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.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why Do We Suffer?

“Why do people suffer?” Why all this pain?”

“Come with me and I will show you.”

No longer upon the mountaintop, we stood behind some trees in a jungle entangled in vines. In front of us was a clearing into which a well-beaten path led. In the middle of the clearing lay a pit.

“Why are we here?” I asked.

He held up his finger for silence. Suddenly the jungle reverberated from the trumpeting of elephants. Then I saw a man, his eyes wide in fear, running down the path looking over his shoulder to where the trumpeting sounds of the elephants issued.

“Oh, no!” I cried, ready to dash out. “The pit! The man doesn’t see the pit!”

Yama held my shoulder. “Watch.”

As I feared, the man fell unmindful into the vast pit. With one hand he caught hold of a thick root. The elephants came and ran around the pit in rage. For a moment he felt safe. Then he noticed at the bottom of the pit awaited an enormous serpent; its maw opened wide; its hot breath scorching the man’s skin. Then he noticed on the root a rat, which ever chewed upon the root. Above his head he now heard the buzzing of a swarm of angry bees.

The Pit, Janaka Stagnaro
Just when the man was near despair and ready to let go, a drop of honey fell onto his lips. Tasting so delicious, so sweet, the man forgot his predicament, and holding tightly onto the root with one hand he held out the other to catch another drop of honey.

I turned away, for I could not bear to see the inevitable.

“Who is he?  And what did it all mean?”

My guide looked at me and smiled, touching my chest.  “He is you. He is everyone. He is anyone who believes he is but a body, a pitiful creature encased in decaying flesh.

“He runs upon the path of life, running through the tangled jungle of lifetimes of habits and impressions, likes and dislikes. The elephants are his desires, pursuing him, trumpeting in fear of non-fulfillment. 

“The pit is hope.  

“The root he hangs onto is his good deeds of other lifetimes. Gnawing upon it is the rat of time.

“Below him, in the vast, bottomless pit, awaits the serpent of passions, lust and anger. Buzzing around his head are the bees of his thoughts, ready to sting him any moment and send him down into the awaiting jaws.

“Yet the man forgets all these dangers, all this suffering, and holds on tighter, just for another sweet taste of pleasure the mind has made.

“Instead of running upon the path over and over again, falling into the same pit with each new lifetime, from that path he could leave. He could say that this path he wants no more.

“However, he remembers that taste of honey. And so he continues.

“No one causes man to run that path and to suffer.”

                       --excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation of Death

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Relationships are Means and Not Ends

“You say sex is messy,” I said. “Is not relationship messy as well? Who knows what to do in relationship anymore? Men are encouraged to be more nurturing, women are out of the homes providing the finances. The traditional roles are being turned upside down.

“What is the ideal relationship? Please help me in this. Though I seek the Self, I find myself again and again in a relationship with a woman.”

“Beloved, there is no conflict in being in a relationship and seeking to know the Self. Relationship with a woman is but a means.”

“But,” I pleaded, “I do not want to be all strung out and caught in the web like all those we saw.”

“To be caught in the web of relationship is when you see the relationship as an end, not as a means.

“Most children are trained, in one way or another, to get married, have children and prolong the family’s name.”

“What is the means then?”

“To share love.

“And to share love is to know love. For love is an action and not some thing to be had.”

“How do you know when love becomes a thing?” I asked.

“A good measure to see how much of a thing love has become is the amount of drama to be found.

Dreaming, Janaka Stagnaro
“When drama abounds you can be certain that both parties are caught in the web of you are supposed to do this and you are failing.

“Love makes no demands because it has nothing to gain.

“Only things can be added onto.

“Dramas are a drain. It is the ego’s way of maintaining control. Control means fear. And fear keeps the ego alive.

“Especially in the West, where the individual personality is worshiped as the Self, the relationship, the marriage, will be substituted for the individual.

“As most personalities are self or ego-centered, so too do these relationships become self-centered and not Self or God-centered.

“There becomes a constant vying for control, of getting something out of the relationship, of maintaining the personalities.”

“Then are you saying that an Eastern sort of marriage where tradition, and not personalities, dictate actions is better?” I asked.

“Who can say what is best for each soul. Both the West and the East offer a different learning experience.

“In a more traditional marriage, for instance, actions can become like learning by rote. This is how we do it because we have always done it that way. So that is what one does.

“There exists not much agony of choice as there is in the West where tradition is thrown out the window and everyone is standing on the edge of the unknown.

“Of course, in the more traditional setting less creative expression, fewer innovations, will arise as well. And the Soul can feel stifled.”

“I would agree,” I said. “I am a child of the West, my family scattered, doing their own thing, many divorces, separation. And it has been lonely at times, with the longing of a more traditional background.

“Yet when I see such a traditional marriage or family, I shudder at the thought of living in such a one.

“However, dramas do get old and that is what all my relationships have been. What can I do to end the drama?”

“Approach a relationship as you must approach all things. You are going to die. You are terminally ill with the disease of living in a body. Your time is short and precious.

“You do not have time to argue points, to barter favors, to demand, to submit.

“Act with assurance, the confidence, that there is no relationship to maintain.

“You are dying so how can you hold onto anyone? Give up dwelling on dramas. Focus only on Rama, only on God. It is not a coincidence that Rama is found in the word drama. If one sees only Rama dramas will not have such force to disturb one’s peace of mind.”

