A Single Man By Chris Isherwood

Most of us are primarily familiar with Christopher Isherwood’s Vedantic Works.  He produced some beautiful translations of The Yoga Sutras (How to Know God), The Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God), and Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination.  We might have also read his spiritual autobiorgraphy, My Guru and His Disciple.  This last book is perhaps the most accessible, as he has a most honest and humble account of his struggles as a spiritual practitioner.  We can relate to his situation, and also we can learn from his experience.

I had no experience with any of his secular works, and was absolutely delighted when the movie I my friend took me to yesterday announced in the opening credits “Based on the Book By Christopher Isherwood”.  When the movie began, I was increasingly pleased to see that the main character (George Falconer played by Colin Firth) was a gay man dealing with issues of relationship, sexuality, and releasing the past.  These themes are explored in ‘Guru and Disciple’, and so I felt as though I was getting a deeper, although fictionalized, peek into the soul of the author.

The film itself is beautiful.  It is slow, quiet, and sad.  It used very conscious imagery and metaphor.  Almost too much, but not quite.  Much of it takes place in a gorgeous house in Topanga Canyon.  The house itself is almost a character. It offers us a clean, crisp, view into the style of the early 1960’s. Very satisfying to watch.

The visual imagery of the film is made all the more satisfying by the subtle spiritual undertones that waft through it. George churns with pathos; he struggles through every moment of the movie. In true Isherwood fashion, our Single Man spends his time wrestling with deep questions, never simply serving up answers. Even as we see George spiral, fall, and eventually find redemption, Isherwood leaves us challenged by the fragile nature of his redemption, and the taste of samsara heavy in our mouths.
I recommend! Go! Enjoy!

A side note, I am very curious to read Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, a book that appears prominently in the film. George teaches it in his College English Class.

Thirumandiram, post one

Siddhar Thirumoolar
Siddhar Thirumoolar

I discovered a new text recently.  Love it.  From the Tamil, Southern  India, The Thirumandiram has a slightly different vibe from the northern, Kashmiri literature that I am a little more used to.  These teachings of Siddhar Thirumoolar are said to be the seed that later blossomed into Saiva Siddhanta, a very heartfelt and devotional approach to the worship of Shiva and the understanding of the universe.

The book is three separate volumes, and contains nine Tantras within.  I’ve perused up to Tantra five, at which point it was clear to me that I need to spend some more time with the first four.  Which is fine, because they are plenty remarkable.

I want to share with you the first verse of the first Tantra.  It is delightful, full of Bhakti, and much like  the first sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, seems to sum up the whole deal.  If you think I’m wrong, I’m happy to hear your argument.  I am new to this text, after all.

He came down from heaven, clothed in body,

Karma to match, stretched forth His cool Feet of Grace, from time immemorial

And lo!  inside me He stood, melting my yielding heart;

And filled my eyes with peerless bliss, past all compare,

All impurity dispelled.

This one verb, it really does it for me, it’s a verb that shows up in other verses, and also, in the intro.  It’s all about the melting.  The goal, is to melt the heart into the universal love of Shiva, and to melt the mind and ego into His universal consciousness. It is similar to the melting that happens to salt when it is placed into water.
To make this practical, one can visualize their body as if it were made of a solid block of salt. Perhaps that lovely pink Himalayan mountain salt. Then one can meditate on the body melting and dissolving into a vast ocean. One realizes that the individual self is not extinguished or negated by this melting. Instead, there is the experience of expanding into and merging with this vastness. We find that while the small self still exists, the wondrous bliss of Shiva’s reality supersedes petty individual concerns.
I highly recommend this book, and wil be posting more about it in the coming weeks. The practices in the book, along with the devotional reminders can powerfully orient the mind toward the ultimate and support our soul’s illumination.

The Radience Sutras: First Post

When I was at Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree last month, i met a man named Lorin Roche.  He was a scholar and meditation teacher, and had spent several years working on a beautiful, poetic, practical, and accessible version of The Vijnana Bhairava tantra.  The vbt is a delightful text that outlines powerful meditation techniques that can be used both on and off the mat, and allow one to see the sacred in all phenomenon.  I really enjoyed meeting him, and taking his workshop, and I really enjoy the text.  In fact, I used a reading from it in the wedding I performed just recently.

Be Wildly devoted to someone, or something.
Cherish every perception.
At the same time, forget about control.
Allow the Beloved to be itself and to change.

Passion and compassion, holding and letting go,
This ache in your heart is holy.
Accept it as the rise of intimacy
With life’s secret ways.

Devotion is the Divine Streaming through you
From that place in you before time.
Love’s energy flows through your body,
Towards a body, and into eternity again.
Surrender to this current of devotion
And become one with the Body of Love.

