BE HERE NOW [FATHER-SUN]
The yoga which is most available to all people at all times in all situations is bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. It is the method of merging in ultimate union through the heart.
The method of bhakti yoga is dualistic in the sense that one experiences love at first in relation to something separate from oneself. The goal and natural outcome of bhakti yoga, however, is non-dualistic in the sense that the ultimate state is one in which the lover and beloved merge in One.
It is a delicate yoga to work with properly because it is only too easy to get so much reward (bliss) from the dualistic stages that one cannot leave the separateness to proceed to the unitive stage. An excellent example is presented in the life story of Ramakrishna, the Indian saint who was so in love with Kali, a manifestation of the Divine Mother, that he resisted breaking through into the Oneness. Only after his guru forced him, did he do so.
This yoga is difficult for us in the West to understand because we have used the term "love" in such a profane sense ... that is, to reflect attachment to worldly objects or people. We speak of "loving" that food or drink or automobile or person ... often in the same sense. We are so "action-oriented" that we think of love as "something to do." But most people have sadly found that you can't "make love" if love does not already exist. Meher Baba, a recent Indian saint who advocated love as the supreme vehicle said:
"Love has to spring spontaneously from within: and it is in no way amenable to any form of inner or outer force. Love and coercion can never go together: but though love cannot be forced on anyone, it can be awakened in him through love itself. Love is essentially self-communicative: Those who do not have it catch it from those who have it. True love is unconquerable and irresistible; and it goes on gathering power and spreading itself, until eventually it transforms everyone whom it touches."
The specific object of love which concerns the bhakti yogi is the Spirit or the manifestation of the Divine ... in anything and everything. It is the love for light or for love itself or for the Life Force or for truth or beauty. It is love for the purest manifestations of these abstractions. The roles through which this love may be expressed are many; the relation of worship or piety; the pure relationship of servant to master; the relation of friend to friend; the relation of wife to husband; parent to child; child to parent; the lover to the beloved; etc. Though the "vehicles differ from role to role, the essence -- the love -- is the same stuff. In each instance what one is loving in the object of one's love is love itself ... the inner light in everyone and everything.
When we speak of falling in love, we might find that a slight restatement of the experience would help clarify our direction. For when you say "I fell in love" with him or her you are saying that he or she was the key that unlocked your heart -- the place within yourself where you are love. When the experience is mutual, you can see that the psychic chemistry of the situation allows both partners to "fall in love" or to "awake into love" or to "come into the Spirit." Since love is a state of being -- and the Divine state at that -- the state to which we all yearn to return, we wish to possess love. At best we can try to possess the key to our hearts -- our beloved -- but sooner or later we find that even that is impossible. To possess the key is to lose it.
Just as with every other method of coming to the Light, if it works we get attached to the method, failing to realize that it is the goals and not the method which we crave. A relationship starting out as one that awakens love can only remain a living vehicle for love to the extent that it is continually made new or reconsecrated. That is, each partner in love must always strain to see through the veils of personality and body to see the Divine Essence within -- within himself and his partner. And he must come to see the veils ... as maya, the Divine Illusion, the Divine Mother ... and worship even the veils without getting trapped into them them real. Such ideas are reflected in the highest marriages, or for that matter in the highest form of any relationship. Play your role in the Divine Dance, but know it to be such and worship its divinity.
Song, dance changing and prayer have been throughout the ages traditional forms of bhakti yoga. There are many levels at which you can participate in these rituals. At first such rituals are matters of curiosity, and you are the observer. Then you arrive at the stage of peripheral participation -- a "sing along." Then in time you become familiar with the routines and you start to identify with the process. As your identification deepens, other thoughts and evaluations fall away until finally you and the ritual become one. At that point the ritual has become the living process and can take you through the door into perfect unity. To know that these stages exist does not mean that you can jump ahead of where you are. Whatever stage you are in, accept it. When you have fully accepted your present degree of participation, only then will you start to experience the next level.
Singing and music: Most familiar to us is the use of song to open the heart. Hymns such as "Holy, Holy, Holy" or "We Gather Together To Ask The Lord's Blessing" or "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord," "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus," "Amazing Grace" -- have touched the hearts of millions with the Spirit. In India, bhajan (the singing of holy songs) has been until recent times practically the only social function in the villages. Evenings the men gather, squatting or sitting on the ground in a circle with their chillums (pipes) and a harmonium, a set of tabla (drums), perhaps a serangi or violin (stringed instruments) and cymbals ... and they take turns singing the stories of the holy beings such as Krishna and Ram. Night after night they participate in this simple pastime, keeping themselves close to the Spirit.
It is often startling to a Westerner to realize that it is not the beauty of the voice but the purity of the spirit of the singer that is revered by these people. It was only when music was profaned that it became a vehicle for gratification of the senses. Prior to that it was a method of communion with the Spirit.
A special form of bhajan is called kirtan ... which is the repetition in song of the Holy Names of God. Perhaps the most familiar of these in the West at present is:
Hari can be translated as "Lord" and Ram and Krishna are names of incarnations of God.
The melody of kirtan is usually basically simple and it is only after many repetitions that the process of coming into the spirit starts to happen. Singing the same phrases over for two to five hours is not unusual for the true seeker. And you will find as you let yourself into the repetitive rhythm and melody that you experience level after level of opening.
On the record that is included in the box From Bindu to Ojas, there are a number of examples of kirtan. Take any one of them and tape one single repetition on it onto a tape loop which you can run over and over through your tape machine. Then turn up the volume and join US.
There are many records and tapes of kirtan available (and more appearing all the time). Work with a variety of these until they have worked deeply into your heart.
When you have an opportunity to join with others in the si
"God respects me when I work
"Love me, my brothers, for I am infinitely superfluous, and your love shall be like His, born neither of your need nor of my deserving, but a plain bounty. Blessed be He." -- C.S. Lewis
'Bhakti, love of God, is the essence of all spiritual discipline ... Through love one acquires renunciation and discrimination naturally." -- Ramakrishna
"Oh thou who art trying to learn the marvel of love from the copybook of reason, I am very much afraid that you will never really see the point." -- Hafiz
"To savour in our hearts in a certain manner and to endeavor to experience in our souls the power of the Divine Presence and the sweetness of heavenly glory, and this, not only after death but even in this mortal existence. This is most truly to drink of the gushing fount of the Joy of God." -- Institution of the First Monks
"Love without attachment is light." -- N.O. Brown
"God alone is Real and the goal of life is to become united with Him through Love." -- Meher Baba
"If you have love you will do all things well." -- T. Merton
"Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with truth; beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth." -- Paul of Tarsus
LOVE in the World's Great Religions:
Christianity: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love."
Confucianism: "To love all men is the greatest benevolence."
Buddhism: "Let a man cultivate towards the whole world a heart of Love."
Hinduism: "One can best worship the Lord through Love."
Islam: "Love is this, that thou shouldst account thyself very little and God very great."
Taoism: "Heaven arms with Love those it would not see destroyed."
Sikhism: "God will regenerate those in whose hearts there is Love."
Judaism: "Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself."
Jainism: "The days are of most profit to him who acts in Love."
Zoroastrianism: "Man is the beloved of the Lord and should Love him in return."
Baha'i: "Love Me that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can no wise reach thee."
Shinto: "Love is the representative of the Lord."
I LOVE YOU
TOWARD THE ONE
THE PERFECTION OF LOVE, HARMONY AND BEAUTY
THE ONLY BEING
UNITED WITH ALL THE
ILLUMINATED SOULS WHO FORM
THE SPIRIT OF GUIDANCE
Sufi Ahmed Murad, of the Chisti Order teaches in San Francisco, where most of his disciples and centers are located. Dance, movements and invoking the names of God are the main vehicles for the Murshid's teachings. They are of many forms, round, linear, counterclockwise, sunwise, with and without partners, with and without a specific leader, and with and without sound.
We in New Hampshire and in New Mexico have taken part in these dances, movements and invocations both directly under Murshid's direction and also using the patterns as he has instructed and found that they allow us to attain to ecstatic states and unitary experiences. They are in Murshid's words "practical proof of higher states which are available."
We hope either to publish or to help see published both the patterns and words of the dances and the Murshid's commentaries on their meaning and significance.
Following are paragraphs excerpted from some of the Murshid's papers on "Spiritual Dancing" which give some impression of his style and method. Those interested in this material or in working/practicing under the Murshid should contact him thru his secretary Wali Ali, 410 Precita Ave., San Francisco, Calif. 94110.
