December 13, 2016

Eat to Live, Not Live to Eat

Swami Sarvapriyananda enjoying Jalebi dessert 
at the Santa Barbara Vedanta Society Temple.
He's just been reassigned to head the New York West Side Vedanta Society. 
We will miss you Swami !!!

Sri Ramakrishna used to say: 
“Eat as much as you like during the day, 
but eat sparingly at night.” 

Swami Brahmananda, the eminent disciple of the Master, explains the meaning of these words: The idea is that the full meal taken at noon will be easily digested, and if you eat lightly at night, your body will remain light and you can easily concentrate the mind. A heavy meal at night produces laziness and sleep. How do you want to spend the night - in sleep or in meditation? People are generally busy during the day, so it is difficult to still the restless mind at that time. But at night nature becomes calm and all creatures go to sleep. This, therefore, is the best time for meditation. Concentration becomes easily intensified in the quiet hours of the night.

The glutton who has no restraint over his palate injures his body and mind. Whenever he gets some choice food, he overeats and then suffers from breathing difficulty. His whole energy is spent in digesting that food, and if he cannot digest it, he falls ill. Foods like onion, garlic, and chili excite the body and mind so much that later one finds it extremely difficult to bring the system under control. I think that those who want to lead a spiritual life should pay special attention to what they eat and drink. Don’t overeat. Eat that food which is nutritious, easily digested and not exciting. Avoid stimulating food because it is injurious, and also avoid that food which increases lethargy (tamas). What is the purpose of food? To maintain good health and one needs good health for God-realization. Discrimination with regard to food and moderation in eating are very much connected with mastery over the senses. 

“A man who has controlled all other senses except the palate is not to be considered a master of his senses. When the desires of the palate are controlled, everything else is controlled” 
(Bhagavata, 11.8.21).   From the book ‘Meditation & Its Practices’ by Swami Adiswarananda

October 17, 2016

Look Upon God as Mother

Sri Ramakrishna describes a spiritual vision: 
"The Divine Mother revealed to me in the Kāli temple that it was She who had become everything. She showed me that everything was full of Consciousness. The image was Consciousness, the altar was Consciousness, the water-vessels were Consciousness, the door-sill was Consciousness, the marble floor was Consciousness - all was Consciousness. I found everything inside the room soaked, as it were, in Bliss - the Bliss of God. I saw a wicked man in front of the Kāli temple; but in him also I saw the power of the Divine Mother vibrating. That was why I fed a cat with the food that was to be offered to the Divine Mother. I clearly perceived that all this was the Divine Mother - even the cat."

Nectar of Self Awareness

I honor the God and the Goddess,
The eternal parents of the universe.

The Lover, out of boundless love, takes the form of the Beloved.
What beauty!
Both are made of the same nectar and share the same food.

Out of Supreme Love they swallow up each other
But separate again for the joy of being two.

They are not completely the same but neither are they different.
No one can tell exactly what they are.

How intense is their longing to be with each other.
This is their greatest bliss.
Never, not even in jest,
Do they allow their unity to be disturbed.

They are so averse to separation
That even though they have become this entire world,
Never for a moment do they let a difference come between them.

Even though they see all that is animate and inanimate, arising from within themselves,
They never recognize a third.

They sit together in the same place,
Both wearing a garment of light.
From the beginning of time they have been together,
Reveling in their own Supreme Love.

They created a difference to enjoy this world.
When that "difference" had one glimpse of their intimacy
It could not help but merge back into the bliss
Of their eternal union.

Without the God, there is no Goddess,
And without the Goddess, there is no God.

How sweet is their Love!
The entire universe is too small to contain them,
Yet they live happily in the tiniest particle.

The life of one is the life of the other,
And not even a blade of grass can grow without both of them.

Only these two live in this house called the universe.
When either one is asleep
The other stays awake and plays the part of both.

Should both of them awake, the whole universe would vanish without a trace.

They became two for the sake of divine play,
But in every moment they seek to become one again...

How can we distinguish these two from each other?
He appears because of Her,
And She exists because of Him.

We cannot tell sugar from its sweetness,
Nor camphor from its fragrance.

To capture light we take hold of fire.
To capture the Supreme Shiva we must take hold of Shakti.

Light illumines the Sun,
But the Sun itself creates that light.
The glorious Sun and its light are one and the same.

An object has a reflection:
When looking we see two images, yet there is only one thing.
Likewise, this work is a reflection of the Supreme Lord.

