Speaking to Chitrabhanu-ji and Pramoda-ji: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Dear Friends:

Last weekend, I had a phone conversation with my teacher Gurudev Chitrabhanu-ji and his wife Pramoda-ji. Both Gurudev Chitrabhanu-ji and Pramoda-ji are on the forefront spreading the message of Ahimsa and how the philosophy of nonviolence brings our focus on caring for all living life, human, animal, plant life, and the environment itself.

Speaking with Chitrabhanu-ji and his wife reminded me of the years I spent with my teacher at the Jain Meditation Center in NYC the late 1970s up to 1980-81.

I used to go to Jain Meditation Center to listen to Gurudev speak. Often, I would stay around after the lecture and listen to the questions asked of Gurudev.  At the end, many people got in a line to ask Gurudev more personal questions. These questions typically focused on health issues, self-improvement, meditation methods, mantras, and at times psychic phenomena. Some of the questions seemed quite far out to me.

I  was very young then and perhaps immature in some ways. I used to sit so closely to Gurudev that I could hear all the questions and answers from the people in the line who came up one by one. When someone tried to whisper the question, I leaned even closer to hear it. Once in a while, someone would give me the look. But I stayed very close so I could hear everything that Gurudev was saying. I felt as if every word of my teacher was a gem and that I did not want to miss a single thing. I did not really think about other people’s privacy. It was an open space in the hall so I felt it was not an issue. Gurudev always looked at me and smiled and never said anything either.

After the talk at the Meditation Center, I often walked Gurudev and Pramoda-ji back to their apartment. During that time, I was able to speak to my teacher freely and ask him any questions on meditation, yoga, chakras, mantras, etc. Gurudev was happy to accommodate and answer me. I learned much from what he said during those conversations and have written about some of the incidents. Those were fun times.

One time when I was walking with Gurudev, another of his students was with us. This person had serious questions about some dreams about dying that he had been having. I could not help but hear the conversation. In that particular case, however, Gurudev said to me in Hindi that he wanted me to run and get something from a store that was on the street and gave me some money. It was unusual because Gurudev and I typically spoke in English (with some sprinkling of Hindi) and he had never sent me on an errand during our walk.

I quickly surmised that Gurudev wanted privacy for this conversation. Of course, I ran to the store to get the food item and then caught up with Gurudev and the other person as they had gone a block ahead of me. By that time, they were done talking and the student was leaving. After that, Gurudev and I walked rest of the way back to Gurudev’s apartment. I bowed to my teacher and said my Namaste and walked back to the place where I could catch the subway to go home.

In those days I was completely immersed in yoga and meditation. In fact, I made my living teaching yoga at the New York Health and Racquet club in NYC in Midtown Manhattan.  Many of the famous actors, actresses, newscasters, and politicians of the 1970s who worked nearbye came to that club.

I remember Mary Tyler Moore, Hope Lange, Gracie Jones, Bella Abzug, Tom Brokaw, and some people from Saturday Night Live coming to the club. There were many others but my memory has now faded. I remember Mary Tyler Moore came to my Yoga class a couple of times. She was very respectful, it seemed to me, of Eastern philosophies and yoga. Hope Lange used to be there often during the time that I was there and she was very unassuming and congenial. I also remember Congress Woman Bella Abzug come to the club. She had a relaxed wonderful style and was easy to talk to. She seemed genuinely interested in yoga and a few times we spoke about reincarnation. She must have known Shirly MacLaine because I recall Bella mentioning her in the context of our conversations on reincarnation. This was all back in 1978-1980 time range.

Most of my free time when I was not teaching yoga at the New York Health and Racquet Club, I spent in contemplation and meditation at my house which I shared with other meditators who were also students of my teacher.

