Sunday Satsang with Jim Nelson and Michael Smith – March 26, 2017

On March 22, 2017 Jim Nelson wrote:

Dear Friends,

Soon our Gita class move downstairs to beautifully renovated puja room.

For over a year we have been exploring the practical wisdom embedded in Swami Rama’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.

Dozens of people have participated in the class, however not everyone is able to join us each week at the Center due to the changing dynamics of people’s lives. That said, Michael and I want to insure a better connection to everyone interested in the profound teachings of the Gita, so very soon we will be sending out two e-mails a week:

  • Every Tuesday or Wednesday, you will receive an Email with the page numbers from Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita that we will be discussing the following Sunday. This will allow more time for people to finish the reading before the Sunday session and facilitate deeper and broader discussions.  In the event you are unable to attend that week, you will always be aware of where we are currently in the text.

For this Sunday’s discussion, please look over Chapters 7 & 8, and highlight anything which created questions or sparked your interest.

  • On Friday or Saturday, you will also receive an Email with additional updates, materials that will supplement themes in the Gita, or give information on specific practices that you can use to help integrate the Gita teachings into your life.

So, if you have been absent for a while, please don’t let that be a barrier to reconnecting to the Gita sangha. Like the Full Moon and Thursday meditations, gathering together on Sundays creates a unified mind-field which strengthens us personally and as a spiritual community. It supports our individual yoga practice to help us better navigate the challenges of our time with skill and compassion.

Blessings to you all,

Jim Nelson


On March 18, 2017. Michael Smith wrote:

Please review Chapter Eight –

“Knowledge of the Eternal,”and highlight what stood out for you or perhaps raised questions in your mind.

Because this Knowledge is ineffable, few people have tried to put it into words; however, Paramahansa Yogananda and Sogyal Rinpoche HAVE written about the samadhi state, and Michael will read their accounts.

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The week before last, in Chapter Six, there was a passage (See pp. 254-255) about shmashana-vairaga (“dispassion at the cremation ground”).

Last week Michael told a story about this short-term dispassion in relation to a seeker who sought the sage-poet, Kabir.  (See Attachments)

This week he will talk about the total dispassion (para-vairagya) of Bengali Baba (Swami Rama’s guru) and his renunciation of society before he withdrew to the Himalayas.  Michael will also read a narrative of the vairagya of a Hindu woman and the ancient ritual of Sati.

Jim is in California facilitating a Silence Retreat, but I hope to share the Sunday session with you.

Have you seen this?

“ONE DAY”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-Mf1ReDFW

 


On March 11. 2017 Michael wrote:

Please review Chapter Seven – “Knowledge of the Absolute in Its Entirety” and highlight what stood out for you or perhaps raised questions in your mind. Jim has selected some passages which he feels are particularly interesting and will comment on them.

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Chapter Seven is the beginning of a new section of the Bhagavad Gita, according to Swami Veda  The Gita is composed of 18 chapters. As my memory has it, Swami Veda said that these chapters can be divided into three sections of 6 chapters each.

1)      Chapters 1-6 pertain to Arjuna’s despondency and the need for Krishna to instruct him in the nature of how things work in the world, and to his duty as a warrior.  What is one’s dharma? What is one’s proper course of action in the world?

2)      Chapters 7-12 contain the Revelation of the Divine Reality to Arjuna. Once the preliminary instruction has been given to Arjuna, he is ready to receive higher knowledge. Krishna says, “I will teach you knowledge (jnana) together with realization (vijnana) in their entirety, knowing which thereafter nothing more remains to be known.” (7.2).  “I shall tell you this secret-most knowledge together with its realization.” (8.2).

3)      Chapters 13-18 provide more instruction about how to act in the world. After Arjuna has the “vision of God,” he is ready to go into battle, but with an entirely different attitude.

Beginning with Chapter Seven, then, and continuing on through Chapter Eleven, there is the “Revelation.” Infinitude cannot be conveyed by any number of names, but in all the religions of the world there are certain “Divine Names” (aspects of the Divine Reality). In these “middle” chapters, Krishna elucidates some of His many powers and qualities, and finally shows Arjuna his Celestial Form which, like Moses’ experience with the Burning Bush, Arjuna can withstand only for a short time.