“Yama, if I acted as though I was dying might I not want to spend it with my loved ones and cut away what was not important?”

“Of course, if that is what you really wanted to do, what your heart bid you to do.

“The difference is that you are not working at making a successful marriage, you are not acting out of obligations, you are not doing anything then.

“You are simply acting out of Love.

“The problem with your relationship, and so many others, is trying to make these things work: Too much talk and seeking causes, and not enough listening; and far too much grasping.

“By knowing you are dying, the grasping falls away, love can be listened to much easier. 

“And love is vast. Love is not confined to one’s relationship or family. Love is an immense ripple, moving across the universe caused by the I AM.

“A healthy relationship is a reflection of the ripple, rippling out as an extension into the world.

“Love, my dear, may even ask you to leave a marriage.”

“How does one know it is love and not fear? Fear of having to love one’s spouse unconditionally, and wanting to just run away from all the pain of dealing and growing with another human being who comes with all their baggage?” I asked.

“When there is not drama. When calmness guides the action. Be fearless. You must be ready to cut away everyone, even your child, as the source of your happiness.

“Just as a soldier must leave his family to go and serve his country, or a doctor to leave her family at a moment’s notice, so must you be ready to do so.

“After all, I am the ultimate summoner, and you cannot refuse my summons.

“A relationship to be healthy must extend into the world. When one is assisting in making the world a more beautiful, uplifting place, then one is working with mighty beings, ones who are working with the Soul of the World.

“Many families exist only for survival’s sake, making sure there is enough food and adequate shelter, and when that is accomplished, to increase the family’s comfort and opportunities for advancement.

“And these become little fiefdoms where loyalties and obligations hold prominence, and must not be broken.

“When a relationship is serving love and truth obligation and loyalty is reserved for God. Each partner must make contact with the silence within so that the other is seen not as someone who owes anything to the relationship, but as simply another aspect of God sharing a short time together.”

“But what if you awaken to the desire to serve the world, and your partner, or your other family members for that matter, are focused only on the family and will not support what your heart bids you to do?” I asked. “What do you do then?”

“This may sound strange, but remember how that teacher was swallowed by the serpent because of the company he kept, surrounded by followers of the untruth?”


“Just because a person is in your family, whether of blood or by choice, does not oblige you to keep their company. If you have work to do to better the world, to better your Awareness of God and who you are, that you must do.”

“No matter how loud the protestations?”

“No matter. This is where fearlessness comes in.”

              --excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with Death

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Working with Desire

We stood on the shore of a quiet lake, conifer trees lined the hills surrounding the water, like a living bowl. Quiet reigned. Even though crows and jays croaked and shrilled.

“Why do not the cries of crows and the jays, which are far from the beautiful sounds of the songbirds, do not disturb the silence around?” I asked.

“Because nature is the desire of God. The desire within your heart is no different.

“Your faults and human weaknesses are no more than crows and jays. They are not You; they are not the desire.

“Focus on the desire and on the Self from which the desire appears to arise, and listen, with humor, to the squawks and shrills.”

“Why do you say, appears to arise?” I asked.

“Because there exists nothing outside the Self. The Self encompasses all. Because we are speaking and using cumbersome words that differentiate, we speak of desire and Self as two. But there is no two. Always remember That.”

“Now look at that heron over there wading amongst the water plants. What do you observe?”

“It moves silently and slowly with extreme concentration. It is vigilant of both what it seeks and the dangers around,” I said.

The heron stopped and became as still as the trees around. For a long while we watched. Then in a flash and a splash a fish flopped a moment in the bird’s beak, before disappearing down the heron’s throat.

“What else?” asked Yama.

“Extreme patience. Stillness. Swiftness and certainty. Firm hold. Swallowing. Calmness. Then back to stillness.”

“You have described desire born of the Heart and how to manifest it.

Will O Wisp, Janaka Stagnaro
“Out of silence the desire arises. When it arises there is a calmness and patience in waiting for its fulfillment.

“To fulfill it concentration is needed, one-pointed focus; while at the same time vigilance of any fears and doubts, arrogance and greed, and especially impatience.

“Remembering all the while the silence and to be still as a stone within, not to become excited at the prospect of fulfillment, nor anxious of its possible failure.

“And when the opportunity arises for the desire’s realization, act and act swiftly, holding on firmly.

“And when it is accomplished enjoy it and let it pass. And wait in the silence for another desire to arise out of the silence.”

          --excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with Death

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Helping Your Mother, the Earth

Yama! I caught my breath. It has come to this. I now face death, I said to myself. I felt both fear and awe.

She smiled and said, “Because you sought to know about another and were willing to listen, unlike the multitude too busy thinking of only themselves, I will give you another boon.”

I saluted with folded hands to the one who is named Yama.

“Please, Revered One, you who draw nearer with every blink of one’s eye, tell me of your child and why you weep.”

“My child, throughout these thousands of darkened years, in the age called Kali, has been trampled by ignorant, hard-hearted men. They have enslaved her and have worked her lifeless. Their hearts empty of gratitude.

“By the fruits of their greed they have defecated upon her, and by their lust for power have drowned her in their own blood.

