Karmacology: Mindful Living, Sacred Practice

The Foundation of the Universe

The fulfilment of desires, the foundation of the universe, the rewards of sacrifices, the shore where there is no fear, that which adorable and great, the wide abode and the goal-all this you have seen; and being wise, you have with firm resolve discarded everything.
-- Yajur Veda, Katha Upanishad, Part One, Chapter II, 11

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Creative Work is Play

Creative work is play. It is free speculation using materials of one's chosen form.
-- Stephen Nachmanovitch

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History Starts Now

Should there be "people" or "peoples"?
Money, funny pedestals for fools who never pay.
Raise your army; choose your steeple.
Don't be shy, the satellites can look the other way.

Lose the earthquakes; keep the faults.
Fill the oceans without the salt.
Let every man own his own hand.

What kind of world do you want?
Think anything.
Let's start at the start,
Build a masterpiece.
Be careful what you wish for;
History starts now...
-- John Ondrasik

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God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.
-- Mother Teresa

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Your Freedom Gets You Where You Want to Go

Question how much freedom your path affords you. Be utterly ruthless about it. It's your freedom that will get you to where you want to go.
-- Hugh Macleod

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I am Human

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-- Robert Heinlein: Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love

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Your Mind is Your Predicament

If you don't get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don't want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can't hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is a law, and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.
-- Dan Millman, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

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When Belief Bumps Up Against Solid Reality

We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
-- George Orwell

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That's the Way Things Come Clear

That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along.
-- Madeleine L'Engle

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The First Cool Autumn Wind

Even among those
Who think themselves indifferent
To most things,
It touches the very soul,
This first cool autumn wind.

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Warrior Spirit: Fear Can Never Enter Your Heart

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
-- Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation

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Look Ahead and Prepare

It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.
-- Jackie Joyner-Kersee

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There is a Sacredness in Tears

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
-- Washington Irving

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In My Own Hands I Hold a Bowl of Tea

In my own hands I hold a bowl of tea; I see all of nature represented in its green color. Closing my eyes I find green mountains and pure water within my own heart. Silently sitting alone and drinking tea, I feel these become a part of me.
-- Soshitsu Sen

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You're Going to Mystify a Lot of Folks

When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it - don't back down and don't give up - then you're going to mystify a lot of folks.
-- Bob Dylan

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Self-Development is a Higher Duty

Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.
-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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A Piece of Divinity in Us

There is surely a piece of divinity in us, something that was before the elements, and owes no homage unto the sun.
-- Sir Thomas Browne

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The Full Moon of the Guru

Every time we remember to say "thank you," we experience nothing less than heaven on earth.
-- Sarah Ban Breathnach

Thursday, July 17th is the Full Moon of the Guru: Guru Purnima. In the Vedic tradition, this is an auspicious evening for remembering and thanking the great sage Vyasa, author of the Bhagavad Gita and other great works, and for celebrating all of the teachers in our lives: our children, parents, siblings, spouse, co-workers, bosses, professors, etc. Thoughts of gratitude and wishing them well with metta -- intention of loving kindness -- is a beautiful way to celebrate their gifts.

On this night, I give thanks for the many people, in all walks of life, who have so graciously given their time, attention and wisdom. I have been most richly blessed to have encountered so many teachers in my life, whether called Sifu or Sensei, Grandmaster or Guru, Teacher, Professor, family member or friend. I thank you all. I am humbled by your inspiring gifts, and more prosperous because of them.