Coming back to my conversation last weekend, I spoke to Pramoda-ji first and we had a nice talk. She will be sending me some articles that she has written to be published on the Luthar.com website. In fact, I have already published one. I will have the webmaster upload another one soon.  Pramoda-ji is the President of the Jain International Meditation Center in Mumbai (Bombay). She is also on the on the Board of Directors for PETA in India (People For Ethical Treatments of Animals).  She works for the Reverence for Life Society and for Beauty without Cruelty which promote animal welfare and the vegetarian way of life worldwide. Promada-ji has also authored a number of books – Foods of Earth; Tastes of Heaven – Jain Symbols – To Light One Candle (co-authored with Clare Rosenfield) – The Book of Compassion (coauthored with Pravin K. Shah). More on Pramoda-ji can be found on the Jain Meditation website.


I had a wonderful talk with Gurudev Chitrabhanu after I spoke to Pramoda-ji.  His voice was relaxed and fresh and just as I remember it all the past times that I have spoken to him. He told me that Clare Rosenfield and her husband were there visiting them at the time. Gurudev knows the closeness I feel with the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi. He mentioned his visit to Sri Ramana when he was 19 years old. That was one year before he became a Jain Monk.

During the conversation,  Gurudev Chitrabhanu recited some poetry in Hindi to me and then explained it as well several times in different ways. The essence of the poem was that the real meeting is the meeting of the minds and the body only serves as the context. His message was that whether I am able to be in someone’s physical presence is not important but it is the meeting of the minds and the Heart connection that is the most central. Sri Ramana has said exactly the same thing in one of his conversations.

Gurudev will be leaving for India soon. I will be communicating with Chitrabhanu-ji and Pramoda-ji again in the near future. Mamata-ji, Chitrabhanu-ji’s secretary, has done a wonderful job of keeping us all informed of all the different international events taking place with Gurudev and Pramoda-ji playing a leadership role.






Aids To Self Enquiry: By Alan Jacobs

“Those who leave the path of Self Enquiry, the way of liberation, and wander off along the myriad forest tracks, will encounter only confusion”. Bhagavan Ramana.


Self Enquiry is the Direct Path and Bhagavan’s great contribution for the modern age for all. 

Self Enquiry is the backbone of the main weapon in Bhagavan’s teaching for eliminating the vasanas, tendencies and vrittis, the thought forms which act as a veil and occlude your Real Self. Continue reading

Ecology and Vegetarianism in Jain Dharma: By Pramoda Chitrabhanu


Pramoda Chitrabhanu

Jain Meditation International Center

New York City

Ecology and Vegetarianism in Jainism

Taiwan Nov. 3-7 2007

Today, the global ecological crisis that is threatening the entire human race is becoming a matter of grave concern for all of us and especially for those who are conscientiously aware.  For those who are not aware they forget one thing and that is when one life is threatened, all life is at risk.  It is important to know that each of us is a vital thread in another’s life tapestry and our lives are woven together for a reason – survival and to be happy.

Jain Dharma sees the whole universe as a great cosmic mechanism with its own self-propelling force, and we being a part of that mechanism, the religion teach us to conduct ourselves in harmony and in rhythm with the rest of the life force.

In the manifestation of nature we see there is harmony and rhythm. Everything works according to its nature. But when we look at ourselves we do not see our lives in agreement with the cosmic mechanism. We are out of sync with nature and tend to go against our qualities of love, compassion and friendship for all living beings.

We do not realize that we are interrelated and bound together by mutual support and interdependence with all life force. Each living thing depends on another for insuring its survival. We cannot live a single day without the help of others. Therefore, it is important to know that all life is a gift of togetherness, accommodation and assistance which lead to mutual peace and harmony. This fundamental natural phenomenon of symbiosis or mutual dependence forms the basis of modern day science of ecology.

It is relevant to know that the term ‘ecology’ was coined from the Greek word ‘oikos’ meaning home, a place to which one returns. In 1866 Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist and a philosopher, defined it as a comprehensive science of relationship of organism to environment. This term covers the conditions, circumstances and influences surrounding and affecting the development of an organism or groups of organism, exclusive of their hereditary traits.

Today, the problem of global ecological crisis is due to the ecological balance that has been wildly disturbed by our present day lifestyle, particularly by the wanton destruction of the animal and plant life in the civilized societies.

