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

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Epiphany-12 Days of Christmas

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2:1-2

The visit of Balthasar, king of Arabia, Melchior, king of Persia, and Gaspar, king of India is now celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany (manifestation, striking appearance) on January 6th. Magi, priests of the Persian Zoroastrianism faith, were renowned for their mastery of astrology. The word later morphed into the English word magic, with all its connotations.

In the Eastern church this festival is known as Theophany (vision of God) and is celebrated on January 19th because they use a different calender. In any event the post Vatican II Catholic church only uses January 6th in countries that consider this a Holy Day of Obligation. Otherwise it falls on the first Sunday after January 1. The Church of England considers any Sunday between January 2 and 8. As we know, American Protestants hardly remember the magi and consider Veronica a character in Archie comics.

Knowledge of Christianity, or even Jesus, has never been an impediment to those who loudly claim to spring from his spiritual lineage. Witness the charming discussions among certain “Christian” spokes persons over their divine right to carry concealed pistols or assault rifles. Anyone for a game of huckabee?

Christians, from Day One, the first Christmas, have recognized the transcendental nature of Jesus, known as Christ. There seems to be no other point of reference. Western Christianity has reveled in a fascination with persecution and violence. Jews are not alone in this experience. Fellow Christians have been favorite targets of which ever denomination has the latest bloodbath technology. The NRA didn’t invent carnage, they come from a long and proud tradition. The Catholic faith was banned in England for almost three hundred years beginning in the 1500’s. One penalty was to be drawn and quartered. Hung by your neck until almost dead, cut down, your midsection sliced open till your innards spill out. Then ropes are attached to your four limbs and horses pull you apart. Much like what an modern assault rifle does in less time.

It’s easy to see why being a Catholic in England required some clandestine practice. Hence The Twelve Days of Christmas, from December 25 to January 6. This popular song was taught to children to help them learn the catechism (to sound down), doctrinal manuals of the faith.   1- the partridge in the pear tree – Jesus. “How ofter I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it.” Luke 13:34   2- two turtle doves- the Old and New Testament.   3- three French hens – faith, hope, love “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three: but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13   4- four calling birds, the Gospels   5- five golden rings – Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament   6- six geese a-laying – the six days of creation   7- seven swans a-swimming – seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge, to another faith, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, the effecting of miracles, prophecy, and the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12: 8-11   8- eight maids a-milking – the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5: 3-10    9- nine ladies dancing – nine fruit of the Holy Spirit. ” The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23   10- ten lords a-leaping – Ten Commandments   11- eleven pipers piping – the Disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Jude son of James   12- twelve drummers drumming – The Apostles Creed – I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: I believe in the Holy Ghost: I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: The forgiveness of sins: The resurrection of the body: And the life everlasting. Amen.

Holy Fire 001Christians have not even learned to temper their anger, greed and jealousy in the administration of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Christendoms holiest site. The Rock of Golgotha and the Tomb, lay within the churches interior, yet the placement of ladders or a chair have led to centuries long feuds. For more on this read HOLY FIRE by Victoria Clark. The title refers to a mystical fire that lights a taper for the Greek patriarch on Holy Saturday during Easter, the longest running miracle in the world. It has been documented yearly since 1106 AD. The Holy Fire ceremony draws the faithful from around the world and profoundly affects all those who attend.”Holy Fire invades the church, a fast-breeding light transfiguring faces, transforming the dark stone space. I hear gasps and cheers and sobs and tears. The emotion is overwhelming, the heat suffocating. Every Easter the ‘miracle’ of the Holy Fire is enacted in front of hundreds of the faithful in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.” Victoria Clark

Holy Fire - Greek monk 001Paul Badde, whom I greatly admire, has a moving account of the Holy Fire ceremony in his classic book THE TRUE ICON: From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manopelo. This photo from the book shows a Greek monk during the flame lighting ceremony. The Greek patriarch is led by the Muslim guards of the church into the Edicule, the stone building within the church which houses the tomb of Jesus. The patriarch enters alone to cries of Kyrie eleison: Lord have mercy on us. The packed church rocks with the cry of Christos anesti. Christos anesti ek nekron! Alithos anesti. Christ is risen! Risen from the dead! Truly he is risen.

Christ is risen. The resurrected Christ is alive and among us today. Witness the Veil of Manopello. “The Veil of Manoppello is the sudarium of Christ. This is the mysterious second cloth from the tomb of the crucified Christ that John the Evangelist discovered about 40 hours after the death of Jesus-together with another linen sheet, which is today preserved in Turin,” Paul Badde.

