Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Love's Sweet Nectar: A Poem

 " O Lord, in whom alone we find peace
May we see your divine Self and be freed
From all impure thoughts and all fear.

O Lord, from whom we receive the mantram,
As a weapon to destroy our self-will,
Reveal yourself, protector of all."

~ Shvetashvatara Upanishad 3.5-6
(Translation by Eknath Easwaran)

Like an arrow my mantram has buried itself deep within me. Shattering illusory layers of ego it has caused my spirit to be flooded with a current of light and love that has been released from deep within. It's as if an underground spring of freshly flowing water from eternity itself has been struck and now passes through me, nourishing my parched soul with its transcendental nectar. 

There is something so holy and precious regarding the names of God. Upon every tongue in every corner of the world vibrations in praise of a God who is universal rise up in devotion. The names might differ, but they are all directed towards the same reality. Recognition of the Eternal. I have found that in my case the names of God found in the mahamantra draw my heart deeper into the realization of God and His infinite nature and  begin to connect me to His love. I have learned that through chanting and mantram repetition that there is so much that is illusory that at first glance we take as reality, as permanent. That to find true peace we must destroy that which binds us to these illusions. The juncture at which our souls are bound to the material is the fertile womb which conceives all the miseries and suffering we experience.  To see these illusions for what they are is to find true freedom in the presence of the Eternal from where our souls first came.

It's hard for me not to write about a practice that has provided me with so much spiritual inspiration. Below is a poem I recently wrote and included my mantram within it. Next post will have to do with something other than mantrams...it's a film review...and I am looking forward to everyone's thoughts on it. I will try to provide more diversity in my posts in the future but for now they have reflected my amazement towards the deep effect that mantram repetition/chanting the holy names of God can have on one spiritually.

I hope you enjoy the poem. I'd love your thoughts.Thank you!

Love's Sweet Nectar

When love washes away all pain,
When knowing God is your only gain,
When His mercy remove's illusion's stain;
Your soul learns to dance with the rain.

There is no greater feeling than This-
Being held by the hands of Eternal Bliss.
The nectar is so sweet to taste,
You run into His arms in all haste.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare

When he holds you in His hands
And whispers to you of greater lands;
Those woven by His higher energy
Where from the material one is finally free.

When He says, yes this child is mine,
And His peace washes over you sublime;
Your inner heart kneels before His presence within,
The mundane becomes just background din.

True freedom is conceived from a soul who surrenders,
To hearts devoted to Him, His Mercy He renders.
Everything we need is in His holy names
They lead us back to Godhead from where we first came.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Boredom's Abode

Recently the realization dawned on me that it's been quite awhile since I've been bored. In the past there would be periods of time when I'd be infused with a restless energy and yet see no avenue in which to channel it. Even when I seemed to have plenty of legitimate things to do. Boredom would permeate deep into my consciousness, dulling my awareness and stifling my sense of peace. I'm not sure about anyone else but I particularly don't find boredom to be a favorable condition.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines boredom as, "the state of being weary or restless through lack of interest." We are restless yet are unable to focus and become engaged on any one particular pursuit. Boredom is a condition that has the potential to breed misery as it gives rise to dark waters thick with obscure anxieties and random thoughts that infect our actions with their toxicity causing us to bear bitter fruit. I wonder how many destructive habits are first conceived in  boredom's fertile womb which teems turbulently with a quagmire of restless energy impregnated with the mundane and illusory?

I have been practicing passage meditation, mindfulness and mantram repetition for some time now and though I have had glimpses of insights and have encountered sporadic spiritual experiences and often share those here, I had not realized until recently how my whole perception of life has been altered. Not just my perception of life but how I am living life itself.  In a way much like how one would adjust the settings on a telescope to sharpen the image of the object desired to be viewed, both my gross senses-those which perceive the tangible manifestations of God's energy playing itself out in the material world and my inner senses-the receptors in my consciousness able to receive and open up to His Divine presence, have been sharpened and defined. Making life anything but boring.

To have one-pointed attention at the task in hand is part of Eknath Easwaran's eight point program . To experience life, now, as it happens, and not be caught up by fleeting thoughts, brings rise to an amazing transformation of perspective.  Nature itself brings my heart to its knees in wonder at the miracles and wonders that resound in every cell and complex process that defines our physical world. Every leaf, every droplet of water, brings a sense of awe. Even in life's most darkest moments I am finding appreciation and beauty. And  hope. For with each new breath we take is a new beginning. I am learning that to be present fully is to live fully.

