There is no doubt in my mind that Amma has helped me the most in finding peace in uncertain times; by her presence, her teachings and the opportunities to apply those teachings, her music, her guidance when I have questions, the example she sets in living a life of service and the community of people I have in my life because of her.
As I am dealing with my own health problems, as well as living in the world during a pandemic, I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to learn persistence, flexibility, letting go, being like a bird perched on a dry twig, and being in the moment. While my mind still goes into overdrive, most of the time I am able to find a centered place within me.
As I am writing this, I am remembering a prayer I wrote in the mid to late 90’s. It is still my prayer.
Mother, may my hands be in service, my mind fill with mantra May my voice forever sing your praise, my heart dance with joy May my love shine ever brighter, my faith ever grow Mother, may each day I become more like you, only for this I pray Only for this I pray
Not too long after the pandemic began and we were told to stay home, I started writing one of the 108 Names of Amma ten times in Devanagari (the script used to write Sanskrit words) each day. Many of the “names” relate to one of Amma‘s characteristics. The list was written by a devotee decades ago and is frequently used as a chant before meditation or singing.
If you notice differences between the transliteration and the Devanagari script know that more information about that is provided in my last Sanskrit writing post.
ॐ त्याग वैराग्य मैत्रयादि सर्व सद्वासना पुषे नमः omtyaga vairagya maitryadi sarva sadvasana pushe namah … who encourages the cultivation of good qualities such as renunciation, dispassion, love, etc.
ॐ सुभाषित सुधा मुचे नमः om subhashita sudha muche namah … whose speech is as sweet as ambrosia
ॐप्रोत्सादित ब्रह्मविद्या सम्प्रदाय प्रवृत्ताये नमः om protsahita brahmavidya sampradaya pravrittaye namah …who encourages the learning of Brahmavidya, the science of the Absolute through the tradition of the guru-disciple relationship
Not too long after the pandemic began and we were told to stay home, I started writing one of the 108 Names of Amma ten times in Devanagari (the script used to write Sanskrit words) each day. Many of the “names” are events in Amma‘s early life or one of her characteristics. The list was written by a devotee decades ago and is frequently used as a chant before meditation or singing.
I have been having health problems, not related to covid, so it has been a week or more since I last wrote any Sanskrit. I finished line 78 last night. In this post, I will share lines 71 and 78.
I frequently make errors when I write. Usually by the 10th time I write the line, it is correct but not always, I still slip up. I also have discovered there are occasionally discrepancies between the transliteration and the Devanagari versions. Since I don’t know which is right, I just write it the way it is in the various books I am using. I also do not differentiate between the different kinds of “a”s, “i”s, “u”s, “n’s, “sh”s (and a few others) when I write the transliteration in blog posts. And last, there are occasionally times when letter combinations I use when I write the Devanagari script are different than the keyboard I am using for the post.
Line 71 सुप्रसन्न मुख़ाम्भोज वराभयद पाणये नम: suprasanna mukhambhoja varabhayada panaye namah … who has a bright, beaming face, as beautiful as a lotus flower, and who holds her hand in the posture of blessing
Line 78 प्रेमभक्ति सूधा सिक्त साधू चित्त गूहजूषे नम: premabhakti sudha siktasadhu citta guhajushe namah … who resides in the cave of the heart of the pious that are drenched with the nectar of devotion
It has been 58 days since I started writing one of the 108 Names of Amma in ten times in Devanagari (the script used to write Sanskrit words) each day. Many of the “names” are events in Amma‘s early life. The list was compiled decades ago and is frequently used as a chant before meditation or singing.
In my last Sanskrit post, the lines related to Amma having had a vision of Lord Krishna. In this post I am using three lines that follow the one about Amma having had a vision of the Divine Mother holding an instrument called the veena. So these three lines are about what happened once her vision disappeared.
देवी सद्य: तिरोधान ताप व्यथित चेतसे नम : devi sadyas tirodhana tapa vyathita chetase namah …whose heart was burnt in the fire of sorrow on the Divine Mother’s sudden disappearance,
त्यक्तान्न पान निद्रदी निद्रादि सर्व दैहिक धर्मणे नम: tyaktanna pana nidradi sarva daihika dharmane namah … who gave up all bodily activities like eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.
Note: In doing this post, I see that I didn’t write pana in any of my sentences. Whoops.