The Body and the Blood 001For all those who aspire to the words of Jesus, calling themselves Christians or not, the fate of his followers in the world today is precarious. Peril lurks where fools with microphones equate Christianity with the right to carry assault rifles. Danger wears the Devil’s apron in corporate halls where the pay is high and the lives of the working class is devalued. Grave danger extends from Africa’s northern shores to the Sea of Japan. THE BODY AND THE BLOOD is a frank appraisal of the problems facing the Christian  communities in the Holy Land by Charles Sennott, former Middle East bureau chief for the Boston Globe.

From the Holy Mountain 001John Moschos was a Christian monk who journeyed throughout the areas we now call Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt in the middle of the sixth century. With his companion Sophronius, who later became Patriarch of Jerusalem, and presumably himself lit the Holy Fire, Moschos lived with monks, hermits and ascetics. His travels were recorded in his epic tale THE SPIRITUAL MEADOW written before his death in Rome in 619 AD. This period was classic, the spiritual fervor of the era abounded in mysticism and miracles, Islam would soon sweep through and Christianity would begin its long slow spiral into near extinction in the land of its own becoming. William Dalrymple, a Scots Catholic, became intrigued with the journey after reading about Moschos in Sir Steven Runciman’s HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES. He decides to trace Moschos’ footsteps, FROM THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is the result. Today his journey would surely not be possible, so we must be content to accept his witness to the few remaining remnants of a once vibrant Christian presence.

Yet, we must be careful in drawing harsh conclusions from history’s unfolding spiritual web. We must resist the temptation to fault Islam for Christianity’s difficulties in the Levant. Under Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski the National Security Advisor, admits to supplying the mujahideen in Afghanistan with weapons to lure the Soviet Union into an invasion and thereby crippling that country’s economy and political power. The Soviets invaded in 1979 and Carter used that as a pretext to boycott the 1980 Olympics. A trap well set sir, George W. Bush, stepped into the same snare you left twenty years later and now America’s economy is in peril and our political system tettering on the absurd.

The faith and teachings Jesus brought to mankind are unrivaled in their poetic simplicity. Now we must live up to the shining light he held out for us and follow him to the Christ center within ourselves. And we don’t have to kill anyone to do it. With a pure heart and compassion any huckabee can do it.

Merry Christmas – – – 12/24/12

A saviour has been born 001Sancta Veronica Ierosolymitana – The Holy Veronica from Jerusalem

Manopello 2 001A semi-transparent slide-picture with the face from the Shroud of Turin in front of the image on the veil at Manopello: so called “superimposition” by the Trappist nun Blandina Paschala Schlomer. From THE FACE OF GOD by Paul Badde. This discovery is the single most important development on the planet today. The veil explains the explosive spread of Christianity and why the early followers of Jesus were absolutely convinced he had risen from the dead. So must we today and live accordingly.

His entire life had prepared him for this morning, this trial. For this Jesus had traveled halfway around the world to receive his teaching transmissions in the Himalayas. For this morning he  had returned to Jerusalem, preached the Beatitudes, and confronted the money changers (read here Chase/Citi Bank . . . ). Now he lay wrapped in linen with a byssus-cloth veil across his face. Now, he would link Heaven and Earth, his Spirit one with God/Dharmakaya, his body bridging the Holy Spirit and Man. Never again would men lack proof of the Eternal Nature of Life.

The question is not: Is Jesus unique? The question is rather: How may we follow the teachings of a man who taught the Kingdom of God is within us all? In that scenario the seed syllable of enlightenment resounds within each of us. Remain silent, listen, the hum of prayer will open your heart.

The Face of God 001The True Icon 001

 

 

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.

Thomas Merton – Three Veiled Views

Thomas Merton burst on the world stage with the October 4th publication of The Seven Storey Mountain in 1948. SSM continues to this day as the best-selling Catholic book of all time.

Thomas Merton led many of us forward on major inroads of our spiritual paths. I had not heard of Merton on the tenth day of December in 1968 when my mother was buried. That was the day Merton died of an electric shock in Bangkok.

My introduction to Merton began two years later when I purchased Gandhi on Non-Violence and read the incredible Introduction: Gandhi and the One-Eyed Giant and wondered who is this guy?

Who indeed.

Mark Shaw, author of Beneath the Mask of Holiness, said that all copies of SSM should include a disclaimer  that the book is less than truthful. That is due to the heavy censoring hand of the Catholic Church which labored long to limit the world view of Merton as well as his reader’s impression of him.

Hence the Three Veiled Views-

We need not start with SSM, but its inclusion in any study of Merton is essential.

