Hold It All

Category: India






The Power of a Photograph

In the last couple of years
I’ve read whatever books I could get my hands on
Whose subject is Sri Anandamayi Ma

(Her parents gave her the name
Nirmala Sundari
Which means “One of Taintless Beauty”)

Some say this Bengali woman
Was a saint
Others assert a guru

Still others disagree
She was undoubtedly an avatar
No, no, she was the Divine Mother herself

But this stood out to me from one of those books
A European happened to come across
A photo of her

And was so taken by it
So awakened by it
So lured by it

That in no time
She dropped everything
And left behind her middle-class life

And found herself on a plane to India
For if a mere photo had that kind of power
What would it be like to see Ma face to face?



After Hamlet Beheld Sri Anandamayi Ma

What an uncanny phenomenon is this being!
How penetrating in perception!
How infinite in faculties!
In form and moving how joyous and marvelous!
In action how like an angel!
In apprehension how like a goddess!
The beauty of the world!
The paragon of the sages!—
May I remain near this quintessence of bliss!

Read the rest of this entry »


Breakdown Precedes Breakthrough

Graham earned enough to be under the taxable limit
Because he didn’t want to pay for war

He couldn’t say “No” when someone asked
“Would you help us fight back?”

He gave and gave and gave some more
Rarely drank, but smoked like it was the 50s

He said his “career” was resistance
His world was often crowds, noise, speed

A friend told him to take a day off
“But the poor and the Muslims can’t take a day off”

And he kept on going
After years of daily effort and exertion

On local, national, and global issues
He looked at himself in the mirror and wondered Read the rest of this entry »

Slowing Down

Eknath Easwaran, Take Your Time: Finding Balance in a Hurried World

This book reminds me of something Thomas Merton believed: “The spiritual life is simple, but not easy.” Even though many people in the U.S. have ample access to various technologies and appliances, we still feel rushed, harried, always behind. Sri Easwaran offers straightforward advice for internal and external “engineering” of our lives. For example, he suggests we practice in choosing intentional living to automatic reacting. He offers a profound teaching from Meher Baba—“A mind that is fast is sick. A mind that is slow is sound. A mind that is still is divine.” He encourages us to cultivate the sovereignty of our own thinking process as well as juggle with our likes and dislikes (an example—experiment connecting with people we find hard to be with, for one reason or another.) Some of his suggestions are reminders of what we know and regularly forget—get up early, live in the present moment, respond to others with patience, drive our cars under the speed limit, do one thing at a time. At the end of the book he situates the practice of slowing down with other spiritual disciplines in a holistic program of sadhana (training in the transformation of our consciousness, character, and conduct), particularly meditation and mantra. It is from Sri Easwaran that I learned of something the Concord sage Henry David Thoreau espoused in the mid-19th century: “I have no time to be in a hurry.”

Religion 101: Thoughts from Sri Ramakrishna

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna  
Translated into English with an introduction by Swami Nikhilananda

God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole. 111

Every religion has errors. Everyone thinks this his watch alone gives the correct time. It is enough to have yearning for God. It is enough to love Him and feel attracted to Him.  112

The devotees call on God alone, though by different names. They call on one Person only. God is one, but His names are many. 112

I had to practice each religion for a time—Hinduism, Islam, Christianity. Furthermore, I followed the paths of the Śāktas, Vaishnavas, and Vedāntists. I realized that there is only one God toward whom all are traveling; but the paths are different. 129 Read the rest of this entry »

To Serve Suffering Humanity

Shekhar Ganguly, A Satyagrahi, a Revolutionary, a Communist
People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1995

I recently read Arundhati Roy’s moving essay, “Walking with the Comrades,” detailing her solidarity with the indigenous Maoists of India back in 2010.  Shekhar Ganguly is an ideological antecedent, in some respects, to those women, men, and kids Roy met in the jungles of India.  His book is a straightforward account for the  benefit of the next generation.  Here’s a most important fact: He spent 12 years in jail for his Communist compromismo. 

