Sunday, December 28, 2014

Chanting of the Ganapati Atharvashirsha

I chanted the Ganapati Atharvashirsha and set it to photos I took of the various murthis of Lord Ganesha at the ashram of my Guru, Mahamandaleshwar Swarupananda. 

The Ganapati Atharvashirsha is a late Upanishad.  It contains the distilled wisdom of non-dual Advaita philosophy.  Here that supreme, all-pervading Principle, who is also the Guru, and who also is the Self, is honored in the form of Lord Ganesha.

Eventually, I will post a video blog offering a simple translation and some commentary.  For now, please enjoy the chant and the darshan of my Guruji, his Guruji, and Lord Ganesha.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Swami Anantananda Giri @ 2014 Olympia Sync Summit

Here is the video of my presentation for the 2014 Olympia Sync Summit. Much thanks to Alan Green, Sync Book Press, and everybody associated with the event for all their hard work making the event possible, producing all these great videos, and for participating. OM Namo Narayana!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?

I am concerned with the frequency that I hear people asking this question or echoing the sentiment that it is somehow detrimental to do good things in the world.  I'm going on the record to call B.S.  Do you want to know what I hear whenever someone says this?  What I hear is, "I am looking for an excuse to be selfish."  The fact of the matter is that karma exists.  It doesn't take much effort to see it at work, although it must be taken into account that this law of cause-and-effect sometimes works in such a way that we don't reap what we have sown until later lifetimes.  We should also keep in mind that the law of cause-and-effect applies to thoughts, words, and deeds alike.

People who cultivate an attitude of gratitude don't necessarily have more to be grateful for, but they're more likely to recognize what they do have to be grateful for.  People who occupy their minds with love, and whose actions are motivated by that mindset, attract the love and admiration of others.  They are healthier and happier than they would be if this were not the case.  This is a prerequisite for good, harmonious relationships because healthy people respect themselves enough to stay out of the drama of volatile people, at least to the extent that there is an option.

If a person's attitude is one which is nurtured by love and gratitude, their words and actions will follow suit.  This brings good karma in general.  Past karma (including past-life karma) is a factor, but what goes around does indeed come around.  On the other hand, a few hollow gestures aren't going to go so far.  What might outwardly appear to be a good deed isn't so wholesome if it is motivated by greed, narcissism, other forms of self-interest, or if it is accompanied by suspicion. 

Nothing personal, Dos Equis Guy.

When someone has expectations of people in return for good deeds, these are not good deeds, they're  business transactions.  If you don't have the foresight to put your terms and conditions in writing, then that says less about the existence of karma than it does about your poor business acumen.  A good deed can never hurt if there aren't any expectations attached to it. When someone thinks a good deed entitles them to something, though, that's a recipe for disappointment.

Some times a good deed isn't reciprocated, appreciated, or even acknowledged.  So what?   That's on the recipient.  A good deed is done for its own sake.  Or maybe for the sake of making it so that there is a even just a little more good in the world.  That doesn't mean putting oneself in a compromising situation, abandoning prudence, or making a martyr of oneself. 

I don't believe in good people or bad people.  People are just people doing the best they can with the understanding and the circumstances they have to work with at any given moment.  By putting in a little effort toward improving the quality of our thoughts, words, and deeds, we are seen as "better people", our subjective experience tends to improve, and our understanding of reality matures.  The higher our understanding, the more it becomes obvious that doing the right thing is the best thing for ourselves and others alike.  This shift in understanding can be accelerated by taking up a spiritual practice.  These are easy changes that we can make which make all the difference in the world.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Danger of "Us" VS "Them"

To paraphrase Nietzsche, the danger in fighting monsters is that of becoming a monster oneself.  Why do we feel the need to fight monsters?  First we must perceive "I" as distinct from "an other".  At the heart of the matter, all is resolved into Oneness.  But when we fail to perceive this, the sense of separation prevails.  This is the root of all of our troubles.  When we perceive some other who is somehow deemed a threat or is sufficiently "bad", the tendency is to get up in arms.  This fuels the psychology of separation even further.  There arises a battle between "us" and "them".  In a neat little twist of irony, Reality proves that, ultimately, we are all One...even via the medium of our misguided efforts at preserving the separate self at the expense of the others who threaten it.  We become the monster we fight.  We're not different from it.  The only reason that we don't generally see this is broken empathy and short attention spans.

A terrible thing happened to Jews during the German holocaust of World War II.  It was the attempted, and partially successful, genocide of an entire race of people.  Men, women, children, it didn't matter.  I met a woman who was a holocaust survivor when I was eight-years-old.  The pain that was still with her all those years later was palpable.  It was a terrible tragedy and a crime against humanity.  

