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.

The Eruption of Kundalini-Shakti: By Michael Hortling

(This article was originally published in HarshaSatsangh E- Magazine Volume I)

Twenty years ago, the kundalini-shakti erupted within myself. Since I didn’t have a clue about what had happened to me and I experienced some quite unpleasant side-effects of this awakening, I had to start looking for remedies in order to ease some of the discomfort. This has been a more or less ongoing process ever since and although I can’t say that all problems have disappeared, some interesting insights and experiences have been gained and that alone has made the journey very worthwhile.

The effects on the psyche, and on one’s ideas about oneself and life in general, that come about by an active kundalini are far reaching indeed, but this transformation seems to have a price attached to it. In my case I’ve been plagued by a variety of symptoms ranging from physical health problems to bouts of anxiety and depression. As a result, I’ve been led to closely observe and attempt to harmonize the innermost workings and mechanics of my mind and body using a variety of techniques and methods such as tai-chi, hatha-yoga and various types of meditation.

To Do Something, or Nothing?

As much as I agree with the advaitin conclusion about reality being One and the concept of separate personalities acting within reality being illusion, I think that the often heard claim that nothing actually needs to be done in order to realise this, will probably only be true for a small number of persons. I find that, in the case of myself at least, ( and I do believe this would apply to most people) some work on oneself using “techniques” is necessary in order to be able to experience this fundamental unity of life. The main reason appears to me to be the deeply ingrained innate patterns of body and mind that prevent a true perception of life.The experience of duality seems to be hardwired into our being by nature, so that definite changes have to take place within the perceiving mechanism of ourselves before reality becomes non-dualistic.

Doing Mantras

One spiritual discipline that seems to work on many different levels to me has been the practice of silent mantra-repetition. One of the first deeper insights or realisations came to me after I had practiced mantra-meditation for some time as taught by Transcendental Meditation or TM.

I was sitting in meditation one day, quietly repeating the mantra in thought, growing progressively calmer and relaxed as a result as the normal rush and clutter of the mind began to recede. Suddenly it hit hit me like bolt of lightning – I was inside “myself”, calmly watching the mantra repeating itself, calmly observing whatever thought-processes still passed through the mind – BUT I WASN’T THE MIND – I WAS THE OBSERVER OBSERVING THE MIND! An enormous sense of relief and gratitude welled up inside as I in one instant understood that everything that really created problems in my life was either mind or body, but that the real “I” was the silent and totally unaffected observer, calmly watching everything come and go.

This was a very profound experience since it in one instant blew the identification with the mind to bits. I had always somehow thought that I actually WAS the constant inner monologue and imagery playing themselves out and now this was shown to be not true at all in a perfectly clear way. I was actually the screen on which the mind with its movies was projected – but I wasn’t the images themselves.

I soon realised however that this was just a glimpse into the deeper reality, but not at all a permanent state of enlightened being – a lot of practice or sadhana seems to be necessary in order to shift the focus of consciousness for good, even though the awakened kundalini is a kind of automatic process in this direction.

After this, mantra practice began to intrigue me more and more, especially since I also became very sensitive to sound and music in particular. I would experience rushes of kundalini moving up the spine, followed by ecstatically blissful sensations listening to certain types of music or certain combinations of notes and harmonies.

I then began to experiment with other mantras and other methods of repetition. Whereas the TM-meditation in essence uses the mantra to really allow oneself to let go and relax completely, I found that mantra-repetition could also be used to direct and control the mind in a more active and deliberately focused manner. This is more in line with yoga as taught in the tradition of Patanjali. The aim here is the sharp one-pointedness of mind which prevents the scattering of thoughts in all directions and keeps the mind from going outwards through the senses. It seems to me that it really is this rapid movement of the mind, constantly going back and forth between the falsely perceived separateness of oneself and the equally false “outer world,” that is one of the main obstacles to just calmly resting in the unity of world and self.

Technically, what seems to happen is that the focusing of thought focuses energy and this usually leads to an increased flow of kundalini along the spine. When this burst of energy reaches the highest region of the brain, shifts in consciousness occur, spiritual insights come drifting into awareness automatically and there can be general feelings of being in tune with the All and Everything.

For this slightly different way of repeating, I try to focus with as much attention as I can on the sound and the shape of the mantra until it gradually fills out the whole space of the mind . I’ve often also done this walking outside with eyes open until sometimes the boundaries between inner world of thought and feeling and outer world of objects have more or less vanished and everything is just felt to be one big continuum with different degrees of density. If the focus is strong enough, it’s as if the whole outer universe becomes filled with the sound of the mantra as well and it can then seem as if the cosmos begins to chant back, which is quite nice.

