I Love God

I Love God

The heart of Mira is entangled in the beauty of her Guru’s feet; 
Nothing else causes her delight! 
He made her happy in the drama of the world; 
His knowledge dried up the Ocean of being and becoming. 
Mira says: My whole world is Shri Krishna; 
Now that my gaze is turned inward, I see it clearly.

Mirabai

When I was around eight a friend that I often played with on the weekends asked me if I believed in God, and I told her that I didn’t know because I wasn’t sure what God was. She told me that God was love and that He loved everyone. Her conviction awoke a curiosity in me.

I asked her where He lived and she said that He was in heaven and pointed to the above sky. I looked up trying to imagine where exactly in the sky God lived and what he looked like. As young as I was it seemed unlikely that he lived up there, but on the other hand it was likely there was a place where he did live. She said that God was also in her church and that if I wanted to meet Him I could come to church with her and her family but that I had to ask my parents.

God
Is God in the sky I wondered?

One Sunday morning I crept into my parents’ bedroom and woke my mother. I asked her if I could go to church with my friend and she groggily mumbled yes.

There was a subtle current of anticipation as I thought about meeting God. When we arrived at the church all the children were ushered into a classroom very much like a school room. My friend told me that children were not allowed to hear the sermon by the minister.

We sat at children’s desks while a young woman talked to us about Jesus, sinners, evil and saving lost souls. I could not grasp how children could be sinful or evil. I felt myself recoil as my mind drifted away from her voice. I fantasised a God that was different from her version, different from the ordinary. When I thought about how God might be for me, I imagined Him to be bright and loving, but mostly magical.

When I got home I asked my mother what religion we were and she told me that we were Presbyterian. I asked her why we did not go to church. She said that she did not go to church when she was a child either.

‘Your grandmother was an Orange woman and hated Catholics’.

I was not sure what this meant, but I realised I was not going to get an understanding about God from my parents. I thought they knew less about God than my young friend and so I put aside my questions. When I went to play with my friend the next time her mother came to the door and told me she could not play with me again. I only saw her from a distance and I felt sad for her.

999848_10151876604559703_227231407_n
Everything is Consciousness according to Kashmir Shaivism. This too is God.

From then on I would occasionally wonder about God’s existence. I asked my girlfriends if they went to church but none of them did, nor did their parents. I wondered why some families believed in God and some did not. And then one of them told me that people who did not believe in God were called ‘atheists’ and people who did not know whether God existed or not were called ‘agnostics’. I put myself in the category of agnostic because I was aware that some part of me wanted to believe that God existed.

The first time I felt God was the first time I met Baba Muktananda. In his company I had my first meditation experience, a profound and deep knowing of the Self. In hindsight I realised that I had had a God experience. As I meditated over the years, love for God grew in me, as did love of mankind, love for the Guru and love of Self.

The other night in the Mother’s day Satsang Guruji was teaching from Anandamayi Ma. As he was speaking I felt myself sinking into meditation. Then I vaguely heard him say my name. He was calling on me because I was supposed to lead the meditation by reading from Mirabai’s poems.

‘Oh my God,’ I said as I returned to consciousness, ‘I was so deep’. I was aware all eyes were on me but was unselfconscious because I was still in meditation. If the person sitting behind me hadn’t poked me I would not have come out of it. Forty-five minutes had passed and I had missed Guruji’s whole talk.

9606920446_aa8a06069e_m
Meditation is a gift from God.

It is difficult to describe the state I had been in. Yes, it was nirvikalpa samadhi, but deeper than I had ever felt. Yes, it was like deep sleep, but somehow deeper and darker and more peaceful. I didn’t know that was even possible. Yes, it was like a death experience, but comforting and warm, safe and indescribably delicious. It was the deepest state of samadhi I had ever experienced. It was total absorption in the depth of my being.

God had embraced me, held me, rocked me, loved me, healed me, and He then threw me back to the world with a deeper connection to myself. I knew that it was nirvikalpa samadhi but it was extraordinary samadhi.