“And throughout this torment my daughter has given her all, never holding back.

“My child is the Earth itself.”

Suddenly, the rotting head Yama held transformed into a miniature blue-jeweled sphere of the Earth. Then the Earth vanished, and with it the stench disappeared.

“Because you asked about my child who is dear to me and asked not to remove the stench for your own sake, ask of me another favor.”

“Please, you who lead every youth onward, tell me how I may help your child,” I asked, bowing once more.

“Very well, I will tell you.”

She paused for a moment.

“Be aware. That’s right. Be aware of all that you do, all that you see, feel, taste, smell and hear. See the shadows and how they stretch from stone to stone upon the path you walk. Hear the birds twitter amidst the hum of silence. Feel the warmth of the sun shining on your back and then the coolness of the passing of a cloud. Taste every morsel of food, savoring every spice, and taste the rain the same. Breathe in the smell of the barnyard with the same smile as you would sniffing jasmine.”

I said, “Dear Yama, you who have been since the first movement of time, who knows the time-span of all things, I do not understand how this helps your child. Please elaborate.”

Renewal, Janaka Stagnaro
“By being aware, you become awake. By being awake you will not trample ignorantly upon the Earth in your sleep. And by being awake you will become simple; for no longer will you have a myriad dreams to fulfill.”

“Thank you, I understand more clearly. Yet, please explain that since you lead all things to destruction, why the need to help the Earth? It is doomed to perish.”

Death replied, “Many a fool have thought thus, and have lived their lives for the moment, living to satisfy only their desires. Let me explain:

“The Earth is none other than your mother. Every need you have while expressing through a physical human body—a rare opportunity that countless souls desire to have—is given by her. And even as I quickly lead your earthly parents away, still every parent needs to be given gratitude.

“With every breath should rise gratitude. With every morsel of food, every whisper of the wind, every step, every touch of another creature, every sigh, every stab of pain, every beat of your heart, every laugh, every smile of a child, every bottle of wine to accompany a drunkard home.

“With all these and everything that comes, gratitude needs to meet them.

“This brings honor to my child and thus pleases me. And when I smile I do not work so hard.”

                          --Excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with Death, Chapter 1

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Healing: Remembering the Love that is Always There

It is the day after my older son’s graduation from SDSU. I am sitting on his coach in his college apartment, the echoes of last night’s celebrations of the apartment complex quiet save those who will awake with throbbing heads (something I do not not miss at all). I am reflecting on seeing, after five years since his high-school graduation, his mother. I had hoped there would be harmony between us; instead, she made no eye contact as she focused in a manic way on our son. Besides a couple of responses to my remarks in a general conversation with his girlfriend’s family, it has been just awkward avoidance.

DISCIPLE: Yama, I had hoped so much that H and I could bring some healing between us. But it looks like I was wrong.

YAMA: Hasn’t there been any healing? Has there not not been improvement since the last time?

Healing Relationship, Janaka Stagnaro
DISCIPLE: That last time, if I recall correctly, she acted the same. No outright hostility as she would show whenever we talked business.

YAMA: I wasn’t thinking of her, but of you. Are you different?

DISCIPLE: Now that you mention it, I feel a lot more at ease. I didn’t feel the dread, the weakening of the knees, in anticipation of seeing her. Not like I used to when my stomach would flop around like a fish landed on a pier.

YAMA: So would you say your time with her has improved?

DISCIPLE: Framed in that way, sure. But I was hoping for at least a hello. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

YAMA: What another does has no bearing on your healing, on your standing in Happiness. By expecting her to be a certain way, to do what you want her to do, you are limiting your Happiness and thus you will be in greater need of healing.

YAMA: Being calmer in your interaction with her, what does your quiet observation of her around your son’s girlfriend’s family tell you?

DISCIPLE: Someone who is very nervous, very unsure of herself; who wants to impress C’s parents perhaps. And when C’s parents paid for lunch and wouldn’t accept her money, anger arose.

YAMA: And why do you think that anger arose?

DISCIPLE: Maybe because of the poverty she grew up in and this attitude of inferiority of not being good enough that was instilled in her, caused this fury.

YAMA: And if that is so, what is the response one needs to give to bring about healing.

DISCIPLE: I would say pity, but pity implies littleness. So I would say compassion--recognizing her suffering.

YAMA: Very good. When you see her--nay, when you think of her, breathe in her suffering into your Heart and exhale through your Heart the Love that we all are. A love that we always are, even when we forget. Let that be your gift to her, which in turn is your gift to yourself.

And so I sat back upon the couch and closed my eyes and did as directed. I brought H’s image up in my mind: seeing her at the luncheon table, her eyes growing wide in anger, her lips trembling as she was whispering to our son next to her that she was going to leave. In I breathed that image, feeling this heat come into my heart. I held that heat an instant and then released it with the cool feeling directed at her that she was Loved. I repeated this a while until I saw her angel standing behind her, the angel’s hands upon H’s head. And then I could see H become calmer and calmer, until she beamed with the Love that she is. And I declared: And so it is.

          Janaka Stagnaro
       The Teachings of Yama: A Blog with Death

Friday, June 19, 2015

Manifestation: The Union of Thought and Matter

I am sitting at my son’s graduation, waiting for the ceremony to begin. The graduates, dressed in their best, don their robes, excitement in all their faces. My son is with his friends drinking champagne back in the parking garage.

