Today we have Part 1 of a 3-part interview I recently did with Will Tuttle, author of the book The World Peace Diet.
Will Tuttle is a nationally recognized writer, educator, pianist and composer devoted to providing words and music that inspire insight and compassion. An award-winning author and Dharma Master in the Zen meditation tradition, his Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley focus on educating intuition, and he has taught college course in music, philosophy, mythology, and creativity.
His book, The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony, has been called one of the most important books of the 21st century: the foundation of a new society based on the truth of the interconnectedness of all life.
It is the first book to make explicit the invisible connections between our culture, our food, and the source of our broad range of problems – and the way to a positive transformation in our individual and collective lives.
It is a brilliant book, and I highly recommend it. It is far-ranging in its scope, and leaves no stone unturned in its quest to help us all understand who we are and where we are going.
To learn more about Will Tuttle, and to buy his book, go to his website, http://willtuttle.com
Part 2 of this 3-part interview will be next time…
The Low Density Lifestyle book is now out! You can check out an excerpt from the book, and buy it, at the Low Density Lifestyle bookstore.
The Low Density Lifestyle book is now out! You can check out an excerpt from the book, and buy it, at the Low Density Lifestyle bookstore.
In an act of cowardice that only evil terrorists are capable of doing, an American icon, Ronald McDonald, was recently kidnapped and is being threatened with execution by Feb. 11, 2011, unless the demands of the terrorists are met.
What is wrong with these people? Don’t they understand that Ronald McDonald represents the pinnacle of American living? You can’t get much more Americana than Ronald.
I mean, if we allow this dastardly act to succeed, then we are all doomed – because then nothing will be sacred.
Who are these cowards who have committed this heinous act? Not much is fully known about them, except that they go by the name of the “Food Liberation Army.”
We do know the details of the crime. The perpetrators marched into a restaurant in Helsinki, Finland on Jan. 31 posing as maintenance personnel, and then kidnapped the statue of Ronald McDonald.
Since committing this reprehensible act, the group has posted a video on YouTube where, wearing hoods over their heads and holding the statue with a bag over its head, they demand that the world’s largest food chain answer questions about its corporate responsibility and food production. You can watch the video above.
“We love burgers, fries and McDonald’s, but we can no longer watch in silence as the food we love is being destroyed and brought to shame because of greed and indifference,” one of the terrorists said, speaking in Finnish.
And that’s the thing about terrorists. They can make themselves sound like they have a reasonable case, but we all know they are madmen bent on destruction.
For what are we without McDonalds? What would happen to our way of life?
I ask all of you, pray that Ronald McDonald is saved before the execution date of Feb. 11. But yet, we can never cave into the demands of terrorists.
For if they get their way, next they’ll be making demands that we have to eat things like brown rice and organic vegetables and locally produced foods.
And if that were to happen, it would be devastating to all the businesses that make mega-gobs of profits off the unhealthy living habits of people.
The Low Density Lifestyle book is now out! You can check out an excerpt from the book, and buy it, at the Low Density Lifestyle bookstore.
Happy Groundhog’s Day! Feb. 2 is a day we all spend in wonderment and awe, because it is Groundhog’s Day. On this day, everyone waits to hear the proclamation from Punxsutawney Phil, on whether or not he has seen his shadow. If he does, then winter will last longer than usual.
And today, Feb. 2, 2011, in Punsxutawney, PA, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Phil the Groundhog, the one who Groundhog’s Day is centered around, woke up, toured the neighborhood, watched the news, gave his opinion on what’s going on in Egypt, and then pronounced that he did not see his shadow. Thus folks, it’s going to be only 4 more weeks of winter.
(Isn’t that heartening news for those of you who are currently digging out of the latest winter storm?)
But even more important than whether Phil saw his shadow is another lesson from Groundhog’s Day. And that is this: Is Groundhog’s Day a Lesson in Living a Low Density Lifestyle?
Ok, I have to admit, I’m not talking about the trials and tribulations of good ol’ Punxsutawney Phil in this instance. I’m talking about the movie Groundhog Day, a film that has been called one of the 10 best American films ever. It has even been called by some spiritual leaders as “the most spiritual film of our time.”
In Groundhog Day the film, Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a stressed out, self-centered, bitter and jaded television weatherman assigned to cover Groundhog’s Day in Punxsutawney. A blizzard keeps him in town that night, and he wakes up the next day to find out he is reliving Groundhog’s Day again. And every night when he goes to bed, he arises the next morning to find out he is again reliving Groundhog’s Day. This continues over and over, ad nauseum.