We may see two, yet only One exists...

Shiva and Shakti are One,
Like air and the wind,
Like gold and luster.

Shiva and Shakti cannot be separated.
They are like musk and its fragrance, like fire and its heat.

In the light of the Sun there is no difference between day and night.
In the light of the Supreme Truth there is no difference between Shiva and Shakti.

Shiva and Shakti envy the Primordial Sound "OM" because they are seen as two while the sound OM is always regarded as One.

Jnanadeva says,
"I honor the union of Shiva and Shakti, who devour this world of name and form like a sweet dish.
All that remains is the One."

- by Jnanadeva from "The Inner Treasure" by Jonathan Star

The archetypal masculine
The Seer
Pure witness consciousness
Pure being
The One
The still point
The unmanifest
The sun
Nirguna Brahman


The archetypal feminine
The Mother
Pure embodiment
Pure becoming
The many
The dance
The phenomenal world
The moon
Saguna Brahman

By Swami Tyagananda 
at Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India

Mother of All Things
The universe had a beginning
Called the Mother of All Things.
Once you have found the Mother
You can know her children.
Having known the children,
Hold tightly to the Mother.

Your whole life will be preserved from peril.
Open up the openings,
Multiply your affairs,
Your whole life will become a burden.

Those who see the small are called clear-headed;
Those who hold to gentleness are called strong.

Use the light.
Come home to your true nature.
Don't cause yourself injury:
This is known as seizing truth.

- Lao Tzu

August 19, 2016

I Am The Infinite Ocean

I lived bewildered,
In illusion.

But now I am awake,
Flawless and serene,
Beyond the world.

From my light
The body and the world arise.

So all things are mine,
Or nothing is.

Now I have given up
The body and the world,
I have a special gift.

I see the infinite Self.

As a wave,
Seething and foaming,
Is only water.

So all creation,
Streaming out of the Self,
Is only the Self.

Consider a piece of cloth.
It is only threads!

So all creation,
When you look closely,
Is only the Self.

Like the sugar
In the juice of the sugarcane,
I am the sweetness
In everything I have made.

When the Self is unknown
The world arises,
Not when it is known.

But you mistake
The rope for the snake.

When you see the rope,
The snake vanishes.

My nature is light,
Nothing but light.

When the world arises
I alone am shining.

When the world arises in me,
It is just an illusion,
Water shimmering in the sun.
A vein of silver on mother-of-pearl,
A serpent in a strand of rope.

From me the world streams out
And in me it dissolves,
As a bracelet melts into gold,
A pot crumbles into clay,
A wave subsides into water.

I adore myself.
How wonderful I am!

I can never die.

The whole world may perish,
From Brahma to a blade of grass,
But I am still here.

Indeed how wonderful!
I adore myself.

For I have taken form
But I am still ONE.

Neither coming or going,
Yet I am still everywhere. . .

I am the infinite ocean.

When thoughts spring up,
The wind freshens, and like waves
A thousand worlds arise.

But when the wind falls,
The trader sinks with his ship,

On the boundless ocean of my being
He founders,
And all the worlds with him.

But, Oh how wonderful!

I am the unbounded deep
In whom all living things
Naturally arise,
Rush against each other playfully,
And then subside.

From: The Heart of Awareness 
A translation of the Ashtavakra Gita by Thomas Byrom

I want to tell you about a very special 20 year old Vedanta Society devotee. Four years ago, at the tender age of 16, a beautiful sweet soul, "Kamal" came to live with the nuns at the Santa Barbara Vedanta Society temple. After finishing high school early he was granted a rare, (for an American teenager) three year, full scholarship to Vivekananda University near Kolkata run by the Ramakrishna monks. His major of concentration was "Sanskrit" and "Vedic Culture". 

While in India,  Kamal decided to start a blog about his adventures as a way to keep in touch with family and friends.    

Take a read through his blog. The posts are very informative with lots of photos and antidotes about local customs and his new Indian life. He was a very brave and wise spirit, old beyond his years, and everyone at the Vedanta temple was so proud of his maturity and high achievements. We all had hopes he would become a full fledged monk of the Ramakrishna order someday. 

I pray his writings will inspire you like they have me. We will miss his passing but we take great comfort in knowing that he has returned to that infinite ocean of unchanging love. Now enjoying the bliss of samadhi with Holy Mother, Thakur & Narendra. Shiva, Shiva, Higher Birth!!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


From: Ripkyn Murphy <>
Date: Saturday, June 23, 2012
Subject: Re: [India] New comment on Hey Mom, So I'm here at the University. They put....