DISCIPLE: Yama, I had a powerful dream last night. I awoke from it weeping.

YAMA: What was it? Tell me the best that you can as dreams have a way of being very slippery.

DISCIPLE: What I can remember was that some organization (government, perhaps?) had me standing in front of a screen. Others were crowded around me to observe what I could do. Images began to flash on the screen. Then I was asked to control the images. The images seem to flash uncontrolled until I started to wave my hands in a helix configuration, from top to bottom. Faster and faster I waved my arms in that snake-like movement. The images began to be controlled until they stopped, and there I saw children doing all manner of silly things, and adults as well. And I said to the observers: “How strange are humans. But how I love them all!” And then I just burst out in a weeping that increased in magnitude until it woke me up in tears.

Insights, Yama?

YAMA: On your trip on the plane yesterday what were you reading?

DISCIPLE: I read an article about this 58-year-old man who was told he could never run again due to his hip condition. Well, he set out to prove them wrong by running up a mountain in record time for his age. And he did it! I could relate as my hip has been giving me pain for many years now.

YAMA: How did he achieve that feat?

DISCIPLE: By a lot of physical training and incremental goals to accomplish.

YAMA: And what did he do mentally?

DISCIPLE: He followed the advice of coaches and athletes who recommended mantras, affirmations (such as, “Unlimited Power courses through me”). While the affirmations sounded trite and fake to him at first, after a while, after a while he started to believe them and actually became part of him.

YAMA: And what did he do about the pain?

DISCIPLE: At first the pain was unbearable and he fought against it. Then he switched his outlook on it and he no longer saw it as pain, but part of suffering. And by embracing it and not pushing it away, he became the suffering, became part of the human condition.

YAMA: Your dream reflected all of this.

DISCIPLE: Please explain, teacher, I’m uncertain what you mean.

Drawing of Blake's Ancient of Days, Janaka Stagnaro
YAMA: The screen of your dream was your mind. By focusing intensely you were able to control the mind. By incorporating the movements of the body to reflect your intention you were better able to focus your energies.

DISCIPLE: Why the shape of the helix?

YAMA: Hermes, the great healer and traveler of thought, used the symbol of two intertwining snakes around a staff as the symbol of healing. It is also the symbol of DNA. When you can focus your thoughts into line with your intention, you bring your mind and body into alignment. And healing occurs.

DISCIPLE: I don’t understand. Please elaborate?

YAMA: Because you are manifesting the Power of the Creator into the world of Form. You are impregnating Matter. Shiva-Shakti.

DISCIPLE: Okay, so we bring forth our intentions with a disciplined mind and using our will. By doing so we bring our mind and body into a union, yes? And this union is, of course, a healing, since now there is no conflict then between thinking and doing. I get that. However, I do not understand the suffering part. How is it connected to this focusing of intention?

YAMA: Suffering is a powerful energy. Just being a human you come in wrapped in all the history of humankind--with all its pangs of separation from the Creator.

That suffering, that longing for Unity, is a Power to propel one through the world. Imagine all those brothers and sisters of yours not fulfilling their Heart’s Desire, and the pain they are in because of that. Imagining still deeper that all those who are suffering are facets of you, probabilities of your incarnation who manifested into different vessels and circumstances by the beliefs they incarnated into.

By tapping into all those manifestations of you, and their suffering, when you manifest your Heart’s Desires, it becomes a template for the Mind of Man to help other manifestations to remember their Hearts’ Desires; which, in turn, creates new templates. And so on and so forth. It’s kind of like leap frog, if you will, each manifestation helping the other manifestation coming up behind.

All of these who will be coming soon down the aisle to receive their diploma have all done so because of their desires, their intentions. Without that force that put the Will to Do into motion, none of them would be here today. It takes strong desire to push through the hardships, the denials, the suffering, to make the goal.

Now, many of them do not realize that there is a Divine Intelligence that made it all possible. They simply think that it was their separated minds that did it. And since they still have not found the Truth that there is only one Mind, their potential for greater success, greater manifesting, will be hit and miss.

DISCIPLE: Why would it be hit and miss, Yama, when they have their accomplishment to stand upon?

YAMA: Because they bring a whole bag of thoughts that are fear-based. How could they not carry such fearful thoughts when they believe that they are bodies with little separated minds, competing against other hungry bodies.

When they realize that there is one Mind that operates through all manifesting I AMs, then success is without limit and will always benefit the world.

Just then the music began to play, that iconic triumphant piece, and in walked the graduates, their faces beaming. And there was my boy, my special manifestation, giving me the thumbs up as he went to take his place amongst all the other manifestations of the one I AM.

                 --Janaka Stagnaro
                The Teachings of Yama: A Blog with Death

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Ten Commandments from a Non-Dualist Perspective, #10 (Thou Shall Not Envy)

Yama and I sat on the banks of the Russian River. A short way upriver teens and adults whooped and hollered as they frolicked on their various floating devices. The river brought them closer to disturb our solitude.

YAMA: Can they really disturb our solitude?

DISCIPLE: What do you mean? Here we are imbibing the silence of Nature and here they come popping their beers and completely disregarding the sanctity of the place.