If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice.
-- Meister Eckhart

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Virtuous Asana is Done from the Heart

A virtuous asana is done from the heart and not from the head. Then you are not just doing it, but you are in it.
-- B.K.S. Iyengar

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Glorious Uniqueness

While we have the gift of life, it seems to me that the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die - whether it is our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness.
-- Gilda Radner

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To Spy My Shadow in the Sun

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York,
And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them,--
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun.
-- William Shakespeare, "King Richard III", Act 1 scene 1

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The Greatest Distance

We may go to the moon, but that's not very far. The greatest distance we have to cover still lies within us.
-- Charles de Gaulle

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When the Rivers of the Mind and the Body Get Submerged

When you do the asana correctly, the Self opens by itself; this is divine yoga. Here the Self is doing the asana, not the body or brain. The Self involves each and every pore of the skin. It is when the rivers of the mind and the body get submerged in the sea of the core that the spiritual discipline commences.
-- B.K.S. Iyengar

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Nature's Peace Will Flow

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
-- John Muir

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Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.
-- J. R. R. Tolkien

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God Watches Them Play

From the solemn gloom of the temple children run out to sit in the dust, God watches them play and forgets the priest.
-- Rabindranath Tagore

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The Gift of Oneself

Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself.
-- Jean Anouilh

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Acceptance is not a state of passivity or inaction. I am not saying you can't change the world, right wrongs, or replace evil with good. Acceptance is, in fact, the first step to successful action. If you don't fully accept a situation precisely the way it is, you will have difficulty changing it. Moreover, if you don't fully accept the situation, you will never really know if the situation should be changed.
-- Peter McWilliams, Life 101

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We Shall Find Peace

We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
-- Anton Chekhov

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All We Have of Freedom

All we have of freedom -- all we use or know --
This our fathers bought for us, long and long ago.
-- Kipling

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Our Place in the World

A true man never frets about his place in the world, but just slides into it by the gravitation of his nature, and swings there as easily as a star.
-- Edward Chapin

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Elimination of Nonessentials

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.
-- Lin Yutang

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The Inner Whisper

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

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The Source of Your Joy

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

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Our own evolution as an awakening human is a moral obligation, not a luxury.
-- Andrew Cohen

Photo (and touching narrative) by stoneth

The Most Difficult Task of All

For one human being to love another:
that is perhaps the most difficult task of all…
the work for which all other work is but a preparation.
It is a high inducement to the individual to ripen…
a great exacting claim upon us, something
that chooses us out and calls us to great things.
-- Rainer Maria Rilke

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What Makes You Come Alive

Don’t worry about what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive and do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-- Robert Thurman

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We All Have the Jungle Inside of Us

It's just human. We all have the jungle inside of us. We all have wants and needs and desires, strange as they may seem. If you stop to think about it, we're all pretty creative, cooking up all these fantasies. it's like a kind of poetry.
-- Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Mister Sandman, 1994

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As Wise As the Day I Was Born

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish fill the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.
-- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

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It is Time for Me to Go, Mother

It is time for me to go, mother; I am going.

When in the paling darkness of the lonely dawn you stretch out your arms for your baby in the bed, I shall say, “Baby is not there!”- Mother, I am going.

I shall become a delicate drought of air and caress you; and I shall be ripples in the water when you bathe, and kiss you and kiss you again.

In the gusty night when the rain patters on the leaves you will hear my whisper in your bed, and my laughter will flash with the lightning through the open window into your room.

If you lie awake, thinking of your baby till late into the night, I shall sing to you from the stars, “Sleep, mother, sleep.”

On the straying moonbeams I shall steal over your bed, and lie upon your blossom while you sleep.

I shall become a dream, and through the little opening of your eyelids I shall slip into the depths of your sleep: and when you wake up and look round startled, like a twinkling firefly I shall flit out into the darkness.

When, on the great festival of puja, the neighbors’ children come and play about the house, I shall melt into the music of the flute and throb in your heart all day.

