Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sitting upon a Bank of the River of Life and Death

The Columbian River gently flowed by as I sat on its bank, little eddies appearing and disappearing. My mind at rest, watching, free, grasping nothing my eyes sat upon. I heard footsteps from my left crunching upon the stone beach. The sound does not disturb the openness of “my” mind, nor the knowing of who made the sound.

Yama sat quietly next to me. We both sat in the Silence that is unaffected by the sounds of the nearby freeway, the birds, the planes.

Disciple: Yama, the remembrance of the book Siddartha, by Hesse, just came into my mind; the scene when Siddartha sits by the river and hears the OM, and knows all moments of his life, and all those he had known, have all been part of the River—this OM.

Yama: Yes, there is great wisdom to be found in that book and in that allegory.

Disciple: I can see how one’s life is simply a stream of events, thoughts, people, doings, etc., all of it seemingly separate, but actually all of it nothing more than the Great River. All happening Now.

Yama: Good, you’re going somewhere that really is nowhere. Perhaps you are getting wiser.

Disciple: So where does death come into this? Where is it along the River? I have been studying the Bardo Thodol, known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. You say there is no death, but Padmasambhava, the enlightened founder of Tibetan Buddhism, passed on this science of dying. Surely, he was not delusional, but thought it important enough to bring forth those teachings. 

Yama: How do you know he was enlightened and not delusional? Just because there are statues of him that followers worship, does not make it so. I am not saying that he was not, I am just reminding you that such “knowing” about people and things can never be certain, only believed in. But go on, I digress.

Disciple: So where can death be found in the River? And I know you are reluctant to say much about what happens when one dies, stressing to focus on That which is imperishable; still, is the Bardo Thodol accurate? And is it important to know, as Padmasambhava believed, to know what happens after death?

Yama: Let me try to answer these questions with an allegory. Remember allegories are not real; they do not express what is true, but only point at It. This allegory cannot be applied to every situation, just to your questions. Agreed?

I nodded.

Yama: Good. Imagine, if you would, a River such as before you, but instead of a few eddies here and there, you have whirlpools. However, these are not whirlpools that are stationary, but are moving down the River at various speeds. There is a multitude of sizes. The large ones are stronger, of course, sucking in more flotsam and with deeper points. The smaller ones attract less and penetrate to shallower depths.

Follow me so far?

I nodded my head once again. And as I did so I saw a different River before me. It had a soft glow and was crystal clear. And upon it were a multitude of whirlpools, like clusters of galaxies. I could see the points of each penetrating down towards the bottom of the River, like various tornadoes. I also saw many that had no surface vortex, but just a sub-spinning tube. I watched as these sub-vortices went along under water and then appear on the surface once more; travel a ways downstream, gathering flotsam and pulling it into its little depths, and then disappear once more. In fact, every whirlpool did the same.

Disciple: Are these whirlpools people and their journey through the River of time—being born, living and dying?

Yama: No, they represent that. The surface is what you call life; by each one’s thoughts, words and deeds, each gathers to oneself flotsam—flotsam that they themselves created.

I watched as each leafy-like object appeared before a vortex. And then saw that it split in two, one staying in the vortex, the other shooting off, to be pulled into eventually a near-by vortex. In fact, the River’s surface was covered with such matter.

Disciple: Why does each piece split in two?

Yama: Whatever one thinks, does or say, stays with one and also helps form the surface world in which one moves. Hence, the sage advice of the enlightened ones that if you want to change the world, change yourself.

Disciple: I can see clearly how those three can affect the world and go shooting off, but what does one do with that matter that get caught in the vortex?

Yama: Most people define themselves by their thoughts and by their actions. If they are mostly pleasant, then they see themselves as pleasant, as good; and if mostly unpleasant, then they see themselves as the opposite. When flotsam is swirling around that doesn’t fit their black and white definition, they try to ignore it. But as you see, none of the flotsam stays on the surface; it all gets pulled down eventually.

Disciple: The subconscious?