Being fully present not only reaps the benefit of being able to view each moment with a renewed sense of gratitude but using that technique to apply it in pursuing our tasks helps those tasks, however seemingly banal, become more engaging. Not being caught up in non-related thoughts and being subjected to a state of "monkey mind", we are able to conserve greater amounts of energy to devote to the task at hand. This causes us to perform our actions with greater precision and devotion while noticing the details that we once might have missed. 

It is often in the intervals between specific tasks where we get swept up in thoughts that toss us to and fro like the waves of the ocean. Battering our fragile consciousnesses against merciless rocks that jut out within the landscape of our soul's interior.  It's easy at times like those to become too fragmented and distracted to ever become focused enough to be firmly situated in a state that is fixed on God or the present. At that point it's easy to become restless. What to do, what to do..and we look towards trivial and mundane pursuits to appease the restless energy that taunts us.  Times like these can get the best of anyone. I know they've gotten the best of me in the past. One common example I think that many of us can be subject to, is to eat when we are bored. I know exactly when my children are getting bored. They ask for a snack! Of course there are times when they do need a snack but if they've recently had one and I can visibly see their interest in an activity tapering off I can almost guarantee that soon I will hear a request for one! Over-eating and other unsavory habits are certainly prompted along by boredom.

This is where my mantram has saved me. I could write about it all day. It has become so integral in every area of my life. Many a time it has proven to be the savior of my sanity as it has anchored me to peace and bliss. Between moments of one-pointed attention I draw forth my mantram.  Like a sword it slices through illusion freeing me from spiritual lethargy. Depending on the atmosphere where I find myself, if I'm in public or alone, I either chant it vocally or internally. And if I am alone I often implement the aid of my japa beads to keep count and maintain focus.  Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare  Meditating on the names of God, I find myself anchored to the present and lift my thoughts and heart up to Him. In return,  a sense of clarity and peace wash my heart clean of its residual stains of attachment and I feel as if my heart is drinking the most luscious elixir, one that could only find its source from  the Divine. Such a transcendental exchange leaves boredom's abode safely tucked into the shadowy folds of the past.

In conclusion, the absence of boredom was an unexpected, albeit very welcomed,  byproduct of my spiritual disciplines. So my personal formula to eradicate boredom is a combination of mindfulness and chanting/mantram repetition. Do you have a method that helps you stay focused and attentive throughout your day? I'd love to hear it in the comments section. Thanks!


Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please share in the comments section. Thank you!

* More information on mantram meditation/chanting can be found  on my previous post: here

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Japa Beads and the Practice of Mantram Repetition

                                  This is a picture of an example of mantram art I took at the retreat. Different people participated
                                                                   in this   and if you look closely you can see different mantrams including the Mahamantra, jai ram         
sri   ram  jai jai ram, Jesus and others.

I recently wrote a post  about how I was going to try out adding chanting with japa mala beads to my spiritual disciplines. Mantram repetition is one of the practices that Eknath Easwaran, a renown spiritual teacher, taught. His body is no longer with us but his teachings remain alive through his books and the institution, the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, that is dedicated towards sharing his methods with others. He's never suggested implementing the use of japa beads as a way to practice mantram repetition but after watching a few YouTube videos and reading more about their use I became intrigued and decided to engage in the practice myself.

I asked my instructor at the retreat I went to recently, hosted by the Blue Mountain Center, if this was something that Easwaran would have acknowledged as a valid practice. He didn't see why not. He didn't consider it as necessary but if it aided one in centering on one's mantram than it could be invaluable to that individual.

I learned some new things about mantram repetition at the retreat that I hadn't known before. One such example is that there is  "mantram art", where one will create art by writing one's mantram in expressive ways.  I was also under the impression from everything I had read thus far that mantrams were generally said silently to oneself , so never really knew if chanting was seen as an effective way of practicing repeating one's mantram. Our instructor said that chanting was certainly acceptable.

There was also another concept introduced that was new to me: writing one's mantram.  Many practictioners will set aside time everyday to write their mantram repeatedly, usually in a particular journal or notebook set aside for that practice. My instructor had a journal specifically for writing his mantram and would always carry it with him using any spare moment to engage in the practice. He also mentioned that he would send his friends who also practiced mantram meditation cards where he simply wrote their mantram repeteatedly over and over again. It is said that where one repeats their mantram, whether vocally, internally, or on paper, that space or place is made a little bit holy. Easwaran would walk the shores that lined the Pacific near his home in California every morning and it is said that one can feel  peace and the presence of holiness on the beach where his feet so faithfully tread while repeating reverently the names of God countless times.

