The Blessing of Celebrating Nityananda’s Birthday
March 30, 2010 on 10:00 am
From the desk of The Spiritual Explorer
As dusk fell and the smell of the smoke of the dhuni wafted upwards, the beating of the drums and chanting began. Shortly afterwards, one saw in the distance the snakelike, graceful procession of Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati and her cadre of sanyasins heralding the beginning of the ceremony celebrating the birth of one of the holiest gurus/siddhas ever to walk the earth, Swami Bhagavan Nityananda. As Ma and her chelas wended their way towards us, we could not help but be reminded of his Holiness, Swami Nityananda, who had likewise walked amongst his chelas and devotees. It is also to be noted that not only do we revere this Saint for his many remembered acts of service, humility and teachings, but that Nityananda is revered by our Guru Ma Jaya for his service to her as one of her earliest honored Teachers.
Nityananda’s temple was gracefully decked out with flowers and garlands adorning the many murtis that reside with Nityananda in his temple. Nityananda himself was adorned in a long, colorful garland together with his two compatriots, the Ganesh murtis, likewise similarly adorned in garlands. Rose petals were sprinkled on the carpet leading to this great Guru. In preparation for this ceremony, we would certainly say that he must have been lovingly oiled by his pujari, a singularly humble devotee of Nityananda who prepared the temple for his beloved guru’s celebration.
Happy birthday, Nityananda. How do we thank you for gracing our lives and giving blessings too numerous to recall in our lives. You, Nityananda, walked upon the earth as a man and yet you were a God in our midst. Humbly born and begat, you were a saint of holiness and virtue. Even though your feet graced the earth, your lofty thoughts and deep pronouncements would seem to belie that you were of this earth. One only has to read the rare verses transcribed by Nityananda’s devotees in the 20’s, called the Chidakash Gita, as contained in Sky of the Heart with rare photographs of Bhagawan Nityananda to feel the holy essence that was purveyed throughout that book.
And yet Nityananda was also known for his wonderful and humble service to many of his devotees as a visitor in their homes. In Divine Presence is an uplifting, inspiring and moving chronicle of Bhagawan Nityananda’s life by his devotees from the time of his birth to his taking of mahasamadhi in 1961. Here we see the story of this selfless saint Nityananda, the many miracles that unfolded around him, his extreme benevolence to those who came to him and his candor of his sadness for those who came to him merely for material worth rather than spiritual sustenance. Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri also contains the verses, which are the essence of Nitayanada’s wisdom. These verses are a treasure of inspired words spoken from an exceptional state of consciousness.
Great Guru Nityananda, we are blessed to be celebrating the birthday of one of the greatest siddhas to walk this earth. Om Sri Nityananda Ki Jai!
Krishna Das: Heart as Wide as the World
March 15, 2010 on 2:00 pm
From the desk of the Spiritual Explorer
Krishna Das has done it again. In his new CD, Heart as Wide as the World, Krishna Das has once again reclaimed his role as bhakti soundmeister of a whole generation of not only Baba Neem Karoli devotees, but other afficianados of kirtan and chanting. If one were to say that thre was someone who has contributed largely to the popularity and mainstream outflow of chanting and kirtan, one would have to look no further than Krishna Das.
How does one describe Krishna Das’ popular appeal? The general answer would have to be that Krishna Das’ songs speak to and resonate from the heart. In fact, one would say that the “path of the heart” is Krishna Das’ vehicle, and one would have to go no further than his previous albums for proof: Krishna Das states that Breath of the Heart, One Track Heart, Pilgrim Heart and Heart Full of Soul were vehicles for carrying himself and others into deeper places within their hearts. In Heart as Wide as the World, he again with his full throated resonance and deep devotional singing carries us back into the deepest realms of our heart where we can hear our Beloved’s name. Krishna Das in Heart as Wide as the World states that for him, chanting and music are ways for people to not escape with music as he once did, but as a way to return to their hearts to find the true essence of love and meaning; it is also a way of letting go of the mind and thoughts.” Krishna Das says, “My guru said, it’s better to love everybody than to try and figure it out.” I think this has been accomplished in Heart as Wide as the World.