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10.19 — Indeed I shall tell you of My celestial magnificences, but only the main ones. O There is no end to my details.

11.5 — See My multifarious, divine forms of many hues and configura­tions, by hundreds and by thousands.

11.7 — Today see the entire world with everything animate and inanimate, here dwelling in one, in My body, O Master of Sleep, and whatever else you wish to see.

11.8 — However, you cannot see Me merely with this eye of your own. I give you a divine eye.

11.12 — If there were to rise the brilliance of a thousand suns in heaven, that would be similar to the brilliance of that great-souled One.

11.13 — Then the Pandava (Arjuna) saw there in the body of the God of gods the entire universe, divided multifariously, dwelling in One.

11:38 — You are the first god,. the ancient Spirit; You are the transcen­dental repository of this universe; You are the knower, the object of knowledge, and the transcendent abode. O, You of endless forms, this universe is spanned and permeated by You.

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Last week there was a passage we did not get to (See pp. 254-255) about shmashana-vairaga (“dispassion at the cremation ground”). When someone near and dear passes away, often there is a total transformation in our thinking and feeling about life:

“The human being’s stay in the mundane world is very brief. On the path to eternity this world is just one of the camps.  Therefore, do not become attached to it. Always remember that this is not your permanent abode. Everyone is brought to that awareness many times in life, but again the strong desire for enjoying sensory pleasure distracts the mind. When someone very dear to us dies and we take that person’s body to the cemetery, everyone there feels the presence of vairagya whispering a profound lesson. . . . Death is an alarm that makes every human being realize that attachment to sense pleasures, to things of the world, and to relationships is painful. . . . At the cemetery the knowledge of vairagya dawns for a short time. Everyone at the cemetery suddenly becomes a sage and begins realizing and talking about the impermanent nature of the temporal world. During that time everyone is attuned to one and the same reality. . . .” (pp. 254-255).

Michael will comment on this paragraph in connection with

(1) a story about Kabir at the cremation grounds

(2) the final days of Swami Rama’s guru Bengali Baba in society

(3) a narrative by a British officer about his experience  with a Hindu woman and the ancient (now forbidden) practice of Sati.     


 

On March 4, 2017 Michael wrote:

Each two-hour session features:

Hatha, Subtle Body Relaxation, Meditation, Presentation, and Discussion.

Please review Chapter Six – “The Path of Meditation” and highlight what stood out for you or perhaps raised questions:

A few of Jim’s favorite passages from Chapter Six:

  1. “Going to the deepest state of Silence with the help of a systematized and organized method of meditation is the highest of all therapies.”
  1. “Beneath all your deeds there should be awareness of the center of consciousness within.”
  1. “The behavior of a leader becomes an example for the masses. . . . The great leaders and guides of humanity do not change their attitudes and lose their calm and balance because someone opposes them, someone misunderstands them, or someone does not follow them. . . . Such great leaders treat saints and sinners alike.  They do not judge others but accept them as they are.  They neither hate nor uselessly praise. . . . [They have] attained evenness, tranquility, and peace, which are beyond a concern with virtue and vice. According to yoga sadhana, this state of mind is called the witnessing state; one learns to witness what is going on but does not involve himself in it.”
  1. “The purpose of meditation is threefold: first to apply sushumna; then to become conscious of the unknown and hidden levels of life, which is also known as awakening the primal force kundalini; and finally to experience a state beyond by attaining Samadhi.”

On pp. 239-240 (as well as on pp. 221-222 in Ch. 5) there is a section about laterality, Nadi Shodhana and nasagre. There will be guided practice on Sushumna Opening based on the teachings of Dr. Dale Buegel.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On pp. 254-255 there is a passage about shmashana-vairaga (“dispassion at the cremation ground”), which is something that Swami Veda often spoke of in connection with the great poet, Kabir. When someone near and dear passes away, often there is a total transformation in our thinking and feeling about life:

“The human being’s stay in the mundane world is very brief. On the path to eternity this world is just one of the camps.  Therefore, do not become attached to it. Always remember that this is not your permanent abode. Everyone is brought to that awareness many times in life, but again the strong desire for enjoying sensory pleasure distracts the mind. When someone very dear to us dies and we take that person’s body to the cemetery, everyone there feels the presence of vairagya whispering a profound lesson. . . . Death is an alarm that makes every human being realize that attachment to sense pleasures, to things of the world, and to relationships is painful. . . . At the cemetery the knowledge of vairagya dawns for a short time. Everyone at the cemetery suddenly becomes a sage and begins realizing and talking about the impermanent nature of the temporal world. During that time everyone is attuned to one and the same reality. . . .” (pp. 254-255).

