A Zen Garden: By Jerry C. Weinstein

Jerry Weinstein, known lovingly to his friends and admirers as Jerrysan Rinpoche, is a retired lawyer. Jerrysan gave up a very lucrative and highly successful law practice many years ago to live the quiet life of a sage and meditate on the mysteries of life. The force of an active kundalini has been with Jerrysan for many years, showing him both the beauty and the agony of being human and aspiring to the divine union.

When Jerrysan speaks to us about his suffering and lays bare his heart, he teaches us about the human condition and our collective suffering and lays bare our own hearts. In revealing himself, he reveals us.

Jerrysan once said something like, “My heart is an ocean, like a love that has no shoreline. Yet this heart must be shattered over and over again as I progress on the path of the unknown. I have been deprived of all comforts of not only outer life but inner life as well — all reliance upon scriptures, teachers and their teachings is gone. All forms of meditation and mystical experience have been given up — in order to fully realize who I am.”

A ZEN GARDEN
By Jerry C. Weinstein

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I used to go to Asia every year, especially to India, but had never been to Bali. So in August 1992, l scheduled a trip there. It’s such a long flight l decided at the last minute to do a stop-over in Japan for 5 days to break up the trip. Before l left l told my caretaker to get rid of all the weeds in my back yard, which was quite a mess.

Upon arriving in Japan l immediately went to Kyoto, which l knew to be a spiritual center with a lot of zen temples. It was then that l found myself in another world, sensing at once that destiny had guided me there. I’d been doing vipassana meditation pretty intensely for several months and was starting to feel the increased concentration and depth from this practice. In addition, I’ve always had a passionately aesthetic nature. So, l think it was a combination of these things that led to not only the temples, but particularly the zen gardens being probably the most wonderful moment of discovery I’ve ever known. There were many moments of melting in tears of joy, and many others of profound meditative stillness, induced by the sense conveyed of almost perfect harmony with nature.

It was with great reluctance that l left Kyoto for Bali, which, although it has its charms, proved to be an afterthought. Then, after flying home and pulling up in my driveway, l had the sense of being someplace else. My caretaker, instead of being content to get rid of weeds, had also cut down every tree in my backyard, making it unrecognizable.

My upstairs tenant, a staunch environmentalist, was angry at me and ready to move out. The neighbors were furious. l called my caretaker and asked how he’d managed to so misunderstand me do something so unthinkable as this? He had always been a thoughtful and responsible person, and curiously, appeared to have no idea himself.

My first reaction, since l now had a bare yard, was to arrange to have a bunch of trees planted. But somewhere within me the Kyoto experience resonated enough to lead me to postpone doing anything for awhile. The idea of having my own zen garden had an allure — the problem was l was bogged down full time in my law practice and had never even planted a tree or done any gardening in my life. So the notion of my doing anything was totally impractical. My hope was that, hey, maybe something will just evolve or manifest itself out of my meditation practice.

Less than 2 weeks after my return home my kundalini process began, with energy shooting out of my brow chakra and remaining there on a permanent basis (as well as elsewhere). There were 6 months of powerful but mostly pleasant energy sensations — interestingly, every time l looked at a tree my brow chakra would go crazy. Then certain breathing practices led to a long period of continuous headaches and other problems, making any meditation impossible. So much for the idea of a zen garden — that was the least of my concerns. So my yard just deteriorated more and more as first months, then years went by.

My yard became the junkyard of the neighborhood as weeds, beverage cans and dog crap became its main constituents. My neighbors were beyond being upset — l told one of them that someday it was going to be a zen garden, which drew a mixture of disbelief and ridicule.

My kundalini hit bottom in late 95, a time when physically l felt like l was going to die. I separated from my meditation teacher (my guru at the time) and also began winding down my law practice.

lt was then that l turned all my attention to my yard. l just stood out there, day after day, getting the feel of it and recycling ideas through my system. And so began a process that lasted for over 4 years. First, l did a formal zen sitting garden in the back, with a large area of raked, fine gravel and a meditation platform — enclosed by a fence and bordered by trees, a groove of bamboo, and a small Buddha statue in the rear corner. l often asked myself, why am l doing this? l can’t even meditate and may never be able to again. l just seemed to be driven to do it. What surprised me was that it worked — the effect was magical — friends started coming over to meditate there.