Heart as Wide as the World has seven new tracks, each one as heartfelt and devotional as the other. In his deeply resonant voice, Krishna Das with his full-throated devotional singing captures and fills our heart with devotion. The single track of Heart as Wide as the World is a very touching and lyrical piece sure to satisfy Krishna Das’ many fans and devotees. I especially loved By Your Grace/Jai Gurudev as an example of his long-standing commitment to his teacher and guru,Baba Neem Karoli. The remaining tracks are soul-satisfying and deeply felt.
Om Sri Baba Neem Karoli! May our hearts remain open to life and love!
The Story of Om
March 12, 2010 on 3:00 pm
From the desk of The Spiritual Explorer
When I first started out in spiritual life I remember we always, as we called it, “Om’d” before the start and at the end of any group workshop or meditation. It immediately quieted us down and put us into an instant harmony within. I particularly loved it when people alternated the Om sound and the separate sounds merged into a harmonious synchronization of melody and sound. Sometimes we just sat around for no reason at all and would start to “Om.” Some would call that our “hippie” days.
I later found out that Om originates from the Hindu religion. It is placed at the beginning of most Hindu texts as a sacred exclamation to be uttered at the beginning and ending of a reading of the Vedas or any prayer or mantra. Before people set out for a drive in their cars, the custom has been to invoke, “Om Sri Ganesh,” asking for Ganesh’s blessings. And before any mantra, it is customary to say Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namah Krishna. In the Tibetan tradition, one of course hears Om Mani Padme Hum, one of their most sacred mantras, invoking the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.
The Beaded Brass Om Wall Art at Ma’s India is not only ceremonial but a piece of art. Both Hindu and Tibetan elements are present with the rich turquoise, brass and coral composition and the brass Om in the middle. What is most outstanding of this circular piece is the Gayatri mantra inscribed in the inner perimeter. This mantra is recited every morning and evening as part of daily Brahmin practice and is addressed to God as the divine life-giver.
A simpler statement of the Om is Brass Om, in 3 sizes which can be hung anywhere in your living space as a reminder of the desired stillness and peace in your life. If you are interested in a more “rustic” Om, you might prefer Painted Wooden Om in 4 sizes.”
As the humorists say, there’s no place like “Om.” Let us all join in and Om…….
Rings of Commitment and Devotion
March 10, 2010 on 3:00 pm
From the Desk of the Spiritual Explorer
Rings, so simply shaped and capable of simple adornment, can carry such a complex and meaningful message. Rings, circular in shape, have often carried astrological and alchemical symbolism as feminine aspects. Rings are also archetypes for timelessness and continuation. In Arthurian and other Celtic legends, we are always told of how rings can become enchanted and contain spells that are long lasting and effective. In current popular cinema, we have only to recollect the tortured story of carrying a ring by humble Hobbits to remind us of not only a benign, but a horrific meaning and purpose that can also be affixed to a ring.
The circle of the ring has always represented undying love and continually renewed vows of a married couple. Today, even as marriage rings are blessed by priests in traditional Christian ceremonies, it is not untypical to hypothesize how rings might have had a pagan origin at one time. Whatever the origin, however, the symbolism of imbuing rings with fidelity, honesty and commitment remain to those who undertake the vows consecrated by these rings.
What does it mean to take a vow to one another in these times? It is interesting to note that vows have changed considerably since women have become freer and more enlightened. However, even as women have stood up and said they were no longer interested in taking vows of obedience, men and women alike are still anxious to affirm the vows of fidelity, commitment and responsibility before embarking upon marriage.
There are also those who have taken religious vows. Christian nuns say that their rings symbolize their marriage to Christ and have taken lifelong vows for that purpose. Other spiritual teachers sometimes give their chelas or disciples a ring to symbolize perhaps a vow of service or renunciation or to more simply, celebrate and commemorate the disciple’s devotion and commitment to not only their teachers, but to the disciple’s service to humanity in this lifetime.