But Phil Connors is the only one who is reliving the day; he is the only one stuck in time. For everyone else, they begin anew at Groundhog’s Day as if it never happened.
Connors then goes through a series of transitions, from first trying to use it to his advantage, by learning secrets from the locals, seducing women, stealing money and getting piss drunk and driving around town. As the novelty wears off, and he sees the meaningless of his actions, he next kidnaps Phil the groundhog and kills himself and the groundhog. But again, he wakes up the next morning, still stuck back in Groundhog’s Day.
And then a profound transformation of his character occurs, as he comes to realize what kind of horrible person he has become–he is someone who is totally indifferent to anyone else but himself. He learns to stop being so self-absorbed and to truly care about others, he works at self-improvment and becoming a better human being, and he opens his heart to profess his sincere love to his colleague Rita, who he always lusted after; Rita in response had only contempt for Phil Connors and his High Density Lifestyle ways.
At the end of Groundhog Day, Murray and Rita unite in love. When they wake up in the morning together in bed, it is now Feb. 3: Groundhog’s Day has ended and the time loop has broken. The two are together as a couple, and Phil Connors is a changed man, a man who has learned to live a Low Density Lifestyle.
Right on for Groundhog’s Day (even if it means 4 more weeks of winter)!
Today I take a break from the series on the Masters of Enlightenment, to share with you this story that was in today’s, Jan. 24, 2011, New York Times.
Jack passed away yesterday, Jan. 23, 2011, at the ripe age of 96, so as a tribute to him, I thought it would be best to republish the story from the NY Times.
Jack LaLanne, Founder of Modern Fitness Movement, Dies at 96
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Jack LaLanne, whose obsession with grueling workouts and good nutrition, complemented by a salesman’s gift, brought him recognition as the founder of the modern physical fitness movement, died Sunday afternoon at his home in Morro Bay, Calif. He was 96.
The cause was respiratory failure resulting from pneumonia, said his son Dan Doyle.
A self-described emotional and physical wreck while growing up in the San Francisco area, Mr. LaLanne began turning his life around, as he often told it, after hearing a talk on proper diet when he was 15.
He started working out with weights when they were an oddity, and in 1936 he opened the prototype for the fitness spas to come — a gym, juice bar and health food store — in an old office building in Oakland.
“People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he remembered. “The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.” But Mr. LaLanne persevered, and he found a national pulpit in the age of television.
“The Jack LaLanne Show” made its debut in 1951 as a local program in the San Francisco area, then went nationwide on daytime television in 1959. His short-sleeved jumpsuit showing off his impressive biceps, his props often limited to a broomstick, a chair and a rubber cord, Mr. LaLanne pranced through his exercise routines, most notably his fingertip push-ups.
He built an audience by first drawing in children who saw his white German shepherd, Happy, perform tricks.
“My show was so personal, I made it feel like you and I were the only ones there,” he told Knight-Ridder Newspapers in 1995. “And I’d say: ‘Boys and girls, come here. Uncle Jack wants to tell you something. You go get Mother or Daddy, Grandmother, Grandfather, whoever is in the house. You go get them, and you make sure they exercise with me.’ ”
His show continued into the mid-1980s.
“He was perfect for the intimacy of television,” Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, told The San Jose Mercury News in 2004. “This guy had some of the same stuff that Oprah has and Johnny Carson had — the ability to insinuate themselves in the domestic space of people’s lives.”
Long before Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda and the Atkins diet, Mr. LaLanne was a national celebrity, preaching regular exercise and proper diet. Expanding on his television popularity, he opened dozens of fitness studios under his name, later licensing them to Bally.
He invented the forerunners of modern exercise machines like leg-extension and pulley devices. He marketed a Power Juicer to blend raw vegetables and fruits and a Glamour Stretcher cord, and he sold exercise videos and fitness books. He invited women to join his health clubs and told the elderly and the disabled that they could exercise despite their limitations.
At 60 he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. At 70, handcuffed and shackled again, he towed 70 boats, carrying a total of 70 people, a mile and a half through Long Beach Harbor.
He ate two meals a day and shunned snacks.
Breakfast, following his morning workout, usually included several hard-boiled egg whites, a cup of broth, oatmeal with soy milk and seasonal fruit. For dinner he took his wife, Elaine, to restaurants that knew what he wanted: a salad with raw vegetables and egg whites along with fish — often salmon — and a mixture of red and white wine. He sometimes allowed himself a roast turkey sandwich, but never a cup of coffee.
