On Bhakti, Advaita, and Being a Person

Being a Person is the flower of evolution. The sap is formless and impersonal, but not the flower. The flower is a Personality.

A stone may be impersonal, but the nervous system of a human or a dolphin is personal. It is a triumph of cosmic engineering. Our physiology is so evolved in its molecular complexity that it sustains the radiance of a personal self-awareness. Yet this Person has no edges: she interpenetrates the forests, the oceans, the sunbeams, the stars.

We enter the unbounded ocean of the cosmos through a laughing sighing stream of Personality. The personal beautifies the boundless. Being a wave does not limit the ocean, because at its base each wave is nothing but the ocean, and each wave embodies all waves.

I am I and You are You. Yet we are waves of the One. There is no contradiction here. No one tastes like you. No one releases the fragrance of your pain, the spice of your tears, or trembles with the texture of your love. The whole universe celebrates its unity through your uniqueness.

And when you surrender your heart to the Beloved, the qualities of the Beloved enhance your own Personhood. You pass through their personal love as through a door, into the cosmos. A door has a shape, but the shape does not confine you; you simply pass through it.

So in devotion to Jesus, or to the Master, one passes through a door shaped like a human being into boundless divine space. And in that passage, one is enhanced by absorbing the personal qualities of the Master. This path of devotion to the personal God is called Bhakti. Merging with the boundless space is called Advaita. Advaita gives space to Bhakti, and Bhakti gives expression to Advaita. Advaita is the ground, Bhakti is the dance.

So the formless celebrates in form, while form rests in formlessness. These two impulses transpire through each other. They are simultaneous, not sequential. Bhakti does not lead to Advaita, and Advaita is not superior to Bhakti. Bhakti is Advaita. Advaita is Bhakti.

The notion that Bhakti and Advaita are two different paths is a fabrication of ignorance, posing as religious knowledge. The notion that you must abandon your relationship with the Beloved in order to experience non-dual awareness, destroys the very charm and purpose of human life. It is like saying that you must crush the flower into sap to enjoy it, because its shape and fragrance are obstacles. Only a psychopath would go around crushing flowers in order to "liberate" them.

Just as a fragrant blossom is the glory of its odorless and formless sap, so your personal incarnation on earth is the glory of God. You are the embodied flower of God. Your unique fragrance pervades the entire garden. Even the distant galaxies bend close to sense your beauty. You are crushed and resurrected with every breath.

Holy Matter

"God hugs you; you are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God....
Good People, most royal greening verdancy, rooted in the sun, you shine with radiant light....
Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly."
~St. Hildegard of Bingen, 11th C.

"All buddhas are wind and rain, water and fire... The immeasurable and boundless dharma-wheel turns even within a single particle..." ~Dogen, founder of Soto Zen

"All through the physical world runs that unknown content which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness." ~Sir Arthur Eddington, founder of Quantum Theory

This is the Feast of the Incarnation. All matter is holy.

Scripture Is Mythos, Not History

One of the great tragedies of Western civilization was reducing the Biblical text to its literal/historical meaning, and abandoning the ancient language of mystical symbolism. The mystics breathed in the Bible's word as mantra, each phrase a gateway to silent meditation. This method of reading, called "Lectio Divina" or "divine reading," revealed the mythos of the scripture, the archetypal spiritual meaning, which is far more real and relevant than any historical record.

Clinging to literal history strengthens our ego's attachment to outmoded social structures, old stories full of conflict, and property claims on tribal lands. But reading scripture as a language of mystical symbols has a completely different effect: the promised land is the present moment, the temple is the heart, the Holy Spirit in our own breath.

May our divine innocence teach us how to hear the Word. May the light of Christ-Consciousness be born in the Virgin silence of our soul. The Nativity means nothing until it happens inside us.

Forest Pool

Once there was a still forest pool. She gazed up at the sky and said to herself, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to travel with the clouds high above this world?"

So she evaporated into water vapor and became a cloud. The cloud said, "Wouldn't it be stimulating to take form and have a sparkling body, to dance and zing so fast, to glitter in the sunlight on a twig!" So the cloud condensed into a raindrop and she began to fall.