When I first met Ma Jaya, Guru at Kashi Ashram, sometime in the early 70’s, and spent time at her ashram, Ma gave me a slim, gold ring. I never removed it except for a one-time surgery many years later. One day because I had lost some weight, the ring slipped from my finger descending in a pool at the ashram. Desperate to retrieve it, I paid some little 11 year old girl to plumb the depths of the pool. What a happy moment when she found it at the bottom, almost ready to slide into the drain. Interestingly enough, it dovetailed with my own feeling that something was slipping away from me and I needed to make a deeper commitment in my relationship with the ashram and Ma. Sometime shortly after that, I felt the desire to buy a more solid ring. Lucky for me that Ma’s India had a graceful ring with “Ma” inscribed in Sanskrit upon it. I placed it next to the one she had given me. My Ma Ring serves a dual purpose of keeping the slimmer ring in place, but is a reminder of the deeper commitment I then made when I purchased it.
I love the fact that it says Ma. The word Ma is not just our term of affection for Ma. It is a symbol of all the other Ma’s, not only in India, where it is a revered term for those who are holy and mother the world, but a symbol of our responsibility in this lifetime to bear responsibility for others. Even saying the word Ma brings one into a place of feeling for the Divine Mother, She who makes fear and unhappiness recede through the blessing of her Divine Presence. Om Sri Ma, Om Sri Ma!
The Power of the Crystal Points in Healing
March 8, 2010 on 3:00 pm
From the Desk of the Spiritual Explorer
Sometimes the beauty and elegance of crystal points do not show as well in pictures. Pictures cannot capture the power, radiance and feeling emanating from the particular crystal points we are currently showing at Ma’s India.
These crystal points are encased in sterling and worn as pendants with their own sterling silver chain. If you are in the healing profession, as many of our customers are, you can easily use these crystal points to clear away any negativity, both on a person and in a room. The tradition is that crystal points can be used upon any chakra, either to remove negativity or to send power, depending upon how one holds the crystal point. One can either point them inwardly to convey the power and emanation of the crystal or dip them in and out to lift bad energy. Another use of these crystal points is as a pendulum by which you might answer any particular healing question you have. It is customary that when the crystal point circles to the right, it is a “yes” answer and the left is of course, a “no” answer. Simply stated, these crystals are just beautiful with a great deal of feeling emanating from them.
We love the delicate rose hue of the Rose Quartz Point. When placed on the heart, the fourth chakra, one might feel a definite ability to heal emotional imbalances and help the recipient to open his heart to love and feeling.
We are particularly enamored of the Amazonite Point. This dark green color with specks of white embedded crystal brings a great soothing reassurance to the nervous system and feeling of peace. Amazonite crystal point is also known as a joyous stone enhancing creativity.
As you look at the Black Onyx Point, you can feel your attention drawn inwardly into a one-pointed focus, as if your energy is gathered inward instead of dispersing outwardly. This dark hue crystal point can bring one into a place of stillness and depth and also clears any negativity that might be present.
Azurite Point with its unique deep dark green and light green spots is associated with clarity in prayer and meditation. Azurite Point is known to not only increase psychic abilities and open intuitive facilities, but it also enhances creativity.
Amethyst Point is similar in that this crystal point enhances psychic abilities and makes one more sensitive to higher vibrational energies. Amethyst is the stone of Royalty and is considered to be most spiritually enhancing. Amethyst is also the crystal associated with the third eye.
Hematite Point, known to strengthen both the etheric and subtle bodies, is also a great healing aid for those who have just recovered from illness. This crystal point is similar to herbs in that it builds up and purifies the blood and acts on the inner and outer bodies to strengthen and revitalize.
Because of the subtlety and transparency of crystal points, they can pick up negative energy and hold onto it. You will want to do cleansing of your points if you have been wearing them for some time as they readily pick up the negative vibrations of people and surroundings. However, this is easily remedied through placing them under water, soaking them in salt water, or allowing the sun or moon to cleanse them.
Happy Crystal Point Choosing and Wearing!