Mr. LaLanne said he performed his exercises until he experienced “muscle fatigue,” lifting weights until it was impossible for him to continue. It produced results and, as he put it, “the ego in me” made the effort worthwhile.
The son of French immigrants, Jack LaLanne was born in San Francisco on Sept. 26, 1914, and spent his early years on his parents’ sheep farm in Bakersfield, Calif. By the time he was 15, the family having moved to the Bay Area, he was pimply and nearsighted, craved junk food and had dropped out of high school. That is when his mother took him to a women’s club for a talk by Paul C. Bragg, a well-known speaker on health and nutrition.
That talk, Mr. LaLanne often said, turned his life around. He began experimenting with weights at the Berkeley Y.M.C.A., tossed aside cakes and cookies and studied Gray’s Anatomy to learn about the body’s muscles. He graduated from a chiropractic school, but instead of practicing that profession he became a pitchman for good health.
He opened his first health studio when he was 21, and a decade and a half later he turned to television. He was first sponsored by the creator of a longevity pill, a 90-year-old man, but it sold poorly and he obtained Yami Yogurt as his new sponsor. “It tasted terrible, so I mixed it with prune juice and fruits,” he told The New York Times in 2004. “Nobody thought about it until then. We made the guy a millionaire.”
Mr. LaLanne, 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds or so with a 30-inch waist, maintained that he disliked working out. He said he kept at it strictly to feel fit and stay healthy. He built two gyms and a pool at his home in Morro Bay, and began each day, into his 90s, with two hours of workouts: weight lifting followed by a swim against an artificial current or in place, tied to a belt.
“The Jack LaLanne Show” may have run its course in the mid-1980s, but it had a second life in reruns on ESPN Classic. “We have over 3,000 shows,” Mr. LaLanne said in 2004. “I own everything.”
In September 2007, “Jack LaLanne Live!” made its debut on the online VoiceAmerica Health and Wellness Radio Network. He appeared on it with his wife and his nephew Chris LaLanne, a personal trainer.
In addition to Dan Doyle, he is survived by his wife, Elaine; their son, Jon; and a daughter, Yvonne.
Mr. LaLanne promoted himself and his calling into his final years, often accompanied at events by his wife, a physical fitness convert but hardly a fanatic. He brimmed with optimism and restated a host of aphorisms for an active and fit life.
“I can’t die,” he most famously liked to say. “It would ruin my image.”
The series on the Masters of Enlightenment continues today with a profile of a man who was one of the greatest scientists of all time, and who, through his blend of logic, creative intelligence and intuitive insights, opened our minds to the way the universe operates, and in the process, opened the doors of perception to the realm in which science and spirituality merge.
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 and died April 18, 1955. He was a German theoretical physicist who discovered the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics; his theories also provided the concepts and foundation for quantum physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”
He escaped from Nazi Germany in 1933, where he had been a professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences, and settled in the U.S., becoming a citizen in 1940. He taught physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, until his death in 1955.
Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers along with over 150 non-scientific works, and received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy from many European and American universities; he also wrote about various philosophical and political subjects such as socialism, international relations and the existence of God. His great intelligence and originality has made the word “Einstein” synonymous with genius.
Einstein was a scientist, an artist, a philosopher, a rebel, and a mystic. He was an original thinker, and left his indelible mark in the collective consciousness of the world.
His life’s work earned him Time Magazine’s award in 1999, in their retrospective issue that looked back at the 20th century, as “Man of the Century.”
While growing up, Albert Einstein had such a spotty track record as a student that no one would have predicted where he would end up. One teacher told the young Einstein, “You will never amount to anything.” Einstein was later expelled from high school and flunked his college entrance exam.
The issue for Einstein as a student was that he did not think in a purely linear way, which is the way the education system generally teaches.
Sadly, the way the education system is constituted these days, it plays a major role in the repression of genius, human potential, and the potential for self-realization and enlightenment.
Many brilliant thinkers who have done much to change the course of humanity are not linear thinkers. They are creative thinkers who see the world in original ways.
If creative thinkers are expected to adjust their thinking from a nonlinear way to a linear one, in order to conform to the one-size-fits-all method of teaching that is the norm in education, they eventually lose their capability for original thinking. And sadly, when this occurs, the world becomes poorer for the experience.