Today, the nation of Israel, still dredging up the collective pain of a persecuted people, has become the persecutor.  Israelis and Palestinians occupy the same territory.  Some of the people of Israel have done some unsavory things to some of the people of Palestine.  Some of the people of Palestine have responded in kind.  This has turned into an ever-escalating back-and-forth cycle of hatred and retaliation.  Now the State is poised to wipe the Palestinians off the face of the earth altogether.  The Palestinians have been fenced into the tiny Gaza strip.  The infrastructure to support life has been systematically destroyed.  Men, women, and children are being bombed daily - presumably along with militants - in schools and hospitals.  Politicians and citizens alike have openly declared in various ways that complete and utter genocide is the only desired outcome. 

Was every WWII era German a racist?  I know from historical examples that this was not the case.  You couldn't get me to believe that every Israeli or every person of Jewish descent condones the actions of the Israeli State.  Yet it seems that the State, the stated purpose of whose inception was to find asylum from racism and persecution, is (apparently quite successfully) promoting the exact same racism and persecution upon the Arabs of Palestine.  Fighting one particular monster, some Jews at least have become that very monster themselves.

And what of the Arab survivors and refugees of Palestine?  They will now be faced with the same choice.  Essentially, that choice is whether to continue feeding the perception of "Us" VS "Them" - Arabs VS Jews in this case - with hate, or somehow chalking it up to a tragedy and trying to move on - refusing act out of hate or fear.

While all of this is going on, the Western world (and India) continue to be whipped into a frenzy about militant Islam.  Some Western women are still begrudging their now-remedied but historical status as second-class citizens.  As a result of this, men are being presented by some as the cause of this problem or that.

In other news, people are currently alternating between protest and rioting in Ferguson, MO and getting worked up all over the country, and abroad, over the unfolding events.  The reason is that police shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old young man.  The officer in question is white, while the young man in question was black.  Naturally, this has raised issues of the use of excessive force by police and the question of racial motivation on their part.  Additionally, peaceful protestors are being met with force by authorities.  I don't know what happened.   I wasn't there, but I do know that police do abuse their power.  At the same time, I know that people act crazy enough at times that they must be met with force.  The matter should be investigated thoroughly and justice should be carried outThe problem is escalated, however, when it becomes, in people's minds, an issue of "police" VS "citizens" and/or "black" VS "white".    By all means, justice should be carried out.  I do believe that the standard police are held to should be raised, monitored, and enforced.  But we should all strive to remember that we are all people and refrain from oversimplifying our outlook to one of "Us" VS "Them", which can only perpetuate the cycle.

Men and women; Germans, ethnic Jews, and Arabs; black, white, brown, yellow, and red people; Muslims, Christians, and Hindus: All are part of the human family.  Everybody is going to have the occasional family member who is just a dick.  I'm not saying that that dick-head family member shouldn't be dealt with appropriately.  What I am saying is that we should abstain from putting labels on the parties involved and join some group.  Life would be better for everybody if we could just learn and apply this one simple lesson.

Taking this a step further, we should all strive toward the non-dual awareness of the Self.  That Self is the underlying Unity of everything.  To know That is pure Bliss.  It is pure Love.  To know this is to know that everything in the world is perfect insofar as it serves the purpose of the world perfectly.  Whether we, as its co-creators, create a harmonious heaven on earth or continue to promote strife, we always have the option of taking refuge in the Peace of Consciousness-absolute.  This is the only safe bet.  We should realize our unity with That because That - which is none other than Peace, Love, Bliss; which brings contentment and equanimity - is the only thing that is permanent.  So long as we reside in the world, apparently cut off from our true nature as the all-encompassing Consciousness-absolute, change is the only constant.  Therefore, take shelter in the Real.  Abide in that which is everlasting, stainless, and unshakable.  Meet me in the place where "you" and "me" cease to be; where there is only one seamless Unity.  May we meet there, merged in Divine Love.  Only then can any conflict truly and permanently be resolved.

OM Nama Shivaya!  Hara, Hara, Hara Mahadev!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


One who knows what is good for them gives up being judgmental.  This does not mean to abandon pragmatism or discrimination (as in "this is appropriate, this is not").  It means abstaining from applying value judgments to others or to anything that the universe, in the supreme abundance of its infinite diversity, provides.  When you judge others, it is most fundamentally an affirmation of the subconscious misnomer of "I" as distinct from "an other".  Truly, all are One.  Suffering stems from our not recognizing this. 

