I so love the above quote from David Whyte. I think he says it so beautifully. There is simply no good reason for us to keep company with anything or anyone that does not bring us alive, with anything or anyone that tries to keep us small.
Choose your greatness…
Here are audio clips and readings from the first class of this new year.
Here’s opening chanting of Om Tara Tuttare Ture Swaha.
Here’s the opening dharana and my dharma talk.
Here’s chanting of Vakratunda II and the Surya Bija Mantra. These are fine for people who want to chant along, but the album tracks are way better for listening. You can find VakII on Sound Cloud and the Surya Bija mantra track is on our Sun Mantras album.
Here are this week’s readings.
TAO TE CHING
32. The Tao can’t be perceived. Smaller than an electron, it contains uncountable galaxies.
If powerful men and women could remain centered in the Tao, all things would be in harmony. The world would become a paradise. All people would be at peace, and the law would be written in their hearts.
When you have names and forms, know they are provisional. When you have institutions, know where their functions should end. Knowing when to stop, you can avoid any danger.
All things end in the Tao as rivers flow into the sea.
1.1 Atha yoganushasanan (Now, the study of Yoga.) 1.2 Yogah chitta vritti nirodhaha (Yoga is the stilling of the thought waves in the mind.) 1.3 Tada drashtu svarupe avasthanam (Then we rest in our essential nature.)
Here are the words to Vakratunda II.
vakratunda mahakāya suryakoti samaprabha nirvighnam kuru me deva sarva kāryeśu sarvada
om gang ganapataye namaha
As always, the final word goes to Mary Oliver. Particularly poignant this week…
SUNRISE Mary Oliver You can die for it — and idea, or the world. People
have done so, brilliantly, letting their small bodies be bound
to the stake, creating an unforgettable fury of light. But
this morning, climbing the familiar hills in the familiar fabric of dawn, I thought
of China, and India and Europe, and I thought how the sun
blazes for everyone just so joyfully as it rises under the lashes of my own eyes, and I thought I am so many! What is my name?
What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is happiness, it is another one of the ways to enter fire.
10.8.18. THE DHARMA OF SPEECH. SPEAK ONLY THAT WHICH IS KIND, TRUE, NECESSARY, AND AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME.
I’m still getting over a very bad cold so will keep this post brief. This week’s class centered around one of my favorite teachings, The Dharma of Speech. And went on from there to encompass the beautiful Tara mantra, om tara tuttare ture swaha; a verse from Mary Oliver’s astonishing riff on the 145th Psalm; a particularly luminous verse from the Tao Te Ching; and a story from Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power. While at its root this story is the antithesis of the dharma of speech, still, it makes a fun complement to our contemplation…
Here’s the opening dharana on Tara:
Here’s my dharma talk:
And here are the readings:
Tao Te Ching, Verse 21
The Master keeps her mind always at one with the Tao; that is what gives her radiance.
The Tao is ungraspable. How can her mind be at one with it? Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.
The Tao is dark and unfathomable. How can it make her radiant? Because she lets it.
Since before time and space were, the Tao is. It is beyond is and is not. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see.
* * *
On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate(Psalm 145) Mary Oliver
7. I know a man of such mildness and kindness it is trying to change my life. He does not preach, teach, but simply is. It is astonishing, for he is Christ’s ambassador truly, by rule and act. But, more,
he is kind with the sort of kindness that shines out, but is resolute, not fooled. He has eaten the dark hours and could also, I think, soldier for God, riding out under the storm clouds, against the world’s pride and unkindness, with both unassailable sweetness, and consoling word.
published in Devotions, p. 137.