Dear Andra,

Thanks so much for putting the idea of starting a blog in my head, I think that will be the easiest way to let people know what's going on with me. Thanks also for linking my blog with yours, hopefully some people can find it and get something out of reading it. I looked at your blog and was very impressed, it's very well done and has a lot of great information on it. Vedanta needs more people like you who are willing to use the internet to spread the word to people who are searching for it.

Stay in Touch,

In the words of Swami Vivekananda: 

"One day a drop of water fell into the vast ocean. 
When it found itself there, 
It began to weep and complain just as you are doing. 
The great ocean laughed at the drop of water. 
"Why do you weep?" it asked. "I do not understand. 
When you join me, you join all your brothers and sisters, 
The other drops of water of which I am made. 
You become the ocean itself. 
If you wish to leave me, 
You have only to rise up on a sunbeam into the clouds. 
From there you can descend again, 
A little drop of water, 
A blessing and a benediction to the thirsty earth."

- His Eastern and Western Admirers, Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1964

August 2, 2016

Luminous One

Bliss of Identity
by Sri Aurobindo

All Nature is taught in radiant ways to move,
All beings are in myself embraced.
O fiery boundless Heart of joy and love,
How art Thou beating in a mortals breast!

It is Thy rapture flaming through my nerves
And all my cells and atoms thrill with Thee ;
My body thy vessel is and only serves
As a living wine-cup of Thy ecstasy.

I am a centre of Thy golden light
And I its vast and vague circumference,
Thou art my soul great, luminous and white
And Thine my mind and will and glowing sense.
Thy spirit's infinite breath I feel in me;
My life is a throb of Thy eternity.

I have no plan for my life.
I accept the plan life has for me.
I follow that plan and what it provides me moment to moment.
I am not the roles I play in following the plan.
I am the witness of all that I interact with in my life.
I was a child, an adult, and will soon be an old woman.
I was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.
I was an artist, a business owner, a dancer, a spiritual practitioner, a friend.
I have been healthy, sick, successful, a failure, awake, and asleep.
Behind all those changing experiences, 
I am the changeless consciousness that is constantly present.
I am that I am, in spite of the changes that "I am" experiences.
My present is pregnant with all my past.
My future unfolds from the way I live my present.
My being manifests in the present.
I am at home in the eternal now, living the plan life has for me.

- Amrit Desai


Though weighed down by past life samskaras, 
The soul (ball of energy) within you is a part of 
The mother field of Brahman (God). 

You are this ball of energy. 
You are NOT what you see in the mirror. 
YOU were born with the stars.

July 4, 2016

What Would Vivekananda Do?

After long searches here and there, in temples and in churches, in earths and in heavens, at last you come back, completing the circle from where you started, to your own soul and find that He, for whom you have been seeking all over the world, for whom you have been weeping and praying in churches and temples, on whom you were looking as the mystery of all mysteries shrouded in the clouds, is nearest of the near, is your own Self, the reality of your life, body and soul.
- Swami Vivekananda

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

Behold, it comes in might,
The power that is not power,
The light that is in darkness,
The shade in dazzling light.

It is joy that never spoke,
And grief unfelt, profound,
Immortal life unlived,
Eternal death unmourned.

It is not joy nor sorrow,
But that which is between,
It is not now nor morrow,
But that which joins them in.

It is sweet rest in music;
And pause in sacred art;
The silence between speaking;
Between two fits of passion --
It is the calm of heart.

It is beauty never seen,
And love that stands alone,
It is song that lives un-sung,
And knowledge never known.

It is death between two lives,
And lull between two storms,
The void whence rose creation,
And that where it returns.

To it the tear-drop goes,
To spread the smiling form
It is the Goal of Life,
And Peace -- its only home!

- Swami Vivekananda

"I do not come", said Swamiji 

on one occasion in America, 

"to convert you to a new belief.

 I want you to keep your own belief; 

I want to make the Methodist a better Methodist; 

the Presbyterian a better Presbyterian; 

the Unitarian a better Unitarian. 

I want to teach you to live the truth, 

to reveal the light within your own soul." 

As soon as a man stands up and says he is right or his church is right, and all others are wrong, he is himself all wrong. He does not know that upon the proof of all the others depends the proof of his own. Love and charity for the whole human race, that is the test of true religiousness. I do not mean the sentimental statement that all men are brothers, but that one must feel the oneness of human life.