I was wondering where my consciousness had gone. I found a Wikipedia article on nirvikalpa samadhi as described in Raja Yoga:

Nirvikalpa samadhi, on the other hand, absorption without self-consciousness, is a mergence of the mental activity in the Self, to such a degree, or in such a way, that the distinction of knower, act of knowing, and object known becomes dissolved — as waves vanish in water, and as foam vanishes into the sea.

This probably comes closest to what I experienced. Then another definition by Swami Shivananda:

All the seeds or impressions are burnt by the fire of knowledge. All thought forms which bring on rebirth are totally freed up.

All mental modifications that arise from the mind-lake come under restraint. The five afflictions: ignorance, egoism, love, hatred and clinging to life are destroyed and the bonds of Karma are annihilated.

It gives deliverance from the wheel of births and deaths.

I was free from all thoughts and afflictions but I am not sure about ‘deliverance from rebirth’. Nor is that an issue for me; I am not averse to rebirth. An astrologer told me some years ago that my chart indicated that I had made a vow to come back.

I would not know how to achieve that deep state again. It was not by any effort I made in the moment that caused it. It was God’s grace. As the experience fades the memory lingers in my mind as a possibility, a potential that is within me. A part of me is still connected to that space, like an anchor that holds a ship steady in the rocky ocean. I am left in awe of that small miracle that brought me the magic of such deep meditation and peace.

God Madness Is A Good Madness

A share from a devotee’s letter on his first visit to Ganeshpuri and Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram.

Ganeshpuri.

I lost my mind and found God. There was that day I spent reflecting that unhappiness was a memory and that happiness was the natural state of being.

2837_78036497163_7987961_n
Banyan tree that Bhagawan Nityananda used to sit under.

The tree out the front is a portal like Ganeshpuri is a portal. But unlike Ganeshpuri where the Shakti is like a constant earthquake. And the spirit world is immediate.

What Bhagavan Nityananda gave me I can’t describe except in a child’s terms. It is like he gave me a Willy Wonka lolly, like the endless tasting chewing gum of Shakti. It is like he put a lingam in my head and said ‘off you go.’ It is nuts but I have the rest of the trip to bring this into a meaningful context and apply it in the real world. 

From the Goddesses of the temple with eyes that emitted blue light, to seeing a blue light like a mist coming from me and in my mala beads. And some being telling me I have not left Siddha Loka yet. Then saying a week later ‘you have left Siddha Loka.’ Well what reference does even a spiritual nut like myself have to measure such experiences?

I knew my mental state had become more normal.

But other than to say Bhagavan gave me all the Shakti I needed then and more for the road. 

I know I have the Shakti at home in my meditation. I feel Bhagavan has given me a great gift and I have reformed a personal relationship with a place and perhaps even a guru from a previous existence.

I can only say that Ganeshpuri felt like the most natural place on earth. There was only what was real and no unreal, no pretending. And I lost my mind. God madness is good madness.

See if you can make sense of that. I’m only just getting my head around it.

I know now why Bhagavan Nityananda did not speak or convey teachings. How can you sustain a normal conversation for longer than a few minutes in that place? It is too easy to slip away.

This week I found that my spiritual name is a name of Lord Krishna, I like it, thanks Guruji.

Steadily I’m coming down to earth and the more unreal it seems that all of this happens. But I’m not worried. I have a deep faith in God.

I am not concerned with the fluctuations of my waking mind.

It’s said that we lose the feeling of Ganeshpuri when we return to Australia.  I say to that, ‘so what–why should I care?’ If it is that natural then it’s the way it is supposed to be.

Funny! I had this idea that I once lived in or close to Ganeshpuri as a Muslim. The place felt as comfortable as a childhood place I left and then returned to later in life. There was a strong sense of familiarity about the place.

Inshallah!

Arunachala_gallery-1
Arunachala, the mountain Ramana Maharshi worshipped.