Yama: Yes, the place of dreams. And of death.

Disciple: Please, elaborate, teacher.

Yama: When one dreams, or when one dies; or, for that matter, when one meditates or does activities, such as art, poetry, music and other artistic endeavors, one will view one’s thoughts, words and deeds, that are the building matter of their own little world. Here is what the Bardo Thodol is attempting to describe (in its cultural metaphors). When one dies one experiences one’s naked mind, which is basically created by one’s thoughts, words and deeds. If one’s life has been a shallow whirlpool, identifying with selective bits and pieces on the surface, death can be quite a shock, for every piece will be examined.

A question: Is the vortex the flotsam?

Disciple: Not at all.

Yama: Exactly. That is why the teachings remind the traveler through the land of death, that place of becoming, that all the images, whatever pleasant or frightening, are nothing but your mind.

Disciple: But what about when one first dies, that many describe as a great Light and which the teachings say one should move into for liberation, how does that fit into the allegory?

Yama: That Light is the remembrance of the Ocean, the call of its depths, where no vortices of flotsam exists. Where the River has always flowed into.

Disciple: Why doesn’t everyone go into that Light? From all accounts there is a Great Love that emanates from it, drawing everyone home.

Yama: Yes, it is beckoning for all to come home, to come to one’s Nature. However, the flotsam that has been accumulated, that has been grasped in self-identification, may be so much that it will quickly distract one away from the Light; or there is neighboring whirlpools, loved ones, who are creating more pieces with the name of the one who has submerged, that pulls the transitioning one away from the Light.

Disciple: Isn’t that why the Bardo teaching emphasizes that grieving survivors can be so detrimental on the newly deceased.

Yama: Yes. While grieving comes to even the enlightened, when it becomes prolonged, is grasped, it creates more flotsam for everyone—the grieving and the deceased. Additionally, when one has done a lot of ill, survivors will most likely speak ill of the deceased, which causes more flotsam, more images to contend with, and that will not be pleasant.

Disciple: Images?

Yama: Think of each piece as a mini screen, or better yet, a bubble, to keep in line with the allegory of the River. Across the surface of each bubble are visions and voices, demanding to be seen and heard. And in that submerged place those bubbles seem very real.

Disciple: What about sending good thoughts to the deceased? Does that help them on their way?

Yama: Prayers, rituals, reading inspiring works while thinking of the deceased, speaking in gratitude of what they did, blessing them on their way without grasping, creates beautiful bubbles that help alleviate any suffering. Without suffering one can be clearer and at peace. Which helps in gaining understanding.

Disciple: Okay, I think I am getting the picture.

I again looked at the River and saw these bubbles in each of the vortices, all with images flashing about.

Disciple: Do these bubbles eventually pop?

Yama: Of course they do. All things created must end. Some bubbles last longer than others, or at least appear to. Watch.

My gaze was directed to a vortex that had a multitude of bubbles. And it seemed that time slowed down. I watched some bubbles disappear, and in their stead, a space was left; while with some bubbles an exact duplicate would replace the one that had popped.

Disciple: Yama, why are some being duplicated?

Yama: Those are hard-held beliefs. And whether they are pleasant or unpleasant they are distracting.

Disciple: I noticed, Yama, that some vortices are longer and deeper. And some so deep they reach the golden bottom. Please explain the differences and what is the bottom and what is it that is between the tip of a vortex and the bottom. I see that very few actually touch the bottom.

Yama: Enough words. Nothing is better than experience. Take my hand.

I took his outstretched hand. Then he took my other as we stood. He looked into my eyes and smiled. And then with a cry he jumped, pulling me after him.

We plunged into the River feet first. But there was no cold for which I had braced myself. There was not even a wetness. As we descended a host of bubbles, caused by our plummet, danced around us. I gasped as I focused on them. Each bubble was a scene from my life—some that brought smiles, other grimaces. Faces of people as well. Most of them known—not all appreciated. Others a vague memory was attached to them—passersby perhaps or authors of simple kind deeds I may have received from them.

