Tag Archives: neem karoli baba

This Love has Room for Our Protest

Without me even noticing it, the conversation evaporated into silence. Ram Dass simply looked at me, and I melted into the chair, filled with love. I looked across the room towards him, and our eyes met. Just a few minutes ago he had told me the story of when Maharajji instructed him to meditate like Christ. Ram Dass asked him how Christ meditated, and Maharajji said, “He was lost in a sea of love.”

I was absolutely head-over-heals in love with the man before me, not because he was Ram Dass, but because his presence pulled me into a depth of Being within that could love anything. I realized that this is what it meant, at least in some small way, to meditate like Christ.

Ram Dass often says things like, “I love the wall, and the carpet, and this chair. I love my wheelchair.”

And when he says it, he means it. I saw this, not just in my darshan with him that day, but during following the two years that I lived with him. I would often see him sitting by himself, not reading, or napping, or thinking, or even meditating, but just sitting there, truly present and content. Because of his stroke, he is confined to a wheelchair, and his body is often in pain. Yet, he has a lightness about him that transcends his physical body. There is a joy and a contentment that can be at home with the pain.

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Normalizing Truth

How are you?

How many times have I held back answering that question honestly because I didn’t want to deal with the responses that would follow?

Being honest and truthful is a powerful practice to soften the edges of the ego, drop pretense, and help foster more intimacy in the community, but our culture doesn’t make this easy…

How many times have I…

Admitted an insecurity or a character flaw only to have someone try to make me feel better?

Discussed a hardship in my life only to have someone offer me advice on how to fix it?

Offered advice or flattery to another person rather than being truly present with their sharing?

What could be a moment of openness and sharing, where the boundaries between self and other evaporate into the vast sky of Being, instead turns into a gaping chasm of separation.  Of course, advice and soothing words have their place, but I feel if we are truly listening, we will find they are useful far less than they are said. Often they lead me to feeling misunderstood at a time when I am vulnerable.

Many spiritual teachers, therapists, and others have commented on how these responses come from a desire to relieve our own discomfort, and I feel this is true. Because we can’t sit with our own pain, we can’t do so for others.

Every time someone shares their suffering with me it is an opportunity to look within at my own resistance, and every time I resist sharing what is truly on my mind it is another opportunity to do the same.

But what fascinates me most about this is that we lack a culture for sharing difficult experiences. It is so far out of the bounds of our social framework that it puts us at a loss of words. We don’t know how to respond.  And how could we expect it to be otherwise?  Since we don’t know its OK for people to be real, we assume they must want us to fix them if they are doing so.

It is so far out of the bounds of our social framework that it puts us at a loss of words.

Changing our culture is difficult. It is far more difficult than changing politics, but also far more profound.  I wish I had some big solution for this, but at this moment I can at least talk about its importance, and I can vow to intensify my efforts to be real with my friends and family and to allow them the space to do the same.  This is how we normalize Truth.

“Always tell the Truth.” -Neem Karoli Baba


The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Below is a record of the day when there was no doubt that I had met the Guru. Its the day that I gained a true faith in Grace. Since that day She has taught me that there is only in fact One, True Guru, and He/She/It is beyond anything that we can grasp.  The Guru is within. It’s the deepest reaches of our own heart, but its also a relationship. Its not just love in an impersonal form, but that which loves us and wants nothing more than our evolution towards that love. Its that gentle hand of Grace that helps us along our path. It can come to us in the form of an angel, spirit guide, or our own Inner Voice.  For me, the Guru has come to me in the form of the great Indian Saint Neem Karoli Baba, but my first meeting was not in that form.

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

It was the Summer of 2008. I had just turned 23 years old. I moved to Eugene, Oregon for the summer to work as a wildland firefighter. This was my second summer in Eugene doing this work, and so my plan was to stay with Alden, a fellow fire fighter, as we waited for the call to action. Due to a paperwork error at my fire company, I was not eligible to firefight when the call came to ship out to California.

It was a big fire, and the entire company was sent down there except me. This left me alone in Eugene, waiting until the error was fixed so I could go with them. In the mean time, the lease on Alden’s room was up and his next house would not be available for ten days. Alden and I were going to stay with some of his friends, but now he was out on fire and had no cell service. The only people I knew in town were firefighters who were all gone as well. So I made the best of it and decided to sleep in the park until either the house became available, or I got the fire call.

In the mean time I was dead broke and had debt to pay.  About seven months earlier I had been scammed out of 8,000 dollars, all of the money I had in my savings. (That is a story for another day.) After this I decided to move to the desert to work on myself and do some soul-searching. I was camping on the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico and working just enough to buy food, see my spiritual healer and pay off my student loans. The solitude of desert life allowed me to practice pranayama, meditation and other spiritual exercises, thus I experienced some extreme spiritual highs. This was a big deal to me because it was the first time I had ever been “high” without the use of drugs. I used these peak experiences as a marker for my spiritual “progress.”

I was not saving any money, however, and on my way back to Seattle I had car troubles that ended up maxing out my credit card. My credit card company, as a penalty for maxing out my card, raised my interest rate to 30 percent. I was not even able to pay off the interest as it accrued.

Not only was I broke and in debt, but emotionally broken. Once I returned to Seattle, all of the spiritual work I had done felt like it had completely shattered. I was having trouble reconnecting to my old friends and found myself still in love with a girl I had worked very hard to get over.

So here I was, homeless in Eugene and extremely depressed. I began having intense periods of longing for some Guru to come and take me away on my path to liberation, some Divine Being who could make everything alright. I had read Be Here Now, and I remembered its solemn words, “It’s really just another cop-out to be searching for the Guru.” God is within, and by waiting for some external thing to save me, I was just pausing the inevitable.