"I'm falling!" she cried. "I will crash on a leaf and splatter! Wouldn't it be lovely to be snow, to be a perfect crystal, light as air, fluttering silently in the breeze!" So the raindrop became a snowflake and gently settled on the mountainside.

The snowflake sighed, "I'm stuck here, frozen in crystal silence. There isn't a green leaf or blue flower anywhere. Wouldn't it be exciting to melt into a mountain stream, and tumble down through alpine meadows!"

So the snowflake melted and dripped down an ice sickle, falling into a cold brook. Soon she was gurgling through a valley, past Cascade lilies, lupine, asters and columbine.

She cried, "Too fast! I'm getting exhausted, I can't catch my breath! Let me stop and rest awhile!" That is how she became a still forest pool, gazing up at the sky.

Bless All The People

For decades I've bitten my tongue about the fees charged for the Transcendental Meditation course. I  assumed that my understanding was not mature enough to get the real picture. But finally, after 45 years, I have decided to speak out.

Especially since I am able to discriminate between the Master and the movement. Maharishi himself suggested this when a small group of us were sitting at his feet back in 1970. He was so non-judgmental and sweet in pointing out that the karma of the Master and the karma of the movement are distinct, we had no idea he was warning us about those who would some day lead a world-wide organization in his name...

Would any of us confuse the person and work of Jesus with the Church of the Middle Ages that practiced such unspeakable corruption in his name? Likewise, let us not confuse the grace and wisdom of Mahesh Yogi with the TM movement that barnacled itself to his side, encrusted in a hierarchy of technocrats, pseudo-scientists, and even "Rajas" wearing golden crowns and calling themselves kings!

When Maharishi personally made me a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, his head came close to mine and he whispered Wisdom in my ear. Then he said, "Bless all the people." He did not say, "Bless only the people who can afford four-figure prices for initiation." He did not say, "Bless only the Brahmin caste of film stars, over-educated intellectuals, and corporate moguls." He said, "Bless ALL the people."

It is time for TM teachers of integrity to give this precious wisdom to anyone who sincerely comes for initiation, regardless of their financial standing. Ask them for a contribution. Ask them to give from their hearts, from each according to their ability. The karmic debt, if any, should be on the initiate who gives payment, not on the teacher who receives it.

When Maharishi started to teach in the West, he decided that the most equitable way to support the growing movement was to ask each person to donate one week's pay. What happened? People of very limited means were willing, but the rich were not. So the movement had to set a course fee.

When I began to meditate in college, the course fee was $35 for a student, $45 for a working adult. Even in 1968, that was very minimal.

I became a teacher and shared TM through the early 70's. Any funds I took went to the movement. I did not receive a percentage of the income from my courses, but an extremely small and invariable stipend of $400 per month to live on. I was not paid by "the head." And I initiated hundreds of people.

I also enjoyed profound personal contact with the Master. Incidentally, Maharishi never said that he was a Guru. He taught us that the Guru was within, and that the technique of Transcendental Meditation operates on the same principle of Grace that connects the heart of the devotee to the Guru. Therefor it was not necessary to make him one's personal Guru. Devotion meant meditating regularly, and giving service to the world, not making an idol of the Master. I deeply revered Maharishi for his selflessness, for his refusal to become an idol, and I still revere him for it.

Then, in the mid-70's, the bureaucrats and business men took over the movement. They became TM teachers without any personal contact with Maharishi. Ah, the miracle of modern technology! The price of the teaching started climbing rapidly. I found it morally indefensible to ask such prices, so I continued to teach for the fee as it was in the mid 70's: $75 for a college student and $125 for a working adult. Eventually, the technocrats came after me and insisted that I stop teaching. They actually said that my teaching was "too spiritually oriented."

I have never held this betrayal of my trust against the Master, because I know that the karma of the Master and the karma of "the movement" are two different things. In the words of the working man's philosopher Eric Hoffer: "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

It is time to end the racket and become a "cause" once again.