Up they rose, popping along the way, while down we went. Now the bubbles were not merely pleasant/unpleasant, they were horrific. There were scenes that I could not recognize or faces. Such hatred. Such acts of cruelty. Such malice. Each bubble vied to draw me in, and as they did so, the bubble would grow (or did I shrink?). I began to panic and tried to swim to the surface.

Yama held tightly and looked me in the eyes. His calm gaze steadied me. I relaxed.
We descended. And came at last to the bottom. There was no debris, sand or anything upon it. It was just solid bedrock. Pure gold.

Yet touching it, my mind, with all its questions about the bubbles, especially the lower bubbles, or any part of the descent, came to a complete rest. Bubbles swirled around us, but I gave them no thought, no energy.

And then my/our awareness shifted. There was no point of standing upon the bedrock, but of being the bedrock, the foundation—the current, the bubbles, the flotsam, all going by, going to and going from. None of it touching the bedrock. Not even the Ocean itself touched the Bedrock.

And then there I sat on a bank of the Columbia River. Quietly, I watch the eddies appearing and disappearing, and then heard footsteps upon the stone beach. I looked to my side and saw Yama join me as he sat down. He flashed a rather large grin and a sense of déjà vu came over me.

Yama: Do you have any questions?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tears for My Father; Enjoying the Moment

I am standing on the balcony of my father’s home, looking out on the hillside in the back. There are pathways lined with stones that he has dug out of the stony soil over the 30 years of living here. Countless stones. At 92 he no longer digs them out. I’m sure he would if he could, my Sisyphus of a father. For what sins has he atoned? Was it the disowning of his sons, of me and my older brother Frank? Tears fall down my cheek. 

Yama strolls up behind me.

YAMA: Why the tears?

DISCIPLE: I’m not sure. I do not know if they are tears for all the years my father and I were asunder. Or tears of joy that he has turned into a much softer and kinder human being, who actually says that he loves me. Maybe it is a mixture of both, grieving for the lost time of affections we could have shared and knowing any moment can be his last.

YAMA: Are you enjoying the tears?

DISCIPLE: Yes . . . and no. It is what it is. I guess. But there is a voice inside my head that says that to cry over something that is past or of something yet happened, is ignorance.

YAMA: Ahh, the ego, wrapped in the guise of spiritual “shoulds.” Here the ego shows how clever it is by speaking the truth and hiding behind it; while its real intentions is to stay alive and in control by the use of guilt.

DISCIPLE: Please elaborate, Yama, I do not understand. Truly I am acting childishly. I know the truth of living in the Present, the Now. To do otherwise goes against all I have been taught. All that I know.

YAMA: In the Present you have tears, but your mind is judging the tears as wrong. You are spiritual, the ego hisses, you are supposed to be enlightened. And here you are crying like the rest of humanity. Like the rest of the herd. You are nothing but a fake. And it whispers underneath the sobs: see it’s all been a waste of time. You are no closer to God than when you first started. You are just a body and I reside in it, helping you to get the best out of life, protecting you against all the many fearful things that can hurt you and your family.

I fall to my knees, holding my head in my hands as I can now hear that voice inside screaming at me.

DISCIPLE: Make it stop!

YAMA: Why?

DISCIPLE: Because it is crushing my head. It feels like my head is going to explode!

YAMA: Now let me ask you, who is being hurt by whom? Is it the little notion of the separated self, the ego, that appears to be hurting? Or is it the Infinite Self, That which is one with All That Is? 

As the answer dawned upon me the pounding in the head began to cease some. And the response came quietly out of me.

DISCIPLE: It has to be the ego.

YAMA: And is it the Self, always at Peace, always certain in its knowledge that there is nothing to fear outside itself, that is the essence of Love, that is attacking? Or is it the ego with one of its multitudes of fear-instilling blades?

The pounding stopped even more.

DISCIPLE: Well, it must be the ego again. For why would the Self do something to cause itself pain?

