Opening Verse/Prayer of Isha Upanishad
"“Here is, in truth,
the whole secret of Yoga, the science of the soul.
The active turnings, the strident vibrations,
of selfishness, lust and hate
are to be stilled by meditation,
by letting heart and mind dwell in spiritual life,
by lifting up the heart to the strong, silent life above,
which rests in the stillness of eternal love, and needs no harsh vibration to convince it of true being.”
―Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras
achy body notwithstanding -- quite wonderful.
Interestingly, as a major Christian holiday approaches, I've found myself reconnecting with some of the Hindu teachings and practices that, along with certain medicinal herbs and compounds, were originally a part of my Spiritual Quest decades ago. By the time Ram Dass's book Be Here Now captured my attention, I had already begun practicing Hatha Yoga -- entirely from the photographs in books by Richard Hittleman and Swami Sivananda. (There were no yoga studios to be found in my neck of the woods back in 1969. )
Similarly, my introduction to meditation practice began with Richard Hittleman's Guide to Yoga Meditation back then. For whatever reason (Grace, Karma, Dumb Luck?), something quite interesting happened in one of my early experiences with candle meditation. Sitting there in my living room years ago, I experienced a qualitatively different mode of consciousness. Meditation evoked a Presence of Mind that was palpably vaster and felt more "meaningful".
I was hooked.
Although the insights and techniques of Buddhist teachings have become the core of Practice for me for decades now, the broad palette of teachings and practices available in the Hindu tradition has enriched my spiritual life immensely over the years. Like any of the world's major religions, there is a wide universe of philosophical and theological schools of thought in Hinduism as it has evolved over thousands of years, major divisions, and a wide array of practices and rituals. Being a religion geek, I've done a bit of study of all that over the years. At this point, when push comes to shove, my "head" seems to find a resonance with Avaita Vendanta (Avaita translates as "not two"), and my "heart" seems to find a resonance with Bhakti, the yoga of devotion as it is expressed most vividly in Kirtan*
A melodic chanting of hymns, mantras, and/or the Holy Names of Hinduism's pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, Kirtan is traditionally done in a call and response style, accompanied by harmonium and a collection of hand drums, hand cymbals, etc. It stirs my soul -- and recently resurrected itself in my life.
In our own inimitable Gringo style, guitar, other instruments, and sometimes harmony vocals are now common in Kirtan as it is evolving here in the West. As a person who has been known to pluck away at a variety of instruments over the years and sing to my heart's content at times, it's been wonderful to open up the throat and heart chakras, get the body involved, and focus on the Heartspace of Love, Gratitude and Devotion once in awhile. (Maybe even twice or three times in awhile, depending on one's definition of "awhile'. LOL)
As I mentioned to a couple of friends recently, "I've been getting my Hindu freak on." (I imagine this pegs me as an old hippie for sure. )
Besides flailing away at the guitar, bass or autoharp, and wailing away in praise of the myriad expressions of the Divine sitting here in my room at 108 House, or with Faith, one of my housemates similarly inclined, there are a number of wonderful Kirtan Practitioners (click for links) that play out regularly here in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts as well. In addition to the locals, Krishna Das and other "national acts" make stops here periodically, so depending on time, energy -- and money -- there is ample opportunity to participate in Kirtan Practice in this neck of the woods.
So, trying to draw the head and heart (and this post) together here -- and trying to maintain at least a modicum of respectability among my more specifically Buddhist and Christian friends before I move on --the two quotes that I began with, I think, show that beyond all the small print that seemingly separates the various religions, the bold type is clear:
Call it Emptiness or Nirvana or Sat Chit Ananda or Abba or Allah, each of the major religions began and has been sustained with Mystical Experience, the Direct Perception of the a Resplendent and Transcendental Truth. These days, I call that Truth, One Love, because as I experience it, it is an Infinitely Open and Accepting Awareness that suffuses the entire Universe with Beauty and Joy. More and more it seems to be there whenever I turn towards it. (Sometimes I'm just too busy to notice, but I know it's always got my back now, even if I'm inadvertently being a jerk.)
Although I've read that a certain British philosopher scoffed, shook his head, and proclaimed that "Purnamadah. Purnamidam (the Opening Verse of the Isha Upanishad cited above) made no sense at all, I'm sure that any number of Zen Teachers may read it and smile, then shrug and say, "So, that dude was full of it. What else is new?"
What do you "not think?"
Here's Shantala's gorgeous version of Purnamidah, Purnamidam. I must warn you this type of music might be habit-forming.