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It’s Never Too Late

September 30, 2011 on 7:06 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I feel like I’m running out of time to fulfill spiritual aspirations. I’m still dealing with anger, envy, and all other character traits that seem difficult to extinguish. Can you give me some assistance? George R., San Bernadino, CA


No Time To Lose

Dear George: I love it when the title of a book speaks to my reader’s question, and here it is is: No Time to Lose by our favorite Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron. A disciple of Chogyam Trungpa in the 70’s, Pema Chodron in her down to earth, real way has written a commentary on Shantideva’s classic, The Way of the Bodhisattva. While written in India over 12 centuries ago, it is remarkably relevant for our contemporary times.

A Bodhisattva, such as yourself, and you’re probably surprised at my calling you that, is one who wishes to awaken Bodhichitta, translated as the “awakened heart.” We ask for Bodhichitta so that we may relieve the suffering of not just ourselves through having the tendences that you describe, but so that we may also relieve the suffering of others. In fact, the Bodhisattva vows not to achieve liberation and the emptiness it promises until all sentient beings do the same. When I think about this extraordinary sacrifice, I am reminded that a Bodhisattva must be able to renounce successfully his egoic self with which we all struggle.

And I rejoice in virtue that creates the cause of gaining the enlightened state,
And celebrate the freedom won By living beings from the round of pain. (Shantideva)

Pema Chodron speaks of holding onto this Bodhisattva spirit; she also admonishes us not to lose heart because the process goes slowly. As Pema Chodron teaches us, as we get older,we inevitably incur the desire to opt for comfort and security in many ways, and this produces those reactions that create more karma for us. She calls them “kleshas,” strong emotions that reliably lead to suffering. Another way to describe them is as energy that easily enslaves us and causes us to be less than who we aspire to be.

Of course, the wonderful thing about Pema Chodron is that she always wishes that we extend compassion to ourselves as we struggle with these traits. These stanzas of teachings of Shantideva are a true inspiration. Do not lose heart, George.  It is noteworthy that in an age of ignorance and despair, that one even attempts this remarkable journey of consciousness. Thanks for writing and sharing your experience which is what a Bodhisattva does.

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Holy Beings

September 29, 2011 on 7:06 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: What is it about holy beings that are so special and attractive to us? John R., Orlando,FL


Neem Karoli Baba

Dear John: I have long sought out the company of holy beings because of how I feel in their presence. In a moment any “problems” I might have seem to disappear. They might reappear again after I have left their presence, but the respite is truly valued. Holy beings also seem to have the capacity of unconditional love. You can see in their eyes that they truly see and acknowledge not only you but all of your “stuff.” And yet they continue to shower their love upon you.

I feel that most of us long for unconditional love, perhaps the love we first felt as infants and toddlers, before we began to have a personality and our parents thought we didn’t conform to their expectations of us. From then on, some say we were doomed to hide our real selves and not be okay with them. Then when we meet somebody who sees us as we truly are and still loves us, it is felt as miraculous and we always want to be in their presence. Of course, the only real way to “always” be in their presence is to keep them in our heart no matter what. That is what we have to do. Baba Neem Karoli said, ‘Serve, love and remember.” Many people find it difficult to serve because they feel that they don’t have that extra love to give or that they have never received what they needed. That is why it is wise to attempt to show love no matter how one is personally feeling because you receive it back tenfold. Then of course, we must remember, that somebody loves us unconditionally.

It is my feeling that these holy beings incarnate as a sacrifice for us. A friend of mine had a vision of Jesus, and since she was Jewish and typically a grounded person, I was inclined to believe in the veracity of it. She was actually riding down the street and suddenly saw in what she described as her “mind’s eye”, Jesus carrying the cross. She described it as similar to a meditative state, being able to look within and yet focus outward simultaneously. Viewing him laboring under the great weight of the cross, she felt an extraordinary compassion and love for Jesus, She went on to say that as she witnessed this, her own heart seemed to expand until her feelings became overwhelming feelings of love not only for him, but for all of humanity. His labor under that cross signified the true sacrifice Jesus was making on humanity’s behalf.

Similar to Jesus Christ being born on this earth, I feel the same thing of other saints and gurus who make a similar sacrifice for us. Their sacrifice is to help us carry a burden that we have been carrying, call it karma or whatever history we carry with us. In the presence of these great saints, it’s as if we get a vacation from our minds and burdens and can feel the original joy that belongs to us unconditionally and to which we were originally connected.

