Jesus Yoga & Tilopa’s Mahamudra

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Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden. I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . .  for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mind itself is self-liberated dharmakaya. Within which arises self-liberated mahamudra. This key to self-liberated experience I possess.

 

 

 

 

Great masters leave their mark on this world through their teachings and ultimately the lineage of followers who carry on their work. We are greatly blessed in this historical epoch to have access to two of humanity’s great spiritual yogins. Jesus personified compassion. His example and stories have fashioned a mind set that places ‘a love of neighbor as oneself’ at the cornerstone of behavior.

Tilopa was born in India one thousand years after Jesus. From Tilopa we have the quintessential teachings on mind known as Mahamudra. Tibetan Buddhism is predicated on the principal of Mahamudra. In Sanskrit Maha means ‘great’ and Mudra means ‘seal’.  When Tilopa’s lineage was passed on to Naropa and carried into Tibet by Marpa, Mahamudra became phyag-gya-chen-po. Not content with merely translating the literal meaning the Tibetan yogins went one step further and built into their dialogue a vocabulary that infused each particular word with additional significance. Phyag-gya means not only seal but ‘vast’.  Phyag also means ‘hand’ as well ‘cleaning tool’, i.e. a broom or sponge. Therefore, Mahamudra is a meditational system which purifies our mind of impurities. Our mind is left capable of of recognizing it’s own true nature: at once both vast and empty- Dharmakaya. This ‘recognition’ is ‘self-arisen’ therefore ‘self-liberating’ and the experience is complete, ‘sealed.’

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Tilopa’s most famous expression has been I, Tilopa, have no human guru. My guru is mighty Vajradhara.  As Tai Situ Rinpoche (whose calligraphy is shown above) explains: Let us be careful not to misinterpret this declaration. It was made neither through pride nor through ingratitude to the many, often illustrious, teachers who had helped him in the earlier part of his life. It is certain that he appreciated all those scholars, mahasiddhas’ and dakinis’ help a great deal and that he continued to respect them. By this stage in his life, he had attained perfect realization and full mastery of vajra-like samadhi: he was totally inspired by Buddha Vajradhara (Bearer of the Thunderbolt) and possessed his power of absolute certainty — the extraordinary personal transmissions. It would have been a matter of course for his Indian disciples to inquire after his gurus and the traditions he represented. It was natural for him to reply as above, to impress upon them the power and freshness of his own direct realization and his first-hand link with enlightenment.dakpo-tashi-namgyal-001

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Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (1511-1587) was responsible for codifying the techniques we refer to today as Mahamudra. His exhaustive and thorough treatise The Perfect Description of Moonlight that Illuminates the Stages of Ultimate Mahamudra was the first Tibetan text on meditation translated into English (at the behest of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje).

Anyone stuck inside a human body should not consider going through life without the ultimate owner’s manual Clarifying the Natural State.  Concise and clearly written this is a practical, how-to on meditation (sort-of-like the old books on keeping your VW van alive). Consider Three key points: Remain fresh in unconcerned naturalness. Remain artless and uncontrived without judging. Remain unbound and uninvolved with striving.  For this there are Five Analogies: Elevate your experience and remain wide-open like the sky. Expand your mindfulness and remain pervasive like the earth. Steady your attention and remain unshakable like a mountain. Brighten your awareness and remain shining like a flame. Clear your thought-free wakefulness and remain lucid like a crystal.

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In the middle of the twentieth century, shortly after the horrors of the second world war, Autobiography of a Yogi 001three events took place that rewrote our concept of Jesus, the man and his message. First the discovery at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945 of ancient Christian texts buried some 400 years after the death of Jesus. Included among the codices found was a complete copy of the Gospel of Thomas (the above quote is taken from that text). One year later (1946) Paramahansa Yogananda released Autobiography of a Yogi. On October 4, 1948 Harcourt, Merton-Seven Storey Mtn 001Brace published Thomas Merton’s seminal autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. Seventy years on both of these books have been among the top selling spiritual books. Yogananda and Merton charted parallel paths, one beginning in the West and turning Eastward, the other born in India brought yoga to America and has been instrumental in forging a fresh view on the meaning of Christ.

Thomas Merton was single-handedly responsible for an upsurge in Catholic vocations after SSM was released. His ability to communicate on issues of faith, conscience and inner flaws made him an icon for a generation. He became the public conscience for opposition to nuclear proliferation even when the Catholic Church tried to silence him. Even more importantly he was a one-man band  for inter-faith dialogue. Again the church tried silencing him, even threatening excommunication when he began a now famous exchange of letters with Zen Master D.T. Suzuki. Shortly before his death in 1968 Merton met, and impressed Tibetan lamas who had only recently found refuge in India. The Dalai Lama said Merton was the one who “introduced him to the real meaning of the word Christian.” He also cited Thomas Merton as one of the three most influential influences on his own life.

