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23 Feb

Strengthen the Higher Self

An excerpt from Feed Your Soul by Carly Pollack

There are countless diets, cleanses, and 30-day challenges all geared to help people lose weight, heal their digestion, and feel more energy. Yet, these temporary protocols fall short when it comes to true transformation. With all of the nutrition guidance available, why do millions of people weigh more than they want and feel anxious and depressed about it?

 

Nutrition expert Carly Pollack lived this vicious cycle until trial and error, and over a decade of academic study and self-healing, led her to the incredible insights she’s shared with thousands. In Feed Your Soul: Nutritional Wisdom to Lose Weight Permanently and Live Fulfilled, she presents her unique understanding of body science, brain wiring, and spiritual principles to facilitate real, long-term change. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.

 

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Before you can regain control of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotional state, you must first take a closer look at your internal guidance system. Two different voices are guiding you, and although they both sound like you, one is a much pushier, more obnoxious version and therefore steals most of your attention. This loud voice comes from your monkey mind, which I simply call the “mind” and many spiritual teachers call the “ego.”

 

The mind developed as a way to protect us; it was a means of survival. It helped us avoid danger and kept us alive by continually warning us of what could go wrong. As we have evolved as a species, the mind, sadly, has not. Think of it as an outdated computer that drives you crazy more than it helps you get things done. Now, I’m not saying the mind doesn’t step up in life-or-death situations. I’m talking about the other 99.999 percent of the time here.

 

The mind creates chaos through fear, judgment, comparison, and negativity. Its favorite diatribe is the one that convinces us of scarcity. We aren’t pretty, skinny, or rich enough. There isn’t enough time in the day, there aren’t enough good people in the world, and we don’t have enough willpower to make things happen. Whatever the heck it is, there just isn’t enough of it!

 

The mind’s second favorite story is that something is happening or has happened to us that “shouldn’t be” happening (or “shouldn’t have” happened). It convinces us that we aren’t supposed to have problems — and when we do, the mind creates massive suffering. The mind is excellent at dress-rehearsing a worst-case scenario. It finds a way to judge and blame as much as possible. If you aren’t judging someone else, then you are judging yourself. This constant uninvited commentary is the background of your every waking moment. From the minute you open your eyes to the moment your head hits the pillow, your mind does not shut up. Yeah, mind, I’m calling you out big-time, and I’m telling you to take a backseat; and PS, nobody likes you.

 

Luckily, there is a second guiding voice, and this one comes from your heart and soul, otherwise referred to as your intuition, true self, or inner wisdom. I like to call this voice my “higher self” because it triggers me to think about what I would say to myself if I were holding myself in the highest regard. Find a name for this place of wisdom that feels good to you, and begin to call on this voice to take the upper hand. Your higher self comes through in a whisper, a gentle guidance. It is always kind, compassionate, and loving. This voice lives only in the present moment, and it is available to us anytime we can quiet the mind enough to hear it. From this place, we are never arguing with “what is” because we are living in the moment, making new decisions as they arise.

 

Close your eyes right now (well, after you read these instructions) and place your right hand on your belly and your left hand over your heart. Take three slow, deep breaths. Now ask yourself gently, “What does my higher self have to say about this issue?” If you don’t hear anything right away, simply say, “I’m willing to slow down my mind and make room for my highest wisdom to come through.”

 

Because your mind has taken center stage for most of your life, it may take some practice to get your higher self to begin speaking up. Next time you are in a place of mental anguish, prompt yourself with the following questions:

 

  • What would I tell my best friend in this situation? What would be my sage advice?
  • Could this mean something different? What if the opposite of what I’m thinking is true?
  • What would love do? What would love say?
  • What do I think my future self (twenty years from now) would tell me about this problem or situation?

 

Listening to your higher self is the first step to taking back control from the mind. Witnessing your thoughts without giving in to them, while stepping back and deciding what you choose to think, is one of the most powerful tools you have for living a joyful life. If you control your mind, you control your plate. If you control your plate, you take back control of your body and your health.

 

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Carly Pollack is the author of Feed Your Soul and is the founder of Nutritional Wisdom, a thriving private practice based in Austin, Texas. A Certified Clinical Nutritionist with a master’s degree in holistic nutrition, Carly has been awarded Best Nutritionist in Austin five years running and has helped over 10,000 people achieve their health and happiness goals. Visit her online at www.carlypollack.com

 

Excerpted from the book Feed Your Soul. Copyright ©2019 by Carly Pollack. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

 

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18 Dec

A Grateful Generous Heart

An excerpt from The Jewel of Abundance by Ellen Grace O’Brian

Although millions of Westerners practice yoga simply for its health benefits, the philosophy and wisdom behind the multifaceted discipline have far more to offer. In The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga, award-winning author and Kriya Yoga teacher Ellen Grace O’Brian reveals an overlooked aspect of yoga: its powerful teachings on prosperity. She draws upon the ancient Vedic tradition of yoga philosophy and practice and shows how spirituality and earthly success can complement each other, leading to realization of the higher Self. O’Brian presents a clear explanation of both the philosophy of yoga and the nuts and bolts of practice, such as setting up a daily meditation routine, incorporating mantras, discerning how to cooperate with universal principles for complete well-being, and cultivating mindfulness in action. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

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A grateful heart is a magnet that draws to us what is harmonious and good. This idea is reflected in a playful metaphysical adage: not, “We see things as they are,” but, “We see things as we are.” In other words, our state of mind and consciousness color our perception and determine how we see and experience things. Taken a step further, this dynamic explains how we also then draw to us what corresponds with our consciousness. When our hearts are grateful, when we approach others and life itself with gratitude for all that is given, we generally reap more of the same. The opposite is true as well. When we’re down and depressed and can’t see much good anywhere — that experience will tend to compound itself.

Life in the manifest realm is mixed — light and dark, hot and cold, day and night, up and down, fast and slow, and so on it goes. But beyond all duality and changing phenomena is the unchanging Absolute Reality that we can know as good, as whole and completely supportive of its divine purpose. Isn’t it better for us to call forth the good in every situation? To call it forth in every moment? We can do this through training our mind to extract what is good, what is praiseworthy or useful, and gratitude is one way to do that. Simply look deeply into any relationship, or any situation, and ask what there is to be grateful for. There is always something. When we find it, and call it forth, our heart opens and we become more receptive to the presence of divine grace at hand.