Once the back was finished l figured that was it. But 2 years later l decided to expand the garden from the back to include the side area. Once again l was completely stumped at first, but I eventually came up with a moss garden with a water feature, boulders, Japanese maples and conifers, enclosed by a bamboo fence.

l was amazed at the end result. Then last year l decided to go all the way and do the front yard also. l was just as clueless as before, and again spent day after day in front of my house, as my neighbors nervously looked on. l completely redid my front yard, enclosing it with a bamboo fence on top of a low dry stone wall. l brought in several huge boulders (which required months to select) which l arranged in various combinations surrounded by raked gravel and trees. l also tore up the straight cement walkway from the street and created a curving stone path that leads to the front door and also winds completely throughout the entire garden.

So, if anyone’s still with me here (ha ha), l now have a completely enclosed zen garden which covers my entire property and consists of 3 distinct areas. At the risk of sounding egotistical, l am pretty amazed by the physical transformation that’s occurred. Several landscape architects have wandered in and have been stunned by it. Local garden associations have pestered me to take tours through here, but I’ve resisted that so far — just doesn’t feel right. And my dear neighbors have become humble admirers.

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Of course, there’s a downside too — l could write a book about all the problems I’ve encountered. Maintaining the zen garden is no small thing. But l think being able to do the garden has been wonderful for my energy process, both in terms of strengthening my connectedness to the earth and in providing an opportunity to be creative in such a fulfilling way.

For all this, l can be thankful that for some mysterious reason my caretaker decided to cut down all my trees. In recent weeks I’ve found that after nearly 7 yrs, my headaches are finally getting better, and the energy is flowing more freely again. Maybe this summer I’ll get to meditate in my garden.

Editor’s note: Jerrysan Rinpoche is a long term member of the HarshaSatsangh community. His article first appeared in the first volume of the old HS Ezine in 2001.

Satsang with Robert Adams: By Kheyala

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One of the first stops after leaving Colorado that my best friend and I took in our new home-on-wheels (“Lakshmi”) was in Sedona, AZ to go to satsang with Robert Adams. Many of you may know that Robert Adams (whose body died a few years ago) sat before Ramana for years in Tiruvannamalai.

We knew that Robert Adams was aging and that a special opportunity awaited us. Now, keep in mind that my conscious spiritual journey was rather new and I had previously immersed myself in the Satsang Mecca called Boulder.

I had really gotten a feeling for what satsang was “supposed to” look like and went to Robert Adams’ place fully armed with my finest “spiritual” clothing, “spiritual” face, “spiritual” voice, and “spiritual” sitting posture.

When we arrived, spiritually carrying our zaphus behind our hips in silence, heads held humbly down, we were quite surprised to find a room full of relaxed people hanging around, just acting normal. In fact, they were so talkative with each other and easy-going and animated that it made me wonder if we were really at the right house.

I came prepared for silence and holiness and the scene was unsettling being so ordinary. There was nothing spiritual about the place, like decorations or altars or anything that I recall. There may have been a small photo of Ramana. So I sat down and prepared to “meditate.”

Needless to say, I simply couldn’t keep my eyes closed. There was too much fun going on in the room. I struggled with it for a while, but that became so darned uncomfortable. Eventually, I just sat there figuring it would get holy, maybe, after Robert came in.

You can imagine my surprise when he did come in. While I was expecting a spiritual-looking man dressed in Indian garb, what he was actually wearing was a pair of baggy, silky jogging pants and a tee-shirt and he had on a hot pink rumpled-up baseball cap that was on crooked!

Because Robert had Parkinson’s Disease, he kind of made his way across the living room in a slow-motion shuffle and sat himself in the chair reserved for him. Everyone made room for him as he passed by and with great affection touched their palms together in reverence.