कुररादि समानीत भक्ष्य पोषित वर्ष्मणे नम: kuraradi samanita bhakshya poshita varshmane namah whose body was nourished by the food brought by birds and other animals
Note: I only wanted to use three lines in this post. Day 49 was “… whose sorrowful wailing was rending the ears of the four quarters.”
Earlier this week, a friend sent me this video. I was VERY touched by it and sent it on to family and friends. Days later, I’m still thinking and talking about it so I’ve decided to share it on my blog. I will let the video speak for itself.
During the previous decade, I attended Sanskrit classes for about five years. For a while I even attended two classes a week. My goal was to be able to converse in Sanskrit.
I became discouraged, however, when class after class of Indian students zoomed past me. I may have known more Sanskrit when each class began, but many of the Indian students’ native languages were rooted in Sanskrit so they were able to easily able to develop a Sanskrit vocabulary. I couldn’t do that. I progressed in my studies, but the time came when I was no longer willing to dedicate the hours it would take to reach my goal; besides, I was no longer convinced my goal was even possible.
One day during the current pandemic, it occurred to me that I could write in Sanskrit as a form of spiritual practice. It had been a long time since I’d written the Devanagari letters and I knew I would enjoy doing that once again.
Many years ago, a devotee of my spiritual teacher, Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), wrote a beautiful chant consisting of 108 characteristics of Amma. I realized I could focus on one line of that chant each day by writing it in Devanagari script ten times. I have been doing that exercise for the last 28 days!
In the past, I often wrote about my Sanskrit studies on this blog. I decided a few days ago that I would do that again. But each day, I determined that my writing wasn’t good enough or the line of the chant wasn’t the right one. Today, I decided that since my purpose was to share the process, nothing about it had to be perfect.
I picked the 24th and 25th lines of the chant to share:
om nissabda janani garbha nirgamadbhuta karmane namah (Salutations to Amma who did the miraculous deed of keeping silence when she came out of her mother’s womb.)
om kali sri krishna sangkasha komala shyamala tvishe namah (Salutations to Amma who has the beautiful dark complexion reminiscent of Kali and Krishna.)
I hope the pandemic ends before I reach the 108th day, but even if it does, I may continue this practice until I have finished the last line.
I will end my post with the following prayer:
OmLokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu May all beings in the world live in peace Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti Peace, Peace, Peace
I shared this piece written by my younger brother on this blog in May of 2014. He wrote it before he died of cancer at the age of 39. This seems like a good time to share it again.
The Truth I Live By
(William John Smith 1953-1992)
Everything makes sense. This can be paraphrased many different ways, although many attempts are less accurate. One of Voltaire’s characters stated, “All is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.” This is unnecessarily optimistic. My phrasing doesn’t imply that everything that happens to us is good either in the short or the long term. Everyone experiences moments or long periods of unpleasantness. One can hope that over the long period of a lifetime these sad times may not add up to much overall, but most persons with a little thought can think of individuals whom “fate has treated unkindly,” i.e. who have received more than their share of agonies. I think this is one of the hardest things for you, C., that what has happened is just not fair. I’m not sure how long ago I came to believe (or realize) that fairness isn’t the issue. There is nothing fair about life, either in distribution of rewards or unhappiness. And what’s to say that it should be fair. If each of us had an opportunity to create a world, then maybe that’s an attribute that we would build in. But this world is not of our making, and all of the mental checklists that we might make comparing who’s gotten more breaks than we have, etc., will never change the fact that we have to make the best of what we’ve got, not despair over what we perceive as inequities. So life isn’t fair. How do we cope with that? One way might be to remind ourselves that no matter how bad things seem to be at any one time, a little time spent flipping around the TV channel or reading a news magazine will serve as a reminder that we should be embarrassed to be heard complaining about the vast majority of things that concern us. I don’t doubt for a second that I have lived a very privileged existence compared to 90% of the world’s people.
I’m not sure that that is the best way to approach a new tragedy, though (i.e., making ourselves feel better by thinking of others doing worse). I would appreciate a more optimistic approach. The best way to greet each unpleasant event is to grab it by the throat and make the best of it. C. and I have both had our share of suffering, almost all of it, I’m happy to say proceeding our first date. There is no doubt that led to a degree of maturity that made our time together (pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis) much more meaningful than the lives of those growing up “with the silver spoons.”