* * *
from The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene
Down on his luck, the screenwriter Michael Arlen went to New York in 1944. To drown his sorrows he paid a visit to the famous restaurant “21.” In the lobby, he ran into Sam Goldwyn, who offered the somewhat impractical advice that he should buy racehorses. At the bar, Arlen met Louis B. Mayer, an old acquaintance, who asked him what were his plans for the future. “I was just talking to Sam Goldwyn…” began Arlen. “How much did he offer you?” interrupted Mayer. “Not enough,” he replied evasively. “Would you take fifteen thousand for thirty weeks?” asked Mayer. No hesitation this time, “Yes,” said Arlen. [p. 32]
March 11, 2018. A week ago, it seemed like Spring. And then a wild crazy nor’easter blew in. The Mother of All Storms. Thick heavy snow coming down a mile a minute. Thunder and lightning adding to the show. Trees down, power out, and the time that rules the dance of daily life stood still. Truth be told, I rather like these times that are, in their way, outside of time. In the space between…
Years ago I was in a meditation retreat with Baba Muktananda. He was teaching the ham-sa mantra. Part of the practice was to focus our awareness on the space between the breaths. To remain in that spaciousness for as long as we could, Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, maybe ten seconds. He showed us how in that space between the breaths, we touch eternity, poised outside the limiting constructs of time…
One of the curious experiences I had during that weekend retreat was excruciating pain in my left hip. Which began in the Saturday morning session and continued through the closing on Sunday night. Ardent yogini that I was, I soldiered through. And here’s the thing. At the end of the retreat, the pain was gone. Gone. And has never returned…
Was the pain — and I am talking about 48 hours of non-stop physical agony — a kriya, an illusion, something burning up? I will never know. But it did teach me that what I perceive and what is actually happening are not necessarily the same. That when I think I know, or as the Tao Te Ching verse quoted above says, when I presume to know, the odds are, knowledge is not happening….
It’s a tricky business, this knowing and not-knowing, this “I” with all its presumptions, agendas, associations, projections, and attachments. It really does close up the space. And I won’t say I know this. But I sure do feel it in my bones. The spaciousness of that space between the breaths, that’s where it’s all happening. Or not-happening. That is where I want to live.
Here’s my dharma talk from Monday, December 4th. It could be called, What we are is so much more interesting than what we think we should be…. This is a rather freewheeling talk with a handful of LOL moments.
AUDIO OF DECEMBER 4, 2017 DHARMA TALK
AUDIO OF ON TARA TUTTARE TURE SWAHA OPENING OF CLASS
AUDIO OF NAVARNA AND OM NAMAH SHIVAYA MANTRAS
We were reading this text back-to-front but this verse called for a front-to-back context so I also read the two preceding verses. I’m copying them here in that order…
72. When they lose their sense of awe, people turn to religion. When they no longer trust themselves, they begin to depend upon authority.
Therefore the Master steps back so that people won’t be confused. He teaches without teaching, so that people will have nothing to learn.
70. My teachings are easy to understand and easy to put into practice. Yet your intellect will never grasp them, and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail.
My teachings are older than the world. How can you grasp their meaning?
If you want to know me, look inside your heart.
71. Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease. First realize that you are sick; then you can move towards health.
The Master is her own physician. She has healed herself of all knowing. Thus she is truly whole.
Prepping for this class which happened to fall on a Super Moon evening, this poem from Lex Hixon’s Mother of the Universe, jumped out off the page. This book used to be my go-to text. As I’ve grown simpler with age however, Lex’s versions of Ramprasad strike me as being a bit too thick. I want everything pared down to its essence. Reading this poem over and over though and typing it out just now, well, let me say that myriad adjectives not withstanding, it’s a rather potent map. And quite soaring.
I am a child reaching out to catch the moon Ramprasad/Lex Hixon
Who in the world can know what Mother Kali really is? She is beyond the reach of every scripture, every system of philosophy.
As the radiant blackness of divine mystery, she plays through the lotus wilderness of the sacred human body. The practitioner of meditation encounters her power deep in the blossom of primordial awareness and within the thousand-petal lotus that floats far above the mind.
Kali is the conscious core, shining through every awakened sage who delights in oneness. This has been demonstrated by countless realized beings. Ma Tara is the queen of freedom within all hears. She reigns timelessly and tenderly. Planes and dimensions of being more vast and subtle than anyone can imagine are found within her womb of encompassing wisdom. The Goddess alone knows the extent of her power. Who else could possibly know?
Laments the singer of this mystic hymn: “Everyone will laugh at my attempt to swim the shoreless sea of her reality, but my soul belongs to her and my heart delights in longing. I am a child reaching out to catch the moon.”