So far as they are not exclusive, I see that the sects and creeds are all mine; they are all grand. They are all helping men towards the real religion. I will add, it is good to be born in a church, but it is bad to die there. It is good to be born a child, but bad to remain a child. Churches, ceremonies, and symbols are good for children, but when the child is grown, he must burst the church or himself.

We must not remain children for ever. It is like trying to fit one coat to all sizes and growths. I do not deprecate the existence of sects in the world. Would to God there were twenty millions more, for the more there are, there will be a greater field for selection. What I do object to is trying to fit one religion to every case.

Though all religions are essentially the same, they must have the varieties of form produced by dissimilar circumstances among different nations. We must each have our own individual religion, individual so far as the externals of it go.  

A man may believe in all the churches in the world, he may carry in his head all the sacred books ever written, he may baptize himself in all the rivers of the earth, still, if he has no perception of God, I would class him with the rankest atheist.

And a man may have never entered a church or a mosque, nor performed any ceremony, but if he feels God within himself and is thereby lifted above the vanities of the world, that man is a holy man, a saint, call him what you will.   - 
From The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

June 6, 2016


If you want to
Know Buddha, it's pointless
To seek him in the temple;
The Buddha is simply you
Wishing to see Buddha.

The mind seeking
Buddha outside
Is the worst
Illusion of all.

Translated by Soiku Shigematsu
A Zen Harvest : Japanese Folk Zen Sayings (Haiku, Dodoitsu, and Waka)

Give up anger, give up pride, and free yourself from all bondage. No sorrow can be fall those who never try to possess people and things as their own. Those who hold back rising anger like a rolling chariot are real charioteers. Others merely hold the reins. Conquer anger through gentleness, unkindness through kindness, greed through generosity, and falsehood by truth. Be truthful; do not yield to anger; give freely, even if you have but little: by these three steps you will come near the gods. More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an undisciplined mind does greater harm. More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well disciplined mind does greater good. 
-Dhammapada, 221-225, 42-43

May 1, 2016

All for Her

No one is a stranger my child, 
make the whole world your own.

- The Divine Mother -

I am the empress of all that lives.
I am the sovereign power in all the worlds.
I am the bestower of all treasure.
I am the knower of the supreme.
Among those to whom homage shall be offered,
I am the first.
Everywhere the gods worship only me,
who am diverse in form
and permeating everything.
Whoever breathes,
whoever eats or sees or hears,
does so through me alone.
they depend upon me.
Hear now, one and all,
the truth as I declare it.
This truth revered by gods and men alike,
I am myself revealing to you.
Whom I will, I make terrible or benign.
Whomsoever I wish, I make mighty—
a brahmana, a seer, a sage.
I transcend heaven above
I transcend earth below.
This supreme greatness have I attained.

– Vag-Ambhrni Sukta (Devi Sukta), Rig Veda

Swami Chetanananda signing his book 
at Santa Barbara Vedanta Society March 2016

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. A mother’s heart is a patchwork of love. 

Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers. A mothers love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. A mother is the truest friend we have, when suffering and heavy trials befall us. The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which we will always find forgiveness. Mothers can reach farther down into the heart and offer healing love that can pull a soul back into light from darkness. A mother never gives up hope for her child. Never finding fault with others she will fight to the death when her precious offspring is faced with unjust treatment or needless suffering. A moms hug lasts long after she lets go.

Quick to forgive she is the first to offer food and the last to eat. She assumes the best in those around her and works tirelessly to make them comfortable and included. Encouragement is something she does naturally. A Mother's love is the spirits fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible. A mother always has faith that a child can change their errant ways. Being a mother means that your heart is no longer yours; it wanders wherever your children do. Mother is a verb, not a noun.

That which is Shakti is also Brahman.
That which has form, again, is without form.
That which has attributes, again, has no attributes. 
Brahman is Shakti;
Shakti is Brahman.
They are not two.
These are only two aspects, male and female, 
of the same Reality, 

- Ramakrishna -

Watch Video

Perfection will come when you are completely identified with the Divine Mother and feel yourself to be no longer another and separate being, instrument, servant, or worker but truly a child and eternal portion of her consciousness and force. Always she will be in you and you in her ; it will be your constant, simple and natural experience that all your thought and seeing and action, your very breathing or moving come from her and are hers. You will know and see and feel that you are a person and power formed by her out of herself, put out from her for the play and yet always safe in her, being of her being, consciousness of her consciousness, force of her force, Ananda of her Ananda. When this condition is entire and her supramental energies can freely move you, then you will be perfect in divine works; knowledge, will, action will become sure, simple, luminous, spontaneous, flawless, an outflow from the Supreme, a divine movement of the Eternal.