The lack of recognition is reinforced as we act according to the lie.  Even if we can't presently perceive this fundamental unity for ourselves, our lives will be benefited if we can apply the principle of ahimsa (non-harming) to our lives and interactions with others.  This makes sense as harming others (in thought, word, or deed) is to harm oneself.  If you prick your finger, it hurts you.  Even if the fingers holding the pin regard themselves as separate from their victim, they're not; its pain is their pain.  Any time you point a finger, you can count on having that finger pointing back at you.  Conversely, when our interactions with others are characterized by selfless giving, without conditions or expectations of some sort of payout, one sows the seeds of happiness.

Carrying the concept of non-judgment out further still, we should strive to apply it to everything that arises before oneself: the eternal "I AM".  This is also often framed in terms like "surrender to the Divine" and "gratitude".  The more we cultivate this attitude - the attitude that whatever God provides in any given moment is enough - the more our lives flow in harmony with the universe.  We can swim against the current - wishing for something that didn't arrive, wanting some future payout, etc. - but this is exhausting.  It generates suffering.

This universe is all just a dream.  Its contents can't harm you, and whatever the dreamer provides is neither deficient, nor is it too much.  There is room here for whatever happens to happen.  Still your own essential nature is ever unaffected. It can only ever seem to hurt you and, even then, only because you have given your permission by believing the lie.  The unfolding of the universe, as a general rule, carries on as it will, regardless of our opinions of how it does so.  Keeping an eye toward the Real allows one to increase their acceptance of what is, to increase their gratitude, to drop their judgments.  In the process, you lose 'you' and find that there was only ever the Divine in the first place.  This is the Supreme Bliss.  Know This and be happy.  OM Namo Narayana!

       *The Neverending Dreamer by Parablev

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Big "Aha!"

Sitting on a moss-covered log at the edge of a cliff that hangs over the Pacific Ocean, I curled my toes into the cold loamy soil beneath my feet.  I had just finished setting my intentions for the ritual.  Looking up, I realized that the psilocybin had already come on strong.  I looked East and what was once a seemingly normal outcropping of rock was now a Buddha-faced Native American Indian chief, his illumined crown exploding into a headdress of ancient cedars.  His upturned palms rested upon his extended arms at the level of his cheeks.  His open mouth and pursed lips implied that his breath was generating the wind that was driving the churning waves below. 

            I had been on a quest for some time now.  Driven by strange but tantalizing experiences in the early stages of my experiments with meditation, I had gathered a lot of general information about many different schools of mysticism.  Taoism, Shamanism, and Yoga were what made the most sense to me by that time.  I had recently devoured a book on Yogic philosophy.  It was the first time anybody had really spelled out Advaita, the philosophical school of non-duality, for me.  Simply reading for the first time that the Self is Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence/Consciousness/Bliss-absolute, was a satori experience in itself.  Somehow this opened something up for me and I was suddenly able to look at things in a way that was a game-changer. 

I resolved to visit the Northwestern-most point of the contiguous United States, a few hours’ drive from where I lived at the time.  I happened to know that there was a major Earth-grid ley line that crossed this spot.  I would prepare by fasting from sugar, salt, alcohol, any refined/processed foods, and sex for a week.  Finally, upon arrival, I would consume a few grams of mushrooms with the intention of experiencing Reality at the level of only Sacchidānanda.

As wisps of dragon’s blood, frankincense, and myrrh curled and arched their way up to copulate with my olfactory sense I was utterly stricken with bliss.  I continued to stare at the unexpected manifestation of the Divine that had emerged from the adjacent stone cliff and I knew that it was alive.  I followed the wind leaving its mouth and watched how the wind played upon the surface of the water and vice-versa.  This was illustrated very graphically for me when a massive spherical cloud of little black birds flew in front of me, nestled neatly in a pocket of air pressure that followed the trough of a small but choppy wave.

The waves’ filling and crashing into the innermost reaches of the sandstone caves beneath me rhythmically vibrated the entire sea cliff that I sat upon.  I put my ear to the ground and listened to the briny deep filling and emptying from these various chambers and I was reminded of the systole and diastole of a living heart.  I sat back up and it seemed as if I could hear every last molecule of water colliding into its neighbor from British Columbia to Australia. 