Albert Einstein pointed this out in the case of the 19th century scientist Michael Faraday, who discovered electromagnetism. Einstein said of Faraday’s discovery, “Faraday’s discovery was an audacious mental creation, which we owe chiefly to the fact that Faraday never went to school, and therefore preserved the rare gift of thinking freely.”
Because of his own spotty track record as a student, once he graduated college, it was only thanks to a family connection that he got a job, as a civil servant in a patent office in Switzerland.
It was while working there in 1905 that he changed the course of history with his discovery of Special Theory of Relativity, which he wrote about in a published paper. Over the next few years, he expounded on Relativity Theory with papers on the nature of light and the General Theory of Relativity.
Einstein’s theories changed the notion of space and time, the notion of mass and energy, the notion of matter and light, and the way they are all perceived.
He opened the door to the understanding that the universe we live in is one ruled by quantum laws, a universe in which matter is primarily empty space rich in information and consciousness. Einstein’s perceptions showed that at its core, matter is not solid but comprised of waves.
Faced with such bold new assertions, it is understandable how Einstein and other scientists of the era who built on Einstein’s theories came to adopt a mystical worldview. They realized the universe was much different than what they had been taught, and that this new conception of the universe was closer in line with the teachings of Eastern philosophies than anything existing science could define.
But Einstein himself was always a mystic. His way of learning and perceiving, as I pointed out earlier, was a nonlinear one. He was a visual thinker, and stated, when asked about how his thought processes worked:
“Words and language, whether written or spoken, do not seem to play any part in my thought processes. The psychological entities that serve as building blocks for my thought are certain signs or images, more of less clear, that I can reproduce and recombine at will.”
Einstein was a brilliant creative thinker, one who saw the universe with fresh eyes. He had beginner’s mind – the mind of an original thinker – and maintained it his entire life. At his memorial, the scientist Robert Oppenheimer proclaimed: “He was almost wholly without sophistication and wholly without worldliness . . . There was always with him a wonderful purity at once childlike and profoundly stubborn.”
When you mix in his creative thinking and original mind with his tendency towards mysticism, you arrive at someone who is enlightened. And the beauty of Einstein’s enlightened mind was that he was able to articulate his vision clearly, for all to understand.
You may not be able to comprehend the profundity of his scientific achievements, but there are many other things that Einstein said that are equally as profound. Here is a sampling of them:
* “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
* “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
* “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.”
* “I want to know God’s thoughts; the rest are details.”
* “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
* “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
* “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”
* “God is subtle but he is not malicious.”
* “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”
* “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”
* “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”
* “Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.”
* “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
* “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
* “Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”
* “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
* “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
* “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
* “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”
* “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”
* “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”
* “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”
* “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
* “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
* “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
* “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”
* “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.”
* “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
* “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
* “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
* “In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.”
* “The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there’s no risk of accident for someone who’s dead.”
* “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!”
* “No, this trick won’t work…How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”
* “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
* “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”
* “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”
* “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
* “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”
* “The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.”
* “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
* “You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.”
* “One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.”
* “…one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.”
* “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
* “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
* “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” (Sign hanging in Einstein’s office at Princeton)
The series on the Masters of Enlightenment continues today with a look at Matsuo Basho, the 17th century Japanese poet who is internationally renowned as a master of haiku.
Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 moras (or on), in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 moras respectively. Although haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables, this is inaccurate as syllables and moras are not the same. A mora is something of which a long syllable consists of two and a short syllable consists of one.
The art of haiku stems from the Zen tradition, which I discussed in the article on Alan Watts. The goal of Zen is for the direct transmission of Truth to occur, without intermediary; as Alan Watts would say, “This is it.”
Or as Alan Watts simply explained it: “Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”
In Zen, the desire is to have an awakening of the mind, an “Aha” moment (or in the Zen tradition, “satori”), using brief and simple koans, which are simple worded mind-bending questions and phrases that challenge the student to transcend their rational thinking capability in order to arrive at a transrational solution that allows them to open their mind to a greater reality.
This greater reality is called Zen mind, No Mind, or Big Mind.
Much of traditional Japanese culture is aimed at this direct transmission: the Tea Ceremony, the Flower Ceremony, food preparation, calligraphy, the martial arts, bonsai, and poetry – especially haiku, with its simple asymmetrical rhythm that has the power of helping the reader achieve satori.
