Tripping over Joy

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

that the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I’m afraid you still think

You have a thousand serious moves.

-Hafiz

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A Great East-West Teaching Embraced by Teachers of Multiple Faiths

Genpo Roshi began developing the Big Mind process in 1999, after having taught traditional Zen meditation and koan study for more than twenty years as a senior student, then Dharma successor of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, and as a Zen Master in both Soto and Rinzai lineages. The process is intended to allow anyone —including non-Buddhists—to experience the enlightenment of the Buddha. The process is designed as a combination of Eastern meditation and Western psychological techniques to transmit the essence of Zen teachings in a way that is readily accessible and relevant to Westerners, a realization they can further deepen through meditation. The Big Mindprocess enables participants to get in touch with various aspects of themselves by inviting them to identify as and speak from these aspects or states of mind. He walks them through interactions with different aspects of their mind, including ordinary, finite ones such as the Protector, the Skeptic and Desiring Mind; and less familiar, transcendent ones such as the Non-Seeking Non-Grasping Mind, the Way, and Big Mind and Big Heart.

Zen teachers and masters, including such representatives of the tradition as Bishop Gengo Akiba, Abbot of the headquarters of the Soto Zen school in North America, have embraced Big Mind as a profound blending of the heritage of Zen with western culture which is pointing the way to the future of Zen, not only in the West, but in the world. Among leading representatives of Western spiritual traditions, Father Thomas Keating has written of his “great admiration of the creativity and originality” of Genpo Roshi’s work, predicting that “it will make a significant contribution to the East West dialogue and the needs of the growing populations of those seekers who are attracted to move beyond seeking.” And Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has written, “The masters of Jewish mysticism guided advanced seekers to the levels of Great Mind and Extended Heart. In our day Genpo Roshi, aka Reb Merzel, offers the trans-denominational seeker a contemporary gate to the highest awareness.” In the foreword to Merzel’s book Big Mind, Big Heart, author and integral theorist Ken Wilber wrote about the merits of the Big Mind process: “The Big Mind process founded by Zen Master Dennis Genpo Merzel is arguably the most important and original discovery in the last two centuries of Buddhism. It is an astonishingly original, profound, and effective path for waking up, or seeing one’s True Nature. . . . It will show you that part of your own awareness, which is already enlightened, already one with Spirit, already fully awakened. Once you spot that, an entirely different world opens for you.” Wilber ends the foreword by expressing deep thanks to Dennis Genpo Merzel for discovering this simple and innovative process.

Find more videos on Big Mind Network

Logos Made Flesh: Jesus and Vedanta

Platonic Forms

“The concept of the avatar evolved from the theory of Logos in both Western and Eastern philosophy. In the west, the theory of Logos was first developed by the Greeks to bridge the gulf that separates God from man, the known from the unknown. Plato projected Logos as the supreme Good, under which all lesser ideas, i.e. archetypes of things, relations, qualities and values are subsumed. Later, the Stoics denied the validity of Plato’s supersensual archetypes. They perceived the principle of reason to be immanent and active in the universe. Philo, and Alexandrian Jew and contemporary of Jesus, combined Stoic reason with Plato’s transcendentalism, and added them to Hebraism. He declared that Logos was not only immanent in the universe but was transcendent as well, one with God. The author of the Fourth Gospel then used Philo’s Logos theory as the basis for his interpretation of the life of Christ, but gave it new vision…He stressed that the conception of Logos as word rather than reason, interpreting it as an expression of the divine will, an outpouring of God’s goodness, power, light, and love. To quote St. John:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…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.’

The Logos, the “only begotten of the Father’ was ‘made flesh’ in Jesus Christ.

In the Vedas we find passages almost identical with the opening sequence of the Gospel of John: ‘In the beginning was the Lord of Creatures, second to him was the Word.’ ‘The word was verily Brahman.’ According to the Hindus, Brahman was conditioned by Maya, his creative power, is first manifested as the eternal undifferentiated Word, our of which the concrete sensible world then evolves. To the Hindus, therefore, the Word is incarnated through all beings, each of whom may directly realize God through he divine power of the Word. But like St. John, Hindus believe that in a special sense the Logos made flesh in the avatar-the avatar being the descent of God, whereas the ordinary man ascends toward God.”

Excerpt from ” The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta”  by Swami Prabhavananda, Vedanta Press 1946.

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A Mindful Approach to Depression

“What characterizes despair is just this — that it is ignorant of being despair.” -Kierkegaard

Depression has woven its way in and out of my experience for years. My own struggles and those of family, friends, clients, and my professional studies have led me to make an important distinction when dealing with depression. One can be free from depression without being free from sadness and the beautiful and complex depth of human pain. Sadness can be restorative, lead to creative expression, new ways of thinking and new depths of compassion. Jung knew that by avoiding negative emotions, we repress our shadow self. The shadow will inevitably emerge in patterns of unconscious behavior and compulsion. We can embrace our shadow and the depth of our own pain without spiraling into depression.