It seemed obvious to me that the distinction between all of the phenomena that I was witnessing was somewhat arbitrary.  It started with the question, “Where does the water end and the air begin?”  I couldn’t answer that question so I looked to one that should have had a more obvious answer: “Where does the air end and where do the birds begin?”  I couldn’t answer that question either.  Without further enquiry, I just knew that the air, water, waves, the land, the stone deity, the log I was sitting on, and I were all interconnected.  Everything had a place because this world is just a place for the only thing that really exists – Consciousness – to express itself in every way imaginable.

At this point in my life, I had done some things that I was less than proud of to say the least.  Deep down, I had not liked myself for a long time because I no longer lived up to the standard by which I judged others.  But having this experience revealed all of my mistakes as stepping stones.  Whatever qualitative value I had assigned to whatever particular thing I had done had had no impact on the perfection of Reality as I was now perceiving it at this transcendent level.  I realized that my past consisted of events that, while generally performed based upon erroneous assumptions, had been necessary to bring me to this point.  And so I forgave myself.  I saw that, like the new Reality before my eyes I too am perfect.  Purno’ham is how one says that in Sanskrit.  Purno’ham: I am perfect!

Then I found that, in not judging myself, I had no judgement to cast upon anybody else.  There were people who had really done me dirty and I had hated them with all the passion and intensity a person is capable of.  But this simple shift in perspective made it obvious that it just didn’t matter and so I let it go right then and there.  Prior to that point, I had never realized how much baggage it is to hold onto a grudge the way I had been doing since childhood.  It felt so good to have that weight off my chest.

I cried too.  I had started tearing up the minute that I first looked up from my incense and list of intentions.  By the time I got to purno’ham, I was bawling.  My heart was welling up, to the point of overflowing, with joy and gratitude in response to all that I was witnessing.  The raw, unfiltered beauty of everything was just so in-my-face that there was no ignoring it.  If I had been trying to do anything other than simply take it all in, it would have undoubtedly been incapacitating.  I was in love with everything.

In the Wake. . .

This is how I experienced this particular level of enlightenment for the first time.  Somehow the biochemical shift induced by the psilocybin coupled with the ritual context I observed, the set and setting that I had sought out, and the intention that I went into the experience with; all of these factors converged to stop (or at least weaken) the normal processing of sensory data that occurs somewhere after it is apprehended by the senses but prior to its being perceived by the individual.  So I perceived Reality much more closely to the way that it actually is rather than perceiving it through various layers of mental conditioning.  In terms of what is categorically experienced, this is the perception of unity-in-duality – the recognition of which is ultimately the point of all of the various philosophical schools of Yoga/Hinduism, and every one of what are more broadly termed “wisdom traditions” for that matter.
            The problem that I encountered is that, although the initial experience came relatively easily, as soon as the biochemical composition of my body returned to normal some four-to-six hours later, I was no longer experiencing Reality in this way.  The filters that ordinarily censor a person’s reality, whether they like it or not, came back full-force.  Yes, the experience was massively healing and cathartic.  It also allowed me to readily accept the claims of the sages who came before me because I had seen exactly what they were talking about.  However, the proverbial diplopia returned; that which causes one to see two suns when there is really only one.  I may have been able to accept that there is only one thing in the universe and that that one thing is Consciousness, but that didn’t make it any easier for me to perceive it. 

           I had continued my practice, but I experienced a lot of ups and downs.  Eventually I came across the concept that a Guru is necessary to get someone to this state and to keep them stable in it.  This is called sahāja saṃādhi, or effortless/natural absorption in the Divine.  Sure, it’s true that the Guru is inside of you and that, in the state of being identified with Reality at the transcendental level that I described above, one is no different from the Guru (or anything else for that matter).  But if one is not perceiving that for themselves then, naturally, this is not perceived to be the case.  Ramana Maharshi often used to say that the inner Guru and the outer Guru are both necessary:  The outer Guru pushes the mind inward while the inner Guru pulls awareness toward it from within.

           So I went and found a Guru.  What I found is that performing the sādhanā, or practice, that he prescribed caused me to draw his Grace.  Grace can be thought of as a subtle and intelligent energetic force that triggers a chain reaction, propelling one toward the awareness of unconditioned Reality.  In the Guru’s transmitting and the seeker’s receiving his Grace, mental conditioning is burned off, Kuṇḍalinī is awakened and drawn upward, attachments and other unnecessary things fall away, and more.  Furthermore, all of this happens at a rate exponentially greater than when one performs sādhanā without the aid of the Guru.