And it is Basho who is revered for his simple haiku, with its clarity and simplicity.
Basho was introduced to poetry at a young age, and after integrating himself into the intellectual scene of the Japanese city of Edo, he quickly became well-known throughout Japan.
He made a living as a teacher, but renounced the social, urban life of the literary circles and was inclined to wander throughout the country, heading west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing. His poems were influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements.
He made many long journeys in his life throughout Japan; in between the journeys he would live in the countryside outside of Edo in a hut his disciples built for him. There he would teach, until his restlessness overcame him, at which time he would embark on another journey.
Two of his most famous haiku are these:
1) An ancient pond
a frog jumps in
the splash of water
2) The rough sea
stretching out towards Sado
the Milky Way
And his last poem written before he died, his poem of farewell:
Falling sick on a journey
my dream goes wandering
over a field of dried grass
Here are other of Basho’s haiku:
From moon wreathed
all that remains
of soldiers dreams.
Not one traveller
braves this road –
a chance to dodge
Spring – through
what mountains there?
how does my
Black cloudbank broken
scatters in the night…now see
a child squints up
to view the moon.
Clouds come from time to time —
and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.
Whore and monk, we sleep
under one roof together,
moon in a field of clover.
Now I see her face,
the old woman, abandoned,
the moon her only companion.
still half the sky to go—
The series on The Masters of Enlightenment, which is part of the series on Spirituality, continues today with a profile of a great spiritual teacher who was a true master of enlightenment, Ramana Maharishi.
Sri Ramana Maharishi was born December 30, 1879 and died April 14, 1950. He was a Hindu jnani, someone who had attained self-realization.
In the Indian caste system, he was born a Brahmin (a member of the priestly class), but after having attained moksha (which is literally translated as “release”) he declared himself an “Atiasrami,” a Sastraic state of unattachment to anything in life and beyond all caste restrictions.
At the age of 16, he attained enlightenment, liberation, or moksha. He then left home for Arunachala, a mountain considered sacred by Hindus, and lived there for the rest of his life. An ashram eventually grew around him, Sri Ramana Ashram, situated at the foothill of Arunchala, to the west to the pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai.
Sri Ramana maintained that the purest form of his teachings was the powerful silence which radiated from his presence and quieted the minds of those attuned to it. He gave verbal teachings only for the benefit of those who could not understand his silence (or, perhaps, could not understand how to attain the silent state).
His verbal teachings were said to flow from his direct experience of Consciousness (Atman) as the only existing reality. When asked for advice, he recommended self-inquiry as the fastest path to moksha.
He considered his own guru to be the Self, in the form of the sacred mountain Arunachala. Sri Ramana did not publicize himself as a guru, never claimed to have disciples, and never appointed any successors. Sri Ramana was noted for his belief in the power of silence and relatively sparse use of speech. He led a modest and renunciate life, and depended on visitors and devotees for the barest necessities.
When Sri Ramana first went to Arunachala at age 16, his was a spiritual quest, done solely for his own spiritual evolution. He had no interest or ambition in becoming a teacher. For the next 30 years, he lived in various caves around the sacred mountain. Gradually, despite Sri Ramana’s silence, austerities, and desire for privacy, he attracted attention from visitors, and some became his disciples. And with that, his reputation grew.
In 1902, a government official named Sivaprakasam Pillai, with writing slate in hand, visited the young Swami in the hope of obtaining answers to questions about “How to know one’s true identity.” The fourteen questions put to the young Swami and his answers were Sri Ramana’s first teachings on self-inquiry, the method for which he became widely known, and were eventually published as “Nan Yar?”, or in English, “Who am I?”
In 1911 Sri Ramana became known to the west when the first westerner, Frank Humphreys, then a policeman stationed in India, discovered Sri Ramana and wrote articles about him which were first published in The International Psychic Gazette in 1913.
However, Sri Ramana only became relatively well known in and out of India after 1934 when Paul Brunton, having first visited Sri Ramana in January 1931, published the book A Search in Secret India, which became very popular. Resulting visitors included Paramahansa Yogananda, Somerset Maugham, (whose 1944 novel The Razor’s Edge models its spiritual guru after Sri Ramana), and many others.
Sri Ramana’s relative fame spread throughout the 1940s. Even as his fame spread, Sri Ramana was noted for his belief in the power of silence and his relatively sparse use of speech, as well as his lack of concern for fame or criticism. His lifestyle remained that of a renunciate.
