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.
We’re continuing our focus on Patanjali Book III, but adding Laksmi Work to the mix. Something about summer, the abundance of greenery, produce, heat and humidity has me contemplating the force of Laksmi in all its complexity, wonder, and power… Here are the sutras we read this evening:
III,6. Perfect discipline is mastered in stages.
III, 7. These three components – concentration, absorption, and integration – are more interiorized than the preceding five.
III, 8. Even these three are external to integration that bears no seeds.
III, 9. The transformation towards total stillness occurs as new latent impressions fostering cessation arise to prevent
the activation of distractive stored one, and moments of stillness begin to permeate consciousness.
III, 10. These latent impressions help consciousness flow from one tranquil moment to the next.
III, 11. Consciousness is transformed toward integration as distractions dwindle and focus arises.
III, 12. In other words, consciousness is transformed toward focus as continuity develops between arising and
Readers of this blog who attend class with some regularity, or are conversant with these teachings, will find the above sutras fairly straightforward. If, on the other hand, this language is less than familiar, it may seem undecipherable. So let me say that Patanjali is breaking the movement of mind and breath into carefully delineated categories. And in these sutras, he’s giving us a clue about how to live with an internal sense of freedom and ease. Otherwise known as mastery…
Which is how the Laksmi Work comes into my mind…
I’ll be weaving these two, Patanjali Book III and the Laksmi Work together over the next few weeks. For now I want to get this week’s dharma talk, readings, and chanting clips posted, so will keep this brief.
Here’s a clip of this week’s chanting the yoga sutras:
This is a clip of my dharma talk. It runs long, around 27 minutes. No big surprise as we read so many sutras this evening. I was particularly focused on III, 8, where Patanjali brings in the notion of seeds of karma. But along with that, this talk, while free-wheeling as my talks often are, begins to tie together threads of Patanjali Book III and the Laksmi Work:
Here are the poems, from Rumi and Mary Oliver, that I read at the close of my talk:
Two from Rumi:
There’s a hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox is stuffed full of anything, no music. If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire. The fog clears, and a new energy makes you run up the steps in front of you. Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry. Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen. When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue in place of the Kaaba. When you fast, good habits gather like friends who want to help. Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it to some illusion and lose your power. But even if you’ve lost all will and control, they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
Submit to a daily practice. Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door. Keep knocking, and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there.
This is a clip of chanting the mantra Om Namah Shivaya:
This week’s class focused on one sutra. I thought the dawning of wisdom deserved an evening unto itself.
Once the perfect discipline of consciousness is mastered,
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…]