Here in central NJ I’m watching the snow come down. Looks like we have a good ten inches or more. Startling to gaze at this east coast winter wonderland and realize it’s sunny and warm on the west coast and there’s a heat wave in Australia. To those readers in places with more serious blizzard conditions than we’re having here, I wish you warmth, safety, and the good fortune to be able to stay indoors until you choose to venture out…. To those facing the opposite weather extremes, I wish you cooling breezes and gentle rain. Weather extremes notwithstanding, I wish everyone a good beginning to 2014.
suzingreen.com It’s been an auspicious start for me. January 1, my new album and website both went live. These have been major projects and what a joy to see them launch. Please visit the website — http://www.suzingreen.com — we’re still fine tuning but the basics are there.
The Mantra Project, Vol. I: Daughter of the MountainPlease click the tab at the top of this blog for details about this new release. Of course we’d love you to buy copies and/or download tracks, but you can also listen for free through the wonders of Sound Cloud and Spotify. Please help us get this music out to the world. Reviews on iTunes and CD Baby along with shout-outs on FB and Twitter are most appreciated.
Finally, to regular [and new] visitors to this blog, let me say I’m keenly aware that posting has been erratic bordering on remiss. It’s been impossible to stay current here while working on the new album and writing content for the website. Plus, we started a major house-painting project in October so I’ve been living and working in a semi-construction zone since then. I do record class every week so there’s quite a lot of material to post here. I’m truly looking forward to things settling down and being able to get back to some semblance of regular blogging. For now, I thank you for your enduring patience and ongoing support of my work.
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…
I’ve been chanting the Maha Mrtunjaya Mantra for many years. Full disclosure: it never really sang to me until now, when I begin to find an inexhaustible depth inside its sonic vehicle. Why does a mantra choose to break open inside us at a certain moment? A riddle worthy of contemplation although I’d sooner chant than puzzle it out. Mantras pulsate with consciousness that is way beyond our normal mind state. They initiate us into their mysteries. We can knock at the door until our knuckles hurt. But there will be no entry until they’re ready to receive us. Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Sometimes a decade or two of practice. As one of my teachers always said, it’s the effort that draws the grace. And there is so much grace in the practice of this mantra….
Along with chanting practice of the Maha Mrtunjaya, this week’s class was inspired by parallel readings from the Christian tradition. Here’s a morsel from the longer excerpt I read from Henri Nouwen’s wonderful book, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. He’s writing about a life-changing meeting with Mother Teresa:
Her response startled me. I had expected her to diagnose and discuss my very pressing questions, but I suddenly realized that I had asked questions “from below” and she had given an answer “from above,” pointing me in the direction of divine presence. She knew that even if I better understood my distractions and problems, something else remained: a call to live closer to the heart of God. At first her answer didn’t seem to fit my questions, but then I began to see that her answer came from God’s place of healing and not from my place of complaints. Getting answers to my questions is not the goal of spiritual life. Living in the presence of God is the greater call…
Here’s this week’s dharma talk:
Here’s complete text of the poem from St. John of the Cross’ I Came into the Unknown, [English version by Willis Barnstone]. If you’re reading this before listening to my talk, please note that the word here translated as “science” is perhaps more closely understood as “logic” and/or rational, linear thought.
I came into the unknown and stayed there unknowing rising beyond all science.
I did not know the door but when I found the way, unknowing where I was, I learned enormous things, but what I felt I cannot say, for I remained unknowing, rising beyond all science.
It was the perfect realm of holiness and peace. In deepest solitude I found the narrow way: a secret giving such release that I was stunned and stammering, rising beyond all science.
I was so far inside, so dazed and far away my senses were released from feelings of my own. My mind had found a surer way: a knowledge of unknowing, rising beyond all science.
And he who does arrive collapses as in sleep, for all he knew before now seems a lowly thing, and so his knowledge grows so deep that he remains unknowing, rising beyond all science.
The higher he ascends the darker is the wood; it is the shadowy cloud that clarified the night, and so the one who understood remains always unknowing, rising beyond all science.
This knowledge by unknowing is such a soaring force that scholars argue long but never leave the ground. Their knowledge always fails the source: to understand unknowing, rising beyond all science.
This knowledge is supreme crossing a blazing height; though formal reason tries it crumbles in the dark, but one who would control the night by knowledge of unknowing will rise beyond all science.
And if you wish to hear: the highest science leads to an ecstatic feeling of the most holy Being; and from his mercy comes his deed: to let us stay unknowing, rising beyond all science.
Here’s text from The Cloud of Unknowing:
For He can well be loved, but he cannot be thought. By love he can be grasped and held, but by thought, neither grasped nor held. And therefore, though it may be good at times to think specifically of the kindness and excellence of God, and though this may be a light and a part of contemplation, all the same, in the work of contemplation itself, it must be cast down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. And you must step above it stoutly but deftly, with a devout and delightful stirring of love, and struggle to pierce that darkness above you; and beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love, and do not give up, whatever happens….
And so I urge you, go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breed conceit, but love builds. Knowledge is full of labor, but love, full of rest.
Here’s this week’s dharana, a small exercise that plays with shifting back and forth from thinking to witness…
Much as I’d like to include this week’s chanting of the Maha Mrtunjaya Mantra, the recording quality is problematic. So I’ll include a clip from a previous post:
We continue our immersion in the shakti of Maha Mrtunjaya Mantra… I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the descriptive phrase for Shiva as “spacious as the sky…” I love this metaphor for the way it whispers our human possibility… Spacious as the sky. We can become that. And yet to touch this interior hugeness, let alone merge into it, there’s the challenge… it’s way too big for grasp of hands and mind. We have to tiptoe into it and rest there. In the space between the breaths, in those sublime moments of pure stillness, in the profound release of an “aha.”
