The Maharshi’s Advice to Poonja-Ji

Editor’s note:

As you read this personal account by Poonja-ji, keep in mind the background and the context of the times of the year 1947 as India was getting ready to be split into two countries. Continue reading

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.

Let This Feeling Never Part! By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

In the 1960s, my Gurudev, Sri Chitrabhanu- Ji, wrote a poem called “Matiri Bhavanu” on friendship and universal love in his native tongue (Gujrati) that became famous in India. It was eventually recorded as a song by a well known Indian singer named Mukesh and was set to music by an eminent Indian composer. The poem was translated into English by Gurudev Chitrabhanu- Ji and that is the version of the poem that I was most familiar with. However, at the meditation center where Gurudev taught and lectured in the 1970s, we sometimes sang the poem Maitri Bhavanu in Gujrati with great feeling.

The scene shifts now to almost 30 years later to 1994. In 1994, the thought came to me that I should read the original Gujrati version of the poem by my teacher. Gujrati is not my native tongue and, in fact, I do not understand it at all. I cannot speak in Gujrati and cannot read it. However, the Gujrati alphabets are similar to Hindi which I do know. So somehow the feeling came over me and I started to try to read and understand my teacher’s poem. It was hard but I was staring at the Gujrati words as if through will power alone I could decipher them. After some difficulty, I switched to the English description of the Gujrati sounds that you can see on the Jain Meditation Center website.

http://www.jainmeditation.org/pages/song.html

After many attempts, I actually started to understand the first stanza, and then the second, and then the third, and then the fourth. It was so beautiful and full of the universal feeling that I went into ecstasy. The result was the following poem, “Let this feeling never part!” In a very real sense this poem is the spiritual offspring of that original poem written by my teacher in his youth as a Jain monk. Recently, I came across the poem again on my old computer files and had to smile. I was just a “kid” when I wrote it. Of course, it cannot reach the same level of poetic artistry as my teacher’s poem in original Gujrati which is a true masterpiece. But I tried because something came over me. Perhaps what I lacked in talent, I was trying to make up in enthusiasm and feeling. I dedicate this poem to my Gurudev, Sri Chitrabhanu-Ji, who taught me the meaning of Ahimsa, the philosophy of nonviolence.

Let This Feeling Never Part!

The sacred stream of love divine
sweeter than the sweetest wine
flowing into this vast sunshine
springs eternal from my heart.

I pray no one should be left out
from life’s blessings in their glory
and give way to tortured doubt
with unhappy endings to their story.

Never should they be turned away
suffering from the blows of life
the poor, the wretched of this world
caught helplessly in endless strife.

If ever anyone should be in need
of comfort or help in getting up
let me not run away from them
but plant kindness as my living seed.

Let me give hope where there is despair
and mend hearts considered beyond repair
like the gentle ocean breeze that
heals all wounds and gives a fresh start
Let this feeling never part!

I should always find delight
in the warmth of universal light
but if my heart must bleed at all
let it be so in the dark of night.

No one should see the tears that come
when the wicked and cruel come in my sight
let this hand forever be raised in peace
and the violence around us come to cease.

Always this thought should be kept alive
every sinner is a future saint
there should be a place for everyone
to swim in the pouring love divine
that flows eternal from my heart
Let this feeling never part!

Unaware, if someone is unkind
let forgiveness be on my mind
until no trace is left behind
of ill will, anger, or hostility.

If I should ever slip and fall
and no one to catch me is around
let me come down gently like a leaf
so other life is unhurt on the ground.

If I have to lay for some time
contented should be my smile
composing songs of love and friendship
and resting all the while.

I will be picked up by love divine
which springs eternal in my heart
for all the beings everywhere
Let this feeling never part!

Sages have sung the song of friendship
walking with them and in their shoes
the same melody plays on my lips
the feeling of reverence for life continues.

Involuntary poets, there have been many
who felt the thrill and saw the sign
whose hearts sang out in ecstasy
as their fountain bubbled with love divine.

The blessings of nature are bestowed
on those who are firm in their belief
who are harmless to others and easily bow
before anyone, seeing only divinity.

If I should be granted just one thing
let it be the vision of love
always rising from the spring
sacred and eternal in my heart
Let this feeling never part!

**********************
NAMASTE

I bow to the light in you
which is the same light in me.

Bill Gates On The Way We Give: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

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This essay, adapted from a speech of Bill Gates, is one of the most beautiful, eloquent, and inspirational pieces I have read.

