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No Sunday Satsang with Jim Nelson and Michael Smith – On Summer Hiatus – Will Return in the Fall

No Sunday Satsang with Jim Nelson and Michael Smith – On Summer Hiatus

Michael and Jim will return to Sunday Satsang in the Fall.  Enjoy summer in Minnesota.

On April 20, 2017 Michael wrote:

Sunday Bhagavad Gita Session

April 23rd (10:00am-Noon)

“For thousands of years the Bhagavad Gita has been the epitome of philosophy from which millions of people have derived their inspiration and guidance for  (Swami Veda)

The two-hour Sunday sessions feature

— Hatha —

— Subtle-body Relaxations —

— Meditation —

— Presentations on the Gita (sometimes with audios of Swami Veda’s commentaries and —

— Group Discussions — about practical elements of Swami Rama’s teachings in Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, which we can apply to enrich our daily lives.

Please review Chapter Ten – “The Glorious Manifestations of the Lord” in the PERENNIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA and, highlight anything you find that is particularly meaningful – or puzzling – to you.

The Discussion portion of Sunday’s session will deal with LONELINESS, as it is experienced in daily life – and also as it has been explained by Swami Rama .

Along with Chapter Ten, please look over the writings on “Loneliness” below and highlight what stands out for you:



by Phil Nuernberger, Ph.D

Chapter One: “Loneliness in a Crowd”(pp. 1–2)

“Loneliness is the greatest disease of mankind.” (Swami Rama)

“Loneliness is the greatest disease of mankind.” I listened to my spiritual master say these words many times before I realized the truth of what he was saying. For a long time, I thought the statement was a bit of an exaggeration. Sure, I reasoned, we all have times when we feel isolated and alone, and some people seem to be very lonely – those who lack family ties; people who are shy and have difficulty meeting others and building friendships; lovers who are separated; people alone during the holidays. But for the most part, loneliness seemed to be just another emotional disturbance, and not the most serious one at that.

Only after I studied with my spiritual master for a couple of years did I finally recognize the truth of his statement. The first time I was forced to confront my own loneliness face-to-face was in the early evening of a beautiful spring day. I was with my master, preparing to return to my apartment in another city several hundred miles away. The time I spent with him, filled with the power of his love and knowledge, was precious to me. I had spent several days with him, listening, watching and learning. But it was time for me to return to my work and I was savoring every minute I could be with him until it was time to leave.

As usual, he was using the time wisely, teaching me, in so many ways, to become more aware of the realities within myself. We were talking about the programs we were preparing for the Institute, the organization he had established to bring yoga as a science to the West.

He suddenly stopped talking and was quiet for a moment. He then looked at me with the greatest love and tenderness and said, “You are very lonely, aren’t you?” I was stunned. These words, spoken with the greatest compassion, ripped into my heart. I struggled to keep from crying as this simple truth forced me to come face-to-face with my own loneliness.

I could no longer hide from the powerful, frightening dragon of loneliness. At that moment, it came roaring, breathing flame and smoke into my awareness. It was one of the most peculiarly painful moments in my life. I have experienced the deaths of family and friends, and my sadness at their passing was consuming and powerful. Like everyone, I have suffered losses and disappointments, felt the pain of regret and tasted defeat. I have had to confront and battle fear and self-hatred that hid in the corners of my mind. But of all these things, nothing was sharper, more pervasive and more painful than this sudden revelation of loneliness.

The last few moments I had with him are still a blur in my mind. But I clearly remember the plane ride home. I thought to myself that I never wanted to see my master again! I didn’t want any more revelations involving this kind of pain. Thankfully, those thoughts lasted only as long as the plane ride itself. But they revealed just how difficult, how painful and how powerful this loneliness was.

Of the three great dragons of the mind – fear, self-hatred and loneliness – loneliness is the most powerful, the most pervasive, the most subtle and the most painful.