Thanks for writing, Spiritual explorer

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Chakras and Mantras

September 28, 2011 on 7:05 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have heard of doing a mantra discipline, but am unsure as to how long it is recommended that we do a particular mantra before one feels any effects. Can you suggest a good book about this? Mandy L., San Francisco, CA


Chakra Mantras

Dear Mandy: Thomas Ashley-Farrand suggests a 40 day effort when trying a new mantra. In that time or even before, Mr. Ashley-Farrand says that effects can often be felt. In his book Chakra Mantras, Mr. Ashley-Farrand speaks about spiritual evolution and touches upon the various teachers, stories, and mantras that assist us in our spiritual development. Ashley-Farrand is quite the universalist in that he acknowledges and praises what he calls the “upaguru,” (any teacher or guru without form) found in disciplines such as astrology, tarot, yoga or anything that opens one to wisdom and truth while traversing the path of spirituality.

He makes a great distinction between our true self and that of our ego-mind-personality that lives in this world. He believes that the ego-mind-personality has a choice to evolve into a new, higher state of consciousness and being. In fact, it can become “immortal” if it embarks upon a program of spiritual discipline. Through discipline, and particularly, the repetition of mantras, our consciousness may evolve until it eventually merges with the “atman” or universal soul.

One of Ashley-Farrand’s intentions for this book is to present energy-invoking tools called mantras that when used, enable us to accumulate more and more energy leading to various changes of states both in our physical and subtle organisms. He does this by giving us myriad and varied Hindu and Tibetan mantras that carry great power if utilized by us consistently and constantly. What is unique in this book from his previous book on mantras (Healing Mantras) is that he speaks specifically as to which mantras enable us to experience the gifts contained within the various chakras.

Mantras are a means of working with the spiritual energy around us. As we harness that energy through mantra practice, it is believed that we can fulfill desires, create good karma and begin to neutralize bad karma. Ashley-Farrand claims that we can start a process of deep healing that may resolve all those bad habits and karmic patterns with which we struggle.

For me personally, I know that saying a mantra for at least 40 days, brings about a certain resolve and sense of spiritual accomplishment. Saying mantras also allows you to acknowledge that your intention is to spiritually evolve. I hope, Rhonda, that you will go well past the 40 days of testing out your new mantra and see it as a lifelong discipline that can provide interesting and fascinating rewards. Spiritual Explorer

Om Sri Laxmi Ma Yei Swaha!

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God Intoxication and Sri Ramakrishna

September 27, 2011 on 7:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: What does it mean to be God-intoxicated? Lamar P., Tampa, FL


The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

Dear Lamar: When I hear the words “God-intoxicated,” my mind immediately turns to Sri Ramakrishna in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, a diary with conversations recorded by one of his Bengal disciples, known as M.

Sri Ramakrishna was described as God intoxicated, which meant a man drunk with the feeling and sentiments of God. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna is truly a very profound and touching biography of a man who was not only wise and articulate but also expressed with a childlike lack of reservation his experiences as a God intoxicant. A true bhakti, meaning one who is totally immersed in devotion to his Lord, Sri Ramakrishna openly would recount his “falling” into samadhi like states where he would lose consciousness and become totally immersed in God. Sri Ramakrishna also spoke openly of his fears as a young bhakta of his lack of control over these ecstatic states where he would appear drunken to others and thus misunderstood.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna relates intimate stories of Ramakrishna’s connections and conversations not only with his many visitors but with a particular group of young disciples who clustered around him, protective of this great Maha saint, spending many days and hours in his presence. We see in this Gospel the joy of sharing that a Master has for his close and dearest disciples. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna envelops one in a fascinating, up close recounting of the life of a true lover of the Divine. It is also a mine of wise aphorisms and perfectly articulated quotes:

A man is truly free, even here in this embodied state, if he knows that God is the true agent and he by himself is powerless to do anything.
Bondage is of the mind; freedom too is of the mind.
God can be realized through all through all paths. All religions are true.
God is everywhere but He is most manifest in man. So serve man as God. That is as good as worshipping God.

Although Sri Ramakrishna lived a relatively short life, his influence on the spiritual world was great. Sri Ramakrishna is considered an avatar in the likeness of Christ and Buddha to some and to others he is considered a great saint whom the world was privileged to know.