In those moments we are at one with Everything. As the beloved Tibetan dakini Yeshe Tsogyel says so beautifully, “Then the joy of the One will hold you like a lake…”
I was driving home the other night at sunset listening to the Maha Mrtunjaya mantra in my car. The sky was ablaze in pink, blue, and purple. As I came over the ridge, I saw the sun sitting at the edge of the horizon. The light was pure gold. The mantra was blasting. It was a moment of pure magnificence, so much deeper than joy or power or exultation. The sky, the sun, the mantra, Shiva, Devi, Light, Dark, the Everythingness of Life. I was part of it. It was all of me. And what more can I say….
This is the experience of Maha Mrtunjaya Mantra. It is the touching into what some call Unity-Awareness. The Shaivites call it Shiva. The Shaktites call it Devi. We refer to it more generically as the Inner Self. But it so doesn’t matter what we call it. It’s not listening when we try to contain it. In fact it turns the other way. It’s the inner experience blazing in every cell. That’s what it’s about. That’s why we meditate. That’s why we chant. That’s why we cultivate awareness, kindness, generosity, selflessness, sacrifice… That’s what we find in Love…
Here’s this week’s dharma talk:
Here’s mantra chanting and a dharana:
Here are the Mary Oliver poems. Scroll down to last week’s post for text of the Devara Dasimaya poems I read again this week…
THE FISH Mary Oliver
The first fish
I ever caught
would not lie down
quiet in the pail
but flailed and sucked
at the burning
amazement of the air
in the slow pouring off
of rainbows. Later
I opened his body and separated
the flesh from the bones
and ate him. Now the sea
is in me: I am the fish, the fish
glitters in me; we are
risen, tangled together, certain to fall
back to the sea. Out of pain,
and pain, and more pain
we feed this feverish plot, we are nourished
by the mystery.
HONEY AT THE TABLE Mary Oliver
It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle sharp as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table
and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,
grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet boulders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until
deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,
you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of tree, crushed bees – a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything
lost is found.
Although we had class on Monday, October 1, the recording quality was sub par, so no dharma talk or chanting posts for that week. Since turnout was small, we kind of had a re-do on 10/8. So this post covers both classes…
When I last left off on this blog, we were taking Monday Night inspiration from the Jewish High Holidays. Now that the “Days of Awe” have passed, leaving sweetness in their wake, we’re shifting focus to paths of love, devotion, the heart. Down the road we’ll probably spend time with classic yogic heart texts like the Bhakti Sutras and Pratyabhijna Hridayam. For now though, I’m not much interested in technique or philosophy. So these classes on the Heart will be mostly chanting, meditation, devotion-soaked poetry, and those handfuls of words that insist on coming through me as dharma talks…
These two classes opened with chanting of the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. For those unfamiliar with this great mantra, here’s the text:
May we be freed from all the attachments that keep us bound….
The traditional claim is that this mantra bestows immortality. From my perspective, this is a bit of a stretch. It does however, facilitate a letting go. The kind of letting go we feel in that moment of Love before attachment enters the room. So it seems a perfect mantra to work with over this next cycle of classes.
Here’s a clip of the chanting:
This week’s dharma talk is a freewheeling riff on Love and the Heart… There’s an interesting anecdote about the Heart Cakra, along with references to Carlos Castaneda’s alter ego, Don Juan. Definitely worth a listen…
Finally, here’s a clip of Om Namah Shivaya with poems read at the end as dharanas before silent meditation…
Here’s a beautiful quote I did not bring to class but will add it for those brave souls on the path:
The Path of Love
is like a bridge of hair
across a chasm of fire.
And the last word goes to the poems:
The madness of love is a blessed fate; And if we understood this We would seek no other: It brings into unity What was divided, And this is the truth: Bitterness it makes sweet, It makes the stranger a neighbor, And what was lowly it raises on high. -HADEWIJCH OF ANTWERP
Anyone who has waded Through Love’s turbulent waters, Now feeling hunger and now satiety, is untouched by the season Of withering or blooing, For in the deepest and most dangerous waters, On the highest peaks, Love is always the same. -HADEWIJCH OF ANTWERP
So long as this breath fills your nostrils, Why seek out fragrant flowers? Peaceful, compassionate, patient, already your own master, Why do you need to cross your legs to Know? Once the entire world is yourself, What could a life of solitude add? O white Jasmine Lord- -AKKA MAHADEVI
I do not call it his sign, I do not call it becoming one with his sign. I do not call it union, I do not call it harmony with union. I do not say something has happened, I do not say nothing has happened. I will not name it You. I will not name it I. Now that the White Jasmine Lord is myself, What use for words at all? -AKKA MAHADEVI
On the Spirit of the Heart as Moon-Disk
Merely to know The Flawless Moon dwells pure In the human heart Is to find the Darkness of the night Vanished under clearing skies. -KOJIJU
Birth, old age, Sickness, and death: From the beginning, This is the way Things have always been. Any thought Of release from this life Will wrap you only more tightly In its snares. The sleeping person Looks for a Buddha, The troubled person Turns towards meditation. But the one who knows That there’s nothing to seek Knows too that there’s nothing to say. She keeps her mouth closed. -LY NGOC KIEU