            I have been working with my Guru for three years now.  I’m not there yet, but what I have found is that my baseline level of awareness is much closer to the experience of enlightenment that I described above.  I no longer feel like a pendulum, swinging from the high heights of the most transcendent bliss, back into the hellish depths appearing to be as cut off from That as can be.  Additionally, bits and pieces of that state regularly flash forth.  It’s kind of like a large diamond with many faces.  The light catches a part of it and attention is drawn to that brilliant reflection.  When the light catches it differently, another facet is illumined and so that is where one’s attention goes.  This just happens spontaneously while going about one’s daily routine.  You can be at work, watching TV, or arguing with a family member and suddenly everything is the bliss of being and perceiving only Consciousness-absolute. 

           There is nothing in life to accomplish but this.  The beauty of this proposition is that one need not do anything fundamentally different from what they would be doing anyway.  Yes, there is a certain degree of self-effort involved.  Certain exercises, like seated meditation and mantra repetition, to give a couple of examples, should be worked into one’s routine.  However, this doesn’t mean that there is not room for everyday life.  It doesn’t mean one needs to adopt another culture or way of dressing.  One does not need to establish themselves as different or weird.  This is a completely practical, completely natural, and completely life-positive expression of one’s own personal evolution.  One continues to live life as normal.  The only thing that changes is the reason for doing so.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Is Homosexuality Adharma?

A popular question seems to be, "Swami, do you work with gay men?" "Can gay men do sādhanā?"

The answer is emphatically "Yes!" Gay men can do sādhanā. This swami does not care one little bit whether it is dicks or tits that catch your eye. Somebody who is attracted to men is no less entitled to experiencing the nature of the common Self of all. This Self is theirs as much as it is anybody elses'. We are all equally the manifestations of That.

It is not sex in itself - homosexual or otherwise - that is sinful.  The fundamental error - that of all individuals who do not know themselves as the Self of all - is the seeking of happiness outside of the Self.  When your awareness is fully trained on the Self, the ever-present bliss of jñāna utterly outshines the appeal of transitory pleasures of the world (although they are but a piece of That).  At this level of realization, bumping uglies is not high on one's list of priorities.  Sexual orientation is irrelevant because the goal is beyond distinctions of male and female, or one who is doing things to another.  It is irrelevant because sex naturally falls away from one's life at a certain point in their development.

So how to reach this point?  Sādhanā.  And even if the goal isn't fully realized in this life, "Even a little of this yoga is never wasted,"  As Krishna reminds us in the Bhagavad Gītā.  This swami can tell you from experience that any spiritual practice that you engage in whole-heartedly will make your life better in whatever way is appropriate for you.  Scriptures tell us that anyone who dies prior to mokṣa, but while engaged in sādhanā, will be granted an even more auspicious birth in the next life.

Therefore, let those who hunger eat their fill.  The time to search for God is precisely that moment that one is stricken with a longing to know Him/Her.  One need not wait until they can abandon their home to go live in the woods.  One need not wait until one feels worthy.  The longing to know God is the sole standard by which to measure one's worthiness.  "Ask and it will be given to you.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened to you."  So said Jesus.  Let no one dissuade you from finding abiding happiness in the one place that it is possible to find it.  It is yours if you will but claim it.  Let us not waste time.  Make use of your auspicious human birth!

I welcome you with great love and great respect.  OM Nāmo Nāyrāyaṇa!

Your own,
Swami Anantananda Giri

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Release: The Yogic Gospel of Thomas

Was Jesus actually an enlightened Master belonging to a Shiva-centric sect of Indian mystics? The Yogic Gospel of Thomas sheds new light onto this question by considering alternate accounts of Jesus’ lost years and exploring the philosophical common ground between the Gospel of Thomas and the yogic mysticism of India, particularly Kashmir Shaivism. Of note are the blatant references to concrete symbols belonging to Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), such as the five trees of Lord Indra’s garden paradise and the iconic Nataraj (Dancing Shiva), as well as the more subtle components of these secret sayings of Jesus that only a fellow mystic would notice. Inner lights, sounds, equanimity, Divine peace, the Guru-disciple relationship, and self-knowledge are all addressed. What was formerly hidden in plain sight is turned over and examined from every angle. 

The Yogic Gospel of Thomas is unique because it is written by someone who not only studies and is knowledgeable in the relevant sets of conceptual frameworks and philosophical disciplines, but who also lives the practice associated with them, who has had the inner experiences that breathed life into these ancient teachings in the first place, and who is connected to (and can connect you to) a tradition that is still alive and well today; a modern analogue to precisely what Jesus represented in Judea and India over 2,000 years ago. As much as it is interesting brain food, The Yogic Gospel of Thomas is equally, if not more so, a practicum and a lifeline. May it serve you well.

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