YAMA: Exactly. The ego is playing its favorite game of attack and defend, of victimizer and victim. But you are neither. Just watch. Let the ego ramble on with its two voices. And be aware of That which quietly observes, not judging. Not demanding silence. But which is Silence itself.

I closed my eyes. My breath began to slow. As my breath slowed I no longer engaged in the discordant thoughts. No longer identifying with them, they began to fade, until there was nothing but Silence. 

And the tears came. Unbidden. Not stopped. Not judged. Not touching the Silence. And without judgment there was a joy from the Heart. And that joy spread and covered my father in gratitude for who he is and the miracle that lifted him outside of the hardened shell, to be a loving being on the threshold of no longer appearing to have a physical body.

Then my eyes opened, and Yama was gone. The tears disappeared. And I continued my day with my father.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Amidst All the Madness, All is Well

I sit in front of my computer, looking at the news, shaking my head. Another shooting of police officers, and this in response to the many shootings by white officers of black men. Yama appears at my shoulder and scans the headlines.

Yama: So what’s new in the world?

Disciple: Another shooting. The racial tension in this nation is going to tear this country in two I’m afraid. And then we have the threat of having a president who is so divisive, who speaks without thinking, playing on people’s fears (especially those of white male) and who is one of the most egotistical people I have ever seen. And then there is all the terrorist attacks that are happening around the world from Islamic extremists who are martyring themselves and taking out large groups of innocent people.

Yama: So what’s new? Nothing you have said is new. All of this has been playing out throughout the specter of time.

Disciple: Okay, anyone who has any sense of history could not disagree with you. But aren’t we more evolved? Are we not becoming more unified as we become more of a global body of humanity? At least we should be.

Yama: Ahh, expectations! Expectations are the slayers of what is. These events are just a few infinitesimal happenings on a stage so vast that the mind cannot comprehend. And because your mind does not reach out beyond the body’s senses, it focuses on little happenings to make sense out of it all, so it can rest on its reassuring cushions of judgment.

Disciple: How can you say these are little happenings? Say that to the victims, to the families of those killed!

Yama: If they were wanting the Truth, if they were ready to awaken from their nightmare they call reality, I would. But since most are not, and I was in my guise of a human as I am now, and not in my role of death, I would console them in their grief. However, you have called me into your awareness in your cry to awaken from your nightmare of bodily consciousness, so I am speaking to you in this way.

Disciple: Thank you, teacher, for the reminder. How easy it is to forget our conversations and my experiences that took my awareness beyond this physical realm. How much easier it is to be reminded about the Truth in your presence. Yet you are not always beside me, and when the senses are bombarded by what appears as outside, (especially reading the news) it is hard not to fall into the trap of that reality.

Yama: It is only the senses that tell you I am not with you. Remember, I am traveling with you and every being. I am just not always appearing to you so you can play the game better amongst all your brothers and sisters.

I bowed to Yama.

Disciple: Please, teacher, my constant companion, help me with your words to remove the ignorance of how I am responding to these horrific events. My mind trembles at the thought of my children living in a world of growing violence.

Yama: The mind likes to see things in black and white, good and bad. That is how it maintains its separated sense, or its ego. And since the mind has the power of God it creates a reality that it calls real, to maintain its spurious notion of separation. What you are describing is a perfect example--black and white for the shootings; good and bad for the politicians (and all their finger pointing). And because the ego, that separated notion of the mind, finds strength by believing it is trapped in a body, or even saying it is just a body, it plays the victim as well as the victimizer. And wields  the weapon of fear to reinforce the idea of limitations.

But remember, no matter how fearful, how polarized things appear to be, the Truth is that the Unity of Spirit is always exerting itself in its patient and fearlessly knowing way. 

I am sure you must have seen in all of this horror, as you say, some example of unification?

Disciple: I did. Let me show you.

On my computer I went to a video and clicked it on. We watched a group of black protesters cross a street in Dallas to greet a group of white protesters with the intention of removing the walls between them. Again tears fell from my eyes as they did the first time I saw the two groups hugging each other, praying together as one, with a policeman joining them.