Take advantage of the beautiful sun-shiny day and we hope to share the Sunday session with you.

Jim & Michael


Michael wrote:

SUNDAY BHAGAVAD GITA SESSION –

Namaste!

For tomorrow’s Gita Session, along with Hatha and Meditation, we will relax, release and recharge with Jim’s Shitali Karana, and then finish Chapter Three of the Bhagavad Gita.

SOMETHING TO CONTEMPLATE AND PERHAPS DISCUSS

Last week we explored one of the cornerstone teachings of the Gita – letting go of egoic notions of “doership.”  We will discuss insights gleaned during last week’s discussion groups, and any additional gems people gleaned from Chapter 3 before moving on to Chapter 4 next week.

Shraddha (“faith”) — mentioned in Verse 3.31 — “Faith is not the product of the mind, but something living that is experienced by opening the path of the heart that leads to the dawning of spiritual love and intuition. Many great sages attain a state of ecstasy by using the power of emotion, it being higher than the power of thought. If the power of emotion is directed with full heart, one is able to attain that knowledge which is never experienced by the mind. [It] opens one to another higher channel of knowledge which is called intuition. . . .  Among all the channels of knowledge, intuition is the purest of all. And for receiving that knowledge, the mind is not used. The power of emotion is evoked, and thus intuitive knowledge is received. . . . Reverence plus devotion leads to conviction. It is not a faith dependent on belief, but firm faith attained through one-pointed devotion. . . .  Those who are devoid of faith are not fit for sadhana and are therefore unable to attain Truth. Such ignorant people seek the dark side of everything and waste time in fault finding. But those who follow their path with full conviction and implicit faith finally attain the highest goal. Such faith is necessary on the path of sadhana.  Patanjali supports this idea in Yoga-sutras 1.14: He says that sadhana should be continued for a long time without any break and with full and firm faith.  Sa tu dīrgha-kāla-nairantarya-satkārāsevito rha-bhūmi — “That practice, however, becomes firm of ground only when pursued and maintained in assiduous and complete observance for a long time, without interruption and with a positive and devout attitude.” Such faith and conviction are essential; without them treading the path is impossible. Maintaining and strengthening faith is the highest state of sadhana.” (pp. 152-155)

1.  The Caste System – In some ways, people align better with the Caste System, in terms of their sva-dharma (personal purpose in life) than with the Ayurvedic doshas.  It would be interesting to compare the varnas of the Caste System with the Briggs-Meyers system.

 2.     Human Beings and Animals  – “Instinct” is another aspect of the mind which Swami Rama mentions. What is “instinct’? — Do human beings have instincts? Also what distinguishes animal intelligence from human intelligence?  Traditional spiritual systems do not agree with the Darwinian view that there is only a quantitative difference between humans and animals. The traditional viewpoint is that human beings have self-awareness, reflexive consciousness, meta-cognition — human beings have the capacity to self-observe, examine and analyze their thinking processes, and therefore alter their behavior.  As Swami Rama said, “You are the architect of your own life.”


 SUNDAY BHAGAVAD GITA SESSION – November 27, 2016

This Sunday (November 27th) because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will not be a Sunday Gita Session.

How does Yoga relate to Politics?

We were looking at that question for a little while in terms of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita — but in the past two weeks, it’s become a crucial issue.

Political systems work well if the people in charge, are wise (with warm hearts and cool heads) and live in harmony with the Dharma/Tao.

In terms of a Monarchy, there are many stories of the Rex Justus (“righteous kings”), such as Good King Wencelas (907-935) who at Christmastime walked barefoot in the snow to give alms to the poor. If Christians followed the teachings of Christ, they would love all and exclude none, and today, they would probably be called Socialists. Thomas Jefferson said that Democracy would work, but only if the representatives and the citizens were well-educated and of high moral quality. When the Dalai Lama spoke at the University of Minnesota in 2001, he said that he was a Communist Buddhist.