Robert sat on the chair for some time. It was real quiet in the room, but not an “it’s-time-to-be-quiet” kind of quiet. It was just naturally quiet. And no one said anything. So, trained as I was to recognize a jnani, well…. no way. This guy was plainly sitting there with his mouth open and his eyes half closed. He was hunched over with his skin just hanging on his face. There was nothing that I could “read.” And boy, did I try. I looked for some kind of radiant glow, some kind of visible wisdom, some hint of Ramana, and nothing! I looked into his eyes and it was as if no one was home. My mind was just struck dumb.

Eventually, Robert jerked his arm up, sort of pointing a finger. That was the cue for the person holding the boombox to hit “play.” I thought, “Oh. THIS must be the holy part.” I closed my eyes in full expectation of sacred words or ethereal music or at least some Sanskrit bhajans. To my utter shock, the thin and twangy voice of Willie Nelson’s “Always on my mind” came singing out!

The whole room went into an uproar. Everyone was laughing and swaying from side to side in enjoyment, singing dramatic crescendos at each chorus: “Telll meeeee. Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died…etc.”

Robert? He just sat there, expressionless, his body unmoving, hunched in his chair. No sparkling eyes, no nothing. By then, my mouth was dangling open as well. My mind had completely come to a halt. It could not make sense of this at all. It didn’t know and could not begin to interpret what it was seeing.

The next musical selection was Kenny Rogers singing really sentimental love songs. These were no Sanskrit Bhajans about Enlightenment or God or anything. These were love songs riddled with illusion and duality. Rather than condemning them or spiritually correcting them, Robert Adams was just sitting there. Everyone was laughing so hard that tears were coming out. It was so infectious that before I knew it, I was singing along and laughing too. My sides were aching when we were through.

Afterwards, with everyone returning to normal breathing and with some sighs and residual giggles here and there, I had the thought, “Well, maybe now it will get serious.” There was a moment of silence. Then suddenly, someone said, “Hey! How about Mexican?!” This was met by an outburst of cheering! Soon everyone got up and grouped together in cars to go to a local Mexican restaurant.

Bewildered but happy to go along I arrived at a scene that I was dismayed to find rather loud and crowded and chaotic. Shortly after we were seated, I looked over at Robert. He had a bright green margarita in front of him.

Before leaving, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to speak with Robert even though at the time I sure didn’t know what to make of him….but all that came out was something like, “I like your hat.” And he said something like, “Thanks.”

The sweet, natural happiness that I experienced in his presence was so very thick and blatant. All the ideas I had picked up about what it is to be in the presence of Truth were permanently cracked. The mind just couldn’t get around the chasm between what it thought holiness was supposed to be like and what it had actually met that day with Robert Adams. In its attempt to cross that chasm, it had fallen into it, giving rise to an absolutely undeniable experience of joyfulness and peace.

Editor’s note: Kheyala is a long term member of the HarshaSatsangh list. Her account of the Satsang with Robert Adams first appeared in Spring 2002 of the original HS-Ezine.

MOTORAZR(2) V9m

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Verizon Wireless formally announced that MOTORAZR2 V9m will become available to Verizon Wireless customers in September 2007. Clearly in competition with Apple’s iPhone, MOTORAZR2 V9m comes with external touch-sensitive keys for access to Verizon’s catalog of over two million songs. It also comes equipped with Bluetooth® stereo support for listening to music.

The MOTORAZR2 V9m has a 2.0 megapixel camera with 4x zoom and picture, video, text, and instant messaging (IM) capabilities.

MOTORAZR2 V9m has been strategically priced by Verizon to be about half of that of the iPhone.

Sprint and AT&T are releasing their own versions of the MOTORAZR2 V9m. Sprint, in fact, promises to release its version of the phone in August before Verizon. Interestingly, Sprint also beat Verizon in releasing their version of the HTC 6800 as well.