Yama: Now, that is new. Such acts of unification are always new, free of the ghosts of the past, because Unity is always Now. There has never been a time when Unity was not. 

Those tears that you are shedding is the Heart’s resonance to the Love that binds all things, that can never be touched by my hand in the role of Death.

I nodded, unable to speak, and took in Yama’s words, and the remembrance of the hugs (I felt those hugs as surely as they did, for there was no separation between us), and joyfully closed my eyes that tears gently fell from. And from my Heart I could feel the blessing arise from it and go out to all my brothers and sisters, throughout the whole world, barring none,in whatever role they were playing--the blessing of the knowing that “All is well.” Always has been. Always will be.

Friday, March 25, 2016

All is Well--Despite What Your Eyes Might See

I am sitting in front of my computer screen, looking at the headlines for the day in the news. Yama stands over my left shoulder. I shake my head as I read more about the terrorist attack in Brussels and the politician mud slinging.

DISCIPLE: (I mutter) The world is going to hell.

YAMA: Well, it’s your choice.

DISCIPLE: What do you mean by that? Just scan the news. We have a politician who is speaking the most hateful things about people, who lies blatantly, who divides the world into those who support him and those who are against him, who wants to build a wall to keep the undesirables out, who incites violence, and who embodies the worst of capitalist greed by winning at any cost. And the thing is so many people buy into his distorted vision.

YAMA: And…?

DISCIPLE: Then there is ISIS. A fanatical Islamic group that has brought shame to millions of Muslims, not to mention terror, who want the world to turn back to the dark ages, where people are killed or tortured if they do not follow the Islam they espouse. They have attacked again in Europe and are causing a huge backlash against the Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn country, all of which is sowing more seeds in the European political soil for fascism to rise once more.

YAMA: And this is new? All these acts of hatred? All of this violence.? All of the finger pointing?

DISCIPLE: Well, no, it’s not new. Since recorded history we have been doing this violence to each other. It just seems worst.

YAMA: Has it become worst? Are things not better since the feudal times? Or even from the industrial age? Or from perhaps even the 50s? Of course, when we say better what are we referring to?

DISCIPLE: Happiness? More people who are living a better life?

YAMA: How does one become happy? Is it through the acquiring of things? Is it through having a longer life?

DISCIPLE: Those certainly help, I can’t deny that.

YAMA: Yet, how many people are truly happy in your society, even when they have the nicest car, or the house of their dreams, eat the best food? How many of them are without fear?

DISCIPLE: Probably none, or a small handful.

YAMA: So how can you be happy when you are afraid? When fear is present there can be no happiness, for happiness is now awaiting down the road for the situation to change. And perhaps that situation will change into a favorable one, but there will still be the fear of the situation changing, and happiness is again down the road.

The two examples you just mentioned, what do they both utilize in the way of pushing their agendas.


YAMA: Exactly. Both are showing the fear that is the foundation that the world of humans have created. They are bringing forward what has been lying in darkness for many. And while it may not be pleasant, it is needed.

DISCIPLE: Why? They are causing undue suffering to thousands, or threaten even more harm.

YAMA: What they are doing is not right action, this is very true, for right action always leads towards ultimate unity. But it is not to say that Spirit is not using all of this to bring awareness and awakening since this path has been chosen. Every act is utilized to bring humanity towards wholeness. That is why I asked you earlier has things improved on this planet. Is there movement towards unity? Are there more people awakening to the remembrance of who they really are, and not who they think they are? 

DISCIPLE: (Taking a deep breath) Yes, I must admit there has been change towards unity. Countries are connected in a global way that has not been seen: whether it is through the Internet or economically, or with alliances. We have the United Nations. We have World Music. We have dialogues with the major religions and there has been a lot of work with them on finding common spiritual ground. The more we travel to space the more we have an opportunity to look back at our planet and see it without artificial boundaries and with an appreciation of what a wonderful world we have and must take care of.