Mantras and Side-Effects

Other interesting and spiritually useful side-effects of doing mantras over time, is that one develops an increased awareness of the shape and direction thoughts take and it becomes much easier to voluntarily direct the mind and consciously choose which thoughts to follow and which are best left to fade away by themselves. Since I firmly believe that thought determines action and ultimately the realities and life circumstances we find ourselves in, this aspect of mantra-practice is probably quite powerful, in terms of shaping the future and destiny.

A third approach to mantra-recitation that I’ve used with some results is more in line with tantric teachings which focus on the harmonising and control of the different chakras or areas of consciousness. This is also done in order to understand and streamline the physical and mental aspects of life, which manifest through the lower chakras. Mind and body in essence seem to be permutations and combinations of the 5 basic elements – ether or the space in which manifestation takes place, air, fire, water and then earth as the solid end-result. In tantra-speak all this is the Shakti side of the great universal polarity and is ruled by the kundalini. In order to experience Shiva, the silently witnessing consciousness, or the real, permanent “I” of non-duality, kundalini needs to be moved out from the lower chakras and made to unite with top area of the brain. Before that can happen in a steady and permanent manner, the chakras or in essence the elements they represent, need to be purified and strengthened. In practice, I find this to be quite demanding to say the least, but this is probably mainly due to my own shortcomings!

Mantra and Tantra

In the tantric traditions mantras have been used for this purification and as far as my humble experimentation has allowed me to see, the ancient yogis very much knew what they were doing. Reciting the mantra “Lam” at the end of the spine for instance, strengthens, energizes, opens and expands the root-chakra. Now, why is this so, why “Lam” and not any other sound ? I don’t know, but for me, taking the pragmatic approach of “if it works, use it” is the best one. Traditionally, the explanation given is that the ancient seers and rishis were given the various mantras in direct communion with the Infinite and I can go along with that. One day the science of physics will probably find out that the universe really is sound in motion and that different densities of matter correspond to different frequencies of sound. Humans, being part of the universe, will then correspondingly be found to also consist of various frequencies of sound and I believe great advances in the healing sciences will be made because of these discoveries.So, essentially, mantras can be seen to be a method of tuning the mind, body and awareness, harmonising frequencies, directing consciousness towards the light, instead of letting it scatter.

May all beings find peace and happiness.

About the Author:

Michael Hortling is currently residing in Germany. He combines mantra yoga practice with playing the guitar and creating music. As a youngster, he had a mystical experience while watching the Aurora Borealis drape itself across the Northern sky and this may have caused his energies to be like the Aurora, flowing, generously gentle and glowing brightly.

Seed Mantras

The following seed mantras are taken from the classic texts and schools of Kundalini Yoga based in Hinduism. The mantras used in Jainism and Buddhism are somewhat different. Traditionally, Kundalini Yoga in India was only practiced under the guidance of a Kundalini adept. The same advice holds today. Having a good teacher is essential in avoiding mental and physical challenges that may come with the practice of Kundalini Yoga.

LAM – the root (lessons related to the material world)

VAM – the belly (lessons related to sexuality, work and physical desire)

RAM – the solar plexus (lessons related to ego, personality, self-esteem)

YAM – the heart (lessons related to love, forgiveness and compassion)

HAM – the throat (lessons related to will and self expression)

OM – the brow (lessons related to mind, intuition, insight and wisdom)

All Sound – the crown (lessons related to spirituality) this is your quiet and all sounds around you. The sound of your being….

Comparison of Kundalini Yoga with Jnana Yoga: By Berit Ellingsen, M.Sc.

Berit Ellingsen is a long term member of the HS community and was the Editor-In-Chief for Volume III of the HS E-Zine. She worked with great patience and creativity to bring the best out of every article that she edited and often added beautiful graphics to enhance each author’s contribution. Berit lives in Norway. She has a degree in biology from the University of Bergen, Norway. This particular article by Berit Ellingsen appeared in Volume I of the HS E-Zine in the Winter of 2001.

Self-Realization in Jnana, Kundalini, and Tantra Yogas

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini-Shakti, in traditional Indian spiritual sources, is described as the energy that propels man to liberation. Thus, awakening this energy in the body(mind) of the practitioner is central in some liberation teachings, most notably, the Kundalini Yoga systems and the Tantra Yoga systems. As the energy moves in the central channel in the body from its resting place and source in the Muladhara Chakra to the Sahasrara Chakra, and enlivens the passive element of the mind, liberation is said to ensue.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga, the “yoga of knowledge”, the type of yoga most commonly associated with Advaita Vedanta and the non-dual perspective, does not have the body and its energies as the main focal point for spiritual development, but the mind itself. Jnana Yoga uses the individual consciousness as a tool to learn about the true self and thus attain liberation.