“Introduction” (pp. xi–xv)

Of all the diseases that plague mankind, loneliness is the greatest. It is a universal despair found in every culture and in every time. No one escapes the clutches of this dragon. We feel this loneliness in many ways: the emptiness of not having a partner or lover, the anxiety of being isolated from those we love, the depression when we face another holiday without family and friends, the ennui we experience in a crowd, even the silence in an elevator. Poetry and love songs captivate us because they somehow capture the universal despair of our loneliness.

The real tragedy of loneliness is that it is an illusion. “An illusion?” you say. “The feelings I have certainly are real enough. And people can suffer terribly from this disease, even commit suicide because of it.” And you are right. Loneliness can have a very terrible impact, and the emotional disturbances – the sadness, the anxiety, the emptiness, the isolation – are very real. But these feelings are not loneliness; they are the anxieties of loneliness. And they arise out of the illusions we have about ourselves and about life.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary denotes an illusion as something that deceives and misrepresents, that misleads us intellectually, “a perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature.” And loneliness does all of this. Loneliness creates three illusions: isolation from others, from nature and from ourselves. Although they are very real problems, and create an endless variety of psychological and social problems, we are misled. We think that these problems of isolation are, in fact, loneliness when, in reality, they are only the symptoms of loneliness. We constantly try to resolve the symptoms, only to have loneliness rear its ugly head at another time, in another place.

Therapists try to cure it, philosophers try to rationalize it and prostitutes make money off of it. We try to fend it off by having lovers and friends, getting married, having children, joining groups, getting religion, even going shopping. Yet, in the end, after all the lovers, after all the theories, after all the therapy, even with wonderful friends and loving families, the healthiest among us will feel the pangs of loneliness.

Loneliness is not an emotional problem, so all the therapy in the world will never cure it. Therapy may help in resolving some of the anxieties of loneliness, but it can never defeat the dragon itself. Even healthy people with successful relationships experience isolation and loneliness. Nor is loneliness a mental problem. Philosophy, higher education, science, none of these will protect us from the dragon. The philosopher’s answer is to simply accept this condition and learn to live with it. They tell us that we must become stoic about our destiny, existentialist in our outlook. Bear up, they tell us, we all suffer, we are all essentially alone. Accept your fate and be strong. But loneliness doesn’t happen because we are alone. In fact, we are often most lonely in a crowd of people. Being lonely and being alone, or in solitude, are two very different realities.

Loneliness stems from a universal human reality, the ego. The ego is a powerful function within every human mind that tells us we are unique individuals. The ego’s task is to create a sense of separateness, an experience of unique individuality. I refer to this as the ego-self in the book. It is what we normally refer to as me or I, a pervasive sense of individuality locked within the boundaries of the body and mind. This is the grandest illusion of them all. We think we know who we are, and the truth is that we are not at all who we think we are. We mistakenly think we are the body and mind complex, when, in fact, these are only our tools.

We are not physical beings, we are spiritual beings. Loneliness is a spiritual problem, characterized by ignorance of the spiritual Self within each and every one of us. When all we know is the material ego-self, when all we experience are physical sensations and mental thoughts and emotions, then we do not realize that our rightful heritage is the eternal core of our being, the spiritual Self. We can call it soul, Consciousness, a spark of the Divine Light; the name is irrelevant, as it is only a name. But freedom lies in the experience of this spiritual Self. To free ourselves from this universal misery called loneliness, we must make a spiritual  journey; we must experience, for ourselves, our spiritual Self.

We have three powerful tools for spiritual awakening. Prayer, the path of the heart, loosens the grip of the ego by creating a profound sense of humility and acknowledgment. Through prayer we prepare the mind for enlightenment, the mystical experience of pure love.

Along with prayer, we access our inner strength through meditation, the path of the mind. By refining the power of concentration through meditation, we pass through the veil of the mind and consciously experience the mystical Self. A new identity emerges from this powerful, mystical experience of Divine Union, and we realize the underlying unity of all life.

The third tool is contemplation, the path of intellect, By refining the power of our pure intellect, we realize that life itself is nothing less than the dance of the Divine.

