Hold It All


Category: India

On the Street Meditation

The swami told me to make japam while I walked and to give everybody I met on a street a mental blessing. You weren’t to think of yourself with a feeling of superiority, as a holy man blessing worldlings; you were simply saluting the Atman within each fellow human being.

— Christopher Isherwood, My Guru and His Disciple

NYC; photo by Mev Puleo

Japam=repetition of the mantra

Saluting the Ātman

Dear Sunil,

Thought I’d share one of my recent reading binges with you. I read a book late spring called American Veda, about how Indian thought has influenced the USA (from Thoreau and Emerson through the Beatles and beyond).   In that work, I read a few pages on Christopher Isherwood, a British novelist and pacifist who came to the US in the late 30s (he was best friends with the renowned poet W.H. Auden). He couldn’t stomach NYC so he moved to Los Angeles where, through the acquaintanceship with a couple English expats (one of whom Aldous Huxley, who wrote the dystopian novel, Brave New World, and a spiritual classic, The Perennial Wisdom) he met Swami Prabhavananda, who was a member of the Ramakrishna Order in Calcutta (did I ever recommend  The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna? [am i too parenthetical?]).

So I’ve read several of Isherwood’s books and translations with the Swami of some Hindu classics.  I  offer you the following passages for your perusal and enjoyment.


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.  Isherwood, Ramakrishna and His Disciples, 279

Narendra, who became Swami Vivekananda: Ever since our first meeting, it was the Master alone who always had faith in me—no one else, not even my own mother and brothers. That faith and that love of his have bound me to him forever. The Master was the only one who knew how to love and who really loved. Worldly people only feign love to gratify their own self-interest.  Isherwood, Ramakrishna and His Disciples, 216

We spend a very small proportion of our time thinking logical, consecutive thoughts. it is within the reverie that our passions and prejudices—often s terrible in their consequences—build themselves up, almost unnoticed, out of slogans, newspaper headlines, chance-heard words of fear and greed and hate, which have slipped into our consciousness through our unguarded eyes and ears. Our reverie expresses what we are, at any given moment. The mantra, by introducing God into the reverie, must produce  profound subliminal changes.  These may not be apparent for some time, but, sooner or later, they will inevitably appear—first in the prevailing mood and disposition of the individual; then in  a gradual change of character.  Isherwood, Ramakrishna and His Disciples, 107

Read the rest of this entry »

A Disciple and His Guru

Dear Max,

I never read Christopher Isherwood until this summer.  What drew me to him was not his  fictional  output but his spiritual journey.  My Guru and His Disciple is his engaging memoir of several decades living under the influence of Swami Prabhavananda in Los Angeles.  Having been introduced to  “intentional living” by one of the Swami’s British students, Isherwood had to overcome the hostility toward  religiosity he’d cultivated in England.  Eventually, after his long apprenticeship with this Hindu teacher, he came to see that “[m]y religion is almost entirely what I glimpse of Swami’s spiritual experience.”  As you’ve generously given me selected gems from James Baldwin’s essays, I thought I’d give you a sampling from this book: what Swami Prabhavananda said, what Isherwood thought about his guru, and  what were some particulars  of the writer’s own spiritual practice.

Present moment, only moment,



“Whenever you think of God, He thinks of you.”

“Why do you read novels? All books that do not give the word of God are just a trash.” Read the rest of this entry »

Om Satyam Shivam Sundaram

If you’ve ever …

put your faith in a guru
traveled to India and were blown away and never took a single drug
recited a mantram throughout the day
memorized part of  chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita
had a mid-Seventies practice of TM Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Reading, 2009

I recently found this in an old file…



Annping Chin, The Authentic Confucius: A Life of Thought and Politics
David Hinton, Selected Poems of Wang Wei
D.C. Lau, trans. Mencius
Andrew Plaks, trans., Chung Yung
Ivan Morris, Madly Singing in the Mountains: An Appreciation and Anthology of Arthur Waley
Stephen Ruppenthal, The Path of Direct Awakening
Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China
Mao Zedong, Little Red Book


Noam Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins
Noam Chomsky, What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World–Interviews with David Barsamian
Donaldo Macedo, ed., Chomsky on Mis-Education
Peter Mitchell and John Schoeffel, eds., Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky
Assaf Khoury, ed. Inside Lebanon: Journey to a Shattered Land with Noam and Carol Chomsky Read the rest of this entry »


What did people see in [Sri Anandamayi] Ma that so captivated their hearts? They found a combination of the sweetness of maternal affection and the profound depths of a mystical knower of God. In this fragile, delicate, young woman, they found the strength and energy of the Devi herself, together with the concern and care of an old and trusted friend.
— Swami Mangalananda

Ma 8

The Power of Bollywood Shmaltz

At a red light at 14th and Tucker
Listening to “Soni Soni”
My eyes fill with tears
Thinking of you


Soni soni

An American Satyagrahi

Brooke Adams sent me this message: Thought of you when I saw this cause you taught me what it meant.

MLK Satya


Mohandas Gandhi: “A satyagrahi bids good-bye to fear. She is therefore never afraid of trusting the opponent. Even if the opponent plays her false twenty times, the satyagrahi is ready to trust him the twenty-first time, for an implicit trust in human nature is the very essence of her creed.”

Sunday’s Agenda

The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta
Swami Prabhavananda
Sunday 28 February 2016

All religions are true inasmuch as they lead to one and the same goal: God-realization. But arguments will not prove this truth. You have to experience it; then only will you be convinced. 23

Seek perfection! Realize God! 69

In all religions, two principles: the ideal to be realized, and the method of realization. 26

The love of God has to be won through self-discipline, which we have neglected to practice. We have forgotten the aim of life – to realize and see God. … We cannot love God and hate our neighbor. If we really love God, we will find him in everyone; so how can we hate another? If we harm anyone, we harm ourselves; if we help anyone, we help ourselves. 50

How can a spiritual aspirant who is longing for the truth be satisfied with theology, with philosophy, with doctrines and creeds? 73

In the long run, there is only one way to verify the actuality of God, and that is to see him for oneself. All attempts to arrive at a proof by means of reasoning are futile, because what we are trying to establish is only the existence of our idea of God. 87

Our goal in this life is to experience union with God and all beings. We can make this end the means of realizing God. If we practice trying to see the unity, if we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, our consciousness will eventually be transformed. Then we will actually see the one God vibrating in every atom of the universe and love him in all beings. 117 Read the rest of this entry »

Passage to India: From a Letter by Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac

May 11, 1962

I do wish you were here, only calm and peaceful and not yelling at me much, as we could take long 3rd class comfy train trips to the Himalayas and read Mahabharatas and spend a few months in the Inde, and listen to music concerts. Even the journalists are gentle and would accept you as a saint-saddhu not a mean beatnik–people even come up and kiss yr hand and stroke your hair–you’ll see how much gentleness you’re missing in Machineryland–but it don’t make difference since travel is all Maya–except this particular Indian red dust is good kicks compared to the dust of any other nation I’ve visited so far. India a great NATION — a holy Nation.

The Essential Ginsberg, edited by Michael Schumacher