Which comes first, gratitude or grace? They seem to arise together. Gratitude is our natural response to the gift of grace, and gratitude itself opens us to the awareness of ever-present divine support. When we work hard toward something and accomplish it, or desire something and attain it, we generally feel good, and along with that we feel some relief — a kind of “job well done!” out-breath. A very different feeling arises when we become aware of the powerful presence of divine grace that has allowed us to experience more than we ever could have without divine support. On those occasions, we feel something else. We feel awe. We are amazed, inspired, and yes, grateful.

The distinction between relief and awe is a good indicator. It gives us a glimpse into how expansive our life is, how awesome it is or can be.

 

Gratitude Practice

Gratitude stretches us to be bigger, to expand our consciousness, to open our hearts and our minds more fully. When we begin the practice of cultivating gratitude, we often notice that it’s generally easier to feel grateful for what we like, for what we want or find pleasant. It’s more difficult to experience gratitude when what comes our way is unwanted.

I once worked with a woman who had an amazing gratitude practice. It was so pervasive that it was contagious. I found myself feeling grateful for her because her grateful attitude made our encounters so pleasant. Her responses frequently surprised me and helped me to expand my perspective. This was her practice: Whatever I offered her, she responded with a genuine “Thank you!” Her response was always the same. If I offered her my praise and gratitude for something she did well, she would thank me. If I let her know that she had made a mistake or that something was not done well or right, her response was still “Thank you!” This was the key that made this practice so effective. She was truly grateful, her words accompanied by a genuine smile. She never gave one of those “thank you” nods accompanied by a smirk. How did she do that? I never asked her, but my guess is that she was a natural at cultivating spiritual awakening through selfless service. She did what she did as an offering, as her way of worship. She was grateful when it went well, and she was grateful when it did not because that gave her an opportunity to learn.

Being able to say “thank you” to what comes, both pleasant and unpleasant, is unconditional gratitude. “Thank you” can be said aloud when appropriate, or silently as a prayer, but let’s say it! We can practice offering gratitude for something or someone that has pleased us and for something or someone that has not. The first is easy. The second, not so easy. It becomes easier as we hold that whatever comes into our life and experience always brings an opportunity for us. What will we do with that opportunity? When we meet it with gratitude, our potential to prosper and grow in love is multiplied.

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Ellen Grace O’Brian is the author of The Jewel of Abundance and director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, CA. Ellen is a yogacharya (an esteemed yoga teacher), a radio host, and an award-winning poet who weaves poetry into her teachings on spiritual matters, pointing to the mystical experience beyond words and thought. Ordained by a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, she has been teaching Kriya Yoga philosophy and practice nationally and internationally for over three decades. Visit her online at www.ellengraceobrian.com.

 

Excerpted from the book The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga. Copyright ©2018 by Ellen Grace O’Brian. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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06 Dec

Another Version of Christmas

As most people know, December is a chaotic month blending shopping, socializing, Santa, and sundry religious observances. Amidst predominantly Christian rituals are sprinkled Chanukah and a variety of solstice celebrations. Not to ignore the latter, this article provides a broader perspective of the Christian Holyday and invites those who resonate with it to engage the season more mindfully, and, reverently.

Christmas signifies hopeful celestial foreshadowing yet is eclipsed by the celebration of Jesus’ redemptive mission at Easter. This is understandable, perhaps, if one views the Savior motif as unique to Christianity. I assert that it isn’t. The birth of a Christ – in this case, Jesus – is never inconsequential but must be viewed in context of a larger ongoing commitment of Spirit to humanity. As such, it entails a deeper significance and merits greater veneration than is ordinarily given.

What is the basis for my position? Let’s begin by exploring terms more fully.

The word ‘Christ’ may have different interpretations according to frames of reference. In mainstream Christian belief it hails from Christos, a Greek word meaning “anointed” and is equivalent to Mashiach or Messiah in Hebrew. To be a Christ, or Messiah, is to be “the anointed of God;” one specifically chosen by God for a special task – often as king. Subsequently, Jesus is oft-viewed as a ruler whose kingdom is divine. Interpretations of his mission vary according to diverse doctrinal perspectives but a common theme of atonement is shared with the redemptive act, self-sacrifice – in this case manifest as crucifixion, which served to uplift, reconcile, or help reconnect the children of God with their creator.

Less visible but no less ancient is a body of esoteric belief that views Jesus as a spiritual master who attained oneness with God. In this instance, the term ‘only begotten son’ or ‘Son of God’ doesn’t refer to a physical body but, instead, to the consciousness of God that permeates all creation. In Vedic scripture the universal Spirit intelligence is known as Kutastha Chaitanya and is synonymous with “Cosmic Christ,” the “Infinite Christ,” or “Christ Consciousness.” It is this oneness with God that was manifest by Jesus, Krishna, and other divine incarnations.

The reference to “other divine incarnations” implies that Jesus wasn’t the only ‘Son of God’ nor the only Savior to uplift humanity. Consider these parallel scriptures:

  1. New Testament

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3: 17

  1. Bhagavad Gita

“Although I am unborn, the Lord of all living entities, and have an imperishable nature, yet I appear in this world by virtue of my divine power.

Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, O Arjuna, at that time I manifest myself on earth.

To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age.” BG 4:6-8

Depicted here is the Son of God as Avatar. Throughout history, spiritual illumination has come to humanity when God manifested in human form. The Sanskrit term, Avatar, literally means “descent of God” or “descent of divinity into flesh.” Religions originated with holy beings, or prophets, like Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Moses, and Muhammad. Each infused new vitality or redemptive clarity into systems that were sliding towards hypocrisy or worse. Swami Shivananda added a personal and devotional element to the drama: “If God does not come down as a human being, how will human beings love him? That is why He comes to human beings as a human being.”

What’s the purpose of all this? The answer is twofold: First, every Avatar has a specific mission and message. In simple terms it may be said that Christ revealed the supremacy of God’s love over human self-limitation; Buddha rejected hierarchical systems and taught people to be lamps unto themselves; Krishna preached spiritual balance and God-centered activity. Each theme was relevant to the age in which it was given. Secondly, Avatars serve as saviors, i.e. bearers of enlightenment, who re-establish virtue and spiritual truth whenever the world has lost its way. No matter where an avatar appears, their impact ultimately uplifts the world in a fashion governed by and in accordance with God-ordained roles.