When Sri Ramana Maharishi passed away on April 14, 1950, Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French photographer, who had been staying at the ashram for a fortnight prior to Sri Ramana’s death, recounted the event:“It is a most astonishing experience. I was in the open space in front of my house, when my friends drew my attention to the sky, where I saw a vividly-luminous shooting star with a luminous tail, unlike any shooting star I had before seen, coming from the South, moving slowly across the sky and, reaching the top of Arunachala, disappeared behind it. Because of its singularity we all guessed its import and immediately looked at our watches – it was 8:47 – and then raced to the Ashram only to find that our premonition had been only too sadly true: the Master had passed into parinirvana at that very minute.”
Millions in India mourned his death. A long article about it in the New York Times concluded: “Here in India, where thousands of so-called holy men claim close tune with the infinite, it is said that the most remarkable thing about Ramana Maharshi was that he never claimed anything remarkable for himself, yet became one of the most loved and respected of all.”
His method of teaching was characterized by the following:
- He urged people who came to him to practice self-inquiry;
- He directed people to look inward rather than seeking outside themselves for Realization. (“The true Bhagavan resides in your Heart as your true Self. This is who I truly am.”);
- He viewed all who came to him as the Self rather than as lesser beings. (“The jnani sees no one as an ajnani. All are only jnanis in his sight.”);
- He charged no money, and was adamant that no one ever ask for money (or anything else) in his name;
- He never promoted or called attention to himself. Instead, Sri Ramana remained in one place for 54 years, offering spiritual guidance to anyone of any background who came to him, and asking nothing in return;
- He considered humility to be the highest quality;
- He said the deep sense of peace one felt around a jnani was the surest indicator of their spiritual state, that equality towards all was a true sign of liberation, and that what a true jnani did was always for others, not themselves.
What is Self-Inquiry?
And what was self-inquiry, which was his greatest teaching? He felt it was the most direct way of self-realization, liberation, moksha, and enlightenment. Interestingly, Ramana Maharshi often said that yoga and self-inquiry are two methods of controlling the mind, which he compared to an agitated bull. Yoga attempts to drive the bull with a stick, while self-inquiry coaxes it with green grass.
Self-inquiry has been classified as the Path of Knowledge among the Indian schools of thought. Although the teaching of self-inquiry is consistent with and generally associated with Hinduism, the Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta, Sri Ramana gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices from various religions.
Here in an nutshell is what the process of self-inquiry is:
It was Sri Ramana’s basic thesis that the individual self is nothing more than a thought or an idea. He said that this thought, which he called ‘I’-thought, originates from a place called the Heart-centre, which he located on the right side of the chest in the human body. From there the ‘I’-thought rises up to the brain and identifies itself with the body: ‘I am this body.’
It then creates the illusion that there is a mind or an individual self which inhabits the body and which controls all its thoughts and actions. The ‘I’-thought accomplishes this by identifying itself with all the thoughts and perceptions that go on in the body. For example, ‘I’ (that is the ‘I’-thought) am doing this, ‘I’ am thinking this, ‘I’ am feeling happy, etc.
Thus, the idea that one is an individual person is generated and sustained by the ‘I’-thought and by its habit of constantly attaching itself to all the thoughts that arise. Sri Ramana maintained that one could reverse this process by depriving the ‘I’-thought of all the thoughts and perceptions that it normally identifies with. Sri Ramana taught that this ‘I’-thought is actually an unreal entity, and that it only appears to exist when it identifies itself with other thoughts.
He said that if one can break the connection between the ‘I’-thought and the thoughts it identifies with, then the ‘I’-thought itself will subside and finally disappear. Sri Ramana suggested that this could be done by holding onto the ‘I’-thought, that is, the inner feeling of ‘I’ or ‘I am’ and excluding all other thoughts. As an aid to keeping one’s attention on this inner feeling of ‘I’, he recommended that one should constantly question oneself ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Where does this “I” come from?’
He said that if one can keep one’s attention on this inner feeling of ‘I’, and if one can exclude all other thoughts, then the ‘I’-thought will start to subside into the Heart-centre.
This, according to Sri Ramana, is as much as the devotee can do by himself. When the devotee has freed his mind of all thoughts except the ‘I’-thought, the power of the Self pulls the ‘I’-thought back into the Heart-centre and eventually destroys it so completely that it never rises again. This is the moment of Self-realization. When this happens, the mind and the indvidual self (both of which Sri Ramama equated with the ‘I’-thought) are destroyed forever. Only the Atman or the Self then remains.