I was reminded of the the passage quoted by Sri subrahmanian of the Advaitin list to me recently which states:

“As life is dear to oneself, it is also just so to other beings. Men show compassion to other beings by putting themselves in their place”. [MBh 13.116.21cd–22ab; YDhS p. 31]

Surely people like Bill Gates are touched by some divine energy that not only opens their hearts but through them delivers the healing balms to soothe the suffering of millions of others.

We bow to such people.

May all beings be free from sorrow.

Bill Gates: Technology and Philanthropy – Jan. 9, 2007

What Is Meditation? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

The Art Of Doing Nothing

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My Dear Friends,

You have heard many things about meditation and perhaps there are questions in your mind about it. Today, there is no shortage of information on any topic having to do with meditation and yoga. There are literally thousands of books on meditation and yoga and self-help techniques. If you go on the Internet and put in a few key words, you will come across many views on meditation.

Some people equate repeating a mantra with meditation. Others say that if you focus on the in-going and out-going breath, that is meditation. There are people who believe that you must be able to sit cross-legged in the lotus position with a straight spine in order to meditate effectively.

Having meditated since early childhood, I can assure you that this is not true. Inviting aches and pains by sitting in a lotus position will not lead to a peaceful mind. Meditation, after all, is about relaxation and peace. Having peace, or recognizing the peace within, is meditation. What takes us away from being peaceful cannot be meditation. Whatever brings us peace is meditation.

Avoidance Of Stillness

It is my experience that people like to keep busy. In today’s world, being busy is considered a very high virtue. We want to keep busy and be productive in some way. Otherwise, we feel we are wasting time and feel guilty. Certainly, being active is a good thing and allows us to make a living and maintain relationships in the world.

Even Sri Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita that one cannot avoid action. One is compelled to act according to one’s nature under the force of circumstances. That is the universal law of Karma.

But we have to understand the nature of action and our relationship to it. This is why Sri Krishna advises Arjuna to act according to his duty and dharma but without any expectation for any fruits of action. Our expectations undermine our peace when they do not come to fruition. Right conduct, according to one’s best understanding and judgement, brings peace. Therefore, it brings us to meditation.

Mental Experiments

Ancient Yogic and Advaitic sages gave methods and taught us to conduct mental experiments to find the nature of truth. These mental experiments can indirectly help us recognize the Pure Being within our center as our own Heart.

The techniques of meditation, such as mantra, chanting, yoga, pranayama, breath-awareness, etc., are simply mental and physical experiments. These practices start us on a journey with the potential for personal and spiritual growth.

However, real meditation is beyond visionary experiences and is the discovery of peace within. To reach there, we have to be quiet and learn the art of stillness. Once we know how to be still while doing nothing, we can carry this stillness into our actions as well. But first, we must discover the nature of this inner peace; and to do that we have to learn the art of doing nothing.

Are You Able To Do Nothing?

Are you able to do nothing? Absolutely nothing! The art of meditation is learned by seeing the value of doing nothing. If you can sit very still and quiet without mental disturbance, you have already come a long way towards the experience of meditation.

It is only a rare person that enjoys doing nothing. Doing nothing is not as easy as it may sound. Try it sometimes. Just sit on the sofa. Don’t go to sleep. Stay awake and think about nothing in particular.

You will soon find your mind racing here and there, thinking about your girl friend, your boy friend, your boss, your co-workers, your business, your friends, your family, tofu, pizza, chocolate… the sky is the limit!

The Mind Is A Monkey And A Donkey!

Yogic sages have compared the human mind to a monkey. Just like the monkey cannot be quiet and must be restlessly hopping here and there, so it is with the mind. It is the nature of the mind to be either brooding about the past (regrets, mistakes, guilt, lost opportunities, the roads not taken) or fantasizing about what the future will bring.

The burden of carrying the past and the future in this present moment is heavy. But the mind, like a donkey, gets used to carrying this load and plods along.

However, the mind that is always lost in memories (past) or hopes (the future) misses the most delicious feast of all that is taking place in the present.

The eternal reality, we can call it Self, Sat-Chit-Anand, God, the Supreme Being, the Supreme Goddess, Paramatman, Brahman, the Great Void, or the Kingdom of Heaven, always exists and is shining in the present right before our very eyes.

The Divine mystery is recognized when the mind is calm and awake and free from anger, hatred, and greed and thus not subjected to the pulls of the past and the future. This is why all major religions encourage human beings to be good and kind and compassionate. These virtues serve as the building blocks for the spiritual life because they remove the agitation of the mind.