YAMA: And what does that have to do with you?

DISCIPLE: It has everything to do with me!

I watched in horror as another flotilla of noise turned the bend.

DISCIPLE: I teach all week and have people at home who fight for my attention—All I want is a little piece and quiet.

YAMA: Like the old days when you were free and single, able to go anywhere as you pleased?

DISCIPLE: Well now that you mention it, I do at times miss those wandering days. It comes up at times, I must admit, when my brother, who has all this new freedom after becoming recently divorced, talks about his travels to exotic places.

YAMA: Are you to say then that you are envious of your brother?

I hesitated; then nodded my head.

YAMA: What was the reason you asked me here today?

DISCIPLE: For you to speak about the final Commandment.

YAMA: And what is the final Commandment that Moses brought down from the mountain?

DISCIPLE: “You shall not envy your neighbor, nor desire to have his house, his wife, his servants, his animals, nor anything that is his.”

YAMA: Who is your neighbor but the one who lives next to you. Who is the one who lives next to you?—your brother (and I do not just mean your blood brother) who walks beside you.

Why do you think God asks us not to envy?

DISCIPLE: Because when I look at my envy for the wealth and freedom my brother has—or for that matter, envy of times when I sat by this river where no noisy revelers came to disturb me—I feel resentment.

YAMA: Good. Now you are speaking with some wisdom.

DISCIPLE: Maybe; but it is hard not to be envious at times. Just the other day I begged my friend to buy a painting because we are financially in need. Being a successful attorney he had no problem helping me out. Sometimes I am full of doubt about whether I chose the right road in careers when we have to move into a little place, while he lives in an expensive home and drives a car that doesn’t break down like mine just did on the freeway the other day. Yes, I am envious!

I stood up, my face red with anger, and threw a stone into the river.

YAMA: Is your friend happy with his work? Are you aware of what he goes through every day to make his cash?

DISCIPLE: No to both questions. I know that at an early age he had a mild heart attack due to stress from his work.

YAMA: Do you envy that stress?

DISCIPLE: No, can’t say that I do.

YAMA: So you just want the good stuff, but not the pain that walks as its shadow. People tend to look with envious eyes to their neighbors all around, whether the bigger house, the younger wife (or no wife, as the case may be), the nicer car, having/not having children, a different job, better education, nicer clothes, etc. Yet never do they even bother to consider what is going on with those they envy; such as, at what cost did it take to acquire that object of desire, or the cost of maintaining it? Or, getting right down to it, is the person even satisfied with what they have?

Your society, and the capitalism that guides most of you, is based on envy. It fosters envy with its ads that says that whatever you have is not good enough—there is something that is better. And this includes even body parts, for which you can get breast implants (though in your case I wouldn’t recommend it) or get a penis enlargement (hmm … now maybe you could use …).

DISCIPLE: Ha, ha. Very funny!

YAMA: Would you trade your life for your brother or your friend’s?

DISCIPLE: No, of course not.

YAMA: Each person is given whatever they need at any point in their lives. Some require more, some less. Their needs come as persons, things, actions, events. Some are pleasant while others the opposite.
People look at others riding high and sigh with longing, ignoring the pain that preceded the high and not willing to see the pain that will inevitably come as the Wheel of Life turns.

The instant you envy your brother you trade your life away for a wish. Your life and everyone’s is as unique as a fingerprint. By being content in this moment, grateful that you even exist to be by this river, celebrating the fortunes of your friend and brother, you are free to achieve a happiness that no person, thing, or event could ever bestow upon you.

Flowing Among the Talus, Janaka Stagnaro
I threw another rock into the slow-moving waters. I watched as another group drifted our way. I sat down next to Yama and watched an orange and black beetle crawl up a blade of grass.

DISCIPLE: Does the beetle envy my life as a human? Do I envy the beetle and its freedom from responsibility? Would either of us trade places? No, I rather doubt it.

I let the beetle crawl onto my hand. Just then the group of rafters ran ashore just across from us, speaking loudly to each other in Portuguese.

I groaned.

YAMA: Would you trade places with someone else in a quieter place? Would you trade your life in for another condition, continuing the habit of trading one condition for another, and yet for another, until finally you obtain the perfect condition?

I shook my head.

YAMA: Do you love your life as it is?

I took a deep breath.

DISCIPLE: Yes. I love my life as it is.

YAMA: Good. Now sit back and enjoy your life exactly how it’s meant to be.

I watched in horror as the Brazilians pulled out a massive radio. They hit the switch and meringue music blasted forth.

I could have cried. I could have cussed. Instead, a blissful feeling came over me and I just laughed. It was perfect! I looked over to Yama who was tapping his foot.

DISCIPLE: Hell, shall we dance?

                                --The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with DeathAddendum I

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Ten Commandments from a Non-Dualist Perspective, #9 (Thou Shall Not Falsely Accuse)

Upon a bench Yama and I sat quietly watching the coy swimming in the man-made pond. An ankh and a purple sphere overlooked the small waterfall trickling into the pool. We were sitting in a sanctuary dedicated to Isis, a temple to the Egyptian goddess stood behind us.

DISCIPLE: Yama, I find it ironic that we have come here to talk about the Commandments Moses was given after escaping Egypt.
Akhenaton. Janaka Stagnaro

YAMA: What applies to outside Egypt applies as well to inside. Sometimes it takes one to get out of civilization, to go into the wilderness, to come to right understanding.