We kick off the new year here at the Low Density Lifestyle website with a poem by Vermont-based poet David Tucker, who has graced our pages before, the most recent time with his poem The River-Woman’s Daughter.
David’s new poem is called Longing, and in the above video, David does a reading of the poem. In true poet fashion, David adds a visual twist to his reading.
This is what David has to say about himself:
“I am a poet who lives in Vermont where I struggle to dig from the rock of mundanity formed by the details and disappointments of life the images that will startle us and remind us how we are connected to each other and to all the universe.”
Here is David’s poem:
as sure as Hades hears no joy,
new snow will fall into my path
and all the footprints
marked my way
because I burned
the scripture written on my youth:
‘Love the money not the kiss’.
I now must wander
the pathless sky because
my longing for the breath of God
shut my purse
in which I carry
my old compass,
my wish for the praise of women.
And, my mother says,
worst of all,
I do not care.
I toss it all
for just a taste,
just a tiny shiver
from the sweet breath
that lights the dawn!
I would do differently
if I could.
I would be responsible.
I would be ambitious.
I would be good.
I would be the poster child of mental health
if I could
but I can hear
death sniff the vacant seconds
of my past
looking for my life
and drag into the dark.
in the forest
of the hammer blows
pink like a new sun
over the ocean
of my soul:
no one moment
is wide enough
to acquire the light
that breaks the grasp of night
unless the voice of God
it become as wide as the sun.
who turns the stars
and bakes the light
that tingles in the belly of my soul,
lick the darkness
out of every moment.
who has knocked me to my knees,
cut the tendons of my will
and tied me to her bed.
I would trade a million dollars
for her kiss.
Enjoy the poem – whether you watch it, read it, or both, and see you next time as we continue the series on the Masters of Enlightenment, as part of the series on Spirituality.
And don’t forget: The Low Density Lifestyle book is now out! You can check out an excerpt from the book, and buy it, at the Low Density Lifestyle bookstore.
Just in time for the holidays, and to help you, your friends and your family live a healthier and happier life, from now until Dec. 31, the Low Density Lifestyle book and ebook are on sale!
When you buy one copy of the Low Density Lifestyle book at the regular price of $19.95, you will get a second copy free! And the ebook, normally $12.95, is on sale for $9.95.
Don’t delay – get your copy now, and make your holidays a Low Density Lifestyle one! Just scroll down to the order info below and you’ll be able to make the purchase.
The Low Density Lifestyle is the revolutionary new book by Dr. Michael Wayne, author of the groundbreaking book, Quantum-Integral Medicine: Towards a New Science of Healing and Human Potential.
The Low Density Lifestyle is experiencing and living in a more relaxed, less stressed, and calm, clear and focused manner on an everyday basis. It is also a way that can lead you to better health and happiness, along with living a more fulfilled and enlightened life.
This is a book about many things—health, wellness, happiness, fulfillment, doing what you love, movement, being a creative thinker—but at the same time, it’s about one thing: living to your maximum potential.
The goal with this book is to help you become a more complete human being. We are meant to live a healthy life, a more fulfilled life, a conscious life, and a more awakened life—this is what it means to be a complete human being.
And this is what is meant by living a Low Density Lifestyle: it is a model for living.
Get your copy now, and get ready to change your life!
Low Density Lifestyle Book Excerpt _____________________________________________________________________
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As we enter into the Holiday season, I thought a good way to end the year – this is the last article of the year (I’ll resume with the Masters of Enlightenment series right after the New Year) – is with the above video.
It’s a video montage I created in celebration of the spirit of the Holidays.
It’s an homage to peace, love, trust, hope, belief, and the knowledge that we can make this a better world, a peaceful, sane, healthy and happy world, a Low Density Lifestyle world.
I call it Dream…Believe…Love.
Below is another video that captures the spirit of the Holidays.
This is a song that when it came out in 1971 was branded as radical because it was written and sung by a notorious peace activist, John Lennon. Yet now, the song is heard every year at this time.
And that’s because it tells us of hope – about a world of peace, which is what the Xmas spirit is about, and also what a Low Density Lifestyle world is about. So now the song is a hymn that is heard every Xmas holiday season.
As well it should.
Happy Xmas/War is Over – Thank you John Lennon.
And I want to thank each and every one of you…
Have a wonderful Holiday season, and see you next year.