As usual, the final word goes to Mary Oliver. This poem is vast. We can read it over and over again, and always discover something new…
The Mockingbird Mary Oliver
All summer the mocking bird in his pearl-gray coat and his white-windowed wings
flies from the hedge to the top of the pine and begins to sing, but it’s neither lilting nor lovely,
for he is the thief of other sounds– whistles and truck brakes and dry hinges plus all the songs of other birds in his neighborhood;
mimicking and elaborating, he sings with humor and bravado so I have to wait a long time for the softer voice of his own life
to come through. He begins by giving up all his usual flutter and setting down on the pine’s forelock then looking around
as though to make sure he’s alone; then he slaps each wing against his breast, where his heart is, and, copying nothing, begins
easing into it as though it was not half so easy as rollicking, as though his subject now
was his true self, which of course was as dark and secret, as anyone else’s and it was too hard— perhaps you understand— to speak or to sing it to anything or anyone but the sky.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE YOGA OF RENUNCIATION IT’S NOT REALLY ABOUT THE RESULTS, WE JUST THINK IT IS….
The resolute in yoga surrender
results, and gain perfect peace;
the irresolute, attached to results,
are bound by everything they do. [5.12]
The practice of renunciation comes up in every religion and sacred tradition. It’s also an important element in recovery and self-improvement programs. In all these systems, renunciation is a penance, a giving up of something that gives us pleasure, a choosing, in other words, to suffer. And this renouncing is done in order to achieve a certain goal.
The Yoga of Renunciation flips this notion on its head. In Yoga, we renounce not only that which causes suffering, (i.e. attachment and identification with our psycho/emotional narratives.) We also renounce the fruit of our actions, letting go of goal-oriented focus and motivation.
There’s a great deal of paradox here. When I talked about how this work of yogic renunciation may be the hardest thing we ever do, one of my long-time Monday Nighters made a great point. She said from her perspective, not doing it is even harder. Yes and yes. The final irony being that what we’re renouncing doesn’t actually exist. But that’s a topic for another time…
Another bizarre week on the political scene where the Yoga of Not-Renunciation abounds. Here we see everything the Gita warns against. It’s been fascinating to watch this karma playing out. Too soon to know how this scandalous scandal-ridden chapter in American history will end. And they will do a lot of damage before that happens. Still, nonstop leaks, gaffes, and investigations are outing the craven corruption and naked lies that drive Trump and the Republican agenda. And the truth begins to roar.
Here’s May 15’s dharma talk. If you don’t have time to listen, a few short quotes:
“The ego thinks it’s all coming from it. That small sense of “I.” It thinks it’s the doer. It’s not. And that sense of “I’m the doer” creates the sense of isolation and alienation that creates so many of the maladies that plague our culture. We’re not isolated. We’re not alienated. We’re very much part of this ginormous matrix of Creation and that’s what’s carrying us.”
“Who cares about reincarnation. It’s irrelevant. It’s enough that we keep the spaces we move through clear. So we don’t leave a mess we then need to clean up.”
Here are the Gita verses we read:
You have praised both renunciation and the yoga of action, Krishna. Tell me now: of these two, which is the better path?
THE BLESSED LORD SAID:
Renunciation and yoga both lead to the ultimate good; but of the two paths, Arjuna, yoga is the more direct.
The true renunciate neither desires things nor avoids them; indifferent to pleasure and pain he is easily freed from all bondage.
Fools say that knowledge and yoga are separate, but the wise do not. When you practice one of them deeply, you gain the rewards of both.
The state reached by true knowledge is reached by yoga as well. Both paths lead to the Self; both lead to selfless action.
It is hard to renounce all action without engaging in action; the sage, wholehearted in the yoga of action, soon attains freedom.
Wholehearted, purified, mastering body and mind, his self becomes the self all beings; he is unstained by anything he does.
The man who has seen the truth thinks, “I am not the doer” at all times—when he sees, hears, touches, when he smells, eats, walks, sleeps, breathes,
when he defecates, talks, or takes hold, when he opens his eyes or shuts them; at all times he thinks, “This is merely sense-objects acting on the senses.”
Offering his actions to God, he is free of all action; sin rolls off him as drops of water roll off a lotus leaf.
Surrendering attachment, the sage performs all actions—with his body, his mind, and his understanding— only to make himself pure.
The resolute in yoga surrender results, and gain perfect peace; the irresolute, attached to results, are bound by everything they do.