YAMA: The Internet that you mention, like many things on your list, can be used to divide or unify. The forces of fear can use them quite effectively. They love to use drama, where there are the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” It is very easy to get all rapt up in the drama that is played out on the screen. And in doing so one forgets the beauty, the good, the true. The Internet is a manifestation of the one mind that connects everyone, no exceptions. You must be mindful of what you put your consciousness on, just as you must with your thoughts as you move through the day.

DISCIPLE: But I don’t want to just hide my head in the sand and be pollyannaish. I am a teacher and need to be educated in the happenings of the world, not to mention bringing change for the better.

YAMA: Of course, you should not be in denial. However, the first denial that you should be vigilant towards is the denial that you and every human being is a Spiritual Being that nothing in time can ever touch. When you are not in denial of that than you can study and act wisely. If you are in that denial than all your actions are but reactions out of fear.

When you see something like people being hurt, who are in distress, breathe in their pain and then send them the thought: ALL is truly well--That they are as God created them. And when you see your brother acting in divisive ways, do the same. He is as God created him. See through the Eye of Eternity in all that transpires. Step away from the drama.

DISCIPLE: But shouldn’t I go and do something. Give money. Protest?

YAMA: If from your Still Place, from that place of wisdom, there is a call to do something like that. Then do so. But if you are not acting from that place you will be like those protestors who are yelling at the others that they should not be hateful. Just more drama.

With more breaths, I nod and close my eyes. I imagine the politician, and then the other politicians, and breathed them all into my Heart, and say to them all: “You are as God created you.” None of them more than the other. Then I send a blessing to all those in Belgium, and those in Turkey, and in Syria, and in Iraq, in Israel, in all of Africa, and in all the world, who have suffered terrorism, and then to all those who have inflicted those hateful acts. And then I see all of them rise from the earth, now feeling free, rising higher, becoming closer together as though they were moving up in a pyramid of light. And then every one of them merging into the Eye of Eternity. And out of the Eye a single tear drop emerges, and then rains down upon all of us on earth, the rain of compassion. And I can feel Yama’s hands on my shoulders. I open my eyes, the tears splashing my keyboard.

YAMA: All is well...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Learning to Hiss (When to Use Anger)

We stood outside an African village as two old holy men. There was a great commotion and wailing. I followed Yama as we pushed through a crowd of people who were trying to glimpse what was transpiring in a hut. Upon a bed lay a young girl whose leg was swelling and discoloring horribly. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she gasped for breath. Family members lamented.

Yama pushed his way through and placed his hand on her leg and heart. Immediately she calmed down. “Look, the leg!” cried the father.

The leg began to return to normal.

“Let her rest. She still has a long life ahead,” Yama said in a reassuring tone.

After an abundance of crying in gratitude the family informed us that a cobra that lived near the river had bitten the girl. We soon departed after feasting and made our way to the river. “It should be around here,” Yama said. “There it is.”

An enormous cobra lay upon the trail in front of us, coiled, hood raised. Yama , unflinchingly, strode up to the serpent. As Yama neared, recognition came to the creature.

“Yama,” it hissed, “have you come for me?”

“Perhaps. What you did was not right action. The girl meant you no harm. It was out of spite that you struck her.”

“You speak truly , O King of Death. Command me and I shall do it.”

“Very well. You shall bite none as your penance.”

“I will drink only water and milk for the rest of my days,” hissed the cobra before bowing and slipping into the brush.

“What will happen to the cobra?” I asked.

“We shall see. In the meantime let us close our eyes to this dream. Letting all images, all thoughts, slip past our awareness and rest only in That, in that timelessness, unrestricted by any space.”

 Like a snake shedding its skin I slipped out of body consciousness, mental consciousness, the ego or individual consciousness that believes I am separate from the Great Wholiness and into That I melted.

 Peace. Bliss. Eternal Awareness.