Is cancer unfair? Is it fair that we should expect billions of cells in our body to reproduce over and over again, over an entire lifetime, and always get it right? Doesn’t it make more sense to recognize the initial miracle of our birth, the magnificence of our growth into feeling, loving, praising adults, the privilege of experiencing enough of life that we can despair over not having the time to spend longer doing the same? One of the things I am most grateful for is that many, many years ago I learned to be grateful for what I’ve been given. I didn’t, as occurs with many, only get shocked into this realization by a terminal tragedy. This type of appreciation often does begin in the midst of despair, and for that reason I am actually glad that I had enough hard times as a young man, to allow me to think hard about what things are and are not important. Accordingly, for the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve been able to ignore aspects of 20 th century American living that are of no consequence to me (parties, cars, frivolous chatter, clubs, etc.) and concentrate on things that touch me personally. I am forever grateful for what it was that dropped the blinders from my eyes so many years ago.
I am very sad that people seem to see so little of the world around them. I can’t walk outside without seeing the beauty of our created world, from the rainbow in a line of earthworm slime, to another visible ring on Jupiter. We have been given this magnificent world to study and enjoy in limitless detail at any level, microscopic to cosmic. Even though I have enough things to interest me another 10 lifetimes, I must take solace in knowing that, at least compared to others, I’ve had much more than my share even in half a life time..
I am blessed to have had a brother who could embody these attitudes. I hope those of you who read this find his words meaningful in your lives as well.
My daughter Chaitanya and my son Sreejit (now Br. Sattvamrita Chaitanya) live at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in Kerala, India. People from all religions come to Amma, and all religions are respected.
For ten years, my son and daughter were very instrumental in creating the Christmas play that was performed on Christmas Eve. My daughter wrote and directed the plays and Sattvamrita and his friends composed most of the tunes. The plays were performed in the style of Broadway musicals.
One of my favorite musicals was the one in December, 2012. It was titled God is Able. The setting was a Southern style Gospel church. Sattvamrita was the preacher! The story line included the stories of Moses leading the Jews to the promised land, Rachael being healed by touching Jesus’ garment, and a fictional account of the heart of an angry store keeper being healed.
I will never forget the moment in the play when the stage doors opened and the sparkling “Gospel Choir” became visible. It seemed like everyone in the auditorium did a collective gasp. Part of the reason I remember the gasp and the thunderous applause and shouts that followed the song so well is that I was part of the choir!!!
Two or three days ago, I noticed that someone had visited my blog and found a post I had written about that play. The post contained the song our choir had sung; it was titled Dear God. The tune was written by Sattvamrita and the lyrics by Chaitanya.
I found the post and pressed the Dear God play button. As soon as the song began, I burst into tears; the deepest tears I have felt in many years. I think the tears were particularly sparked by hearing my son’s voice. It is stressful being on the other side of the world from my “kids” during the pandemic even though all of us are doing fine.
I’m still crying each time I play the song. In addition to hearing Sattvamrita’s voice, my tears may be from the message that the song holds, from the beauty of the music, and/or from reliving the memories of that magical night.
The mp3 recording and the lyrics are below. I hope you enjoy it.
When you feel like darkness has you bound And you can’t see any way to get out There’s a power which surrounds us all Through God anything is possible
Never fear Never let your doubts draw near With courage face all that comes Put your trust into God’s arms He’ll protect you from all harm His love will carry you on through
Dear God, hold us tight never let us leave thy sight Dear God, fill our soul with your love make us whole
Sattvamrita singing above the choir:
God is able to calm the wild storm God is able to make the weak strong God is able to bring change within God is able to do all things
As I mentioned in my posts from India, I have been having trouble with balance. It started about two years ago but has been getting worse. With my doctor’s support,I had dealt with it by working with a personal trainer at a gym and doing physical therapy. Both have been valuable, but it was while I was coping with uneven ground in India that I realized how much worse my balance had gotten in the last year. And I also noticed that the balance problem was often accompanied by a sense of wooziness and exhaustion.The India heat and jet lag made those symptoms even worse. It was towards the end of the trip that it first occurred to me that I should stop leading work parties in the Greenbelt. I let that thought percolate in the back of my mind.
Seeing that the symptoms were getting worse, and that strength building at the gym and physical therapy weren’t sufficient for dealing with the physical problems, once I returned to Seattle, I started getting medical tests to rule out underlying causes. (Some of those tests have been delayed because of the pandemic.)