Calmly renouncing all actions, the embodied Self dwells at ease as lord of the nine-gated city, not acting, not causing action.
It does not create the means of action, or the action itself, or the union of result and action; all these arise from Nature.
Nor does it partake of anyone’s virtuous or evil actions. When knowledge of the Self is obscured by ignorance, men act badly.
Here are the poems from Rabi’a, the beloved 8th century Sufi mystic, followed by two more from Hadwijch II, the lesser known but quite extraordinary 13th century Christian beguine. Note how both give the same teaching as the Gita with just a few strokes of the pen. Fyi, the images at the top of this post are Hadwijch facing Rabi’a.
I am fully qualified to work as a doorkeeper, and for this reason:
What is inside me, I don’t let out;
What is outside me, I don’t let in.
If someone comes in, he goes right out again—
He has nothing to do with me at all.
I am a Doorkeeper of the Heart, not a lump of wet clay. -Rabi’a (tr. by Charles Upton)
O my Lord,
if I worship you
from fear of hell, burn me in hell.
If I worship you
from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.
But if I worship you
for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face. -Rabi’a (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)
the world’s things
Then the Naked
can grow wide,
embracing all -Hadewijch II (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)
You who want
seek the Oneness
the clear mirror
already waiting -Hadewijch II (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)
Finally, here’s audio of opening chanting that includes om tara tuttare ture swaha and om namah shivaya with a short dharana at the end weaving these two beautiful mantras together…
Here’s a short dharana leading into the classic version of om namah shivaya with a short dharana at the endleading into silent meditation:
MAY 8, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK # 11: STILLNESS, THE MIRACLE CURE
“He who finds peace and joy
and radiance within himself—
that man becomes one with God
and vanishes into God’s bliss.” [5.24]
We’re now about four months into the Trump presidency which is unfolding pretty much exactly as everyone familiar with the ways of Trump predicted. Well maybe not exactly. I mean who could have envisioned the bizarre drama of just these last ten days. I knew chaos, bigotry, nepotism, and greed would reign. But the naked compulsion is dizzying. I keep going back to two lines from this week’s Gita verses: “When knowledge of the Self is obscured by ignorance, men act badly.” Yes and yes.
There’s in interesting piece about Evan Williams, a founder of Twitter, in today’s NY Times. Here’s someone who tragically believed that creating an online platform where people could speak freely and exchange ideas would make the world a better place. But Williams, like so many other utopian entrepreneurs did not understand that until we address much deeper issues of human consciousness, “progress” and power, any good idea, democracy, socialism, capitalism, the internet… will ultimately be co-opted by the patriarchal mindset otherwise known as tyranny….
A few years ago, Twitter was viewed as a tool of liberation. It enabled, some believed, the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East. Twitter, like the internet itself, was putting tyranny on a short leash.
Then the narrative turned darker, with the rise of trolling on the platform.
President Trump has said he believes Twitter put him in the White House. Recently, Mr. Williams heard the claim for the first time….
“It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” he said finally. “If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
I’m still behind in my posting here so what follows is audio from May 8th. That class constellated around Chapter Five of the Gita, The Yoga of Renunciation. I think the word “renunciation” has been tainted in patriarchal traditions that equate self-punishing penance with spiritual growth. In my observation, that form of renunciation breeds repression way more than enlightenment.
I am however, a great believer in renouncing the narratives of self that rule our lives. Dropping the story, as we say; getting out from under the pathology of attachment and what we call in Yoga, “wrong identification.” That’s a form of renunciation I fully support. That’s a form of renunciation that if applied worldwide would be the miracle that truly did make the world a better place. A much better place. I know, I know, dream on…
Here’s this week’s talk which I’ve divided into two parts. The first is a rather freewheeling contemplation on Chapter 5 of the Gita as it relates to identity, the finite, the infinite, compassion, and my new green chair. The second is the last five minutes of the talk and focuses exclusively on Kuan Yin and Steady Wisdom.
Here are the verses we read from Chapter Five.
The resolute in yoga surrender results, and gain perfect peace; the irresolute, attached to results, are bound by everything they do.
Calmly renouncing all action, the embodied Self dwells at east as lord of the nine-gated city, not acting, not causing action.