Whatever! . . .

There are Two Positions One Can Have

1)      A Political Position — one’s preferred governmental system, and
2)      A Personal Position — one’s physical-energetic-psychological-spiritual Stance — we could say, one’s “Asana” in life!

What “Personal Positions” are there?

In Yoga there are five “Positions,” (called by Swami Veda “Stages of the Mind-field.”

After looking at the “Chart,” it’s clear that no form of government can work if the people in charge are in the Mudham Stage, . . . and very little good can happen if they are in the Kshiptam Stage. Wisdom in leadership begins with those in the Vikshiptam Stage, . . . and the ideal leaders that Plato talked about his “Cave Parable”  would have higher states of Ekagram or Niruddham.

How Does a Person in a High State of Awareness Behave?

In Chapter Two of the Bhagavad Gita, we studied Swami Veda and Gandhi’s favorite passages, which define how a person of  “stable wisdom” behaves: Chapter Two, Verses 54-72 , . . . but here is a current example:

In 1985 Ram Dass and Paul Gorman wrote the book How Can I Help? In that book is a wonderful description of skillfulness in action (yogaḥ karmasu kausalam (Bhagavad Gita, II:50) from the vantage point of someone who lives in a higher state of awareness.

Again, this Sunday, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will not be a Sunday Gita Session.
We wish you the most joyful and peaceful of Thanksgivings!
Jim, Veena, and Michael

On November 5, Michael wrote:
“We hope you are staying centered, “at the Hub,” during the Election-year hubbub.

The battlefield in which the Bhagavad Gita is given is called Kuru-kshetra (the “Field of Action”) or Dharma-kshetra (the “Field of Dharma”).  With the upcoming elections, we can watch how the battle is being waged externally and internally.  Once Swami Rama said to Swami Veda:

“We stand on a rock, while all about we see humanity drowning in the river of life.”

What is the “rock” that Swami Rama and Swami Veda are standing on?

In last week’s Gita session, the question was asked: “What does it mean to be ‘presidential?’”

Dan Coats (Republican Senator from Indiana) said:

“Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization. The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a life, or even a nation, is  those hundreds of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private. Habit is the daily battleground of character.”

On page 127 of the Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita (PPBG), Swami Rama says,

“In the process of self-discovery one must uncover, examine, and gain mastery over each stratum of existence.  And, the first stratum to be faced is that of the unacceptable qualities that lie hidden behind the façade one presents to the world.  Only by fully acknowledging those qualities can one take them in hand and transform himself.”

For this week’s “discussion period,” Jim will facilitate an exercise whereby we can explore the habits of our shadow side.  Often unconscious or semi-conscious aspects of our personality drive our thoughts, behaviors and emotions in ways which are incongruent with our buddhi (our discriminative wisdom) and the Highest Good. How can we acknowledge these shadowy characteristics in a constructive way so as to avoid repressing or projecting them?  To prepare for this exercise, please review pp. 125-127 in the PPBG and read “America’s Shadow,” (Attached), an article by Deepak Chopra about “the shadow side” of the current presidential campaign.

Please also read the article by Alan Pritz, who spoke at The Meditation Center three weeks on the topic: “Applying Patanjali to Politics.”

 

Michael wrote…”Jim is back in town after facilitating a Silence Retreat on the West  Coast
and would like to review the “Shitali Karana” relaxation practice.

The “Subtle Breath Awareness” practice leading to Sushumna Opening
that was taught by Dr. Dale Buegel is another immensely valuable practice that
will be reviewed.

If these practices are new, please come and experience these two practicums.

Following those, we will finish  Chapter Two and the sthita-prajna verses 59-72.

Some of these verses are of paramount importance in the Himalayan Tradition:

55.       When one entirely abandons all the desires that come into the mind, O Son of Pritha, satisfied within the Self by the Self, then he is called a person of stable wisdom.

56.       One whose mind is not agitated in sorrows, who has no attraction toward pleasures, he from whom attraction, fear, and anger have disappeared, such a meditator is called a person of stable wisdom.

57.       He who has no attachment directed toward anything, or upon attaining anything good or bad, who neither greets it nor hates it, his wisdom is established.

58.       When, like a tortoise withdrawing his limbs, one withdraws each and all of the senses from their objects, his wisdom is established.