The significance of this is paramount: God has an ongoing benevolent relationship with humanity. Paramahansa Yogananda taught that when Avatars incarnate, extraordinary amounts of spiritual energy flood the ethers. There is also an annual recurrence of that sacred infusion on their birthdays. To enhance receptivity to the Christ consciousness, Yogananda instituted an all-day meditation tradition at Christmas time.  This practice – and ones like it – deepen awareness of the Sacred Presence and help one derive uplifting benefit. Let this also be a reminder that God repeatedly seeks to awaken the sleeping divinity in humankind and usher its return Home. As stated in Psalm 82:6, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” Realize this, in addition to the natural import of the season – however you commemorate it – and rejoice in the caring love of Spirit eternally demonstrated by the Incarnations who bless us with their illuminating Presence.

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13 Aug

Eat, Pray, Blog: Getting There Without Going Anywhere

“Eat, Pray, Love” has spiritual seekers everywhere following in Elizabeth Gilbert’s footsteps — literally — traveling to Italy, India and Bali on an adventure of a lifetime. And now that Julia Roberts has followed suit on the big screen, it is likely that many more will make the sojourn to these exotic locations in pursuit of something to “marvel” at. There is much to marvel at anytime you travel. Everything is new, and different. It opens your eyes, engages the senses. Travel is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow through new experiences.

And yet, as Confucius stated so plainly: “No matter where you go, there you are.” The spiritual journey is a journey within. We don’t need to climb a mountain in Tibet to achieve the kind of inner peace we so desperately crave. We don’t need to go anywhere, we don’t even need to do anything, to find ourselves in a place of balance and bliss.

So, given that we can’t all jet off to foreign countries on a whim, let’s go on our own spiritual quest, right where we are, starting with “eat.”

Tantra teaches us that we experience the world through our five senses. Taste is definitely one of those senses where we can experience much pleasure — and given the cuisine, one might even say nirvana. When eating, the sense of smell also comes into play; the aroma heightens the anticipation, and enhances the flavors. Sight is involved with food. We’ve learned from the many Food Network shows how important presentation is in a meal. When food looks good, we’re more likely to perceive it as tasting good. Touch is in the texture of the food. How does it feel in your mouth? And even sound is in food — from the sizzle on the grill to the crunch of that perfect bite, to the oohs and aahs that emerge from satisfied diners.

Great pasta dinners aren’t only in Italy. We can cook, and have fun in our very own kitchen creating and experimenting with sauces and seasonings. Or we can find a lovely little neighborhood restaurant, and allow ourselves to be served with careful attention. Eating gives us a chance to indulge all of our five senses, to be present in the moment, to savor the experience and to be aware of the feelings that it evokes from deep within. When we are in present moment awareness there is no regret, fear or guilt. There is only gratitude. And that is a beautiful place to be.

“Pray” takes us into silence, into the stillness where all the wisdom of the universe can be found. Our busy world is filled with commotion. We are inundated with errands and emails and obligations. Our lives are slaves to the clock and the calendar, scheduled out farther that we even care to plan. But when we meditate, there is no time and space. The world seems to stop; our mind begins to quiet. Gone are the commercials and the traffic and the to-do lists. Suddenly we become aware of our breath, which brings us back to ourselves. We listen, and answers come, truth reveals itself, calmness settles in.

We could be in a temple, some historically preserved monument. Or we could be right where we are, perhaps smack dab in the middle of the couch. It doesn’t matter, because it’s all the same, it’s all connected. When we get together and meditate in groups, the experience is amplified. Energy rises, and circulates, and infuses each participant. Take that time away from the busyness, shut off the phone, unplug from technology — get back to nature, get back to yourself and you’ll remember who you are.

“Love” is all about relationships. And life is all about love. Who we love, and what we love. When we are doing what we love and also helping people, then we have found our “dharma” or purpose in life. There is nothing more fulfilling. If there is anything this world needs more of, it is love. We can never get too much of it! Extend yourself beyond your comfort zone, beyond the parameters that have been self-imposed, and reach out to someone with love. It’s easy to love a baby, or a kitten. So innocent and sweet, so receptive and accepting. The challenge is for us to love something or someone that might appear to us to be unlovable. The rejected, the downtrodden, the messy, the annoying. Yet when we do open our hearts, and we allow that love to pour forth, we feel an influx of love coming right back to us.

Love the moment, every moment. Love where you are, wherever that is. Marvel at your surroundings, the miracles that extend in and around the immediate environment. Everything that is here is here for you. The ground yearns for your footsteps. You love, and you are loved completely.

When you implement these simple techniques, what starts as a holiday becomes a habit. That habit then becomes a lifestyle. It’s a matter of mindfulness. We have the opportunity to practice every day, every moment, anywhere we are.

My new e-course with Daily Om is 9 Weeks to Joyful Living. You pick the price! Do the exercises and you’ll find you are living a life filled with elegance, joy, and simplicity. Once you do that, you can’t go back.

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20 Mar

What is a Chakra?

An excerpt from Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy by Michelle S. Fondin

Chakras are energy centers within the body. The word chakra means “wheel” or “disk.” Think of the chakras as spinning vortices of energy. Everything is composed of energy and information. Every object emanates from movement and vibration. The seven main chakras align along the spine, starting at the base of the spine and moving up to the crown of the head.

 

In the ancient Indian texts called the Vedas, we learn that the physical body is made up of the five great elements called the mahabhutas. Those five elements are space (akasha), air (vayu), water (jala), fire (tejas), and earth (prithivi). The elements are the building blocks of nature and therefore build our bodies as well.

 

Ancient texts go on to explain that we also have a subtle body. This subtle body is nonphysical and energetic in nature. The subtle body is governed by prana, or vital life force. Prana circulates throughout the body and mind. It is responsible for the flow of energy and information. In the subtle body, prana travels through channels called nadis. Nadis are circulatory channels within the body such as veins, arteries, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the excretory system, and the reproductive system. Think of nadis as the information highway to your mind, body, soul, and spirit, just as the internet is the information highway that brings information to your browser.