Arunachala.

Sri Ramana is the gentlest of souls. Truly the love and peace of this place is at first too much. Juxtaposed is the power of the mountain [Arunachala] which exudes Shakti.

But unlike Ganeshpuri where the Shakti is like a constant earthquake. And the spirit world is immediate. Ramana Ashram is the perfect cure for this power and turmoil and madness.

But as time went by the turmoil settles like dirt in a jar of agitated water. And the peace of the place becomes apparent in oneself.

Enough for now. God bless. With love.

I Am A Disciple

I Am A Disciple

One Christmas when I was around fifteen I was watching a movie about the life of Jesus. I was terrified and shocked by the crucifixion and the horror people could perpetrate. But I was also in awe of the disciples. As I watched a scene in which a disciple spoke of his devotion to Christ I was moved to tears. ‘Too bad,’ I thought, ‘that a relationship like that isn’t possible today. I would like to have that experience. I would like to be a disciple.’

Many years later when I met my Guru I was overjoyed to discover that discipleship was still available. I understood that Jesus was a Guru and that Gurus exist now and will exist always.

The love of a disciple for the master is beautiful, vulnerable and poignant. A disciple who has surrendered to the Guru is naked. A disciple offers their ego to the Guru to banish individuality and to lay bare the darkest secrets of his or her psyche. The desires to remain an individual, to do well, to have approval, to be loved and accepted, to be first among many, must die.

Once before God, before the Guru,  I was riding the bus downtown. As I sat there, I was aware of an ache in my heart. I looked around at the passengers wondering if their hearts also ached. As I watched them the veil between me and them faded. I could see suffering etched on their faces, masks of ugly pain. It was as though every hurtful event had left deep emotional scars. The past somehow doomed them to misery.

The vision scared me. I wondered, ‘is there a way to escape the pain of life? Is there a way to be happy? Is that going to happen to me? Is suffering going to scar me? What is the purpose of all this? What does life mean?’

Some kind of discipleship is necessary if we are going to learn anything. As children we disciple ourselves to our parents, to our teachers, and to our friends. I loved horseback riding and became a kind of disciple to my teacher, whom I loved very much. I could not find that same love or feeling in school.

By the time I could read and write I had lost what little enjoyment I found in school. My mind rebelled against using my intellect. Language was the only subject I liked because it came easily. Nothing the teachers said gave me a sense of purpose, love or self-knowledge. I was bored and the teachers seemed as uninspired as I was.

My mind wandered into gloomy feelings of doubt, disappointment and frustration.  If a subject had interested me then I would have applied myself. But none did. Instead my mind dwelt on the psychic discomfort in my inner world. And, there was no subject to address it.

Disciples, on the other hand, mostly learn by osmosis, by watching and observing the Guru, by being in the Guru’s company and by soaking up the spiritual energy, the Shakti.

15431880736_fcabfa23ec_z
Waving the lights in Satsang at the Mount Eliza Ashram.

I love to learn at the feet of the Guru. To sit with fellow devotees in Satsang and hear the teachings on the Self, the Shakti, the Guru, and other spiritual matters is sublime. Satsang is the best company. Satsang never fails to uplift, is never dull, and always inspirational.

Studying and learning with Guruji however, is joyful, especially if the subject is Kashmir Shaivism. There is an inherent aliveness in Shaivite texts. But even Patanjali and Vedanta are pleasurable. Guruji has always taught from esoteric yogic texts with humour and warmth. He had the capacity to make clear the hidden meaning in the aphorisms. He fields questions with sensitivity and wisdom; he invites discussion, objections and skepticism.

When I first started studying these texts with him I was surprised that I could understand even the most mysterious ones. Naturally I have my own quirky way of relating to them. But that is the greatness of learning with the Guru. A wise teacher will encourage a student to take what makes sense, and discard what doesn’t. When learning with the Guru I feel the presence of God and the meaning becomes clear.