DISCIPLE: True. However, what I was referring to specifically was the vehemence that Moses had had towards the goddess. After all, he did come down the mountain and soon ordered thousands of her worshippers slaughtered!

YAMA: I was indeed busy guiding away souls then. Yet be careful, nothing is ever as it seems to our senses. Great forces were present there, stirring up pools of energy that had become stagnant. Just as this pond here that we sit next to would quickly become covered with scum, choking the fish within eventually, if the waterfall ceased; so too does this happen to civilizations, religions, movements and individuals when new impulses are not allowed to stream in. When this stifling occurs it sometimes takes an unleashing of a dam that can appear very violent.

I looked at the waters trickling in the pond and visualized the stream stopping and the growing of the algae, and the sad plight of the fish. And while the algae is as much part of life as the fish, for this time and in this place, the living slime is a symbol of stagnation and decay, while the fish and their potency is the symbol of dynamic life; and that it would be right action to destroy the algae by whatever action to save the fish.

My being shuddered at the truth of this vision, for how many megalomaniacs with their armies would love to claim that they were doing God’s Will as they slaughtered millions?

For a while we sat in the joyful tinkling of the waterfall, until two workers on the grounds began yelling at each other. My immediate thought was one of judgment—for should they not be following the Ideals of Ma’at, to keep their emotions balanced?

YAMA: So, what is the Ninth Commandment, for I believe that is where we’re at?

DISCIPLE: Thou shall not falsely accuse thy neighbor.

YAMA: Are you not falsely accusing your neighbors right now?

I blushed.

DISCIPLE: I am accusing them of falling short of the precepts of their order. However, am I really falsely accusing them?

YAMA: Do you even know that they are of this order or are you assuming?

DISCIPLE: I must admit that I am assuming.

YAMA: With that accusation, that assumption, you have cut your mind off from God. You were sitting here in the Peace of Existence until your mind took charge, and wielding its sword of condemnation, you turned into these people’s finger-wagging parent. And what happened to your peace?

DISCIPLE: I lost awareness of it.

YAMA: The same goes with your accusation of Moses committing genocide, that is based on only what the senses experience and then the mind extrapolating a moral judgment. This, like with most accusations, does not constitute right understanding.

DISCIPLE: Surely there exist proper accusations against those who are dong ill to others, such as with tyrannical leaders or criminals to name only a few? Without accusation many of our social reforms, such as women’s rights or the civil rights movement, would never have come to pass.

YAMA: Indeed there is proper action to stand up against harmful actions and stagnant energy; but to judge your neighbor by those actions brings only suffering to you and your neighbor. You can never know all the reasons, the circumstances that have led any person to act as heinously as they do. Priests and psychoanalysts may give some reason or two as to the cause, but do they really have that all-knowing wisdom? Only those with utmost arrogance could claim so. To see the whys of the way of people one would have to see with purest of eyes, unblemished by any faults. That is why Jesus challenged anyone to cast the first stone at the prostitute if they were free of error. And what human has not erred?
Relationship, Janaka Stagnaro

Most people accuse because they are desperately trying to end their own suffering by finding causes of suffering out there, by finding fault with others instead of seeing their own. By making the world free of those bad people out there, by the eradication of all the world’s wrongs, then peace and happiness will come. Or so they think.

But it can never happen that way. The cause of suffering and happiness both lie within. Thus, accusing your neighbor, finding fault in him, keeps you from the Truth of seeing the Whole picture, and thus keeps your awareness from God.

If you really want to help your neighbor and make your world an amazing neighborhood, love him as he is, seeing beyond all his frail actions; so you and he can stand in the Truth of your Infinite Being where I cannot touch you as death.

And like the waterfall pouring oxygenated waters into the pond, so too did Yama’s words fill my soul. I sent the two arguing people the thought that they were perfect as they were and that they were loved. And with that thought I felt again the Oneness I was part of and was; and did not notice when the argument had stopped.

                                    -- The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with DeathAddendum I

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Ten Commandments from a Non-Dualist Perspective, #8 (Thou Shall Not Steal)

We sat still awhile, this time I was completely focused on the harbor seals lying motionless sunbathing on the rocks, these marine creatures being very hard to distinguish from the stone they lay upon.

DISCIPLE: “Thou shall not steal” is the next commandment. It seems simple enough. Anything to add?

YAMA: Why would anyone steal?

DISCIPLE: Because they want something bad enough to take the risk of being caught, but fear they lack the means of purchasing it; or perhaps for the thrill of the adventure; or maybe even revenge and they feel justified? Perhaps survival?

YAMA: Delusion. One steals because they feel they lack something they need and that there is another to steal from. If they would come to the truth of their nature they would know that there is no need and that there is no other. Each person is but a member of the body of humanity, and the body of humanity is but a member of the body of the world where other species serve as other members. To steal from another is the same as the right hand taking from the left. However, due to the fear of being a little separated thing among so many other things one steals.

DISCIPLE: What about a mother taking fruit from a vendor to feed her hungry child, is that wrong?

YAMA: This is nothing about right and wrong. It is all a matter of attitude. No one owns anything after all. It is all God’s. Does not the Creator have the rights to His creations?

