Meditations on Stories 23

Meditations on Stories 23

23 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside the life story of the Kashmiri poet saint, Lal Ded.

What questions arise when I focus on “a naked mystic poetess” as an object of Vedanta meditation?

Lal Ded, also known as Mother Lalla, lived during the 14th century in what is now Kashmir. At age 12, she was married off to a family that mistreated her. Her mother-in-law would hide rocks in her rice. To escape cruelty, Lal would leave to retrieve water in the mornings and then spend whole days at the Shiva temples. That’s where she fell in love with Shiva and met her guru, Sidh Srikanth. By age 26, she left her abusive family and renounced all material life. She’d wander the villages speaking devotional poems that were all her own creation, as expressions of love for the divine. She wasn’t intending to create a literary genre, but her spoken verse soon became part of the Karhmiri Oral memory. Her utterances were able to make the lofty philosophies of the Sanskrit literary tradition accessible to ordinary people. People remembered her Vakhs, and they wrote them down. Lal Ded challenged the elitism of Sanskrit scholarship and the patriarchal authority of the Guru. She wore rags or no clothes at all. She never intended to enrich the Kashmiri language, she was just in love with the divine.  

Here is one of my favorite Lal Ded vakhs:

“Whatever my hands did was worship, / whatever my tongue shaped was prayer. / That was Shiva’s secret teaching: / I wore it and it became my skin.”

Thank you to translator Ranjit Hoskote, I met Lal Ded on the page in a collection of Bhakti poetry called “Eating God.” Then I met her again, in a dream: we sat by a shining pool of water, and she taught me to lactate at will.

God, I love mystical dreams!  Jai Sri Radhe Shyam!

Meditating on naked mystic poetess, a Jnana yogi might ask, “No I, no mine, no this, no mind, only That thou art Tat Tvam Asi तत् त्वम् असि. Now that One is so plain to see, and Infinity cannot be hidden, are clothes necessary?”

#AdvaitaVedanta #stories

Meditations on Stories 22

Meditations on Stories 22

22 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dg Dsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne maree brown

What questions arise when I focus on “pleasure activism” as an object of Vedanta meditation?

This beautiful book is a collection of stories, essays, tools, art, poems, powerful gratitude spells, and much more. It offers an uplifting community of voices that engage the world through active enjoyment, bold creativity, and courageous attempts to communicate about pleasure. This book offers expressions of sexuality, celebrations of menstruation, intimacies with queer identity, pleasures after surviving sexual abuse, bad ass ways of coping with cancer, understandings of the magic of nipples, and much more. These expressions allow for often underheard voices and unspoken themes to scream and shout and laugh and cry and reveal what it’s like to live fully, experience fully, and express freely.  It is an enormous blessing to live in an era and a world where we can read Astavakra Samhita one day and Pleasure Activism the next! This life: what a wild ride!  

Meditating on pleasure activism, a Jnana yogi might ask, “Suppose I do not identify with the body and mind, but then pleasure activism arises in awareness, you mean to tell me that I am the ocean of consciousness in which all pleasures arise and dissolve? You mean to say Pure Consciousness makes it as easy to celebrate every being’s pleasures as it is easy to watch it all go? Oh Pure Consciousness, what’s your ineffable pleasure?”

#AdvaitaVedanta #stories

Meditations on Stories 21

Meditations on Stories 21

21 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside the story of Astavakra who was cursed in the epic Mahabharata.

What questions arise when I focus on “twisted limbs” as an object of Vedanta meditation?

When Astavakra was in his mother’s womb, his father would sit by her every evening, and he would chant the Vedas. One evening, father and mother heard a voice come from within the womb, the unborn child—who already knew the scriptures—said, “Father, you are chanting the Vedas incorrectly; you are mispronouncing some words and messing it up!” The father, Khoda, cursed the unborn child. The baby came out of the womb with twisted limbs. So, he was named Astavakra, which means 8 twists.

Years later, Khoda visited the court of King Janaka to challenge the illustrious scholar, Bandin, to a debate. Khoda lost this debate and was punished. Astavakra heard that his father’s punishment for losing the debate to Bandin was death by drowning. So, Astavakra went to the king’s court to debate Bandin to restore his father’s dignity. Astavakra won this debate by proving Brahmadvaitam (ultimate oneness). When he won, Astavakra learned that his father was not drown but was only banished to serve the king at the bottom of the sea. Astavakra requested Bandin set Khoda free, and the scholar obliged. Khoda was grateful to his son Astavakra and wanted to lift his curse. He told him to go bathe in Samanga River. The son obeyed his father, bathed in the river, and when he came out, his limbs were straight.

There is a book in the Vedanta tradition called The Astavakra Samhita whose author is unknown. He/she/they, the author(s), took on the persona of Astavakra to enable a transmission of Brahmadvaitam. The Astavakra Samhita does not present a philosophical argument; it is not theology; it is not scripture; it is not narrative; it is not poetry or any kind of literary expression; it is not teachings. The Astavakra Samhita is a transmission of wisdom. To read this text is to be in Brahmadvaitam.

I love this word, Brahmadvaitam, and I could repeat it all day; but, this kind of japa practice is not necessary with the Astavakra Samhita. One line from this book is enough to bestow the experience of moksha (liberation). Actually, Brahmadvaitam, this is the real experience pervading all the objects of meditation. But it is not spoken, it is not named; the real object is not an object at all.