In his book Satsang with Baba, Baba said:

The Guru’s feet refer to the Being in whom the Guru stands rooted, and that Being is the Supreme Being, and that Being is the highest truth. The source of worship is the state of the inner centre in which the mind completely merges in meditation. The water of the Guru’s feet flows from the Guru to the disciple. When one attains the state beyond the distinction of you and me, beyond the distinction of mine and thine, outer and inner, Guru and disciple, then one can drink this nectar, the water of Guru’s feet.

Baba goes on to say that when a disciple merges with the Guru principle he or she becomes one with the source of stability, where the Guru’s Consciousness is anchored. That is worship, that is the source of love, that is oneness with the divine.

A disciple of a Hassidic master said:

‘I don’t come to listen to him speak, I come to watch him tie his shoe laces.’

I go to soak up Guru’s grace.

Sitting with the Guru is darshan. In darshan an alchemical synergy flows between the Guru and the disciple. It is a more intimate experience of Satsang. Like Satsang, it ignites the experience of God, the Self, and divine love. Shakti moves between guru and disciple in a Tantric flow of blissful energy. The Guru transmits grace and the disciple receives grace. This is the experience available to us when we sit with a true Guru.

Baba Santa (12).1
Baba on his perch.

Once in Baba’s Ganeshpuri ashram in the early morning I was working in the courtyard. My shift finished and I sat to meditate. Baba was sitting on his perch. His perch was like a shelf, with room only for him, some precious photos, his peacock feathers, some statues and other gifts to give away. He routinely sat here. Managers, devotees and ashramites would come and speak to him.

As soon as I sat the electric current of the Shakti moved between us. No words were necessary. I was one with him; he was my very own Self. People approached, spoke to him and walked away. These movements did not disturb the divinity that connected us. We were one being. The intimacy, love and acceptance was beautiful. I thought only about God and the present moment. I relished the love for about half an hour. Slowly as more people came my mind became distracted and I lost the thread. I still felt the connection but it was less intimate.

Sometimes darshan is divine but sometimes it can bring up the most painful and fearful thoughts and feelings. The Shakti moves to wash away negativity, blocks, all of the obstacles to the divine experience of darshan. It is painful if we let fear or desire get in the way.

Discipleship is not a career choice, it is a calling. To surrender to discipleship is a kind of self-acceptance, an acknowledgment of the yearning to know God. To deny the calling can cause unbearable pain. This yearning may make no sense from a worldly point of view. It only makes sense from an inner point of view.

Baba once said that a worthy disciple is one who becomes absorbed in the Guru. A good disciple merges with the Guru’s highest state of Consciousness, and eventually attains permanent oneness with the Self. This is my goal in life–to know God, to be close to God and to serve God.

I haven’t always been the most compliant disciple, or the best disciple or perhaps the most worthy. But, I am a disciple and, God willing, I shall always remain one.

 

 

 

 

Mipam

Lama Yongden
SLG Books
ISBN 0-943389-33-X

51Y09V1J2NL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_First published in 1938 this inspired book has been called the ‘First Tibetan Novel’. Mipam is a fictional account of a seeker’s search for love, spirituality, compassion and adventure. Our hero is beset by all kinds of temptations and difficulty before he finally finds his place in the world.

Beautifully written, and illustrated with Tibetan wood block prints, Lama Yongden shares the culture and environment of old Tibet. He draws us into his characters’ struggles between the heart and mind, the spiritual and worldly, their seeking and finding.

Puzzled by this unexpected turn of career in his life from hermit to fiction writer, Lama Yongden notes that:

“Never was the writer’s vocation more unforeseen than in my own case. My life, so it seemed, was destined to be passed, serenely and studiously, in a Tibetan monastery, and had I risen to the rank of a Tibetan writer, my works, in all probability, would have been philosophical treatises, or commentaries on one or other of the numerous doctrines which for centuries past have fed the meditations and the controversies of the learned Lamas of my native land.” 