59.       When this body-bearer desists from food, the senses and their attractions turn away-all except for taste. But taste also ceases upon seeing the supreme One.

60.       Even though an intelligent man continues to endeavor, yet the turbulent senses forcibly draw his mind away.

61.       Therefore, controlling them all, joined in yoga, one should remain intent upon Me. He whose senses are under control, his wisdom is established.

62.       As a person contemplates the objects of the senses, there arises in him attachment to them; from attachment arises desire; from desire anger is produced.

63.       From anger comes delusion; from delusion, the confusion of memory and loss of mindfulness; from the disappearance of memory and mindfulness, the loss of the faculty of discrimi­nation; by loss of the faculty of discrimination, one perishes.

64.       Conducting oneself with the senses, towards the objects of the senses, however, free of attraction and aversion, and under control of the Self, one cultivating the Self attains a healthy and pleasant state of mind.

65.       Upon attaining such pleasantness of mind, there is a diminution of all sorrows. The intelligence of a person of such a pleased mind attends quickly upon him.

66.       There is no discriminating wisdom in one who is not joined in yoga, nor is there any cultivating of contemplativeness for one who is not joined in yoga. One who has not cultivated contemplation has no peace; how can there be happiness for one who is not at peace?

67.       The mind that is applied to following the wandering senses, indeed such a mind plunders his wisdom as wind blows a boat in the water.

68.       Therefore, O Mighty-armed One, he whose senses one and all are held in control and held back from their objects, his wisdom is established.

69.       That which is night to the ordinary human being is day to the wise, and that in which the ordinary human being remains awake is night to the wise one who sees.

70.       As waters enter the ocean, which is totally full yet whose basin and boundaries remain stable, he whom all the desires enter similarly attains peace, and not one who desires the desires.

71.       The person who wanders free of attachment, having abandoned all desire, devoid of ego and of the concept of `mine,’ he attains peace.

72.       This is the godly state, O Son of Pritha; attaining this, one is no longer confused. Remaining in it even at the final hour, one finds absorption into Brahman.

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A week or so ago, Paul Ryan began his talk in Wisconsin by saying, “There’s an elephant on the table.” If we have time, it might be worthwhile to discuss some things in Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata in relationship to the November elections. What are some yoga principles we can apply to establish personal, social and planetary harmony?

Join Jim and Michael on Sunday, October 23, for further discussion of the “Bhagavad Gita.”

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Michael wrote…”The first “Bhagavad Gita” Session of the fall season took place on Sunday morning, October 2.  We shared our personal stories of the summer events, and Jim Nelson led a deep relaxation practice known as Shitali Karana.  Jim then summarized a few of the his favorite teachings from the first two chapters of the “Bhagavad Gita.”

1.      “The first step toward enlightenment is to learn to follow your conscience and not the mind.” (Swami Rama) Attachments (attraction, aversion, and expectations) are the sources of all our misery. Attachments obscure buddhi (our intuitive, discriminatory wisdom, our “better judgement”).“Abandon the idea of ‘good and bad’ and witness all the happenings in the external world with dispassion.” (Swami Rama)

2.      In your sadhana (walking on your spiritual path), surrender your ego. “Surrender the mind to God-consciousness and you will find peace.”

3.      Clear your buddhi through emotional purification – by practicing the Yamas and Niyamas, breath awareness, pranayama, and meditation. “If you practice, you will experience, and that experience will guide you.” (Swami Rama)

4.      Cultivate sattvic (pure, joyful, uplifting) choices aligned with your conscience, and then “grease your duties with love.”  “The whole essence of discipline is wrapped inside a small thing called love.” (Swami Rama)

Another highlight of the Sunday session was a “Meditation” by the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, shared by Mary Kovar.

Mary wrote…”This is taken from the pocket book, How To Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I added the introductory paragraph.  After the prayer, in the book, there are a couple short paragraphs that suggest how to practice this that I didn’t add, but will if you would like.   This love meditation, called “Metta Meditation,” is adapted from the Visuddimagga (The Path of Purification) by Buddhaghosa, a fifth-century C.E. systematization of the Buddha’s teachings:

LOVE MEDITATION

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body
and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear,
and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of
understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the
seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of
anger, craving, and delusion in myself.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy
in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion,
but not be indifferent.