Christopher Pramuk points out in the best-ever study of Merton’s work, SOPHIA: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton the key element Merton focused on: the unity inherent in disparity. “What Zen realization shares with biblical-mystical faith is precisely the disarming experience of ‘a breakthrough . . . a recovery of unity which is not the suppression of opposites but a simplicity beyond opposites’.”

Thomas Merton calls us still to invest new energy and faith in our search for the Hidden Christ within — Christ has planted in the world the seeds of something altogether new, but they do not grow by themselves. . . For the world to be changed, man himself must begin to change it, he must take the initiative, he must step forth and make a new kind of history.

As Merton looked Eastward to expand his relationship with Christian Wisdom Paramahansa Yogananda emblazoned the ancient Indian science of yoga across the face of America, literally from sea to sea. Indian spiritual tradition both praises the human guru and holds their teaching and example as a beacon toward which the student strives and attains. Such is the inherent power in the Indian subcontinent’s message that the mystical path must result in the dedicated practitioners attaining the enlightenment they will then inspire in the next generation. It must be so or the lineage perishes.

The Apostle Thomas carried the teachings of Jesus to India, he lived there, he died there. The Gospel of Thomas has awakened a long dormant element in the Christian tradition. For two thousand years Western Christianity presented Jesus as a being fromyoga-of-jesus-001 whom we could seek pardon and protection but not someone we could ever hope to approach face-to-face as equals.  Now we know that was not the message Jesus gave to his own followers: Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. . .  I am the light of the world which is before all things. From me all things come forth, and to me all things extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there, lift up the stone, and you will find me. . . Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am, and I myself will become that person, and the mysteries shall be revealed to them.” Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas continues: Jesus took Thomas and withdrew, and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?” Thomas said, “If I tell you even one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; and a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up”. The traditional Gospels state clearly that Jesus gave his close students teachings on a deeper level than presented in the New Testament. This is to be expected, a Master who could heal with extraordinary power, speak deep truths simply and clearly through parable and even indeed walk through his own death experience consciously and produce clear evidence of that experience transmitted some of his own power to others. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles has ample evidence of the disciples newfound powers. The Holy Face veil in Manopello, Italy (The Face of God) is total physical proof of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus left us a trail and then buried the tracks for two thousand years, until now. It is up to those who believe to seize upon this moment and manifest the Consciousness of Christ through belief, prayer and mediation

Paramahansa Yogananda’s message is inseparable from his own relationship with Jesus. Yogananda wrote in THE SECOND COMING OF CHRISTTruth is no theory, no speculative system of philosophy, no intellectual insight. Truth is an exact correspondence with reality. For man, truth is unshakeable knowledge of his real nature, his Self as soul. Jesus, by every act and word of his life, proved that he knew the truth of his being–his source in God. Wholly identified with the omnipresent Christ Consciousness, he could say with finality, “Everyone that is of the truth will hear my voice”. . . The decipherment of this secret code is an art that man cannot communicate; here the Lord alone is the teacher.  Of course, Yogananda is not downplaying the role his own guru, Sri Yukteswar, played in his life. He is merely echoing Tilopa’s teaching, on the final mountain top we attain our own transfiguration and came face to face with reality in it’s most elemental form — a burning bush, Vajradhara or Moses and Elijah.

Which brings us full circle to the present practitioners of Christianity and Buddhism.

book-of-joy-001No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. This is the power we wield. Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fortune or fame. It reside only in the human mind and heart, and it is here we hope you will find it. Tenzin Gyatso/Desmond Tutu

Happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not. Desmond Tutu

Our human nature has been distorted. We are actually quite remarkable creatures. In our religions I am created in the image of God. I am a God carrier.rabble-rouser-for-peace-001 It’s fantastic. I have to be growing in godlikeness, in caring for the other. I know that each time I have acted compassionately, I have experienced a joy in me that I find in nothing else. Desmond Tutu, Rabble Rouser for Peace, a barefoot schoolboy from a deprived black township who became an international symbol of the democratic spirit and religious faith. The Bible is dynamite . . . nothing could be more radical. . . Prayer and social action is not an either-or proposition. Rather, prayer inevitably drove me off my knees into action.

The Dalai Lama visited Belfast in northern Ireland after the Troubles. He was invited to attend a private meeting where victims and perpetrators of violence were present. The atmosphere was very tense, as the suffering was practically palpable in the air. As the meeting began, a former Protestant militant spoke of how, when he was growing up, he was told by other loyalists that what they did in opposition to the Catholics was justified because Jesus was a Protestant and not a Catholic. Knowing that Jesus was, of course, a Jew the Dalai Lama laughed so hard that he completely changed the atmosphere. Able to laugh at the absurdity of our prejudices and our hatreds, everyone was able to communicate more honestly and compassionately with each other. THE BOOK OF JOY

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“I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone.” Thomas Merton

Paramahansa Yogananda – Path of the Yogi

It is simply not possible to accurately convey the debt we all owe to Paramahansa Yogananda, India’s sage, America’s beacon of a new dawn.

