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July 7th, 2018

The Swami and the Zen Master

On a visit to Los Angeles, Swami Venketesa, one of my beloved teachers and mentors, asked me to take him to meet Zen master Roshi Sasaki.  I had met the Roshi, who later became Leonard Cohen’s teacher, when he first arrived in Los Angeles in 1966.  Just getting attracted to eastern philosophy, I heard about these Zen gatherings and went to sit with the Roshi.  The dimly lit room was filled with meditators sitting bolt upright, motionless like statues.  Every twenty or thirty minutes we would stand, quietly queue up, and take turns sitting before the sage.  

 On my first turn in front of him, I asked, “What do I do when I sit, Roshi?”

 “Just sit there”, said the Roshi, “Roshi says just sit.”

Swami Venkates always enjoyed meeting other spiritual teachers so I set up an audience.  I drove my Swami down Crenshaw Boulevard excited to witness their encounter.  We walked in and the Roshi, sitting on the floor, motioned us to sit next to him.  With a radiant smile that seemed to cover half his face, Swamiji laughed as he sat down.  Roshi joined him with some kindred belly laughter which quickly accelerated and consumed the small group of us sitting in the room.

Still laughing, the Roshi exclaimed, “Your laugh shows that you are enlightened!” and they both laughed even more hysterically.  After a short while the Swami and the Zen master hugged and we left. 

Roshi Sasaki lived and taught in Los Angeles to the ripe old age of 107.  Venkatesa passed at the early age of 60.  Both their presence and teachings continue to inspire spiritual consciousness.  

 

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April 3rd, 2018

 

Time, everything, is relative. As Albert Einstein showed us, "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute."

Our 50 years at White Lotus is both a flash and an eternity at the same time. And I've certainly been sitting with a pretty girl for what now seems like a minute. Tracey and I have been blessed to live by the sea and in a sea of Yoga. It has been an honor and inspiration filled with a fair measure of perspiration. Creating the Santa Barbara Ashram--a place where yogis live, work and teach, fulfilled a long vision and goal filled with spirit. Taklushmon, which means the gathering place, is what the Chumash called this land. We live and teach in this gathering place of spirit and flowing water, flowing yoga, and the guests and teachers gracefully flowing in through from every walk of life. This is also the meaning of Satsang, one of the tenets of Yoga, gathering with good, true people.  

As Professor Needleman and J. Krishnamurti said a few decades ago: 

Needleman: [...] I was reading a book the other day which spoke of something called "Satsang".

Krishnamurti: Do you know what it means?

Needleman: Association with the wise.
Krishnamurti: No, with good people.
Needleman: With good people, Ah!
Krishnamurti: Being good you are wise. Not, being wise you are good.
Needleman: I understand that.
Krishnamurti: Because you are good, you are wise.[2]

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February 4th, 2018

OnUs

From the numinous to the singular

From the spectrum to the speck

From the tarnished to the luminous 

The onus is on us

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July 10th, 2017

Spirituality is not simply a mechanical process and not something finally obtained or acquired. Important elements contribute to spirituality, such as ethical behavior, right living, right livelihood, caring, and compassion, but the deepest essence lives beyond practices, beliefs, descriptions, and words.  It is not advisable to explain or define spirituality with too much detail, and it cannot be captured, owned, or stored up.  Ironically, the Sanskrit word for illusion, maya, also means to measure and to define.  When we measure and overly structure spirit, we may lose it.   

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January 28th, 2017

It is easier to see problems in someone other than oneself.  We all know people who knock on our door with bibles.  They’re very certain. They are living in their certainties, but if we look outside our own worldviews, and look at beliefs distant from ours, it can begin to open our minds. The wise person starts asking, “How does this problem apply to me?” Where do I have a similar belief that I am not aware of or that I am stuck in?

I had a wise teacher who said that "not knowing" is one of the highest states of awareness.  We need to free ourselves from the limitations of knowledge. This doesn't mean getting rid of knowledge—knowledge is extremely necessary of course, but rather, we should not be stuck in the known. We need to be open to the unknown. The unknown can be terrifying, but if we don't stay open to the unknown, our terror is still there—it's just hidden.  The demons of fear and certainty stand guard at the door of self-knowledge.

Certainty may be what we want, but relativity is what we’ve got!  The unknown is the source of joy and adventure.  Do you want to know how the movie ends?  Or “who did it?”  We are told and conditioned, in some philosophies, to believe that we can get to a place of all-knowing.  By acknowledging that there's no such thing, that knowledge always has limits, we gain freedom. Then we are living with perception and insight in the moment.

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