Strategically, AT&T releasing a MOTORAZR2 V9m makes sense. They will not lose customers to Sprint and Verizon who do not want to pay for the much higher priced iPhone.

For information on the Verizon’s MOTORAZR2 V9m, go to Verizon news URL listed below.

http://news.vzw.com/news/2007/08/pr2007-08-10.html

Engadget has good coverage of the release by all three carriers (Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T).

http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/10/sprint-verizon-both-announce-motorola-razr-2-v9m/

Bhagavad Gita and the Sattvic Diet: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

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Sri Ramana used to say that of all the yogic rules and regulations, the best one is taking of Sattvic foods in moderate quantities. This view is consistent with that expressed in the Bhagavad Gita, and indeed most of the Yoga Shastras.

The logic is that since food consumed has a major effect on the body and the mind, a Sattvic diet should be adhered to in order to enhance both the health of the body as well as purity, strength, and calmness of the mind. An agitated person will find it difficult to sit quietly and meditate.

A disciplined and one pointed mind is an aid to ones’ learning and education as well as having success in business and other worldly affairs. A clear, pure, and a reflective mind is, of course, essential to self-enquiry which leads to Self-Realization.

The question then becomes, “What is a Sattvic diet? What is the authority for saying that certain foods are Sattvic and lead to good health, mental clarity, poise, and spiritual advancement, while other foods do not?”

There is much yogic literature on this topic and also some disagreement among experts depending on their school of thought and background. Since most Hindus generally accept the Bhagavad Gita as the final word, I will refer to that as my primary source on the Sattvic diet.

We should keep in mind that Sri Krishna, who speaks in the Bhagavad Gita with complete spiritual authority, is also considered the model of exceptional and abundant physical health and perfect mental poise. He is depicted in the ancient writings as slim, active, energetic, graceful, and attractive.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna demonstrates profound insight into not just the spiritual nature, but also human nature and physical nature. By inference, Sri Krishna’s words on food and the Sattvic diet carry much weight for those who study the Bhagavad Gita.

What foods should one minimize according to the Bhagavad Gita?

In Chapter 17 (verses 8, 9, 10), Sri Krishna makes clear the type of foods to be avoided by those who seek good physical and mental health, worldly success, and progress on the spiritual path.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, foods which are too bitter, sour, salty, pungent, dry, and hot can lead to pain, distress, and disease of the body. Further, Sri Krishna says that foods cooked more than three hours before being eaten, foods which are tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean should be avoided by spiritual aspirants and those who seek excellent physical and mental health.

What foods should be eaten according to the Bhagavad Gita?

In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna states, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it:” (Bg.9.26). To me this seems to suggest that Sri Krishna is sanctioning a diet based on leaves and fruits and water as the best one for spiritual growth. I am no scholar on the Bhagavad Gita, but my liberal interpretation of this verse would be that the Sattvic diet is generally plant based and includes all or most vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, etc.

Because Sri Krishna gave cows sacred status similar to that of a human mother and favored raw butter for personal consumption as a child, one could reasonably argue that dairy products (such as yogurt, milk, kefir, lassi, sour cream, etc.) belong to the Sattvic food category.

Many yogis hold the view, however, that dairy products can only be considered Sattvic if these are obtained respecting the cows and goats who are shown kindness, love, and humane treatment. According to the principle of Ahimsa (nonviolence), any food procured through violence to living beings cannot be considered Sattvic.

Yogic Sattvic Diets

Some yogis that I have met favor a completely raw vegetarian diet with a primary focus on sprouted grains and beans (such as Garbanzo, Blackeyed peas, etc.) along with raw fruits and vegetables. Their diet is essentially vegan and contains no animal products. However, modern science teaches us that since vitamin B12 is missing from a purely vegan diet, supplementation is necessary.

A number of medical and scholarly references can be found on this issue on the web.

Other yogis have felt that a raw vegetarian diet is too limiting and include cooked foods as well as dairy products (milk, yogurt, lassi, etc.) in their diet. This diet, known as the lacto-vegetarian diet, is probably the most wide spread among Indian Hindus and Jains.