Maharishi remains the purest and most humble man I ever encountered - despite the lies and rumors that some tried to spread about him. Having experienced the radiance of Maharishi's heart, person to person, I am a bit like a lotus in muddy water. I don't care how muddy the water gets. I let the Grace blossom, and it remains unsoiled.

Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation technique is without a doubt the most pure, simple, innocent and natural practice I have ever encountered in a lifetime of studying the world's wisdom paths. And TM is so concrete, so practical in its effects, that I would call it "medicine" as much as "meditation." TM energizes every cell, illuminates every atom, and restores the body to health. Through the deep silence of this effortless practice, "spirit" and "matter" become one energy-field in the luminous physiology of our regenerated nervous system. This is not only a practice for enlightenment, but a practice for energy. I remember when Maharishi once told us: "Spirituality is infinite practicality."

If modern teachers of TM would be truly practical as well as spiritual, they would stop isolating themselves from the common man. They would renounce their outmoded Brahmin aristocracy of golden domes and Vedic mansions. They would bless all the people.

Jai Guru Dev.

God Is Simple Minded

The more we think, the less we are aware. The more we are aware, the less we need to think.

A mind perpetually thinking is dull, yet we define it as brilliant. A mind purely aware and empty of thoughts is brilliant. But we define it as simple.

God is quite simple-minded.

In the native state of human freedom, thinking is not necessary: there is only the radiance of awareness. Humanity relates to God directly through breath. "And God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul."

Then, greedy for the "knowledge of good and evil," the will begins to think. The intellect fragments into duality: better, worse; heaven, earth; spiritual, carnal. We eat from the tree of opposites: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The "Fall of Man" is our descent from awareness into thinking.

All religions that depend on theology, beliefs and doctrines, grow from the Tree of Knowledge. But the religion that requires no belief, but simply breathes with awareness in the present moment, grows from the Tree of Life.

The Agnostic's Path to God

"Life, like a many-colored dome of glass, stains the white radiance of eternity." ~Percy Shelly
"Thine own consciousness, shining, void, inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is itself the Immutable White Light of Buddha Amitābha." ~Tibetan Book of the Dead

Shelley claimed to be an atheist, though he is one of my favorite spiritual poets. Buddhism is often described as an agnostic religion: a religion that does not depend on dogma or belief.

Agnosticism is a path to God proceeding through doubt. An agnostic's question may be a deeper prayer than a believer's certainty.

There are remarkable similarities between the agnostic's path and the path of negation found in Indian and Christian mysticism. Vedanta calls this path, Neti Neti, "not this, not that." Christian mystics call it the Via Negativa, "the negative way." For example, Meister Eckhart declares, "O God, quit me of God!" To find true God, Eckhart rejected every intellectual concept of a "God." Likewise the medieval Christian classic, Cloud of Unknowing, teaches us to go beyond all knowledge, and to enter by means of "un-knowing" the pure silence beyond intellect. "Un-knowing" is the very meaning of "agnostic."

In the Via Negativa, God is neither an object nor a belief, not even a thought. For thoughts are but "graven images" made of mind instead of silver and gold. Transcending every name and form, the contemplative discovers that God is absolutely no-thing. Mute attention comes to rest in vast silence, the silence of unalloyed awareness naked of thought, image and word. Yet when fully embraced, this boundless negative awareness suddenly reverses its essence, revealing the infinite Yes beneath all no's. Self-luminous Being floods awareness, no longer over-shadowed by intellectual concepts. In Eckhart's words, "The Eye through which I see God is the Eye through which God sees me." It is when we behold no-thing that we see with the Eye of God.

Thus too the agnostic arrives at pure spiritual insight: distinguishing awareness from thoughts and beliefs. God is not an image fabricated by thinking: God is the clarity of the very space where thinking arises and dissolves.

In Buddhism, this conscious space prior to any image that it might contain, is called "Bodhichitta." In Christian mysticism, it is the "luminous darkness of the Godhead." In the lovely phrase of the King James Bible, it is called "the peace that passeth all understanding." For who could possibly hold the infinite in a finite concept? Truth comes not by knowing what God is, but un-knowing what God is not.