"Spiritual Dancing" is that which elevates the consciousness. Dancing may be said to be the movement of the body or any of its parts to rhythm, and spiritual is that which helps to make man realise that this body is really the Divine Temple. Therefore the use of sacred phrases and words, or the practice of deep meditation before starting, are necessary. For no dance is a Spiritual Dance because it is called that; it does not mean a certain form or technique, nor a ritual, nor something so esoteric that there is no understanding by performers and no communication to audience.
"The principle of PATH appears in several religions. It is not only in their mystical aspects but in many ceremonies and rituals. Circumambulation of an altar or shrine is also important, even regarded as an important act of devotion. The very word 'path' signifies that which comes from the feet treading -- it almost means 'what is footed'. It is now important to study the Walk both as a physical exercise and as a super-physical endeavor, making both movement and rest the most fundamental things in life.
"One thing almost obvious in the consideration of Walk is that the feet themselves are connected with Shrines. When one does the Lotus and other postures the human body is the shrine and the feet are accordingly tucked either under or over the legs. When one uses an external shrine, then there is Walking, But if one agrees with Kabir that God is everywhere, one can learn to walk that the body is the real temple and that every place is a holy shrine.
"It should be recognized that before we can run we must be able to walk, and by the same token even before we walk we should be able to breathe, to breathe is life ... Breath-currents have energy-values as well as chemical and mechanical ones. These are studied in Sufi mysticism and also in the works of Rama Prasad. If one stops breathing, functions also stop and some Indians identify 'prana', the breath, with life itself ... It cannot be emphasized too much that life depends on breath. Our willing has nothing to do with it. If one ambles, if one slouches, one does not manifest magnetism. From the very beginning of discipleships talibs in Sufism are given the instructions in breathing which aid in increasing both magnetism and the capacity for vitality.
"If one has a goal, physical or mental, while walking, it brings all the magnetisms together. It is a living concentration. For instance a loving person going to meet his or her beloved, is endowed and imbued with a living spirit which makes action easier and fatigue disappears. If we practice a 'TOWARD THE ONE,' whatever be the goal or purpose, walking becomes much easier. And therefore also sacred phrases may be thought or repeated, consciously or unconsciously.
" ... one should breathe concentrating on 'TOWARD THE ONE' with both inhalation and exhalation, the same phrase. This can be done best by leaning on the breath, but also one can take so many steps to each breath. This is somewhat more complicated. In between comes in listening to music wherein the rhythm is most important ... As one breathes in and out with this concentration all the essence of the universe can enter with the breath, and also all poisons can go out of the system. If this is not sufficient, one can be taught sacred phrases but for a group 'TOWARD THE ONE' is very good. Besides a group so joining builds up magnetism and as the group progresses from walk to ceremonial or ritual and from ritual to dance the dynamism and magnetism of both person and group increase; and also the capacity for the divine baraka, manifesting on the earthsphere increases.
" ... no mechanical means, no rules, no rituals, nothing controlled by man alone can liberate man.
"The Japanese, concentrating on the abdomen, rid their minds of useless luggage. The Sufi dervishes, using their feet, also rid their minds of useless luggage. The ridding of luggage is more important than the method. What is needed is a method that works, not a philosophy about method which can be very confusing."
THE WORK WILL CONTINUE
The term meditation is used in such a variety of ways that it may mean anything from daydreaming or musing, to deliberating about a topic, to a specific discipline of working with the mind that can be so exact that every act of body and thought is prescribed. The way in which the term meditation is used in yoga is in the more formal and disciplined sense. As such it is distinguished from reflection or contemplation. It includes two processes: making the mind concentrated or one-pointed, and bringing to total cessation the turning of the mind.
"The human mind is like that monkey, incessantly active by its own nature, then it becomes drunk with the wine of desire, thus increasing its turbulence. After desire takes possession comes the sting of the scorpion of jealousy at the success of others, and last of all the demon of pride enters the mind, making it think itself of all importance."
As long as the mind is caught in the senses and you are caught in your mind, you remain in the illusion ... since in the last analysis, your thoughts create your universe, Only when your mind has become completely calm will you reach Buddhahood or enlightenment.
"The soul has the means, Thinking is the means, It is inanimate, When thinking has completed its task of release, it has done what it had to do, and ceases," -- Vishnu Parana
1. The simplest instructions for meditation are given by Tilopa in the Song of Mahamudra:
2. The southern Buddhists (Therevadin) practice a form of meditation called Satipatthana Vipassana (Application of Mindfulness). It starts with the simple exercise of Bare Attention. All that you do is register thoughts, states, etc. in the present. This process slows down the transition from the receptive to the active phase of the cognitive process. You don't think about your thoughts. You merely note them. This produces "peaceful penetration," You transcend conceptual thought.
(a) Find a quiet and peaceful place where you will not be disturbed. If you wish to purify the spot first before you meditate in it, stir a glass of water with the fourth finger of your right hand while repeating the following mantra three times:
Then sprinkle the water around the spot you plan to sit in (moving in a clockwise fashion). This mantra is used by jungle sadhus in India to purify the ground.
(b) Get into a comfortable seat. It should be a position you can remain in for at least thirty minutes without moving or discomfort. It is desirable that the head, neck and chest be in a straight line.
(c) At first let your mind wander and just watch it. Just note how your mind works. Don't think about the thoughts. Just note them. Do this for about thirty minutes a day for a week.
(d) Then find a muscle in your abdomen, just below your rib cage, which moves when you breathe such that it (the muscle) rises and falls. Attend to it. Every time the muscle rises, think "Rising," and every time it falls, think "Falling" ... rising ... falling ... rising ... falling. Let all other thoughts drift by and keep your attention focused on this muscle. Don't lose heart. At first the mind will wander frequently. Each time it does, follow it immediately upon becoming conscious of its wandering. Note where it wandered to, and then immediately return to rising. . . falling. . . rising. . . falling. . .
Or if you prefer, you can substitute counting for rising and falling. Om (in-breath) .., 1 (out-breath), Om ... 2 ... Om ... 3 etc. Two or more syllable numbers can be divided into in and out breath, e.g., four ... teen ... etc. If you wish, you can set goals for yourself during the initial stages. Start with 250 and increase by 50 each day. Remember ... your only task is to count that muscle going up and down. All other thoughts don't belong here. Don't try to suppress them (for that is just another thought). Rather, note the intruding thought, give it a label, and return to the task at hand. After about a month you will note a great calm and sense of peace from this exercise.
(e) After you get in the habit of merely noting each stimuli in the Here and Now without thinking about it, then add additional steps designed to further free you from illusion. Specifically, you add Clear Comprehension. This advanced practice involves describing the noted thought or state in terms of its purpose, its suitability, the way in which it relates to spiritual practice, and finally in terms of its total impersonality. These descriptions (which are described in detail in a number of books on Buddhist meditation) are ritualistic in nature and help you to see the impermanence of thought, the way in which it perpetuates suffering, and the fact that it does not in any way imply the presence of an ego or "I" who thinks it.
Great gains in meditative practice may be made without these advanced stages. The simple technique of bare attention is very powerful. With the advanced techniques available in the Buddhist texts you develop in time a totally dispassionate view of the thoughts which fill your consciousness.
Set a candle at a distance of about twenty inches in front of you. The height of the flame should be at a level with a point between your eyebrows when you are sitting up straight. Sit comfortably, but with head, neck and chest in a straight line.
If you are able to do so, close your muhlbandh. That is, pull up at a point halfway between your genitals and your anus. This closes the sphincters and pulls energy up towards the upper part of the body. Don't strain to do this. With practice it comes naturally.
Starting with five minutes and increasing by about five minutes a day up to one hour ... just sit with the candle.
Don't try to do anything. Just hang out with the candleflame. Let any thoughts that enter your mind pass by like clouds in the sky. See all thoughts and sensations as tiny insects hovering around the flame. Don't try to make the flame change or to focus or to see ... just BE with the flame. If your eyes water it is all right. If your eyes hurt, then stop.
After a period of time there will be just you and the candle flame ...
Note: You may do Japa (mantra on name of God) simultaneously if you wish.
4. Nad Yoga
This is a yoga of attending to the inner sounds. It is extremely effective and powerful.
Find a comfortable position where your head, neck and chest are in a straight line. You may lie down if reclining doesn't lead to sleep. You may wish to use earplugs if there is much erratic external noise. They are not necessary, especially if you can find a quiet place or time of night in which to do this exercise. Keep your eyes and mouth closed.