Merton’s view of Merton is of course what drew us all into his immaculate web of wit, insight and uncanny intellectual pursuit. To peruse Merton’s journals, letters and essays is to sit in the great parlors of Europe and New York: Boris Pasternak, Dorothy Day, Camus, Sartre, the Berrigan brothers, Rainier Maria Rilke, Philoxenus, Czeslaw Milosz, Koestler, Thich Nhat Hahn and the ever entertaining Saint John of the Cross. The man dropped enough brain bread crumbs to lead all of humanity home.

My all time favorite is of course The Man in the Sycamore Tree by Merton’s college chum and life long friend, Edward Rice. (See Luke 19:4) Simply put, this may be the most endearing biography ever written. Rice’s love of Merton, his amazing photos and chronicles of Merton’s life, writings and drawings leap off the page as Merton himself did to a world collage of letter writing associates and readers.

This book should immortalize “. . . an Englishman who became a Communist, then a Catholic, later a Trappist monk, and finally a Buddhist, at which point his life having been fulfilled, he died.”                 (From the book jacket)

The Dalai Lama credited Merton with awakening his eyes to Christian spirituality. Eldridge Cleaver said, after reading SSM in prison, “Despite my rejection of Merton’s theistic world view, I could not keep him out of the room. He shouldered his way through the door . . . Most impressive to me was Merton’s description of New York’s black ghetto–Harlem.”

“I felt an incredible privilege to be instructed by this great master of mysticism who for so many years had been my master through his books. But when I would meet him for spiritual guidance, he would ask me about Nicaragua, Somoza, the poets of Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan countryside, poets from other parts of Latin America, other dictators. He would tell me about his poet friends . . . about his life in the outside world . . . And at the end of the session he’d ask me if I had any spiritual problems, and generally I didn’t so I’d say so. And if I did have any, he would resolve them in two or three sentences. After I left, I’d have the impression that I’d wasted precious time that should have been devoted to spiritual guidance. Gradually, I began to understand that he was giving me spiritual guidance. Because at first I thought I had to renounce everything when I entered the Trappist order . . . And Merton made me see that I didn’t have to renounce anything. He saw no conflict between the contemplative life and the life of action.” ERNESTO CARDENAL from Thomas Merton: Poet, Prophet, Priest by Jennifer Fisher Bryant.

Now we have the third view. Beneath the Mask of Holiness: Thomas Merton and the Forbidden Love Affair That Set Him Free. Merton analysts have long puzzled over the question of Merton’s relationship with a nurse he met near the end of his life as he struggled with physical issues and wondered if was he ready to embrace Buddhism and leave Gethsemani when he traveled to Asia for a monastic conference. 

I would have probably not been interested in this book if Mark Shaw had not co-authored The Perfect Yankee with Don Larsen, the story of one of baseball’s seminal events, the perfect game in game five of the 1956 World Series.  (Reggie’s three pitch, three homers being another). To me this gave Shaw objectivity and a world view suited with Merton’s own. A wonderful footnote: On July 18, 1999 Yogi Berra’s 14 year self-imposed exile from Yankee Stadium ended with a ceremony honoring him at the Stadium. Don  Larsen threw out the opening pitch to Yogi Berra. Stunningly David Cone threw a perfect game for the Yankees. The story is movingly told in Driving Mr. Yogi.

Does Merton’s relationship with Margie Smith matter? Very much so, would that he was able to pursue his spirit and his love. Monastic celibacy is a dead end that traps the Church today as it did Merton and the Tibetan lamas he met in India before his death. I have studied for over twenty years with some of the very same men and seen the same effects in their struggles. Life without human comfort leads to sadness.

Michael Mott, author of THE SEVEN MOUNTAINS OF THOMAS MERTON, said: A time came when Merton began to open more to the world. For me a key symbolic work of this opening is his prose poem ‘Hagia Sophia.’ Sophia is divine wisdom but in the form of a young Jewish woman. Curiously enough, in the original journal record of that vision at 4th and Walnut in Louisville, he’s really looking at the girls in Louisville. Then, when he goes to Lexington to see his friend, the painter Victor Hammer, Merton finds what to him is the portrait of the woman he’s been seeing in his dreams and maybe seeing in the streets of Louisville. Incidentally, she looks almost exactly the same as his nurse in 1966. It’s really haunting, quite remarkable. No wonder he sat up and took notice when the nurse came into the room. . . . . So is he just moving out into the world of women? In a sense, yes. It’s women who bring Merton out into the world. —  From the film SOUL SEARCHING: The Journey of Thomas Merton.

Was he preparing to leave Christ for Buddha? I doubt it and it doesn’t matter. I don’t care.For Merton, Christ consciousness found expression in Sophia/Mary, and Margie Smith undoubtedly personified her Wisdom.

Merton’s legacy lives on through The Thomas Merton Prison Project which donates interfaith spiritual books to prison inmates and chaplains.