The ground of eternal Being is there from the beginning in the depths of the agnostic's soul, prompting the very questions which lead to this shattering of belief, the graceful and blessed catastrophe of enlightenment.

Elemental Healing Meditation

    Mandala by Hildegard of Bingen, 11th C.

I am made of Air, Air is my healing. Breathing fresh and deep and slow, from my feet rooted in the soil to the soft spot in my crown, my breath connects the earth and stars. "Thank you, Air, I love You."

I am made of Water, Water is my healing. Drinking fresh and deep and slow, tasting the rain in my food, singing the mountain brook in my loins, sensing the ocean's surge in every cell of my flesh, I speak to the Waters, "Thank you, Water, I love You."

I am made of Earth, Earth is my healing. Seated on a mossy forest stone, feeling my weight as grace, every ounce of me holy and hugged by the Mother, I surrender to gravity. "Thank you, Earth, I love You."

I am made of Fire, Fire is my healing. Standing in the Solstice sun, eyes closed, I see a sacred sparkling in the silent darkness. Drawing seven breaths of radiance through my forehead to my heart, I breathe light into my blood. "Thank you, Fire, I love You."

"Air, Water, Earth and Fire, You are medicine. I love You. As You anointed me, so I anoint You with gratitude."

"Thank you," I heal the Air. "Thank you," I heal the Water. "Thank you," I heal the Land. "Thank you," I heal the Stars. With gratitude I heal. With awareness I heal.  

Shamanism is whatever activates the human body as a link between earth and stars. Shamanism is whatever awakens the body's elemental powers. Shamanism is anointing our bones, blood, tears and breath with sparkling awareness, I Am. Shamanism is simply the act of becoming aware, and holding the whole creation in our consciousness, as an offering, in gratitude.

With Your Own Heart

"Commune with your own heart and be still." ~Psalm 4.

I love this verse. Why do preachers and Sunday school teachers never mention it? I guess they'd go out of business if they did. No heavenly vision, no transcendence, no esoteric worship or devotion to the master can compare to the stillness, the peace that blossoms in the heart, when you just rest as who you are. To repose as your Self in this moment is the only portal to transformation...

Commune with your own heart and be still.
Do not make a mystery of this.

The source that draws you home is who you are.
How could it be otherwise?

Let the one who remembers, whisper to the sun,

All living creatures hear that music, just a little,
a rippling of the stillness,

here, in the chest, a warmth
where breath begins.

Elohim: Ye Are All Gods

Neither Moses, Jesus nor Muhammad would recognize the Germanic word "God." They called the deity by the same Semitic name, All'ah. Allah is El' in Hebrew. Jesus used the beautiful name, "Al'ava," Divine Papa.

From the very first verse of the Bible, the Hebrew text heightens the ambiguity of the Divine by using the name Elohim rather than El'. Elohim is the plural. The first verse does not say that God created the heavens and the earth, but Gods.

What are we to make of this ambiguity? Is it not the ambiguity of consciousness itself? A separate Lord God did not create the earth in distant ages past. It is We who continue to create the earth now, or destroy it. We are the Elohim. We are all Gods.

Lest this sound blasphemous, please read the scripture. Psalm 82:6 declares, "Ye are all gods," a verse repeated by Jesus in John 10:34. yes, we are each others creators, each others saviors. I belong to you.

Does "privacy" have any edges? The earth is not a system of corporate exploitation based on the survival of the fittest. Earth is a cooperative. Our world is the mutual enterprise of consciousness, projected from the ocean of I AM through waves of WE.

Not Knowing

"Is it the solstice?"
"No, full moon."
"What's the difference?"
"None really. It's a human thing."
"Why do they make such a big deal about this stuff?"
"Is it because they don't have tails?"


"Namaste" we say when we greet each other. "I honor that of God in you." Most people assume this means to honor some golden spark of transcendental beauty hidden behind the outer form. But I think "Namaste" means something more radical, disturbing, and wonderful. It means that even the outer form is pervaded by divine Shakti. We honor God-energy in every face, each wrinkle and tear, grimace and wound, right down to the phlegm, the urine, the cancer in the bone, the devouring worm... the homeless child born in a garage at the back of the motel.