Thanks for asking such a deep question. Spiritual Explorer

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What is the Difference between Spiritual Teacher and Guru?

September 26, 2011 on 7:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: What is the difference between a spiritual teacher and a guru? Mona K., New York, NY

Dear Mona: A simple answer is that we have many teachers but only one guru. “Well,” said one of my friends,” I get really ‘high’ when I visit so-and-so and feel that he/she helps my spiritual work along.” I hear that a great deal from many people who get “high “and blissed out from people who probably operate at a very high vibrational level, thus enabling their students to vibrate similarly. Sometimes however, these students have become habituated to the “high” and must, like an addict, always return for the same feeling. Seemingly, that high ultimately rebounds to a low, and then another teacher is sought to bring them to another high.

I know a particular woman who goes from workshop to workshop always looking for that new high. In fact, when something disappoints or levels her in her life, she is always off to another blissful encounter with another teacher. Fortunately for her, she has the money to continue these endless treks to these workshops. It has become obvious to me that she is trying to escape feeling bad and for that, I am sad for her.

“Well,” says another friend, “can’t the same thing happen with a guru? Don’t you also feel that same high vibrational feeling of inspiration and enlightenment and then return to the same feelings of despair, etc.?”The honest answer is yes.
The difference is that when you accept being a disciple or chela, there is an implied acceptance that there is no endless bliss in the relationship for you. Oh, initially, like a honeymoon, there is that feeling, but for the most part, it is similar to a marriage, happy and blissful at first, and then the work begins. Our good fortune in being a disciple to a guru is that he/she is willing to help you carry that endless burden you bear just from being born in these difficult Kali Yuga times until you can be relieved of it through your efforts and grace. If you are lucky enough to have a guru in the flesh,  your courage as disciples comes from your willingness to commit to present your habituated responses or ego until awareness dissolves them before unconditional love.

While initially feeling this unconditional love which is Guru’s gift, you must sustain and figure out your own work and method of showing love to yourself by your discipline, whether it be yoga, martial arts, breath work or service. As with any lifelong marriage or commitment, where you are obligated to feed your kids and prepare their meals, so too your responsibility comes from showing yourself love in the best manner possible. The truth is that the only thing a guru wants is for us to love ourselves as she loves us.

What does it mean to love oneself? While our personal attempts at self-discipline help, it ultimately means losing our egos by caring and serving for others as we care for ourselves. The guru’s vibration calls us to service since it is what the guru ultimately does for everybody. In fact, if you can feel that “service” in a guru’s presence, then you can also know their authenticity. An imposter would not engender that feeling.

Many people think that gurus tell you what to do and you give them your power. Au contraire. I remember one day looking at my guru with what I thought was submission in my eyes; she returned that look with a look of disdain. I got it quickly that this was not what she was looking for from me. It is her desire that I will come to love myself without condition and be strong enough to make my own choices. However, I can always use her inspiration, love and example to make better choices in my life. Finally, even though my guru is my guide and inspiration, I must eventually make the journey myself. It is an ego dissolving one, stepping into the ocean of spirituality like a salt doll and disappearing. My guru Ma has always said to not be afraid of this place, because when we return from the ocean, she will be there by the shore with our shoes to accompany us back to this life.

I hope this has been helpful.  It has been a joy to write. Spiritual Explorer

What is Mysticism?

September 24, 2011 on 10:43 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: What is a mystic and how does mysticism differ from other spiritual beliefs?
Georgia R., Nashville, TN


Art of Mysticism

Dear Georgia: Simply stated, a mystic is a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into whatever deity or absolute she chooses. A mystic is also one who believes in the possibility of understanding spiritual truths beyond the intellect. In the Art of Mysticism, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, spiritual teacher at Kashi Ashram, in a question and answer protocol and Jean Houston, PhD, one of the pioneers of the human potential movement in the 70′s, explore direct revelation of spirit and mystical experience through Ma’s own guru Neem Karoli Baba. Explaining and dissecting mysticism in these times considering the many skeptics and believers in rationalism is quite a feat, although some, including myself, might argue that this is the age of irrationalism.