Now tune in on any inner sound in your head that you can find. Narrow in on that sound until it is the dominant sound you are attending to. Let all other sounds and thoughts pass by.
As you allow that sound to more and more fill your consciousness, you will ultimately merge with that sound so that you do not hear it any longer. At that point you will start to hear another sound. Now tune in on the new sound and repeat the process. There are seven or ten sounds (depending upon the number of discriminations you make).
The seven are described by Madame Blavatsky as follows:
"The first is like the nightingale's sweet voice, chanting a parting song to its mate. The next resembles the sound of silver cymbals of the Dhyanis, awakening the twinkling stars. It is followed by the plain melodies of the ocean's spirit imprisoned in a conch shell, which in turn gives place to the chant of Vina. The melodious flute-like symphony is then heard. It changes into a trumpet blast, vibrating like the dull rumbling of a thunder cloud. The seventh swallows all other sounds. They die and then are heard no more."
Other descriptions include: the buzzing of bees, the sounds of crowds in a large gathering place such as a railway station, drums, etc. You need not initially concern yourself with the order, for until the final stages there are some individual differences.
You can think of these sounds as the vibrations of various nerves. Or you can think of these various nerves as tiny receivers for various planes of vibration. Later in your work you will find that each of the sounds is associated with specific visual and kinesthetic experiences .... each is a specific astral plane.
This is a technique of climbing the ladder of sound.
Notes: Some of these sounds, such as that of the flutes, are very attractive and may trap you in bliss. After a few days of such enjoyment it is well to get on with it.
Following the highest sound, you may have a fever for twenty-four hours. This will only occur when you arrive at a very high level of purification.
In meditation, perseverence furthers.
"Right mindfulness snatches the pearl of Freedom from the Dragon Time." -- Heart of Buddhist Meditation
"We are not trying to check the thought-waves by smashing the organs which record them. We have to do something much more difficult -- to unlearn the false identification of the thought-waves with the ego-sense. This process of unlearning involves a complete transformation of character, a 'renewal of the mind' as St. Paul put it." -- Isherwood
"A system of meditation which will produce the power of concentrating the mind on anything whatsoever is indispensable." -- Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrine
"There are no impediments to meditation. The very thought of such obstacles is the greatest impediment." -- Ramana Maharshi
Man's rational mind, the instrument with which he can think about things, has given him great power. This power he has used primarily to increase his potential for survival, to increase his pleasure or sensual gratification, and to enhance his ego through mastery or control of his environment. To visit one of the great cities of the world, to see a television image in your own home of the first man to set foot on the moon, to study the complexities of existing civilizations, cannot but fill one with awe as to the manifestations of the rational mind. And yet at the same time, to see the horror of urban living with its pollution and tensions, to see war and killing, to see the runaway imbalances in ecology, to study the statistics about neurosis and tranquilizers and crime and highway fatalities, cannot but lead one to wonder whether man's rational mind is enough.
The answer is that it is not. In an evolutionary perspective, the rational mind takes us a certain distance and no further, and we must be able to transcend it, to go on to other ways, other vehicles, if we are to cross the great ocean.
"A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move towards higher levels." -- A. Einstein
If you sense the limitations of a specific tool you do not necessarily throw the tool away. You first explore whether there is a way of using this very powerful tool in such a way as to develop a better tool or vehicle. That is, can you use the rational mind to transcend itself? The answer is yes. And the technique is known as jnana yoga, or the path of knowledge arrived at through reasoning and discrimination.
As with the use of sexual energies in sadhana, using the rational mind is making use of great powers which can lead to freedom or to greater enslavement. To understand the risk involved in jnana yoga you need to reflect upon the precise limit of the rational mind. The rational mind functions by separating subject from object, that is, the knower from the known. It works with data derived from the senses and the associative processes of the intellect (the memory). It works by analysis, a systematic processing technique that is based on the laws of logic.
Its limitations are that it cannot handle paradoxical or illogical information (e.g., that, points at the opposite ends of a continuum are the same point, or that something can be "a" and "not a" at the same time) and that it cannot know that which can only be experienced subjectively.
It is interesting that in the autobiographical accounts of the great breakthroughs in man's understanding of the universe, the role of intuition, or some mysterious comprehension, led to the breakthrough rather than any systematic analytic process.
"I didn't arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind." -- A. Einstein
William James, the philosopher, pointed to other types of consciousness, or ways of knowing which are: (a) discontinuous with our rational mind, and (b) screened from us by the veil of our attachment to our rational mind. And he cautioned man against prematurely closing his accounts with reality before he had incorporated these other ways of knowing.
Now if you very dispassionately understand all the above, as well as understanding the truth of yoga, or union, and if you understand the essence of the fundamental truth that it is attachment that keeps man caught in the illusion of separateness, you begin to understand more and more of the way in which the universe functions. And with such study comes further discrimination, a further understanding and transcending of your own desires and thus a deeper and broader understanding of "how it all is." This is known as the work of the "causal plane" and is connected with the sixth chakra (the energy focal center located behind point between the eyebrows).
Finally you come to a point where you almost know it all. You are very wise. You are very pure ... except for the fact that you may well have gotten caught in the last trap ... the desire to know it all and still be you, "the knower." This is an impossibility. For all of the finite knowledge does not add up to the infinite. In order to take the final step, the knower must go. That is, you can only BE it all, but you can't know it all. The goal is nondualistic -- as long as there is a "knower" and "known" you are in dualism.
"There is only ONE GOD, and none else besides." -- Old Testament
Many of the greatest minds in history have gotten caught in this trap of wanting to be God and at the same time to retain their separate identity. They are caught because they still have energy attached to the third chakra, the desire for ego power. And to be God IS obviously the ultimate power trip.
In order to avoid this pitfall associated with jnana yoga, tremendous discipline is necessary. In Zen Buddhism, the relationship of the koan (the exercises in thought which confound the rational mind) to zazen (formal meditation) is an example of such discipline.
One of the techniques used extensively in India was expounded by Ramana Maharshi and is called Vichara Atma (Who Am I?). It is a method for turning the mind in upon itself to first know its true nature and then to be its true nature. The method is technically simple, though extremely difficult to execute.
(1) You ask yourself, "Who am I?" Then step by step, in a systematic fashion, you proceed to dissociate yourself from all the elements you previously identified as "I."
(2) You answer, "I am not my torso or body." Then you attempt to experience yourself as separate from your body. It is helpful to some people at the outset to place the "I" in the middle of the head and then see it as separate from the other parts to be set forth.
(3) Then you say, "I am not the five organs of motion: the arms, the legs, the tongue, the sphincter, the genitals." As you say each of these, experience your "I" as separate from that part of the body.
(4) Then you say, "I am not the five organs of sense: the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, the skin." Again, stop with each and experience it as separate from "I".
(5) Then say, "I am not the five internal organs: the organs of respiration, digestion, excretion, circulation, perspiration." Again you stop with each of these sets of organs, attempt to experience the organ or to imagine its functioning, and then proceed to experience "I" as separate from that organ.
(6) If you have carried out the above instructions exactly, the only thing that is left are your thoughts. And, thus, the final step is to say "I am not these thoughts." Now the exquisite difficulty at this point is that the thought of "I" which you originally placed in the middle of your head is also (and specifically) a thought which you are not. So even the thought of "I" must go ... It's a little like climbing out on the farthest branch of a tree and then cutting off the branch.
"The inert body does not say 'I.' Reality-Consciousness does not emerge. Between the two, and limited to the measure of the body, something emerges as 'I.' It is that that is known as Chit-jada-granthi (the knot between the conscious and the inert), and also as bondage, soul, subtle body, ego samsara, mind, and so forth" -- Ramana Maharshi
If you have sufficient discipline of mind to carry this exercise through to completion. you have entered into the realm of SAT CHIT ANANDA (Reality-Consciousness) ... your True Self ... where there is only ONE.