DISCIPLE: Of course.

YAMA: There are some cultures that have no sense of personal property. They use whatever they might need for the time needed and then let it go for someone else to use. The idea of stealing to such people makes as much sense as feeling guilty when plucking an apple from a tree they happen upon. To such a people who have no sense of ownership there exists an inherent trust that the world will provide their simple needs.

DISCIPLE: So it’s ok to take whatever one wants since nothing belongs to anyone anyway? 

YAMA: Careful, the mind can argue from any direction and never touch the truth. Any teaching, any words, can be used to lead one deeper into illusion and misery.

Any fearful action will create fearful events. Cause and effect. If one acts in the state of peace then that is what one creates. To find God, who is always waiting and watching, one must develop trust. To take what has not been given generally implies lack of trust. Acting out of desperation to preserve the body is falling into the illusion of being a body, instead of being the Eternal Spirit that has no needs.

Traveler 1, Janaka Stagnaro
To eat your food, or to don your clothes, or to take your child to school without giving thanks to the Creator is stealing. Remember, there is nothing that you own. Give up the sense of ownership and surrender to the One who owns it all. In this way your mind will not steal away from the awareness that everything is God’s and is God. Gratitude, instead of self-righteous pride of earning what one has acquired, will be fostered, and the Giver can then be remembered and is invited to be recognized with every action.

Then everything becomes a gift. When one sees everything as a gift then one acts accordingly.

DISCIPLE: How does one know when one has stolen the moment?

YAMA: Generally, when one becomes angry. Anger is a sign of not being united with the present circumstance and feeling thwarted from acquiring what one wants or expects. Anger cannot be present when gratitude prevails.

DISCIPLE: I guess when you really get down to the essential there is no difference between the last two commandments because they are both about being in love with the moment.

YAMA: Exactly.

I bowed to Yama and left him on the bench. I walked home, smiling. Whatever I gazed upon I saw with gratitude: whatever shape of a body, flowers, weeds, cigarette butts, clouds, it did not matter. And with each breath I gave thanks. When I reached home I touched my wife’s hair and lifted my giggling child into my arms, and I thanked God for this moment of Eternity God had gifted me.

                      --  excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with DeathAddendum I

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Ten Commandments from a Non-Dualist Perspective, #7 (Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery)

Yama and I sat on a park bench overlooking the bay of Monterey, right next to the bike path where scantily clad women ran under a sun long hidden. Often my eyes would stray down the path instead of watching the otters or the seals down below.

DISCIPLE: Yama, I am a married man, and very happily so; yet my eyes wander over the beauty of the female form, and if I am not vigilant my mind will conjure up some wanton fantasy in the blink of an eye. The Seventh Commandment is: Thou shall not commit adultery. Am I committing adultery with my thoughts? And what is the highest teaching of this commandment?

Under the Bodhi Tree, Janaka Stagnaro
YAMA: Adultery by definition is the sexual union of a married man or woman with another person outside of marriage. While God does not care one whit what you do in time, as God sees only the Eternal and sees no other; however, as a discipline for one who seeks to know God or one’s own true nature, then one needs to cull the panting after forms—however beautiful they may seem to be. After all, what are these forms anyway but decaying flesh, one moment youthful and beautiful, the next withering and decrepit. Or if one explores these bodies further by looking at them at the minutest level they are nothing but particles of energy with no solidity at all.

Running after a body for a moment of pleasure is like jumping into the desert sand after believing you saw water. Bodies can no more give you happiness than mirages can quench your thirst.

DISCIPLE: But what about thinking about it? It’s not quite as bad, is it?

YAMA: Finding yourself in bed with some woman other than your wife would have been perpetuated by your thinking; it is not the body that wants to be with another body. When your consciousness leaves your body the body becomes inert, such as in deep sleep. The body is neutral, but it is filled with mental tendencies. If you have a habit of wanting to enjoy every pretty body, then a subconscious tendency will be created by the belief that such actions will bring fulfillment. And each time that tendency is acted upon it reinforces that notion. Therefore, the mind is the one that needs to be controlled by not letting it wander after the temporal. This is where discrimination is so important.
DISCIPLE: Please elaborate about discrimination.

YAMA: Does a wise man choose to pursue something that holds it value throughout time or something that has a value that will last only a day?

DISCIPLE: Obviously only the former. Only a fool would spend time and resources chasing something that is only valuable for a day.

YAMA: So discrimination is choosing between what is truly valuable and what is not. That which is Eternal has everlasting value. Anything temporal is really valueless. And the mind only focuses on what one believes is valuable. A business man will focus on profit, a drunk on his booze, a doctor on her patients, a holy man on God.

DISCIPLE: Is therefore my marriage valueless? And if it is, why not go after any women I wanted?

YAMA: It is valueless if you think your wife will complete your life for you and if you see her as a body. A marriage is only valuable in the true sense that it offers an opportunity of expressing unconditional love towards someone you see on a daily basis—someone whom you can see every shortcoming and then look beyond to her radiant perfect Self. Marriage is a powerful tool to discover unlimited joy in a limiting framework; which is no different than anything else on this planet.

And like everything else on this planet marriage is simply a mirror. If you see your wife as a body floundering in time and space then that is what you will see yourself as. If you behold her as the Christ, so shall you see yourself.