I remember reading about mysticism in the renowned book The Varieties of Religious Experience by Williams James at the tender age of about 17. I remember marveling at the many stories of the famous mystics that James recounted. That there are varieties of religious experience inspires me because it points out a truth that I have always known to be real, and that is, that we as individuals have the ability to experience our spiritual connection in our own inimitable way. In Hinduism those of us who are drawn to loving kindness can embrace bhakti or karma yoga which renders loving service to others. Then there are those, who consider themselves more intellectually drawn and call themselves jnani yogis. A jnani yogi is one who aspires to a spiritual apprehension of the truth through his intellect/mind. Similarly, we are all familiar with the Zen koans which by a comprehension of the riddle contained within the koan, one may experience a form of “satori” or what is known as “enlightened mind.” Of course, there are many mystical experiences recounted, to name a few, throughout all of Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition.

Within The Art of Mysticism Ma Jaya speaks of her own awakening to spiritual life, the interfaith movement, the path of service and the Chidakash, first brought to awareness through the teachings of Swami Bhagawan Nityananda. Ma in her own enticingly personal way shows herself to be the non pareil teacher for those who need spirituality to be practical as well as exalted. Ma Jaya is a true down-to-earth mystic who is also divinely inspired. Ma Jaya does not aspire to live in an ivory tower. She uses her spirituality not only as a conduit for others to the divine, but also in a very practical, service to humanity mode. Ma Jaya is a very unique teacher in our time.

Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

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Kabbalistic Kirtan with Yofiyah

September 16, 2011 on 7:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: Is there any such thing as Jewish kirtan? Sadie G., Brooklyn, NY


Kabbalah Kirtan

Dear Sadie: What a treat I have for you. It’s Kabbalah Kirtan by Yofiyah, an ecstatic new form of devotional singing. I am sure you know that Kabbalah is the mystical teachings of Judaism around the 15th century. And as we all know, devotional singing, no matter the form of religion into which it is encased, is designed to bring us into the unity of God.

Kabbalistic kirtan or calling to the divine via  Hebrew or Kabbalistic kirtan, is a new expression of Jewish spirituality, offering to everyone what was once reserved for mystics alone: a direct experience of the presence of God. Kabbalistic kirtan is the intense devotional chanting of Hebrew texts and the Names of God found in the Jewish tradition. The simplicity of the words and the hypnotic energy of the music transform Kabbalistic kirtan into a highway to ecstatic singing open to men and women regardless of their level of Hebrew fluency and religious training and background.

Kabbalistic kirtan is the practice of calling out to God. As the intensity of calling grows, it is expected that you enter into a vibrational harmony with God. You are enveloped into a musical union marked by deep joy and even ecstasy, expressing a sense of oneness and unity with all.

Yofiyah, who considers herself to be the founder of Kabbalah kirtan, chants sacred Hebrew texts and names of God found in the Jewish tradition in a very rich vocalized arrangement. I like how she analogizes the singing of kirtan with the same wish to surrender to union with a partner. She tells us that kirtan is among the most powerful methods we have of surrendering to this love. Spiritual Explorer might also add it is the least complicated method also and therefore highly recommended.

Kabbalah Kirtan which melds the mystical, ecstatic feeling of the experience of Kabbalah with the devotion of kirtan singing is a unique offering to the library of kirtan singing. Yofiyah especially brings an ecstatic rendering of vocals to the chants. Who is Yofiyah? She is a Hebrew woman who uses her skills as a teacher and artist to create an environment to find and free your authentic voice.

L’chaim! Spiritual Explorer

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The Devotion of Karnamrita

September 14, 2011 on 7:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: Do you know of any CD’s that are devoted specifically to kirtan for women? Lauren M., Spokane, WA


Dasi: Prayers by Women

Dear Lauren: Yes, I do. I am referring to Karnamrita, an extremely talented and moving singer who has a very strong and powerful voice. What I liked most about her vocals is that she is a single vocalist trained in classical vocal in Brindavan India. Today she has become the first female western performer to be classically trained in India in this art. In 2004, her CD, DASI: Prayers by Women, was released and is now in our store.

Prayers by Women are a compendium of women’s songs from India which are sung in Hindi and Sanskrit. The songs are written in the style of chants, bhajans and kirtan. What is of interest is that Dasi composed the music and arrangements in dedication to her late mother, Kunti Devi. Read this moving statement by Karnamrita:

“In 1998, as my mother was passing away, she requested me to take my singing seriously and record. Although I had studied Sanskrit and sung bhajans for 28 years, I was apprehensive without proper training. That same year, I took her ashes to India, and searched for a teacher to begin studying the classical Dhrupad style. My two teachers guided me through four years of wondrous meditation and training.”