 

If you have a difficult time grasping the concept of the subtle body, reflect on your mind and thoughts. Thoughts are nonphysical entities. Yet ask anyone who thinks (and that would include all of us), and they will tell you that thoughts are quite real. Scientists have been able to pinpoint areas in the brain where thoughts originate or take place, but slice open a human head and you won’t find one thought in there. According to Vedic texts, the mind, intellect, and ego also reside within the subtle body.

 

Now let’s go back to the example of the internet. When you want information, you want it fast, right? You’re doing research for a work project or a school report, or getting the scoop on a guy you want to date, and you don’t want to wait forever. In the infancy of the internet, with dial-up modems, you could log on, go get a cup of coffee, use the restroom, do your nails, and then the AOL voice of “You’ve got mail” would finally vibrate in your ever-so-waiting ears. But today, in the world of fiber-optic cables and Wi-Fi, information comes pretty much as quickly as you can type in your question. And when it doesn’t come that fast you get frustrated.

 

For your body to work at an optimal level, the channels through which information travels must be open for that information to get quickly to its destination. If they’re blocked, or if there is an abnormality where the information pools in a given area, you won’t receive the information you need when you need it. So the nadis are the highways or the fiber-optic cables, and prana is the package of information that needs to be carried.

 

In total, we have around 88,000 chakras in the body, and the seven main chakras are the information hubs. They gather information on certain aspects of your body, mind, spirit, health, and life. When adequate energy flows to these chakras, that energy fills the area with the information each chakra needs to perform its unique specialty.

 

Like a highway, your body is constantly moving, changing, growing, and being modified by outside influences. While you may intend to keep the energy and information flowing throughout your body at all times, your lifestyle choices, life experiences, and outside influences may hinder the flow. Fortunately, certain practices can help keep these channels open and information flowing freely, and in this book you will learn what you need to do to achieve this goal quickly and easily.

The Philosophy of the Chakras

The concept of the chakras comes from ancient Indian texts of the Tantric tradition. Tantra is a complicated and important nonreligious philosophy. The Tantric texts are separate from the famously known Indian texts, the Vedas, from whence Ayurveda came.

 

In the West we tend to associate the word Tantra with sex. While sex is mentioned in the Tantric texts, it’s meant to be reserved as a practice for only the most advanced yoga practitioners. The main goal of Tantra is to explore the deep mysteries of life and to become liberated within the confines of this world.

 

The word Tantra means “to weave.” Tantra is the process of weaving together the body, which has great wisdom, and the mind, which has immense power. By heeding the wisdom of the body and by harnessing the power of the mind you can find the enormous beauty in life on this planet and achieve self-mastery.

 

The symbolism and stories of the chakras, including their deities and mysticism, are beautiful, colorful, complex, and certainly worth exploring. For the sake of brevity, I will teach you the basics of the chakra system. The foreign words I present come from Sanskrit. For the most part, Sanskrit is no longer spoken but is rich in the roots of language, as many modern English words stem from Sanskrit root words.

 

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Michelle S. Fondin, author of Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy and The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda is owner of the Ayurvedic Path Yoga and Wellness Studio, where she practices as an Ayurvedic lifestyle counselor and as a yoga and meditation teacher. She holds a Vedic Master certificate from the Chopra Center and has worked with Dr. Deepak Chopra teaching yoga and meditation. Find out more about her work at www.michellefondinauthor.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy: Exploring Your 7 Energy Centers with Mindfulness, Yoga, and Ayurveda. Copyright © 2018 by Michelle S. Fondin. Printed with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com

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24 Dec

Christmas, Christ, and Krishna

Two of the world’s greatest teachers, Jesus Christ of  Nazareth and Krishna of Northern India, come from different times and different places, yet share the same poignant and profound mission: the salvation of humanity. They brought with them messages of love and peace, and provided a human form and living example from which we could learn.

 

JESUS CHRIST

 

Every year we celebrate Christmas as a glorious and sacred day – filled with love. But the very first Christmas, though it brought light to the world, was actually surrounded with darkness. And the Christmas story is filled with symbolism and messages for living a good life.

 

The world at that time was a dark place. Some of the writers of the day described it as filled with gloom, anguish, and contempt. Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, was written four centuries prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. Rome was in power, and the people of Israel were oppressed. Herod, a descendent of Edom, ruled in the Davidic city of Jerusalem, and soldiers walked the streets. The citizens felt like exiles in their own country. The nation of Israel was fractured as four opposing groups fought for leadership. This led to constant friction, and many riots.

 

The Virgin Mary, just 15 or 16 years old, was engaged to a much-older Joseph in an arranged marriage. Joseph was a highly skilled carpenter, but he was also poor, which is probably why he had not married earlier and had no children of his own. When they discovered that Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to “divorce” her quietly. But one night Joseph had a dream in which an angel came to him and said, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit: she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Mary also had a vision, the angel Gabriel came to her and said she was “highly favored,” and that “the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

 

Adding more stress into the mix, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census, the first of its kind, be taken so that the Roman government could be sure that everyone paid their taxes. In Palestine, families were required to register in their tribal town, rather than where they lived. Joseph’s family was from the lineage of David, which meant that he and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a journey of about 100 miles. It was an arduous task on foot, and it took them three days to reach their destination. By the time they got to Bethlehem, Mary was ready to give birth. Since it was a mandatory census, many travelers were in town. There were no hotels back then, people generally stayed with family or friends in one of their guest rooms. When the bible says there was “no room at the inn” it likely means that there was no guest room available for the couple.

 

The homes in Bethlehem were mostly built to have two levels. The upper level was where the family slept, and the lower level was like a stable where the animals slept, and the family lived during the day. The warmth of the animals kept the upper level heated at night. Joseph and Mary, having no money to pay for a room, and no other place to stay, were probably offered this area of someone’s home. It was there, amongst the animals and the hay, that Mary gave birth. The stable is representative of the earth plane, and here they were very connected with Mother Earth. There were no walls, no people – it was quiet, still and pure. This represents how we are connected with the Divine through silence, and through nature.

 

Since there was no crib, the baby was placed in a manger, a food trough for animals. The manger represents humbleness and simplicity, that we don’t need anything fancy. Baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, limiting mobility, which is used to soothe a baby. This represents the confinement and limitations that are imposed on us by a physical body.