"What can't be said can't be said, and it can't be whistled either." -- Ram Tirtha
"All that the imagination can imagine and the reason conceive and understand in this life is not, and cannot be, a proximate means of union with God." -- St. John of the Cross
" ... because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God." -- Paul of Tarsus
"All that is made seems planless to the darkened mind, because there are more plans than it looked for. So with the Great Dance. Set your eyes on one movement and it will lead you through all patterns and it will seem to you the master movement. But the seeming will be true. Let no mouth open to gainsay it. There seems no plan because it is all plan: there seems no center because it is all center. Blessed be He ..." -- C.S. Lewis, Perelandra
"Kill therefore with the sword of wisdom the doubt born of ignorance that lies in thy heart. Be one in self-harmony, in Yoga, and arise, great warrior, arise." -- Bhagavad Gita
"Have patience, Candidate, as one who fears no failure, courts no success. Fix thy soul's gaze upon the star whose ray thou art, the flaming star that shines within the lightless depths of ever-being." -- Blavatsky
"Our existence as embodied beings is purely momentary; what are a hundred years in eternity? But if we shatter the chains of egotism, and melt into the ocean of humanity, we share its dignity. To feel that we are something is to set up a barrier between God and ourselves; to cease feeling that we are something is to become one with God." -- Gandhi
"Make your will one! Don't listen with your ears, listen with your mind. No, don't listen with your mind, but listen with your spirit. Listening stops with the ears, the mind stops with recognition, but the spirit is empty and waits on all things. The Way gathers in emptiness alone. Emptiness is the fasting of the mind. It is easy to keep from walking; the hard thing is to walk without touching the ground." -- Chuang Tzu
"If therefore thine eye be single, the whole body shall be full of light." -- Jesus
"That which sees through the eye but whom the eye sees not; that is the Atman." -- Mundaka Upanishad
"The Self is the witness, all-pervading, perfect, free, one, consciousness, actionless, not attached to any object, desireless, ever-tranquil. It appears through illusion as the world." -- Ashtavakra Gita
"If it is said that Liberation is of three kinds, with form or without form, then let me tell you that the extinction of the three forms of Liberation is the only true Liberation." -- Ramana Maharshi
"Who realizes what? That is realization." Hari Dass Baba
"May all beings realize the ecstatic transparency of their own minds." Karma LoTsu
1. Ask yourself: Where am I?
Ask yourself: What time is it?
Say it until you can hear it.
2. Set alarm clocks or design your day or put up notes on the wall so that a number of times during the day when you are in the midst of various occupations you confront yourself with the questions:
(a) Where Am I? and then answer (see answer below)
(b) What time is it? and then answer (see answer below)
Each time you do this, try to feel the immediacy of the Here and Now. Begin to notice that wherever you go or whatever time it is by the clock ... it is ALWAYS HERE AND NOW. In fact you will begin to see that you can't get away from the HERE and NOW. Let the clock and the earth do their "thing". . . let the comings and goings of life continue. . . But YOU stay HERE and NOW. This is an exercise to bring you to the ETERNAL PRESENT ... where it all is.
J. For specific periods of time focus your thoughts in the present.
DON'T THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE.
JUST BE HERE NOW.
DON'T THINK ABOUT THE PAST.
JUST BE HERE NOW.
4. Reflect on the thought that if you are truly Here and Now --
(a) it is ENOUGH, and
(b) you will have optimum power and understanding to do the best thing at the given moment. Thus when "then" (the future) becomes Now -- if you have learned this discipline -- you will then be in a ideal position to do the best thing. So you need not spend your time now worrying about them.
5. Reflect on the fact that you can plan the future in the Here and Now as long as when then is Now ... you are fully Here and Now. Seem paradoxical? Of course' Keep reflecting!
6, "Think that you are not yet begotten, think that you are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you are dead, that you are in the world beyond the grace, grasp all that in your thought at once, all times and places ..." -- Hermetica
Answers: (a) HERE (b) NOW
"The Oversoul is before Time, and Time, Father of all else, is one of His children." -- Emerson
"Thought is time, and time creates fear."
"How are we to know that the mind has become concentrated? Because the idea of time will vanish. The more time passes un-noticed the more concentrated we are ... All time will have the tendency to come and stand in the one present. So the definition is given, when the past and present come and stand in one, the mind is said to be concentrated." -- Vivekananda
"'A Zen student must learn to waste time conscientiously." -- Suzuki Roshi
"If we could feel the idea of time itself, of all our life lying in Time, the momentary I of passing time would not have the same hold over us." -- Nicoll
There are many paths that lead toward enlightenment. Some of these paths lead all the way, while others take a pilgrim only a little way. Some paths are steep and dangerous; others slow and gentle. You will notice that as you come to meet more and more pilgrims you will find that they are attached to the particular method they are pursuing at the moment. That attachment is because the method is giving them a return of some greater light or bliss or knowledge or sense of being than that to which they are accustomed.
In India, the trap of becoming attached or addicted to any particular method, be it pranayam or devotion, or whatever, is well known. As a safeguard against this there is a time schedule in a sadhana. The first twenty years of life are for study. The second twenty years are for worldly participation and family; the third twenty years are for religious study and the pursuit of various intense methods of sadhana. In the last twenty years, however, the sadhak forgoes all methods. He becomes a sanyasi and wanders without ties to family or temple or method ... having given up all attachment.
Psychedelics as an upaya at first seem to hold infinite promise. But as one works with them further, one comes to realize the possible finiteness of the method. At this point, however, the individual may have become so attached to the experience of "getting high" that he doesn't want to continue on his way by finding other methods. At this point he is being dishonest with himself, conning himself. Such a tactic is a short-term strategy at best and usually produces negative emotions.
"A man who has attained certain powers through medicines, or through words, or through mortification, still has desires, but that man who has attained to Samadhi (through concentration is alone free from all desires." -- Vivekananada.
"But when the King came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, 'Friend how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the King said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." -- Jesus
What are psychedelics?
They are a group of chemicals which can expand consciousness. Included are such chemicals as LSD, marijuana, peyote, mescaline, psylocybin, DMT, DET, hashish ... These vary in the degree to which they contain other than psychedelic components. Some have side effects of euphoria or agitation or nausea or lethargy.
Is speed (amphetamines, methamphetamines, etc.) psychedelic? It can be. However, it has very strong side effects which ultimately are seriously detrimental to one's work. They tend to facilitate thought loops or spinning out of old associations somewhat endlessly. In addition, speed is strongly habit forming and demands increasing dosage over time. Furthermore, speed slowly does your body in. And if you destroy the temple in which you must do the work before the work is finished ... you lose.
How are the opium derivatives (heroin, morphine, etc.) different from psychedelics? The opiates are truly "drugs" in the exact sense of the term. That is, they allow an individual to escape from an unpleasant environment, be it physical or psychological. They make everything seem irrelevant. Their effect is sought by those deeply entrapped in the subtle sphere of sense enjoyment. They are not only habit forming but appear to be physiologically addicting. For someone who realizes that, as Buddha points out, attachment is the cause of suffering, heroin and other opiates which are a sure trip into new attachments hardly seem the path to enlightenment.
What use are psychedelics in this work?
The "pros" of psychedelics are as follows:
1. For a person deeply attached to any finite reality which he takes to be absolute, the psychedelics can, under proper conditions, help him to break out of the imprisoning model created by his own mind. Of course, there is a paradox here: if he wants to take a psychedelic in order to break out, he already knows of another possibility ... and thus could proceed without psychedelics. If, on the other hand, he takes psychedelics for kicks or for other reasons without seeking to know another reality, the experience may help his spiritual work (the shock may be quite dramatic).
"LSD is like Christ in America which is awakening the young folk in Kali Yuga. America is most materialistic country therefore God has shown His Avatar in a form of LSD (a material). They wanted a material for approaching God and they got it in the form of LSD. A man who has not tasted things thinking as true, how he will get the feeling of those things?" -- Hari Dass Baba
"To a few sincere seekers such as yourself, LSD may have served as a means to arouse that spiritual longing which has brought you into contact with Meher Baba, but once that purpose is served further ingestion would not only be harmful but have no point or purpose." -- Adi K. Irani
2. The use of psychedelics can provide experiences which in the short term strengthen your faith in the possibility of enlightenment sufficiently to pursue systematic purification (which ultimately will, of course, include giving up psychedelics). They often serve this function even though the glimpse they give may only be of a low astral plane.
3. Carefully programmed psychedelic sessions can have significant therapeutic value in providing new perspectives for areas of strong attachment. That is, for a person who is caught, for example, in strongly learned oral or sexual habits, a psychedelic session can provide a moment of transcending these habits, and thus experiencing the possibility of alternative reactions. This experience will be temporary, for you are merely overriding the desires which feed the habits in the first place. However, the experience may give leverage to your work with these strong drive areas.
4. The deepest psychedelic experiences allow one to transcend polarities and thus get beyond fears of death, or entrapments in the guilt created by attachment to the polarity of good and evil.