A few well known yogis have also traditionally included not only dairy but also eggs and egg products in their otherwise vegetarian diet. This is known as the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

Although very few Indian yogis include any kind of fish, fowl, or meat in their food, there are exceptions. Buddhist yogis, for example Dalai Lama, do eat meat. A few Hindu yogis also eat meat pointing out that some ancient scriptures sanction meat eating for certain religious rituals.

For most Hindu and Jain yogis, however, there is no convincing argument for eating meat if one wishes to uphold the supreme principle of Ahimsa and follow the philosophy of nonviolence.

What is the best Sattvic Diet?

The general answer from my study is that foods which cause the body to gain health and for the mind to be calm and peaceful constitute the Sattvic diet. To some extent, this requires knowing the needs of one’s own body and being sensitive to the effects of various foods on our system. Foods which are very suitable and nutritious for one person may not be right for another. Common sense and wisdom are the essential ingredients to find the best Sattvic diet for yourself.

In terms of particular foods to be eaten, the yogis and sages have answered this question, but the answers have different variations. One common element of a yogic Sattvic diet is that it is primarily vegetarian. This is true at least for Hindu and Jain yogis.

Within the broad framework of vegetarianism, a number of dietary systems are possible where certain foods are included and some are excluded. In the most liberal vegetarian diets, eggs and dairy products are included. Some people include dairy in their vegetarian diet but not eggs. Some include eggs but not dairy. In the most strict vegetarian diet, eggs and milk are excluded. Supplementation through certain vitamins is needed in such diets, according to modern medical opinion.

My personal experiences

Having experimented with a variety of diets for decades, I feel that a vegetarian diet can be healthy or unhealthy depending on many factors. For example, if I am a lacto-vegetarian and eat too many pizza pieces, the feeling of discomfort is likely to follow. In fact, after experimenting with eating pizzas thousands of times in my younger days, I am fairly certain that this is indeed true. I believe this also holds if one eats bucket loads of ice cream on a frequent basis. So, is lacto-vegetarian diet healthy? It depends on how lacto you are and how often you go lacto with heavy fat and fried lacto foods!

The point is that a vegetarian diet can be either healthy or unhealthy depending on the nature of food eaten as well as the quantity of food consumed.

In Chapter 6, verse 16, Sri Krishna specifically emphasizes moderation in eating and sleeping. He states, “There is no possibility of ones’ becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.”

Clearly, overconsumption of food leads to problems and one can logically conclude that the quantity of food consumed is probably an important element in a diet being considered Sattvic.

Sattvic diet is also a matter of degree. Some diets may be very Sattvic, while others may be moderately Sattvic.

Finally, the thoughts and the emotional balance while eating the food have an effect on our system. This is why in many religions, prayers and showing of gratitude for the food being consumed is offered. This mental state while eating helps the diet become more Sattvic.

What does it all mean?

So what does it all mean and what are the lessons from Bhagavad Gita and our discussion of the Sattvic diet? Here is what I think some of the lessons are. See if you agree.

1. Whatsoever you eat, eat in moderation.

2. Educate yourself on proper nutrition, be sensitive to your body, and see what foods work for you.

3. Emphasize fresh vegetables and fruits and eat a diet which is mostly plant-based.

4. Do not eat foods which are too salty, bitter, or have gone stale and putrid.

5. Regardless of the food being eaten, eat with gratitude, prayerful attitude, and with mental poise.

6. Chew the food carefully and taste it deeply without rushing.

There are literally thousands of great sources on the web and hundreds of books in stores to help you educate yourself on the Bhagavad Gita, vegetarianism, and nutrition. Go do some research and find out for yourself!

That’s my homespun wisdom for today. Like Captain Planet used to say, “The Power is yours!”

Given below are some pictures of plant based dishes that I made keeping the principles of Sattvic food in mind. Wishing you all abundant physical, mental, and spiritual health. Namaste.