In a prose similar to his notes, Lama Yongden takes us on a tender and enlightening inner journey that is both moving and compelling. Significant portions of the book feel biographical, which adds to its mystery.

The first chapter begins:

“Portents accompanied his birth. Before dawn, a supernatural light was diffused beneath the lofty trees of the forest on the verge of which rose the rude dwelling of his parents. There alighted upon its thatched roof a pair of birds with golden crests, although it was not the season for their migration. After a long spell of drought, which had sorely tried the thirsty vegetations and the creatures that depended upon it for their food, quite suddenly, although the sun was shining, the earth was gladdened by an abundant shower of rain. A large leopard appeared close to the house, calm, dignified and unafraid, contemplating with attentive eyes the window of the room in which the child was entering the world, and the mother of the new-born babe declared that she had heard, all about her, the songs of invisible beings.” 

This book is a rare treat for aspirants.

 

Seeking and Finding

I was not looking to worship another;

I was seeking an end to self-hatred.

I was not seeking a marriage;

I was seeking a higher purpose.

1250_40491382163_7288_n
On the Ganges in Kankhal 2007.

I was not seeking pleasure;

I was yearning for lasting happiness.

I did not want to be wilful;

I was looking for the one who could hold my heart.

I was not afraid of life;

I was seeking refuge.

I did not want to leave the world;

I was searching for my place in it.

I was not seeking a religion;

I was yearning for God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace Symposium September 2012

A few years ago I was invited to speak at an Islamic women’s conference at a mosque in Melbourne. What follows are my thoughts on peace.

Thank you to our hosts for presenting this program today, and thank you for inviting me, and my colleagues to participate.

My Gurus have taught me that to welcome another person with love and respect is the true goal of meditation and spirituality. They also say that in order to do that we must first learn to love and accept ourselves, and then we can share that love with everyone.

The issue of Global Peace has become more urgent since the rise of terrorism in the late 70s and after 9/11. For many middle Eastern, and a few European countries terrorism has been a constant threat. 9/11 woke up the Americas in a dramatic way. Now, suddenly, there were terrorist threats in our homes and our loved ones were dying.

The question arises, ‘is peace possible?’

Classically there are two views on attaining peace. One you could call the ‘external’ point of view. If you change the government and you don’t allow selfish, greedy and rich people to run things from their self-interest then you have a chance for peace.

The other the ‘internal’ says that as long as there is violence in the individual heart, aggression is translated into domestic violence, social violence and global violence.

We cannot have peace in the world when there is a lack of peace in the hearts and minds of individuals. The mystic GI Gurdjieff used to say: ‘external consider always, internal consider never.’

Internal considering is when we imagine how others see us and we react to that imagining. When we internal consider we worry about how we look to others, what others think of us, whether we are more intelligent, more beautiful, richer, or more successful, have more or can do more. We can become obsessed with ourselves. We are so concerned about ourselves that we are blind and deaf to others. There is no friendship, no communication, and no understanding when we are caught in self-concern.

External considering is the opposite. We focus our attention and awareness on the ‘other’ and speak to the listening of the other person. A wise person always hears first and speaks second. They are free of self-concern, self-pity. External considering creates oneness. It is from this place that solutions, negotiation, agreement can be found.

The great sage Sai Baba of Shirdi said about his devotees, ‘I give them what they want until they want what I have to give.’ In other words if they came asking for a blessing to have a baby, he gave it. If they came looking for a dowry for their daughter’s marriage, he gave it. If they came looking for money, he gave it. He did not lecture them on what they should or should not want or, that they should be asking for spiritual enlightenment. But when they asked for that, he gave it.

tumblr_ma5130UznZ1qg2xvoo1_1280I was an activist in the 70s for a short time. I was working for a Youth Hostel funded by the Canadian Federal Government. When the funding ended the residents took to the streets in protest. The riot police showed up ready for battle. It became violent and I began to question the effectiveness of political activism. As I watched the police brutally beat my fellow demonstrators I understood that if I was going to work for peace it would not be in politics. Fortunately I was dragged away by a friend and was not arrested. That day my spiritual search began.