5. The milder psychedelics are used by many sadhus in bhakti yoga. They smoke in order to release emotion and allow them to commune with God with open hearts. This is true of many wandering sadhus in India. Smoking is looked down upon by most temple and ashram residents in India.
The "cons" of psychedelics are as follows:
1. You still come down. The experience is not permanent. Coming down brings despair.
2. Because the psychedelic agent is external to yourself, its use tends to subtlely reinforce in you a feeling that you are not enough. Ultimately, of course, at the end of the path you come to realize that you have been Enough all the way along.
3. The intensity with which the psychedelics show you "more" makes you greedy to be done before you are ready. This attaches you to the experience of "getting high" which, after a period of time, becomes a cul-de-sac. The goal of the path is to BE high, not GET high.
4. Many people who use psychedelics primarily experience astral planes where their ego is present. Thus they often attempt to use the powers that are available in such an astral plane in the service of their own ego. This creates additional karma for them -- for it is action which comes out of attachment. Many messianic trips are of this nature. Sometimes such individuals get stuck at one or another astral plane and lose contact with the gross physical plane. In the West such beings are usually hospitalized until they find their way back to the physical plane. Of course, what in fact has happened is that they have not gone far enough. For the psychiatrist is attached to the physical plane (denying the reality of other planes) in the same way that the patient is attached to the astral plane (denying the reality of other planes including the physical). The only true reality includes all these planes and is beyond them all at the same time. This is known as the paradox of Mahamudra -- the paradox of two-in-one.
5. Using violent methods as one's upaya, such as strong psychedelics or kundalini yoga, severe fasts, etc., lead to an unevenness in the individual's vibrations. This creates waves in the environment because the person is not quite able to keep it all together. You should be able to remember your zip code even as you drift in intergalactic ecstasy. Keeping it all together is hard.
6. Psychedelics are, for the most part, illegal. This means that in order to use them you must break the law. Breaking the law involves risks which create anxiety and paranoia. Anxiety and paranoia are not good states of mind in which to pursue one's sadhana. Furthermore, breaking the law means that you must function without the polarity of "we" and "them." Only a very advanced being can do this without attachment.
7. There is at present no conclusive evidence that psychedelics are damaging to the physiological organism. The research on chromosome damage has been largely political in nature. There may be energy depletions and subtle physiological effects not yet measured. Most of the physiological reactions are psychological in origin and usually are the result of fear or anxiety.
Doing sadhana can be as much of a trap as any other melodrama. It is useful to have some perspective about the path in order to keep yourself from getting too caught up in the stage in which you are working. These pointers may help:
1. Each stage that one can label must pass away. Even the labelling will ultimately pass. A person who says, "I'm enlightened" probably isn't.
2. The initial euphoria that comes through the first awakening into even a little consciousness, except in a very few cases, will pass away ... leaving a sense of loss, or a feeling of falling out of grace, or despair. The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross deals with that state.
3. Sadhana is a bit like a roller coaster. Each new height is usually followed by a new low. Understanding this makes it a bit easier to ride with both phases.
4. As you further purify yourself, your impurities will seem grosser and larger. Understand that it's not that you are getting more caught in the illusion, it's just that you are seeing it more clearly. The lions guarding the gates of the temples get fiercer as you proceed towards each inner temple. But of course the light is brighter also. It all becomes more intense because of the additional energy involved at each stage of sadhana.
5. At first you will think of your sadhana as a limited part of your life. In time you will come to realize that everything you do is part of your sadhana.
6. One of the traps along the way is the sattvic trap -- the trap of purity. You will be doing everything just as you should -- and get caught in how pure you are. In India it's called the "golden chain." It's not a chain of iron, but it's still a chain. You'll have to finally give up even your idea of purity if you expect to do it all in this life-time.
7. Early in the journey you wonder how long the journey will take and whether you will make it in this lifetime. Later you will see that where you are going is HERE and you will arrive NOW ... so you stop asking.
8. At first you try. Later you just do your sadhana because. "What else is there to do?"
9. At certain stages you will take your sadhana very seriously. Later you will see the wisdom of the statement of Jesus that to seek the Lord, men need not disfigure their faces. Cosmic humor, especially about your own predicament, is an important part of your Journey.
10. At some stages you will experience a plateau -- as if everything has stopped. This is a hard point in the journey. Know that once the process has started it doesn't stop: it only appears to stop from where you are looking. Just keep going. It doesn't really matter whether you think "it's happening" or not. In fact, the thought "it's happening" is just another obstacle.
11. You may have expected that enlightenment would come ZAP! instantaneous and permanent. This is unlikely: After the first "Ah Ha" experience, the unfolding is gradual and almost indiscernible. It can be thought of as the thinning of a layer of clouds ... until only the most transparent veil remains.
12. There is, in addition to the "up and down" cycles, an "in and out" cycle. That is, there are stages at which you feel pulled in to inner work and all you seek is a quiet place to meditate and to get on with it. Then there are times when you turn outward and seek to be involved in the market place. Both of these parts of the cycle are a part of one's sadhana. For what happens to you in the market place helps in your meditation and what happens to you in meditation helps you to participate in the market place without attachment.
13. What is happening to you is nothing less than death and rebirth. What is dying is the entire way in which you understood "who you are" and "how it all is." What is being reborn is the child of the Spirit for whom things all are new. This process of attending an ego that is dying at the same time as you are going through a birth process is awesome. Be gentle and honor him (self) who is dying as well as him (Self) who is being born
"On the way of true development, something old must die and something new must be born in him ..." -- Collins
"How to get rid of the lower self: The blossom vanishes of itself as the fruit grows, so will your lower self vanish as the divine grows in you." -- Ramakrishna
"Lakes in the Dry Season: drop by drop their depths are diminished, like as the enlightened gradually lose all notions of self." -- Ramakrishna
"The Soul flees just at the very moment when we seem to hold its gleaming splendour in our hands and all we are left with is one more dead butterfly to add to our mouldering collection." -- Krishna Prem
"All of a sudden the progress will stop one day, and you will find yourself, as it were, stranded. Persevere. All progress proceeds by such rise and fall." -- Vivekananda
"... every individual existence is brought into rhythm by a pendulum to which the heart gives type and name. There is a time for expanding and a time for contraction; one provokes the other and the other calls for the return of the first ... Never are we nearer the Light than when the darkness is deepest ..." -- Vivekananda
"But first the disciple must pass through the complexity in order to exhaust the various possibilities until the awakening of the consciousness which leads towards simplicity: would he be able to bear the intermediate phase between his dream and reality." -- de Lubicz
"Wipe out the delusions of the will, undo the snares of the heart, rid yourself of the entanglements to virtue; open up the roadblocks in the Way. Eminence and wealth, recognition and authority, fame and profit -- these six are the delusions of the will. Appearance and carriage, complexion and features, temperament and attitude -- these six are the snares of the heart. Loathing and desire, joy and anger, grief and happiness --these six are entanglements of virtue, Rejecting and accepting, taking and giving, knowledge and ability -- these six are the roadblocks of the way. When these four sixes not longer seethe within the breast, then you will achieve uprightness; being upright, you will be still; being still you will be enlightened; being enlightened you will he empty; and being empty you will do nothing, and yet there will be nothing that is not done." -- Chuang Tzu
"When crystallization is achieved, renunciations, privations, and sacrifices are no longer necessary. Then a man may have everything he wants. There are no longer any laws for him, he is a law unto himself." -- Ouspensky
"Having, therefore, ascended all these degrees of humility, the monk will presently arrive at that love of God which, being perfect, casteth out fear; whereby he shall begin to keep, without labour, and as it were naturally and by custom all those precepts which he had hitherto observed through fear.
No longer through dread of hell, but for the love of Christ, and of a good habit and a delight in virtue: which God will vouchsafe to manifest by the Holy Spirit in his labourer, now cleansed from vice and sin." -- Rule of St. Benedict
As you begin to calm your mind through meditation or mantra, you become increasingly aware of the forces acting upon you -- forces within as well as outside your body. Previously you sought continuous stimulation but now you gravitate towards situations in which there is less and less stimulation. For some well advanced upon the path, the cave -- the traditional haunt of yogis -- is sought, for here the rock is insulation against many of the subtle vibrations which are distracting for those who have become sensitive.
