Monday, 5.23.16 Class: We Cling to the Present Which Has Already Become the Past Because We’re Terrified of the Future: Om Bhanave Namaha and the Kleshas

The literal translation of the fourth Sun mantra, ॐ भानवे नमः om bhānave namaḥ is “Salutations to Bhānu, the bright splendor of light.”  I’ve also seen it translated as “the diffuser of light.” Thinking about this week’s class, I was intrigued by the notion of diffusing, less as an aspect of the Sun — more in the way the mind diffuses light. Specifically that innate light otherwise knows as the inner Self. Which is the light that actually illuminates the mind so we’re even aware we’re thinking, let alone having peak experience enlightening flashes of insight.

When the mind is crystal clear, this inner light diffuses in its bright splendor aspect. When it’s not, the light diffusing through the mind’s lens (or lenses), will be distorted. Sometimes just a bit. Sometimes so much that it’s obliterated in the opacity.

Which brings me to the kleshas, those lovely lenses so brilliantly articulated in the great text of yogic psychology, Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. If you’re new to this blog and/or unfamiliar with this text, do visit May 15, 2011 in the Archive. For a quick reference, here you go:

The Kleshas
Avidya is the lens that clouds our ability to know our true nature, which according to Yoga is light.
Asmita is the lens that tricks us into buying into that small sense of self that is prone to suffering.
Raga is pleasure, which, when tangled up with avidya and asmita, gets us all caught up in clinging to what makes us feel good.
Dvesha is aversion, which when tangled up with avidya and asmita, creates a profound separation from everything and anything we label as “bad.”
Abinivesha is clinging to life (or any situation) because we fear death (or change).

Needless to say, the mind is a complex instrument, managing any number of receiving, perceiving, discerning, projecting, remembering, associating, etc. functions at the same time. And the kleshas are right in there, wreaking havoc in the process. So this week’s talk explores the relationship between the kleshas and this fourth Sun mantra.

Here’s the opening dharana:

Here’s my dharma talk:

There were new people in the room this week so I spoke a bit about mantra.  Here is that clip:


Finally, here are this week’s readings. First two poem from Coleman Bark’s translation of the poetry of Lalleshwari, Naked Song.  Although Lalla would not have known the Yoga-Sutra, you can see how in both these poems, she is teaching about the kleshas.


Two From Lalleshwari

Wear just enough clothes to keep warm.
Eat only enough to stop the hunger-pang.

And as for your mind, let it work
to recognize who you are,
and the Absolute, and that
this body will become food
for the forest crows.

Enlighten your desires.
Meditate on who you are.
Quit imagining.

What you want is profoundly expensive,
and difficult to find,
yet closeby.

Don’t search for it. It is nothing,
and a nothing within nothing.


And a Sheikh Nasrudin story and commentary from Swami Muktananda’s, Where Are You Going? A Guide to the Spiritual Journey:


Once Sheikh Nasrudin woke up early in the morning, before it was light. He called his disciplele, Mahmud, and said, “Go outside and see if the sun has risen.” Mahmud went out and came back inside.

   “It’s pitch black,” he said. “I cannot see the sun at all.”

   At this, Nasrudin became very angry. “You fool,” he shouted. “Haven’t you got the sense to use a flashlight?”

   That is exactly what we do. To expect a spiritual technique to reveal the indwelling God is like expecting a flashlight to illumine the Sun. A flashlight cannot shine beside the Sun. Like the Sun, the Self is always shining with its own effulgence. What sadhana can illumine the Self. Only through a subtle and sublime intellect can we know it. We meditate and perform spiritual practices only in order to make the intellect pure enough to reflect the effulgence of the Self.    

Baba did teach a great deal from Patanjali and in this quote, although he’s not using technical language, he is very much speaking about spiritual practice as a way to clean and polish the mind (here referred to as intellect) so that nothing hinders, obstructs, distorts, or extinguishes the shining bright splendor of the Self.

July 7, 2015: Poems and Readings from Recent Classes

Those who follow this blog are well aware of my (sadly) infrequent posting. Never for lack of caring; only for lack of time. Five years ago when I began this blog, the idea was to create a collecting place for readings I bring to class. In the spirit of that simplicity, I offer a handful of readings from recent weeks. Two poems by Andrew Colliver (with apologies in advance for any WordPress template formatting changes over which I have no control) and a Nasruddin story.  Enjoy…

Andrew Colliver

Every day I am astonished by
how little I know, and discouraged,
 obedient as I am to the demand to
know more — always more.

But then there is the slow seep
of light from the day,
and I look to the west where
the hills are darkening,

setting their shoulders to the night,
and the sky peppered with pillows
of mist, their bellies burnt
by the furnace of the sun.

And it is then that I notice
the invitation didn’t say, Come
armed with knowledge and a loud voice.
It only said, Come.

The Further You Go
-Andrew Colliver

Mercy, there have been revelations.
Grace, there has been realization. Still, you must
travel the path of time and circumstance.

The further you go, the more it comes back to paying
The rough skin of the tallowwood, the trade routes of
   lorikeets, a sky lifting
behind afternoon clouds. Staying close to the texture of

People can go before you and talk all they want,
but only one thing makes sense: the way the world enters
and finds it voice in you: the place you are free.