Advaita Vedanta meditation is an experience of making what is commonly regarded as gross—the body, stories, mind-stuff, objects—into the subtlety of illusion; meanwhile, it also makes what is commonly regarded as subtle—Brahmavidya—into the gross.

This is how it was so when Swami Vivekananda asked “Have you seen God?” Ramakrishna said, “Yes, I see God right now as real to me as you are, but even more intensely.”  This answer convinced Swami Vivekananda to take Ramakrishna as his teacher because he was so impressed that this man actually sees God, not as a belief but as an experience right now.

Over time, Ramakrishna requested Swami Vivekananda to read aloud to him the Astavakra Samhita. The swami didn’t like the book at first. He didn’t want to read it. But Ramakrishna innocently and gently requested him to read it aloud to him, and eventually the Astavakra Samhita became dear to him.

Let’s read it aloud all over again, dear One! Let’s know we’re already free! 

Meditating on twisted limbs, a Jnana yogi might ask, “In a world where fathers curse sons, where friends hurt each other, where races hate each other, how dare you show these pains have no impact on our Freedom? Despite my struggle, I see this reality: now, how do I remain in this knowledge that nothing binds me? Oh, all the pain and hurt shall carry on, you say? Then how shall freedom remain ever most real in my awareness?”

#AdvaitaVedanta #stories

Meditations on Stories 19

Meditations on Stories 19

19 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside the story of the famous meeting between Guru Ram Das and Baba Siri Chand. This is a story from the Sikh tradition, but I heard this story told orally by an Udasi Nirmala sage. Stories are shaped by their tellers; thus, here I take liberty to add my own embellishment, experience, and flair.

What questions arise when I focus on “humility” as an object of Vedanta meditation?

In 16th century, Northern India, an ascetic yogi named Baba Siri Chand paid a visit to the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. He was accompanied by the yogis who were following him, yogis who had attained siddhis (supernatural powers). These yogis could fly, read minds, walk through solid objects, be in two places at once, control the weather, etc. They had attained all the powers that come with decades of austere practice. Their leader, Baba Siri Chand, was 90 years old at this time; but, he had the body of a sixteen-year-old boy, no beard and a flawless physique. The guru, on the other hand, aged to midlife and had grown a long, dark beard.

The two enlightened beings sat together with a large audience around them. The audience was filled with anticipation to hear what words these two beings would exchange. What discourse would they expound? Rarely did an ascetic yogi and householder guru sit together. Surely this dialogue would be like that exchanged between Krishna and Arjuna, or like that between Ashtavakra and King Janaka! Surely this exchange would reveal the highest teachings!  

The yogi and the guru sat in silence.

No one spoke. No one moved for hours, even days. Who knows how much time passed with the whole gathering immersed in profound, divine silence?

Finally, Baba Siri Chand spoke. He asked the guru, “Why do you grow such a long beard?” The meaning behind his question was asking why, if the guru were so enlightened, did he allow for his body to age; if the guru had mastered his physical form through meditation and yogic techniques why didn’t he control his aging process?  

The guru bent low and wiped the yogi’s feet with his beard.

He said, “I’ve grown this beard so that I can wash the lotus feet of such a high One as you!”

Baba Siri Chand turned to all the siddhas and he said, “Hail Guru Ram Das! You all see this humility he has shown here! Let’s bow to him. He is the true yogi. This humility is the true yoga.” Humility is the highest teaching.

This is a beautiful story that I heard within the kundalini yoga community that I am consciously no longer associating with due to the fact that its leader, yogi bhajan, was a criminal. Tragically, his abuse will get swept under the rug if we lone, post-lineage Jnani yogis do not commit to destroying ignorance. #MeTooInYoga    

Meditating on humility, a post-lineage Jnana yogi might ask, “So what if humility is the highest teaching? What kind of paradoxical poppy cock logic is it to attain to this: oh, I am so high because I have the most humility? What does it take for traditions to See they are abusing the idea of ‘the highest,’ and See that vying for great height often renders them more toxic than helpful?”

#AdvaitaVedanta #stories

Writing ~ Sacred Geometry

Writing ~ Sacred Geometry

On Saturdays, I facilitate a contemplative experience that is called “Meditations for Writers.” We are an intimate group of writers from here and there. We breathe, we practice a meditation, and we write from a prompt.

This time we will play with this prompt: Draw a sacred shape, any shape, a sacred geometry. Write names, rhymes, stories, and phrases on the lines and in the spaces of your shape. Behold your creation!

We will also breathe deeply, and in our mind’s eyes we will visualize drawing sacred geometry around people we love, homes, buildings, houses of worship , playgrounds, shopping malls, schools, theaters, insects, trees, flowers, etc. Any person, place, or thing that we hold sacred, we shall slowly surround with an imaginary sacred shape. We draw sacred geometry around Mother Earth. We draw sacred geometry in the cosmic infinity. Our imagination gets an excellent workout. We remain in this meditative internal visualization for as long as comfortable. It’s fun!

We give ourselves play time, stillness, space, and permission to behold every creation.

© Rebecca Jane / Yogi Ma, 2020