Nor does it partake of anyone’s virtuous or evil actions. When knowledge of the Self is obscured by ignorance, man act badly.
But when ignorance is completely destroyed, then the light of wisdom shines like the midday sun and illumines what is supreme.
Contemplating That, inspired and rooted and absorbed in That, men reach the state of true freedom from which there is no rebirth.
Freed from the endless cycle of birth and death, they can act impartially toward all beings, since to them all beings are the same.
They do not rejoice in good fortune; they do not lament at bad fortune; lucid, with minds and unshaken, they remain within what is real.
A man unattached to sensations, who finds fulfillment in the Self, whose mind has become pure freedom, attains an imperishable joy.
Pleasures from eternal objects are wombs of suffering Arjuna. They have their beginnings and their ends; no wise man seeks joy among them.
He who finds peace and joy and radiance within himself— that man becomes one with God and vanishes into God’s bliss.
The wise man cleansed of his sins, who has cut off all separation, who delights in the welfare of all beings, vanishes into God’s bliss.
Knowing me as the enjoyer of all worship, the Lord of all worlds, the dearest friend of all beings, that man gains perfect peace.
Here are clips of chanting from May 8th. I just got a new microphone which will hopefully make a difference in the sound quality of class recordings from May 22 on. Please bear with the way-too-loud harmonium drone until then.
Here’s the Opening Tara chanting:
Here’s Kuan Yin:
And here’s another clip of my solo chanting before class begins….
APRIL 24, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #9. WHEN A MAN HAS LET GO OF ATTACHMENTS, WHEN HIS MIND IS ROOTED IN WISDOM, EVERYTHING HE DOES IS WORSHIP AND HIS ACTIONS ALL MELT AWAY. GOD IS THE OFFERING, GOD IS THE OFFERED, POURED OUT BY GOD; GOD IS ATTAINED BY ALL THOSE WHO SEE GOD IN EVERY ACTION. [4.23-24]
I grew up without religious training or tradition. In our house, God was a strange word, rarely spoken, mostly disdained. So when I stumbled onto the yogic path and met Baba Muktananda, his core teaching, God dwells within you as you, struck me as the most radical thing I’d ever heard. It also struck me as absolutely true. So while the word itself is loaded and after all these many years still gives me a jolt, I do love the Gita verse I’ve quoted above: God is the offering, God is the offered, poured out by God; God is attained by all those who see God in every action. Yes!
Today we’re 99 days into the age of Trump. I keep thinking of the Upanishadic concept, neti neti, “not this, not this.” Anyone needing an example of everything that is not-God, need look no further than the Trump White House and Republican agenda, where neti neti, not-God, not-God, is on display day in day out…
Tomorrow is the People’s Climate March, happening on Trump’s hundredth day in office. If you’re on the fence about being part of this massive action, here’s a link to help you find a sister march.
I’ve lately been re-reading William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. On the profoundly connected subjects of the climate march and God,I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes:
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head!
For every thing that lives is Holy.
We’re back to Monday Night Class after a two-week break, digging into the Bhagavad Gita: Chapter Four, The Yoga of Wisdom. This is a very rich topic that lends itself to parallel readings. Here’s audio of my rather free-wheeling dharma talk. It begins with a lovely commentary connecting the Tara mantra to our readings of the Gita. I also brought in a lovely hasidic story and beautiful passage from a Mary Oliver essay on Walt Whitman. Enjoy.
Here are this week’s verses from the Gita:
Actions cannot defile me, since I am indifferent to results; all those who understand this will not be bound by their actions.
This is how actions were done by the ancient seekers of freedom; follow their example: act, surrendering the fruits of action.
What are action and inaction? This matter confuses even wise men; so I will teach you and free you from any harm.
You must realize what action is, what wrong action and inaction are as well. The true nature of action is profound, and difficult to fathom.
He who can see inaction in the midst of action, and action in the midst of inaction, is wise and can act in the spirit of yoga.
With no desire for success, no anxiety about failure, indifferent to results, he burns up his actions in the fire of wisdom.
Surrendering all thoughts of outcome, unperturbed, self-reliant, he does nothing at all, even when fully engaged in actions.
There is nothing that he expects, nothing that he fears. Serene, free from possessions, untainted, acting with the body alone,
content with whatever happens, unattached to pleasure or pain, success or failure, he acts and is never bound by his action.
