JNANA IS A JEALOUS GOD

2b30a1fb8fc22baec67e64504e96cf11Every serious seeker enters the inner path in a unique way, which is why we are fortunate if we find friends who resonate with our views and feelings. My own trajectory began when I was a troubled teenager looking for a permanent antidote to my angst. I began my quest with an intense study of the basics of classical hatha yoga philosophy; as the years flowed by, still looking for answers, I moved into Japanese Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, to the Path of the Mystics (Santh Math), played around with the fascinating fields of Sufism and allied mystical paths, and finally was guided back to the ancient cradle of Advaita-Vedanta, and specifically to Ramana’s Direct Path of Atma-Vichara. I am so grateful that I did not dump anything that was valuable; no, I extracted the essence of all these fabulous paths and meshed them into my “view,” so that they are now a living truth, a treasure chest of tools I can dip into at will.

This is just to say that I can empathize with those who do not resonate with the expression of my particular views; nor do I count on them for validation, for the work of convincing myself that I am on the right path (for me) has been done well. Nevertheless, I share portions of my journey, perhaps because long ago I took the Boddisattva Vow (to seek enlightenment not just for oneself (how utterly boring!) but for all beings), and so I have a compulsion to offer others the results of my questing, knowing full well that too many are too busy or unwilling to do what I have done and still do. Also, one never knows what will strike a note with another, and it is a magnificently liberating feeling to express the delicate truths revealed as one persists in delving into the cosmic Self. If even one person’s load is lightened as a result of our openness and willingness to give, then that is a great blessing, for me, anyway. Continue reading

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Speaking of Robes, Broken Vows and Imperfection…

efff95cfcaa8fcb1f0bf154027aaad71When I moved to Dharamsala (seat of the Tibetan Government- in-Exile located in the foothills of the Himalayas) on the eve of the new millennium, my life changed overnight. You see, I had just left the world’s craziest city (Manhattan) for a small mountain town in northern India and was almost totally unprepared for what I was to encounter.

As my eyes opened to a new world of seeing, my views began to transform. For instance, I had long harbored a multitude of unchallenged assumptions about those who consciously enter the spiritual path; one such assumption was that all those who wore monastic robes were blessed creatures emanating love and light. After all, I subconsciously reasoned, most had taken the Boddhisattva Vow in one form or the other—which is to become enlightened for the sake of all beings—and which therefore meant they had to be perfect, right? RIGHT?

So I was both flabbergasted SHIVA IN RED AND YELLOWand upset when I saw how some in robes—both Tibetans as well as western renunciates— misbehaved. Apart from the jewels that gleamed in their ranks, many were, I realized, just as flawed as I was—and some worse, because at least I was honest about my vices.

I spoke to a great lama about this. Geshe-la, I said, they’re wearing robes, and yet they act so petty, mean, vicious and jealous; they’re breaking their vows left, right and center. What’s going on here?

Smiling at me as if I were a bewildered child—which I was then and still can be—he said, Mira, those robes are a sign that these people know something is out of balance within themselves—and that they wish to right this inner wrongness. By putting on a robe, they indicate to the world that they have made a brave choice to evolve. The robe is their protection as they do their inner work. If you can see them this way, you will be much more happy and peaceful.

MAN IN MEDITATIONI thanked him deeply, for he had opened my eyes to something that had never struck me before. So the robe was protection while the inner being transformed itself! Like a vulnerable little grub or worm or caterpillar covering itself with spit or a cocoon to protect it from the burning sun and predators as it gradually metamorphoses into a gorgeous moth or butterfly! What a difference this simple teaching made to my view and my attitude! And not just towards others, but to my own self, given to constant criticism of my own relative imperfections.

Since then, I have heard so many say: oh, but how can so-and-so feel or think or act this way? It is terrible! He or she claims to be on a spiritual path! The fact is that just because many of us make the decision to evolve, does not mean that that work is instantly accomplished. According to eastern teachings, to become completely free of desire and fear and to manifest as our true nature—which is existence-consciousness and bliss itself—is the work of thousands of lifetimes, if not eons.

In fact, even genuine but deluded seekers—brainwashed at times by so-called “gurus”—believe they have to suppress natural feelings that arise in response to the cruelty and injustice that rages, and has raged, all around us. They are conditioned to believe that turning inwards means they have to instantly become saccharine sweet creatures who unconditionally love all beings—including the serial rapist/murderer, the cold-blooded assassin, the pedophile and the brutal imperialist.

Based on decades of study and practice, I say NO! Along this fascinating journey to the blazing center of reality, as we absorb the great truths, we must first process our instinctive feelings…and then allow them to be burned in the fire of wisdom—the wisdom that everything is actually perfect, though it looks terrible, and that a higher power is indeed running the show; it is good to know, however, that this higher power (call it what you will) is not subject to the pressure of human time and does its work at a divine pace and in a mysterious manner we humans cannot even begin to grok.