"Where there is fire, or in water or on ground which is strewn with dry leaves, where there are many ant-hills, where there are wild animals, or danger, where four streets meet, where there is too much noise, where there are many wicked persons, Yoga must not be practiced." -- Vivekananda
For most Westerners embarking upon their sadhana, a cave is neither a desirable or even a possible alternative. Not desirable in the sense that their karma still requires commerce with worldly stimulation. Under such conditions the seeking out of a cave and attempting to pursue a sadhana such as that of the Tibetan renunciate, Milarepa, can start out and remain a subtle ego trip. It would seem wiser to start your sadhana from exactly where you are, and then let any changes occur in your style of life and environment in a slow and natural fashion. For it is true that at the early stages, any waves you make in carrying out your sadhana merely created more karma. Let your inner pull towards enlightenment lead you, so to speak. Let the Light pull you towards itself (like a moth to a flame). You will finally seek more and more pure environments because you "have to" -- because it's the only thing you can do, not because you think you ought to.
Where you are at this moment is the first thing to assess. Married or single? Children? Parents? Existing contracts with other beings (social, vocational, economic, religious, national, familial, etc.)? Available opportunities?
Perhaps the most appropriate initial step in view of your present predicament is to continue with your daily life in the customary manner with the simple addition of a mantra. Such a mantra can initially be used for 15 minutes in the morning and evening as suggested by Maharishi Mahesh in his program for Transcendental Meditation. You can set up a corner of your room for this purpose.
Create a quiet corner in your home ... an Om Home ... a launching pad to the infinite ... a meditation seat ... a shrine. Bring to it that which is simple and pure: a mat, perhaps a candle, maybe a picture of a realized being whose life has turned you on -- Buddha, or Christ, or Ramakrishna, or Ramana Maharshi, possibly some incense. Create a seat in which you can sit comfortably with spine straight out and turn off your body. Those who have developed the triangular seat of paadmasa (full lotus), siddhasa (Half lotus), or even sukhasa (the easy pose) ... remember, no suffering.
In this corner establish a regular ritual for purification, for reflection, for calming the mind. Just as water wears away stone, so daily sadhana will thin the veil of avidya (ignorance).
At quite the opposite end of the continuum is the total moment-to-moment discipline of each thought and act required in a monastery or ashram. Here is but one example, presently functioning in the United States. It is Tassajara, a Zen Buddhist center in California.
The Zen Center
Bell ringing at 4 a.m. You get up immediately.
Han (block of hard ash wood struck with wooden mallet) starts at 4:05, 15 minute han, 3 rounds. You should be in the zendo by end of second round.
Zazen (sitting meditation) starts at 4:20. 40 minute period. Roshi makes a round of the zendo in the beginning. People bowing as he approaches (actually gassho-ing -- hands together and bow).
Bell sounds after 40 minutes. Kinhin (walking meditation) begins. Kinhin for 15 minutes. (Hands on chest, walking very slowly in a line, about a half step with each breath).
Second period of zazen (40 minutes).
Service at 5:50. Consists of bowing to the floor 9 times, reciting the Heart Sutra 3 times, bowing to floor 3 times; lasts about 20 minutes. With bells and large wooden drum.
Study period. One hour. In large room with fire if it's cold. Kerosene lamps. Tea is served. Warmth often makes you drowsy. You read various texts. Short chant at beginning and end of period.
Han for breakfast starts at 7:10.
Breakfast is served in the zendo. You sit on cushions in meditation posture. Each student has: an oryoki (set of 3 bowls, spoon and chopsticks, a scraper, setsu (stick with cloth end), and 3 cloths (for napkin, bowl-wiping, and cloth in which entire oryoki is wrapped -- folded and tied in prescribed manner). Ritual way for untying and removing bowls. Bowls are placed on an eating board in front of each student. Complicated oryoki ritual helps to focus attention. Meals are a sort of meditation, in silence, with as little noise as possible.
Chanting precedes meal (in English at breakfast, Japanese at lunch). After short chant, students set up their oryokis. Chanting resumes and servers enter. As server stops before student, they bow to each other, server kneels and dishes food into bowl, they bow again and server goes on to next student. There is chanting while food is served (reciting names of Buddha and Bodhisattvas). When servers leave there is more chanting (we should be mindful of where this food comes from and whether our practice deserved it). Meal is eaten. When meal is finished server enters with hot water and there is a short chant. Hot water is poured in large bowl. Bowl is cleaned and water poured in second bowl, bowl wiped with cloth, and so on until the bowls are cleaned. Water is drunk, with a little bit saved and collected at the end (it's taken out and poured on a plant). Oryokis are tied up and put away (placed by the side of each student). Clackers and bow at the end of meal, roshi and priests leave, then students leave. As students file out of zendo they exchange bows with the cook.
Short period (about 20 minutes) in which you change into work clothes, take care of toilet, etc.
Work drum sounds at 8:40. Students assemble for work meeting. Short informal meeting to make sure each student knows what he's doing, has some task assigned to him, and jobs are co-ordinated.
Work period until han 11:10. Gardening, carpentry, masonry, roofing, garbage collecting, cleaning, sewing, etc.
Han at 11:10, 20 minutes to clean up, change into robes and get to zendo.
(There is a 15 minute han for this, so one can gauge his time.)
Zazen (40 minutes).
Service (bowing and reciting Heart Sutra).
Lunch (same procedure as breakfast). Usually soup, bread, and vegetable.
After lunch there is a rest period, about 30-40 minutes. (This is the chance to get some sun.)
Work drum sounds at 2 (or 2:05). After short work meeting you return to your job.
At 3:30 a bell signals tea. Everyone gathers on steps in front of zendo (where there is still some sun), a short chant and tea is served. Sometimes there is a treat (crackers, cookies). A short chant at the end and people return to work. At 5 p.m. drum signals end of work. Clean up, put away tools, tidy work area.
Bath time. Everyone heads for the hot sulphur baths. Before entering bath student bows before altar and recites gatha (verse). Silence in bath. (It is already dark in the winter, and quite cold. Kerosene lamp, cement grotto, steam rising from water, shadowy forms. Bath, at about 110 degrees is the one chance for the body -- feeling all day like a piece of cold iron -- to get really warm. Blood returns to body.) Students bow and recite gatha before leaving.
Bell begins at 5:35. 15 minutes to service.
Evening service (as before).
Supper. No chanting, simply clackers before and after meal.
Brown rice, miso soup, and vegetable.
After supper there is free time. You return to your cabin or go to the large room where there is a fire.
Han starts at 7:30.
Study period (at 7:45) when there is no lecture.
Lecture -- by roshi, priest, or student -- is in zendo, at 8.
Zazen (at 8:35, lecture may extend into this period). Ends with slow deep chanting of Heart Sutra.
Students return to cabins.
Lights out at 9:30.
There is a day off on 4 and 9 days (for example, the 4th, 9th, 14th ...). This begins after breakfast. On 4 days (officially only 1/2 day off) there is a general discussion in the morning attended by all; completely open -- gripes, questions, views, personal problems; feedback for those directing Tassajara; very helpful for students to know where other students are, what sort of problems they're facing. On days off, students are expected to take care of personal needs -- laundry, mending, shaving head, and so forth.
The Fall Practice period is 2 months; the Winter (or Spring) Practice period is 3 months. Each period ends with a 7 day sesshin -- periods of intense meditation -- 17 hours a day of zazen and kinhin, including meals, lecture, bath, and short work period.
Besides joining a traditional ashram or monastery, you may prefer to participate in a spiritual community in the country or the city. Here are some descriptions and helpful suggestions based on our experiences at the Lama Foundation.
The Spiritual Community
There are hundreds of communities in the U.S. at present. Many spiritual seekers have joined or started communities in order to provide a suitable environment for their inner work. Often they have been disillusioned by these experiments because of disorder, economic instability, ego struggles, and mixed motives on the part of the participants. Out of these early community experiments have evolved more structured attempts to provide the optimum environment for spiritual growth. These communities are usually less disciplined than traditional Eastern ashrams but more firmly structured than contemporary communes.
The community has within it two levels or components: the base camp and the hermitages. Ideally these are physically separate from one another, although they may exist within the same house if necessary. The base cap handles all matters pertaining to economics, food, children, pets, relationships to the larger community, while the hermitage is set aside solely for spiritual development in a formal sense.
Things which make it work:
1. The nature of the contract must be explicit. That is, each person participating in the experiment must understand the form, schedule and objectives ... and not only share the objectives but feel that this form is the optimum one for them to pursue at this moment. This experiment cannot work properly if the group has many ideas of "how it should be done." In traditional ashrams there is usually a guru or teacher who leads the way ... or a traditional structure which is known to every one who seeks to participate.