What is unique about Karnamrita’s CD is that she has composed music to the words of various myths of the goddesses. Some of these goddesses include Radha (Krishna’s lover); Draupadi, Queen Kunti and Mirabai (Krishna’s beloved).

Karnamrita’s CD is an offering to these wonderful goddesses and dedication to women who have utilized their lives as a living sacrifice to holiness and devotion. Chanting along with Karnamrita you are filled with a renewal of spirit and devotion. Let these chants and prayers open your heart.

Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

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The Many Wives of Shiva

September 12, 2011 on 7:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: How many wives did Shiva have? Ronald P., Frankfurt, Germany


Meditating Shiva

Dear Ronald: I have to admit it is very confusing as to how many wives Shiva had exactly. They all appear to be different aspects of Shiva’s energy. The stories are varied and wonderful about how they won his interest. Apparently Shiva was mostly interested in staying in meditation. Brass Meditating Shiva is the statute most representative of this ascetic god, in full lotus posture with eyes closed in meditation.

AdiShakti was the heavenly wife of Shiva, Lord of all lords. However, when AdiShakti or the great Shakti or Kali incarnates upon the earth, she must do so in the more earthly forms of Sati, Parvati, Uma and Gauri, all of whom had their work cut out to get this guy’s attention. We have all been regaled with the story of Parvati who washed his feet, wiped his brow and laid 16 offerings before him, all to no avail. Advised by the sage Narada to recite Om Namah Shivaya through wind, rain, storm and severe drought, Parvati finally got the notice of Shiva. Another story of Shiva’s hard to get attitude is the story of Uma, who fasted for 10,000 years on nuts and berries to win his heart. Then there is the sad story of Sati who when she felt that her father disrespected Shiva by neither acknowledging his virtues nor inviting him to a particular celebration, she self immolated. The term sati or suttee, a form of suicide, is derived from Sati’s act of self immolation. It used to be a tradition that a woman who had lost her husband in India would commit this act. Hopefully this custom no longer proliferates.

The question always is, what do we women have to do to get attention of men? In the case of Shiva, it would appear to be great transcendence of desires and transmutation of earthly desires where women through sacrifice of human desires, finally win the attention of their beloved. Someone today mentioned that women are still trying to gain the attention of men not as worthy as Shiva by also changing their forms by enlarging or diminishing certain parts of their anatomy. At this venerated time of my life, I would much prefer to say Om Namah Shivaya and have the hope of receiving the attention of a God who feeds my soul rather than my yearnings for transient desires. But that’s my opinion.

Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya!

If you have a question you would like to ask, send me your question. Ask The Spiritual Explorer

Tote Bags

September 10, 2011 on 10:18 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I notice that you have some tote bags at Ma’s India. Why are they called “tote” bags? Lionel H.,The Hamptons, NY


Ganesh Tote

Dear Lionel: I really appreciate your asking that question because I wondered that myself. Apparently, during the 17th century, unfortunately and to the shame of our country, American slaves did most of the heavy lifting in the United States South. Most of these slaves were from West Africa and still spoke their native Bantu language. Tota is the Bantu word for “lifting’ or “carrying.” From these slaves and then through the plantation owners, tota entered English as “tote.” The term “tote bag” was derived from tote and popularized around 1900. A wonderful singer by the name of Paul Robeson wrote a lyric called “Tote that barge and lift that bale. You show a little grit/and you land in jail.” If anything could resurrect and restore that old verb, it would be the beautifully painted Ganesh Tote Bag.

The Ganesh tote bag can be used as a purse, or just general tote bag to carry just about anything. The Ganesh tote bag is amazingly strong. If I feel burdened, I am comforted by the picture of Ganesh beautifully illustrated on the bag. The Ganesh pictured on this tote bag looks quite feminine as you view his countenance and also see his graceful hands wearing substantial jewelry.

If I had to make a wish that was capable of reversing events in time, I wish that when those slaves toted those barges, they could have had something wonderful to which to dedicate their hard work and devotion. Lord Ganesh as you know is the great protector and remover of obstacles. I am sure that Lord Ganesh could have lightened their load. However, carrying one of these tote bags is sure to “enlighten” us in our lives.

Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

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