Then I heard a sound, a whisper. I had an ear. The words fell into this ear. Then more Awareness. I had a whole body. And when I opened my eyes I saw Yama, still an African holy man, beckoning to me. “Time to check on our friend, the cobra.”

“We just left it,” I said.

Yama laughed and said, “Do you always trust in your sense of time? It is too capricious for that.”

We came to another part of the river. A small group of children were jumping up and down, yelling, laughing and throwing sticks and stones at something ahead of them.

“What are you children doing?” I said to some of them.

“We are making sport of the snake that is more like a worm,” replied a boy.

As we made our way through this little throng we saw the cobra, its body looked emaciated, covered with scabs and bleeding cuts. Stones and sticks flew at it as it timidly hid its head in its coil.

“Go!” shouted Yama to the children as he raised a stick. The children all fled. After they had disappeared, just as we were moving closer to the snake, two young men strode up. “Here it is, the worm-snake,” said one of them. “Watch this.”

He grabbed the tail of the cobra to the horror of his companion.

“Careful, it will strike you!” the other cried.

“I told you, he is no serpent. It is a worm.” Around and around he spun the cobra, holding it with both hands, spinning like a macabre wheel. The other man started to laugh at the sight of his friend twirling the beast. Then the man let go of the tail and off flew the cobra into a tree, where it slid down stunned.

 “You are brave to do that,” said his friend to the antagonist. “The women will love the story of your feat.”

“You are right. Let us go and tell the tale.” And off they went.

We walked over to the barely moving snake. “Yama,” it barely hissed, “I have harmed none for seven moons now.”

“Seven moons?” I said.

Yama gave me his all-knowing look. He kneeled down and put his hand on the twisted body. “Silly fool of a snake. I asked you not to bite any creature. I did not ask you to become a weakling, a worm.”

 “I do not understand, Great Yama,” replied the cobra.

“By becoming a weakling you have caused as much harm as your biting out of spite.” I looked aghast at Yama.

“Forgive me,” said the snake. “Please, Master of all creatures , tell me how.”

“By becoming timid, and not being firm, you become a depression on the earth for the stagnant waters of hatred and violence and rage and cowardice to find a place to find a home. Such timidity encourages others to wrong action.”

“But what should I have done?”


“Hissed?” I asked.

“Yes. You must hiss. But to hiss without any thought for your protection, without any anger, or any thought of biting.

“Just as I yelled at the children to be gone, not for my personal gain and without any anger towards them, I did so to keep them from doing wrong action— from harming themselves by harming you.

“Hiss, my child. Rise royally as the king of all serpents that you are, spread that hood in mock anger, and laugh at life’s joke as they run away, those that would do harm.”

The cobra kissed Yama’s feet before it slithered slowly away. As we continued walking, I said to my constant companion,

“I would love to see the faces of those who will try to harm our cobra.”

Just then, three young children came screaming down the path towards us, tears lining their faces. “Run! Run! A cobra tried to kill us!”

We laughed heartily as they sped on by crying for their parents.

Stagnaro, Janaka (2015-04-02). The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with Death

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Harmonium: Becoming a Divine Instrument

In my house on a Saturday late morning, I sit at my harmonium and trying to chant, but something is not right. No matter what chant I work on it is out of tune. Before they came, those Baptists trying to save me, all was going well. Yama sat down beside me, a frown on his brow.

YAMA: Can’t say Krishna or any of them are going to be too impressed with what you are feeding them.

DISCIPLE: Very funny. I don’t get it. Something is wrong. 

YAMA: Are you talking about with yourself or with the instrument? Oh wait, are they not both instruments?

DISCIPLE: I’m talking about with the harmonium, thank you very much.

I continued fiddling about with the bellow and the keyboard, frustrated at my limited knowledge of the harmonium, an instrument I have been learning to play for a few months.

YAMA: You seem a little testy. In fact, you seem a little pissed off.

The dam released.