Slow down, walk softly. When we spend a little while walking softly, going nowhere,
each footstep makes the earth more sacred, and we enter a new dimension, the dimension
of the Ordinary, where miracles are possible.

Picture: Old New Castle, DE, where my lovely wife grew up, by Dennis Strong


What is formless, dimensionless, transparent, lighter than space itself, yet more solid than a diamond and more brilliant than 10 thousand suns? What contains, in a dissolving point that is finer than a photon, all the information, all the forms, and all the actions that could ever exist on all possible worlds, like a dream before it is dreamed, in a mind that has not fallen asleep?

On Robben Island

On Robben Island
he said
what he missed the most
was hearing childrens' laughter...
Friend, remember this
beyond all politics
when you need healing.


Photo: Former prisoner 46664 revisits the place 

of his imprisonment and spiritual transformation.

The Moon is always still and radiant. Though her lovely reflection is sometimes whole, sometimes broken, in these waters, she has no need to keep repeating, "I am not the pond, I am not the pond." She just gazes.

My Workshop Happening Now!

Join my workshop, it's happening now, and it's free!
Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad,
all took this weekend intensive: that's how they got certified!
You've been on the waiting list thousands of years,
but initiation only takes the blink of an eye.
In fact, just reading this invitation is enough:
Even though you haven't begun, you've mastered the practice. 
Hear the secret that was never hidden:
how to use three talismans that you received at birth,
your inhalation, your exhalation, and your heartbeat.
OK, that's it, you're authorized to teach!
Now go out and get some disciples.
Instruct them how to bow and gaze at each other.
It's all remembered in a flash of emptiness.
Accept the truth, you are unfathomable.
I'm just reminding you about your ancient wonder,
the gentle light that melts the edges around all creatures,
then solidifies into a blinding sun, then burns
a widening ring of voidness from the center of your heart,
outward, to the rimless limits of our fractaled galaxy.
How great is the wisdom you don't know you already have?
Angels get so tipsy singing your name,
they have to hum every sound in the alphabet to remember it!
Don't send me any money for this.
I get plenty of reward just thinking about you
waking up tomorrow morning and saying to yourself,
"Nothing! Nothing! I learned absolutely nothing!"

Workshop Link: HERE IT IS!

Co-Existence of One and Many

How silent, crystal pure and still the Self! How wondrous, wild, chaotic and ephemeral the world projected as a veil, a mirage, a playful reflection of the Self in a mirror of emptiness!

Where is the conflict? Where is the need to choose between Oneness within and duality without? That ever-dissolving world-aura clothes this naked changeless Radiance in shimmering garments. It is a charming paradox to be danced, not a problem to be solved.

The Self is basso continuo in a Gregorian hymn, chanting tone beneath melodic variation. We meditate to ground our music in the under Om, then joyfully dance with a chorus of voices.
And because This already pervades That, there is no compulsion to impose One on the Many. As the prior condition, before one breath is taken, unity back-lights and illuminates diversity. The Om that oscillates into every other note is the unstruck sound, the mother of harmony. Therefor nothing needs to be united. Nothing needs to be harmonized. Where is the work to perform?

Yoga may be the art of seeing unity in diversity, but it begins with the science of not confounding the One with the Many. Space is formless and does not move. The mirage takes many shapes and undulates. They appear to be one, but are distinctly different in their essence. One is real. The other is illusion.

Any attempt to impose consistency on the ever-changing world, to impose order onto chaos, to impose the one onto the many, or reality upon illusion, is ignorance. All ideologies of the left or the right, and all institutions of religion, which attempt to change the nature of the world, result in fascism or fundamentalism, and simply increase the nescience of human sorrow. 

The Self need not inform the world, because the Self is the formless essence of every form already. Those who live its sparkling clarity do not impose the Self on others, any more than the sky imposes its weight on hills and forests. The sky is weightless, embracing every storm or ray of sun, remaining untouched.

Is effort required to project one's image in a mirror?


Sometimes Hatha Yoga feels more like a performance, an effort frozen in form. We might kindle new life into Hatha Yoga by letting it dissolve back into the art of its origin: just lying on the ground, effortlessly breathing.