2. All members of the community (with the exception of small children) have consciously and freely chosen to participate in the experiment. Any exceptions to this rule reduce the effectiveness of the experiment.: In the most rigid selection procedures, if one partner of a couple does not wish to fully participate in the experiment, then neither would participate and they would leave the community, at least for the period of the experiment. It takes very few people who do not share the desire to work on themselves in this way to destroy the effectiveness of a spiritual community.
3. All participants in the community (with the exception of the smaller children) spend time in the hermitage as well as the base camp and share base camp activities and responsibilities.
If you are living with others who are sharing the journey even minimally, it is important that a group meditation room be set aside. In fact, it is wise when moving into a new home to create the center -- the meditation room or alcove -- first, before you get the kitchen and bedrooms in order.
1. Collaboratively pick the place for the meditation area.
2. Clean it up and bring the most beautiful things to it. Keep it simple.
3. Then light a candle and perhaps some incense ... everyone sit together silently ... and reflect on why you are here ... the goal of your work together ... and then perhaps read from some holy books. Perhaps take a reading of the I-Ching for your work together ... and only after all that is done do you set up housekeeping.
4. Keep that area very special. No social conversations, no other books, no other uses, no sleeping there.
5. Try to build a natural ritual into your lives so that you use that space to share a daily moment when you transcend your ego games. Perhaps early morning silent meditations, or evening chanting, or reading from holy books aloud ...
The base camp includes all the living facilities with the exception of the hermitage rooms or buildings. Participants in the base camp follow a schedule as follows:
5:45 - 6:30 Group Silent Meditation
6:30 - 7:00 Chanting, reading aloud, singing.
7:00 - 9:00 Dancing, asanas, pranayam, breakfast, getting the children to school, clean up, etc.
9:00 - 12:00 Karma yoga (work) period -- assignments for an entire week are usually made once a week on Saturday morning.
12:00 - 2:00 Bringing food and supplies to hermit and preparing and having prasad (consecrated food), taken in silence. Then rest or relaxation and clean-up.
2:00 - 4:00 Karma yoga period.
4:00 - 5:30 Group study, and exercises in consciousness.
5:30 - 6:30 Pranayam, asanas, preparing evening food, etc.
6:30-8:00 Evening prasad (silently) plus clean-up and relaxation, reading, etc.
8:00 - 9:00 Group meditation and chanting and singing.
By assigning the karma yoga tasks over a period of a week you can use the karma yoga periods in a fluid fashion. One's person's karma yoga, for example, might include milking goats, making cheese, weaving, picking the kids up at school, getting the car fixed, etc. Also a person may design his schedule to use a few of the morning karma yoga periods for personal study or meditation. The use of these periods is largely dependent upon the number of participants, and the amount of man-hours required for right livelihood and community maintenance. Time not spent in fulfilling assignments should be used on inner work (study, meditation, asanas, singing kirtan).
Most activities can be carried on in silence. Groups working together on a shared project such as gardening, building, etc. can either do these tasks in silence or do mantra during the work. Silence is an important part of the work. Formal discussions at the base camp of the hermitage experiences of the participants can be useful. Gossip, small talk, and hanging out ... have a limited value in breaking through the illusion.
It is well to realize that the relationships in this community are not the dominant concern. Ideally, personality falls away in the common endeavor. If you want at all costs to hold onto your personality, don't join a spiritual community ... because no one is going to be interested. Interpersonal matters are dealt with only to the extent that they are disruptive (i.e. capture the consciousness of the group or some participants). Such matters can be dealt with at a group meeting if necessary ... but the moment the group gets bogged down in heavy melodrama ... it is well to call a meditation interlude until everyone can find a center again. Melodrama sucks us in again and again, but diminishes in power if actively thwarted.
Each participant in the community spends a portion of his or her time in solitude in a hermitage. The amount of time spent by each individual is a function of the number of participants and the number of spaces. The minimum time for a hermitage visit is twenty-four hours. (The maximum we have worked with is three weeks.) Usually an initial period of three to five days is a good "shake-down cruise."
You bring into the hermitage the minimum requirements. A sleeping bag, toothbrush, blanket or cushion, candles, incense, etc. Beyond the requirements for survival the stay in a hermitage should be designed to include items useful to your specific sadhana. The fiercest confrontation is to merely walk into an empty room with your basic survival gear and close the door. The most gentle trip is to include knitting, books, notebook, drawing pad, walks in the woods, photo albums, etc. Only books written by very advanced beings should be brought in, only pictures of holy beings or religious subjects or nature should be around you.
Each day food is brought at noon. One large meal a day is usually enough. The tray may include enough fruit for the evening. Survival apparatus may include facilities for making tea. (Those who are ready for the fierce tapasya may choose to fast while in the hermitage.) The food and supplies are left outside the door by one of the members of the base camp. No social contact is made. Any needs are communicated by a note left outside the door for the messenger to pick up.
The only reason to leave the hermitage room is for toileting and washing, both of which should be done without social interaction.
If the hermitage is in a noisy place, ear plugs may be used during your stay.
As a hermit, you usually spend a good deal of your time in meditation. It is good to have a little training or knowledge of meditation to help you calm your mind. A good deal of the time is spent initially watching your wild out-of-control mind do "its thing." It is only under these minimal stimulus conditions that you can really watch it do its thing.
Unless there is a teacher in the group, leadership is risky. However, it is possible to rotate the duties of an abbot in the event that no teacher is available. The abbot has the responsibility for making things run smoothly on the physical plane as well as for keeping the objectives of the community uppermost in everyone's mind. In order to fulfill such responsibilities, the abbot must spend much time meditating to keep his own spiritual center in order so that he does not become an agent of more confusion and illusion and power trips. Perhaps the abbot could be the person who has just come out of the hermitage if rotation is required.
One of the functions of the abbot can be to visit a hermit if the hermit sends a note requesting such a visit. During his visit the abbot must keep his concerns strictly on the spiritual unfolding of the hermit. Often merely a silent meditation between the hermit and the abbot will suffice to fulfill the needs of the hermit.
Mood or Tone
All of this structure sounds heavy ... and it is ... but it need not be carried out in a serious or heavy mood. A light joyful style is not in any way incompatible with spiritual work. The ability to retain a sense of cosmic humor is very crucial for the effectiveness of a spiritual community. Heavy religiosity (much evaluation) is a drag.
If you are living in a city and are involved in karma yoga, it may be possible to design a modified form of the community-ashram. A large house, shared by a number of people who have consciously come together solely for the purpose of working on themselves, is a useful setting. Perhaps one or two rooms can be set aside in the quietest part of the house as hermitage quarters. Another room can be set aside as the group meditation room. It should be possible for each participant to spend some time in the hermitage, being cared for by the other members of the group. The value of this procedure is that it creates a collaboration specifically for the spiritual evolution of each individual, based on the assumption that the group members each directly profit from the spiritual evolvement of each of the other members.
Still another possibility for city dwellers is to have satsang (or a gathering of monks on the path) at a different apartment each evening. The formats should be kept simple and non-competitive. Perhaps some reading, a meditation, a few songs and light prasad (consecrated food). There should be a real effort to reduce the amount of talk or stimulation that is not definitely involved in the journey. Even cosmic gossip can slow down the work. Silence before and after the formal aspects of the evening helps.
The course of family sadhana in the West in the 1970's is a difficult one to practice. Whereas in the past in both East and West there have been precise models these have been built around a culture and tradition which was supportive of this practice. In Western culture the support system has been destroyed by the industrial revolution and the money economy which has caused the virtual destruction of the family as a spiritual and psychic union by compelling at least one and often both principal members to become money earners. This necessitates daily absence from the home and reliance on day-care centers, nursery schools or regular schools to provide a spiritual foundation which one cannot expect them to provide as they essentially are educating and directing children to become "good members" of the same society which is in essence profane and in extension looking only to continue its existence at the present level of consciousness. Consequently the family is dispersed, its members isolated from each other and effectively only together as an economic and sleeping unit. The family thus has no center to radiate from and no spiritual-psychic support system. It is dead. The outlook is bleak from this vantage point.
However, in the last decade there has been a resurgence of spiritual life brought about by lysergic acid, the bomb, rock 'n' roll, visiting teachers from the East and the incredible vacuum and death that is the rot at the core. And as life will not permit a vacuum, the times they are a-changing.