Why Meditation Techniques Do Not Always Work

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Meditation techniques are fully effective only in a mind that already has some understanding and maturity. So really, laying the foundation or the groundwork for meditation is more important than the practice of meditation. Just like a seed grows naturally on fertile ground, meditation happens spontaneously in a reflective and a quiet mind.

When the mind is ready and ripe, meditation works and self-inquiry is fruitful in a short time.

When the mind is restless, anxious, and troubled, meditation becomes a forced activity and is not always helpful. At such times, one should take a walk, practice deep breathing, or go for running or do push-ups and other exercises. Those are more useful than meditation when the mind is not ready to be calm.

Pranayama, involving deep rhythmic breathing, is an ancient yogic method that can serve to calm and sedate the mind in a natural way. According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika and other classic yogic texts, one first has to master proper breathing in order to progress to meditation. This is the commonly held belief in the school of Hatha Yoga. However, the path of Jnana Yoga does not emphasize breathing exercises or Hatha Yoga Mudras and Kriyas and considers these to be irrelevant to Self-Knowledge.

Advanced Pranayama practices involving breath retention or awakening of Kundalini Shakti can be found in many yogic texts and modern books. However, these should be learned very cautiously from an experienced practitioner of pranayama.

Laying The Foundation For Meditation

In order to advance in meditation and learn it in depth, we have to understand the nature of the mind and learn to be alert and watchful of its activities. It is this constant watching, that is the key method behind all the techniques of meditation. A form of this is what Buddhist calls, “Mindfulness”. Jains call it Upa Yoga (Yoga of Awareness), Hindus refer to it as the “Inquiry into the Self” or Self-Remembrance.

A spiritual seeker is watchful.

The essence of this watchfulness is that with the mind one watches the mind.

If meditation is going to take place, if this recognition of Pure Being with clarity is to be gained, an inner silence must ensue. One cannot see one’s image clearly in the water, when the water is full of waves. In a still pool, our image is reflected and can easily be recognized. Similarly, in a still mind, we can see the nature of our being.

This inner watchfulness, the observer being aware of the observer, this self-inquiry can occur in a ripe mind that is calm, content, and ready.

We Are Dancing For Others!

The difficulty is that our minds are noisy. This is the nature of the mind that goes outward only. It is overcome by sensory experiences and is unable to see its origin. The worldly chatter overshadows and muffles the subtle divine music that is playing.

Friends, sometimes I think, we are dancing to the drum of other people’s expectations, which we have internalized.

There is no end to this dance. This dance has a stronger hold on us than rock and roll or disco or rap music. It keeps us hopping all our life doing this and doing that or achieving this and achieving that. Ultimately, it is exhausting.

Whole world guru

 

The whole life slips away in the blink of an eye as we keep busy in “doing” this dance making sure that the movement of our steps have the approval of others. We forget to “Be” who we are.

To Be Still is the true meditation. Meditation is simply Pure Being.

The art of recognizing yourself as Pure Being is meditation. Pure Being is Self-Awareness or Awareness.

A Powerful Intervention: Conduct This Experiment

The state of meditation is simple. The methods and techniques and the philosophy behind it are very complicated. That is why thousands of books are written on such things. But the aim of meditation is simply peace. Peaceful Awareness. Meditation is easy to understand. It is being peaceful without expectations.

Conduct the following experiment with being peaceful without expectations. Tell yourself this: “For the next one minute, I am not going to worry about anything and be bothered.”

Try to be free of all inner and outer conflicts for one minute. Give yourself this one minute as a holiday gift!

This is a powerful intervention. Can you be free from inner conflict for one minute? See what hinders your attitude to be worry free for one minute. If you can be peaceful and free from anxiety for one minute then you can do it for two minutes and then more.

To Be With Yourself

So dear friends, find some time to simply “Be” with yourself. To just “Be” is an amazing experience of the present moment. See what thoughts come to your mind. When you sit quietly, many visual images and thought patterns start emerging from the subconscious. This is referred to as “Surfacing” and it happens when your relax and your mind is at ease and free of tension.

If you remain awake and pay attention, you can gain insight into your own mind. These insights will teach you to not attach yourself to things that do not bring you peace. You will come to see that your nature is that of Pure Being which is associated with the many thoughts in your mind and yet is independent of these.

Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian Sage of Arunachala, gave forth this method of reflective Self-Inquiry, that focuses on the question, “Who Am I?”

This investigation, when done with understanding and sincerity, brings us to the state of Being that is free from thoughts. This inquiry is really at the heart of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.