When a man has let go of attachments, when his mind is rooted in wisdom, everything he does is worship and his actions all melt away.
God is the offering, God is the offered, poured out by God; God is attained by all those who see God in every action. [4.14-24]
Here are the parallel readings:
As the power of deliverance Tara is related to the goddess Durga, who similarly takes us across all difficulties. Hence she is also called Durga-Tara. Whereas Durga represents the power that overcomes or destroys obstacles and difficulties, Tara is the power which takes us beyond them. While Durga is more appropriate to call on in extreme danger wherein we need help against negative forces assailing us, Tara has the additional power to lift us up in life generally. Tara is the power to transcend all things. She not only lifts us beyond dangers but allows us to rise beyond our achievements and accomplishments to higher levels of realization. As the ultimate obstacle we have to cross over is our own mind, Tara provides the power to take us beyond the turbulent waves of our thought currents….
[David Frawley, Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses]
I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I loaf and invite my soul, I lean and loaf at my ease…observing a spear of summer grass.
In these lines the great work has begun, and the secret of success has been given. And what is that great labor? Out-circling interest, sympathy, empathy, transference of focus from the self to all else; the merging of the lonely single self with the wondrous, never-lonely entirety. This is all.
[Mary Oliver, Upstream]
A man who lived in the same town as Rabbi Zusya saw that he was very poor. So each day he went to the house of prayer and left twenty pennies so that Zusya and his family might eat. From that time on, the man grew richer and richer. The more he had, the more he gave Zusya, and the more he gave Zusya, the more he had.
One day he recalled that Zusya was the disciple of the great master, Rabbi Baer of Mezritch—and it occurred to him that if what he gave the disciple was so lavishly rewarded, he might become even more prosperous if he made presents to the master himself. So he travelled to Mezritch and made a substantial gift to Baer. From this time on, his means shrank until he lost all the profits he had made during the more fortunate period.
Taking his troubles to Rabbi Zusya, he told him the whole story and asked what his present predicament was due to. For had not the rabbi himself told him that his master was immeasurably greater than he?
Zusya replied: “Look! As long as you gave and did not bother to whom, whether to Zusya or another, God gave to you and did not bother to whom. But when you began to seek out especially noble and distinguished recipients, God did exactly the same.”
[Jack Kornfield, Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart]
Finally, here’s audio of class chanting. This is the Tara mantra resolving into Om Namah Shivaya. This clip has a long slow fade-in so you may hear silence for the first 20 seconds.At around 3.40 minutes, I add a dharana on how these two mantras so beautifully complement and hold one another…
Though the unwise cling to their actions,
watching for results, the wise
are free of attachments, and act
for the well-being of the whole world. [3.25]
APRIL 4, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #8: “THE WISE MAN DOES NOT UNSETTLE THE MINDS OF THE IGNORANT. QUIETLY, ACTING IN THE SPIRIT OF YOGA, HE INSPIRES THEM TO DO THE SAME.”
Yesterday being Earth Day and my birthday, I took some time off from thinking about politics and spirituality. A lovely respite as we approach the 100-days point in the Trumpian debacle. I only wish they would take some time off. Like the rest of their lives…
If you’re a member of MoveOn, you most likely received email from Al Franken last week. For those who did not:
Dear MoveOn Member,
It’s Al Franken, and I’m writing you today because I’m worried. Not about what Donald Trump has tried (and, so far, failed) to do already, like Trumpcare and the Muslim ban. But about the storm that’s coming.
You see, we’re just 90 days into the Trump presidency. Fortunately, we’re also 90 days into a powerful resistance movement. Up until now, we’ve been doing surprisingly well stalling Trump’s agenda. But the thing is, he’s just getting started—so we can’t let up for a second.
There are so many more fights to come: Stopping Trump’s tax breaks for rich people like himself. Standing up to Jeff Sessions’ deportation force. Resisting attacks on Medicare and the environment. And we still have a year and a half before we’ve got a shot at taking back Congress.
Trump governs by chaos. He wants us to get tired and slow down, but we can’t let him win.