Depression is triggered by identification with negative thoughts; the self feels completely immersed and unable to find perspective. The depression feels eternal, the sufferer cannot fathom a state outside of it. When looking into the past or future at happy state, one distrusts it, thinking that the depressed state always lies hidden beneath and is the true state of things. To release this state, we must approach ourselves with absolute kindness. When we respond to our own depression with derision, guilt, or criticism, we only add fuel to the negative cycle of thoughts. The first step is to approach the fact that we are depressed with acceptance and compassion. Paradoxically, only through acceptance of the present are we able to move into a new state of being. Your depressed mind will reject compassion, it will reject your desire to be mindful of it. Be mindful of the rejection. It does not matter what you start to think or feel, let it out, acknowledge it, accept it. If you start to think, “I cannot accept this,” accept your non-acceptance.

As you begin to develop non-judgmental, kind awareness of your depressed state, you will slowly begin to move outside of your identification with it. You will probably be amazed at the subtle judgments that you are constantly making of yourself and of your own condition. The unceasing critic does not want to be recognized,  it wants to distract you from your real emotions. As you become aware of your critic, you might become angry at it for keeping you in the negative spiral. Yet, remember to have kindness even for the critic, it is serving its purpose, only acting out of pain and ignorance. If we start judging the judge, the cycle will just repeat. The more we approach ourselves with compassion, the more we can become liberated from any one state of being. Rather than being trapped in depression, we can experience sadness fully and deeply and appreciate its transformative power and ability to unite us with others in compassion. Sadness is not an evil, without the ability to feel pain we would not be human. Sadness, like any state of being, is temporary and part of life’s eternal ebb and flow.

MEDITATION ON AFFLICTION

Assailed by afflictions, we discover Dharma
And find the way to liberation. Thank you, evil forces!

When sorrows invade the mind, we discover Dharma
And find lasting happiness. Thank you, sorrows!

Through harm caused by spirits we discover Dharma
And find fearlessness. Thank you, ghosts and demons!

Through people’s hate we discover Dharma
And find benefits and happiness. Thank you, those who hate us!

Through cruel adversity, we discover Dharma
And find the unchanging way. Thank you, adversity!

Through being impelled to by others, we discover Dharma
And find the essential meaning. Thank you, all who drive us on!

We dedicate our merit to you all, to repay your kindness.

Gyalwa Longchenpa

-Link to a good Breathing Meditation

South Park Creators Animate Alan Watts

These are some great shorts by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that are set to Alan Watts‘ recordings. Enjoy!

Nothing

Man searches for what’s not there
to practice his craft.
A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier
picks the empty pot. A carpenter
stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don’t think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!

Dear soul, if you were not friends
with the vast nothing inside,
why would you always be casting your net
into it, and waiting so patiently?

This invisible ocean has given you such abundance,
but still you call it “death”,
that which provides you sustenance and work.

God has allowed some magical reversal to occur,
so that you see the scorpion pit
as an object of desire,
and all the beautiful expanse around it,
as dangerous and swarming with snakes.

-Rumi

Wrathful Guardians: Iconography of Tibetan Buddhism

A magical walk in Sikkim

Traveling to Sikkim in India, I came across loads of images of fiery demons in intricate and colorful paintings and mandalas. We spent our days in Sikkim walking many miles on narrow roads in the ethereal Himalayan mist to visit the various monasteries, where this art form was at its spectacular peak.

There are many ‘wrathful deities’, some of which are called ‘dharmapalas’ which is Sanskrit for “defender of the dharma.”  They may be off-putting at first glace, especially to the Western eyeball. Worship of the dharmapalas began in the 8th century when the holy Padmasambhava is believed to have conquered the demons in Tibet and forced them to protect Buddhists and path of Buddhism from that point on. The demons were transformed, and became agents of the divine. They represent the kind of fierceness we should have against obstacles of the spiritual path. We are meant to be warriors, the protectors of our own path, defending against the inner and outer enemies.

A key group of wrathful deities are the eight dharampalas of Vajrayana (the diamond thunderbolt vehicle) Buddhism:

  • Yama, the God of Death;
  • Mahakala, the Great Black One;
  • Yamantaka, the Conqueror of Death;
  • Kubera or Vaisravana, the God of Wealth;
  • Hayagriva, the Horse-necked one;
  • Palden Lhamo, The Goddess;
  • Tshangs Pa or ‘White Brahma’;
  • Begtse, the God of War.

For more pictures and descriptions of myths surrounding each ‘wrathful deity,’ click here.

A great exhibit on the Tibetan Book of the Dead from University of Virginia.

Full text of Tibetan Book of the Dead online

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Tagore-Writer, Philosopher, Musician, Mystic

Maya

That I should make much of myself and turn it on all sides, thus casting colored shadows on thy radiance —such is thy Maya.