 

A bright star appeared in the sky when Jesus was born. Wise men from the east, also called Magi (coming from the Greek word “magos,” or magic), educated in the sciences of astronomy and astrology, could follow the patterns of the stars. They knew this star was new and special, representing a great change in the Universe. They were guided to follow the star that would lead them to the king of kings. They first arrived in Jerusalem, and asked around: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” King Herod caught wind of this and felt that his power was threatened. He called for his top advisors, who explained that it was foreseen that this child born in Bethlehem would be a leader of the people, a king. King Herod then secretly contacted the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem saying: “As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

 

The three wise men followed the star and found Mary and baby Jesus in the stable. The baby Jesus glowed from the light within him. They could feel the divine energy. They bowed down to Jesus and offered precious gifts. Gold, associated with Kings, was given in recognition of Jesus as the King of Kings. Gold is also symbolic of love, as in gold wedding bands, and showed an offering of spiritual love for him. Frankincense, used in worship rituals in churches, showed that others would worship Jesus and learn from his teachings. Myrrh, a resin used in sacred oils, perfumes and medicines, was given to symbolize a willingness to actively serve Jesus Christ by living according to the truth that he teaches.

 

The three magi were warned through a dream that King Herod had a horrible plan, so they decided to not tell Herod of the baby’s location. Instead they left for their homes in another direction so that Herod would be thrown off. When Herod learned that the men did not comply with his scheme, he ordered the execution of all the male children in and around Bethlehem.

 

It was tradition in those times to name a son after his father. Naming the baby Jesus, rather than Joseph, broke with tradition, and symbolized a new beginning. Both Joseph and Mary knew that it was their role to protect this child, he needed time to grow up so he could fulfill his destiny. They left for Egypt so that Jesus could grow up out of the public eye and away from the wrath of King Herod. When Herod died in 4 AD the family returned to Nazareth.

 

 

KRISHNA

 

Flash back to more than 3000 years earlier, before the birth of Jesus Christ. This is when Lord Krishna was born in northern India. Krishna is known as the eighth avatar, or incarnation, of Lord Vishnu.

 

The situation at that time in India was dire. Mother Earth was unable to bear the sins and cruelty of the many evil rulers and kings. She prayed to the creator of the Universe, Brahma, to help unburden her of this problem. Lord Brahma then prayed to the supreme Lord Vishnu to reincarnate and free Mother Earth from the evil rulers.

 

One of the evil kings was Kansa, ruler of Mathura. His sister, Devaki, was married to Vasudeva. On Devaki and Vasudeva’s wedding day a voice from above stated that Devaki’s eighth son would bring an end to Kansa’s rule and Kansa would be killed. Kansa, shaken by this, held the couple hostage, and then killed all seven of the children they gave birth to. Devaki and Vasudeva were afraid to have another child and made no effort to conceive.

 

One night, Lord Vishnu came to them, and said that he would appear as their son, and rescue them from Kansa. Devaki miraculously became pregnant. The day the divine baby Krishna was born, Vasudeva was magically freed from his prison. As he ran away with the infant, Lord Vishnu removed all the obstacles from Vasudeva’s path.

 

Vasudeva came to a home in Gokul, where he exchanged baby Lord Krishna with the newborn girl of another couple. He then returned to prison with the baby girl. When Kansa found out about this child, he tried to kill her, but she ascended to the heavens and transformed into the goddess Yogamaya. Yogamaya said: “O foolish Kansa! What will you get by killing me? Your nemesis is already born.”

 

Krishna was raised by his foster parents as a cowherd in Gokul and he learned to play the flute. When he returned to Mathura, he killed Kansa and restored his father Vasudeva to power.

 

THE PARALLELS

 

As you can see, there are many parallels in these two stories.

 

-Both Krishna and Jesus were born in difficult times. They came to take us from darkness to light, to awaken us.

-Both were born in non-traditional environments, Krishna in a jail cell, Jesus in a stable.

-Both were threatened by evil kings.

-Both fled their homes to be safe while growing up.

-Both provided a form for us to love and worship. It is difficult to imagine or worship the Absolute, but we recognize and have experience with form. We can worship the Divine in man.

-Both sets of parents had dreams or visions.

 

Their names are similar. Christ comes from the Greek word “Christos” meaning “the anointed one.” Krishna in Greek is the same as Christos. In Bengali Krishna is “Kristo” which is the same as the Spanish word for Christ, “Cristo.” Swami Prabhupada says: “Whether you call God Christ, Krsta or Krishna, ultimately you are addressing the same Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

 

In addition, as they grew up, they both attracted students. Krishna in the fields with the gopis and cows, and Jesus in the Temples. When Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph thought he was lost until they eventually they found him in a Temple, amidst elders and pundits discussing scripture. Jesus looked unfazed – he asked his parents: “Why look for me? Don’t you know I must be about my father’s business?”

 

They both had an awareness about their divinity, and their followers recognized them as divine.

Krishna: “Think of Me.”

Jesus: “Follow Me.”

 

Krishna: “I am the light of the world – the light of all lights.”

Jesus: “I am the light over all things. I am the light of consciousness through which all things shine. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others.”

 

They provided a refuge:

Krishna: “I am the way, come to Me.”

Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well…”

 

Both were known as both sons of God and God incarnate:

Krishna: “I am birthless, I am deathless, Beyond this time and space. When goodness grows weak on earth, Then I am needed in this place. I come to deliver the holy, to re-establish what is right. Those who understand my role here Are guided to the light.”

Jesus: “If God were your Father, ye would love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself but He sent me.”

 

Both advised in their teachings to work for the welfare of the state:

Krishna: “That man attains peace who lives devoid of longing, free from all desires and without the feeling of “I” and “mine.”

Jesus: “Him that overcometh “I” will make a pillar in the temple of my God and he shall go no more out.”

 

Both were called saviors, and were the second person of the Trinity.

Krishna: “Brahma, Vishnu, Siva (Creator, Sustainer, Destroyer.)”

Jesus: “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”

 

Both emphasized the message of love and peace in their teachings.

Krishna: “Be friendly to all living beings. Show compassion to everyone. Be free from delusions of “I” and “mine.” Accept pleasure and pain as if one.”