After Trump was elected, there was a huge spike in grassroots energy—the biggest I’ve seen in my entire political career. Record-setting numbers of people flooded the streets. It was impossible to get a call through to Congress (believe me, I know, because my office phone lines were ringing off the hook). And while my Republican colleagues are trying to put on a brave face, I can tell that they are under stress. (And that stress helped defeat their first attempt at Trumpcare!)
But here’s what has me worried: We’re fighting on so many fronts. And if energy drops off, we’ll start losing.
I share Franken’s concern. It’s what compelled me to begin this “Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump” project. It just seemed an excellent manual to read side-by-side with Democracy Now, MoveOn, Indivisible — whatever your preferred news and action alert portals. There is so much work to do and as Franken says, we have to fight on so many fronts. Along with Trump’s horrible appointments and policy agendas, he creates mind-blowing chaos that defies us to grab hold and make order. This is what makes him so dangerous. We have got to stay grounded in wisdom (and a sense of humor) else we risk profound overwhelm and burnout.
We also have got to hold onto our humanity. We can never allow ourselves to become like them.
Here’s my opening dharana and dharma talk from Monday, April 4th:
Here are the verses I read from the Gita:
Though the unwise cling to their actions,
watching for results, the wise
are free of attachments, and act
for the well-being of the whole world.
The wise man does not unsettle
the minds of the ignorant, quietly,
acting in the spirit of yoga,
he inspires them to do the same.
Actions are really performed
by the working of the three gunas;
but a man deluded by the I-sense
imagines, “I am the doer.”
The wise man knows that when objects
act on the senses, it is merely
the gunas acting on the gunas;
thus he is unattached.
Deluded by the gunas, men grow
attached to the gunas’ actions;
the insightful should not disturb
the minds of these foolish men.
Performing all actions for my sake,
desireless, absorbed in the Self
indifferent to “I” and “mine,”
let go of your grief and fight!
Men who constantly practice
this teaching of mine, Arjuna,
who trust it with all their heart,
are freed from the bondage of actions.
But those who, mistrustful, half-hearted,
fail to practice my teaching,
wander in the darkness, lost,
stupefied by delusion.
Even the wise man acts
in accordance with his inner nature.
All beings follow their nature.
What good can repression do
Craving and aversion arise
when the senses encounter sense-objects.
Do not fall prey to these two
brigands blocking your path.
It is better to do your own duty
badly, than to perfectly do
another’s; you are safe from harm
when you do what you should be doing. [3.25-35]
What is it that drives a man
to an evil action, Krishna,
even against his will,
as if some force made him do it?
THE BLESSED LORD SAID:
That force is desire, it is anger,
arising from the guna called rajas;
deadly and all-devouring,
that is the enemy here.
As fire is obscured by smoke,
as a mirror is covered with dust,
as a fetus is wrapped in its membrane,
so wisdom is obscured by desire.
Wisdom is destroyed, Arjuna,
by the constant enemy of the wise,
which, flaring up as desire,
blazes with insatiable flames.
Desire dwells in the senses,
the mind, and the understanding;
in all these it obscures wisdom
and perplexes the embodied Self.
Therefore you must first control
your senses, Arjuna; then
destroy this evil that prevents you
from ever knowing the truth
Men say that the senses are strong.
But the mind is stronger than the senses;
the understanding is stronger
than the mind; and the strongest is the Self.
Knowing the Self, sustaining
the self by the Self, Arjuna,
kill the difficult-to-conquer
enemy called desire.. . [3.36-43]
And here are two audio clips of class chanting. The first is Om Tara Tuttare Ture Swaha; the second is Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu’sa.With apologies for sound quality. We’re working on a recording upgrade.
MARCH 27, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #7: TRAVELING FROM THE OUTER LIMITS OF THE THINKING MIND INTO THE DEPTH OF INNER STILLNESS. “PERFORMING ALL ACTIONS FOR MY SAKE, DESIRELESS, ABSORBED IN THE SELF, INDIFFERENT TO “I” AND “MINE,” LET GO OF YOUR GRIEF, AND FIGHT!
Easter Sunday. Ironic that this day of rebirth and resurrection ends another bizarre week in the Age of Trump. Bombs, bombs, and more bombs. I did wonder if the bombing spree was an attempt to distract us from the Russia-connection arrests rumored to be coming this week. Probably so. This is from the 4/13 Palmer Report...