So check him out, he has alot of fantastic readings on his website, which i have been enjoying very much
http://www.lorinroche.com

New Aquisitions

I really enjoy books. I’ve always accumulated them quite easily, read them voraciously, and collected them doggedly. My library reached a new level several years ago when Bhagavan Das asked me to look after a few boxes of his books. There was some good stuff in there, stuff I may not have come across otherwise, and other things that I was familiar with, but just hadn’t got around to accumulating just yet. It was a quantum leap, quite satisfying. I decided to name my library, “The Bhagavan Das Library for Advanced Tantric Studies”. I thought it was official and important enough, and got back to the business of reading and collecting.
The BDLATS had another good day, about a year ago, when our dear friend Paul JJ Alix asked us to care for a portion of his collection for a spell. The excitement was lessened only slightly by the arrival of 11 boxes send C.O.D. I realized that this was the way to go. I stopped borrowing books, insisting that now, I only housed collections.
Well, we had a good day today, at the library. Nothing as fantastic as the collections we obtained from Baba or Paul, but still a solid haul. A Craigs List find. Fifteen books for $40. Mostly Chogyam Trungpa. One book by Musician John Cage. I didn’t bother haggling, and I almost always haggle. For the sport of it.
It was an easy transaction, the gentleman dropped them off at the yoga school, and said he was happy they were going to a good home. I gave him his money, and thanked him.

Here is the inventory:
Dharma Art (Dharma Ocean Series)
The Lion’s Roar: An Introduction to Tantra (Dharma Ocean Series)
The Heart of the Buddha (Dharma Ocean Series, 1)
The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo (Shambhala Library)
Orderly Chaos: The Mandala Principle (Dharma Ocean Series)
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
Secret of the Vajra World: The Tantric Buddhism of Tibet
Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism
Kundalini: Yoga For The West
Healing with Form, Energy, and Light: The Five Elements in Tibetan Shamanism, Tantra, and Dzogchen
The Masks of God, Vol. 2: Oriental Mythology
The Masks of God, Vol. 3: Occidental Mythology
Silence: Lectures and Writings
Trancending Madness
The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa

Timothy Leary’s Tao Te Ching

Dearest Yogis and Yoginis,

I am reading a fantastic book.

They recently republished Timothy Leary’s version of the Tao Te Ching, “Psychedelic Prayers”. (Psychedelic Prayers: And Other Meditations (Leary, Timothy)
) I had an old version once, but I gave it to Paulie Zink. I was without one for a while, because I didn’t feel like spending $50 on a old tattered printing from the 60’s. But It’s back again, and I found one on ebay for 8 bucks. it has some extra stuff in the back that is wonderful too.
Tim wrote his version while in india, studying with a Buddhist Lama and a Vaishnava Monk. He had nine different english translations, and carefully crafted his version based on his readings and meditations. He writes it as a guidebook for a psychedelic experience, and gives it a clear beginning, middle, and end. The result is an elegant and transformational text, one suitable for any voyager of consciousness. any one who “floats through the universe of the body, without getting lost”. It works really well as a guide through yoga or meditation practice as well.

Here is a verse, it focuses on impermanence. I’ve been really into impermanence lately. Its a good thing to get a handle on. nothing fancy, its simplicity holds it beauty.

I – 5

All Things Pass

All things pass

A sunrise does not last all morning

All things pass

A cloudburst does not last all day

All things pass

Nor a sunset all night

All things pass

What always changes?

Earth…Sky…thunder…
Mountain…water…
wind…fire lake…

These change

And if these do not last

Do man’s vision’s last?
Do man’s illusions?

During the session
Take things as they come

All things pass

****

and this one has been my favorite for a very, very long time.

VI – 17

Walk Carefully When You Are Among

“holy men” and
“righteous” deeds
Distract from the internal

“Learned men”
Distract from
Natural wisdom

Professional know-how
Addicts people to the contrived
And the external

Be respectful and compassionate
But walk carefully when you are among-
learned men
holy men
doctors
government officials
reporters
publishers
professors
religious leaders
psychologists
rich men
social scientists
women with beautiful faces
artists and writers
men who
charge fees
city men
movie makers
men who want to help you
men who want you to help them
Christians and Jews

For such as these
However well meaning
Place you on their chessboard
Addict you to their externals
Distract you from the
TAO within

The lesson of the TAO is more likely to be found among-
gardeners
hermits
mountain men
smiling eccentrics
men who build their own homes
children
parents who learn from their children
loafers
amateur musicians
serene Psychotics
animals
men who look at sunsets
men who walk in the woods
beautiful women
cooks
men who sit by the fire
wanderers
men who make bread
couples who have been in love for years
unemployed men
smiling men with bad reputations

get your own copy of the book here: Psychedelic Prayers: And Other Meditations (Leary, Timothy)

turn off your mind, relax and float down stream…..

Love….

Sitaram Das