Jesus: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

 

Krishna’s birthday, Janmashtami, is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm in India.

Jesus’ birthday is celebrated worldwide as Christmas.

——-

My new book is Song Divine: A New Lyrical Rendition of the Bhagavad Gita

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06 Dec

Krishna and the Peacock Feather

Some of you have asked about the significance of the peacock feather on the cover of my new book Song Divine. You know how I love symbolism – so here it goes:

 

When studying the Bhagavad Gita it is easy to become enamored with Krishna, the God incarnate who speaks throughout much of the story. Krishna acts as a guide, a friend, an advisor and a mentor to Arjuna, who stands in as an “everyman,” representative of you and me.

 

Krishna is quickly recognizable. His blueish skin represents the infinitude of the sky. He plays a flute, fashioned out of a piece of bamboo. The reed is empty, yet when Krishna, the god of love, breathes life into it, the flute sings. This represents how the heart can also become an instrument of God, if we allow it. Our suffering and pain are like the holes in the bamboo flute. We can offer our heart to God, and allow beautiful music to be played.

 

Krishna always wears peacock feathers in his crown. There are many different stories for the reasons behind this. One is that the music of the heart can be expressed through the head. In the Gita Krishna makes references to how knowledge and love, or head and heart, are needed together to fully express the divine. The peacock feather throughout the ages has been considered a sign of both beauty and knowledge. Beauty because it is indeed beautiful with its iridescent colors, and knowledge because it is in the form of an eye. Knowledge is acquired through observation, yet knowledge without love is cold and lifeless.

 

The peacock feather is rare in that it contains all of the seven colors. Krishna wears the feather to signify that this range of colors, as the range of colors of people in the world, is also in him. There’s a sweet story about how Krishna was playing his flute, and the peacocks circled around him and began dancing joyfully, carried away by the beautiful music. When Krishna stopped, the King of the peacocks presented feathers at Krishna’s feet in gratitude. Krishna accepted the feathers graciously and put them in his hair, and from then on he always wore a peacock feather on his head.

 

Some say that the peacock feather represents the extravagant beauty of Lord Krishna. Although Krishna has many ornaments of gold and jewels, he chooses to wear peacock feathers, flowers and leaves. Others say that peacock feathers represent purity. They believe that the peacock is the only animal in nature that observes complete chastity in life, with no lust in his heart. When a peacock is happy, he dances with his wings aflutter, and his eyes fill with tears. The Peahen drinks those tears to conceive.

 

In nature, it is very rare for a feather to look the same on both sides, but this is the case with the peacock feather. It is said that the eye of the feather protects a person from the “evil eye” and destroys all negativity, anger, greed, and jealousy. The dark colors represent sorrow and sadness, and the bright colors represent happiness. This symbolizes that life comes with both happiness and sorrow, and that when one follows Krishna we can attain equanimity of mind and accept all life has to offer.

 

The peacock is an important figure in many cultures, and it is the national bird of India, fully protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.                                            .Song Divine cover

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02 Dec

DOGEN: THE LOST GENIUS OF ZEN

Guest post by Brad Warner, author of IT CAME FROM BEYOND ZEN!

 

I first heard of Dogen when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I am 53 now. So, I’ve been acquainted with Dogen for most of my life. Dogen was a Japanese Buddhist monk and writer who lived around 800 years ago, from the year 1200 to 1254. He was barely older than I am now when he died.

 

When I first heard of Dogen, I assumed I was a latecomer. I figured that the people of Japan had read and studied Dogen’s philosophy for the past 800 years. I assumed that Dogen’s ideas were part of Japan’s national philosophical identity.

 

Nope. For about 700 years, Dogen’s writings were barely known even in Japan. A few very scholarly monks and historians read and studied his writings. But most people had no idea what he wrote. Oh, they knew he wrote stuff. It’s just that very few people had read any of it.

 

However, Dogen also started a temple and monks from that temple started other temples. After a while, there were a lot of temples associated with Dogen. These temples became very popular and influential.

 

Dogen also taught a style of meditation called “just sitting” or shikantza in Japanese.

 

The “just” in “just sitting” isn’t like the “just” in “just sitting around.” The Chinese character used to represent the word I’m translating as “just” also means “to hit,” like “to hit a nail right at the center of its head.” So, when Dogen said “just sitting” he meant doing nothing else when sitting meditation except sitting. You weren’t supposed to meditate on anything. You weren’t supposed to try to gain anything through your meditation. You weren’t trying to become calm, or centered, or mindful. You were supposed to completely devote yourself to the simple act of sitting, completely absorb yourself in doing nothing at all but sitting.

 

And a lot of people in Japan took his advice and sat for the sake of sitting alone. It wasn’t exactly a popular activity. But enough people did it that we can say that Dogen’s style of practice became an important aspect of Japanese culture.

 

Still, even though some of them sat, very few people in Japan read what Dogen wrote. And no one outside of Japan had any idea he even existed.

 

In 1633, about 400 years after Dogen died, Japan closed its borders to outsiders. Very few people could come in or out of Japan. The nation deliberately isolated itself from the rest of the world. In 1865, the American Commodore Perry forced Japan to open itself to international trade. This began what is called the Meiji Restoration. The film The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, is about this time. It’s a fairly accurate movie, but Tom Cruise was not actually there.

 

Japan suddenly realized it was very much behind the rest of the world. Those Americans had weapons that were way beyond anything most Japanese people had ever seen. They realized that, in this age of colonization, they were incredibly vulnerable to being taken over by a more advanced foreign power. They knew that they needed to modernize fast.

 

This also led Japanese people to try to find Japanese things that were as good as similar things in Europe and America, so that they could prove that Japan was worthy to stand with the mighty powers of Europe and the Americas.  So, they started to look more closely at their own art and literature, as well as at Japanese philosophy and religion. There was a nationwide push to discover the best that Japan had to offer to the outside world.

 

In 1925 a scholar named Tetsuro Watsuji published a book called Shamon Dogen (the Monk Dogen). In this book, he presented Dogen as one of Japan’s most important philosophers. This led to a widespread rediscovery of Dogen’s work in Japan. For the first time in 700 years earlier, ordinary Japanese people started to read Dogen’s writings. And for the first time ever, they began presenting Dogen to the rest of the world.