Around the same time, it occurred to me that my physical problems might also be due to overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed. After all, from the time I started working in the Greenbelt, I had thought and even dreamed about the restoration work incessantly.
Overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed and exhausted have been life patterns for me. There were times in my life when I felt as if my mind was like a computer that was about to explode. My present-day physical symptoms were eerily similar to those experiences. My old pattern was to keep doing all of those behaviors until I got so sick that I couldn’t do the work anymore. I believe that was why I got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the mid 80’s and in the 2000’s developed high blood pressure.
Having these insights felt very helpful, but what was to be done with them? Since August of 2016, my life had been primarily focused on the Greenbelt restoration project. I had loved working on the land as well as working with the team leaders and the many hundreds of volunteers who had helped. I had treasured watching the land transform from space overrun with blackberries, ivy and bindweed to land filled with native trees, shrubs and ground covers. But the joy had been accompanied by hardship. The ground is sloped and uneven and I had tripped and fallen many times, once even breaking my wrist. It had taken a tremendous amount of effort to find volunteers to help with the work parties. All of the planning and administrative work had practically turned into a full- time job. And everything had gotten more difficult for me to do as the balance problems and wooziness worsened.
I realized that almost all of my overthinking, overdoing and stress was related to my Greenbelt restoration work. I knew myself well enough to know that cutting back was not an option; I wouldn’t be able to stop the overthinking with that approach. I knew I needed to stop doing the restoration work as soon as possible. In addition, I needed to accept the fact that I am 71 years old now and have limitations that go with aging.
But I would not makethe change immediately. If at all possible, it was important to me to finish Winter Quarter activities since I had University of Washington Service-Learning students as well as Capstone interns from the UW School of the Environment. Even though it was difficult, I was able to complete that commitment!
I have never questioned my decision to stop my involvement in the restoration project, but I knew that I would feel devastated if the land reverted to its 2016 state. I felt relieved when the Green Seattle Partnership staff told me that they were committed to finding another Forest Steward to continue the project.
Several friends and family members told me that my replacement would be revealed. One day, our newest team leader came into my mind. She knows so much and has so much energy. And she had participated in almost all of the student work parties this quarter. I contacted her and asked if she had ever thought about becoming a Forest Steward. I was astounded when she told me she already was one, she had taken the Forest Steward training in 2014. And she was interested in the position!
She prefers to work in a team, so hopefully one or more of our other team leaders will take the training when it is offered in October. But the fact that she is already a Forest Steward means the project can continue now. The saying “what you need will be provided” has certainly come true.
I will miss leading the project but know that I can potentially help in the future. And since the site borders my property, I can still watch the new plants grow and take nature photos. What I am primarily experiencing is a sense of relief.
Just before I sat down to write this post, the title of a book I used to recommend came to mind.
Life is Goodbye, Life is Hello Grieving Well Through All Kinds of Loss
I know I am saying both goodbye and hello in my life and realize that I may experience a myriad of feelings as I continue this process of living, learning and letting go.
I’m not the only one letting go. While I am feeling a lot of relief about my decision about my own life, I’m much more excited about another person’s transformation. Have any of you wondered why you no longer can find my son’s blog, The Seeker’s Dungeon?
Sreejit deleted The Seeker’s Dungeon when he found out he was going to receive the yellow robes of a brahmachari. (To learn more about brahmacharis and brahmacharya click here.)
The decision to delete his blog was part of letting go of his Sreejit identity as he moves into the next stage of his life.
His name is now Brahmachari (Br.) Sattvamrita Chaitanya. Chaitanya is like a last name for all brahmacharis so would only be said in a formal setting. Most of the time he will be called Sattvamrita. The phonetic spelling is sut VAAM ri tu. The u’s are like the short u in hut, the aa is long like the a in psalm or alms, and the i is like the i in knit. The capitalized letters are for the syllable that is emphasized.
I have loved seeing him so excited and happy.
Here are a few photos of Sattvamrita. Cutting off his hair and beard was part of the initiation process.
His sister is so happy for him too. (BTW The sleeves on Sattvamrita’s shirt will be hemmed at a later time! 😁)
This video was posted in October of last year but I just saw it for the first time. I decided to share it with you while the tears are still rolling down my cheeks. May I come from love in all areas of my life.