This mystical experience is called love. This is not the love that we normally seek, which is part of the illusion. It is a common myth that loneliness arises out of a need to be loved, to share life with another. While we must acknowledge the human need for companionship and to be loved, being loved will never solve the problem of loneliness. This need creates even greater emotional dependency, building and reinforcing weakness in the ego-self This, in turn, only leads to greater isolation and loneliness

We do need to be loved, most particularly in childhood. Love is necessary in order to create a healthy ego, one that is capable of returning love and building satisfying relationships. But satisfying the need for love does not protect us from being lonely. In an odd way, it makes loneliness even stronger.

You see, it isn’t getting love that counts, but the act of loving itself. This is not what the therapists refer to as self-love, the limited, ego-centered focus of attention on the personal self. It is, rather, the expression and the power of our spiritual core, the mystical Self. In this loving, there is no sense of personal identity, no small self to take credit. Only through the mystical experience of being pure love will loneliness and the anxiety and fears created by the ego’s sense of separateness be completely resolved, It is called “mystical” because it is beyond the mind and body, beyond the explanation of logic and the limited scope of material science. It is understood only by having the experience itself.

The mystical experience is actually the most practical way of life. It provides us with the knowledge to create a successful life. In the final chapter, selflessness, the character of pure love, is translated into practical guidelines for day-to-day living. We cannot avoid the trials and challenges of life, but through spiritual knowledge we can transform our lives into ones of love, joy, and tranquility.

Through the mystical experience, we discover that we are already the love we seek. It is this mystical experience alone – not logic and degrees, not philosophy or psychology, not religious belief – that brings freedom from the tyranny of our ego-imposed loneliness. Through prayer, meditation and contemplation, we discover the selfless love of our mystical Self. It is then, and only then, that we realize that life itself is the expression of this spiritual force, and life becomes the spiritual path. Free of the limitations of the small ego-centered self, we embark joyfully upon a spiritual journey armed with the courage, strength and wisdom of pure love.

What is presented in this book is not theory, but a record of my own personal journey. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter were told to me by my spiritual master. His example, teaching and love were the strength of my journey. My hope is that the words in this book will, in some small way, pass on his wisdom, knowledge and love to you. The book is not intended as a therapy, nor is it a philosophical position. It is a practical approach to spiritual Self-realization. It is a journey which all may take. There are no obstacles but ourselves. We create the mountains and we climb them. It is a journey, taken step by step through self-mastery, to Self-realization. Take the journey. Discover the joy. Become the Love.


At one of Swami’s talks in Minneapolis, he said, “You are all lonely.”

At the time I thought he was talking about people’s need to socialize, and so and I rejected what he said. I did not know until much later what he meant by “lonely.”

By “lonely,” he meant being imprisoned in the small self, confined to ego-identity, isolated from the whole, apart from Unity Consciousness, separated from both the Universal Spirit and Mother Nature Herself, and from what Nathanial Hawthorn in his story “Ethan Brand” called “the universal throb,” “the magnetic chain of humanity,” “the key of holy sympathy.”  (Michael)


“The human being is a citizen of the inner world: he is an inner-dweller first and a denizen of the external world afterwards. But ordinary people remain citizens of the external world and aliens to the internal world. The yogi and sage remain aware that they are inner-dwellers always.

Once, for example, when our master was sitting quietly and calmly, a prince came to visit and said to him, “Sir, you seem to be lonesome.” The master replied, “Because you have come! I have been enjoying in deep silence the conversation with my friend within. Now you have come and therefore I have become lonesome.”

It is true that students, friends, and loved ones can make us lonesome. One should learn to establish friendship with the eternal friend within. Then he will never be lonely. Real meditators are never lonely, so those who do not want to me lonely should learn to meditate and go on doing meditation until they meet their beloved eternal friend who is seated in the silent chamber in everyone’s being. Loneliness vanishes forever in that state of silence where the true friend resides. Loneliness and silence are two entirely different states of mind. In silence one has company, but in loneliness one is all alone. The yogis learn to attain that state of silence, and then they are able to realize directly the nature of both the external and internal worlds. Those yogis can observe both within and without from the height of tranquility.