 

What they discovered in Dogen’s writings surprised many people. Here are a couple of examples of interesting ideas from Dogen’s writings.

 

 

Dogen did not believe in miracles, but he did not deny them either.

 

Many religions are based on the idea that miracles can sometimes occur. For example, Jesus changed water into wine, walked on water, and was raised from the dead. Christians believe these miracles are evidence that Jesus was divine. Because Jesus was divine, they say, his words must be true.

 

You might have heard that Buddha was originally not considered to be a prophet or a god or any kind of divine being. That’s true. But, as Buddha’s legend grew and his teachings were translated into new languages and introduced to new cultures, many Buddhists came to believe Buddha performed miracles.

 

Dogen believed that all things in the universe are subject to the law of cause and effect. So, even if something that seems like a miracle occurred, Dogen believed it was the result of some cause. He did not believe in supernatural forces that can make things happen without any cause.

 

However, when he talked to his students about this, he did not deny the supposed miracles of the Buddha. Instead, he said these were “small stuff miracles.” The bigger miracle is that there is a universe in which small miracles can occur. The existence of the universe itself is the great miracle. All other miracles are insignificant by comparison.

 

In my new book It Came from Beyond Zen, I try to express what Dogen says about Buddhist miracles by describing Christian miracles the way Dogen talks about Buddhist miracles. I write, “Jesus fed a multitude with two fishes and five loaves of bread, he raised Lazarus from the dead, and was himself raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion. These are indeed great accomplishments. But they are examples of small-stuff miracles, not the big-time miracle. It is only because of the big-time miracle that such small-stuff miracles as the ones Jesus performed exist. Without the big-time miracle, even the most spectacular of small-stuff miracles could not occur. Jesus worked great wonders. But the greater wonder is that there is a world in which Jesus could have been born, that there is a universe in which that world exists, that you and I are alive to hear about his miracles. It is only the big-time miracle of existence itself that allows smaller miracles to occur.”

 

Dogen believed compassion is intuitive.

 

Dogen said that compassionate action is like someone reaching back for a pillow in the night.

 

It’s a very strange expression. Most of us think of compassion as a deliberate. We see a situation. We think about what is the compassionate thing to do about that situation. Then we do that thing.

 

To Dogen, compassion was not like that. Dogen thought that compassion was spontaneous. We don’t need to think about what to do. We follow our intuition and automatically do what is necessary.

 

Dogen also warned us against judging what others do as “not compassionate.”

 

Dogen said, “There’s a difference between nighttime as conceived of by a person during the day and the reality of the darkness on an actual night. You should also look into times that aren’t quite day but aren’t quite night, either.”

 

Day means times when it’s easy to see what the compassionate thing to do is. Like when you see a turtle on its back. The compassionate thing to do is turn it over. Easy.

 

Night in this case would mean times when you have no idea what the best thing to do is. Sometimes there is no clear-cut, easily identifiable way to be compassionate.

 

Then there are times that are neither day nor night. That means times when you might not know which among several options is really the compassionate one.

 

When Dogen says “nighttime as conceived by a person during the day,” I believe he ’s talking about the kinds of things where folks think they can see what somebody else ought to have done in a certain situation.

 

Sometimes we look at history and we think, “If I was alive at that time, I would have been better than those people!” Or we look at people in faraway countries and think, “If I was over there, I would do better things than those people!”

 

It’s easy for those of us in the “daylight” of a world at peace (at least our corner of it) to speculate about what those in the dark night of war ought to have done or what we would have done if we were there. But we weren’t there. So we have no idea what we would have done. In fact, our assumption that we know what we’d do in such a situation is the height of ignorance and arrogance.

 

It’s totally pointless to claim moral superiority in these kinds of speculative matters. It’s better to listen to what people who were actually in those situations have to say about it. Sometimes you can learn a lot by listening, even if you don’t always believe everything you’re hearing.

 

There is a big difference between real night and night as imagined by someone during the day.

 

In the end, we are not other people. We can only try to listen to our own intuition in the real situations that we encounter for ourselves. If we meditate every day, we will be able to listen to our own intuition more clearly. Then we can act with genuine compassion. And, when we do that, compassionate action is spontaneous like when you reach for a pillow in the night.

 

# # #

 

About the author
Brad Warner
is the author of It Came from Beyond Zen! and numerous other titles including Don’t Be a Jerk, Sit Down & Shut Up, and Hardcore Zen. A Soto Zen priest, he is a punk bassist, filmmaker, Japanese-monster-movie marketer, and popular blogger based in Los Angeles. Visit him online at www.hardcorezen.info.

 

Based on the book It Came from Beyond Zen! Copyright ©2017 by Brad Warner.  Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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11 Nov

Know What You are by What You Know

You can never know anything outside of yourself directly. Even when you think you know something outside, you really just know an interpretation of it within yourself. You gather information from outside and it gets interpreted within you and the only thing you ever know about the outside world is that internal interpretation.

For instance, when you are seeing something and you know its there, you are not actually seeing it directly. Light waves reflect off different objects, enter your eyes, get converted into neuro-signals that travel to your brain through the nerves, and get interpreted as images full of colors, brightness, etc. And the only thing you ever see are these interpreted images within you. You never see any of the objects outside of you directly. Because if you were able to see them directly, you would have probably seen a vast of ocean of particles and waves and not colors, etc. These colors don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretation of different wavelengths of light falling on your retina. If your eyes had the capability of detecting a different spectrum of light (like some animals do), you would have seen something quite different. Same thing happens when you are hearing or touching or smelling or tasting something. Information just enters through your various sense organs, get converted into neuro-signals according to the capability of these organs, travel to your brain and get interpreted variously. The sounds and sensations you experience don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretations of different neuro-signals generated by your eardrums, skin, nose, tongue, etc. The only thing you ever know about the outside world is this interpreted information within.

There are two important implications of this:

  1. You can know yourself and the interpreted information within yourself directly. You don’t need a way of gathering information about yourself and interpreting it to know yourself. Because, otherwise, such a process would go ad-infinitum and you would never be able to know anything.
  2. If a mechanism is required to gather information about something in order for you to know it, that something cannot be you. Because if it was you, you would have known it directly.