One method of Jnana Yoga is Sri Ramana Maharshi’s method of self inquiry, atma-vichara. In asking oneself “who am I ?” one centers the individual consciousness onto its source. Thus, by focusing the conscious mind on the still point, the witness, to witness the very act of witnessing, the barrier between the perceiver and the perceived vanishes.

Awakening the power of Kundalini-Shakti alone and manipulating this energy is not seen as a prerequisite for attaining liberation, and Kundalini-Shakti does not have a central place in the texts of Jnana Yoga. The method of atma vichara alone is enough to bring about liberation (“Be As You Are, The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi”, edited by D. Godman, p. 142 and p. 146).

Is there nevertheless common ground between Jnana Yoga and Kundalini Yoga ?

From a non-dual perspective, Kundalini-Shakti is but one form of the Self. Kundalini-Shakti is the Self, pure energy and pure Being (Be As You Are, The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, edited by D. Godman, p. 145). The human mind with its consciousness is also a form of energy, of consciousness and Self.

Kundalini and Tantra Yoga

In Kundalini Yoga and Tantra Yoga, Kundalini-Shakti can be influenced by other energies such as sound (mantra), light and darkness combined into symbols (yantra and mandala) and movements of the physical body (asanas). In Kundalini Yoga, concentration on these energies and on various psychoenergetic centers, the chakras, is said to bring the Kundalini energy to these centers to break through the seven veils (chakras) that stand between union of the individual soul, Atman, with Shiva (or the non-dual consciousness, the Self).

To become strong enough to break through the seven veils of consciousness and reach the Sahasrara Chakra, the Kundalini energy must purify the body and mind in a process which may take many years. In this process, the energy will not always stay in the central channel, but spread out from the Muladhara Chakra in a broad fan that may include the entire lower body or torso in a process that can be complex.

The common denominators in manipulating the Kundalini-Shakti to attain liberation are concentration and focus. Where the mind and individual consciousness, the individual thought energy, is moved and focused on, there Kundalini-Shakti in the individual mind-body also moves. Thus, it makes sense to move consciousness not only onto energy centers, chakras, in the individual body, but instead directly onto and into its own source.

During the practice of atma-vichara, where the consciousness turns inward onto its own source, not to repress any thoughts or concentrate on any subject apart from the act of witnessing itself, the Kundalini-Shakti will automatically become concentrated into a fine beam. It will easily be led back to its source by rising upwards in the central channel with a force strong enough to break through the one true veil between man and liberation, the very idea that the individual consciousness is separate from the Self. The energy of consciousness, the Kundalini-Shakti, in this way is used as a laser beam to melt a single window instead of as a ram to bring down seven gates. No conscious piercing of the Sahasrara or any other Chakra on behalf of the individual mind is needed.

Full Liberation

To bring about full liberation, Sri Ramana Maharshi recommended to continue to clean out the vasanas (the contents of the body-mind which keeps the Atman identified with the body-mind) which may be present even after the identification with sat-chit-ananda has been experienced in the first Nirvikalpa Samadhi (“Be As You Are, The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi”, edited by D. Godman, p. 66-67). After the first Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Kundalini-Shakti may manifest spontaneously, or where already present, the energy may increase the strength and efficiency of its manifestation. The Kundalini energy will then bring more of the vasanas (latent tendencies) to the attention of the conscious mind.

As a result of the knowledge experienced in Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the mind will ask itself “to whom did these events happen ?” and the true nature of this mind content is seen and disidentified with. In this process, the Kundalini energy brings the vasanas to the conscious mind where they eventually evaporate like water in sunlight.

Thus, Jnana Yoga and Kundalini Yoga may share common ground in the effect of the Kundalini-Shakti in the body-mind, both prior to the first Nirvikalpa Samadhi as well as afterwards. The difference between the two yoga systems lies primarily in the view of how this energy should be employed, either directly, as in Kundalini and Tantra Yoga, or indirectly, as in Jnana Yoga.

Kundalini Shakti in the West: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

The notion of Kundalini Shakti is at the heart of yoga and is embedded in virtually all Eastern traditions regardless of the name or label that is given. If we carefully examine any school of yoga, tantra, or various traditions (Shakti, Shaivite, Kashmiri Shaivism), there will usually be some descriptions of Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Kriyas, Mudras, Mantras, and different types of meditations on the Chakras (energy centers).

In the Shakti traditions, detailed descriptions are given of the various aspects of the visions of the Goddess that arise in meditation. Even in the school of Advaita Vedanta, which does not depend on the practices associated with Shakti Yoga, we see that the great scholar/saint Adi Shankracharya has written hymns to the Goddess who represents Shakti, the divine power.

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