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Satya- “Truth”

Through my Sanskrit studies I have become enamored with the word “Satya,” or “Truth.”  I am not a scholar of Sanskrit, but simply an amateur student. That being said, I thought I would share a little bit about this great and ancient word.

The word satya is made of two parts- “sat” and “ya.”  Sat is often translated as “existence,” but can also be translated as “truth.”  It is the present participle of the verb “as” or “to be,” which forms the word  “being” or “existing.”

“ya” is a suffix that means “pertaining to” or “deriving from.”

So satya can be translated as “deriving from existence,” or “that which pertains to existence.”  (Egenes)

And isn’t this what gives Truth it’s power?  Truth comes from Reality, the Is-ness of the moment. Speaking and acting out of Truth aligns us with a power far greater than our own. In Patanjalis Yoga Sutras it states-

“To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.” (II.36)

It’s no wonder then, why great sages like Gandhi praised the power of Truth.

“The word satya (Truth) is derived from Sat which means ‘being’. Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth. That is why Sat or Truth is perhaps the most important name of God, In fact it is more correct to say that Truth is God than to say God is truth…Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence. All our activities should be centered in Truth. Truth should be the very breath of our life.” (Yeravda Mandir, Chapter 1)

Neem Karoli Baba placed an equally high value on it-

“Total truth is necessary. You must live by what you say.”

When asked how the heart could be purified, Maharaj-ji said, “Always speak the truth.”

(Maharajji.com)

This teaching is central to all cultures and traditions. Truth is self-evident and needs no justification. It is saturated with existence itself and is pregnant with the moment. It is inherently valid and is its own reward. It is the Self uninhibited by the cleverness of desire. It is Being set free.

“And the truth will set you free” -Christ (John 8:32)

When I see just how incredibly beautiful Truth is, it creates a burning desire to strive for it. It also shines a light on the ways that I fall short of this great ideal. It shows me just how subtle the mind and its desires are, and how deep these habits lie. In a flash of a moment my mind can churn Truth in its swirling stew of desires, tainting it’s beauty with a complex web of motivations and ego. I say I want God, but how many moments of the day do I truly allow raw, unfiltered Truth to flow effortlessly from my words, facial expressions, posture, and reactions?

Today I am awestruck by the power of Truth, and humbled by all of the ways I continually try to limit its transformational power.

असतो मा सद्गमय
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय
शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor māmṛtaṃ gamaya

From the unreal lead me to the real, from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to Eternal Life

(Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (1.3.28.)

 

 


Early Preview of a New Song

 

This is an early preview of a song that will be released at the end of the summer on the upcoming album “The Puja Room Recordings.”

Original composition by Sitaram Dass (K. Sandin)
Dulcimer- Sitaram Dass (K. Sandin)
Voice- Sitaram Dass (K. Sandin)
Violin- NewSong (J. Bradley)
Tabla- Josh Polich


Faith and suffering

I love suffering. It brings me so close to God

-Neem Karoli Baba

These words have often been my lifeline when it feels like I can’t breathe. When the constriction from my own mind has cut me off from the world, and when I am unable to connect with anything or anyone outside of myself, these words remind me to relax into my suffering and arrive at its unmistakable truth- that God is here, in this moment, in this suffering.

The suffering is still here, but now there is no where else I would rather be. There is a space around it. There is room to breathe.

In these moments I’ve found that true joy can coexist with suffering. An unbearable love can be found within even the most horrendous agony.  I’m often awestruck by the unexpected arising of gratitude. I become thankful for this unasked-for pain and for losing my balance enough to catapult me into a deeper stillness.

It reminds me why I am on this path and why I do these practices. I don’t write for people to read, I don’t sing for people to listen, I don’t meditate to be calm, and I don’t pray for some reward. I may believe that tomorrow or even in a few moments, but for now… this is the gift, here, in this erratic pain.

This strengthens my faith. It becomes evident that, even when I forget and mistakenly try to stroke my ego or to fulfill my desires, it does its silent work.  Through singing the Names, through looking at my Guru, through service, and through prayer, grace shines its holy fire on the rope of my narcissism and cinders its threads even as I work to tie knots.

I have faith that I will be brought back to this Truth, again and again, even through pain as long as its needed, for once its fire has burnt the last thread, there will be no more rope or the tying of knots.

 


Beliefs masquerading as Truth

Truth is that which can stand on its own. It needs no support. There is no amount of evidence or reasoning that can either prove or disprove Truth. We often call this type of knowing faith.

But there is quite a bit of confusion about faith. Faith comes from the heart. It cannot be found in the mind. This misunderstanding has pushed many into increasingly blind, extreme, and unhealthy viewpoints. By taking a thought and clinging to it against all evidence and reason, it traps us in the prison of our own limited perspective.

It cuts off all possibility for healthy discussion. It has made many feel that their religion is the only one, and has blindly led millions to challenge the findings of science. This has made many agnostics and atheists skeptical of the role of faith in today’s world.

But faith is not a belief that we hold to tightly. When our “faith” is misplaced, we feel the need to squeeze it, as if we are trying to compress a fleeting sand into a solid rock.  This squeezing may create the illusion of solidity, but it requires effort to continue the charade. The second we stop holding, it crumbles.

Faith requires none of that. It takes no energy or holding. Truth just is. It is found through the continual letting go of clinging in the mind. Truth is always present, but we can see it more clearly when our mind is open and free from clinging.

Truth is who we are. Faith is the inner knowing that comes from relaxing into the Truth of our Being.

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