Always Be Gentle With Yourself

If you are not able to sit quietly right away and be completely still for even one minute, do not worry about it at all. The reason it is difficult for us to sit quietly and do nothing is because often there are wounds inside which we would rather not become aware of or deal with.

The process of living life can be very very painful and stressful. Over the years, we put temporary bandages on our hurtful experiences, which for a short time dull the pain.

My teacher Chitrabhanu-Ji taught me that when we try to relax and meditate, our anxieties and fears and past suffering sometimes bubble up from the unconscious. So we have to be alert and to accept and let these things go so we can renew ourselves and be fresh.

The ancient Yogic Sages of thousands of years ago left us with great works on the nature of human suffering and how to alleviate it. Sometimes when I read the Bhagavad Gita or Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Tao Te Ching, Buddha’s path or Mahavir’s philosophy of reverence for life and Ahimsa, I marvel at the depth of the insights contained in these.

The great Yogis of the past 5000 years have been really great psychologists who knew the nature of the human condition. They deeply understood what happens when spiritual seekers try to get insights into their mind and provided a path and guidance on how to walk it with the help of teachers and fellow students.

The Notion Of The Sangha

In India, some people meditate in Ashrams or in communities. The notion of a Sangha (community of spiritual seekers) is important. In such a community, meditation is easier, because people are able to encourage each other and share each other’s pain and burdens. When our mental or physical suffering is intense, we are not able to meditate. People turn to alcohol or drugs to numb themselves so that they do not feel their own suffering. This, however, cannot lead to any permanent solution and satisfaction. Indeed, it can weaken the body and the mind and makes matters worse.

Being part of a vibrant spiritual community, or to just be in the company of good people who care about one another, can exercise a protective influence on you.

As a general rule, in order to advance in meditation, you should keep the company of good people who allow you to be who you are.

I studied with Chitrabhanu-Ji who is one of the key figures in 20th and 21st century Jainism. Chitrabhanu-Ji, before he became a Jain monk, was part of Mahatma Gandhi’s movement to free India from the British through the peaceful means of Ahimsa (Nonviolence).

Ahimsa is the cardinal principle in Jainism. Chitrabhanu-Ji taught me that a mind becomes fully fit for meditation and Self-Realization through the practice of reverence for all life and amity towards all beings.

A genuine spiritual community has to be completely dedicated to the principle of Ahimsa in thought and action and be committed to alleviating suffering among all living beings. A teacher or a guru who does not understand or practice the principle of Ahimsa and is abusive to his or her students should be avoided. Such people are on power trips only and have their own problems to deal with.

 

Having A Personal Philosophy

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It is good to become aware of and think about fundamental life issues at any age, but particularly so if you are young. It allows one to develop a personal philosophy that helps to structure and interpret different experiences and put things into their proper perspective.

It is important to sit quietly and spend time with yourself in order to have an understanding of your own nature. Whatever philosophy one adopts, the following general rules are helpful in remaining calm and healthy.

Ten Tips From Yogic Texts And Sages

1. Eat nutritious foods that suit your constitution in moderate quantities (My New Year’s Resolution!)

2. Walk every day if possible (My Second New Year’s Resolution!).

3. Avoid people who are manipulative, loud, obnoxious, and destructive if at all possible.

4. Keep company of people who are pleasant, easy going, cheerful, and supportive.

5. Remain silent when you have the urge to be sarcastic or make fun of someone.

6. Help people who are in need within your capacity.

7. Take the time to be alone everyday and be with yourself.

8. Never give into peer pressure to drink or do drugs or go to wild parties (Tame and sober get together with good friends and Satsang with fun singing and chanting is OK!).

9. Develop confidence in your own ability to do what you need to do.

10. Engage in introspection at the end of the day. Mentally wishing everyone well, always go to bed with a clean slate.

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Even A Little Effort Helps!

Friends, even a little right effort is never wasted. Every journey must start with the first step. The journey that takes you inside your own Self is the most wondrous journey you can ever take as it reveals the mystery of existence itself. Start from this very moment and enjoy the wonders of your own nature and the sparkling reality that has been smiling and shining on you for the whole of eternity.

Chin Mudra - Jnana Mudra

Transformation Through Ahimsa: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

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In this commercial age, everyone has to periodically run out and buy gifts and cards for their lovers, friends, and family on various occasions. However, true love from the heart remains the most practical gift which is suitable for giving on any holiday, be it Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Diwali, Easter, Eid, Hanukkah, Holi, or some other special occasion. It is the only gift which multiplies in value as it is sent out.

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