This is one of my favorite Nasruddin stories. They all tell it like it is but this one is infused with a blush of the heart I find especially appealing…

Nasrudin and the Gardener
-from Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield’s Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart

Mulla Nasrudin decided to start a flower garden. He prepared the soil and planted the seeds of many beautiful flowers. But when they came up, his garden was filled not just with his chosen flowers but also overrun by dandelions. He sought advice from gardeners all over and tried every method known to get rid of them, but to no avail.
Finally he walked all the way to the capital to speak to the royal gardener at the sheik’s palace. The wise old man had counseled many gardeners before and suggested a variety of remedies to expel the dandelions but Mulla had tried them all. They sat together in silence for some time and finally the gardener looked at Nasrudin and said, “Well, then I suggest you learn to love them.”

* * * * *

I learned of Andrew Colliver through poet, anthologist, and webmaster Ivan Granger. Ivan’s online poetry portal, Poetry Chaikhana is an incredible resource for sacred poetry. If you’d like to visit (and see more of Andrew Colliver’s sublime poetry) here’s a link: The Poetry Chaikhana Blog

Monday, February 25, 2013: “And this is life… we think it’s one thing and then it’s something else…”

Kali Yantra

This week’s class wove seemingly disparate elements that are actually deeply connected into a meditation on sitting in the presence of this incredible dance called life… Full disclosure: this talk is somewhat hilarious and irreverent. And, fyi, because my own daily life will soon shift into a much simpler dance, some time in April I should begin tending this blog in ways that have been impossible over the last few years.

For now though, I still need to keep it simple. Here’s my dharma talk from February 25:

You’ll have to listen for Sheik Nasruddin stories. I don’t have time to write them out. Here however, are the poems:

David Whyte
After three days of sitting
hard by the window
following grief through
the breath
like a hunter
who has tracked for days
the blood spots
of his injured prey
I came to the lake
where the deer had run
refusing to save
its life in the
dark water
and there it fell
to ground
in our mutual
and respectful quiet
the pale diamond
edge of the breath’s


I said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is the river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or resting?
There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no towrope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!
And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.
Be strong then and enter into your own body; there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things. and stand firm in that which you are.

Finally, two clips of chanting. The first is Om Namah Shivaya and a dharana; the second is Sri Krsna Chaitana Prabhu Nityananda.

August 2, 2010

I’m still running  behind so will keep commentary to a minimum. Suffice to say that from my perspective, these readings fit beautifully together.


The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself.

Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.

This verse reminded me of  the story of  Satyakama and Gautama told in the Upanishads.  The version I read at class comes from the Vedanta Press edition by Sw. Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester.  I think Satyakama perfectly embodies the understanding contained in the above verse. See what you think:

One day the boy Satyakama came to his mother and said: “Mother, I want to be a religious student. What is my family name?”

“My son,” replied his mother, “I do not know. In my youth I was a servant and worked in many places. I do not know who was your father. I am Jabala, and you are Satyakama. Call yourself Satyakama Jabala.”

Thereupon the boy went to Gautama and asked to be accepted as a student. “Of what family are you, my lad?” inquired the sage.

Satyakama relied: “I asked my mother what my family name was and she answered: ‘I do not know. In my youth I was a servant and worked in many places. I do not know who was your father. I am Jabala, and you are Satyakama. Call yourself Satyakama Jabala!’ I am therefore Satyakama Jabala, sir.”

Then said the sage: “None but a true Brahmin would have spoken thus. Go and fetch fuel, for I will teach you. You have not swerved from the truth.”

After initiating Satkakama, the sage gave him four hundred lean and sickly cattle, saying, “Take good care of these my lad.” The boy promptly drove them toward the forest, vowing to himself that he would not return until they numbered a thousand. He dwelt in the forest for many years, and when the cattle had increased to a thousand, the bull of the herd approached him and said, “Satyakama, we have become a herd of one thousand. Do you now lead us to the house of your master, and I will teach you one foot of Brahman.”

“Speak out, please,” said Satyakama.

Then said the bull: “The east is a part of the Lord and so is the west; the south is a part of the Lord and so is the north. The four cardinal points form a foot of Brahman. Fire will teach you another.”

On the following day, Satyakama began his journey. Toward evening he lit a fire and heard a voice saying, “Satyakama, I will teach you one foot of Brahman. This earth is a portion of Brahman. The sky and the heavens are portions of him. The ocean is a portion of him. All these form a foot of Brahman. A swan will teach you another.”

Satyakama continued his journey. One the following evening a swan came to him and said: “I have come to teach you one foot of Brahman. This lighted fire before you is part of Brahman, and likewise the moon; the lightning too is a part. All these form a foot of Brahman. A loon will teach you another.”

The next evening a loon came and said: “I will teach you one foot of Brahman. Breath is a part of Brahman, sight is a part, hearing is a part, mind is a part. All these form a foot of Brahman.”

At last the youth arrived at the home of his master and reverently presented himself before him. As soon as Gautama saw him, he exclaimed: “My son, your face shines like a knower of Brahman. By whom were you taught?”

“By beings other than men,” replied Satyakama, “but I desire that you too should teach me. For I have heard from the wise that the knowledge that the Guru imparts will alone lead to the supreme good.”

Then the sage taught him that knowledge and left nothing out.”

And we leave the final word to Sheik Nasrudin, as told by Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield in Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart.

Mulla Nasrudin used to stand in the street on market-days, to be pointed out as an idiot.

No matter how often people offered him a large and a small coin, he always chose the smaller piece.

One day a kindly man said to him: “Mulla, you should take the bigger coin. Then you will have more money and people will no longer be able to make a laughing-stock of you.”

“That might be true,” said Nasrudin, “but if I always take the larger, people will stop offering me money to prove that I am more idiotic than they are. Then I would have no money at all.”