Ganguly  became a satyagrahi at 13.  He noted the influence of the Ramakrishna movement and Vivekananda and revolutionary politics: “I was torn between two ideas and two desires at that moment. To search out and join the ranks of the revolutionaries, fight the British rulers and die a hero’s death like Bhagat Singh and the other heroes or to join Ramakrishna Mission and spend my life serving the suffering humanity! In those days the first was much stronger than the second.” [9]

He moved away from “Gandhism” because he was “serious”: The British only understood force:  “Hence they will have to be thrown out by force.”  [11] He had to reckon with this question: “Are you ready to sacrifice everything for the freedom of Mother India?” [11] He sealed the deal with an offering of blood to the goddess Kali and “learnt in jail that many others had been tortured much more and for longer period than me.” [25] Read the rest of this entry »

Sayings by Maharajji

Said one devotee, “Maharajji was love incarnate. No religion, only love.”


from Miracle of Love: Stories about Neem Karoli Baba, compiled by Ram Dass

See God in everyone. It is deception to teach by individual differences and karma.

I am here and I am in America. Whoever remembers me, I go to.

You get wisdom from suffering. You are alone with God when you are sick, in the cremation ground or hospital. You call on God when you suffer.

If you want to see God, kill desires. Desires are in the mind. When you have a desire for something, don’t act on it and it will go away. If you desire to drink this cup of tea, don’t, and the desire for it will fall away.

It doesn’t matter if you are married or not, it only matters how much you love God.

It’s better to see God in everything than to try to figure it out.

If you are free of attachment, you will lead a simple life in a simple environment.

Truth is the most difficult tapasya. Men will hate you for telling the truth. They will call you names. They may even kill you, but you must tell the truth. If you live in truth, God will always stand with you.

Money should be used to help others. Read the rest of this entry »

Arise with a Brave Heart: Six Translations of the Gita, 2:3

It does not become you to yield to this weakness. Arise with a  brave heart and destroy the enemy.
—trans. Eknath Easwaran

Don’t yield to impotence!
It is unnatural in you!
Banish this petty weakness from your heart.
Rise to the fight, Arjuna!
—trans. Barbara Stoler Miller

Yield not to unmanliness, O Partha. It does not become thee. Shake off this miserable faint-heartedness and arise, O Parantapa.
—trans. unknown, from Mohandas Gandhi’s Gujarati translation from Sanskrit original

Yield not to this unmanliness, O Partha [Arjuna], for it does not become thee. Cast off this petty faintheartedness and arise, O Oppressor of the foes [Arjuna].
—trans. S. Radhakrishnan Read the rest of this entry »



Thoughts of the past and future spoil your time.

–Dipa Ma, in Amy Schmidt, Dipa Ma: The Life and Teachings of a Buddhist Master 



If I had to use one single word to describe the atmosphere of the Gospel  narrative, it would be the word Now. The majority of us spend the greater part of our lives in the future or the past—fearing or desiring what is to come, regretting what is over. M. shows us a being who  lives in continuous contact with that which is eternally present. God’s existence has no relation to past or future; it is always as of now. To be with Ramakrishna was to be in the presence of that Now. 

–Christopher Isherwood, Ramakrishna and His Disciples Read the rest of this entry »

What a Joy to Run the World!

When corporate-endowed foundations first made their appearance in the United States, there was a fierce debate about their provenance, legality, and lack of accountability. People suggested that if companies had so much surplus money, they should raise the wages of their workers. (People made these outrageous suggestions in those days, even in America.) The idea of these foundations, so ordinary now, was in fact a leap of the business imagination. Non-tax-paying legal entities with massive resources and an almost unlimited brief—wholly unaccountable, wholly nontransparent— what better way to parlay economic wealth into political, social, and cultural capital, to turn money into power? What better way for usurers to use a minuscule percentage of their profits to run the world? How else would Bill Gates, who admittedly knows a thing or two about computers, find himself designing education, health, and agriculture policies, not just for the US government but for governments all over the world?

Arundhati Roy, Capitalism: A Ghost Story


“Holy the Supernatural Extra Brilliant Intelligent Kindness of the Soul!”

Sri Anandamayi Ma

The title comes from Allen Ginsberg’s poem, Howl