterfalls, stars, flowers, fruited plains, lions and lambs, leviathans and whirlwinds, single-celled creatures and man – He made light. First of all the Holy One fashioned consciousness.
Let us retell the story of this light which is a metaphor for spiritual awareness: A light with which the Holy One began the creation. Let there be light and there was light. In the Zohar we read further of creation. Some kind of dark flame – blinding flash – issued forth from the innermost hiddenness – from the mystery of the Ayn-Sof, the Infinite One…. A light that was so dazzling that by it…man could gaze from one end of the universe to the other. A light so powerful that is shattered earthly vessels. A light that if it fell into the hands of the wicked could return creation itself back to primordial chaos. A light that therefore had to be hidden away. And God made a separation. A light that was set aside for the Tsadikim [the righteous ones]. Light is sown for the righteous… A light whose appearance initiates creation. But it is a creation only able to withstand a tiny bit of light. Therefore the light had to be concealed. And so it is that darkness and incompletion and separation are the price of this world. While light initiates existence, existence conceals light. For with the appearance of the light being began, But with the concealment of the light all manner of individuated existence was created… Just this is the mystery of the work of creation; And one who is able to understand will understand. A light imprisoned in the shards of this created world, waiting for us to free it. Returning itself and us to the Creator. A light so awesome that even a fraction of its splendor – just so much as a ray the thinness of a needle is all any of us need for unimaginable illumination.
Here’s a clip of this week’s chanting. I tried a different microphone placement, hoping to pick up less harmonium, more voices. Alas, I ended up with more harmonium. The call is quite clear, but I’m sorry to say the response is barely audible.
Finally, here’s a clip of the dharana I gave before gliding into silent meditation:
And when the topic is light, the last word goes to Devi, the Shining. This quote is found in the frontpiece of Ajit Mookerjee’s book, Kali, the Feminine Force. He cites Bhairava Yamala as the source text. I’ve never been able to find this text or any verse resembling the quote. A google search brings up nothing definitive. So I’m going to assume that Mookerjee had access to an unpublished text fragment and made this very beautiful translation. Wherever it comes from, whatever its source, it pulsates with sweetness, luminosity, and supreme bliss:
She is Light itself and transcendent.
Emanating from Her body are rays in thousands — two thousand, a hundred thousand, tens of millions, a hundred million — there is no counting their numbers. It is by and through Her that all things moving and motionless shine. It is by the light of this Devi that all things become manifest.