COLORS 3Why is this? Because, in our human form, we manifest both Relative and Absolute. While the Absolute is our true nature, it is our relative nature that needs cleansing and purifying—and on this often tumultuous path there is much each of us needs to process. In doing so, we often stumble and make mistakes—but it is very much a necessary journey.

Today, on the highest levels of consciousness, I do see that the whole is perfect—for I accept that the laws that run the cosmos are unerring: today’s perpetrator is perhaps yesterday’s victim and so on and of forth in a vicious chain  known as samsara. Invisible laws rule this realm, and when we judge things on the surface as we most often do, we miss out on the roots.

And yet, especially on social media threads, it is impossible to adequately express my own convoluted journey to finding peace within this disturbingly violent planet. While intellectually and in terms of spiritual context I am serene, old emotions still occasionally erupt and demand release; only when I have the courage to process them am I free to return to a state of peace. But to suppress this churning negativity…to deny that relative evil happens, also arrests spiritual evolution: for the process of change involves first becoming aware that something is wrong, then to accept it by whatever means necessary, and finally to trust that purificatory/cleansing action will spontaneously occur due to the loving intervention of higher forces (which is no less than our own Self, and the essence of the cosmos itself).

So the next time you consider pointing a finger at a person who has turned away from the mainstream and decided to refine their insides—because that person appears to be angry or depressed or is harboring a grudge against the seeming villains of the world—remember that robe! It is protection while we do our inner work—and believe me, that work is going on, whether we can see it in others or not.

images-snakeThat said, I feel strongly that an intelligent person—armed with the resources to change, but who still chooses to hide behind the apparent sanctity of a robe in order to perpetrate evil— does not merit my compassion. (If, say, a pedophile lurks behind the benevolent facade of a priest, then I strongly condemn the action—for while it is no secret that most sexual predators are themselves the victims of predators, there is no excuse for educated adults not to seek appropriate help).

ARUNACHALA WITH PURPLE SKYIt is a gorgeous windy morning here and I am about to take the doggies out for their morning walk on the mountain path; for this simple pleasure, I am immensely grateful. Greetings from Arunachala, manifestation of the Wild God who promises to annihilate our ego so we can experience ourselves as pure consciousness and bliss!

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From “Consider the Source” to “Who Am I?”

opening-imageI flew from south India to Manhattan in the summer of 1986 as a young bride with great expectations. Almost none of these hopes were met; as the saying goes, the Great Goddess laughs when you tell her your plans.

For one thing, I had yearned to study creative writing for film at New York University. My husband (now ex) had assured me I could. It didn’t take long for this exciting plan to be shot down by my mother-in-law, who wielded a powerfully negative influence on our life. I was urged to find a job instead, so I could get used to a new culture and lifestyle—and assured this was all for my own good. Once I found my feet, they both promised earnestly, I would be in a better position to really study.

Gnashing my teeth, I learned how to wear a suit and pumps so I could interview. Soon I had a job I did not deserve: I had been an advertising copywriter in south India but now I was Director of Media and Public Relations of a small but prosperous trade advertising agency located on downtown Broadway. Apparently the confident demeanor I had projected along with my excellent speaking English had impressed my new employer. Shell-shocked by the prospect of what lay ahead, I could see no way out of this predicament other than to brazen things out. Continue reading

Demon of Eclipses & Illusions – Part 6/9

Tsultrim_AllioneAs a farewell gift, Theo handed me an audio tape the evening he and Dana were to head back to their mountain home in Colorado. The subject was Chöd, translated as Feeding Your Demons, an ancient Tibetan healing practice; the woman teaching it was Lama Tsultrim Allione, one of the first American women to be ordained as a Tibetan nun.

Allione had been given her monastic vows by the Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism; she’d given back her vows four years later in order to marry. In 1993, she had founded Tara Mandala, a retreat center in southern Colorado. Her book Feeding Your Demons explores an approach based on the Chöd lineage of Machig Labdrön that Allione has practiced since 1973. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” Allione quotes Jung, “but by making the darkness conscious.”

The practice of Chöd teaches us how to work with our demons. What, in the first place, are these demons? Machig Labdrön, the brilliant Tibetan woman who inspired the practice of Chöd, defined a demon as: anything which hinders liberation. No matter our personal beliefs about the supernatural, no one can deny that our thoughts and emotions can be like relentless demons who drive our behavior into harmful channels. Most humans confronted with heavy emotions like anger, sadness and fear either suppress them, or act them out. Continue reading