A few years later I was fortunate to meet a Guru whose teachings resonated within me, and whose energy woke me to a spiritual life. I began to do ‘sadhana’, serious work on myself. I learned to meditate.

Meditation has shown me all the good and not so good things about myself. It has taught me that Divinity is within me but it also taught me that I had unconscious fear, anger and sorrow that needed to be addressed. I learned to recognise negative emotion when it arose within me and to not speak or act out of it. As I meditated I began to understand myself and accept myself. As I accepted myself and learned to love myself my anger, fear and sadness lessened.

To commit to non-violence within one’s own heart is an act of great compassion. It is not easy.

My teacher Swami Shankarananda says: ‘Tell the truth don’t get angry’ meaning that we need to find the razor’s edge of truth and kindness in our communication. We can say what we have to say if we have compassion.

He also says: there is no good situation that a bad attitude cannot ruin, and there is no bad situation that a good attitude cannot improve. It is important to examine whether our attitude or understanding is contributing to peace or inflaming conflict.

One of the major blocks to inner peace and good communication within an individual is blame. When things go wrong the mind automatically asks, ‘Who is responsible? Who’s at fault? Who can I blame?’

Blame and finding fault can destroy love, can destroy relationships, destroy family unity and creates enmity where there was friendship.

In the Hindu Trinity of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, love is the sustaining power. When we give our love and devotion openly and freely to our nearest and dearest, to our work, to our friends, to our lives, we have peace in our lives. If we withdraw our love from the life we have built then we create instability, confusion, separation and uncertainty.

The poet saint Rabia wrote:

I have two ways of loving You: one is selfish and the other is worthy of You. In my selfish love, I remember You and You alone. 
In that other love, You lift the veil
 and I feast my eyes on Your Living Face.

2017-03-05-13-02-37
The Islamic tiles in our Interfaith Garden.

As Rabia says, the minute we give our attention and our devotion to that which really matters we see and feel divine love. The power of our heart to love is perhaps the greatest power we have. Rabia inspires us to overcome the blocks to our love, our connection to the Self and to the Divine. Is your heart available? Is your heart open? Is your heart generous?

Women particularly feel the burden of violence. We do want those we love, our children, our husbands, our fathers or mothers going off to war to die at the hands of terrorists. We also want to protect them from the temptations of a worldly life that separates them from the family unit. And so the task of educating children to think and feel responsibly falls to mothers.

A few years ago I was on pilgrimage in India to visit the samadhi shrine of Bhagawan Nityananda, the spiritual source of the divine energy of my lineage. One afternoon while meditating I silently asked him if he had a teaching for me. As I listened for an answer I heard a voice, ‘Always return to love, especially when you do not want to.’

The famous guitarist Jimi Hendrix said: When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

Baba’s Vows

02r

Baba gave these aphorisms at an unexpected Satsang in South Fallsburg just before he left for India in 1981. At the end of his talk he asked us to repeat them aloud.

As destiny would have it they now seem like his last instructions on how to remember and stay in touch with the Shakti and the Guru.

 

 

siddham sharanam gacchaami

I take refuge in a Siddha.

sangham sharanam gacchaami

I take refuge in the community of Siddhas.

svaatmanam sharanam gacchaami

I take refuge in my own Self. I surrender myself to my own Self.

svaatmachintanam na jahaami

I will not give up the contemplation of my Self.

siddhamcharanam na tyajaami

I will not abandon the discipline of the Siddhas.

svamantram na vismaraami

I will not forget my own mantra.

bhaavam satatam bhajaami

I will always maintain the awareness of the unity
of Brahman and the Self.

sarvam shivamayam pashyaami

I will see everything as Shiva. I will never think that anybody or anything is different from Shiva.

In every situation, we either burn through karma or we transcend it.