Sacred Medicine Wheel Invocation and Blessing Upon Kashi Ashram
March 4, 2010 on 3:00 pm
Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida had a wonderful event this Saturday, the installation of a Sacred Medicine Wheel on their grounds. This tremendous honor was spearheaded by Agni Jaya Starfire of Tampa, Florida. I had a chance to talk with Agni Jaya Starfire who gave me the lowdown on the spiritual meaning and tradition of the Sacred Medicine Wheel. Agni Jaya Starfire studied with Sun Bear, a powerful visionary of Chippewa descent, who was unique in his willingness to teach non-native people about how to live in harmony with the earth, particularly in such mundane ways as recycling, growing your own food, preserving the land, etc. In 1989 and 1990 Agni Jaya Starfire did an apprenticeship program with Sun Bear and thereafter brought him to Florida where he was instrumental in constructing many Sacred Medicine Wheels. “I received my Pipe from him,” she said, referring to the tradition of the Peace Pipe shared by Native Americans indicating harmony between cultures and traditions. One of the reasons I chose Kashi Ashram to place a Sacred Medicine Wheel is because their mission of universality and harmony amongst different traditions is similar to that of Sun Bear’s.”
She continued, “The Sacred Medicine Wheel is a symbolic representation of all of life, indicating that we are all one and part of that same web of life and that all beings are part of the wholeness of life. The Sacred Medicine Wheel, in the shape of a circle, represents the never-ending circle of life.”
She pointed out to me that many of the stones that go into the creation of the Sacred Medicine Wheel were from many places: the “Creator” stone in the center came from a river in the Taos Pueblo, home of the original peoples of that region we now know as New Mexico. Stones to create the Sacred Medicine Wheel were not only from other places such as Maine and Tennessee but offered by others from faraway diverse locales.
The Sacred Medicine Wheel ceremony began with blessing the various stones, starting with the “Creator” stone, progressing to the Mother Earth stone, Father Sun stone, Grandmother Moon stone, and then to the various clan stones representing Earth, Air, Fire and Water. These clan stones within the Sacred Medicine Wheel represent the elements of the earth and form the inner circle around the “Creator” stone.
What was interesting to see was how every stone of the Sacred Medicine Wheel placed upon the earth was blessed in the form of pinches of cornmeal accompanied by chants and prayers by all participants in the Sacred Medicine Wheel ceremony, including Kashi Ashram residents and all those who had participated in this inclusive and harmonious construction of the Sacred Medicine Wheel. Agni Jaya Starfire told me that these blessings invoked the spirits of each stone and awakened their power so that they would help anyone who came looking for blessings.
I asked Agni Jaya Starfire which stones within the Sacred Medicine Wheel might be appropriate for what blessing. She gave an example of the pathway stones that led to the “Creator” stone. If one were to start out on a new direction in life, they would hopefully direct their attention to the pathway stones of the east, representing the direction of new beginnings. The south pathway stones connect the south to the center of the wheel and may support young adulthood and the blossoming of life. The outer stone anchoring the energies of the south is connected to summer and the burgeoning of life and is also the stone that one addresses with questions of love. The west pathway stones connect to the fall and represent a time of introspection and gratitude for fulfillment. The winter pathway stones, in the direction of north, represent a time of incubation or seeds under the earth and indicate a time of endings and the promise of rebirth. All of these pathways are integral to the Sacred Medicine Wheel.
Two interesting books on the Sacred Medicine Wheel by Sun Bear and Wabun who co-authored books with Sun Bear and worked closely with him for many years include: Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology with the lunar cycles of a person’s birth date, and Dancing With the Wheel, a detailed workbook on how to create or work with a Sacred Medicine Wheel for your own personal and planetary healing.
It was a time of harmonious connection to the earth and to ourselves, and Kashi Ashram who has waited for a long time for our own Sacred Medicine Wheel is grateful to our Agni Jaya Starfire for bringing this extraordinary Sacred Medicine Wheel to our land. We are very fortunate to be blessed in this way. Thank you.