As we did when we were babies, self-discover the miracle of embodiment. Allow breath to melt matter into streams. Let bone and flesh undulate in subtlest micro-movements. Bathe each exquisite pearl of body in a wave of awareness. Be leaves in warm breeze. Observe sensations arise and dissolve in dance of unfolding presence. No right way, no wrong way.

Stillness gently spirals outward from our center. Graceful silence in-spires hips, ribs, neckbones, crown. No "asana" to be attained. No posture to be held. No "technique" downloaded from memory.

Living asana means effortless movement arising in the heart, unfolding through the spine, expanding and contracting with the breath. Living Yoga means that mind is not separate from the primal Shakti, the energy itself.


This old body has its aches and pains,
but even they have blossoms
like pea weeds among poppy billows.

All in all, it's worthwhile having bones
to give light a foundation,
having ligaments to give the stars

a place where they can fall and lodge
their smaller selves; it's not so bad,
this blood mire of swollen umber

like a peach with edible fuzz.
I can caress your belly, I can run my finger
down to the fur, smell hay just after rain

and watch the willow-armed valley
with its creek whispers invite the mist
into her shaded bed. All in all,

it is good to have a body. It is not a burden.
There is nothing illusory about it.
Even an old one, especially an old one,

makes prayer possible: not in petition
for some wider space, but in thanksgiving
for the place where I am.


       Orion Nebula, Hubble 2006

Why seek the Formless? Just don't cling to forms.

Peel the onion, layer upon layer without a core, without a center. Beyond all these layers, atoms dancing in the void. Yet every atom also an onion. Selah.

Behind every political or economic reality, the meaningless play of atoms dancing in the void. Behind every scientific reality, the meaningless play of atoms dancing in the void. Behind every material form, the meaningless play of atoms dancing in the void. All forms, just layers of hollowness: that was Buddha's teaching, and that is the revelation of contemporary physics.

Then why take it all so seriously? Why reject or grasp anything when there is no essence, no soul of Creation? The heart is just its layered-ness.

If you say, "I believe in God," you have fallen out of the dance. If you say, "I am an atheist," you have fallen out of the dance. This dance is charming and playful precisely because it is free from the tyranny of "meaning," a voluptuous layering of the quantum vacuum, entirely meaningless. How wonderful!

Neither to reject nor to grasp is surrender. And surrender is not the end of the path, but the prior condition where no path arises. This a priori condition of surrender is the nature of the void. Merely to see this, without a single thought about it, is bliss.

Bliss dances and celebrates in infinite layers of itself, the exquisite complexity of emptiness.

To A Neo-Advaitist

The universe does not rejoice in the impersonal, but in the communion.

The you in me bows to the me in you, and we melt into who we are; this is called "laughing eyes."

Why did God become flesh, walking down dusty village roads, touching, blessing the children?

So that we might say, "Thank you for being born, Jesus. "

Why do we return to the fur?

So that we might say, "Thank you for being born, little golden poodle."

And when there are no words for wonder, why does the Self-luminous choose to gaze and hug?

Don't underestimate the glory of otherness; thank you, whoever you are, for being born into this voluptuous mud!

A neo-advaitist said to me, "You need no guru because you are already perfect."

So I went there and became vast, proud, boundless, lonely and dry.

But still, some primal yearning of the heart for the heart tugged at the stars, and I heard the moon weeping for the sun...

and besides, his workshops were more expensive than Church.

The fallacy of that teaching lies in the word "need;" I do not surrender to my master out of lack, but overflowing fullness,

every cell of this body like a silver cup filled to the brim with the stuff Christ served at the wedding.

The master has turned what for you might just be water into something that makes me drunk

because my freedom is love, my freedom is love...

Now, Gurudev, let our twoness be a single spiraling stream of nectar, pouring from that cup into this one.


The word "God" does not offend me. The word "Should" offends me. "Should" is the idol of authority, created by a mind that cannot taste divine freedom. It is not in the experience of the Divine, but in the absence of the Divine as direct experience, that "Should" arises.