Have we ever wondered how so many invisible lives have made our single day livable and comfortable? How the microcosm is connected to the macrocosm and the macrocosm to the microcosm? How we are indebted to everything that assists us?

In the words of Nathaniel Altman, who depicts a better picture of interdependence, “Grass, for example, provides nourishment for millions of tiny invertebrates, which in turn are food for insects. The insects are eaten by frogs and small snakes, which provide nourishment for birds. When the larger animals die, they provide food for other living things, and as they decompose, they fertilize the soil on which grass is grown. When this “food chain” is disrupted, the very fiber of life on this planet is affected. As with a house of cards, the removal of one card can bring about the collapse of the entire structure.”

Being on the top of the ladder of evolution, we have learned to take things for granted and in the process have lost the sensibility and sense of appreciation and gratitude.

Many of us like to believe that our life is experienced in isolated, watertight compartments and that the way we conduct our daily affairs does not have a significant impact on the society and the world we live in. But we must not forget that just as a stone thrown into a pool will affect every molecule of water in the pool, in the same way our every thought, word and action will affect our inner and outer world. Therefore, it is important to know that what we do — to the life around us and the environment — becomes our fate.

Lord Mahavir the 24th Tirthankar (path finder) of this era for the Jains lived in 599 – 527 B.C. experienced that the thoughts which govern our words or actions are the products of the food we eat. The food that feeds the system has a definite influence on the person physically as well as emotionally, psychologically and also spiritually. Healthy, whole and harmless foods give rise to healthy, whole and harmless thoughts. Once the thoughts are harmless and healthy, the actions also reflect the same qualities. Weakness in character develops in those who are in poor health, mentally or physically. So, it is rightly said that we are what we eat.

If we take this into consideration and adopt a plant based diet we can save approximately 2400 animals in our life time and stop them from going to the slaughter house.

Believe it or not, if you take just the Americans, they consume 9 billion animals every year. If one wants to, one can change this every time one sits to eat.

The practitioner of Jain Dharma practices Upayoge Dharma (religion of awareness) through its code of conduct. There are five basic vows in this code of conduct that strengthen our practice of environmental concern and protection of all life forms.

The five vows are:

* non violence in thought, word and deed,

* seek and speak the truth,

* behave honestly and never to take anything by force or theft,

* practice restraint and chastity in thought, word and deed,

* practice non- possessiveness.

As in the words of Christopher Key Chapple, “The Jains vows can easily be reinterpreted in an ecological fashion. The practice of nonviolence in the Jain context fosters an attitude of respect for all life -forms. The observance of truthfulness prompts an investigation of the interrelatedness of things; a truthful person cannot easily dismiss the suffering caused by uncontrolled waste. The vow of not stealing can be used to reflect on the world’s limited resources and prompt one to think of the needs of the future generations. Sexual restraint might help minimize population growth. The discipline of non-possession gives one pause to think twice before indulging in the acquisition of material goods, one of the root causes of current ecological concerns.”

With this awareness we can live a non-violent life so that we may incur minimum of negative karmas by our actions that are the cause of our suffering. But often we live an unaware and unknowable life during which we become callous and insensitive to the surroundings, causing much destruction to the animal world and nature by our need to satiate our palate and purse.

The depletion of the natural resources, environmental crisis, global warming, ecological imbalance, and annihilation of innumerable life forms are our responsibility. They help us to live and we destroy them for our food, clothing, entertainment, medicine, and luxury and material possession. This way by abusing and exploiting the living lives and the environment, we abuse and destroy the gentleness of our soul.

Do You Know?

* To produce 1 lb of meat, an average of 40lbs of vegetation is used.

* 12 lbs of wheat produce 12 loaves of bread and only 1 hamburger.

* It takes 3.25 acres of land to produce food for a meat eater on a continuing basis, while it takes 1/3 of an acre for someone eating a diet of plants, eggs and dairy and 1/6 of an acre for a person eating totally plant based diet (vegan).