Easwaran instructs practitioners of mantram meditation to repeat one's mantram as often as can be remembered during any time when one isn't engaged in anything that requires full attention. This aids one centering themselves in the present moment. Many other spiritual teachers have suggested similar practices of repeating mantrams continually throughout the day. For example H.H. Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna movement, who brought the message of Krishna consciousness to the West. He teaches that in order to be centered in God one must practice repeating His holy names as often as is possible. This process helps purify one's heart as it removes superficial layers of ego that bind us to our desires for sense gratification and muddies our perception of God. So, this is a practice that is not only taught by Easwaran but by many others who have been instrumental in leading countless seekers towards more peaceful lives and God consciousness.

An example of when not to repeat one's mantram would be during a conversation or when reading. Given that, most times are perfect for saying one's mantram. For instance while in the shower, taking a walk, waiting in a line at a store or in traffic and performing household chores. So often our thoughts are  scattered and diverse. Being steeped in the superficial and material they often bring us agitation, anxiety and suffering as they inwardly draw us to become fixated on recalling things in the past we regret and fretting about perceived events in the future. Almost sealing our fates we commit ourselves to doom and spend precious time and energy contemplating various scenarios of ruinous moments that haven't even taken place yet nor necessarily need to. By slowing down and simply not clinging to those thoughts when they arise but using our mantram as an anchor tethering us to the present moment we can gain much clarity and peace and begin to shed shadowy garments of ego that obscure and cover our hearts from perceiving the light buried within. Resting securely in our awareness of the Divine,  we are more empowered to make choices that are prompted by compassion spreading the peace that we find within outwards to those around us.

In his book Original Goodness, Easwaran wrote:

" As our desire to draw closer to the Lord within us deepens, it draws self-centered desires into it like tributaries into a great river. The power of that love swells until it becomes cataclysmic; we begin to inspire other people through the transformation we have wrought in ourselves."

In many of his talks and books Easwaran will tell a story about a famous sculptor in India who made the most beautiful sculptures of elephants carved out of stone. One day the king came to visit the sculptor and inquire on how he was able to create such masterpieces. The sculptor replied that men would bring him great stones, massive and irregularly shaped, from the quarry that lay outside the town. For great periods of time he would merely gaze upon these massive heaps of stone and eventually instinct would take over.  Cultivated within him would be a sense of what no longer belonged there. Chipping away at all obstructions with great care, over time, the majestic elephant within waiting to be discovered would emerge. So too it is with the spiritual disciplines. They are designed to chip and erode away the layers of ego that hinder us from experiencing and realizing the Divine that lay within the deepest recesses of our consciousness.

 Yesterday morning, as I began chanting the realization of a truth that I have read about recently through my spiritual reading arose in my consciousness. Most mantrams are a sacred word or name of God. Mine is the mahamantra which includes holy names of God that have been around since ancient times. It is : Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.The Vedas, sacred texts originating from India, teach us that the very names of God transcendentally embody God Himself.

I couldn't help but think that that must mean that when we say the names of God we are invoking His presence into our awareness. Now I do realize that He is with us every moment, seated within the center of our consciousness. The spark of the Divine/Self/Krishna/Jehovah/Allah/the Supreme Reality- whatever be the way you best identify with the Eternal within, never leaves us. It is a constant reality, reality itself. Yet, there's something unique and spiritually tangible about saying the names of God if one opens oneself up to this transcendental reality. It's as if we are greeting that spark within, thus causing it to illuminate the inner chambers of our hearts with a warmth that spreads and a light that grows, allowing us to feel and perceive the presence of God and the interconnectedness we share with all of life in an even deeper way. Given that, the thought came to me that each name should be said with attention and reverence, with a heart of devotion, not merely out of a sense of duty to the process. This drew me in to the present moment considerably more  and all distracting thoughts seem to vanish completely. For nearly a whole round I was just there, completely there, lost in a pure Love. With each sound vibration waves of peace and joy flooded through my heart and mind, cleansing it of all other desires other than that of reaching out to God with gratitude and earnestness.

I have enjoyed the practice of chanting with my japa mala beads and plan on continuing. The practice of chanting in the morning provides a strong foundation for remembering to recall my mantram throughout the day, helping me to maintain my focus. I use them at night as well, when falling asleep. Easwaran teaches practitioners of mantram repetition to fall asleep while repeating their mantram  as that way it will become more deeply rooted in one's subconscious. I used to do this with difficulty as I would often get swept away by what Buddhists call my "monkey mind". Wandering and fleeting thoughts that one becomes attached to and thus causes one to become uncentered. The physical act of using my japa mala beads has been instrumental in aiding me to successfully fall asleep while repeating my mantram.  This is a spiritual discipline I would definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in trying out a new practice.

Have you recently tried adding a new practice to your spiritual disciplines? If so...I'd love to hear about it.  Please share in the comment section! Thank you! :)

* Note: Easwaran uses the word mantram, though one can easily exchange that for mantra. The two are synonymous.