In other words, the only worthy undertaking is to find the Eternal in the finite.

DISCIPLE: In truth then, adultery does not just entail not lusting after someone else for sexual pleasures, but may encompass other areas as well.

YAMA: Certainly. There are many ways for one to want to escape the lessons of marriage, whether it is through one’s work, socializing, watching television, reading, etc.

DISCIPLE: Well, I do all those things from time to time. So am I escaping my marriage through them?

YAMA: You can tell if you are having an affair with anything if your mind fixates on having them when you are in another activity. If you are walking with your wife and your mind dwells on the book you are reading, or if your are doing the dishes and you want to be out with your buddies, then you are not present.

Remember this teaching: that one is to be married, not to a human being, but to the Eternal Now, to God, and when one’s mind is focused on anywhere else other than where one is at the time, this is adultery.

DISCIPLE: Thank you for giving me your commentary on adultery. I realize now that one does not have to be married to commit adultery. And my wandering eye is simply the mind wanting me to not be content with where I am and with whom I live.

         --  excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with DeathAddendum I

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Ten Commandments from a Non-Dualist Perspective, #6 (Thou Shall Not Kill)

Yama and I sat in the cemetery overlooking the ocean, a golf course on three sides. On this sunny, cool day the links were filled with people hitting little balls into holes, no doubt ignoring the mortality reminders a chip away, while the murder of crows in the cypress trees that provided shade for the graves, cawed for the golfers’ attention.

DISCIPLE: It has been a long time since our last discussion about the more non-dualistic interpretation of the Ten Commandments.

YAMA: Has it? Do not your dreams jump from scene to scene, with what seems like much time between them, all of which happens within a few breaths of “real” time?

DISCIPLE: Yes, that’s true.

YAMA: So it is with me. Our last conversation was just a moment ago, since I am not bound by time, and thus do not use it as a reference of who I am. My reference point is with the Eternal so I am not defined by what I do, even though my role is death.

DISCIPLE: Well that brings us to the Sixth Commandment: Thou shall not kill. As death, are you not the greatest offender of this rule?

YAMA: I guess I am; but then so must God be, for my power comes from Her. However, can God kill anything since all things abide in God and God in all things? Right here is the whole rub because when we get to the Essential, which is God, that there is only One. Yet it takes two to have the play of killer and slain.

This is what Krishna said to the warrior Arjuna who didn’t want to fight his kinsmen. Krishna reminded him that the Eternal Self cannot kill or be slain, and that everybody is just passing phenomena being consumed by time under the control of God.

Really the commandment should say: Thou cannot kill.

DISCIPLE: Ok, what you say I understand to mean that finite occurrences do not affect the Infinite Source, no more than my throwing a pebble in the ocean can disturb the depths.

YAMA: Well put.

DISCIPLE: Yet it does say, ‘shall not kill,’ as an injunction for right living in accord with God’s will. What does it mean? Surely it doesn’t mean that humans should not kill one another because immediately after giving the commandments to Moses, Jehovah has Moses put to death thousands of idol worshipers.

I am confused.

YAMA: Such is the problem when one lives according to the words of another, because everyone comes to words with subjective interpretations. All teachings will appear to have contradictions because no matter how holy they are they basically are nothing more than ripples on the ocean. Words are expressed in time and Truth is Eternal and the two can never meet.

Some will say it means to kill no human being, that one should prefer to die than to kill. Others might say it means to kill nothing at all, if at all possible—which I assure you it is not. Others talk about just wars, and say it is legitimate to kill when defending one’s home or country. And then there is the eye for an eye permission.

Which interpretation is right? Which one wrong? When one realizes that there is no other, no thing or person out there to be feared, that the Self is only One, one will act in harmony with the Whole. In such a case, then one may be the instrument of helping a finite form change as it inevitably will, just as the surgeon removes a tumor or the general defeats the invaders, the butcher prepares the cow for a feast. Some may even feel that by self immolation they can kill the flames of war.

DISCIPLE: So you are saying that there really is no absolute to this rule?

YAMA: Yes, except only that you can’t kill. Jesus knew this very well when he asked God’s forgiveness for those who knew not what they were doing, because their ignorance saw them killing Jesus. But how can the Eternal Son of God be killed? Of course God forgave them because His Son never died.

DISCIPLE: Here we sit in a graveyard. Is there any point to such a place if nobody dies?

Graveyard in Scotland, Janaka Stagnaro
YAMA: Such memorials are at best good reminders that bodies eventually drop away, to help people wake up to their nature and to remind them not to become attached to anything or anyone, for all things pass away. Cemeteries can indeed be a good place to meditate for those reasons. However, as a place to dwell on the memories of those who passed, it can keep people’s minds stuck in time. Really, people should have memorials for clothes they can no longer fit into, it makes about as much sense, for the body is but a garment. Besides, people put too much emphasis on memories, thinking that they are what makes them who they are. Memories are simply thoughts, and one’s Self rests quietly beyond them.

With that last thought in mind we watched the crows silently before closing my eyes, eliminating everything that I call mine from me: my family, my things, my work, my body, my personality, my feelings, my thoughts…until no thing was left. And only Silence remained.

                       -- The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with DeathAddendum I