And ancient yogis found that loneliness is the greatest of all diseases and that it has no remedy but to go to the deep state of silence where the eternal beloved is seated with long and tender arms to embrace one.  This is the only therapy that relieves loneliness. All company and associations I the external world eventually lead to separation and then to loneliness. But it one becomes aware of the eternal friend, he can efficiently play his role in the grand drama of life and will never become lonely. . . . Going to the deepest state of silence with the help of a systematized . . . method of meditation is the highest of therapies.”

(Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, p. 229-230)


In Swami Rama’s book, Living with the Himalayan Masters, there is a chapter titled “Loneliness.” Swami Rama writes:

“I am never lonely. A lonely person is one who is not aware of the complete fullness within. When you become dependent on something outside without having awareness of the reality within you, then you will indeed be lonely. The whole search for enlightenment is to seek within, to become aware that you are complete in yourself. You are perfect. You don’t need any externals. No matter what happens in any situation, you need never be lonely.

In this chapter Swami Rama writes about a prince comes to visit his master:

One day when I was sixteen years old, I was standing outside our cave in the Himalayas and saw several people approaching.   When they came closer, I recognized them to be a ruling prince of India with his secretary and guards.  He came to me and said, “Brahmachari, I have come to see your master.”

In the very same tone I said, “You cannot see him.”

His secretary said, “Don’t you know who he is?”

I replied, “I don’t care.  I am the protector of this cave!  Go away!”  So they departed.  They returned several times, but to no avail, because I seldom allowed anyone to see my master.  I wanted to shield him from disturbance, and we had no inclination to see arrogant people.

Sometimes I would say to my master, “These rich people come from far and wide, and you say you don’t want to see them.  Is this good?”

He would smile and answer, “I am happy with my Friend within me.  Why do I need to see these people?  They are not genuine seekers; they want something worldly.  One wants to have a child, another wants to have a high position.  They don’t want spiritual food.  Why do you ask me to see them?

Finally the ruler prince recognized that I didn’t care about his status, so he changed his attitude.  When he came again he politely asked, “Sir, may I see your master?”

I took him inside the cave when my master was sitting quietly.  That prince wanted to be polite and to show his manners and Western breeding.  He said, “Sir, you seem to be lonesome.”

My master said, “Yes, because you have come.  Before you came I was enjoying the company of my Friend within.  Now that you have come I am lonesome.”

It is true that the highest of all companionship is the company of the real Self. Those who learn to enjoy the real Self within are never lonely. Who makes us lonely? Those who claim to know and love us, or those whom we love, create loneliness and make us dependent. We forget the eternal Friend within. When we learn to know our real Self, we do not depend on externals. Dependence on external relationships is ignorance that needs to be dispelled. Relationships and life are synonymous and inseparable. Those who know the Friend within, love and are not dependent. They are never lonely. Loneliness is a disease. Being alone happily means enjoying the constant company – the constant awareness – of the Reality.

After learning this lesson, the ruler returned to his palace and pondered over the teachings. He then started practicing meditation. He soon realized that it is possible for everyone to be free from the self-created misery of loneliness and to enjoy life  (Living with the Himalayan Masters, by Swami Rama, pp. 58-60)


Loneliness, Separation & Isolation

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

When Christians think of loneliness they generally recall these passages in Matthew 25:31-40:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

For Mother Teresa of Calcutta, these verses were critical; it was the part of the Bible she found to be the essence of Christ’s teaching. In 1950 she organized a group of nuns, called the Missionaries of Charity, and spent the rest of her life implementing the teaching given in Matthew 25.  She made it her task is to care for all those whom society had rejected, “the poorest of the poor,” and to see Christ “in all their distressful disguises” – “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

The Sisters of Charity recite the Prayer of Saint Francis every morning at mass.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

Mother Teresa has said “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody. On certain continents poverty is more spiritual than material, a poverty that consists of loneliness, discouragement, and the lack of meaning in life.”

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. Loneliness is the leprosy of the modern world. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love.”

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty – it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

“When Christ said, ‘I was hungry and you fed me, he didn’t mean only the hunger for bread and for food,’ he also meant the hunger to be loved. Jesus himself experienced this loneliness. He came among his own and his own received him not, and it hurt him then and it has kept on hurting him – the same hunger, the same loneliness, the same having no one to be accepted by and to be loved and wanted by. Every human being in that case resembles Christ in his loneliness; and that is the hardest part, that’s real hunger.”