Dear auntie will come with puja presents and will ask, “Where is our baby, sister?” Mother, you will tell her softly, “He is in the pupils of my eyes, he is in my body and my soul.”
-- Rabindranath Tagore, The End

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Our True Home is in the Present Moment

Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. Peace is all around us -- in the world and in nature -- and within us -- in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice. We need only to find ways to bring our body and mind back to the present moment so we can touch what is refreshing, healing, and wondrous.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching Peace

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Believe in Your Strength

There are admirable potentialities in every human being. Believe in your strength and your youth. Learn to repeat endlessly to yourself, 'It all depends on me.'
-- Andre Gide (1869 - 1951)

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Karma and the Chinese Earthquake

A great deal of Internet buzz has been generated about actress Sharon Stone's comment about Karma's role in the devastating May 11th earthquake in China. From the sidelines at the Cannes Film Festival, she said:

Well you know it was very interesting because at first, you know, I am not happy about the ways the Chinese were treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And so I have been very concerned about how to think and what to do about that because I don’t like that. And I had been this, you know, concerned about, oh how should we deal with the Olympics because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine. And all these earthquake and stuff happened and I thought: Is that Karma... when you are not nice that bad things happen to you?

See the YouTube clip here.

Celebrity gossip aside, there are now debates raging online over the nature of Karma, and if cosmic payback can take the form of natural disasters against an entire nation. This is not new; similar thoughts were voiced after the horrific December 2004 tsunami and 2005's Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. Some people were quick to shout that this was God's wrath, Divine Justice, or the working of Karma on a massive scale. But as convenient as it is to place the blame in the realm of the supernatural, is there any basis for such thoughts?

The Bible has ample precedence for the "Wrath of God" crowd, including the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as described in Genesis. Because of the wickedness of the citizens, entire cities were wiped out by the "brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven."

Likewise, there is plenty of mention of collective Karma within both the modern and ancient Theravada, where there can be "family Karma," or a larger sociokarma such as "national Karma." Anand Gholap goes so far as to describe group Karma in the context of natural disasters:

The rise and fall of nations are brought about by collective karma... Seismic changes -- earthquakes, volcanoes, floods -- or national catastrophes like famine and plague, all are cases of collective karma, brought about by great streams of thoughts and actions of a collective rather than an individual character.

I am sure that there are many people that sincerely believe in this form of divine justice. I do not. It seems to me to be the height of self-centered egoism to believe that the Creator would move Earth, sky and ocean in collective punishment of human sin.

That's not to say that a collective Karma does not exist. Whatever action we take as individuals, families, communities and nations will certainly have its reaction. But I believe those reactions are most often a true consequence of the actions we take, and not an arbitrary punishment sent down from Heaven.

The natural world, Prakriti in the Vedanta philosophy, operates according to its own laws. Long before there were humans, and long after we are gone, the stars swirl in their cosmic dance, the Earth turns and tumbles, storms lash and fires burn. It is unconcerned with the fret and strut of men. As has been said, rain falls on the just and unjust alike. The Earth and sky care little if we have been "nice" or "not nice."

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Excellence and Intensity

The excellency of every art is in its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate.
-- Keats

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The Power of a Touch

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
-- Leo Buscaglia (1925 - 1998)

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Ideals are like Stars

Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.
-- Carl Schurz (1829 - 1906)

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The Divine is the Principle of Life

The Divine is present in everyone, in all beings, in everything. Like space it is everywhere, all pervading, all powerful, all knowing. The Divine is the principle of Life, the inner light of consciousness, and pure bliss. It is our very own Self.
-- Amma

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Trust in an Unfolding We Can't Design or Ordain

Any ordinary favor we do for someone or any compassionate reaching out may seem to be going nowhere at first, but may be planting a seed we can't see right now. Sometimes we need to just do the best we can and then trust in an unfolding we can't design or ordain.
-- Sharon Salzberg

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Merely Effects of Past Causes

Identifying himself with a shallow ego, man takes for granted that it is he who thinks, wills, feels, digests meals, and keeps himself alive, never admitting through reflection (only a little would suffice) that in his ordinary life he is naught but a puppet of past actions (karma) and of Nature or environment. Each man's intellectual reactions, feelings, moods, and habits are merely effects of past causes...
-- Paramhansa Yogananda

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