Thou settest a barrier in thine own being
and then callest thy severed self in myriad notes.
This thy self-separation has taken body in me.

The poignant song is echoed through all the sky in many-coloued tears
and smiles, alarms and hopes; waves rise up and sink again,
dreams break and form.
In me is thy own defeat of self.

This screen that thou hast raised is painted with innumerable figures
with the brush of the night and the day.
Behind it thy seat is woven in wondrous mysteries of curves,
casting away all barren lines of straightness.

The great pageant of thee and me has overspread the sky.
With the tune of thee and me all the air is vibrant,
and all ages pass with the hiding and seeking of thee and me.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941, Calcutta, India)

  • Click here for a transcript of a conversation between Einstein and Tagore in 1930


More Tagore Poems

Silence as Yoga

I recently read, and would highly recommend, Silence as Yogaby Swami Paramananda. One of the themes that spoke to me the most was  how the practice of silence can lead to much more productive and fruitful action.  Out of silence emerges creative thought, focused energy, calm resolve. Often, when meditating, it feels frightening to let go of the mental noise, as though we cannot be productive without constantly adding to our mental list of tasks that need to be completed. Our energy becomes scattered as we try to hold everything in at once.

When the mind focuses on trying to hold on to worries and the other million things we have to do, we are unconsciously hiding a deeper emotional issue. Underlying stress and anxiety is a fear of letting go, a fear of surrender, ultimately, a fear of death. We are terrified that if we let go, everything will come apart and we will die. Anxiety and stress are coping mechanisms for fear of death.

Then, when we strip away another layer, we find another hidden assumption, and the root of our ego. The feeling that if we let go, everything will fall apart is akin to thinking that we are God. It is an illusion to imagine that through our minds we have real control over ourselves, our lives, and especially the entire world. This does not imply powerlessness or weakness at all. In fact, only once we recognize this can we connect to our true power. Many spiritual paths and religions assert the paradox that one must die to live. As Paramananda says, creativity, focus and energy comes out of silence. It may seem impossible that action and energy comes from silence.  Our ego, the surface level where our fear and anxiety resides, must be moved away so that the deeper levels can emerge and the reality of Tat Tvam Asi (I am That) can be realized.

“If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.” -Chuang Tzu

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The Eye of Wisdom

Shiva-Notice his Third Eye

“O Nobly Born, remember the pure open sky of your own true nature. Return to it. Trust it. It is home.” -Buddha

Where is the orientation of  awareness? Many of us experience the mind as centered in the head; the central focus of our awareness is our thoughts. Using the practice of meditation, the orientation of our awareness can become boundless and vast, like the sky mentioned in the Buddha quote above.

In the Upanishads, the human being is thought to have 10 gates that open to experience. 9 of these gates open us to the external world: eyes, ears, mouth, etc. The 10th gate, however, opens to inner experience and is known as the 3rd eye or the “Eye of Wisdom.”

Many spiritual traditions mention the third eye including Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Kabbalah. Some researchers associate the Third Eye with the Pineal gland, the endocrine gland that produces melatonin and is thought to produce Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which naturally occurs in the brain and be associated with near death experiences, dreaming, and visions. Many South American Shamanic practices use a DMT-based plant brew as a religious sacrament.

Although the Third Eye is centered in the forehead, its object of perception is not centered in the mind. It is rather the seat of our being, the place from which we can return to the Sky-Home that Buddha mentions. When we begin to cultivate this inner awareness, the possibilities are limitless. We  start to encounter vast realms of spiritual depth and beauty, and worlds are opened as our Third Eye opens.

It may seem that we could become lost in the ‘inner world’ and lose touch with the outer. However, the more open, clear and “sky-like’ our awareness becomes, the more centered we become in the moment and in each tiny event that occurs in our body, mind, heart and surrounding world. We experience a profound sense of freedom, where all that is inside of us can move and flow, unrestricted. Everything we feel and think has the full space to be experienced, yet enough space to be released and not become stuck.

Open Sky Meditation

  • Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and your body relaxed.
  • Start by noticing your breath. As you become more relaxed, take deeper breaths. Do not force it, only notice it gently.
  • Notice how your breath is like wind.
  • As you breathe, bring your awareness to your feet. Imagine that your breath is breathing into your feet. Repeat and breathe into each part of your body up to the top of your head. Your awareness will feel expanded to the extremities of your body.
  • Imagine that your awareness is not limited to your body. Gently let it expand in each direction, open, free and clear.
  • If thoughts or emotions come up, let them. Accept each one and imagine that they are clouds floating in the sky of your awareness.
  • If the vastness feels overwhelming and fear arises, watch it mindfully, always finding compassion for yourself.
  • Allow yourself to trust the feeling of spaciousness, knowing that you will not be lost.
  • Gently return your awareness to your breath and then the rest of your body and slowly open your eyes.

With practice, you will begin to feel more at home in this open space. You may find clarity, light, love and a greater acceptance for yourself to fully be.

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