“If you have a sick or lonely person at home, be there. Maybe just to hold a hand, maybe just to give a smile – That is the most beautiful work. Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.  Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

“I try to make people feel loved and wanted because I know what it’s like to not to feel loved and wanted.”

“It’s not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this where our love for each other must start. Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right where you are – in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society, completely forgotten, completely left alone.”

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received, and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.

“The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.”

“The problem with our world is that we draw the circle of family too small.”


“Most of us appreciate praise, but it is disastrous to become dependent on it. If we are going to allow our security to be bolstered up by the praise, appreciation, and applause of others, we are done for. I have heard about a well-known movie star who goes to sleep at night with a tape of recorded applause playing. This is going to make him more and more insecure.

Why should we get agitated if someone ignores us? There are, after all, advantages to being ignored. We can go anywhere in freedom. Nobody recognizes us – how good it is! In life, there are occasions when we are ignored and sometimes forgotten. That is the time for us to remind ourselves, “Why should I need anybody’s attention?” This is the attitude of the real mystic, who is content because he or she is complete. This attitude can be cultivated skillfully.

Even those of us who are the most sensitive to praise and appreciation can learn to be so secure within ourselves that the word “rejected” can be expelled from our dictionary. The one person who will never reject us is the Lord within, and that is enough to make up for all the rejections we may have to undergo at the hands of everyone else.” (Eknath Easwaran)


“To effect healing through spiritual means, determining the “right” political position isn’t necessary.  Spiritual healing only requires creating the essence of healing internally and projecting it outward through conscious intent.  It sounds too simple, yet it is perhaps the most difficult work of all.  We create the intangible “essence” that will heal the world by finding and healing the matching wound within ourselves by bringing down our own personal “towers” (Judgment and Blame, Complacency, Loss of Faith, Control, Greed).  As Elizabeth Kubler-Ross often said, ‘We all have an inner Hitler and an inner Mother Teresa.’

Perhaps a way to understand this collective abstraction in the context of personal experience is to consider the Tower as a symbol of everything that keeps us in a state of isolation, separate from our highest good, separate from our wisdom and power, separate from other people, from nature, from God.  It’s what separates us from our conscience and from knowing our inter-relatedness to all life as dramatically as a skyscraper separates us from the earth.” (Lynn Woodland)


Too much self-centered attitude brings, you see, isolation. Result: Loneliness, fear anger. This extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering. (Dalai Lama)



On April 14, 2017 Michael wrote:

Namaste Everyone,

Just a short note to say that there will not be a Sunday GITA session this week because it is Easter Sunday.  We’ll resume on Sunday, April 23rd.

On April 2nd, some passages from BLUE POPPIES (a book by Judith Wermuth-Atkinson) were read. Part of her book told about her remarkable experiences with Swami Veda at SRSG. She has two nice articles relating to her book on the Ahymsin website which tell about the subtle transmission of teachings in the Himalayan Yoga Tradition:


Also, Linda Schissel sent a link to a Ted Talk by Amanda Weber, an inspiring, award-winning woman in our area who is working for “restorative justice.”

Read more about Amanda and her piece, Voices of Hope (and see her TED Talk!).

Wishing you and peaceful and joyful Easter Sunday!

Jim & Michael

On March 24, 2017 Michael wrote:

“Mantra during the Transition from Life to Life”

From Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8

by Swami Rama

  1. He who departs remembering Me at the last moment, after leaving the body, he comes to identify with Me; there is no doubt in this.
  2. Remembering whichever aspect of mine as he leaves the body at the end, he reaches that very aspect, O Son of Kunti, identified and always nurtured by that aspect.
  3. Therefore remember Me at all times, and fight. With your mind and intelligence surrendered to Me, you will come to Me alone, without doubt.
  4. With a mind joined in the yoga of practice, and wandering nowhere else, contemplating the supreme, divine Person, one goes to Him, O Son of Pritha.