Om Namah Shivayah, Ki Jai. Victory to all who nurture the land and the people who strive to live in harmony with Nature and Spirits through the blessing of the Sacred Medicine Wheel!!
Mira and David Newman, Kirtan Devotees, Musicologists and Enthusiasts
March 2, 2010 on 3:00 pm
I had the chance to meet David Newman and Mira, extremely talented kirtan singers at Kirtan College, a once a year offering of instruction in the ancient art of kirtan at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida. For those not in the know, kirtan is all about spiritual singing to whatever deity or god you love. It is extremely heartfelt and inspiring, consisting, among other things, of sacred mantras sung together in a call and response style.
In kirtan, what is unique is that the audience is as integral to the group as the lead singers themselves since it is the blending of the voices that provides the soul lifting and spiritual resonance of the pieces. The music and chanting then become a meditative offering by all.
Throughout the country the ancient practice of kirtan grows. One of the reasons, according to David and Mira, is that there is a blending of western music sound and styles with the ancient kirtan mantras. According to David, in the U.S.A. the new breed of kirtan singers are being referred to as Chant Artists.
Sitting down with David Newman later, I asked him how his interest in kirtan had arisen. He told me that that while his background had always been musical, interest in kirtan had arisen as a result of his involvement with yoga and particularly by the influence of both Bhagavan Das and Krishna Das, both devotees of Neem Karoli Baba. David had his own singular spiritual experience with Baba in an inner vision that awakened his heart. As a result of that vision where he began to see “the divine thread in everything, David began to pursue what he calls “bhakti yoga,” dedication of one’s life to the service and love of humanity. When I listened to David and Mira’s music at Kirtan College, that divine infusion of love is readily heard in their self-styled chants. L.A. Yoga Magazine has said, “David is reminiscent of George Harrison, Dylan and Paul Simon when they are in soul mode.”
Ever the “romantic,” I asked David Newman how he came to be with Mira and he told me that he met Mira first when she was a teenager and then later as she traveled in concert with Bhagawan Das; their relationship grew from being just good friends to the marriage partners they are today. I thought to myself how lucky they both were to be with somebody who inspires them both spiritually and musically.
David is well on his career path, having released five CD’s already. In 2004 David met well known New York City Producer and Mix engineer Frank Wolf who has worked with artists such as Pink, Santana, Dido and JLO. Immediately finding a natural musical rapport ,they recorded their groundbreaking Lotus Feet: A Kirtan Revolution, which became an instant classic in the newly emerging Kirtan field. David went on to record Love Peace Chant, a contemporary progressive kirtan with lots of eclectic musicality and world beats. David’s wife, Mira, as singer and percussionist, played a prominent role in this record, adding her unique rhythmic groove and delicate angelic vocal style.
The Hanuman Chalisa, a devotional love song to Lord Hanuman, becomes an ambient and meditative lullaby for the soul in Leap of Grace. It is the recitation of the Chalisa eleven times against an ethereal musical backdrop, an auspicious number that is traditional for bestowing Hanuman’s blessings on sacred occasions.
His CD and DVD Collection Into the Bliss is sung from an intimate setting in Topanga Canyon, California, and Yoga Magazine has called it: “One of the best kirtan CD’s we have heard.”
Having heard David’s music and particularly his striking original stylistic arrangements, we anxiously anticipate the release of his new album this April, called To Be Home. It contains a touching piece recorded from David’s experience as he meditated before a picture of Baba, acknowledging Baba as his spiritual home. David told me that To Be Home is a two-fold combination of original melodies; one, utilizing kirtan mantras with original melodies and arrangements around them, and the other being original lyrics and melodies composed by David.
While kirtan music might be considered a niche market at this time, we think, because of their universality of style and musicality, that David and Mira will find their music increasingly and popularly mainstreamed for sure!
Kirtan College as led by David and Mira is a training program for those wishing to develop a regular chanting practice, utilize healing application of chanting in daily life and cultivate musical skills to accompany, compose and lead kirtan in a group. For more information about David Newman or Kashi Ashram.