DISCIPLE: Damn right, I am. Here I am singing to God and the various Names of God, and this posse of Baptists come and try to save me, picking out littles bits of the Bible to prove their points. They had no interest in what I was doing, what I believe in, or who I am, this woman, their leader, just wanted to shove her version of God down my throat.

I don’t usually mind it, and sometimes even enjoy it, when some come to the door and want to share their love for God and hear what I have to say. There is great wisdom in the Bible, echoed by many other scriptures, and my understandings. But this was not a meeting of devotion, but an assault.

YAMA: And how did you act or, should I say, react?

DISCIPLE: I opened the door beaming with devotion. When the leader asked if I went to church, I replied, yes, right here, and I pointed to my house. Then she asked if I believed I was going to heaven. I hesitated. Not that I doubted God’s Infinite Love, I wasn’t sure what she meant by heaven. Was it some actual psuedo-physical land that resembled a Thomas Kincaid painting? But, not wanting to get into a Socratic discussion, I said, yes. Then, seemingly discounting my statement, she pointed to some passage that was highlighted that said something to the effect that there is nothing we can do to achieve heaven. I replied, what about meditating to know that I AM? And she reemphasized the point that we can do nothing, that it is all Grace. Yes I said, and is it not Grace to want to meditate? Then she started talking about sin and I proceeded to start punching holes in her arguments. I asked her if she knew the origins of the word sin and its original meaning. And she pointed to her Bible and said sin was discussed in these pages. I told her about the Greek word sin and how it was an archer’s term meaning to miss the mark. And I asked her what translation of the Bible she was citing and she said the King James, the true translation.

And then I started challenging the veracity of the translation, a translation from how many translations? The energy just got worst. Finally she gave me her church’s card and invited me to her church and off she went with her procession.

YAMA: Did you learn anything from this encounter?

DISCIPLE: Yeah, I understand why there are Satanists. Her Bible thumping pushed something in me to go the opposite way of being a Christian, or at least a Christian by her definition. I cannot understand the nonthinking way of following words written down by other humans, especially translations of translations. Sacred texts are wonderful guidance, and they can point one of their spiritual journey; but they are not the goal of the journey.

And I would feel the same way if some Hindus, such as the Hare Krishnas came to my door trying to persuade me that that Krishna was the Supreme Godhead.

YAMA: I don’t care about your judgment about this Baptist, this sister of yours. I have not met a judgment yet that was the Truth. However, what did you learn about yourself?

He jabbed his finger into my chest. It felt like a flame went into me. The force pushed me back a bit and I closed my eyes, rubbing my chest. I took some deep breaths.

DISCIPLE: It reminded me why I avoid arguments. My whole body shook with adrenaline, just like I used to after actually physically fighting. It’s a horrible feeling. A feeling I have not felt for a long time.

YAMA: And who was it that participated in this dual, your Self or your ego? 

DISCIPLE: Obviously my ego. It wanted to crush her arguments--wanted to make her wrong and foolish. And oh how it was spinning afterwards with all the things it had wanted to say, to put her down on her arrogant ass.

YAMA: And what would have been the Self’s response?

I thought a while.

DISCIPLE: When she had started to go to the place of persuasion, the Self wold have said to her, “Thank you for sharing. However, I have my path. Have a nice day.” And bless her with my thoughts.

Spirit Breath, Janaka Stagnaro
YAMA: And how would you have felt afterwards?


YAMA: And how do you feel now?

DISCIPLE: A lot calmer. 

YAMA: Maybe you can check out your harmonium now?

I played it and still it sounded off key. Then I looked inside again and this time I noticed that two keys were not fully covering their gaps where air escaped to make sound. I bellowed it without pressing any keys, and sure enough, unwanted sound was issuing from them. I simply adjusted the keys and the sound ceased. 

I played it now and how beautiful the sound came, the hair rising on my neck.

YAMA: When we are off balance and not adjusted, sounds and thoughts come forth that bring disharmony into the world. But when we are in alignment we are the Beloved’s chant into the world.

Yama took the harmonium and began to play “Amazing Grace.” And I happily joined him.