Donald Trump dropped the “Mother of all Bombs” today in Afghanistan, but it appears to have been a mere attempt at distracting from the mother of all bombshells. Reliable sources, who have proven themselves correct in the past, are now pointing to U.S. intel agencies working with the Attorney General of New York to begin imminently dismantling Trump’s inner circle. In fact the big major arrests may come as soon as next week.
Let us hope the dismantling has begun. And that the Democratic Party can actually get its act together, win the next round of elections, and bring some semblance of sanity and humanity back to governing. In the meantime, can I just say that nicknaming a bomb “mother” is really sick. Especially one that resembles a ginormous phallus. And the acronym MOAB. Seriously? It makes this hideously destructive bomb sound like a pet guppy.
The Bhagavad Gita maintains that desire drives the psycho-pathology of men and women like Donald Trump. In the more integrative perspective of Tantra, we would say that it’s actually attachmentto and/or identification with desire. But we need not bog down in philosophical hair-splitting. The bottom line is, desire, its near relative greed, and their offsprings—displaced anger, cruelty, and the need to dominate and control—have wreaked havoc on this planet for thousands of years…
Although we didn’t read these verses at the March 27 class, they’re so relevant to this moment, I thought I’d include them.
ARJUNA SAID: What it is that drives a man to evil action, Krishna, even against his will, as if some force made him do it. THE BLESSED LORD SAID:
That force is desire, it is anger, arising from the guna called rajas; deadly and all-devouring, that is the enemy here. As a fire is obscured by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, as a fetus is wrapped in its membrane, so wisdom is obscured by desire. Wisdom is destroyed, Arjuna, by the constant enemy of the wise, which, flaring up as desire, blazes with insatiable flames. Desire dwells in the senses, the mind, and the understanding; in all these it obscures wisdom and perplexes the embodied Self. Therefore you must first control your senses, Arjuna; then destroy this evil that prevents you from ever knowing the truth. Men say that the senses are strong. But the mind is stronger than the senses; the understanding is stronger than the mind; and the strongest is the Self. Knowing the Self, sustaining the self by the Self, Arjuna, kill the difficult-to-conquer enemy called desire. [3.36-43]
Here’s my dharma talk from March 27th.
I read only two verses from the Gita during this talk. We’ve read these before but they’re well worth repeating…
The wise man does not unsettle the minds of the ignorant; quietly acting in the spirit of yoga, he inspires them to do the same. [3.26]
It is better to do your own duty badly, than to perfectly do another’s; you are safe from harm when you do what you should be doing. [3.35]
Here are the Mary Oliver poems that, as always, beautifully and ecstatically mirror what the Gita is teaching. The first we also read last week. Like the Gita verses above, it too bears repeating…
Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word. I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must, the bees in the garden rumbling a little, the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off. Quiet as a feather. I hardly move though really, I’m traveling a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.
GREEN, GREEN IS MY SISTER’S HOUSE
Don’t you dare climb that tree or even try, they said, or you will be sent away to the hospital of the very foolish, if not the other one. And I suppose, considering my age, it was fair advice.
But the tree is a sister to me, she lives alone in a green cottage high in the air and I know what would happen, she’d clap her green hands, she’d shake her green hair, she’d welcome me. Truly
I try to be good but sometimes a person just has to break out and act like the wild and springy thing one used to be. It’s impossible not to remember wild and want it back. So
if someday you can’t find me, you might look into that tree—of course it’s possible—or under it.
I’m including two audio clips of class chanting, with apologies for less than stellar sound quality. During this Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump cycle of class, we’ve been chanting Tara and Kuan Yin mantras. I’ll write more about why I chose these mantras (or more accurately, why these mantras chose me) within the next few weeks. For now, suffice to say they are excellent medicine for moving through these times. They foster the ability to hold the nightmare of the Trump regime without getting lost in our outrage, disgust, revulsion, fear, even hatred. And in that holding, we can channel these powerful energies into the fierce determination and wisdom necessary to keep fighting for truth and loving kindness to the world.
Here is the Tara mantra we chant at the opening of class. OM TARA TUTTARE TURE SWAHA
Here is the Kuan Yin mantra which resolves into Om Namah Shivaya NAMO KUAN SHIH YIN PU’SA