I’m writing at 7:24 pm on Thursday, March 14. We are at this moment five days, 35minutes, and ten seconds from the Vernal Equinox. Cosmic rhythms not withstanding, today sure feels like Spring. I opened all the windows in my house. Which felt amazing. And reminded me of those sublime lines from the Kabir/Bly poem:
Open the window to the west and disappear into the air inside you….
Which is really what Monday Night Class is about. Disappearing into the air inside us where we find the everything-ness that is us…
This week’s class begins a new cycle of disappearing into that everything-ness, articulated so beautifully in Thomas Byrom’s gorgeous translation of the Ashtavakra Gita.
This text comes down through the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, a beautiful philosophical system that has a non-dual view of Reality. Advaita means one, not two, and in this paradigm, there is no mind/body, spirit/matter split. There is only Brahman, pure consciousness, i.e. the everything-ness…
This is a very different view from the Sankhya tradition, which, fyi, contains the philosophy of Yoga, where spirit and matter are considered separate. Dualistic though it is, there’s great beauty in Sankhya. One just has to read between the lines. And while I’m adding caveats, let me also say, full disclosure, that while there’s a lot I like in the Advaita Vedanta paradigm, my preference is still Shaktism/Shaivism.
This however, is a conversation for another time…
This week’s dharma talk gathers much of the above, soaring around in the sublimity of it all, while, I hope, grounding it in something relevant and helpful to living our lives. One can endlessly philosophize, but really, if we’re not embodying, it’s just a lot of blather…
Here are audio clips from this week’s class:
OPENING MANTRA (OM NAMAH SHIVAYA) AND DHARANA
CLASS CHANTING OM NAMAH SHIVAYA
CLOSE OF CLASS
Here’s the text we read this week:
[from Thomas Byrom’s translation of the Ashtavakra Gita]1. The Self1.O Master,Tell me how to findDetachment, wisdom, and freedom!2.Child,If you wish to be free,Shun the poison of the senses.Seek the nectar of truth,Of love and forgiveness,Simplicity and happiness.3.Earth, fire and water,The wind and the sky —You are none of these.If you wish to be free,Know you are the Self,The witness of all these,The heart of awareness.4.Set your body aside,Sit in your own awareness.You will at once be happy,Forever still,Forever free.5.You have no caste.No duties bind you.Formless and free,Beyond the reach of the senses,The witness of all things.So be happy.6.Right or wrong,Joy or sorrow,These are of the mind only.They are not yours.It is not really youWho acts or enjoys.You are everywhere,Forever free.7.Forever and truly free,The single witness of all things.But if you see yourself as separate,Then you are bound.
This final poem never made it into the recording, but here’s the Mary Oliver I read at the end of class. This is from her collection, Blue Horses.
I’M NOT THE RIVER
I’m not the river
that powerful presence.
And I’m not the black oak tree
which is patience personified.
And I’m not redbird
who is a brief life heartily enjoyed.
Nor am I mud nor rock nor sand
which is holding everything together.
No, I am none of these meaningful things, not yet.
This poem is glorious on its own. In the context of this week’s class, it takes on even more meaning. One of the key inquires of Vedanta is to discover what one is by naming what one is not, i.e. I am not this body, I am not this mind, etc. etc.
They call it neti neti, not this, not this…
I’ve no idea if Oliver is purposely riffing on this, or simply airing her wide spacious mind. Either way, the poem is a gorgeous flip of the whole notion of neti neti…
And she manages to do this with two simply words, “not yet.”