In Lawrence, Kansas circa 1969, in the months following the Woodstock Festival, I was much enthralled with Bob, a tall hippy with a bushy halo of hair straight from the HAIR poster. Interestingly enough, Bob was often seen about the White House and Rock Chalk Cafe with a copy of AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI, tucked under his arm. This book oozed power, like an Egyptian Ankh draped in ochre. I was hooked.

I waited several months, savoring the expectation that when I read Autobiography my world would never be the same.

It wasn’t, hasn’t and won’t.

Unlike Lobsang Rampa, actually Cyril Henry Hoskin, who began his exotic tales of Tibetan lamas with a solemn pledge that all he was about to tell was true, Yogananda makes no such commitment. He just launches into his mystic, out of this world and into the next, life adventure with the casual air of a Sunday stroll.

Who hasn’t read of Babaji and wished to scurry off to the Himalayas?

Yoganada still continues to teach us the original secret law of attraction through the many publications and audio/video material available through the Self-Realization Fellowship.

Atop Mt. Washington in Los Angeles is an old estate that is now home to the SRF. When Yogananda passed the property in 1925 he insisted upon entering the grounds although there was no indication the property was for sale. “This feels like home,” he told his companions.

He invited students to a dedication ceremony before the purchase agreement was complete. He then refused to sign it certain he could get a better price. He did, $45,000 contingent upon a closing within three months, paid in full. His students were horrified, “Why, it would take you twenty years to raise that sum”, one said. His answer, “If you think, twenty years, it will take twenty years. If you think three months, it will take three months.” Even the day before the deadline the group was short $5,000, but Yogananda calmly insisted the Divine Mother meant for the estate to be their home, as it still is.

According to  Daya Mata, “Yogananda – as a delegate to the International Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston – had arrived in America in 1920 to undertake the mission given him by a line of enlightened masters in India: to spread worldwide the ancient soul-science of yoga meditation, and (as he expressed in the Aims and Ideals of Self-Realization Fellowship) to ‘reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna: to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.’ The fulfillment of this sacred responsibility was his lifelong endeavor – beginning with classes in Boston in his first years in this country and continuing with ever newly expressed inspiration to the last days before his passing more than thirty years later.”

Daya Mata, was born January 31st, 1914 in Salt Lake City, Utah, as Rachel Faye Wright. Her family was among the earliest and most prominent Mormons, her grandfather designed the Mormon Tabernacle Church. She met Yogananda when she was 17 and quickly became a close disciple. Her sister Virginia (Ananda Mata) joined her soon after. Together they sat at typewriters and took dictation as Yogananda dictated his many works including Autobiography of a Yogi. Daya Mata went on to become president of the Self Realization Fellowship until her death in 2010.

Yogananda was a powerful inspiration to George Harrison who gave a copy of Autobiography to Gary Wright who in turn wrote and dedicated his hit song Dream Weaver to  Yogananda. Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Yukteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya and everyone’s favorite from Autobiography of a Yogi, Babaji all appear on the cover of the Beatles 1967 classic Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Babaji was also pictured prominently on George’s 1974 solo album Dark Horse.

When I lived in LA in the later 70’s, at the base of Mt. Washington, I worked nights. In the early dawn, my German Sheppard-Husky, Christy and I would traverse the coyote infested arroyo and visit the estate. Sitting in the meditation room where Yogananda led his yearly Christmas Day retreat was a love supreme, the faces of old friends; Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, Babaji and Jesus before me.

To possess God is to own the universe. If the ear is pulled, the head comes with it.” Yogananda

My relationship with Jesus is forever shaped by the power of Yogananda’s pure vision. His book The Second Coming of Christ is a must read for all seekers.

It was a singular task given to Yoganada by his guru Sri Yukteswar to prepare the Christian community for the present incarnation of Babaji by presenting the Gospel message in a fresh Himalayan light. Breathe it, bathe in it, sing it as the master would have us do.

“Sing songs that none have sung,Think thoughts that ne’er in brain have rung. Walk in paths that none have trod. Weep tears as none have shed for God. Give peace to all to whom none other gave. Claim him your own who’s everywhere disclaimed. Love with all, love that none have felt. And brave the battle of life with strength unchained.” Yogananda

                                               Have a nice, Oh Happy Day!

DREAMWEAVER by Gary Wright, dedicated to Yogananda

I’ve just closed my eyes eyes again
Climbed aboard the dream weaver train
Driver take away my worries of today
And leave tomorrow behind.