Let’s apply this understanding:

Since you need a way to gather information about the outside world and interpret it within yourself, you cannot be the outside world. This is easy to agree with. But now consider your own body. Information about your body is gathered through the peripheral nervous system and delivered to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All the pains, aches, itches, temperature and pressure sensations, etc. of the body that you feel are nothing but interpretation of information that reaches the central nervous system. Whatever you know about your body is through this information. If you were the body, you would have known it directly and there would have been no need for a mechanism to gather information in order to know it. Moreover, If you were the body, you would have known each and every little part and function of it directly. But that’s not the case either as you do not know things that are out of reach of the peripheral nervous system like the flowing blood, insides of your bones and many of the organs, etc. (unless of course you cut open the body and actually see them or touch them, which again is information gathered through the peripheral nervous system). This clearly indicates that you cannot be the body.

So are you the central nervous system? If you were the central nervous system i.e. the brain and spinal cord, you would have known yourself as slushy gray matter through which bio-electro-chemical signals keep whizzing from time to time. But that’s not the case. What you experience is a crisp clear world full for sights, sounds and sensations. Some of the experiences are gross and more tangible, and some are subtle and less tangible. The information gathered from the body and the outside world tends to result in a more gross experience and certain activities of the brain like thoughts, emotions, etc. tend to be more subtle. This indicates that you are not the central nervous system but something quite different.

You are actually that crisp clear part-less unbroken entity within which all the information gathered at the central nervous system gets interpreted. The term for it is consciousness. This consciousness and all the interpreted information within it, or the absence of interpretations while you are in deep sleep or in a state of trance, is all that you ever know directly. You do not know anything else directly.

Many people mistake it for the mind. The mind is a collection of thoughts, emotions, memories, desires, tendencies, etc. These are activities of the brain that are interpreted within consciousness as subtle sights, sounds and sensations. You are not anything that is being interpreted, you are that within which all of this is being interpreted and that is consciousness. The only thing you ever know directly is consciousness and within it you experience the various interpretations of information gathered from outside (brain, body and the world).

A very important point to note here is that its not your consciousness, you are the consciousness. Because if consciousness was something that was yours but it wasn’t you, you would have needed another way of gathering information from your consciousness and interpreting it within yourself – just like you have to gather information about your body and your brain. And this chain would have continued endlessly. But thankfully thats not the case and the buck stops at consciousness and that is what you actually are.

So what really is this consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it generated by the brain or is it something independent? How does information gathered by the brain appear within consciousness? If I am consciousness, why does it feel like I am a body-mind complex? Why does the consciousness seem to be attached to the body and mind? Does consciousness continue to exist after the body perishes? What benefit is it to me by knowing that I am consciousness?

If these and more such questions are occurring to you, you are on the right track to knowing what you really are. These questions are very important and there are very clear answers to all of them. My recent articles have dealt with some of them and can provide a good overall understanding. Please feel free to reach out to me (npabuwal at gmail) if you would like to know more. I ll gladly share further insights and references.

But here’s a brain-teaser to leave you with: If consciousness has this innate capability of creating appearances of various gross and subtle things within it and that is all you ever experience, what’s the need of a real external world? Why can’t the whole universe just be an appearance within a universal consciousness?

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/167379908570/know-what-you-are-by-what-you-know)

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09 Nov

The Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita

Song Divine coverI’m very happy to announce that my new book is now available:  Song Divine: A New Lyrical Rendition of the Bhagavad Gita. Check it out at www.SongDivine.com. This book is very close to my heart. I have learned so much from the Bhagavad Gita. It contains everything we really need to know to live a purposeful, spiritual life filled with meaning.

I feel very fortunate that Swami Sarvadevananda, my teacher, and the head minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California (vedanta.org) wrote the foreword to Song Divine.

As a sneak peek of the book – please enjoy the Foreword by Swami Sarvadevananda:

FOREWORD

The Bhagavad Gita is a holy book for all times, places and cultures. It doesn’t belong to one person, nor does it address any one group of people. It is a scripture for all the world and everyone in it, wherever they are in their spiritual quest.

The Bhagavad Gita has inspired many people with its powerful teachings and profound truths. It draws from the wisdom of the Upanishads, and wraps up all the essence of this wisdom as a practical guide to living. The deep spiritual lessons are as applicable in today’s modern world as they were back in the time of Krishna, more than 5,000 years ago.

It’s no wonder that the Bhagavad Gita, originally written in Sanskrit, is the second-most translated book in the world after the Bible. There are countless versions, in many different languages, and with a variety of commentaries on the verses. And now Lissa Coffey, or “Parama” as she is known to us here at the Vedanta Society, has brought us her own very special version of the Gita. This Gita is ideal for the western seeker in that the verses have rhythm, and they rhyme, making them very easy to both understand and memorize. Keeping the words of the Gita in the mind helps us to focus on what really matters in this life, and to remember the vital teachings that Krishna imparts to his friend Arjuna during their intense discussion on the battlefield.

The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata, a great epic filled with stories and philosophy. The Mahabharata contains 97,400 verses, while the Gita comes in at 700 verses. The Gita is said to be the spiritual core of the Mahabharata, expressing the same concepts in a much shorter narrative. Adi Sankaracharya, who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, was the first to recognize the greatness of the Bhagavad Gita, and wrote his wonderful commentary on it, thereby establishing the Gita as one of the fundamental texts of Vedanta.

The one theme that runs through the entire Bhagavad Gita is that the purpose of life is to realize our essential Being. In other words, to know and understand who we are, and why we are here on this earth. It may be called Enlightenment, Nirvana, Self-Realization, Awareness, Oneness – there are many different terms for this experience. But when we achieve it, we recognize that the experience, by any name, is the same for each of us.

I first met Lissa at the Vedanta Society in Santa Barbara. She quickly started attending our weekly Bhagavad Gita classes at the Hollywood Temple. Lissa, through her many books, has been able to bring some very big spiritual concepts to a mainstream audience by explaining them in a way that is easy to understand and also easy to apply to the modern day lifestyle. I’m very pleased that Lissa has embraced the Gita in this way, and I know that many more people will be blessed with Krishna’s valuable teachings because of her loving efforts in creating this book.

~Swami Sarvadevananda, Head Minister, The Vedanta Society of Southern California

 

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