To begin we must begin at the beginning. At the beginning is the spirit. Spirit is a Latin word meaning breath. It's like breathing out and breathing in, NO THING -- yup, no thing. And this no thing is basic for our life. Breathe spirit, this spirit which sustains and maintains, without which we die to this form. This no thing is the foundation upon which all must be based. Life must be dedicated to the spirit alone for as it has been laid out ... seek you first the kingdom of heaven and all else shall be added to you ... so ... with the family sadhana as with all sadhana this is where we begin. The family and all it is thru /by / in extension must be dedicated solely to the spirit.
An earth-real consideration of physical plane realities. Food, shelter, and clothing. An examination in truth of real needs. Not desires, not fantasies, but you know: how many pairs of pants? what kind of food? what type of shelter? how big? who for? where? and then?
Can you afford to take a cut? Can you afford not to? Can you and will you let go of all the things and values and trips that you have gotten caught in? If you can adapt your present means of livelihood to your spiritual work then you're cool. (See section on "Money and Right Livelihood.") If you can't then you'll probably have to make a radical change in your life. Try getting into subsistence economy. Just making it. Not too much not too little but just enough to make it. Buy an old farm (there're lots -- cheap) or set up a craft scene. Use the system to teach yourself how to operate these well and efficiently. Keep it all together. Run a good ship. This is our second base. Apply consciousness clearly. Understand values. Don't be afraid to make mistakes but don't court disaster.
Why a farm, why a small craft scene? Just this. The family can "be" together. There are functions in these situations for all the members from the children to the adults. The work is clear and definite. Jesus was a carpenter. Ghandi spun. This daily concern with the vehicle of sustenance on the gross plane must be clear, straight and simple. As work / time / space is shared (based all ways on the spirit) a family grows together. Here exists mutuality, trust, openness, a psychic organism develops -- this is what a family is. The possibilities on this level are endless: farm, crafts, natural food store, general store, restaurant, creamery, small paper, bookstore. Drop into reality.
Now we have an environment and a basis for practice.
First turn the environment into a shrine, a temple. If the family is primarily bhakti, plaster the walls with holy pictures, light incense, radiate love; if it's Christian make it a home for Christ; if it's more austere, moving toward Zen, reflect nothingness. Whatever your trip make the whole environment support it.
Next set up a clear movement thru time. Rise daily at the same time, meditate together, pray together, offer all actions to the spirit, offer all food to the spirit, cook in love for love, keep the home clean, calm and clear so if Lord Buddha walked in he'd feel right at home. Maintain the body as a temple, clean it, feed it, take good care of it, have compassion for it; love it. The discipline of a daily schedule is a drag at first, after a while you will feel the results. It all runs on automatic. Don't think. Fill your whole mind with the spirit. BE! And in being together in the spirit be in love together. It's all making love. Make love in beauty, in joy, in seeing each other in truth, choose your marriage model. The Sun and the Moon, Heaven and Earth, Yab-Yum, Shiva-Shakti, Siva and Parvati, the Eternal Companions, the Alchemical Marriage, Mohammed and his Wives, Adam and Eve, Christ and his Bride.
Let the man worship woman as God, the Holy Mother, the Divine Shakti, the Mana, the Food of Life, the Sustainer of Being, Isis, Astarte, the Good Earth, Terrible Kali, and Herself -- All Of It. She is all of it.
Let the woman worship man as God, the Son, the Sun, the Father, the Lite of Her Life, the Creator, the Provider, as Jesus, as Ram, as Shiva, as Krishna, as all of them and Himself.
Surrender and die to one another. Become one. The glorious Mystic Rose in the garden of the Heavenly Father. Permeate the universe, fill it, become it for this is the union beyond duality.
O Holy Family
This is the seat of the practice.
And as the children who are the fruit of the union appear, see them as divine avatars, holy beings who have come recently from our true HOME to teach. Nourish and feed them as they feed you. Listen for their tone, see their ray so as to help them fulfill their spiritual destiny, provide a matrix for their consciousness. Great care must be taken to guide the entity on this plane. Choose carefully the initial impressions which they will be registering as you would the food they eat. They are the hope and destiny of the universe. Respect and honor them. Guide them clearly. Keep the home calm and free of chaotic inputs. Let love burn in all the lamps. Thru all of this face and cope out the difficulties. For the woman there will be the heavy pull of the earth element. The children will feel any psychic withdrawal on her part. She must find a place a little removed for deep meditation. When they wake up during meditation explain clearly what you are doing. Read them holy stories to acquaint them with spirit life so that they may remember. Keep your practice regular and the children will stay in tune. Don't trip too far too fast or psychic disequilibrium will upset months of work. Do not sacrifice relationships with the children for what you may think is spiritual necessity. The whole thing is sadhana. Chant mantras together. The first word of one infant here was Allah (God). Children really love bhajan. They go around singing Bhaja Shri Krishna Chaitanya or Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram. Bring them in. Sing together.
For men it's most often astral tripping. Far out trips in far out worlds that get so far out they become disconnected and then have to find someone to understand and then its Drama Drama Drama instead of Rama Rama Rama. Men struggle with death and rebirth and fear it's a tough trip alone and being together makes it both easier and harder. The key to it all is absolute and total surrender to the spirit. With this it is all possible.
The real difficulty in family sadhana seems to be in the maintenance over a long period of time of the discipline. In most other sadhana there is either overt or covert reliance on a sangha. In any given area there are just not that many people who will gravitate towards family sadhana. Most people are on their own spiritual paths. While it is true that these people constitute a sangha of sorts the uniqueness of family sadhana makes it difficult to tie all of this together. A very good alternative is to join together with others and form a spiritual community. That is, a community constituted solely for spiritual purposes. We who are writing this chapter have done this. The results seem rewarding (see the chapter "Setting: The Spiritual Community"). We have been involved, at Lama over a four-year period in practicing family sadhana in the context of spiritual community and the practice is flowering, deepening and continuing. By comparison many couples who were similarly involved but chose the individual family model have broken or drifted apart to pursue their own paths, lapsed into profane or secular life paths or merely pay a form of lip service to the practice like well-kept churches in nice locations with all the promise latent but devoid of the total and complete submission to the spirit and the effort necessary to maintain it.
In the end this is the nut. It's all or nothing. Constantly revised schedules to squeeze the Spirit in for 10 or 20 minutes a day won't make it. This is not criticism but observation. The practice is fierce because it is so easy to forget and fall asleep. The families we have seen who are practicing in communal context (using as a vehicle disciplines ranging from Sufi ecstatic practice thru Christian fellowship and Hindu bhakti to deep Soto Zen practice) seem to be getting on with it.
You naturally have more flexibility and more life time to work on your sadhana when you live alone. You can get up very early in the morning, chant you mantras out loud, light candles, burn incense, ring a bell, or do whatever brings you into the Spirit without disturbing anybody else. If you are fasting, nobody feels disturbed about it, or if you want to eat some special diet which makes you feel light and in the Spirit (but which tastes like a horsehair mattress) you can feast on it whenever you feel hungry.
And then there is the silence. If you prefer to live in a quiet world, free of radio, TV, or records, you can spend a lot of time, if you live alone, in a warm cocoon of silence.
And then there is noise. If you are developing the witness and want to carry on a dramatic monologue to help you remember, you can play the star role aloud:
"He's heading toward the refrigerator now. He's thinking about eating some ice cream. He's decided to do some pranayam instead ..." A running commentary like this helps to keep you in the witness but it doesn't help you fill the role of the ideal roommate.
Although you may have more chance to work on your sadhana when you live alone, you have less chance to practice that most difficult of all paths, karma yoga. In solitude you don't have many demands made upon you, nor do you develop the elasticity which comes with the give-and-take of living with others. If your work is also solitary, you may want to preserve a balance by seeking opportunities to interact with others. You may look for continuing situations where the interaction will be on a deep rather than a superficial, social level, such as teaching at a community center, taking on a group of scouts, etc. Situations which are totally engrossing are most apt to capture you and therefore provide the best practice in keeping your witness an d your center. (Working with others will also enable you to see how losing and regaining your center affects those around you.)
However, if you live alone, you probably spend a large part of your time in solitude. Solitude does not mean that you are really living alone, even if you seem to be living alone. You know that when you shut the door and darken the room and look within that the door is open, the light is on, and "Someone is in your room ... darkness like a dark bird, flies away ... flies away.