* A University of California Study shows that to produce 1 lb of meat it takes an average of 2,500 gallons of water, it takes 966 gallons of water to produce one gallon of cow’s milk and on the other hand plant foods such as wheat, apples etc. takes 20 to 50 gallons of water to produce one pound of food.

* Eating food crops first hand produces a tremendous energy savings. To produce one pound of protein derived from beef requires 20 times as much fossil fuel energy as the same one pound of protein derived from corn or wheat. Protein from beef requires 40 times more fossil fuel energy as the same amount of protein derived from soybeans.

* The waste released in the atmosphere by the U.S. Meat and Dairy Industry is 230,000 pounds per second, thus polluting earth, air and water systems.

* It is estimated that it takes 75,000 trees to print a Sunday edition of The New York Times for the readers.

These staggering numbers is a wake up-call for us to make a difference.

Human Welfare

* Twenty vegetarians can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed one person consuming a meat-based diet.

* If America reduced their intake of meat by 10 percent, 60 million people can be adequately fed by grain saved.

* A cow has to eat 7 lbs of grain and soy bean protein to produce 1 lb of meat protein. If the same land were to produce food for humans directly, 7 times more people could eat.

* More than half of all the water used in the United States is used in live stock production that can be used where there is water shortage.

When we become aware of these facts and change our lifestyle and go vegetarian we can increase the amount of grain available to feed people elsewhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, cease contributing to the clearing of forests and the most important we can save thousands of living creatures from torture and pain.

The core teaching of Jain Dharma is Ahinsa and so all of its 10 million followers are vegetarians, consuming neither meat, fish, fowl, poultry nor eggs. Jains would not take any life for food or sport.

But today many have gone one step forward and have also given up all dairy products and call themselves Vegan – who live on plant based diet, so exclude flesh, fish, fowl, dairy products such as animal milk, butter, cheese, yogurt etc. eggs, honey, animal gelatin and all other items of animal origin.

The dairy cows have become milking machines for human beings. The cows are kept pregnant every year for a consecutive 9-10 year period by artificial insemination. As soon as the cow stops yielding milk, she is dragged to the slaughter house for beef meat. Poor calves are forcefully dragged away from their mother, depriving them of their mother’s milk that is rightfully theirs. They are fattened by hormone injections and kept in dark sheds away from sunlight in oppressed conditions, preparing them for veal meat. Ultimately this becomes the fate of the cows and calves!

How can we be at peace if we are causing pain and suffering to innocent living beings? The quality of our relationship with each other and the world is primarily based on our level of self- understanding. As we want to be happy, all life wants to be happy. So, by making the right choices, life will result in right consequences.

In this way a non-violent approach to life through ecology and vegetarianism enables us to express our reverence for all life forms including ourselves – from the minutest micro-being to the macro- being, from the lowest developed consciousness to the highest developed consciousness.

To sum up this, let me quote Lord Mahavir who expressed it succinctly:

“One who neglects or disregards the existence

Of earth, water, fire, air, vegetation and all other lives

Disregards his own existence

Which is entwined with them?”

HarshaSatsangh is the New Luthar.com Site

Dear Friends:

Over the summer of 2008, we were able to integrate the old HarshaSatsangh.com (Love-Yoga.com) site with the Luthar.com blog. The new blog site is hosted now on a VPS which gives more flexibility in terms of the wordpress plugins. The site is still being fine tuned and now managed by a talented webmaster. If you see any problems, please let me know.

My primary reason for moving from wordpress.com was that they were starting to show ads on the site. I did not feel comfortable with that at all.

It was not easy to move from wordpress.com. But the present site is a definite improvement in terms of design and the infrastructure. The site went down the first day when I announced it probably because of large traffic within a short time. That would have never happened at wordpress.com. So, there is this weakness. If it happens again, I may have to upgrade the VPS to the next level or think of other options. We will see. So far so good.

A number of scholars and writers will continue to contribute to the site. If you are interested in writing on any topics of interest to you, please let me know.


Namaste and love to all friends in the HarshaSatsangh and  Advaitiin communities. Wait, let us broaden this to the whole world. We are the world!