Hold It All

Category: Namaste Forever

Looking Ahead to a Spring Trip to Washington, D.C.

I want to listen to your tales of triumph and disaster

I want to massage your feet, long oppressed by heels

I want to be present to all you cannot say

I want to be restored by seeing your samadhi in the flesh as you whirl around in the kitchen (darshan)

I want to buy you three books (at Busboys and Poets) you will actually want to read before 2020


Scribbled in a Cherry Red Moleskine

28 March 2013;   8:14 p.m.
I want to sit on the front porch with Srimatiji
Tell her that wherever she goes in life
Our connection will deepen in time
Because namaste is forever


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 »

The Mantra Nirmala Invited Sunil To Focus On, So As To Cool Out His Predictable Slash-and-Burn Anger (Accompaniment/2,074)

hare kṛiṣhṇa hare kṛiṣhṇa
kṛiṣhṇa kṛiṣhṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma
rāma rāma hare hare Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Sri Krishna and Walt Whitman Do?

Dear Srimatiji
My heart aches

Reading the last chapter
of Dear Layla

You are Layla
Yet you’re as far away

For practical purposes
As the Gaza Strip

You are a psychiatrist
You are a resident

You are in Georgetown
You work too many hours

How shall we stick by each other
As long as we live in different cities?

Do you still
Give me your love

Eleven years later
Do you think of me

How we were in 2006
In Plainfield Read the rest of this entry »

So What

Dear Srimatiji

So what if David Harvey’s Marxist analysis is verified by each day’s dispiriting news?
“Full effort is full victory.”

So what if the interlocking system of oppressions appears stronger with each passing month?
“Be here now.”

So what if the work  feels crushingly overwhelming and gratitude for the work is depressingly underwhelming?
“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work.”

So what if we wake up some mornings and in world-weariness want to stay in bed all day?
“Wherever you are, immerse yourself totally in one-pointed sadhana.”

So what if samadhi often feels like a million years away?
“Concentration is consecration.”

So what if the daily grind is wearing down our faith and kicking our hope into the gutter?
“Love is the strongest medicine.  It is more powerful than electricity.”

So what if you are 750 miles away and I only get to see you twice a year?
“You and I aren’t ‘we’; you and I are One.”


Line 2:  Mohandas Gandhi

Line 4:  Title of Ram Dass’s 1971 spiritual manual

Line 6:  Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, verse 47

Line 8: Last words of  Sri Anandamayi Ma

Line 10:  Sri Eknath Easwaran

Line 12: Neem Karoli Baba

Line 14:  Meher Baba

–from work-in-progress, Namaste Forever

With Anandamayi Ma at Gelateria

for Dr. Amy Afanasevich

After meditating way past midnight
I went to my mat and fell asleep
And soon in a dream
Sri Anandamayi Ma and I are having a  tête-à-tête

She looks mid-twenties
She is wearing a tie-dye t-shirt
And is sitting across from me
Outside at Gelateria

The curious passers-by
Might assume she is a medical student
Taking a break from her books
That would account for the light emanating from her

She’s wearing a faint smile
And I’m a little nervous
She obviously knows this too
And tries to put me at ease Read the rest of this entry »

Why Didn’t I Think of This Before? (The Answer Will Be Right There in Your Heart)

You have this huge decision to make
There’s this stellar opportunity
And that challenging path and six more besides

Sure, you could consult the Jesuits
With those time-honored techniques of discernment
And maybe you’re headed to them even now

But all you need is three uninterrupted hours
During which if you can keep your heart open
You’ll surely know what to do

After watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

from on-going work-in-progress, Namaste Forever

Soul’s Soundtrack

Before coming to tonight’s writing class
I listened to a song from my youth

George Harrison late 1970
My Sweet Lord

I think I could go far in mettā
If I allowed that song to penetrate my life

“Incredible! Irresponsible! Delusional!”
I hear the scoffers (in my mind)

But that song is full of bhakti
Deep, ardent devotion Read the rest of this entry »