April 1, 2016

Buckle Up! Buddha

Peacefully sitting in a hidden corner of the discount department store, he waited for me. Unhurried and with a dignified sweet smile he humbly sat, waiting patiently until I eventually found him. I was thrilled! He was the one. And the price was right! The perfect finishing touch to my Zen garden. :) Today I had found a Buddha statue that wanted to come home with me. With my new meditation buddy safely buckled in my car we made the short journey home. Instantly the perfect garden spot revealed itself. I gently placed him in position surrounded by passion fruit vines and flowers. I breathed a sigh of relief and lit a candle offering a prayer of gratitude to the divine consciousness for bringing us together.

I've discovered that creating a serene Zen-ish environment is paramount to my progress in spiritual life. A quiet sacred space where my mind can relax and focus on God. Some days the weight of the world seems to be clouding my mind and it becomes restless. By committing to a daily sitting practice in a peaceful sunlit garden, the divine seems more easily revealed through nature. Surrounded by sacred art, birds chirping, bees humming, leaves fluttering, and clouds effortlessly floating on a fragrant orange blossom breeze, I momentarily transcend... bliss.

We are told... One day, after much practice, if we do not grasp at enlightenment or run away
from it, realization will catch up to us. Blissfully shining the great "I Am" sits as witness to all... as if to say, "I knew you would finally remember who you really are!"

Song of Zazen
By Hakuin Zenji

All beings by nature are Buddha,
As ice by nature is water.
Apart from water there is no ice;
Apart from beings, no Buddha.

How sad that people ignore the near
And search for truth afar:
Like someone in the midst of water
Crying out in thirst;
Like a child of a wealthy home
Wandering among the poor.

Lost on dark paths of ignorance,
We wander through the Six Worlds;
From dark path to dark path
When shall we be freed from birth and death?

Oh, the Zen meditation of the Mahayana!
To this the highest praise!
Devotion, repentance, training,
The many perfections
All have their source in Zen meditation.

Those who try Zen meditation even once
Wipe away beginning less crimes.
Where are all the dark paths then?
The Pure Land itself is near.

Those who hear this truth even once
And listen with a grateful heart,
Treasuring it, revering it,
Gain blessings without end.

Much more, those who turn about
And bear witness to self-nature,
Self-nature that is no-nature,
Go far beyond mere doctrine.

Here effect and cause are the same;
The Way is neither two nor three.
With form that is no-form,
Going and coming, we are never astray;
With thought that is no-thought,
Even singing and dancing are the voice of the Law.

How boundless and free is the sky of Awareness!
How bright the full moon of wisdom!
Truly, is anything missing now?
Nirvana is right here, before our eyes;
This very place is the Lotus Land;
This very body, the Buddha.

*Translation by Robert Aitken

I have arrived.
I am home.
In the here.
In the now.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

Breathing in, I invite the Buddha to breathe with my lungs.
Breathing out, I invited the Buddha to sit with my back.

Buddha is breathing, Buddha is sitting.
I enjoy breathing, I enjoy sitting.

I know that the quality of the breathing, in the Buddha breath, is excellent.
I know the quality of his sitting is excellent.
I enjoy breathing. I enjoy sitting.

I am aware that my father is fully present in every cell of my body.
I invite my father to breathe in with me. Breathe out with me.
I would like to invite my father in me to sit with my back 
– this is my back, but it is also his back.
Father and son. Father and daughter. Breathing together.

Breathing in, I feel so light. Breathing out, I feel so free.
Daddy, do you feel as light as I do? Do you feel as free as I do?

I know that my mother is fully present in every cell of my body.
I invite my mother to breathe with my lungs, to sit with my back.
This is my back, but it is also hers.
Mother and son breathing in together. 

Mother and daughter breathing in together.
Mother and son breathing out together. 

Mother and daughter breathing out together.

Breathing in, I feel so light.
Mother, do you feel as light as I do?

Breathing out, I feel so free.
Mother, do you feel as free as I do?

Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles
And the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?
-Tao Te Ching