“Verses 5 through 8 explain how the aspirant should prepare himself for life hereafter.  He should not be haunted by thoughts attachments to the mundane world.  At the last hour of one’s departure from the world, he should remember the Lord of life, for one’s last desire determines the course of his rebirth.

How can one remember the Lord at that time?  Every great tradition teaches a way to remember the Lord, either by remembering a mantra, a word, a syllable, or a set of words.

When the pranas . . . abandon their duties, the conscious mind, breath, senses and the body, separate from the unconscious part of life. All the desires, merits and demerits remain in the unconscious. One’s prominent desires prompt him to assume a new garment. That is called rebirth.

During that transition period, remembering a mantra is useful; it enables the voyage to be comfortable.  At the time of death, ordinary people remember their worldly attachments and pleasures.  That magnifies the pain and leads the mind to sorrow.  But the aspirant who has clarity of mind remembers the name of the Lord and thus does not have unpleasant experiences at the time of departure.

When the mantra is remembered consciously, it is recorded by the unconscious.  During the time of departure when the conscious mind fails, any thought or desire that is prominent in the unconscious leads the individual according to its nature.

It is very important to repeatedly remember the name of the Lord during one’s lifetime so that the impression created by repeated remembrance is the strongest impression in the unconscious, for it is the strongest motivation that becomes the leader.

Many aspirants are not aware of the profound effects of remembering the mantra, but they should understand that no action remains unrecorded in the unconscious.  The student . . . should continue remembering the mantra so that it becomes embedded in the unconscious.  There is no doubt that the aspirant who constantly remembers the Lord at the time of departure attains liberation.

Many students wonder about life hereafter.  After death, one does not go to any hell or heaven but remains in his own habit patterns.  Hell and heaven are merely the creations of one’s own mind and habits.

Those who understand the meaning of life know that the final hour is the deciding factor for whether one’s voyage to the unknown will be pleasant or unpleasant.  They prepare themselves for that hour.  They depart from this world with a free mind and conscience, enjoying the eternal joy of the infinite.  Whatever state an aspirant habitually remembers, the same he attains after leaving his body.  One who has an auspicious state as his goal will reach it after death, and he who remembers worldly pleasures will continue to long for those pleasures after leaving his body.

His desires, however, cannot be fulfilled in the state between death and birth, for then he has no senses and no objects with which to fulfill his desires.  Thus he suffers.  Those who are meditators, however, attain the deep state of tranquility and are never affected by the desires for worldly pleasure.  They attain the state of perfection by identifying themselves with the Lord and they finally become one with the Lord. . . . (pp. 284-285

. . . one experiences death every moment. We die millions of times in one lifetime, and millions of times we are born. . . . yet we experience a continuity of consciousness through these deaths and births. In a similar way the pure consciousness remains through the deaths and births of the physical body.

The human being is on a pilgrimage. . . . Every moment of life until one reaches his eternal abode is precious. Therefore, one should remember the Lord in every moment.  That practice is called ajapa japa.  Those who remember the name of the Lord in every breath of their lives are the fortunate few.  When a student learns to remember the name of God in silence with a one-pointed mind and strengthens that habit, he can continue practicing anywhere and everywhere he goes.  Thus ajapa japa leads one to constant awareness of the Self, which helps him during the period of departure.”  (p. 287)

“Sri Yukteswar . . .struck gently on my chest above the heart.

My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid, piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead; yet in my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive. .

My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight. . . All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures

My body, . . . the pillared courtyard, the furniture, the trees, and sunshine occasionally became violently agitated, until all melted into a luminescent sea, even as sugar crystals thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken. 

An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of bliss; The Spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless bliss; His body is countless tissues of light. . . The creative voice of God I heard resounding as AUM, the vibration of the cosmic motor.

Then, “Suddenly the breath returned to my lungs. With a disappointment almost unbearable I realized that my infinite immensity was lost. Once more I was limited to the humiliating cage of a body.”   (Autobiography of a Yogi, pp. 166-168.)


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.


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?



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.


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.


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.


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:



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.


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.”


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.


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:


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.